Thursday, June 27, 2013

Let's go fly a...oh, you know.

Let's go fly a...oh, you know., originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

Well, I could blog some stuff for you folks. Or I could do stuff like hang out on an Atlantic beach with my family, flying a kite that looks like a shark.

Yeah. See ya! (Vacation ends Saturday, normal life resumes Sunday, work resumes Monday. 'Day Job' work, that is. I've been writing this whole time.)

But anyway...see ya!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Astronaut View of Fires in Colorado

Wow. That is all.

Telegram from the Sea

Sunset over Delaware Bay, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.


Friday, June 21, 2013

A Very Public Service Message

Blogging in this space, which has been kinda sporadic anyway, will be even more sporadic over the next week, because I am on vacation. I'll probably still have some stuff up, but don't hold your breath.

And now for something completely different:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Something for Thursday

Oh crap, it's Thursday! And in my time zone, it still is, for another 19 minutes. Ha! Sorry to drop the ball so completely, but I'm in "Vacation Mode" at work and in my head and I'm still trying to extract this frakking book from my head. I know where the book is going, but I'm well into the third (and final) act and I've got quite the juggling act going on, and I'm finding it in general a bit of a struggle to make sure everything happens that's supposed to. Plus I've got my Muse, doing his drive-by visits, which are always helpful but also a bit vexing as I try to figure out how to use what he's giving me.

But anyway, enough whining. Here are the End Titles from Hook, by John Williams. This very fine score has pretty much disappeared except from the consciousnesses of devoted film music fans by virtue of the movie being, well, not all that good.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Toys from the FUTURE!!!

This Retrospace photo really takes me back. The one toy I remember not owning from childhood that to this day I still kinda-sorta want is the Big Trak, the rover-vehicle thing in the upper left corner. See that keypad on the back? You used that to load a program of movements, and then the Big Trak would take off, executing the turns you programmed. And it made cool laser noises, too. I always loved the cut of that thing's jib.

And that kid in the lower right, sitting in that seat-thing? I didn't have the seat-thing, but I had the spaceman helmet and air tank that he's wearing. Cool stuff for a budding space dude. Zap! Pow!

Writing is like this, installment # 5748

Here's another metaphor for what writing is like. Take the wonderful opening scene (sorry, I can't embed the video) from Love Actually (a movie about which, if you say bad things, I will fight you -- that's no lie). Billy Mack, our drugged out singer, is recording a cover version of a classic oldie but with the lyrics 'repurposed' for Christmastime. OK? So he's recording, and it takes several takes because he keeps getting it wrong. He gets more and more frustrated with himself, culminating in one of the best self-directed bits of profanity in movie history.

But then, he buckles down, dials in, and he nails it. And he knows it, he knows he's nailed it, so he keeps going, getting into the moment. And he's really creating something now! He's got it!

And then, the realization hits him, and at the 1:54 mark in the video, he says to his producer, "This is shit, isn't it?"

Even when it's going great, you're never far from the conviction that you're still producing tripe and treacle. You're never far from stopping typing, staring at the screen, and saying, "This is shit, isn't it?"

That's what writing is like.

Monday, June 17, 2013

One doesn't see too many job listings for executioners these days

I'm trying to wrap my head around this story. A convicted murderer is about to go free in Indiana. The case has never been in doubt; this isn't a case of innocence-by-DNA. The woman confessed to the crime, and there has never been any challenge to her conviction. The sentence, however, was: the woman was sentenced to death. But she was only 16 at the time.

Murderers are...well, they're murderers, and I struggle with my notion of how best to deal with them. I honestly do believe in rehabilitation and maybe even redemption, and this woman has served 27 years in prison. Is she rehabilitated? I guess that's not really for me to say. It's a tough question. But the idea of sentencing someone to die for a crime -- and this one, involving a butcher knife and more than 30 stab wounds, is pretty heinous -- before they're old enough to have even most of the privileges our society reserves for 'adults' seems extreme.

And then I read further in the article and I learn that until 1988, you could be sentenced to death in Indiana as young as ten years old.

Many years ago, I believed in the death penalty. It seemed pretty clear to me: murderers should be executed. Eye for an eye, and all that. But I changed my mind when Ted Bundy was executed.

If you were to draw up a list of every murderer in the history of the human species, and rank them in order of who most deserved the death penalty, I think there's a pretty good chance that Ted Bundy would wind up in the top ten. He is among the very worst things our species has ever produced. But I've never forgotten the news footage of his execution, during which a raucous and celebratory crowd was gathered outside the prison, brandishing hand-painted signs that said things like "Barbecue Ted" and "Fry Bundy Fry". Those images were like a bucket of cold water, thrown upon me. The state was killing a human being, and there were folks outside the place where it was happening. And they were having a tailgate party.

