Saturday, December 30, 2006

Lost? Lost? W(here)TF are Michael and Walt?!
Man, this show sure sucks lately.

My top 6 episodes of Lost, airing during the Fall of 2006.

1. Ep1: A Tale of Two Cities -- This one ranks number one essentially because of the cold open. Yeah, holy freaking crap, it was pretty good. It starts in a suburb, at a book club -- and then Benry Gale shows up and you realize it's where The Others live. Then a freaking plane crashes! Yes, a freaking plane! And suddenly it's the mother of all holy flashbacks: to The Others right before our little Losties got stuck on the Damn Island!

The rest of the episode? Meh. All we get is Jack, Kate and Sawyer, with nary a mention of Locke and Charlie and the awesome hatch explosion that turned the sky all holy-hell-white. And also some Jack flashbacks that were sort of nice, but upon further review, actually really annoying. But damn, D-man, Benry barking out orders to that scary Ethan dude was pretty cool. And Juliet knowing the skinny on Jack’s entire past in the holding cell was an awesome "hell what?!?" kind of moment. Good job, J.J. Good job.

2. Ep3: Further Instructions -- A Locke episode! A John Locke episoooode! Ooooooooo! D-d-d-d-d. Say yeah! So anyway, this one was mostly awesome, because it was about John Locke and had a special appearance by the ghost of Boone (with surfer hair?). Plus, Desmond and Hurley got some wicked-funny "Dude, you're naked" jokes to tell. And we learned that Desmond can see the future! The future, Conan? Yes, my friend, all the way to the Year 2000!

While Locke's flashbacks were only half-good (sort of like a ho-ho stacked up against a twinkie), Locke's vision quest/paste-induced hallucination was pretty righteous. But what ruined this episode for me was that the dumb polar bear was back, and that it captured Eko, but decided not to eat or maul or otherwise do him any harm besides just sort of gnawing on him. Pretty lame. Polar bears should only show up when Walt reads those comics, and since Walt is somewhere out at sea, this episode made me kind of want to kill myself by the end of it. But only sort of, because of the awesome naked jokes and the ghost of Boone and how they made me want to live. So here I am, and here we are, making lists.

3. Ep2: The Glass Ballerina -- This was the first Sun and Jin flashback that totally made me want to barf. Sun's having an affair? Big whoop. Okay, sort of new for her character, but still, lamis to the maximus [additional fake-latin jargon here]. And during the whole Kate-loves-Sawyer scenes I nearly clawed out my eyes, and I would have, had I claws to, you know, claw with. But this episode had two OMG moments where I actually think I said, Oh my God! The first was when Benry revealed to Jack that The Others have access to the outside world. What? What!?! Oh yeah, Jack, we get FOX Sports and everything. Here is a video tape. Why we don’t have DVR is beyond me, but we’re interrogating you in a freaking submarine so stop asking so many Doggamn Questions!

But that wasn't the best part. That came when Sun shot that stupid lady in the stomach while Jin and Sayid were trying to set an ill-conceived trap for The Others. Yes, in the stomach! Take that, Others! Our women may be having affairs in lame flashbacks, but they will still shoot you in the stomach should you goad them into doing so by saying "you won't shoot me" over and over and over again! Seriously, best moment of my life.

4. Ep5: The Cost of Living -- This one time, Neil Gaiman wrote a graphic novel called, Death: The High Cost of Living. It was about Death personified, and how she had to spend one day every 100 years walking the earth as a human to better understand blah-blah-bitty-blah. It was good, and was drawn by Chris Bachalo, who is pretty much nails when it comes to penciled sequential art. Then, a few years later there was this crap-filled episode of Lost with a similar title. And I hated it. *SPOLIER ALERT* Eko dies.

Okay, so this episode had its moments, like when Sayid, Locke and the new kids, Nicki and Paulo (who are dumb and will be dead soon so I'm trying to pretend to like them so that when they do die, I will at least be a little bit sad) see a video feed of Patch-Eye somewhere else on the Damn Island. Who is he? Where did he come from? Is he one of The Others? Answers I'm sure we'll get sometime in Season 7. Until then, Eko gets into a fight with the Black Smoke Monster and dies real bad. Had he not died, this episode (because of Eko's sweet flashbacks) could have jumped up a spot or two. But now, with most of the tail section dead, you have to wonder why they introduced that plotline in the first place. You also have to wonder where the hell Rose and Bernard are, and why they decided to introduce Nicki and Paulo when they've got Rose and Bernard hanging out off-screen. Honestly, you've got to wonder alot of things about this show. Like, why does it have to suck so damn hard these days? BKV rings activate! Clean up this mess now!

5. Ep4: Every Man for Himself -- Does anyone else remember when Sawyer's episodes didn't taste like buffalo-crap-on-a-stick? Like that one time he shot a man who had an affair with his mother that led to his mom's murder and his dad's suicide, and it turned out to be the wrong man? Holy sweetness, that was good television! Now we just get ho-humb flashbacks about his illegitimate child and even more ho-hum island stories with Sawyer having a fake kill-switch planted deep in his heart. Oh yeah, and there are two islands. At this point, who freaking gives a crap? Remember that ginormous foot-statue we saw last season you dumb producers?!? WTF was that? I wouldn't care if this was an island chain with a resort on the other end, just re-learn how to build story tension already. It was kind of sad when the rabbit died, though.

The one moment that brought this episode out of the cellar was when Kate quoted Jack's immortal "Live together, die alone" line after Sawyer told her to escape without him. He might be boring lately, and she might have lost all sense of character, but that's a damn fine catch phrase if you ask me.

6. Ep6: I Do – What sucks worse than a bad Sawyer episode? This. Jack operates on Benry. Locke and Company deal with the death of Eko. Kate and Sawyer have gross "We haven't showered in days" sex. And Eko's Bible stick completely misquotes John 3:5. And that's the mid-season finale.

Anyways, Kate's flashbacks were sort of nice, but they didn't further the story or tell us anything new about her character. However, the last three minutes nearly redeem this episode from total pointlessness when Jack defies Juliet by not killing Benry in surgery, then threatens to anyway unless Kate and Sawyer are let go. Matthew Fox yells real good. Someone get that man a Golden Globe. A Golden Globe for good yelling. Kate, damn it, Run! Truer words were never spoken. Run little lovelies, all the way to February when hopefully this show will be fun to watch again. Because waiting for Locke episodes to come around just don't cut it. That being said, God I love this show. Please get better soon. We miss your face.

[Screencap courtesy of]

Friday, December 29, 2006


I think I am a moderately alright speller. Let's say, in the 75th percentile or something. But I will always, no matter how hard I try not to, spell definitely "definately" on my first try when typing. It's just ingrained into my skull for some reason, and I can't, for the life of me, unlearn it. Does anyone else have this prblem?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Season 3, mostly; some Season 2

Since I only heard about 17 new albums this year, and can't remember what books I read, here is a list of funny things I heard on Curb Your Enthusiasm either this year or last year or possibly two years ago, too. This list remains unedited, unlike the one over at Midwest Mindset.

  1. Wanda: Why'd you fire the black man?
    Larry: I fired the black man... because... he's the guy who set up the whole system here and it doesn't work! And he's here like... every week, I'm givin' him checks, we've got five remotes, I can't turn it on....but I know, you know, *black* man can *never* do anything *wrong*, at least to get fired from a job! Black people *always* do everything right!
    Wanda: [Walks over to TV, pushes button, fixes it] You gotta turn the damn satellite on for the TV to work! See the little green light? Just gotta turn it on! Or you can fire the black man. Whatever works for you.

