Friday, September 29, 2006

Nothing to Say

Well . . . that's probably not really true.

I am sure, if I wanted, I could find more to say. Just the other day I was formulating a response to Sven's post about havin' the blues. I was going to acknowledge that I know where he's coming from, but then I was going to make some sort of life-affirming pledge to be more upbeat and positive at work, to not let the workload get me down, to do my best every day and try to sleep soundly with the knowledge that I am doing what I can and if more is needed it is unreasonable, inhuman, and I shouldn't have to make that choice.

But that isn't very affirming, now is it?

Maybe it's because I also identify with Sven's reference to the Sufi whirlers. There have been days in which I feel that I am swirling around in my cube or twirling from one meeting to the next, from one task to the next, from one fire to the next, tamping down flameups and turning around to notice another one that has been building for a few days unbeknownst to me (and there is so much flammable paper surrounding my desk!).

But that wouldn't be very positive, now would it?

Possibly I am simply tired, since I left work around five, immediately drove to local High School #3 for Sarah's elementary school picnic (which was moved indoors due to the rain of recent days . . . naturally this evening was beautiful). We grabbed some potluck food and sandwiches, monitored the consumption of a great many desert choices, and listened to a bit of lite jazz patter/chatter.

Then I was off again--this time taking the girls to the Rec center for Sarah's swimming lesson. (Lynda headed home to begin solving Work Crisis #17.) Sarah worked on her swimming strokes while I watched Grace play on the playground equipment, which was conveniently located in the spacious dome-shaped interior of the Rec center vestibule, next to big windows overlooking the pool. So I watched Grace play with my right eye and watched Sarah swim with my left eye, occasionally sparing both eyes for the pretty late September sunset through the clerestory windows of the Rec center entrance.

Once home I began checking the bundles of pages that I had brought home to finish this evening. Both Lynda and I paused to watch one episode of Veronica Marsseason two, and then we retreated to our corners/computers to keep working. I resolved the issues that I wanted to handle tonight and now I'm wrapping up my evening with a quick blog entry.

(Maybe I'll see if there's something mindless on TV to scrub my brain clean before collapsing in the bed.)

Saturday, September 23, 2006


It's raining steady and hard.

A very loud peal of thunder booms through the early morning sky.

I wake up, knowing the kids will be arriving soon.

Sure enough, footsteps coming down the hall, the door swings open and Sarah arrives. As she slides into the bed, Grace pushes the door open further and starts crawling in.

After a moment of shifting places and adjusting, it's clear that I'm now OUT of the bed.

"No storm should be THAT mad," Sarah says.

(It would be cute if I weren't the one that wasn't getting sleep in the bed anymore.)

Why couldn't we have had out new Queen set mattress delivered BEFORE the big storm woke everyone up?!

Now I'm stuck sleeping on the couch.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Office

We all wore casual clothes at work today as it was the date of the annual Corporate Picnic. (I'm a big fan of the picnic--or as one of my more erudite and learned colleagues said, I'm a "picnic aficionado." I like it because you can get out of the Office into the bright sunshine, interact with your friends in a new, more relaxed setting, and I give myself permission to act stupid and relax even more than usual. I like to act stupid at these sort of casual events. Maybe, if I ever move up more in the company I'll get nominated for the dunk tank--something that I think I would accept with lots of excitement and would play it up good.)

But, back to the morning before the picnic itself. We were all wearing our jeans, t-shirts, sneakers. Everyone just seems more comfortable when we dress down. I can't prove it (and I know others have done the studies) but I really think people would be more productive if we got to wear jeans. It's not like our regular Office attire is rigid and Victorian, but people seem more accepting on casual days. But, then again, maybe it's the fact that these days come along occasionally that results in my mood observations? Yeah . . . That's probably it.

What isn't in dispute, however, is the odd devotion that some people in the Office have towards what is known as The Big Cups. I don't understand what these larger (18 oz? 20 oz?) styrofoam cups have that their more diminutive (8 oz? 12 oz?) brethren don't have, but some people just gotta have it!

I was refilling my coffee cup, thinking about the different casual uniforms that people adopt (more on THAT in a minute) when someone walked in, opened every drawer in the kitchenette, and muttered "No Big Cups" and then walked out. But there were approximately 12 smaller styrofoam cups stacked and waiting beside the coffee pot! Why can't you just put your drink in the smaller cups and come back when you need more? It'll be a fresher drink and you'll get some exercise in the process. It's not healthy to sit in your cube all day long!

Why the need for the Big Cup! Someone please explain!

