Thursday, August 27, 2015

Movie review: ex machina

Credit: consequenceofsound

I decided to watch ex machina last night. And here is what I knew about it from the few trailer scenes I'd watched and a few vague clues from headlines and cautious movie reviews.

I knew that the main characters were: a female humanoid robot and (presumably) its bearded creator who liked to dance in red lighted areas. And from the movie reviews, I knew that there was something about the final scene. (And, for reasons that I won't explain, I thought that final scene involved the red lighted dancing and that the bearded dude was dancing with the robot mentioned above.)

So, I thought going into the film that there was some sort of twist ending and that the relationship between the creator and the machine was REVEALED in some dynamic way at the end. (I was purposely avoiding spoilers for a lot of this, so if you have already seen the movie, maybe you can forgive the mistakes that I have already outlined.)

It turns out that I was sort of right in these assumptions and completely wrong in many others. The dance scene--while cool--was not at all a pivotal moment at the end of the movie. And there was a complete THIRD character that I didn't even know about in the plot. (Well, now that I think about it a bit, I guess there were a total of 3 and three-quarters characters in the plot. And I only count that fourth person as less than one because that character has very minimal dialogue and isn't in every scene.)

My misunderstandings aside, the goal of the movie is to get you to consider the nature of humanity and individualism and truth and power and self-identity. These are often the themes of robot movies.This one does add additional tension that is most often felt in a thriller--a new wrinkle that I did like.

A few extra things that I will say. The photography and visual design of the movie was really, really strong. The house that the movie takes place in is wonderful and mostly real (note that there are probably spoilers in the linked article) and I'd love to spend time there. And Ava (the robot protagonist . . . or is it antagonist, hmmm?) has a great design that emphasizes her mechanicalness strongly while allowing for humanity as well.

All in all, I recommend the movie. It has a sort of indie feel that reminded me of Primer, though the subject matter is very different and ex machina is much more understandable, and truthfully the visual quality of ex machina is better than Primer. But they are both small, intimate, focused movies on scientific conundrums . . . but they never lose the humanity that gets trapped within the science. You know what I mean?

See it! (Most likely only available as Video On Demand at this point.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Curriculum Night

Last night I went to Grace's 7th grade curriculum night at the middle school.

Sarah has already gone through all of these grades at this building and Grace is in her second year at Walnut Springs, so there was no completely new information to be learned there. But it was good to see the teachers--not all of whom are familiar--and to learn what their plans are for the year.

One of the first things that I enjoy is the simple act of walking to the school from our house. It is on the next street over and you can cut between people's yards to get to the athletic fields on the back end of the school. I will miss having such convenient access to the school when Hannah is finally done. But the (good?) news is that this won't happen for another six . . . what, really? . . . years.Ugh. I'll be almost 50 before Hannah makes it to high school.

And then when I got to the school and started following Grace's classes, I just enjoyed the fantasy of being back in school and learning stuff again.

It's probably not fair to think that way since I am adult now and I can look back on the effort of middle school learning with casualness and a lack of stress. I can see it for the opportunity of learning and thought that it is. I didn't view it so casually and with fun back when I was actually experiencing it. Still, I am glad that I can look at the opportunity of learning with a positive twinge.

And the other thing I enjoyed was hearing teachers talk about the electronic materials that they are using--especially (obviously) in the social studies class. And, yes, they are using an Ohio version of our U.S. history program--a custom creation by the looks of it, but based on the title made by my friends and colleagues just a few cubicle rows over. I am pleased that they are adopting and using the materials that we make here at MHE--and I am hopeful that it is more than simply using the electronic version of the text. I hope they are trying the digital assets and exploring the depth of stuff that we have created in the last several years.

(I wanted to speak up to the teacher and the class and let them know that I work for the company. I wanted to say that if they experience online problems, to send me an email. But I didn't. And that is probably best. The company DOES have tech support professionals--as the teacher mentioned--who can aid when needed. It is their job to clear up those sorts of problems, so I guess I should let them do it better than I could.)

Credit: me

And beyond that, the best thing about the evening was seeing the impressive reimagining of the old library space into a slick new Media Center/hangout/collaborative area/whatever. I posted some pictures of it on my Facebook page if you are over there some.

I mean, look at this space. Wouldn't you want to hang out in there? And yes, there are still plenty of books to check out--which I admit was my initial concern when Grace was describing the place to me. But the design makes the whole place more appealing and encouraging to students. So, I'm a fan.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Thoughts from Work (Aug. 25, 2015)