I haven't had much confidence in the moral underpinnings of the death penalty since then.

In my lifetime, at least one state maintained the legal authority to execute ten-year-old children. The mind reels.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome (Russian edition)

Oddities and Awesome abound! This week, a trio of Russian stuff.

:: The first human to travel in space, Yuri Gagarin, died several years after his flight in a plane crash, the details of which have never really been made clear...until now. I continue to be amazed, this many years later and what with the news today, by humanity's need for secrecy.

:: Today is the 50th anniversary of the first human female space flight. I've never understood why it took the United States more than two decades to get a woman into space. (Although, in more cynical moments, I think I do understand it, but I don't like the implication.)

:: Finally, a more frivolous and non-space related item. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is mad at Vladimir Putin. I've never been able to figure Vladimir Putin out (I always get this vague sense that he's the James Bond supervillain that Dick Cheney always wanted to be), but the fact that he has angered the Patriots makes me happy.

More next week!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

This week's potential cover art

I might as well make this a quasi-regular thing, huh?

OK, that's it for now, lest I get carried away. Time to get back to writing. This week was a bit rough in terms of pure output, mainly because I'm into the hard part of the book, the part that I've been entrusting to The Muse all along, the "I'll cross that bridge when I get to it" part. Well, I'm at the bridge now. Time to cross it, armed with the little scraps of Burger King wrappers, old coffee cups, and Post-It notes that The Muse has occasionally seen fit to huck out the window of his Dodge Dart at me.

Back at it!

Friday, June 14, 2013

From the Books: "Me the People"

I've recently read a book called Me the People: One Man's Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America, by Kevin Bleyer. Mr. Bleyer is, among other things, one of the writers for The Daily Show, which means that this book is a mixture of humor and serious discussion, with the occasional problem that at times it's difficult to separate the two. But it still present a fascinating look at the process by which the Founding Fathers arrived at the Constitution, and what kinds of problems exist in trying to force a modern, technological superpower's society on a governmental structure created by a bunch of agrarian former colonists more than two hundred years ago.

In all honesty, I've never been much for idolatry of the Constitution. I recently had a friend try to draw me into a conversation on gun control, and I strongly resisted, not particularly wanting to venture down that particular garden path, well, ever. But my friend did ask me this: "Well, you believe in the Constitution, don't you?" That struck me as an interesting question, because, well, what does it mean?

Do I believe in the Constitution? I suppose so, in that I believe that we have a government that is structured according to the provisions contained within the Constitution's pages. And that's about all that I believe about it. I don't believe that there is anything especially sacred about the Constitution, and I don't believe that the Constitution represents some kind of moment when we rose to greatness. In truth, the Constitution is a muddled mess of a document, and the government it creates isn't so much a brilliantly constructed Machine of Democracy as a hodge-podge, ramshackle mess of compromises with difficulties exacerbated by some really poor writing.

When discussing various issues, I try to never get wrapped up in talking about what "the Founding Fathers wanted", for a number of reasons. To begin with, the Constitution simply does not represent any kind of 'consensus' on the part of the Founding Fathers. A lot of them disliked the resulting document and simply accepted it as "the best thing we're likely to end up with". When the biggest matter of consensus arising from the Constitutional Convention was a general sense of "Meh, this was the best we could do, folks", the idea of ascribing any particular thought or philosophy to "the Founding Fathers" doesn't make much sense. Heck, Thomas Jefferson even thought that we should scrap the entire thing after a few decades and take another whack at it. As far as I can see, referring to "what the Founding Fathers wanted" is a reference to nothing at all, because they all wanted different things.

More importantly, though, is that a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. The United States Constitution was adopted 224 years ago. Even if there really was some kind of consensus as to what the FF's wanted, why should that even matter now? Maybe because it's our own history, but the time of the FFs was a lot longer ago than I think we tend to realize, and I'm increasingly of the view that keeping our governmental structures rigidly organized according to the thoughts of people who lived and died that long ago may not be a great idea. Consider the following list of things, and consider that FFs lived closer to these things, time-wise, than they did to us:

Queen Elizabeth I
William Shakespeare
The defeat of the Spanish Armada
Johannes Kepler
Suleiman the Magnificent
Ben Jonson

Did the FFs intend for their Constitution to still be running the show 224 years later? I have no idea. But I suspect they'd be a bit baffled by the lip service that is paid to that old document these days, and it says something to me that they included a mechanism for changing the Constitution for a reason.