But . . . back to casual uniforms. You get much needed glimpses into people's personality when they get the chance to switch up their work attire. A lot of the women in the Office (apparently) like hoodie sweatshirts. It is clear that everyone likes jeans and sneakers, but you can tell who is hip to the fashion by what kind of sneakers they wear. I usually favor one of my t-shirts (today I went with 70s Sci-Fi . . . my first one!!) or something like that. I feel it signals that I am hip to be square . . . or something. But then I wondered if I was trying too hard to be "youthful" and should accept the fact that I am almost 35 and haven't been in college in about a decade or so. Has this sort of clothing passed me by for good? Should I just go with casual polos and jeans on casual days? So many question yet to answer.

The Office picnic was pretty good, even if I didn't spend the rest of the afternoon there like I really wanted to. Lynda and I went for lunch and to relax in the sun for a bit. Then we both came back to the Office so we could try to get more work done (and we weren't alone, believe me). She then left to get the kids from school and daycare and I stayed to try and squeeze a bit more productivity out of this day.

Unfortunately, Lynda and I both blew one thing. We forgot that today was an Early Release Day at Sarah's school, meaning that she got out of classes an hour earlier. Just as Lynda was leaving the building, she got a phone call informing her of this fact. Sarah had been sitting in the school Office waiting. Now we look like "bad parents" in the eyes of the school . . . uncaring about the needs of our daughter . . . too wrapped up in our careers . . . forgetful . . . scattered . . . sigh. We still have to make more adjustments to this School thing, but it'll get worked out eventually.

I did have another interesting thing happen to me at the Office after the picnic. I was correcting a mistake on a page, using a White Out pen. As I opened the lid and began applying the correction fluid to the paper I had a powerful scent-memory, flashing back to my college job at the Georgia Southern University museum. Back then I worked mainly in the back Office, only acting as a tour docent when staff needs or the schedule of local school tours dictated. Mostly I kept up with records on the Office computers, organized the storage rooms and sometimes helped assemble exhibits. One of my most unusual jobs while working there, however, involved inventorying, marking, recording, and data processing the home contents of Mr. Jack Averitt. Mr Averitt was a prominent, retired businessman in Statesboro and had decided to donate his home's contents to the Museum upon the death of himself and his wife. Mr. Averitt and his wife had traveled extensively throughout their life and their home was filled with all sorts of items, tchotckes from from around the world, along with lots of china, furniture, expensive pottery vases, etc. At one phase of the project, it was my job to spend the day in his house marking each individual statue, vase, plate, wooden thingy, and everything else with a museum assigned number. (Mr. Averitt had already put together an extensive catalog of all the items, complete with descriptions of what it was, when it was purchased and where.) For each item, I had to put a small spot of White Out on an unobtrusive spot and then write the Museum number on the item. Once everything was done, I entered all of this information into the Museum's database.

Today's smell of White Out was exactly like the White Out I smelled during the afternoons sitting in a hard-backed chair behind a table in Mr. Averitt's sitting room. It smelled like White Out always smells, but it was mixed with some "old" kind of smell as well (possibly a mixture of Mr. Averitt's cologne and Mrs. Averitt's perfume?).

It was a good job at that point in my life, just like this job is a good one at this point in my life. I don't always like it, but does anyone always like their job? Again, back in college, I said at a scholarship interview that I wanted a job in which I would be happy going there 3 days out of 5. I think that is realistic . . . and I think over the course of my working here, I have easily surpassed that average. Right now . . . I'm sure to be below that benchmark, but "Life isn't a bed of Roses" and "Make Lemonade out of Life's Lemons" and all that.

I sometimes let my job define me, so when it's not going well, then I'm not going well. But I know that I am so much more than what I do at the Office each week (and a bit on the weekends, as needed). I am glad that my kids don't define me by my job and I am glad that Lynda knew me long before we worked together. And I hope that my friends and colleagues think of so much more than my productivity when they think of me at work.

(The photos are courtesy of Slate's Magnum Photo essays.)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

High Anxiety

I can feel it . . . the strange tenseness in my body, the repetitive phrases looping in my brain as the day goes on, the fog of anxiety wrapping me up throughout the day.

I am getting worried about my project again.

It was going well (so I though) a few weeks ago. I had about two weeks of steady sailing and progress. I thought the worst of the planning stage was behind me, some things were underway, and I figured I knew how to get the rest up and running.

Then the Big Mistake occurred and I've been discombobulated ever since. While my days are better than they were During the Realization of the Mistake and the Explanation of the Mistake and the Finding of all the Resulting Problems due to the Mistake, I have lost what slender confidence I had in my progress.

Now, at almost any time I can doubt what I am seeing, wonder what I am misinterpreting, dreading the Next Big Mistake (even if it never comes).