Credit: me
  1.  Today is the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I should have anticipated that and made a btw story focused on it.
  2. Yesterday I used "Suck it, haters." in a Facebook comment. And now I want to work that phrase into each conversation that I have.
  3. I am enjoying my standing desk. (Thanks, John!) I hope that it is helping me stay marginally healthy--or at least offset the occasional consumption of office doughnuts.
  4.  I made beef stew last night for dinner. If I'd had more time, I would have made it slower and maybe been able to develop the flavors more. But it was a pretty good success overall--especially for a Monday evening.
  5. I'm giving blood this morning. Do you give blood? If you can, you should. It does a lot of good for lots of people. And your body will make more, so why not offer up some to someone else? But don't say thank you to me just yet. The truth is . . . I almost only ever give here when the Red Cross holds a drive at my office building. It just makes it so convenient for me. (And as usual, I am making this act of giving about me. Sorry.)
  6. I need to write one of these thoughts without the use of ellipses . . . or parentheses. (Like THAT is going to happen.)
  7. Speaking of standing while working--I am trying to do it all day and avoid sitting, except for when I eat. To sit down while I have this desk would seem to invalidate the whining and complaining that I childishly did when I couldn't get one. And now that I do have one--thanks to the generosity of a colleague who chose not to continue using his, I am now obligated to use it as much as possible. So, if you don't like to see me stand--suck it, haters!
  8. Do you feel that I haven't utilized the Official Hat of Summer enough this season, as we enter into summer's final weeks? Full disclosure--I have had that worry a few times this summer. But I have tried to wear it when out and about on weekends. And I've tried to take relevant pictures documenting this whenever possible. So, I am keeping it mindful as I make wardrobe choices. As of yet, no one in a crowd has reacted with excitement when I walk up, whispering "Hey . . . everybody, look over there! It's The Official Hat of Summer!" But I remain hopeful that it will happen someday if I just keep trying.
  9. Still not sitting down. (My thighs are gonna be SO strong, you guys.)
  10. Do you ever find yourself inundated with podcasts that you just aren't catching up on? And they keep piling up every day because the work that you are doing isn't really conducive to listening to podcasts while being effective, so things just keep piling and piling? And then, somehow, you catch up again and everything is fine? Has that ever happened to you?
  11. What podcasts am I listening to? Well, they are: Dear Hank & John, PTI: Pardon the Interruption, Fresh Air w/ Terri Gross, Judge John Hodgman, some of the episodes of the Nerdist; (and Serial . . . whenever a new season begins). I miss listening to (some of the episodes of) the BS Report--but since Bill Simmons got fired by ESPN, that has been gone. But he tweeted yesterday that once his new HBO gig begins, his rebranded podcast will start again.
  12. Standing update--I'm constantly wanting to cross my legs and lean. But I don't think that is the correct posture. I should stay distributed evenly on both feet and just wiggle back and forth to keep from getting too tired, right?
  13. Probably my dad would be pretty upset that I am willingly choosing to stand while working, as he worked in cornfields for years, standing and sweating. He'd think it is dumb to stand when you have the opportunity to sit. Some white-collar worker I am.
  14. (Next  time I do this, I should put time stamps for when I thought of and typed down each thought.)
  15. Should I be regretful that I didn't watch that talked about show "Mr. Robot" this summer? (I did watch "Humans" and enjoyed it quite a lot, so maybe I can get a pass?) But what I REALLY want to be watching is more of "Better Call Saul".
  16. Just went to fill up my coffee cup and the vending machine was being restocked. There is a cart full of chips, candy bars, and other snacks. The vendor technician was occupied with something on the machine and had his back turned as I slipped past in and out to the coffee pot. In neither instance, did I dart out my hand to grab a free candy bar. Would it have been successful had I tried? Or would I have miscalculated, gone for the boxes of empties and therefore drawn attention to myself? And . . . as you were reading this, did you consider--even briefly . . . that I was going to tell you that I stole something?
  17. Someone is daily using my filing cabinet magnetic letters to spell out LOPEZ.
  18. In a world with free oatmeal raisin, sugar, and double chocolate cookies--which is the correct choice?
  19. Afternoon updates--I chose to sit down after lunch (and after my blood donation). I thought it might be unwise to stand for the next several hours while I am "recovering" from being down a pint of blood. And I will definitely use this opportunity to eat a cookie while finishing out the afternoon. These are the justifications that we must all face.
  20. The college football season is fast approaching. Are you interested in my continuing to write Football Counter-Programming posts that go live each Saturday game day? If you are interested, what sorts of topics would you want me to muse upon? (I would really like your help in topic suggestions. Please leave any thoughts you have in the comments.)
  21. Should I be bothered by the effort to create a playground from shipping containers? Or is it a good, temporary solution to a problem? And why does this use of shipping containers (and according to the artist drawing . . . shipping pallets) disturb me . . . but the idea of living in a modest home made from shipping containers feels like a grand solution.
Alright . . . leaving now to pick up the kids from school. Think about what you've learned and don't forget to leave me Counter-Programming topics in comments.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Perspective and Patterns and Time

This is a picture of the tiles in the bathroom flooring of my office building. The reason that I took this picture was because I caught myself about a week ago trying to find a pattern to the seemingly random mosaic of colored tiles. Where, I wondered, was the border between one square of randomness and the next. How was it laid down by contractors? Was one square of small tiles set and then the next, identical one, rotated 90 degrees to mix the pattern and confuse the sequence even further

I tried breaking the tiles into imaginary blocks of 9 (like a Rubic's cube) to see if that made it any easier to decipher. But eventually I had to admit that I didn't see the pattern--though I am still sure that there is one.

But that is how the brain works. It looks for patterns. It collects facial details and stores them away. The brain can't accept randomness and wants to figure things out and make sense of it all.

I am trying to tie this photo idea from a week ago into this 12th anniversary post for the start of WWYG?! Because, I think as much as for any other reason, when I started writing this blog 12 years ago today, I was trying somehow to find my own pattern. I was trying to sort out my young life--with a career just getting established, two young children, and lots of unknowns still a part in my life. I was settling down into my adulthood, leaving behind my college years and the original concept for what I first thought those adult years would be. I would not become a professor. And Lynda and I were very much committed to raising a family--but we didn't really know what that meant . . . yet.

Sarah was only 4 and Grace was still a very young toddler. Lynda and I had good jobs at MHE, but I was still a project worker and there were no guarantees in anything. We had families in Georgia and our friends and church family in Hilliard and at St. Nicholas. So, by no means were things bad or even uncertain. But there was still much unknown and--as yet--unexperienced.

Twelve years later, much of that experience has passed.

(Here is where I drop in the plug for you to peruse back through this blog archive and see what some of them were. Most of it is dumb and pointless. But, hey. . . a lot of life back then was--at least for me sometimes. All of my experiences with my work friends was a chance to reignite a bit of fun in life at a time when I was walking away from a particular set of goals and dreams and years of study and "seriousness". I was glad to embrace frivolity and fun.)

And that makes it sound like all of that fun has gone away in recent years and that's not true or fair to the friends I still have at work and the fun I still have a lot of the time. But no one can pretend that a lot of changes haven't happened around there in the last ten years. And . . . I'm over 40 and getting more boring every day.

BUT--I ain't dead yet.

There is still lots to do and I hope I can still find time now and again to carve out space to describe some of it on the blog going forward. There are always TV previews to write. And while I may not think Tom Cruise is as crazy as I once said he was, you never quite know what those Thetans are going to ask him to do for the next Mission: Impossible movie stunt. And, certainly, my family and my kids aren't going away--and that was what I wrote about the most over the years anyhow.

So, there is still stuff to see and do. And you'll keep hearing about it here. Here's to more years of not yet figuring out how to grow.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Acknowledging Esther Day

I'm not having the best day of my life today (and who is, I guess . . . really). But I think I want to try and snap my brain out of that cycle for a few minutes and put aside work and thoughts and bad glasses and uncomfortableness so that I can honor the terms of Esther Day.


What is Esther Day, you may ask?

Well, follow the link to learn what it is.

So, in the spirit of that, I want to say to my own family and friends that I love them. And I'm not going to do it in a video because I'm at work and there is no place to do that and I shouldn't be spending MORE time with something like that. But I will take a few computer moments to type this together quickly with little editing and not as much thought and craft as it deserves.

I am lucky and I'm privileged to have a good life. And that life is built off of the generosity and kindness of many people--family and friends and colleagues. People who support me and work with me and love me back and know me well and those that don't. I'm a part of a modern world that chops us up into little buckets and segments of personality and skill. And I try to plug in my talents where needed and as best I can every day. But I can't operate alone. None of us can operate alone . . . and I don't think we want to. We want to work with others--even when it creates new challenges. We reach out to others and hope they accept that connection.

So, I guess I'm stopping to acknowledge that need that I have, every day, to be with others and to cooperate with them--privately, personally, professionally. Thanks for putting up with me. Thanks for helping me do better than I do on my own.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Election Central: Follow the Links

 Have you been keeping up with Election Central?
As the political season heats up, this site is heating up as well.