  2. Larry: What are you doing there?
    Man: A little plumbing.
    Larry: A little plumbing! Got to plumb! Plumb the depths! The depths of hell!

  3. Larry: Hear the birds? Sometimes I like to pretend that I'm deaf and I try to imagine what it's like not to be able to hear them. It's not that bad.

  4. Susie Green: You fat fuck! And you bald piece of shit! Where's the fucking head?
    [After Larry and Jeff steal a doll's head from Jeff's kid to give it to the daughter of some executive at ABC]

  5. Richard Lewis: Ya fucked it up! You don't know how to use a goddamn cell phone!
    Larry: It was a shit cell phone!
    Richard Lewis: A fucking praying mantis could use that goddamn phone!
Oh yeah! Swears on the blog! Feel the heat!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The End of Your Life?

The TV Revolution is over. I watched 30 minutes of Lost last week. Everything else I'm pretending just didn't happen. I will catch up whenever I have the ability to play DVDs again.

We will post here again, at what point we are not certain. ePolitics, eTheology, ePop Culture....all are boring at the present moment. Until such a time as we want to write about concrete eThings again, be aware of random musings on Catfish Haven or xanga. Be very aware!

End Transmission

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Last Week in TV, Best Last Week Ever

The week that was. The week that wasn't.

Venture Brothers - Frickin' OMG! This is the craziest show on in the history of craziest shows, ever!! And I probably miss half the jokes from laughing so hard. And it's a two-parter, too! Hank and Dean are my heroes. Sigh.

Heroes - We're almost on the verge of this show making sense. I can feel it.

Studio 60 - I don't care what teh internets say, I'm in love with Sarah Paulsen. Evan Handler, too. Basically anyone that talks real fast and still makes sense all the while saying things that make me smile, we're golden.

Veronica Mars - Things aren't all they seem at Hearst College, with like a dozen character introductions who are all officially suspects by the end of the second episode. And Veronica even recapped everything in the last minute for us slower viewers! Boy, she sure is nice. Sigh.

Friday Night Lights - Just when this show is about to go over the top with the melodrama, it reels it back in with a punch to the gut. Seriously, it's like being hit across the forehead with a sock full of quarters and paper cuts every 20 minutes, but substitute across the forehead with openly beating heart. It's alright that I'm not making sense. You stopped reading when I started talking about TV again.

30 Rock - My gigantic Tina Fey crush of 2001 returns! Alec Baldwin is slimy fun. And Tracy Morgan is fantastic. It's nice to see a funny sitcom with smart writing these days. Hell, it's nice to see a funny sitcom period.

20 Good Years - 20 Good Years? I'd settle for 20 good minutes! Ba-dum-bump. *

Lost - Someone other than that terrible love triangle that is Jackatawyer. And Sun shot that bad bitch down! Did you see that Kim Jong Il? Run for cover cause South Korea will take you out! And a Locke episode next week! it doesn't get much better! Sigh.

Six Degrees - I was disappointed by the opening; for some reason I was under the impression that every teaser would be a ten minute flashback to the bank, ala Alias and their crazy opens (which were often the entire first act). Instead, we learned more from those distracting two-second flashbacks spaced throughout the episode. Away with them! The only thing they accomplished was break after break of the tension the show was trying to build. Let the story flow naturally from the cold open -- you don't need to remind us every few minutes that the shit hit the fan during the stand-off. Bad job tire for you, Six Degrees.

*I'm afraid to google it, but I guarantee that joke has been made 1000s of times already.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Things I Would Do If I Were Rich, Part C

Reviving An Ooooooooooold Topic

After posting a couple weeks back about future film plans for James A. Owens' Here, There Be Dragons, I got to thinking of what directors I'd like to see attatched to all these upcoming fantasy pics. And foremost on my mind were the future Chronicles of Narnia installments, books which I fell in love with as a wee little fourth grader, and still enjoy reading today.

That being said, I was mostly disappointed by Andrew Adamson's big screen interpretation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and wouldn't mind another version of it someday. There were some terrible moments, like when Aslan quotes Christ on the cross ("It is finished!") at the end of the big battle, a line which you will not find in the book (I laughed aloud in the theatre when Aslan spoke it). But overall, the film just reminded me too much of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, and failed to hit the right note of child-like wonder and other-worldly adventure found in the novel.

(Then there were children with swords and other weapons, which works in written form, but on the screen was just a little disturbing. It didn't help that the 20 minute final battle near the end of the movie took all of one paragraph in the book. Lewis knew readers weren't going to want to imagine Peter hacking animals with bloodied blade. Adamson overlooked that.)

So here's who I would wrangle, if I were an all-powerful being, to direct each installment of the Chronicles of Narnia. What fun!

Terry Gilliam: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - The first installment needs just the right touch to set the tone for the remaining six books. And Terry Gilliam would be perfect. Don't think The Brothers Grimm, think Brazil by way of Time Bandits. Like I said, perfect.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet: Prince Caspian - I remember Prince Caspian showing oodles more of the peaceful animals and dwarves and manimals (for lack of a better word) of Narnia, and what better director to do that than Jeunet? The director of Amelie would bring the ruins and hidey holes of "Old Narnia" to life in his own fantastical way. Prince Caspian reads like a fairy tale, and Jeunet would be the ideal director to bring it to life.

Alfonso Cuarón: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - Dawn Treader is basically a road trip, only with boats. There are some genuinely spooky moments in this book, and it definitely suggests Lewis understood his readers were grower older. From his work on Y tu mamá también, it's obvious Cuarón understands those themes, and his rendition of Harry Potter will most likely stand as my favorite in the series. His panoramic eye is no doubt capable of creating a cinematic feast on the high seas. Dawn Treader would most likely be a breathless film.

Guillermo del Toro: The Silver Chair - I'm basing this pick mostly on Pan's Labyrinth, a film which I have yet to see. But from what little I have seen, The Silver Chair would be the perfect project for Del Toro. I remember getting to the fourth book as a kid, and completely freaking me out. It was so outlandish and fantastic, also, quite possibly the darkest book of the series. Looking back, it almost had a psychedelic bent to it (though Lewis wouldn't have had any of that, seeing as he wrote it in 50s). In a perfect world, perhaps Del Torro would forgo some of the CGI and explore some Jim Henson-ish territory in bringing some of this book to life. Regardless, I'd expect an intense kid-flick.

Tim Burton: The Horse and His Boy - The Horse and His Boy is another fairy tale, and another road trip story, but told in a backwards sort of way. It's the kind of film that horses would make if they ruled the world and made fantasy films with talking boys as side-kicks. Sort of. It's a completely stand alone story, that doesn't follow the chronology of the first four books, which would allow a director like Burton to basically tell this story in whichever way he pleased. Computer animation? Sure! Stop-motion? Yes, please! Bollywood! Why not! I'd just let him run with the thing and pick up the larger storyline in the next pic.

Darren Aronofsky: The Magician's Nephew - Nephew is the closest Lewis gets in this series to sci-fi, with the discovery of dependable way to travel between Earth and other worlds like Narnia. It takes place chronologically before all the other books, and tells the story of the creation of Narnia, yet is set only 100 years in our past. Unlike any of the other books, a good portion of The Magician's Nephew takes place in urban London, and I'd just be tickled pink to see Aronofsky's version of England on the verge of the 20th century. There are some incredibly surreal yet very dramatic moments in this book, and looking at his upcoming pic, The Fountain, Aronofsky looks like he might be the guy to pull them off.