This is the sort of thing that I used to do when I was younger, an anxious school-ager worried on the night before the first day of school, worrying about classes I hadn't even entered, assignments I had not been given, projects that my siblings had done before me but I had not yet undertaken. This is why my mom and dad took me to a counselor for several months so that I could talk to him about my worries and prevalence for fearing the unknown.

I have never quite gotten over it and I understand that a certain amount of anxiety is what makes us get out of bed a give a shit about what other people think, but I don't want these next several months of work to consume me and make me think constantly about work, worry about working when I want to be having fun with my family, destroying my life outside of the work-a-day world. I don't want this to happen, though I am completely aware that it is happening to others around me.

I'm trying to get a grip.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Saving the Best for Last? Not Really.

Now I'm wrapping up my 2006 Fall TV Preview posts. You can read part one, part two, and part three first.

But all good things must come to an end and that means I'm ending with the newly formed CW Network, a hybrid of the best (?) shows from UPN and the WB.

For me that means Smallville. For others, it might mean America's Next Top Model or Gilmore Girls. Recently I've become a fan of Veronica Mars, so add that to my list.

But, let's go break it down day by day.


I've never liked 7th Heaven and I never will. So, there's nothing interesting for me at 8 pm. But you might like Runaway at 9 pm. Because, beneath the surface of this "normal" family, there's something else going on! Totally unexpected! Frankly, I'm a little afraid that the most innovative thing about this show is that it is set in Iowa.


Surely this is the CW's strongest night, with Gilmore Girls on at 8, followed by Veronica Mars at 9. Gilmore is beloved by many, but it's creator, writer, producer, director, and guiding light Amy Sherman-Palladino is gone after a bit of a contract dispute with network honchos. Will the show be as good with her out of the picture? Some reports say that the actor are actually loosened up by her absence of auteurism. I'll leave it up to the fans to say yea or nea.

Speaking of fans, there is Veronica Mars. It is a show that has lots of people standing up to praise it--famous people like Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Kevin Smith (he had a small part in the season two premiere). But can the show actually draw enough viewership in its third season to stay alive? It seems that the actors are cautious in their optimism. Here's hoping from this person. Lynda and I are trying hard to zoom through season two on Netflix to catch up when season three begins in a few weeks.


On this night we've got America's Next Top Model and One Tree Hill. Top Model might be FIERCE! but I'd rather watch Project Runway or Top Chef on Bravo. And One Tree Hill is something like The OC meets basketball with cheaper production values. Moving on . . .


Now we're getting somewhere, because on this night we see the return of Smallville. The constant thrust of the HoYay! might not be there anymore, but it's still about Superman and it's still got Sexy Lex and it's still got Alison Mack. Plus this year, say hello to young Jimmy Olsen and the dude that will grow up to be the Green Arrow! Are you excited?!

But you could hang around after Smallville and watch Supernatural. It's sort of like The OC and the X Files (but without the pretty, pretty Gillian Anderson).


The CW's Friday night show is such a letdown that I won't waste any more words on it:


Lots of sitcoms on this night--Everybody Hates Chris, All of Us, Girlfriends, The Game, and a repeat of America's Next Top Model. Face it America, everyone is watching either Fox's animated comedy block or NBC's football. The CW should save their money . . . move Everybody Hates Chris to another night and show a test pattern.


So, now that I've gone through everything, you're wondering "Great Burb! Thanks for dropping all the knowledge on us. But what are YOU going to watch during the week?"

Well, here is my potential TV lineup:

Monday I might watch "How I Met Your Mother" @ 8:30, but it'll probably conflict with getting the kids in bed. So it'll be sporadic at best, I'm thinking. But I am definitely interested in "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (NBC @ 10).

Tuesday I don't normally watch much TV on this night as we are usually driving back and forth from our Hilliard bible study group. But I'll be taping "Veronica Mars" (CW @ 9) and watching it before I go to bed.

Wednesday I'll most definitely be watching "LOST" on ABC @ 9 pm and might stick around to see if "The Nine" is at all interesting @ 10. But nothing else is Must See for me.

Thursday I am assuming that "Smallville" is now being broadcast at the same national timeslot all across the country now that UPN and the WB have merged. So that means I'll be taping that @ 8 pm while the kids are getting tucked in. Unfortunately, that means I won't be able to tape either "My Name is Earl" or "The Office" which are on NBC during that hour. And that is a shame, because I would LIKE to watch those shows. Maybe THIS will help? I didn't stay connected to CSI (CBS @ 9) this past season, but that is probably the only other show that I'd go out of my way to watch on this night. But, if I really want to watch CSI, I'll have to wait until 10 pm to watch the taped episode of "Smallville." It just begins to get too complicated, you know?

Friday Battlestar Galactica, Battlestar Galactica, Battlestar Galactica, Battlestar Galactica, Battlestar Galactica, Battlestar Galactica, Battlestar Galactica . . .