Credit: McGraw-Hill Education

Everywhere you click on this site, you can find something interesting and useful. And here's a recent example:

From the home page, choose the "Tracking the 2016 Election Candidates" post.
That will take you to the timeline that is (trying its best to stay) up-to-date on who has entered the presidential race so far.

But . . . if you follow the links from there, you'll be able to land in the other candidate biography pages. Those two posts are subdivided by political party and give each official candidate a brief biography of who they are, what their experience level is, and things like that. And if you click on the last tab of those biographies, you can discover the various social media platforms used by each and every candidate.

Building all of these links has really taught me a few things. For instance--
  • Google+ is not a platform used by almost anyone. (But there are a few out there.)
  • The Marco Rubio campaign never met a social platform it didn't like . . . even Pintrest.
  • The Bobby Jindal YouTube page is depressing in its lack of content.

Come on. Go explore. You'll see some fun stuff.
(But if you are epileptic . . . watch out for Rick Perry's Web page--especially if your computer's speakers are turned off.)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Party Month 2015

 It's been an eventful Party Month--as they often are. (For those of you who may not know, the stretch of the calendar from late June through late July is called Party Month at our house. Why? Well, it encompasses Grace's birthday, Lynda's birthday, Lynda and my wedding anniversary, and Sarah's birthday.)

Party Month 2015 ALSO included a family trip down to Ft. Walton, Florida for some beach fun with the rest of the Martins. So, as I said . . . eventful.

We started Party Month off with a celebration of Grace's 12th birthday. I know that I say this every year . . . but I really love how Grace holds such a fierce attitude toward life and towards herself. She expects the best and the most out of herself. And while that sometimes generates feelings of frustration, I want her to hold onto her high standards and keep up the fight.
It's no secret that over the years, the quick temper that she inherited from me has caused clashes between us. But I'm very happy to say that those kinds of problems have diminished so much as she has aged and matured.
You might think that her middle child status might be a problem. But then you don't know Grace Martin. She's never going to allow you to overlook her. (And you totally should not. She's a special person and is only getting better.
As June transitioned into July, the family packed up and we went to the beach for fun with family in Florida.  I hope that everyone had as good a time as I did. And I hope Florida got to appreciate hosting the 2015 Official Hat of Summer for a few days. While we were there I hung out on the beach, played in the surf, went fishing with my brothers and my dad and enjoyed lots of good food and family time. While we were travelling down South, we also had the chance to finally eat at Amy's SASS restaurant in Thomasville and to see the new Thompson twins in Waycross. The food was delicious (as expected) and the babies were cute (as predicted). It is too bad that we can't be with family more often. But I hope we made the best of it when we have the chance.

While we were in Florida, Lynda and I observed our 20th wedding anniversary. We got to go out by ourselves and had a really great dinner--with incredibly fast service--at the Red Bar. It was highly recommended by many people that we talked to and I definitely wasn't disappointed by the experience.
(I feel that much of this stuff isn't really news to you guys, because we've already posted these pictures and made comments on the Facebook pages while it was happening. But the institutional pull of WWYG?! and occasional blogging demands that I try to put some of these events into a different perspective anyway. Maybe I did a better job describing Party Month in years past when my digital focus wasn't pulled onto different platforms and social media services so often.)
And there are many, many more things to say about the 20 years of happiness that Lynda and I have shared. But I'm hoping to focus on that stuff later this year . . . when bigger plans for a anniversary-dedicated trip can be discussed. So, just assume that I know I'm incredibly lucky.

Once we got home from Florida, it's time to settle back into the rest of the summer and look for fun before the mid-August first-day-of-school arrives. Part of THAT effort was when Grace and Sarah and I stood in line outside Columbus' Ohio Theater to experience a bit of the Paper Towns movie pre-release madness. The weather wasn't too hot or rainy and the crowds were amiable and excited. We were treated to a 19 minute preview of the film and a question & answer session with author John Green and three members of the film's cast. I think we all had fun experiencing a bit of Nerdfighteria IRL. Maybe it wasn't as intense as the Pottercast visit back in 2007 . . . but it was still fun.
And then, as happens each year . . . Party Month comes to a close with Sarah's birthday. This year she is turning 15 and is firmly established in teenagerdom and high schoolery. And as is often the case, her birthday overlaps with some other event. In years past it was either our church's Vacation Bible School or when she was out-of-town at a summer camp. In 2015, it just happened to be both of those things at once!
So, she wasn't here when the big day came. But we'll find a way to celebrate after she (and Grace) return from Procter Camp this weekend.
From my perspective, I think Sarah is handling her teenage years pretty well. There are definitely highs and lows--but she is holding onto a pretty clear understanding of who she is. Unfortunately, she is just having to wait for other people to catch up to her. And I dearly wish it could happen faster. Sarah is funny and smart and engaging and great and I really want more and more people to understand that. Someday they will. And we can say we knew it first.

So, goodbye Party Month 2015. It was a good one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sorry . . . it gets better. (Again, sorry.)

You don't want to hear that.

I know.

But I fervently pray (and when I'm optimistic, I really do believe) that it is a true statement.

Growth and age and change is hard. But it can get better over time with (increased) maturity and (wider) perspective and  . . . patience.

Of course, none of that helps right now. And right now is the source of the pain and the confusion and the doubt. Right now is when things are bleak and hopeless. Right now demands to be handled.

And I feel powerless . . .

And it kills me . . .

And I am sorry.

But I believe. I truly see. I KNOW what is there.

Deep down--find that confidence within. Use it as a barrier against the shortcomings of life. I would stand in front of all of that . . . but that won't help.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Dean's Summer (Cable & Streaming) TV Preview

The host of this lovely blog has kindly agreed once again to broadcast my thoughts on the upcoming Cable TV schedule. There is a murderer’s row of returning shows (my top four shows of 2014 are all on the summer schedule) and quite a few new contenders that I’m sure won’t be disappointing in the slightest. So without further ado, here is what you can watch in the land of cable and Internet this summer season:

Halt and Catch Fire AMC (returned May 31st)
I watch this show because my wife loves Lee Pace. Do you love Lee Pace? If so you should watch this show. Did you like Mad Men? Then you should watch this show because Mad Men is over and you want a moody period piece about creative people. Were you kind of over Don Draper’s crap by the end of Mad Men? Then you will already be sick of Lee Pace’s crap on this show.

Well, I tried to watch HaCF last year, even though I've only been a fan of Lee Pace once (Pushing Daisies). But I do feel a sort of allegiance with his eyebrows, for reasons that should probably be self-evident. ANYWAY . . . I quickly quit watching in Season 1. But critics say that S2 is a reboot and much improved. Consider my DVR set . . . but I'm hovering over the delete button at the first sign of weakness. 