Here's how Bleyer sums things up:

Now we understand how it all happened -- or rather, almost didn't.

The Constitution wasn't a "Miracle at Philadelphia" written by "an assembly of demigods". On the contrary; what began as a measured, deliberate effort to rescue a beleaguered country became a perpetual unresolved-motion machine -- a maddening cycle of nonbinding votes by a parade of toothless committees, marked by fits and starts, fights and "full stops", conducted by a combative group of exhausted, drunken, broke, petty, partisan, scheming, squabbling, bloviating, backstabbing, grandstanding, godforsaken, posturing, restless, cow-tipping, homesick, cloistered, claustrophobic, sensory-deprived, under-oxygenated, fed-up, talked-out, overheated delegates so distraught and despairing they threatened violence, secession, foreign allegiance, even prayer -- and concluded, for those who didn't abandon the proceedings altogether, with as much premeditation and forethought as a game of musical chairs: the last, least abhorrent, mutually-somewhat-acceptable idea on the table when the music stopped -- or the heat became too unbearable, or the liquor too strong, or the rioting too loud, or the pressure too intense, or the company too loathsome, or the wigs too uncomfortable, or the patience too thin -- became the law of the land. As much the product of an "assembly of demigods" as a confederacy of dunces.

From page one, the Constitution is, by its own admission, a compromise. It is what you get when you drink beer for breakfast.

Or as Ben Franklin put it as the Convention ended: "Thus I consent to this Constitution, because I expect no better."

If they thought it stank, why should we pretend that it smells of roses and lavender?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Something for Thursday

A repeat, this -- maybe more than a few times even -- but it's a work I come back to at least once a year. Here is one of the finest choral pieces I know, "Shenandoah".

It's lovely enough, until about the 1:30 mark, when the clouds part and....

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Strange brew! (And cold.)

So I've been intrigued for a while about the idea of cold-brewing coffee. This is a method whereby one extracts the flavors and oils from coffee not with hot water, but with cold. (Duh!) Basically, you mix ground coffee and cold water and let it sit out, at room temperature, for a long time: 12 to 24 hours. Then you strain out the coffee, resulting in a concentrated coffee extract that, because it was done at a low temperature, cuts down on the coffee's acidity.

So I acquired a really nice glass bottle, hunted around for recipes (eventually settling on this one), and away I went! Here's the pictorial tale.

First, I measure out coffee: 4.5 oz of it. Which turns out to be quite a bit of coffee.

Cold Brew Coffee I

Into the bottle goes the coffee. Most recipes I've looked at say to use a fairly coarse grind, since the long steeping time will be used and since it'll be easier to strain it out later on.

Cold Brew Coffee II

Then, into the bottle goes the water: 3.5 cups of it.

Cold Brew Coffee IV

This results in a pretty gross-looking sludge. Don't worry! This is normal.

Cold-brewing coffee. Never tried this before, so we'll see! #Yum #coffee

Now came the waiting game. I did the prep part of the job at 4:30 in the afternoon, and I did the straining around 8:00 the next morning.

Straining turned out to be...problematic. The recipe I used said to simply put a standard paper coffee filter into a fine-mesh strainer and pour the sludge through there, slowly, and let it drain into a bowl. The problem is that when I did this, the paper filter clogged up almost immediately; the initial slow pour of coffee slowed in minutes to a slow drip, and then stopped altogether. I tried another filter, and the same thing happened. This was a problem, obviously. So I dispensed with the paper filters: I poured the coffee mixture through the fine-mesh strainer into the bowl, and then, after cleaning the glass bottle, I strained the coffee again, through the same strainer, back into the glass bottle.

The result? Here's my coffee concentrate, after double-straining and several hours of refrigeration.

Cold Brew Coffee VI

Yes, it's only half the bottle. But it is, after all, a concentrate, so you're not going to use that stuff straight. (Well, I suppose you could, if you wanted to. It's your nervous system, folks. I'm not the bossa you!) The idea is to dilute the coffee concentrate, with whatever it is that you typically like. You could use water, I suppose, but that seems goofy. I used milk, in equal portions. Here's what I ended up with:

Cold Brew Coffee VII

And then:

Cold Brew Coffee VIII

I have to tell you: this is really pretty tasty. In the future I think I'll use the half-size tumbler for this, though; a glass that size is a lot of this stuff to drink at once. And I'm kind of wondering if I don't need to use one percent milk or maybe even two percent, because we only keep skim milk around, and for this kind of drink, I kind of miss the mouth-feel I get from a little bit of fat content.