Saturday Meh. Maybe I'll read books this night or do something constructive. Then again, maybe I'll watch football and stare at dust motes. Or maybe I'll play a card game with my lovely wife.

Sunday I try to watch "The Simpsons" now and again, but the show has lost its fastball in recent years. Plus, its on during that kid bedtime hour and I'm not going to devote my VCR to taping it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

So much to say . . .

. . . let's break it down by the numbers.

Have you heard about the insane amount of change and stuff going on at Apple Computers these days? Now you can download movies, along with the music, podcasts, and TV shows that you could download last week. Also, they've lowered prices on older iPods, eliminated the 60 GB iPod in favor of a 80 GB model, completely redesigned the Shuffle into some sort of refrigerator magnet, AND rolled out iTunes version 7.0.

Since I haven't the authorization or money to upgrade my iPod, I am enjoying my new version of iTunes. The overall look of the interface page is different--more "polished" somehow. But what I like the most is the new Album Art mode, where you can flip through your Library and the Album Covers flip past you like they did in those 1990s era jukeboxes that you could see at Pizza Hut. It is a bit mesmerizing and a major time suck.

Look at this screen shot of my iBook to see what I mean:

You can read more about all of the Apple news here.

Lynda and I went to Sarah's elementary school last night for Curriculum Night--an opportunity for parents of the 1st and 2nd Graders to listen to the principal and have classroom sessions with the teacher. You may recall from my last post that Lynda and I were a bit angsty about the teacher, but last night made us feel better about things.

We got to hear from the teacher about rules, classroom procedures, and got to ask questions. Sarah's teacher has a very strong emphasis on reading and has almost three decades of teaching elementary school. Bottom line is that we are reassured.

But the REAL interesting news that came out of that night is that Sarah won't be getting (what I would call) traditional report cards while she goes through her schooling. In an effort to better track student progress in meeting the all-important state standards, the reporting structure for our school district in our city has been redesigned as follows.

(This is taken from the brochure "A Parent's Guide to the new Elementary Standards-Based Achievement Record" which Sarah brought home from school today.)

Information about the Standards-Based Achievement Record

Standards are statements about what students should know and be able to do within each content area, at each grade level. This curriculum is identified in the Ohio Academic Content Standards developed by the Ohio Department of Education.

The purpose of this new reporting system is to provide accurate information about student performance on the Ohio Academic Content Standards to parents, teachers, and students. The goal is to communicate student achievement progress. Attendance, effort, and work habits are very important areas, but are reported separately from this achievement information.

The ____ City School curriculum has been aligned to the Ohio Academic Content Standards in all content areas. A student's individual achievement on Standards is now measured on attainment of these learning goals.

Children and their learning are too complex to be reduced to a simple letter grade. Our new reporting system is not a grade card in the traditional sense. The achievement marks indicate a child's progress towards achieving specific grade level standards as identified by the Ohio Department of Education. This shift in thinking from traditional A, B, C, D, F grades to the new E, M, P, L markings is that an M is the goal for the grade level and should be celebrated.

Traditional Report Cards
Subjects by name
Letter grades reflect an individual teacher's expectations on student effort and achievement
Curriculum and instruction are teacher centered, textbook driven, and may not be aligned to the Standards
Students are compared to one another by the teacher's criteria

Standards-based Reporting System
Major subjects defined by content standards and grade level indicators
Reporting levels indicate the degree of achievement of the grade level. Standards Achievement and effort are reported separately.
Curriculum and instruction are student centered and aligned to Standards
Student performance is compared to the Standards and measured by performance levels


Achieving significantly beyond grade level standards and is self directed.
  • A student earning an "E" independently uses and applies knowledge in ways that demonstrate high level thinking skills.
  • Typically, VERY FEW students perform at this level.
Achieving grade level standards successfully, clearly on track.
  • A student earning an "M" demonstrates understanding of grade level skills and concepts and requires minimal support.
  • An "M" throughout the school year indicates strong, excellent work at grade level.
  • The "M" mark is the GOAL for the grade level and should be celebrated.
Progressing toward achieving grade level standards with some support.
  • A student earning a "P" has not yet met the standards but is progressing toward achieving skills and learning grade level concepts. Moderate support from teachers, parents, and/or peers is needed.
  • A "P" indicates ongoing growth.
Skills are limited, frequent support needed.
  • A student earning an "L" is currently not meeting the grade level standards. The student demonstrates an inconsistent understanding and application of knowledge.
  • Intervention is needed from teachers and parents

It all sounds a bit kooky and new mathy, but I don't really have TOO much of a problem with the structure--with the following exceptions.

a.) The amount of assessing, reevaluating, and record-keeping for the teachers just skyrocketed to meet the new reporting style.
b.) Everyone who wrote the brochure . . . and everyone who tried to explain it to the parents last night (who don't have the benefit of working with state standards EVERY day) seem convinced that there are NO students who will meet the "E" level. Your kids has to be freakin' Albert Einstein, before they are going to notice someone demonstrating Exceptional levels of cross-subject and cross-curriculum learning.