Sense8 Netflix (streamieres? June 5th)
Are you looking for the Wachowskis to disappoint you once again? Well look no further than Sense8. On the plus side it stars Naveen Andrews so you can also be disappointed in how Lost ended while watching this one (That finale was great, I don’t care what the haters say.)

You had me at LOST, Dean. No . . . wait. That's not the point. I am veeery leery of anything Wachowski-related after being burned in the past. So, let's talk about words. Since we are heavily featuring online content here, I pondered how to term the initial appearance of a show in online media. I initially took my cues from MSM terminology, such as "debut". But I couldn't find a suitable portmanteau looked good. Stream + debut was either streambut [definitely OUT] or debtream . . . or something. It was dumb. So then I happily settled on the melding of streaming and premiere for the fabulous construction of streamiere! I think I should get some sort of web-based Pulitzer for this.

What were we talking about?

Orange is the New Black Netflix (restreams? June 12th)
Are you not watching this show already? You should watch this show, especially because this season is without Jason Biggs, so it promises to be the best yet

Similarly, I combined returns with streams in the case of a returning show with multiple seasons to give the world the ever-useful term of restreams. Seriously, is anyone paying attention to what I'm coming up with here? This is GOLD!.

The Last Ship TNT (returns June 21st)
Do you have Firefly related actor withdrawal with Castle on hiatus? You can instead watch The Last Ship with Adam Baldwin. Everyone has died of a virus except the people on this, the last ship. (There’s also a ship full of Russians so the title is inaccurate, though maybe not as inaccurate as the title of The Last Man on Earth.)

Well, the less said about The Last Man on Earth, the better for me. I hated Phil (Tandy) Miller with a passion and dropped watching that show like a hot rock. Speaking of distasteful things . . . Adam Baldwin everybody. Tragically, he owns two of my favorite characters: Jayne from Firefly and Casey from Chuck. But he's a gross individual in real life. I can only assume that The Last Ship is actually about ethics in gaming journalism.

True Detective HBO (returns June 21st)
Will my wife extend our HBO subscription just to watch Taylor Kitsch? Can I tell the difference between Colin Ferrell and Colin Firth without the help of IMDB? Will Vince Vaughn successfully transition from slack comedies to tense melodrama? Will the presence of Rachel McAdams cause my wife to try and force me to watch the Notebook again? Only the true detective knows for sure.

Ballers HBO (premieres June 21st)
Do you like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? Do you trust HBO to put out quality entertainment?

Hasn't Dwayne politely requested that everyone refrain from using his "The Rock" sobriquet? Shouldn't we honor his request? And is this a dig at HBO? Sure, The Leftovers didn't exactly win over critics, but did you watch that The Casual Vacancy miniseries?

Humans AMC (premieres June 28th)
Do you sometimes get William Hurt and John Hurt confused? Oh, good, me too. I was very excited that the War Doctor had his own show, but that’s the wrong Hurt. This show stars William Hurt and he either is a robot or has a robot.  He is not the War Doctor just to be clear.

I'm growing to dislike single-word shows. (And no, I don't want you exhaustively researching all the time that I have contradicted that statement.) Right now I'm thinking about Alphas and Heroes and  . . . are those the only two I'm thinking of? Well, you get the point.

Scream MTV (premieres June 30th)
Remember when Scream came out in theaters and you were 14 and your friends mom bought you a ticket to see it and then you were worried you’d be scared, but it was actually pretty funny and a fairly good movie? Well now it’s a TV show on MTV so everything that was good about the movie will be made into a cheap, pale imitation and your childhood dies a little more every day. Eat at Arby’s.

It is clear, now more than ever, that we are not the same age. Curse you for reminding me of that and requesting that I eat at Arby's--which was a thing I used to do when I was younger.

Key and Peele Comedy Central (returns July 8th)
Remember how Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele were on Fargo? That was an interesting casting choice right? They are both very funny and you won’t regret putting this in your vision holes, that’s for sure.

But now I can only think about how strong Fargo was and when it will come back with an entirely new cast about something else. Do you realize, by the way, that we can thank the abominable American Horror Story franchise for this hot trend of anthologizing TV with rotating casts. That original show--and its subsequent cousins--was a gross mess. But from those ashes came an interesting idea.

Why? With Hannibal Buress Comedy Central (premieres July 8th)
Remember when we didn’t have to feel sad when we thought about Bill Cosby? Well you can thank Hannibal Buress for that. So think about what he’s capable of doing to YOU if you don’t watch. You should probably watch just in case.

 I don't usually watch anything on Comedy Central--except an occasional Daily Show or something. So I probably won't be doing what you advise here. But I do still have many questions regarding the content, format, and goals of this show. (You're really NOT doing a good job of describing these shows, btw.) Is it a news show? An expose type show? Dateline for cable TV? TMZ for the semi-literate? 

Rectify Sundance (premieres July 9th)
Daniel Holden has pled guilty to a crime he may not have committed and is now is banished from Georgia. How will his family react to his exile? Will Daniel ever adjust to life off of death row? Tune in to see these questions answered at a glacial pace if they are ever actually answered at all.

Rectify sounds like Justified--which is a show you implored me to watch several times. Daniel is a name my hometown newspaper mistaken called me in a write up about my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. Holden is only important if you are referencing The Catcher in the Rye. Add all of those elements together and I don't see a strong formula for me wanting to watch this show--even though it is set in the state of my youth. And speaking of a crime drama moving at a glacial pace, did anyone watch Secrets & Lies? That show stunk, huh? I mean, I guess it continued to stink as I quit watching after . . . um . . . three episodes? Juliette Lewis' creppy/obsessed cop was the last straw for me.

The Spoils Before Dying IFC (premieres July 8th)
Did you read or watch Eric Jonrosh’s acclaimed series “The Spoils of Babylon”? Well this sequel will surely be full of the usual epic drama associated with the work of the great Mr. Jonrosh.

Absolutely no comment whatsoever.

Masters of Sex Showtime (returns July 12th)
Will William Masters ever publish his seminal study on human sexuality? According to the synopsis for this season he sure will! Will that study be overshadowed by the Kinsey study? According to history it sure will! Will he and Johnson ever have a normal relationship? No, no they will not.

huh huh . . . you said seminal . . .

The Jim Gaffigan Show TV Land  (returns July 15th)
Hot pockets? Hot pockets. I will watch anything Jim Gaffigan does. Plus you can watch the first episode online right now, at so you don’t have to commit to anything right away.

You know . . . I'm not getting enough credit for the work I'm doing here: formatting Dean's text, inserting line breaks, adding hyperlinks. Just so you can sit back and let his words soak right in, as easily as heating up a Hot Pocket.