Ang Lee
: The Last Battle - The final installment of The Chronicles of Narnia is an epic conclusion that also manages to be incredibly wistful for all that's come before. It speaks of a grand history and the end of an age. In more mundane hands, it could turn into apocalyptic drivel -- stuff we've seen before a million times. It would take a very romantic director to turn The Last Battle into a film deserving its title, and Ang Lee is one of the few directors who could pull it off. There are a number of very sad moments punctuating a story with incredible amounts of movement and evolution. It's a hard book to describe without getting into theology*, and translating it to film would require no small amount of subtlety and humility. Under Lee, it would be the perfect sendoff to a series very near and dear to my heart.

*And speaking of theology, let's just add Susan to the film version, even if she doesn't appear in the book. I understand Lewis' intentions as an author for excluding her, but as part of a truncated version of the original book, I don't think it works. Some fans might cry foul, but if Lewis were alive today, I think he would understand.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

New York, New York: Let the second guessing begin.

Another Early Exit, Maybe Torre's Last

The New York Yankees, the most feared lineup in all of baseball, were no-hit for 5 2/3 innings yesterday, on their way to an 8-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers. Tigers advance, Yankees go home. And New York sports writers couldn't be happier.

Sports writers are at their best when they have somebody to criticize. World Series wins make for great pictures, but they don't make for great columns. Losses do.

The New York Daily News (NYC's "picture paper") was the first to report this morning that Joe Torre was on his way out (according to those oft-anonymous "sources"). After winning four World Series for the Bronx faithful, the cries of "yes, but what have you done for me lately?" have grown louder and louder since the Yankees' WS loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. Three (count 'em one {1}, two {2}, three {3},) Daily News columnists all but outright challenged George Steinbrenner to fire Joe Torre in the wake of the Yankees postseason performance, hinting or even blurting out the fact that if they take too much time in deciding Torre's fate, former Yankee manager Lou Pinella might slip through their fingers while finding a job with the Giants, Cubs or Nationals organizations. Expect Torre, like the consummate gentleman he is, to take the blame if asked to. Scapegoats are rarely ever to blame, they're just a public personification of an organization's blame symbolically forced on one individual for both comfort and catharsis. Never mind the fact that if the Yankees were a publicly traded corporation, there'd be calls for CEO George Steinbrenner to step down and find a replacement who can produce results. But, in the end, it's baseball. And that means fire the coach.

The New York Post, however, ran actual columns on real reasons why the Yankees went down so quickly in the playoffs. They're no-brainers to anyone that watched the series, but at least the Post had the common sense to blame the Yankees' piss-poor starting rotation, lack of defensive stalwarts, and an embarrassing hitting "attack" led by number eight hitter and two-time MVP Alex Rodriguez. You can't win games if you don't hit. But if you don't pitch or play the field either, well, expect to get schooled.

GM Brian Cashman is already on record saying he doesn't expect to make any changes at manager and third base for next season. Torre is under contract for one more year at $7 million, which the Yankees would still be obligated to pay if they fired him. And A-Rod's monster contract and no-trade clause will make it tough to move him even if they wanted to. But none of that means shit to Steinbrenner. He's already subsidizing payrolls (through revenue sharing) in markets like Kansas City and Tampa, so picking up the tab for Torre and A-Rod's exits while hiring replacements isn't out of the realm of possibility. In fact, if George's past behavior is any indicator, it's pretty damn likely.

And Lou Pinnella's not a bad choice for a replacement. He's a great manger with a quality mind for the game. But the Yankees need more than just a scapegoat. They need an organizational sea-change that starts at the lowest levels and works its way up. They need to take some of the millions of dollars they hand out to free agents every year and pour it into scouting and developmental leagues. They need a GM with a head for getting the most out of a budgeted payroll. They need a front office that understands that baseball is won by rosters with smart pitching, solid defenders, and situational hitters. They need, to be honest, the 1996 New York Yankees.

But most of all, they need an owner with the patience to build these things from the ground up. Unfortunately, that's the one thing George Steinbrenner can't buy. Well, that and another World Series ring.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Another Fraktastic Week In Television

Get used to it, I'm officially an addict.

Oh, gosh. What a terrific five nights of TV. I know it shouldn't matter. I know these programs are pure, fleeting pop, and on-air only as long as they shake their money-maker. But I just don't care what the avatars of high culture tell me. Some of these shows....some of these shows tell stories with such depth and richness, it's not hard to see why people don't go the movies as often anymore. Television has real, live genuine storytellers these days. With the guts to buck the trend and tell their tales on the small screen.

Friday Night Lights -- I can't say I've seen a more genuine show this year than Friday Night Lights. And I don't just mean in its portrayal of the game of football. But in its raw, authentic detail to the craft of telling an engaging story. Not since Homicide have I seen a group of actors unequivocally dedicated to being parts of a greater whole, selling their short slice of screen time like their lives depended on it. While it wasn't the flashiest or funniest or most technically sound pilot of the season, Friday Night Lights sure was the most earnest. Here's to hoping it finds the audience it so richly deserves.

Veronica Mars -- Going from gut-wrenching, small-town life to the ever-witty, crime-solving life of Veronica Mars (now with natural collegiate flavor!) is going to be a tough Tuesday night transition. But come on now, sugar. Even though my love for Veronica Mars is roughly on the same plane as my love for Lost, I wasn't quite so VM-hungry for the season premiere in light of my rerun binge (if you haven't seen it, it's new to you!) this summer. Regardless, a good time was had by all. I'm going to say it right now: Veronica Mars might have the keenest wit of show on TV. What am I saying, "might"? It does. This show is solid gold, mutherfrakker, and it held the ratings of its Gilmore Girls lead-in relatively well. The opener might have been a bit complex for new viewers, with all the references to previous seasons, including the subplot involving Veronica's dad, but people, come one. Watch this show, or I'll have to do something crazy. Like move to Vermont. Oh, wait...

Lost -- There's alot of fan criticism directed at Lost because the show won't come out and give any straight answers. What is the island? Who are the Others? What do they want? And a host of others. Some fans want to do away with the flashbacks altogether and get on with the story of the island. But once you do that, all you're left with is a Twin Peaks season two or the last four years of the X-Files. Peaks couldn't last any longer than the Laura Palmer mystery, and though a brilliant show, it ended after two seasons. And X-Files expanded its alien mythology too far too fast, so that eventually its new mysteries seemed half-baked and barely-hearted (in addition to all the internal contradictions). The mystery of Lost is what hooks us; but it's the peeks into the character's pasts that make it so rewarding. There's dozens of shows this year with mysteries, but not one has shown the ability to tell a story like Lost did tonight. J.J. Abram's welcome return as co-writer (his first ep since season one) was badly needed. And I think it's about time we started talking about an Emmy for Matthew Fox. (I mean if Keifer Sutherland can, why not?)

The Nine -- If there's one new show that promises to be as complex and entertaining as Lost this season, it's The Nine. Heroes, while casting a pitch perfect mood and crafting a compelling story, has yet to show the kind of characterization found on Lost. The Nine just about matched it. The flashbacks to the bank robbery serve the same purpose as the scenes in the present do in Lost -- they get under our skin and don't let go. But The Nine is a bit like Lost in reverse. Instead of the bulk of the characterization coming in flashbacks, The Nine will handle the characterization facet in the present; its flashbacks will be what fans want to see more of. It's a kind of near-genius storytelling technique that ought to serve the show quite well. And it doesn't hurt that they've put some great talent in front of the camera (and behind it as well: director Alex Graves, who cut his teeth on the camera-heavy work of ER and the West Wing). All in all, a compelling pilot episode, and tied with Heroes for my favorite pilot of the season so far. The Nine, however, has a leg up on Heroes plot-wise; something I'll get into a little more after another episode or two.