That troubles me not because I am convince my kids SHOULD be E+(?) students, but rather how can ANY student learn to be exceptional if the people shaping the learning are conditioned NOT to see it happen? But then No Child Left Behind isn't about creating Exceptional children but for lifting the ragged out of the dust . . or some such falderal.

We are in the middle of what you call a paradigm shift. I'll know that my kids are achievers if they are receiving E(2)s and M(4)s. Sure, I'll think they are either in the military or a secret British intelligence agency with a license to kill . . . but maybe they'll get into Princeton by saving the Dean's daughter from Russian spies!

Next post . . . the final entry in my Fall TV previews (probably just in time for November sweeps!)

If you have been interested in the continuing story of how to survive disasters of all sorts, then don't forget to check out this link.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Losing Control

This has been a very stressful week.

I think it comes from the fact that I was struggling on two fronts--work and home--though one was a more significant problem than the other.

First the smaller problem.

Sarah went through her second week of First Grade this week and things really are going fine. She is well prepared for reading, rudimentary math, and the other academic tasks that she must face. It certainly doesn't sound like the way this Newsweek cover story describes the increased pressure on First Graders in some parts of the country. And for that I am thankful. I want Sarah to get a good, solid education, not worry about graduating from Princeton summa cum laude right now.

It's always hard to get the exact story of what happens at school, though. Sarah is very articulate, but she is only six and her perception of things is different. She still sees everything in terms of herself and can't quite understand all of the motivations of others. (Not that Lynda and I can either, which is another part of this story.)

It was my job this week to go to work early and leave early to get Sarah from the elementary school. Monday was the holiday and then I started me new week's schedule on Tuesday. I picked Sarah up, went and got Grace from the daycare and headed home. At home I started getting dinner ready while the girls played. Lynda came home, we ate dinner and then we drove across the city to our weekly bible study group. By the time we got home it was 9 o'clock and the girls were tired. It was then I realized that I hadn't checked to see if Sarah had homework to do for the following day. Sarah hadn't said anything, but then I hadn't checked or asked. There was some small reading to do and worksheets to complete (more than normal because Sarah had also missed some of the school day to go to the dentist that day).

Lynda had to take care of going over that stuff the next morning and that is when the confusion began. There was a phonics reading workbook that Lynda put back in Sarah's bookbag Wednesday morning. But it got misplaced somewhere between the house and the time it was needed in class that day. I think Sarah had one of her six pins taken away from her that day because she wasn't prepared. (If you loose all of you pins, you don't get to pick from the treasure chest on Friday afternoon.)

We looked for the book at home, we asked Sarah about where it might be, and we looked for it at the daycare where she eats breakfast before riding the bus to school. Nothing. We emailed Sarah's teacher to ask about it and got what Lynda felt was a slightly reprimanding reply about how she doesn't want Sarah taking ANYTHING school-related out of her bag at the daycare. (We felt she might be prejudiced against daycares, an attitude we have run into before from teachers, doctors, etc.)

We looked around again at home and at daycare, hoping we would locate the book. We asked Sarah about it again, but as I said, it is hard to get an accurate view of the events from her perspective. She gets her passage of time confused and it's not clear what occurred when. But he had a glimmer of hope that she might have put the workbook in some other student's desk.

On Friday, I was prepared to meet with the teacher and pay for a new book to prevent (?) any further punishment that Sarah might receive from not having her book which we still could not locate. But on Friday I got another email from Lynda explaining that the book had indeed been placed in another boy's chair pocket. We saved some money, saved our stress, and prevented Sarah being colored as forgetful in the first month of First Grade.


That was probably the only bit of good news I got on Friday because I was in the midst of digging myself out of the work-related problem that I was in. I am not going to go into particulars here, since it is never a good idea to discuss work in your blog, but I get into generalities.

As I was preparing contracts for some work that I am freelancing, I began to suspect that I had made a mistake interpreting the budget of my project. For a few days (while trying to continue moving forward on other aspects of my multi-faceted project) I teased out the particulars of the mistake. Sure enough, by Thursday it was clear that I had misinterpreted the budget and done something incorrect.

Trust me when I say I felt very ashamed and foolish when I alerted my boss of my mistake. As he always does, he (outwardly) took it in stride and didn't waste any time getting upset at me. Rather, he asked questions and set about solving it. I made a suggestion, which he brought up to his boss and they agreed that it would be okay to handle it the way I proposed.