Married FX (returns July 16th)
Does watching a comedy about an increasingly loveless marriage sound like your cup of tea? Paul Reiser was the best part of this show that otherwise completely underwhelmed me (even the great Judy Greer couldn’t elevate it). This sounds like damning with faint praise, but Reiser was great; he’s definitely still got it.

Being a long-standing fan of Mad About You (and owning two of his relationship books), I see where you're coming from wrt Paul Reiser. And yet . . . Diner was very hard to watch.

I do like Judy Greer, though. 

And, while I'm still here . . . I want to apologize for that seminal joke up there. That was juvenile.

SEX&DRUGS&ROCK&ROLL FX (premieres July 16th)
Do you like Dennis Leary? If you do you should watch this comedy created by and starring Dennis Leary. If you don’t like Dennis Leary well, you should probably pass.

I would watch this if it involved Chuck Klosterman.

Bojack Horseman Netflix (restreams July 17th)
Will Will Arnett ever have a successful show post-Arrested Development? Well lookie here: It’s a Will Arnett show that has been renewed and critically praised! Are you not entertained?

That double "will" at the start of your "review" bothered me. But then it made me think of this. So I left it alone. Also . . . Bojack Horseman is just too odd for my taste. But this is being offered up to the Internet at large, so who am I to say. Go nuts digital people. Just remember who sent you there.

Rick and Morty Adult Swim (returns July 26th)
This is the funniest cartoon on TV right now. If you’re not watching it, you hate good old fashioned anarchic fun.  You don’t hate that do you?

Finn and Jake have some things they would like to discuss with you, Dean. . . . 

Review Comedy Central (returns July 30th)
Last year Forrest reviewed almost every life experience that you could think of and it broke him. What more could he possibly be put through this year? I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out.

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp Netflix (streamieres July 31st)
Did you see the film Wet Hot American Summer? Did you think it was kind of oversold by your friends once you got around to watching it? Me too! It was pretty underwhelming right? Anyway, now it’s a TV show.

Is Bradley Cooper involved? If not, then I am uninterested.

You’re the Worst FXX (returns July ??)
Do you want to watch my number one show of 2014? If so find FXX on your cable guide (it’s the channel that is currently showing The Simpsons.) and watch it.

In one of the rare instances in which I have taken your TV advice, I have recorded season 1 reruns of this show. But I haven't watched them yet . . . so maybe I'm still not convinced?

Playing House USA (returns August 4th)
This was a charming low key comedy last season that I was sure had been cancelled. So I’m pretty excited it was renewed. Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair are both very funny and they bring in a lot of other great comedians as well, so try it out?

And that brings us to Fall, where a whole new batch of shows will be awaiting us and the cycle of TV is born anew.

Thanks, as always, Dean for your thoughts. I am sure at least some of these shows will be worth the time. If anyone out there gives some of these shows a try, drop a comment letting us know what you think!

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Vlogbrothers and Batman and Crime and Ultron

The genesis of this argument between John and Hank is about six months old, so sorry if I am bringing up old news.

But it might be instructive to think about the efficacy of superheroics in this weekend that marks the Dawning of the Age of Ultron.

First, here is John's arguments for why Batman is bad and demonstrates the wrong message for how to improve the world.

And here is Hank's response:

And, just as a bonus for coming this far on the journey. . . here is your reward.

You are welcome.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Official Hat of Summer 2015!

The sun is getting brighter. The weather is getting hotter. People are wearing shorts and sun dresses. Goodbye brown liquors and hello clear. The birds are singing and the bees are buzzing.

All of these are important signs of the impending arrival of Summer. But none of these is more important than the start of this year's campaign to choose my 2015 Official Hat of Summer.

For several years now, I've been letting you--the digital public--determine the single, sole, and solitary hat that I will wear for the entire summer. (I define the summer at the days starting with the Summer Solstice--June 21--and ending on Labor Day--September 7.) During those days, I will only wear a single hat from the choices below.

And YOU get to decide which hat that will be.

There are many ways that you can make your vote heard.

1. Please leave your vote in the comments of this blog post.
2. Or leave a comment on any of the other social media engines that I will place this announcement on: Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr. Heck, if you have a Google+ account, I'll even let you comment from there as well.

All legitimate votes will be counted.
The ballot collection begins today and will end at midnight, June 21. I will post another video announcing the winner at that time.

Thanks for your annual participation. Thanks for ignoring my amateurish video-making skills. Thanks for your support.

May the best hat win.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

[last name]

Recently, my teenage daughter had to remove her existing Gmail account and create a new one.

(It has something to do with purchasing some online product and having to register her online identity . . . during which time we found that her email account was mistakenly set up as being in the United Kingdom. [WHAT?!] It's a long, frustrating story that isn't really relevant to what I'm writing about right now.)

But somehow it got me thinking about digital identities and daughters. And I suppose some of it is tangentially related to the reaction I posted yesterday about gay rights, and individual rights, and . . .

Well, anyway.

THIS morning I suddenly thought about what may happen to any of my daughters when they (maybe someday) get married. They might choose to change their last name and if they do, what will that mean to their online email identities? Most likely they will have spent one or more decades establishing something of a digital presence. And that presence will most likely be tied in part to their given last name--my last name.

So, how then will they deal with the potential confusion of an email address (at the very least) that doesn't accurately reflect that last name? Will email providers make it easy to change a username/email itself and retain years and years of data, emails, and whatever under a new identity? Or will women be forced to lose all of that data because that information can't be transferred from a childhood/early adulthood presence to a new identity under a different name?

Are my children the first full generation who have grown up with this choice facing them? I know in the case of my kids that when they are creating their digital user names/online avatars/email addresses, they certainly are not thinking about the possibility of getting married and having to change their name.

So . . . maybe they just won't do it.

And maybe that particular tradition will begin to wane. And could the thing that drives it be simply the imperatives of technology? Not a significant shift in cultural expectations or social mores, but just the weight of a digital life that had not been a part of someone's identity anytime in the past.

Something to pay attention to.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Football Counter-Programming: Championship Edition


Hey look. I realize that I don't have much of a chance of counter-programming you when the national championship game is on TV. Heck, I'm watching it right now too, so to try and do otherwise would make me a hypocrite.

So, let me give you these ancient images of the Ohio State and Oregon mascots.

In a battle between these two horror shows, everyone loses.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dean & David's Televison Top 10 for 2014: Part Two

Yesterday I posted  my Top 10 Television shows of 2014 and I willingly let Dean comment upon it.

But now I get to offer up Dean's views and give my comments about what HE wrote--and trust me when I tell you that he is wrong in many ways.


So, I’m the one that suggested this, and I already kind of regret it. Narrowing down a list of my favorite TV shows down to just 10 is a herculean task. I have this cornucopia of great TV shows to choose from, each one I love for their own unique reason. Picking only ten would cause me too much pain, so I will start off by cheating and listing my Honorable Mentions: Legend of Korra (Nickelodeon), Community (NBC, but soon to be Yahoo), Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox), Adventure Time (Cartoon Network), Ground Floor (TBS), Justified (FX), Enlisted (Fox). I could plausibly swap any of these shows into my top ten and wouldn’t regret it. But them’s the shakes I guess.