And of course, there's a virtual galaxy of flavorings I could add to the mix. On a future iteration, I may well try adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to the coffee during the steeping. And if I get into this in a big way, I might start keeping the finished concentrate in smaller glass bottles (of which I have a few floating around, from commercially-prepared iced tea) so I can start the process over again with my main bottle.

Ah, coffee. You make things possible!

Monday, June 10, 2013

A brief quote about writing

From William Goldman's indispensible book, Which Lie Did I Tell? (More Adventures in the Screen Trade) (salty language alert):

Mr. Ziegler, referred to earlier [Evarts Ziegler, once Goldman's agent], was once told that technology was going to change everything. He shook his head no. "I don't care," he began, "what you say. I don't care if your fucking technology figures out a way to beam movies from the moon directly into our brains." And here he paused a moment before finishing with this: "People are still going to have to tell stories."

Hear, hear.

Sentential Links

Linkage! Some of these are new to me, blogs by folks I've met through Instagram.

:: I’m trying to focus on the things that I want to make habits, to work on finding a less cranky place to come from. Seems a good goal, overall.

:: Their story is still being written. Their possibilities are endless. The future is up for grabs, to take and mold it as they please.

:: But I struggle with the label of bisexual. For me that implies a desire for that particularly womanly taste and scent, the softness of the curves of the female, balanced with a longing for the hardness of males. This is not my experience. I cannot claim “queer” as an identity, as I am objectively “not-queer.” I am ambisexual, uni-sexual, ambiguously sexual…who can say.

I am, in the end, just me.
(Aren't we all? Labels are such a pain in the ass...but they make talking about stuff so much easier. Weird.)

:: I woke up with this feeling, a season change is clear in the air. It rained all night, and that's good for the plants, not for my mind, I've been praying, like every day, for our home to be safe, for my cats and dog to be safe when i'm working.

:: Kat Dennings is an almost-perfect choice for Maddy. She is witty and sarcastic, but can turn on the dramatic when the scenes call for a bit of seriousness. Although Maddy is described as only 5’1, Kat’s curves are exactly how I pictured my MC when I wrote her character. (I can't say I haven't pictured Kat Dennings as the older of the two Princesses In SPACE!!! [not the actual title], but I haven't mentally cast her, either, mainly because she's likely unconvincingly old for that part. Alas!)

:: I was the kid that gave her barbies cancer. They had terrible, and rather short lives in my make-believe world. Bad things just happened and I was aware of it.

:: Shakespeare wrote plays, not novels; that is, his works were meant to be seen and heard, not read -- at least not at first. While I prefer live theater, that's more easily said than done for some folks, given travel, time, and/or budgetary considerations. In my experience, then, a well regarded film is preferable to an amateur-ish "Shakespeare in the Park" production. Bad theater, no matter how well intentioned, is just bad theater.

:: My father loved to write crap down. He’d dream up some idea or another, and he’d jot it down in one of a half-dozen little notebooks he used to carry around with him. I remember one time as a kid when I asked him about something, and to answer me he produced one of his older notebooks. Hell, I can’t remember what it was I asked. But I clearly remember him ruffling through page after page of drawings and scribbles, trying to find the answer. He paused on one page, which contained a crude (but surprisingly precise) drawing of a suitcase with two different kinds of wheels on it. “I really should’ve done something about that,” he said, tacitly suggesting he’d scooped the originator’s patent. (At work, I always carry a notepad with me. Always. I have to. If I'm working in one part of the store and I realize I need to cut a piece of material, it's easier to take my measurement on site, jot it down, and go make the cut. That's just one example. Oddly, I don't carry any kind of notepad around when I'm just me, being Joe Blow Writer Dude out and about. This seems odd, but it occurs to me that I rarely have any big writing ideas when I'm out and about being Joe Blow Writer Dude. I've come to a point where The Muse seems to only drive by and chuck shit out the window at me when he knows I'm gonna be right here, ass in chair, banging away on the keyboard.)

:: May I make it clear, please: next time some yahoo proclaims the word of God as a tool of oppression (and/or stupidity), just assume I oppose it. I may not mention it all the time, because that’s what I would be writing about ALL THE TIME. I’m not interested in doing that; it would be boring for me, and quite possibly for you.

More next week!

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome!