Everyone politely agreed that more careful oversight would have kept this from happening, but the honest truth is that I started the mistake and it was my primary responsibility to prevent it from happening in the first place. But both bosses were calm, not outwardly angry, and everyone moved on.

On Friday I went about my day, having meetings to review future plans on my project and make sure that all agree upon what is to be done and what everything is to be called--no small task when I am overseeing probably 100+ individual items. Corrections were noted and I moved on to the next phase. I had another meeting where I and other formally launched some of my items into their next phase of production . . . and then later I discovered that some of the corrections pointed out in the first meeting were not accounted for when one item was launched to phase two. So, I had to make some quick adjustments, clear notes to myself on how to check it later, and then photocopy the record to use as a check.

Of course, the photocopied jammed on me, trying to eat one of the pages in the process. And naturally, about fifteen of the photocopied pages were mysteriously blank, leaving them fairly useless for future checking. So, I had to go back downstairs again, get the original sheets and try to photocopy them again.

But the time my day ended on Friday, I was ready to get out of there--both to clear my head and to avoid making any further mistakes.

On the way out, Flipper stopped and gave me a hug. Not everyone knew about what had happened (I hadn't broadcast it or anything) but I had run into her at lunch and she could tell it was frustrated. Anyway, it was a very sweet gesture and made me feel better.


I thought last night that while I have been wrapped up in my own problems, my colleagues around me have been facing many of their own problems. And I haven't paid much attention to those problems at all. I hope I can move on this next week, staring out fresh for myself and being more available to them if needed.

Basically I hope to take back control of my work, looking at things more clearly and accurately. I also think that was a source of frustration with Sarah's book saga. Now that she is moving ever so slightly out of our parental reach, maybe Lynda and I are frustrated at our lack of control. We begin to realize that as our kids grow, they naturally encounter other authority figures and do things that we aren't a part of. School will be something that she does in the company of others, under the eyes of others. And while both our kids have done that in daycare for years, school is symbolic of another stage of development.

I don't mean that I oppose this development. I just mean to say that she isn't the only one making adjustments. Here's to making all kinds of changes carefully and accurately. Fewer mistakes . . . or at least no more big costly ones.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tonight--two at once

Tonight I'll try to tackle CBS and Fox. If you haven't read part one on ABC and part two on NBC, then read them first.


CBS kicks off the work week with The Class, a new sitcom in which a group of third graders reunite twenty years later to find out what changed. Sounds to me like the Big Chill but without the big budget, soft focus, and bankable stars. Count me out. But don't give up on CBS entirely, because at 8:30 following The Class How I Met Your Mother returns for season number two. This is another one of those shows that I am very much in favor of even though I haven't seen much of it at all. But anything on CBS that isn't Ray Romano-related has got to be an improvement, right? (Except for all the other CBS shows I will now dismiss.)

Fox's Monday night at 8 pm is Prison Break. A lot of people like this show, but I've never been a fan and haven't seen it at all. Ladies, especially like it because the main characters are rugged in a pretty, sensative way.

But Monday night on CBS wouldn't be complete without at least one contemptible show and for my money, that is Two and a Half Men. Does it have more juice than Everybody Loves Raymond ever did? I don't know . . . but you can't claim that it is more original than yet another family crisis sitcom. Ever heard of My Two Dads? At 9:30 you could watch The New Adventures of Old Christine and see if Julia Louis-Dreyfuss deserves the Emmy she just won.

On Fox at 9 you could watch Vanished, but I think you know that I am tired of shows that include the phrase: "there is much more going on here than it seems on the surface" but are not also LOST.


On Tuesday CBS has NCIS, which I think stands for "Not CSI," The Unit, which seems to be the Un24, and Smith, a new show with Ray Liotta. With the additional star power of Virginia Madsen and the striking similarity between this show and Oceans 11, it might be a decent show as CBS goes.

Fox Tuesday features House and Standoff. This new Fox show sounds like it is a mix of a procedural-type show like CSI or NCIS with a healthy dose of sexual tension and past relationships. Standoff does feature Gina Torres, who I liked quite a bit on Firefly and Angel.


CBS's big mid week offering is an ominous show entitled Jericho. Jericho sounds like yet another LOST clone that described itself with such words as "plunging," "chaos," "isolated," and "wondering." But it also features this promotional image:

How can Two and a Half Men compete with THAT? (Maybe the good people featured on Jericho should read this post.) If potential nuclear destruction doesn't make you want to watch TV then maybe Fox's two Wednesday shows--Bones and Justice--will. Bones debuted last year and has received good support and some critical praise. Justice features Alias alumnus Victor Garber, but since it's not Alias I don't think I'll watch it.