David: First, didn’t Hercules perform 12 tasks? And wasn’t this supposed to be a Top 10 list? Can’t you count? And second thing, I should have thought of a way to include Adventure Time . . . and maybe even Gravity Falls--which my kids have worn me down into watching. But, I understand what 10 means.

I would also like to give a semi apology to Legend of Korra: This show could easily have cracked the top 10, but because Nickelodeon makes me watch it on a small computer monitor instead of my TV, I have fallen behind on the episodes, and it falls out of the top 10.

You should watch all of those shows. They are great.

On to the winners. (You’re winners too, Honorable Mentions! I love you all equally!)

10. Archer (FX)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Look, any show with Jon Benjamin is already going to have an easy time making my top ten list, so it’s not really fair. Add in Cheryl/Carol turning into the country music star complete with a real life musical album (sung by the super-talented Jessy Lynn Martens) and I’m putty in Archer’s hands.

Notable quote: “Are we not doing phrasing anymore!?”

David: Maybe someday I’ll watch Archer . . . but that time is not now. It feels a bit too much like more mainstream Adult Swim. How would I explain it to anyone else?

9. Rectify (Sundance)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Because there’s nothing else quite like it on television. While some shows are seemingly afraid of showing stillness, this show sometimes is nearly nothing but an exploration of stillness. It provides an intimate look at the wounds a (possibly wrongful) murder conviction left on a family and it’s great.

Notable quote: “We call it lethal injection humor - more humane, but not as funny.”

David: I’ve never even heard of this show. Do you mean Justified? What is going on?

8. Bob’s Burgers (Fox)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Well, Jon Benjamin is the star…but also it’s endlessly quotable, amazingly funny, and it’s got heart. Never underestimate the power of heart in making a comedy great.

Notable quote: “My life is more difficult than anyone else’s on the planet, and YES, I’m including starving children, so DON’T ASK.” (Runner up: Ugh, my heart just pooped its pants.”)

David: Look, I’m as tired of hearing about H. Jon Benjamin as YOU are tired of hearing about “Arrow”. But I’ll overlook it this time because I appreciate the Captain Planet reference that I am waaaaaaay too old to admit that I remember.

7. The Americans (FX)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: It’s a tense spy thriller that’s actually about family! What could be better? (The answer is . . . these six shows listed below this one. Are you paying attention?) It’s also a top 10 show because it highlights the incredible wig technology of 1980s Soviet spies. This is an important public service.

Notable quote: “You know a Salisbury steak is technically a hamburger. In the shape of a steak.” Wise words Paige. Wise words.

David: Horrible job by me that I didn’t include this in my list. No excuses. I apologize to the 80s hot Keri Russell’s, to Keri Russell’s excellent blue jeans, to Matthew Rhys’ “Glen glasses”, to what USED to be Margo Martindale’s career, and to all of those Soviet wigs.

6. Game of Thrones (HBO)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: I named my daughter Arya, so I’m predisposed to like this show and rate it highly. But if I need to defend it more: It has dragons, wights, and medieval combat: what’s not to like?

Notable quote: “There is only one hell…the one we live in now.”

David: What? You cover Game of Thrones in less than 50 words? You’ve changed, Dean and I’m not sure I like it.Where is the dude that posted thousands of words about GoT?

5. Broad City (Comedy Central)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Because Ilana and Abbi are vulgar, messy, and hilarious. Also because of this:
Notable quote: “I'm not putting weed up inside of me because I'm an adult and I'm responsible.”

David: Are you making these shows up? I do watch TV, you know. You can’t just make up fictional shows and expect me not to notice.

4. Rick and Morty (Adult Swim)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: It’s a version of Back to the Future that takes the relationship between Marty and Doc seriously in the most demented wondrously weird way possible. Anything is possible, even if they can only get away with destroying their earth three or four more times, tops. Also because of Mr. Meseeeks.

Notable quote:  “I'm Ants in My Eyes Johnson here at Ants in My Eyes Johnson's Electronics! I mean, there's so many ants in my eyes! And there's so many TVs! Microwaves! Radios, I think! I can't, I'm not 100 percent sure what we have here in stock, because I can't see anything! Our prices, I hope, aren't too low! Check out this refrigerator! Only $200! What about this microwave? Only $100, that's fair! I'm Ants in My Eyes Johnson! Everythings black! I can't see a thing! And also, I can't feel anything either, [sets ablaze] did I mention that? But that's not as catchy, as having ants in your eyes, so... that always goes... y'know, off by the wayside! I can't feel, it's a very rare disease, all my se— all my nerves, they don't allow for the sensation of touch! So I never know what's going on! Am I standing, sitting? I don't know!”

David: Well, I hope you had fun with that quote because we’ve lost our adult, tax-paying demographic now. Next time, why don’t you try to explain “Too Many Cooks” to the WWYG?! audience?  I think I need to go over the focus testing numbers with you again before I let you guest post in the future.

3. Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: It’s funny and poignant. I really don’t feel like I need to write too much here as so much ink has been spilled on this show already. It deserves its spot here is all I’m saying.

Notable quote: “O’Neil, scatter the nuns!”

David: I think I find this show more intriguing if I listen to yáll mysteriously talk about it during lunch while I sit silently and chew.

2. Review (Comedy Central)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Because somehow they took the premise “A man reviews life experiences” and turned it into something incredible. Andy Daly’s performance as Forrest slowly unravels is a marvel to behold. Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes is the most bleakly funny episode of any show this year.

Notable quote: “Racism: Half a star.”

David: Again, Comedy Central is an actual functioning network. It is not your playground of imagination. I think you could have fit a few of your Honorable Mention shows on this list IF you hadn’t been making up fictional programming.

1. You’re The Worst (FX)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: There were a ton of new romantic comedies this year, and all of them forgot the comedy part of rom-com, and probably not coincidentally, all of them failed to make me care about the romance as well. They all had quirky best friends who were actually just annoying. All of them except You’re The Worst. Somehow it made me care about a romance between two awful people, and it made it look easy. It took the stock quirky best friends and made them human beings with flaws and wants and needs. Take notes other romantic comedies, You’re the Worst knows how to do it. Also Paul is the best. You blew it Lindsey.

Notable quote: (said sadly) “They’re everyone’s stars.”

David: I WILL watch this.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dean & David's Television Top 10 for 2014: Part One

The end of the year means lots of Top 10 lists.
And so I teamed up with my guest blogger partner-in-crime Dean to have a bit of a back-and-forth about the best shows of 2014.