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: I saw this candle on Facebook, but without any information as to where it comes from. Which is a bummer, because it's one of the coolest-looking things ever. Imagine burning this in a room as the only light source, and tracking the shifting of the shadows on the walls and ceiling over time.

Again, I have no idea where this is from.

:: Apparently the Swedes have decided to take movie-making about the Vikings into their own hands. Cool!

:: Over the last few years I've had some folks comment on my nice-looking skin...hmmmmm....

More next week!

This means something. This is important.

So The Wife and I took a few hours a couple weeks back to wander the aisles and corridors and back corners and nooks and crannies (but, sadly, no dimly-lit basement!) of the Orchard Park Antique Mall. This wonderful space, of which I've written before, is an old supermarket that was converted to an antique mall when the supermarket built itself a spiffy new location a mile down the road. It's always a great place to kill some time, as I always find something cool there, whether it's something I want to own or something I want to look at. Take, for example, this glowing art deco airplane lamp:

Or the Space Needle cigarette lighter (which is about eight inches tall):

Or the creepiest damned lamps you will ever see, ever, for the rest of your life.

I almost always find something to buy, however. On this trip I snagged a really lovely set of sushi dishes (photos forthcoming, I haven't taken them yet), and, from one of the Used Book cabinets, this bit of movie memorabilia:


If it looks like a plain stiff paper folder, of the kind you used to use in school to keep your class papers in a semi-organized state, it is. But what's neat is that inside the folder are the real goods. See, this is an actual Official Press Kit, issued by Columbia Pictures, for the release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Special Edition. Inside the folder are a number of items: a synopsis of the movie, a bio of Steven Spielberg (to that point in his life, obviously), and a complete roster of the film's cast and crew. All these are typewritten on regular paper.

In addition to that, there's a brown paper envelope that contains about a dozen black-and-white production still from the film.


Note the Columbia address down in the lower right corner.

I have absolutely no idea on the sequence of events that led to this thing sitting in a cabinet of an antique emporium in Orchard Park, NY, but I've got it now. Huzzah!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Teevee Report

This is how The Wife and I look when watching teevee. Although we usually watch stuff on the laptop. When we're sitting in bed at night. Often I'm wearing overalls. And in general, we don't look very Nixonish. Other than that, we look very much like these folks.

So, the 2012-2013 teevee season is in the books. How were things this year?

:: As always, favorite show goes first. So, Castle: after finally ending a kind-of rocky season 4 by finally putting Castle and Beckett in bed together, where did we go from there? Well, it was very much vintage Castle. Some of it was predictable, some of it was surprising, and most of it was a lot of fun. Seriously, Castle had a really strong season, with only a couple of "meh" episodes along the way.

I think what I like most about Castle is the fact that it's just solid, well-made and almost always well-written traditional teevee. It's entertaining, its got a great cast playing characters who are all different and all likeable, and there's generally a minimum of dank, depressing stuff. That's huge. Not everything has to be really grim and feature characters suffering through joyless lives before succumbing to violent ends.

Anyway, Castle did a lot of fun stuff with the Castle-Beckett romance. (I refuse to call this romance "Caskett", fandom be damned!) They did the standard "We gotta keep this secret!" thing, but everybody found out in reasonably organic ways – especially Captain Gates, who at the end of one episode just matter-of-factly states, "Yeah, I know about you two. I'm not a cop for nothing." It was nice to see the two leads get to enjoy one another, and the writers generally kept this pretty fresh, after four seasons of cat-and-mouse stuff that was starting to get a bit long-in-the-tooth. But as much as I pounded on the writers last season for stretching things out longer than they should have, they really did redeem themselves by showing, once again, that the fabled "Moonlighting curse" is pure bullshit. As I've said before and will continue to shout from the rooftops, Moonlighting suffered after the two leads slept together because that was the only interesting thing about them.

Meanwhile, and more importantly, Castle also finally filled in all the blanks with the mystery of the murder of Beckett's mother. This is huge. An ongoing mytharc central-mystery story is all well and good, but this one was getting pretty maddening with the constant peeling back of yet another layer of the onion. Now we finally have our culprit: a ruthless politician, currently a Senator, named Bracken. Beckett hasn't managed to tie him directly to her mother's murder yet, but she knows it was him. The storyline continues, but now it's a different tale, a "How will they get him" instead of a "Whodunit".

So yeah, Castle had a good season. I even forgive their use of the usually-annoying 'clip show' device, because the clip show they did was an extra episode ABC ordered late in the year so they had little time to throw an episode together, and they used it to set up some of the doubts leading into the show's season finale.