Smallville -- Thursday nights are pretty meh for me TV wise. It's bring home the bacon night for the networks (companies like to buy commercials on Thursday night right before the shopping/movie watching weekend, and networks can charge a higher rate because it), but there's not a whole lot I want to see. Ugly Betty is a nice show, and I hope it makes it and all, but it's not really my cup of tea. Grey's is pretty much ho-hum, and Six Degrees is downright boring. Smallville should be my Thursday breath of fresh air, but this season has been entirely underwhelming so far. The premiere had its moments, but come on! It was the return of General Zod! This shoulda been epic! This shoulda been a two parter! This shoulda opened long lasting consequences for the Clark-Lana-Lex relationship! Lana tried to kill LexZod with that ice dagger thingy! LexZod punched a fire poker through Lana's hand! Clark got the stuffing beat out of him! Yet, ho hum. Super-powered Clark saves Lana from LexZod just after Lana blacks out, which we've seen a gazillion times before. Lex can't remember his battle with Clark after Zod gets exorcised. Again, no beans spilt. Again, more of the same old boring. The least they could have done was stretch this out to epic proportions over the course of two weeks! But I have remind myself this is no Lost, and it probably doesn't have near that kind of budget from the CW. Instead, we get one quasi-exciting episode, then back to the same old same old. If episode two was any indication of the quality of season six's remainder, let's hope this season is Smallville's last.

Battlestar Galactica -- The only returning show in television that I'm picking up for the first time this season is BSG. It was news of the alien occupation that piqued my interest, and after catching a couple of reruns over the past couple of weeks, I was immediately hooked. BSG has all the elements of good science fiction: new worlds, techy spacecraft, and commentary on contemporary life through the lens of the fantastic. But BSG is not your ordinary space opera. It's what's called "sci-fi realism," eschewing bright sets and static camera work for a feel that would be more familiar to viewers of ER or single-cam docu-dramas. In the world of BSG, its hard to tell the good guys from the bad, as the human race (numbering less than 50,000) fights for its survival. Escapes are made, leaving behind friends. Elections are tampered with, by well-intentioned people. And with season three, we have an occupation to deal with, complete with a human insurgent movement, govt collaboration with the Cylons, people being held without trial and suicide bombings. Battlestar Galactica somehow pulls it off without too much "preachiness." Sure there's some, but if Jack Bauer is our post-9/11 James Bond, then BSG is the Star Trek of our current Administration. So a little preaching is to be expected.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Buck O'Neil, 1911-2006

John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil died tonight. For those in the know, Buck was a revered veteran of Negro League baseball, and an unofficial spokesman for the game since his appearance in Ken Burns' Baseball. He was 94.

Born in Florida, Buck left his home at age 21 to join a "barnstorming" baseball club, traveling the country to play teams from various cities, some from white ball clubs. He was signed in the initial season of the Negro Leagues in 1937, and played out most of his career for the Kansas City Monarchs. His career was put on hold during WWII, like many other ball players, for a two-year stretch in the U.S. Navy. He came back from the war to both play and coach for the Monarchs, then spent over 30 years as a scout and coach for the Chicago Cubs.

He garnered much attention from his interviews during Ken Burns' Baseball documentary, regaling Burns and audiences with long-forgotten tails of the Negro League. Since then, Buck had become a champion of the league, doing interviews and public appearances for anyone willing to listen. He was nominated on a special Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for former Negro League players this past year, but failed to garner the 75% necessary for induction. Always the better man, he put his love for the game first and agreed to speak at the induction ceremony just this past summer.

Buck O'Neil was one of those men of whom not a ill word could be spoken. Always gracious, ever professional, and beloved by the game of baseball. He will be missed.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Impressions: Studio 60: 103

Who loves semicolons!?!

Our very first third episode! And a keeper, at that. While episode 103 has probably been in the can for a number of weeks, it still managed to deal with a few issues that have popped up across the blogosphere since the pilot and episode 102 aired, all within the context of the show-within-a-show. (Note: To my knowledge, the internets have not come up with a uniform way to differentiate between Studio 60 the show on NBC, and Studio 60 the late-night show-within-a-show.) Please, forgo the headaches and press on!

Issue #1: Studio 60 will never be as popular as the West Wing: To answer that criticism, Sorkin had the entire plot of tonight's episode revolve around television ratings/focus groups, and whether or not Studio 60 (the show-within-a-show) could hold onto its ratings from the previous week. In tonight's episode, the show-within-a show does. In reality, the actual show on NBC didn't (episode two of NBC's Studio 60 saw a drop in ratings; tonight's ratings won't be available until tomorrow morning).

Issue #2: Studio 60 is like nothing on television, hence, regular people just won't "get it": Seeing how NBC's Studio 60 lost viewers after its first episode, this is quite honestly a valid criticism. But Sorkin deals with it within the context of his show by introducing a sketch in his show-within-a-show that most viewers in the focus group just don't get. The producers decide to run the sketch again in episode two (of the show-within-a-show) and the focus group numbers indicate that more people "got it" when they saw the character/sketch for the second time. Sorkin's hope for NBC's Studio 60 is the same. The more often people watch it, the more comfortable they become with the format, and the more they "get" the show.

Issue #3: Sorkin can't possibly write every episode of Studio 60 (like he did on the West Wing), and not burn out at some point (like he did on the West Wing): Sorkin has admitted that he won't try to write every episode of the show, and in his show-within-a-show, Sorkin has Studio 60 head-writer Matt Alby come to the same conclusion. Alby allows other writers into the fold to avoid burn out, just as Sorkin will in reality.

Issue #4: Aaron Sorkin doesn't understand Middle America and criticizes it every chance he gets: This was true at times on the West Wing, and it has been true at times on Studio 60 thus far. Yet, in tonight's episode, Sorkin has two scenes which show he's trying to rectify the situation. One involved a joke about a small-town's decision to replace a school production of The Crucible with the "less-controversial" A Midsummer Night's Dream. The joke was cut from the broadcast version of the show-within-a-show because the cast didn't feel that the small town deserved the same amount of ridicule as larger, more powerful targets like the White House or the Religious Right. And another incident came later in the show when over 400 callers phoned the NBS affiliate in Terra Haute, Indiana, to complain about the affiliate's decision not to air the late-night show-within-a-show version of Studio 60.

Are you nice and confused now? Sorry about that. But until we can talk about NBC's Studio 60 and NBS's Studio 60 (the show-within-a-show) without having to resort to all that wordy blather, I'm not sure what else to do. The solution will come to someone soon, someone much smarter and most likely much prettier than me, and all will be right with the world once again.

Until that day, let's all try to keep up. Shall we?

(Screencaps ruthlessly stolen from

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hollywood finds itself more and more attuned to my fictional reality.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Yes, that is the name of a real movie. And yes, let us all watch it together in our minds until it comes out for really-real-reality sometime next year. Coming to you from the heart of new writer/director Zach Helm, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (so fun to say/so fun to anticipate) tells the story 243-year-old Mr. Magorium (as acted by Dustin Hoffman) who hands his fantastical toy store over to a young manager (played by Natalie Portman). For reasons beyond our ken, the wonderfilled store takes a dark turn somewhere along the way, and absolute amazingness most likely ensues.

Helm also penned the script for Stranger than Fiction, the new Will Ferrell pic where the former Mr. "I Gotta Have More Cowbell" plays an IRS auditor whose life takes a turn for the weird when he suddenly hears a voice narrating over his life. The ever-charming Maggie Gyllenhaal and oft-amuzing Dustin Hoffman (who's interviewed by the Trib here) also star. The film made its international premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, and opens this week in the U.S. as part of the Chicago International Film Festival. Expect it to hit theatres everywhere else sooner rather than later.