CBS on Thursday is all about two things--Survivor and CSI. Both shows have been around for a long time and so, you may ask, what else is there to say? Regarding CSI, I agree that there isn't that much to say now. We know the characters really well, the pattern of the show is established. Any success or failure of the show now hinges on the quality of the writers and the stories they provide.

But Survivor, being a "reality" show that lives and dies by it's artificial construction, has come up with a new idea that has guaranteed more pre-debut press than ever. Televised race-baiting! It makes me proud to be an American, I must say.

If you don't want to be confronted with the sorry state of the races in the United States, just let James Woods and Jeri Ryan chase your fears away with Shark at 10 pm. But no matter the packaging, its still just another lawyer show.

Usually you would expect Fox to go to the lowest common denominator and do something like the Survivor race game. Instead, Fox goes entirely conventional with Brad Garrett's attempt to "out-Romano" Everybody Loves Raymond with 'Til Death. It sounds and reads just like every other marital strife sitcom that you've seen over the past several years. I say skip it. There's another sitcom at 8:30 called Happy Hour but I don't even want to get into it as this post has already gone too long and I'm not done with the week.

Fox, 9 pm, The O.C. If you're a fan then you'll watch. If not, then you won't.


Did you know that Ghost Whisperer is still on the air? And it still has Jennifer Love Hewitt's ugly hair, I think. I've never even heard of Close to Home, the returning show that CBS has scheduled at 9 pm. And while I liked Rob Morrow's time on Northern Exposure back in the day, Numb3rs (10 pm) has never interested me that much.

Fox Friday is Nanny 911 and Trading Spouses. Both are returning shows and both interest me not at all. Must I say it again? Battlestar Galactica!


The choices for both networks on the weekend are Cops, Crimetime Saturday, America's Most Wanted, and 48 Hours Mysteries. And people wonder why so much sports is watched on the weekend.


There is always The Simpsons (now entering its 18th season), 60 Minutes (now entering it's kajillionth season) and other returning shows like Family Guy, American Dad, Without a Trace and Cold Case. But I'm tired now and I just don't want to get into anything else. You can go here to read up on stuff that I skipped for CBS and Fox.

Survive . . . This!

Slate is producing a multi-part story on how to survive man-made and natural disasters.

You may laugh and think it's funny (and I do) but if you can learn one useful thing from these articles, then it's time well spent. I am not advocating that you go out and stockpile clean water and radiation suits in your basement, but it might be helpful to remember when a nuclear blast occurs that you should run perpendicular to the windflow of the fallout cloud.

I watch Survivorman now and again and I find it interesting television. Will it help me live and escape from an isolated Costa Rican jungle? Probably not, but it might help me avoid eating the wrong sort of berry. Who knows?

The first entry is how to survive a nuclear bomb attack. And yes, you WILL survive it, so you'd better learn how to deal with it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

SupercalifragilisticexpiKing of Darkness?

Did you know that I have damned my children (and myself) to eternal suffering? Did you know that I am facing corruption on a daily basis? Did you know that I have allowed pure evil into my house?

It's true. According to Reverend Gabriele Amorth, who is the Chief Exorcist for Pope Benedict XVI, I am consorting with the devil every time I open up a copy of the Harry Potter books, written by noted Satanist J.K. Rowling.

But not everyone agrees. The Christian Science Monitor wrote a piece arguing a more rational (natch?) point of view for how to address the mix of magic, morals, good, and evil found in Harry's adventures.

This church reportedly used Harry Potter in its Vacation Bible School, which apparently doubled the attendance. (It's the fourth story on the linked page.) Predictably . . . the church was Episcopalian. (I kid because I LOVE--and because I'm Episcopalian also.)

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Peacock Preview

NBC is next on the list in my Fall TV previews. Not because it is the second-best network or anything, but because it is the home of one of the most talked-about shows in this upcoming year . . . Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It's the new show helmed by Aaron Sorkin with Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry. Luckily, it's on Monday Night so I can get to discussing it soon. But not quite yet. (You can read my first installment of this year's Fall TV Preview at this link. Just skip down past the boring bits and read about ABC.)


At 8'o'clock, you've got bald guys, mutants, and old friends in new places. You've probably heard of Deal or No Deal, the Howie Mandel/suitcase model gameshow that is part Press Your Luck, part Let's Make a Deal, and a dash of Barker's Beauties. But, I've already spent too many words on a prime time game show. It won't make it past mid-January. Stephen King taught us a long time ago (Running Man) that prime time game shows get old fast--unless the models are hiding grenades in the suitcases.

One of the more intriguing shows this year is Heroes. But superhero TV shows are usually cheesy and dumb and tend to be a bit too moralizing. This one sounds like it might have a lot of X-Men influence to it, but I'm not a big X-Men fan. So, as shocked as you might be to hear to admit it, I don't think I'm going to be too interested in this show.