Nice year, Castle!

:: And on the other side of that coin, we have Bones.

This show sucks. I'm sorry, it's just crap. The only reason it gets play in Casa Jaquandor is that the Kid likes it, and even she is starting to lose patience with it. This show is getting truly terrible, and the season finale was one of the worst I have ever seen. And believe me, folks, I have street cred when it comes to identifying terrible season finales. I remember Emma Samms getting abducted by UFOs on The Colbys, for God's sake.

Bones has in the past had a particularly nasty killer recur throughout an entire season, and this year was no different. The problems, however, were numerous: this guy, named Pelant, is first of all played by the least charismatic actor I have ever seen play a major villain. And believe me, I have street cred on that too (remember the name of the guy who played the main villain in the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean movies? No? Well, neither does anybody else). Worse, Pelant is written horribly. He's one of those superduper computer geniuses who can do anything with a computer, so when we see him, he's sitting in a room somewhere with a single keyboard and several monitors. And he does things like take over an aerial drone so he can destroy a town someplace, while at the same time emptying the bank accounts of one of the main characters, so their choice is: save the town or save the money.

Or in the season finale, when he was able to use his computer to literally bring several blocks of Washington, DC traffic to a complete standstill, immobilizing one of the main characters long enough for someone he's been manipulating (oh yeah, he's also a psychological genius) to kill him. Now, it seems to me that if the FBI knew that there was a guy out there who could do stuff like that, they would make capturing him one of the country's highest priorities. There would be a massive manhunt, comprising nearly every federal, state, and local law enforcement body. Not Bones, however; after this guy strikes, the leads go for a picnic. Ugly, stupid writing. And worst of all, they didn't even catch the guy! So the worst villain on teevee will still be kicking next season, and the writers have already intimated that he may well last quite a lot longer than that.

There is nothing worse than when a teevee show's creative team falls in love with something that sucks.

:: And then we have The Mentalist, which just kind of ekes along, never really great, never actually bad. This show's cast deserves much better writers, too. The show will quite often start to show signs that it's about to do something very interesting – but then they rope it back in. It's almost as if the writers are timid; I get the sense that they are literally afraid to actually go in the direction it seems they want.

There was one episode that had Patrick Jane hallucinating his dead daughter at the age she would be had Red John not killed her. It was a fascinating trip into the darkness that must lie at Jane's heart, but the show stepped back from that brink just as it was getting really good. Later in the season, one of the CBI higher-ups was revealed to have a very grim secret of his own from his past, and it was frankly the type of dark secret that feels too gutsy for this show. So The Mentalist keeps on trucking. I like it and still watch it, but man, does it feel like missed potential.

(I've given up hope that they have any intention of ever wrapping up the Red John storyline. I think that will still be unresolved when the show gets canceled. We'll never get an answers, because at this point, Red John is too mythical in his amazing status to really be dealt with as a criminal. This is a shame, because even A. Conan Doyle knew that eventually we had to actually meet Moriarty.)

:: I've already written about the frustrations of being a Once Upon a Time viewer. Needless to say, the show carried those frustrations right up to the season finale, which amped things up to a cliffhanger. No big deal, that – cliffhangers are the lay of the land nowadays – but one problem with this show has always been that the writers generally are not quite good enough to maintain all the storylines they have going at once. So of course they did what such writers tend to do: they created even more storylines. The show is still fun to watch and I still love the cast (although frankly I'd watch a show that consisted of Lana Parrilla and Robert Carlyle sitting at a table, reading the phone book to one another), but it's constantly toeing the line beyond which the show will spin out of control into a giant mess.

:: Person of Interest had a terrific second season. This show seems to me fairly underrated...either that, or I just happen to not have any friends who like it, because of all the folks I know online and off who talk about teevee shows, none of them watch this one. A pity, that – it really is a good show. This season they injected more humor, as left to its own devices, PoI can be pretty dour. The leads adopted a dog, and they have a recurring screw-up/trickster character who has the dubious distinction of being the first person whose number came up twice.

This season they finally explained just why Harold is always limping, and they moved some of the other outstanding storylines downstream a bit. Best of all, PoI doesn't so much introduce new storylines as find interesting ways of continuing old ones. I respect that, as well as the way the show deviated from formula on occasion this year.

:: The Big Bang Theory is still hilarious, although I've noticed a troubling trend in which the show is moving away from treating geek-culture with loving respect and gentle kidding and toward outright mocking. But it's still the funniest thing, week-in and week-out.