As if that weren't enough movie magic to send you into a tizzy, Warner Brothers Pictures has just optioned the rights to Here, There Be Dragons, a new juvy-fantasy novel by James A. Owen. Dragons is set during World War I and tells the story of three young men who are entrusted with the "Imaginarium Geographica," a magical atlas of every mythical/fabled land and world. Book hasn't even hit shelves yet, and W.Bros. is already salivating over hopes of a $300,000,000 gross. But the most exciting part is this: Word on the street is that the three main characters, Jack, John and Charles, are based on young versions of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams (the George Harrison of the Inklings group). I'm looking forward to inter-dimensional travel, high adventure, elves, dragons, and maybe even an entmoot or two. Good times.

Simon & Schuster is saying that it's the first in a series of seven books (Potter, much?), so unless Jim Carrey is tapped to act in the film version, expect seven films as well. (Let's all take a moment to remember the film potential Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events had before Ace Ventura sunk his googley-eyed hooks into the series.)

Honestly, someone just needs to commission Pete Jackson, Terry Gilliam, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Alfonso Cuarón to handle all these fantasy-pics for the next few years. Is that really too much to ask?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Harry Potter, Ghostface Killah

Oh how I wish they were one and the same!

  • On Monday, The Scotsman had a pair of exclusive pics from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (which might have been my favorite book of the series). A day later, posted three additional pics from the movie (that's one, above). I would expect more to come in the next few weeks, possibly even a trailer by Thanksgiving or Christmas. The films hits on July 13th and I'm all good and excited about it.
  • In other Harry Potter news, Newsweek has Emma Watson, who plays the supposedly buck-toothed Hermione Granger in the films, wavering on whether or not she'll come back for the last two Potter films. Before we all cry foul, it makes sense. Watson states in the article that she's looking forward to university, that a commitment would keep her filming for until she's 20, and that she isn't even sure if acting is what she wants for a career. Read the short Newsweek blurb hither, or the full interview thither.
  • And lastly, I promised you Ghostface, I'll give you Ghostface! Dennis Coles, aka Ghostface Killah, is on record saying that it's alright for poor people to download his records rather than buy them. In an interview with the Associated Press about a possible Wu-Tang reunion, Ghostface admits that he doesn't like illegal downloading, but lets folks who can't afford to buy the album off the hook, saying, "I mean, if you're poor, yeah."
Seriously, this is the first time I can remember an artist mentioning poor people in the downloading equation. It's interesting that most artists don't even think in those terms (can you imagine say, Rod Stewart, allowing poor people to have his music for free?). But Ghostface (who saw plenty of the worst life has to offer growing up poor and selling drugs on Staten Island) will let it slide if you don't have the benjamins or cheddar or whatever it is the kids call money these days. It just goes to show that some artists are more aware than others that middle/upper-class white folk aren't the only people who listen to music.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Monday Night for the Scrapbook

Yeah, Sorkin brought the funny.

So Monday night might be my favorite night from now on. Not only do you have a revitalized Monday Night Football to watch during commercial breaks, but you have actual programming to watch should said game suck bad. Honestly, whether it sucks or not, I'll be watching something else anyways. And this is why.

Heroes was seriously the best pilot of the fall so far. Better than Studio 60 even. It was tight, every second was used for maximum effect. There wasn't a single moment where I felt like changing the channel. Each plot thread was interesting enough to propel itself on its own, yet near the end of the show, the primary plot began to take shape as smaller threads intertwined. Not to be outdone, the casting and acting were superb as well. It was refrshing to see an ensemble cast that didn't act like they were making a movie of the week. Heroes will garner its share of Lost comparisons, not just because of its scope, but because it's genuinely good. Everything just clicked. Even the sets and lighting were outstanding. This was fine television, and I for one, cannot wait until next week.

And Studio 60 brung it. After last week's set-up, tonight's episode knocked it out of the park. If NBC doesn't command Monday nights by the end of the year, it'll be a dirty shame, at least as much shame as there is left for network television after having been first doled out to politicians, cable news pundits and mass murderers. I totally lost my train of thought. Something about....dangit. Okay, so maybe The Pirates of Penzance bit at the end was a little meh, but I can forgive Sorkin his little quirks. He's earned it.

So a good night? Yes. And by 11:00ish, the New Orleans Saints ought to have win #3 for the season. Even Harry Connick, Jr. showed up for the game! Could this night get any better?

More TV Nonsense

Last week was Premiere Week!

Or was it?

There are still dozens of new and returning shows left to premiere, including Lost, Veronica Mars, Lost, Smallville and Lost. But here are my early thoughts on what we've seen so far (and by we've I mean I've, because television is my current drug of choice while yours is baking or the Bible or a successful career). Let's go!

Prison Break - Like I said a few weeks ago, what was a very set-driven show last season has morphed into a Fugitive type serial, this time with a whole host of men-on-the-run. The first three episodes stuck to the "we gotta get to Utah and find the buried treasure" plot that was introduced late last season. There have been some genuinely creepy moments (mostly involving T-Bag getting his hand sewed back on and giving evil looks to minors), and exciting ones as well. But the whole bit with the tattoos keeps going and going and's like Michael mapped out the rest of his life on his blasted arms. At some point he's going to have to start thinking on his own, but I have a feeling that's not going to happen anytime soon. In addition, the whole subplot involving Robin Tunney's character has completed stalled with her death and with Patricia Wettig's (Vice-President Reynolds) bolting for greener pastures on Brothers and Sisters. The Fugitive angle only works as long as someone is actively trying to prove Lincoln Burrows' innocence. We'll see what tonight brings.

Vanished - Vanished had better shape up soon. The mood and tenor of the show are fantastic: they do 24 even better than 24 does 24 these days. But the cast is a bit on the weak side: there's no Keifer Sutherland or Hugh Laurie to really take the reigns and lead this show. Heck, I'd settle for someone like William Fichter, whose been a terrific foil for Michael over on Prison Break. Luckily, another Invasion alum, Eddie Cibrian, is rumored to be joining the cast soon, but the cast isn't all what ails the show. The plotting has been sketchy for the past couple of episodes, with an absurd suicide, a pointless ransom drop-off (which was done much better in the first episode of NBC's Kidnapped), and a Kim Bauer-ish subplot involving the Senator's daughter, her affair with a Supreme Court nominee, and her relationship with her current boyfriend. With Heroes starting tonight, Vanished's days might be numbered.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - I shared my pilot episode thoughts last week, but on a further note, I'm really looking forward to the new episode tonight. From what I've heard around the horn, it's even more entertaining than the pilot, as we get out first real look at the late-night players and into how the show is made. And while the pilot was a little over-the-top preachy at times, future episodes ought to bring the funny.

Smith - I was thoroughly unimpressed with Smith. Ray Liotta plays a great thief, but so does Andre Braugher, and much better I might add. While Smith went with the slick Oceans 11 vibe, it doesn't sit well when its lead characters kill innocent guards during a heist. Andre's Braugher's (short lived?) Thief dealt with the moral ramifications of murder in a way which would have made Flannery O'Conner proud. It was FX-ey without being gratuitous about it. But apparently, no one was watching. So now all we're left with is the CBS version. Joy.

Jericho - I was honestly looking forward to Jericho, until I started watching it. Whereas Lost began with a bang, Jerichoo sort of whimpered along for a good 15 minutes. Remember the first few minutes of Lost's pilot, when Jack sort of woke up on the island, stumbled onto the crash site and started saving people left and right? Jericho had none of that. When the actual disaster actually happened (a nuclear explosion), it was too far away to do any serious damage to the town. Instead, we got two bus crashes: one a school bus which was rescued by the mayor's black-sheep son, and another a prison bus with a bunch of nasty convicts onboard, which dun-dun-dun, was left for future episodes to resolve. The cast has the same problem as Vanished, thus far. Skeet Ulrich is no Matthew Fox, you know? And don't get me started on the amateur tracheotomy. It had me in fits of giggles. Not a good sign.