If we were smart, had more free time, and were more tech savvy we might do this in a podcast form since Serial is so hot right now, but this is the best that we could do on short notice. (Dean only mentioned this to me at the end of last week, so the fact that we put our thoughts together over the weekend and that it is up at all for your viewing enjoyment is a bonus.) And you know that Dean's views are guaranteed hit counts for my blog, so I didn't hesitate to say yes.

If you are unfamiliar with this, I've been writing about television on this blog for many years. And in recent versions, Dean has been chipping in with his thoughts on the quality Cable shows that I tend to eshew (more on that as you read through this, I'm sure). But enough of the set up . . . here are my initial thoughts on the Best shows of 2014, along with Dean's commentary.

And if you like Part One, then expect more of the same later this week, but in opposite structure.

Let's get to it . . .

Here are my rankings of my favorite shows of this past year. I will predict before I read through Dean's manuscript that my choices are more mainstream than Dean's. (But I bet mine are better.)

1. The Flash This show could've been a train wreck. Super hero TV shows can be very dicey propositions. (See most every season of Smallville.) But this show has avoided these problems so far. The characters seems to make sense and the dialogue and acting in the cast and staff isn't nearly as cringe-worthy as some similar shows were in their first season of work.

Dean: OK, first off, everyone knows you start at 10 and work back to one, so we’re already off to a bad start. Secondly, I like The Flash because it shows you don’t have to be unrelentingly grim to have a successful superhero show. [Which is why I’m not watching Arrow and will probably drop Gotham.] But number 1? That’s crazy town.

2. New Girl In its latest season, this show has come back strong and is consistently funny again. It makes me laugh out loud on a weekly basis. If they promise to give me more classic Winston & Cee Cee mess-arounds I might rocket this show right up to the number one slot.

Dean: I’m not going to say anything bad about New Girl. That’s just not going to happen. Put New Girl wherever you like.

3. Gracepoint This is a show that has a very moody vibe--similar to Twin Peaks without all the mystical weirdness. A very, very, veeerry slow burn. If you are a fan of BBCAmerica, you might already have watched the Anglo original Broadchurch (which I have not, so I can't say if the American version tells the same overall story.) But it was a very sad ending.

Dean: I watched the British Broadchurch which was great, and I like Olivia Colman more than Anna Gunn. I am curious if they changed the ending like they said they would, so you’ll have to spoil it for me at lunch.

4. black-ish This is the surprising new show of this season and I like it quite a lot, considering that I completely panned it in my initial Fall Previews back several months ago. The writing has been strong and the characters are funny. I am tempted to say that this is a new generation's Cosby Show, but I should avoid any and all mention of Bill Cosby.

Dean: blackish is one of the few new broadcast comedies that I’m glad I’m still watching. It was a rough year for broadcast comedy. It’s legitimately good, so everyone check it out.

5. Game of Thrones It ended early in the calendar year, but it definitely has to get listed. If I don't rank it, The Mountain will crush my skull.

Dean: Oh look, we both have this. So that’s great.

6. A to Z The darkest of dark horses on this list, because the show itself has been cancelled and won't be returning next season. And that is too bad because this is a pretty good show that should have been given more of a chance. I mean, what else does NBC have going on right now? Is the network surrounded with quality shows that I don't know about? This seems like a good chance for another network to step up and take over this show to give it more time to tell its story?

Dean: A to Z (and the unlamented Bad Judge) helped kill NBC comedy Thursdays. It took something I loved and buried it in the ground. The best night in television is now a barren wasteland of insipid dramas. Also it wasn’t actually very funny, which is a shame as I like both Cristin Milioti and Ben Feldman. Those sidekicks though: eesh. [You're right that the sidekicks are the weaker parts of the quartet. But it isn't fair to say that the show wasn't very funny. What do you know about funny anyway? You like The Goldbergs and willingly watched The Neighbors a few years ago. And anyway, how about that Wallflower boss, huh? She's funny in a Michael Scott-lite sort of way, right?]

7. TableTop This is a weekly YouTube "show" that is hosted by Wil Wheaton. He features a new board game in each episode, explaining how the game works and then broadcasting the playing of the game with a rotating cast of friends. This is the start of season 3, so there is not much to go on yet, but I'm going to rank this show on the quality of past performances.

Dean: If we’re doing YouTube shows then I’m going to put Veronica Mars on this list, because I watched it online and in the past year so IT’S NEW TO ME, DAVID. See what you’ve done? Now everything has descended into anarchy.

8. Legend of Korra It's no surprise that Dean and I both have this show listed--though I happen to know that he won't put it in his Top 10. This series has never been as strong as Avatar: The Last Airbender was episode-by-episode, but it has shown overall improvement from season to season. And when you consider that no show since Scrubs has been so mistreated by its network during its tenure as Nickelodeon has done to Legend of Korra, I probably ranked it higher than it strictly deserved.

Dean: And now I’m yet another episode behind. I’ll catch up one day Korra. One day.

9. Arrow It has been an okay season so far. The addition of Brandon--don't call me Superman, I'm Ray Palmer--Routh hasn't added much in this first half of the season, but things are beginning to heat up. I mean, Oliver [SPOILER ALERT] and then Ra's al Guhl said [SPOILER ALERT] and they had to go to the [SPOILER ALERT] which will most likely cause Oliver to go [SPOILER ALERT]! Luckily Palmer almost has his A.T.O.M. suit ready to go and Felicity will be there to help him, so I am predicting that [SPOILER ALERT] for the first month or two when the show comes back in January.

Dean: I’m not sure what anything in that paragraph means, and I’ve already noted my issues with this show above, which are totally valid even though I’ve literally only seen one episode of it when it crossed-over with The Flash.

10. Star Wars Rebels Hey guys, Star Wars is so hot right now . And this animated show is providing some interesting angles on the universe.

Dean: BUT IS IT CANON!? In all seriousness I haven’t seen it, so I can’t intelligently comment. 

CODA--The fact that I remembered to include black-ish from my initial draft means that Elementary gets bounced to number 11 on my list. And that is too bad because this Sherlock story is still good, but I had my doubts at the beginning of season three. A new character was introduced as Sherlock took on Kitty as a new protege. Joan Watson is striking out on her own with her own detective consulting gigs. But Watson and Sherlock continue to interact all the time. I imagine this is what it was like when Robin left the Batcave and became Nightwing. He kept running into the old man on Gotham rooftops as they went after the same jewelry thief. I expect the small-talk would be pretty excruciating.

Dean: There’s this thing called cable David. You should watch it.

So, there are my top ten, counted up in the proper order, no matter what Dean says.

Tune in tomorrow to see what Dean's favorite shows were and what I had to say about them.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Happy Holidays 2014 from the Martins

Here is this year's Holiday e-card and Year in Review.