:: Two Broke Girls is my go-to for stupid sex jokes and ogling Kat Dennings. I'm still waiting for this series's inevitable pie fight. It's got to happen, sooner or later.

:: We actually did not adopt any new shows this year. Nothing got sufficiently high reviews from people I know to make me want to start watching any of this year's new stuff. (Actually, not quite true – I did hear good things about The Following.) I tried Elementary, and I found it boring. We did watch Sherlock, but that deserves a post in itself. I thought I'd try Mad Men, but the pilot did nothing for me. And I just don't have a lot of interest in the "blood, guts, and gory dysfunction" that seems to me the main motif in any "adult" series on HBO or Showtime. And yes, I know that Game of Thrones is very well made. I read the books, I know what's coming story-wise, and I don't care to watch what I already didn't like reading.

:: Reality shows? Less and less. Mostly the Gordon Ramsay stuff and The Amazing Race, which is kind of dull now. Still a lot of nice travelog stuff, but I think they need to find some ways to shake up format to stay interesting.

And, that's about it.

The single best thing I saw on any teevee show this year? This bit from Jon Stewart and his merry cohorts at The Daily Show.

We still don't know the Russian for "Holy s***balls", which seems to me a gaping hole in our linguistic development....

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Something for Thursday

I got up this morning to rain. So here is something ridiculously peppy and cheerful! It's "Bugler's Holiday" by Leroy Anderson. This particular recording is played by Russians, which amuses me for some reason I can't fathom. Maybe it's because you wouldn't expect such pep and zazz coming from people who are steeped in Tolstoy.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Heckuva job, Boomers!

Kevin Drum:

My generation got a cheap college education when we were young, and we're getting good retirement benefits now that we're old. Pretty nice. But now we're turning around and telling today's 20-somethings that they should pay through the nose for college, keep paying taxes for our retirements, and oh by the way, when it comes time for you to retire your benefits are going to have to be cut. So sorry. And all this despite the fact that the country is richer than it was 50 years ago.

But at least today's kids don't have to worry about being drafted. That's something, I suppose.

Look, just what kind of country do we want to be, anyway? This stuff didn't happen out of the blue, and it's not an unforeseen consequence that nobody could have known might happen. This is the fruit of our choices.

So again: what kind of country do we want to be?

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

I saw this question on Twitter one week ago, and it intrigued me, so here it is. This goes to the very heart of who you are as a person, and who we are as a society.

Here it is:

When you're in line at the grocery store, do you put the plastic separator on the belt after your last item? Or do you leave it for the next person in line to do it themselves?

RANTY UPDATE: Damn it, Google, would you PLEASE, for the LOVE of GOD, change the way Blogger's comments moderation works so that if I accidentally click "Delete" instead of "Publish" -- especially if I've selected multiple comments -- I get asked a simple "Are you sure?" I swear, the Blogger "Delete Comment" button is the ONLY time, anywhere in the entire wonderful world of computers, that I know of where if you click "Delete" you aren't prompted with a "Are you sure?" dialog so that if you DID click the wrong frakking button, you're not completely screwed.

For those of you who commented earlier: Ayup, that means I accidentally deleted them all. My fault, but Blogger/Google could very easily implement a safety feature on this. Sorry, folks. Go ahead and resubmit if you see this.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

This situation is out of control. It is out of control and we will be lucky to live through it.

It REALLY ain't easy writing this way.


Baikonur Mural (201305250001HQ)

As much as I mentally inhabit the world of a science fiction future where spaceships are everywhere, there's something to be said for launches that look like this (photos below the page break):

Monday, June 03, 2013

A Nomination for the Role of Twelfth Doctor.

As soon as I heard the news that Matt Smith is stepping down as The Doctor (on Doctor Who, you buncha non-geeks), I, like everyone else, started thinking about who should be the next Doctor. My first thought was Chiwetel Ejiofor, best known as Peter in Love Actually and the Operative in Serenity.

But I have now changed my mind, because it occurs to me that the Doctor is always shown as a fairly tall fellow.

And to that, I say, bollocks.

Is there a height requirement to being a Timelord that I don't know about? Because if's time for a short Doctor!

Really short!

So, for the role of the Twelfth Doctor, I hereby nominate:

Warwick Davis!

And you know what? I am pretty damned serious, the more I think about it.

Sentential Links


:: It's also a reminder of how people entertained themselves; they sang and told stories and gathered with friends. In the darkness, I considered calling a friend to see if he wanted to meet me at our local pub; remember, there's a reason 'you all begin in a tavern' makes perfect sense in many game-worlds.