Kidnapped - Vanished sometimes seems like a 24 knockoff, which is the intent, I guess. Kidnapped, on the other hand, sometimes seemed like a TV mini-series knock off. A well-produced, handsomely shot and expertly acted TV mini-series knock off, but still a knock off none-the-less. The production values are high, on the order of a John Wells/Aaron Sorkin type series that NBC loves so dearly (even the credits seemed very NBC-ish, somehow). But Delroy Lindo and Jeremy Sisto bring something to Kidnapped that most new shows this season are lacking: gravitas and great chemistry. Word is that Kidnapped failed to deliver in the ratings against CSI:NY, which could signal the return of the original Law & Order to its old stomping grounds on Wednesday at 10/9 Central. And that would be a shame. The next two weeks will probably decide Kidnapped's fate. Here's to crossed fingers and knocks on wood.

Grey's Anatomy/Six Degrees - I'm not sure what I expected. I caught most of Grey's while waiting for the premiere of Six Degrees, and I was disappointed on both counts. Grey's was everything I loved/hated about Dawson's Creek. Some capable acting, witty dialogue, and loads and loads of emotional porn. I couldn't handle it then, and I can't handle it now. Melodrama can be loads of fun, as long as its broken up by super-powered teens or mystery islands. That being said, Six Degrees didn't do anything to brighten my spirits. J.J. Abrams had nothing to do with the writing of the pilot episode, and it showed. The plot was just one cliche right after another, which could probably describe any TV show when you get down to it, but Hope Davis was the only actor who was able to transcend the trappings of TV drama with her performance. Everyone else just basically went through the motions, and delivered a pretty boring pilot in the process. The sad thing is, it's light years ahead of its competition with Shark and ER, so given time, maybe it'll make something of itself. I'll be back for episode two, though now, just out of curiosity.

Men in Trees - This is the kind of show I will like 20 years from now, if I someone happen to be a woman by then, too. It's light and breezy, all girl-power for the soccer mom who-may-or-may-not-be-in-a-serious-relationship set. Anne Heche is wonderful. The cast around her is great. And it's set in not-New York, i.e. Alaska. But I'm not in my 40s. And I don't have a uterus. So there's not much left for me here. Oh well. I'd like to see it make the cut, though. It's the kind of TV that really deserves to be on TV. Honest.

That's it so far. Keep reading though, below, I actually blog about something that might matter to you. God help me, I've still got it!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Gospel of Prosperity. Now With Twice the Wealth!

Round 11, Richies vs. Poories

This is the sort of piece I'd usually save for Midwest Mindset, but I'd rather not detract from the brewing Moody controversy (as I like to hype it), so it falls here instead. Face front, True Believers!

Time Magazine ran a really great cover story last week titled "Does God Want You To Be Rich?" There were interviews with Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and Ron Sider, and some non-pastor types as well. Instead of copying and pasting chunks of the article here, I thought I'd just throw out a few quotes from the piece to give you a general idea of what it contains.


"I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. I think he wants us to enjoy our lives. I don't think I'd say God wants us to be rich." -- Joel Osteen, megapastor and author of Your Best Life Now

"Prosperity Lite is everywhere in Christian culture. Go into any Christian bookstore, and see what they're offering." Rev. Chappell Temple, Methodist minister

"Who would want something where you're miserable, broke and ugly and you have to muddle through until you get to heaven? ....I believe God wants to give us nice things" -- Joyce Meyer, television preacher, author of too many books to mention

"They have neglected the texts about the danger of riches. Prosperity Gospel Lite is one of the most powerful forms of neglect of the poor." -- Ron Sider, professor Eastern University, author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

"God wants you to own land. The entire Old Testament is all about land. Land represents that God is with you and God has blessed you." -- Kirbyjon Caldwell, minister of the largest United Methodist congregation in the U.S.

"The idea that God wants everyone to be wealthy? Baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net-worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?" -- Rick Warren, megapastor and author of The Purpose Driven Life

"We need to renounce the false gospel of wealth and health--it is a disease of our American culture; it is not a solution or answer to life's problems." -- Ben Witherington, New Testament theologian, Asbury Seminary

"Jesus' words about money don't make us very comfortable, and people don't want to hear about it." -- Collin Hansen, editor Christianity Today


The article is a doozy. But it's a topic that deserves the cover story treatment (and deserves to be read, too). It points out that many Prosperity churches are heavily involved in charity giving. And that's great. But God never commanded a potential disciple to give generously to charity and follow me. Furthermore, a telling statistic from the article is that 31% of Americans believe that if you give money to God, he will in turn bless you with even more money, as if God's greatest blessing this side of heaven is greater wealth.

However, it was that last quote from Collin Hansen that interested me most, because of how true it is. The article continues to quote a Princeton sociologist who says that "There has long been a taboo on talking candidly about money" in the U.S. church. I'm a testament to that. The only money talks I heard growing up were concerned with tithing. Give to God what's his, pre-taxes, and figure out the rest for yourself. For some reason, pastors are comfortable preaching about sexual mores and time management and even sometimes politics. But money? No way.

After half a century of over-emphasis on eternal destiny, at the cost of social inequality, evangelicals are finally wising up to the whole Gospel of salvation and liberation, both in the afterlife and here on earth. But what is it about finances and material wealth that make them such uncomfortable topics? Again, I'd go back to the Hansen quote: Jesus' words about money don't make us very comfortable.

And there's the rub. Its nice to think about saving babies and taking purity pledges and spending more time with our families. These are clear-cut issues of justice and responsibility and righteousness that evangelicals can all agree on. But no one agrees about money. And when we do agree, it's still an uncomfortable subject (unless, you're one of the so-called experts that's written a book or something, hence, the quotes). I don't like mentioning it, but when I spent a year with AmeriCorps in Montana, I was too stubborn to ask my parents for help every now and then, and ended racking up a hefty credit card bill to pay for groceries and travel money (I drove somewhere new in Montana just about every weekend, and while gas prices weren't so bad two years ago, Montana is a big state). It's embarrassing to admit, especially because of my general hatred of credit card companies these days (also due to a fantastic Frontline about the industry), but it's what I did, and I can't undo it. I can only pay it off.

But is that the only reason evangelicals don't like to talk about money? Because we're embarrassed by our past financial transgressions? Or because we disagree on how to handle our individual finances? Is it because Christ's sayings are hard? Or is it because they're sometimes confusing? Has it always been this way? Or is this a uniquely American taboo? If you're so inclined, what do you think?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Short Bulletpoint Thingama--Oh forget it. Does anyone else remember when I used to be able to come up with clever blog titles?

Because I have so much to say and so little desire to say it.