 I hope that you had a good 2014 and that 2015 may be shaping up to be a good one as well.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Shopping Counter-Programming

Grace and I are spending our Saturday Christmas shopping. So I probably won't have much time to write any post. But that's okay because there's no football today anyway to counter program.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #14

I had an idea for what to write earlier in the week. As is the usual occurrence, I had a clear idea and even some fairly clear ideas for the first few paragraphs of what I would write.

But as I sit here this morning, tasked with the duty of writing one of my last Football Counter-Programming posts, I can't recall any of what I might have planned. So now I am trying to figure out where to go with this day's post instead.

I guess I should start with an image search. Okay, go over to Google and type in the usual: "football fantasy nerds". Ignore scantily clad women, ignore offensive things, try to find something that is football-related and nerd-related. Wish I could reuse last week's image again, but that is against the rules I set for myself . . . hmmm.

Oh! This is a good one--and I haven't USED it yet.

Alright. Now that THAT bit of business is out of the way . . . what can I write about?

Hold on, I'll get some opinions from around the house.

Sarah, who is sitting nearby, studying for a geometry midterm suggests that I talk about family Christmas traditions. So I'll write up some stuff about that.

In my adult life, here in Ohio, our family traditions have always centered around travelling. Because all of our family members live several states away, we are the family that travels to meet up with everyone else year-to-year. And so that means we usually have our own family present-opening a few days before actual Christmas--usually on a Thursday or Friday prior to us leaving town on the weekend before Christmas week. We want the kids to have a chance to enjoy their gifts before they leave them behind for the car ride south. (This was especially important when they were young and were getting primarily toys. We wanted them to play with the toys ahead of travel.)

Then we would drive down to Georgia and split our time between various destinations for days at a time: Lynda's parents in north Georgia, my parents in south Georgia, Lynda's brother in east Georgia. In the 10 to 12 days that we are typically gone between December 20ish and January 1, we manage to see all of the immediate family: moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and first cousins.

It can be somewhat exhausting, true--living out of suitcases for days, remembering to pack all of the gifts for various households and have them ready, always having somewhere else to be in a few days. But if we don't do it in December, it may be six more months (if we are lucky and available) before we might possibly see most of them again. And since I don't do a very good job of talking to anyone on the phone regularly, this is made even more important.

One of the bigger challenges with all of this December travel is that I feel that our holiday planning is even more compressed than most. Because we are on the road by the third week of December, we have a tight window to get our shopping done, have any holiday parties with our Ohio friends, and the like. (But since I don't know what other people's pressures are, I'm probably just projecting.)

But enough about travels. Everybody has December stressors. What do we do for fun?

Every year we go to the Zoo Wildlights Christmas displays. (I posted a few of those pictures from this year on my Facebook account a few weeks ago. Grace and Hannah were riding a camel in the dark.) That is always fun . . . and COLD. Hot chocolate is always a welcome addition to that event, as it frequently snows while we are there.

This year, we also visited the Franklin Park Conservatory with some friends from church. Linda and Jenny are unofficial godparents to all three of our girls and they love to shower Sarah, Grace, and Hannah with lots of gifts--some of which are aimed for the long car ride's southward. In the last few years, we've met at Culvers (home of Wisconsin's famous butterburgers) for a meal and to open gifts. The conservatory was decorated with lots of poinsettias and the usual plants and Chihuhly glass. There was also a display of gingerbread houses and choirs singing season hymns. Good times.

What else do we do? Well, let's see . . .

We almost always make sugar cookies, iced with lots of colorful frosting and in the traditional shapes. I also organize a food-based bacchanalia at work that I happily call Gluttonfest. And if the company is doing well, we might even have a holiday company party each December. When the kids were smaller, there was also a daycare Christmas party to attend.

There is always lots to do and never enough time to do it well enough. Unfortunately, we don't often (if ever) get to spend Christmas eve with our church family, but they get us almost every other feast day of the year.

But . .. what about you? What sort of traditions do you have year to year? Where do you go? What places and events do you look forward to?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #13

Welcome to another week of Football Counter-Programming. This week I"ve got to fight for your attention as many significant rivalry games are competing for your eye-holes. So I'll try to make you divert your gaze over here with this bit of news.

Q: So it looks like they’ve recorded yet another version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, and guess who’s back? Yep, it’s your old pal Bono at it again.

He’s even singing your favorite line — wait a minute. They changed the lyric! Instead of “Well tonight thank God it’s them, instead of youuuuuuuuuuu,” it’s “Well tonight we’re reaching out, and toooooouuuuching youuuuuuu.’ I’m still not sure if that makes any sense, but they went and messed up the best/worst thing about that song. How does it make you feel?
—Jon, Bellevue

BS: I feel like someone just tried to repaint the Mona Lisa. That’s how I feel. You can’t even consider remaking the greatest holiday song ever without every A-list voice from this generation — and even then, you’d never consider it if it wasn’t for a good cause. But for Bono to come back to THAT? And THAT lyric? Oh my God. Why not just rerelease the greatest holiday song ever with everyone resinging their parts? I’m so bitter. I’d be madder about this if Bono didn’t just get injured in a cycling accident. Get better, Bono.

So, yeah, there is that.
But really, I;m here to 'not talk about this week's version of The Game. And this week, The Game is tOSU versus Michigan.

But I'm not here to talk about that game--mostly because that is counter to what this counter-programming is all about and also because the game is over before I ever had a chance to write any of this, so if you care, you already know everything that you need to know.

Instead of watching any football or blogging earlier in the day, I took Grace to watch The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. And it was a sad tale, to be sure.

But it related to The Game in the sense that it does a pretty good job--as the book did before it--of making the viewer struggle with the notion that modern war is sometimes and in part fought in the media and that it can be treated as a sort of game by those insulated from the actual experience of the fighting. And that is too bad. Because war of any kind should not be treated as anything less than the most serious of decisions. And we should not trivialize it or minimize its damaging effects.

And that also relates to how we use the word war in our discourse, which is often so flippant and sarcastic in its tone. We equate actual war with football, with political disagreements, with many other much more trivial things. And that is a disservice to the people that have actually experienced warfare.

Lest we forget that in our country, we are so distanced from the wars that we drag out nation into. And so few of us every have to pay any price at all for that choice. And lest we forget that real wars and severe hardships are happening all around the world all the time and we know nothing about it and we rarely spend any time acknowledging it.

Instead we make fun of the one line in the song designed to reach out and help the people who are in trouble.

So, maybe I need to resolve to be more sincere and to remember as this year ends that there are people across this country who are suffering. May I find the time and the resources and the desire to make their lives a bit better every chance I get. And may I remember that people I will never meet are always struggling to make their own lives better. May I remember them and find paths to reach out  to them with the many blessings and resources that I may take for granted.

I live in a wonderful world. May I take some of my own wonder and hand it off to someone else.