For the Cabin Boy and Cabin Girl, the blackout was an adventure; for me, it was a reminder of what my world of adventure is really like.

:: Personal responsibility is cool if you can afford it. (Anyone who says that they did it themselves, with no help from anyone especially the government, is so full of crap that they can be discounted automatically and completely.)

:: There are places you can go where you can escape discomfort. There are places you can plug in machines to pretend weather doesn't exist. There are people who will tell you that humidity is a horrible thing and should be avoided at all costs. Do not go to those places, avoid plugs when you can, and never believe a liar. Because there is nothing more beautiful in this angry, scary world than a hundred fireflies in the dark of a lightening-kissed sky. Nothing. (I like the sentiment here...but I also find heat and humidity loathsome and soul-crushing. Your mileage, and all that.)

:: As much as Will Smith wishes it, he cannot WILL his son into being a movie star.

:: I don't believe there ever has been a time like this in our history. We have had periods of severe political polarization before, but those were periods in which the government was polarized because of conflicting ideas of what the national government should do. Right now, we have a polarization based on the fact that an uncontrollable faction of one of our two political parties — a faction with its own sources of money and power that exist outside conventional political accountability — has decided that the only thing that the national government should do is nothing, a faction that is perfectly situated to make that at least part of a political reality, and a faction that is growing even faster out in the states than it is in Washington. What is leadership if there's more political profit in ignoring your leaders than in being led? Who, in that case, rules? The truly terrifying answer to that is that nobody does. Or, at least, nobody who is elected does.

:: So why did we accept Archie Bunker?

Because Edith loved him. Because the person with the kindest heart on the planet knew he wasn’t really hateful, he was just railing. We loved her and if she loved him then he couldn’t be so bad after all.

:: Funky Winkerbean very, very rarely focuses on the positive. Still, the message I’m getting from today’s strip is: if your father was killed when you were a baby, maybe it’s just as well, because maybe he was an asshole you would’ve hated. (The current storyline in FW is unimaginably bad, even by FW standards. If it didn't take five point seven seconds each day to read the thing, I'd be embarrassed that I'm wasting the time I am upon it.)

:: When Marilyn’s inner light—that luminosity she could turn on with one brilliant pout of her lips, with one glance of moist, widened eyes, with one flash of that glimmering, sometimes puckish smile—departed her body, she didn’t lose her power. She lost her life, and that was tragic and indeed too soon. But that vulnerable woman, that strong woman—a woman both in charge of her life and deeply unsure of herself, full of hope and dope and dreams and fear of the future—that woman maintained her power. (Heavens, what a good essay. Check this one out.)

More next week. If you're nice. Harumph!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: This one's a bit depressing, but it really trips my weird circuit, in the way priorities are so misplaced

The G-8 nations are meeting in Northern Ireland, near the town of Enniskillen, and David Cameron wants to make certain everything looks rosy for the world leaders coming to discuss economic matters. Trouble is, Ireland has been hit hard ever since the bottom fell out of the financial market a few years back. A lot of shops have been abandoned; they sit empty, signs pulled down, naked storefront windows showing bare shelves… Well, we can’t have world leaders confronted with visible signs of the disaster they continue to enable — they might become concerned or even shift to non-stupid policies. So Cameron’s government has decided to make Enniskillen prettier. Those storefront windows have been papered over with photos of stuff that would be on sale if only the store was still solvent.

I do hope I live long enough to see what historians end up having to say about the austerity-fetish that's dominating economic policy across the world.

:: On a cheerier note, has a look at what they say is the greatest issue of Uncanny X-Men ever. Issue 137, you might think? The one that concludes the "Dark Phoenix" storyline? Or maybe #141, which starts the "Days of Future Past" tale? Nope! Their pick is...issue 183. In which Peter breaks up with Kitty and then gets dragged off by Wolverine for a stern lecture about heartbreaking.

What's funny is that back when I became a big comics fan in the early 1980s, the very first issue of Uncanny X-Men I ever read was that same #183. As intros go, it was a pretty easy way in: the only characters who display their powers are Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Rogue (in a brief Danger Room exercise). I hadn't read Secret Wars yet at that point, so I learned in the opening pages that there was this big thing that went on and it changed people on the way back. And it had all the soap opera stuff that was always the best thing about The X-Men -- I still remember one commentator back then referring to the book as "Dallas with capes". Anyway, it's pretty cool seeing something like this remembered almost thirty years later.

More next week!