  • So the premiere of Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip has come and gone. And I was pleasantly pleased. Not blown away (though the Matthew Perry/Bradley Whitford scenes came awful close), but I enjoyed it all the same. Sorkin's dialogue sparkled, and Tommy Schlamme's direction was like the welcome return of an old friend. But: 45-minute pilots that have to introduce some 7 or 8 main characters are going to be a bit clunky. Remember that in The West Wing's pilot, President Bartlett was barely introduced -- he only had a short scene near the end of the episode -- which allowed Sorkin to focus exclusively on his other five stars. Once the characters of Studio 60 are established (which they mostly have been), I expect the show to start humming along. That being said....
  • News is the series premiere of Studio 60 was overcome in the rating-wars by the season premiere of CSI:Miami. Surprisingly, Studio 60 actually lost ground as the hour went on, as a sizable amount of viewers tuned elsewhere for their entertainmennt during the second half of the show. That Studio 60 lost to CSI:Miami doesn't surprise me much. The show targets an audience that probably doesn't watch CSI:Miami in the first place, so it's a good program to square off against (though NBC likely wouldn't mind if they could steal away some of CSI:Miami's current audience, no doubt). That Studio 60 lost ground is a bit alarming, but when you consider it, the drop makes sense. Studio 60's lead-in was the wildly (at least for another couple of months) popular Deal or No Deal -- a two hour edition no less. While it may be a ratings grabber, it's definitely not a good thematic or genre lead-in. After two hours of watching people open briefcases and make funny faces, it's no wonder Studio 60 couldn't keep that audience. It's everything Deal isn't -- smart, fast-paced and irresistibly charming. In fact, the Judd Hirsch speech that opened Studio 60 railed against the very same television that Deal or No Deal represents. And while I've no personal problem with dumb entertainment (hello, Johnny Knoxville), it's only the fault of NBC's programming execs that Studio 60 wasn't able to hold its lead's audience.
  • Speaking of stupid entertainment, and stupidity in general, there's an interesting piece in last week's Time Magazine (Sep 18th cover date) about Mike Judge's new film, Idiocracy. Judge, who you might know as the creator of Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill, and everyone's favorite cubicle-comedy Office Space, has been hard at work on Idiocracy for over two years now (it's been in the can for months), and with Luke Wilson starring, you'd think you would have seen a trailer for it by now. But nothing. No press, no marketing campaign, no trailer on Quicktime's website for us movie geeks, no nothing. Idiocracy tells the story of a normal guy from our present (Wilson) who is frozen and thawed out in the year 2505, and finds himself in a strange future where he's the smartest person alive. Judge's vision of the future is alot like our present, only a hell of a lot worse. Corporations and advertising have dumbed down culture so far that everyone is an idiot, and everything around them is gaudily uniform. (My favorite quote from the article describes a scene where "Costco takes up miles of space and has greeters emotionlessly repeat, 'Welcome to Costco. I love you.'") Time cites the failure of Fox's marketing division to create a trailer that test groups reacted positively to for Fox's decision to limit the movie's release to just seven cities. Let's hope that Fox's creative failure to find a way to market the film doesn't hurt its chances to get a proper DVD treatement. Most likely, Idiocracy will play like another Office Space by slowly building a cult audience then exploding to the point where Comedy Central and TBS are engaged in a blood feud for the television rights. Anything to replace their repeated airings of Malibu's Most Wanted, please!
  • New Topic: Rupert Murdoch wants your money, evangelical America! In addition to their lack of trailer cutting skills, Fox now has a Christian film marketing arm, aptly named FoxFaith. Fox plans to release small-budget Christians films on DVD while specifically marketing them to Christian audiences with the help of churches like yours. Additionally, FoxFaith will market a select few films each year for theatrical release as well. Fox does not have any plans to produce big-budget Passion of the Christ epics however: their first film will an adaptation of Christian romance novelist Janette Oke's Love's Abiding Joy. For those of you not familiar with with the Christian romance scene, it's a lot like Harlequin novels, except the sex scenes are replaced with more wholesome conversion experiences. Can I get an amen?
  • And finally, while none of you will care, Joss Whedon is taking over the plotting/scripting duties for Marvel Comic's Runaways beginning with issue #25. I'm not even sure if I care, save for the fact that the book was created by Brian K. Vaughan (of Y: The Last Man fame), and that Whedon is TV geek royalty. Runaways has always sounded like a fun read, and maybe someday, if I can get past the fact that it's not published before the 1990s, I'll check it out.
That's it Goodmen and Goodwomen. Maybe next time I'll write about things that matter, like that long awaited post about my jury duty. Most likely, it'll just be about Lost withdrawal.

P.S. Jake, can you remember to get my copy of Lost Season One from that one guy whose name I can't remember? I think it's safe to say that he's had a chance to view all 22 episodes considering how he's had it for about a year now. Thanks, chief.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mark Kozelek Sings Anything Other Than Modest Mouse

In light of the "12 most important bands" debate going on at Andy Sikora's blog & Midwest Mindset, I had a thought about music in general yesterday that might bring peace and joy to all mankind and volcanoes, too.

I was reading this one part in High Fidelity where Marie LaSalle plays a short set in Rob's record shop, and mixes in a bunch of cover songs from artists Rob sells, and this is what flashed in my brain: All bands/artists ought to devote around half their sets to cover songs. Because all bands have influences, (and of the ones I'd like to see) I wouldn't mind hearing them sing and perform some of those influences. And of the ones I'd rather not see, maybe they'd be so embarrassed that the reason they first picked up a guitar was because of Hootie and the Blowfish, that they'd actually start seeking out more carefully crafted songs to cover, and actually become more talented songwriters because of it.

There are some genres, like country or jazz, that just lend themselves to covers -- and it's never thought to be hackneyed or derivative in the least. In fact, jazz artists never even play covers, they perform standards. Something by Ella Fitzgerald or Miles Davis or Duke Ellington. And everybody goes nuts over it.

But maybe rock bands can't do that. Maybe they're so used to trying to find their own sound (or trying to sound exactly like band-X) that to cover too many songs would be detrimental to everything they stand for (or expose them for the charlatans they are). I don't know. But I do know we'd be better off as a listening public if the artists we enjoy would play more things by the artists they enjoy.

Besides, we could all stand to hear more new music, especially if it's new music that we might not have ever heard otherwise.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The thing about Steve Irwin...

....Is that he was both an entertainer and an educator. Anyone who watched one of his programs for more than five minutes would have realized how passionate Irwin was about animals and wildlife conservation. He made it his life to bring wild nature, in all her terrifying glory, into the homes of everyday people. Many of the animals he observed and wrangled with were either endangered, or are in-danger of having their habitats exploited and destroyed. With all the shit we have to put up with these days, from Nancy Grace to election spots every four seconds, it's no wonder most people don't give a damn about conservationism.

Irwin was an entertainer, no two ways about it. But he was also able to educate those same viewers who tuned in for his crazy stunts. Not too many entertainers can actually claim to be teachers as well. It takes a special kind of filmmaker, a special kind of musician, a special kind of personality, to pull that off. Irwin wasn't stupid. He knew the risks involved in his line of work. But for his own reasons, he felt that it was the right thing to do. If he could get people interested in the wild kingdom, or involved in protecting open spaces for wildlife to thrive and survive, then all those close calls were worth it. You wouldn't tell Salman Rushdie he took unnecessary risks for writing The Satanic Verses. And you wouldn't tell Johnny Cash he took unnecessary risks for protesting the Vietnam war. They believed in these things -- risks be damned.

And it's about time we recognized Steve Irwin for that as well. We should be so lucky to get just one man, so passionate about all God's creatures (great and small), in our lifetime. It wasn't his fault that most Westerners refuse to take note of wildlife unless it's in their faces. He gave the people what they wanted, and in turn, helped bring a voice to creatures who couldn't speak. Just remember, if we hadn't been so insistent on a mini-mall in every backyard and millions of open acres for cheap beef, then we wouldn't have needed someone like Steve Irwin to warn us about endangered habitats and their animalia residentialis.

Luckily, he had the courage to shake off the dust of indifference in our already over-stimulated minds.

And I say, good for him.

Friday, September 01, 2006

All Your Wilberforce Are Belong To Philip Anschutz

"It's like Amistad, but with lots more religion."