What's REALLY interesting on this night for NBC is Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It's got everything you would want in a ten-o'clock drama. It's written, produced, directed, edited, filmed, marketed, and sold by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing). It's got Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) and Matthew Perry (Friends) as friends/rivals/coworkers on a sketch comedy late night show. If you remember how Sports Night tried to show how ESPN put together SportsCenter, this is how NBC puts together "Saturday Night Live." But it's NOT SNL, see because they refer to SNL on this fictional sketch show. But, since it's on NBC, it allows the show within the show to make fun of how crappy NBC (and TV in general) usually is. Sounds pretty meta, right? I am definitely intrigued--especially since NBC has ANOTHER show premiering this season with a similar premise. Stupid? We'll see.


This night has two different Law & Order shows from 9 to 11, so let's focus on the new show--Friday Night Lights. Well, let's not focus TOO hard, since I haven't read the book about how important High School football is to small town Texas. See, I grew up in small town Georgia and am well aware of how important high school football can be. I saw Varsity Blues and well, I don't think I'll be watching Friday Night Lights. I'm sure it's good and all, but well . . .


NBC has lots of new stuff on this night, but I don't have extremely high hopes for it. Why? Well, this has turned into the biggest, most competitive night of the week in recent years and I just don't think NBC's offerings have what it takes. For instance, the 8 o'clock sitcom 30 Rock might be promising, but it's already at a disadvantage. The show is Tina Fey's (Saturday Night Live) comedy about a writer for a TV show and the mayhem that occurs behind the scenes. Studio 60 is already doing that show better on Monday night on this same network. Tina Fey might have the real experience to make it funny, but I don't see it happening. It'll be just another office space comedy show . . . with Alex Baldwin. (Yikes!)

But, if you make it to 8:30, you'll be rewarded with the return of John Lithgow to NBC!! Yeah! I'm sure that Twenty Good Years is going to be totally great! And I'm sure that all those Arrested Development fans won't be crying while they watch Jeffrey Tambor duck as Lithgow chews though all the scenery in sight! (Even their demeanor in the photo is upsetting.)

Jeffrey looks like he is trying to get away before Lithgow's smirk knocks his glasses off of his head.

The rest of NBC's Wednesday night is The Biggest Loser at 9 (which might be foreshadowing of what happens during the 8 o'clock hour) and then another new mystery drama at 10 called Kidnapped. I know absolutely nothing about this show except that the tag line is "The ransom is just the beginning." From that I can surmise that this show is a LOST clone in which we delve deeply into the lives of our main characters where nothing is as it seems. I'm not interested, but you can pick up a complementary copy of Identity on your way out.


This is NBC's strongest night . . . at least for the first hour. My Name is Earl and The Office are solid hits, well written, funny, and I've never watched more than an hour of the two shows combined. Why? I can't really tell you. I've WANTED to watch, but I've never made it happen. Maybe this year?

The rest of Thursday is ultimately forgettable. At 9 o'clock, Deal or No Deal rears it's ugly bald head again. Twice in one week? Really? Do you want that fork in your back this quickly? Okay . . . I just hope you've got some mid-season replacements waiting in the wings.

And at 10 o'clock, you've got ER! Yeah, seriously! I thought it was canceled or went off the air about seven years ago too, but it's still going. They rotate in a new cast about every year, so it always seems like a new show. But it's not and it quit being relevant about a decade ago. Let it die already.


You'd think that Friday Night Lights would go best on this night, but since the people most likely to watch this show will be watching actual high school football on this night, you've got other things to ignore. It's Crossing Jordan from 8 to 9, Las Vega from 9 to 10, and Law & Order from 10 to 11. Do you want to watch? Nah, me either. As I said when I previewed ABC's Friday Night, it's Battlestar Galactica or nothing on this night.


If you like professional football, then NBC Sunday night is for you--as that's all you'll get during the prime time hours. If you loathe televised entertainment in all of its forms then Saturday night is for you . . . since you can skip everything the Peacock offers and feel superior. But all you'll be missing is Dateline NBC and two hours of "Drama Encore" in which I assume the network warms up something it already showed that week and let's you see it again for the first time. Basically, just read a good book or go talk a walk, okay?

So, there you have it. On NBC, I'd save time for Monday at 10 pm (Studio 60 . . .) and then why not watch My Name is Earl and The Office on Thursday. Or just wait for the four midseason replacement shows that NBC is ready and waiting to drop on you when 30 Rock, Deal or No Deal, and Twenty Good Years are out of the picture.

And . . . oh, yeah . . . WHERE IS SCRUBS!!!!!!!!!!!