Bring on the 18-century political intrigue, my friends! An American film distributor has purchased the rights to a film based on the life and work of British abolitionist William Wilberforce, titled Amazing Grace, which was financially backed and produced by Walden Media, the same production company that brought us Holes, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the upcoming How To Eat Fried Worms. Walden Media, owned by Christian billionaire Philip Anschutz, has promised to launch an educational/marketing program dealing with slavery in today's world and social steps people can take to combat it.

In an interesting Walden Media twist, what might make the film appealing for evangelical Christians is the fact that William Wilberforce was an evangelical Methodist and a friend of John Newton (where we the get the title, "Amazing Grace", I'd presume). Wilberforce worked for much of his life as a member of British parliament in opposition to the Empire's slave trade. While not an outright abolitionist in the sense that he wanted to see every slave freed, he did fight for an end to the gross inhumanities perpetuated by the global slave trade. With the evangelical angle, Wilberforce's story seems an easy fit for targeting a Christian audience (evangelical or otherwise).

But what's really piqued my interest are the players involved in the production of the film. While Anschutz's Walden Media can boast a fine pedigree for getting evangelical butts in the seats for The Chronicles of Narnia, Amazing Grace may be an entirely different film altogether. Handling the scripting chores is Steven Knight, who received an Oscar nomination for his work on Dirty Pretty Things, while director Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough, Nell, HBO's Rome) oversaw things from behind the camera. If not for the inclusion of Walden Media, I would assume the pic to have an R or PG-13 rating based on the creators involved. While an R rating for a story based on the crucifixion of Christ might not hurt a movie's chances for reaching evangelicals, it could turn that same audience away from a historical film dealing with British politics.

But the plot thickens a bit when you add to the fact that Chuck Colson (conservative Christian founder of Prison Fellowship and BreakPoint ministries) has an evangelical think tank named in honor of Wilberforce, the Wilberforce Forum, whose mission is to "help Christians approach life with a biblical worldview so that they can in turn shape culture from a biblical perspective." Said think tank deals with issues such as the Federal Marriage Amendment, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, creationism and global human rights. While I might not line up politically with Colson, I harbor the man no ill will, mostly due to his fantastically readable autobiography Born Again, and also due to the fact that he was the first evangelical leader to come out in support of the Harry Potter series of books. That being said, getting Colson behind Amazing Grace would be a gigantic first step in marketing the film to conservative Christians, which is why having an owner like Philip Anschutz behind Walden Media will be an important piece to that puzzle.

No matter who the film is marketed to, and no matter what rating it's given, I'm looking forward to what ought to be a fairly engrossing film. Wilberforce -- coming from a wealthy family, converting to Methodism at an early age, and spending such a large part of his life in opposition to a lucrative business for English slave traders and the British crown -- is an interesting character, and if the pic is done well, worthy of a good two hours. Let's just hope that in an effort to appeal to the broadest possible audience (young children included), Walden Media doesn't feel the need to sanitize certain events in order to maximize its profits. Wilberforce was a flawed individual who fought for a righteous cause during a very ugly time. Looking at the players involved, I hope they have the courage to tell that story, warts and all.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

1,2,3, The Return of Some Old Favs

If it ain't broke, kill off some characters and add an actor from Melrose Place.

Returning television shows have a tough job -- they have to both catch the magic of previous seasons and continue to make old characters interesting, all the while introducing new people and themes in order to keep things fresh. Most shows aren't able to do it. Some get cancelled because people stop watching (see Alias). Others, inexplicably, keep going, year after year, long after they have anything left to say (see ER). It's rare that a TV show is able to string together a good five or six seasons, and keep ratings up in the process. Shows aren't allowed to build slowly over time anymore. Nowadays, they burst out of the gate, then fizzle into mediocrity. Alias, ER, the West Wing and 24 are perfect examples of shows that peaked early and were never able to recover.

For shows like Lost, Veronica Mars, Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, 2006-07 could be their make-or-break year. Do they have the staying power to launch themselves for an extended stay on network TV? Here are my three returning shows for your life, that are actually for my life, but by extension, if this blog IS your life, then ergo these shows are for your life, too, except if you don't have a TV, and you still read this blog hoping I'll talk about politics or theology again, which maybe I will, but not until after the November sweeps.

1) Lost -- The "Season of the Hatch" was an interesting one. Mostly good, but some bad. In a bit of really lame-lameness, the creators decided to kill off half the new characters they introduced last year just because they couldn't figure out how to write them in an interesting and likeable way. They've done this before, with Boone and Shannon, and it's getting to be kind of a ridiculous crutch. This character is boring. Let's kill them off during sweeps week! But bygones, the hatch is exploded, bring on season 3!

Lost promises two blocks of no-repeat episodes this year, six this fall, then continuing in early 2007 with 17 more. The first block is supposed to answer all our questions about why The Others wanted Jack, Kate and Sawyer. And maybe about that giant foot, too. As long as we get a Hurley or Locke episode to boot, I think I'll be happy.

2) Veronica Mars -- Yes, I know I just wrote about this show earlier in the week, but having stuffed a whole season into my head since June, I'm super-crazy about season 3 of VM, too. Like I said before, Rob Thomas has promised three mini-mysteries across the course of the season, lasting six or seven episodes each. Plus, Miss Mars and Co. go to college. As any good Buffy fan ought to know, college episodes mean excitement: i.e., drinking, lesbians, snooty profs and general sluttiness abound. Regardless, VM ought to be it's snappy, snazzy self, with lots of Nancy Drew 2.0 goodness. And Kristen Bell? Still the cutest thing on TV. From my mouth to God's ear. Honest.

3) Smallville -- Score two for the new CW! After the mess that was Superman Returns (albeit a beautiful mess at times), it's time to get back to our generation's Superman, the boy/man Tom Welling. The other show I've been catching up on old times with this summer, Smallville is hurtling toward a sixth season that brings C. Kent another step closer to the big blue suit: A knock-down, drag-out slug-fest with none other than the notorious General Zod -- possessing the body of Lex Luthor no less!

Lot's of other things need resolving, too. Like, will Lana still have the hots for Lex now that he's a lunatic general from Krypton? Will Chloe still have the hots for Clark now that Jimmy Olsen is in the picture? Will Lois ever have the hots for anyone? And finally, can the sheer amount of teen-tear-jerk-drama be overcome by awesome fist fights between super-powered aliens? Come on kid Kal-El, show Bryan Singer just exactly what his movie lacked: Superman punching people through walls!

Honorable mentions:

  1. Family Guy -- Only because Adult Swim re-airs the episodes late at night. Sunday evening has never been a big TV night for me. I don't know why.
  2. Prison Break -- The one returning show that I'm 100% certain will be better this season than last. What was once kind of a lame bottle-show is now suddenly an updated version of The Fugitive for the 21st century. How can you flipping mess that up?
  3. Law & Orders/CSIs -- Boring copper/law procedurals should be forced to watch episodes of Life on Mars, then cancel themselves forever.
  4. Boston Legal -- I watched this show once. It was 17% funny. But I like James Spader, so maybe it gets another shot. Oh wait, it's about lawyers. (See #3.)
  5. Grey's Anatomy/House -- Medical dramas. I have nothing good to say. Which is sad because Hugh Laurie was a kick-ass Jeeves.
  6. Ghost Whisperer -- I used to think Jennifer Hewitt was pretty. Then I saw her with those bangs. I'm very confused now.
So that's it. I'm sorry if I insulted your show. Feel free to insult mine in return. Or better yet, insult J.L. Hewitt's hair. That way we can be happy together forever and ever. Amen.