Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ending (on) Television

Pop Culture Happy Hour discussed TV finales, and how it's a tricky balance to strike when ending a series (assuming the creators know it's the end, which often isn't known ahead of time), having that last episode be satisfying in the moment and also when reflecting back on it. The noted a particularly good finale was that of Six Feet Under, which I've heard about but haven't seen (I didn't have HBO at the time, and as with many shows of quality like that I've never made the time to go back and watch it—especially given that my wife has seen it all, so it's not something she'd be as interested in doing… but like we have that kind of time). However, it's probably less common for intentional series finales to be really good than for them to be disappointing, and that's probably the flaw of TV as a medium.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Over on the photo site there's shots taken at the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens during last month's trip. Here's a few to tantalize you to click on over.
Hey, wait a second...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Grading the TV season

I wouldn't want to be a TV critic because I'd want to be able continuing to just enjoy it, not have to view it with one eye on what to say about it. Still, as the shows I watch have narratives and characters, I do still have opinions. (Perusing the number of my posts over the years by category, "TV" has the second highest total. Granted, I'm not always writing about TV in the way you'd be thinking, but it is a relatively common topic in one way or another.)

Anyway, despite that I find myself inclined to assess the TV season that is coming to a close. Luckily for my readership, I have the good sense not to want to compose essays about each show, and figure grading like on EW/AV Club reviews should suffice.

It's worth admitting that these grades are based on my general sense of watching the series' episodes week after week, not based on a thorough analysis; at the end of each show I had a feeling of how well it entertained me, and that's the real assessment. Also, I'm only grading the series I watched from the premiere through to the finale; it's not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination.

(Shows are listed roughly in order of the nights on which they aired, starting with Sunday, in case you're wondering.)

  • The Simpsons B
  • Bob's Burgers A
  • Once Upon a Time B+
  • The Good Wife A
  • Mad Men (so far) A
  • How I Met Your Mother B-
  • Terra Nova D [yeah, I cannot believe it either]
  • New Girl A-
  • Raising Hope A
  • Suburgatory B-
  • Modern Family B+
  • Happy Endings A-
  • Revenge B
  • The Big Bang Theory C+
  • Community A-
  • 30 Rock A-
  • The Office C
  • Up All Night C+
  • Parks and Recreation A
  • Scandal A-
  • Chuck A-
  • Fringe B+
  • Nikita [incomplete] [still have 7 episodes on the DVR]
  • Saturday Night Live C+
  • Psych B
  • In Plain Sight B+
  • Fairly Legal B
  • Portlandia A

  • Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    When it's too late for the Avengers

    The Avengers has dominated the box office since its opening three weekends past. It was also the dominant pop culture topic back during that week it premiered, and I even wrote about that at the time (mostly in response to the Culture Gabfest discussion) where I had to more or less reflexively defend the comic book medium (despite not having been part of it for 18 years). It wasn't so much that I thought Avengers looked all that phenomenal but there's something about people who go in with a condescending attitude about "comic book" movies jumping on the bandwagon of what's the hot subject only because it's the hot subject rather than having a worthwhile opinion about the subject.

    (I'm not pretending I have a worthwhile opinion, but I choose on what I comment rather than pretending I'm keeping up with all the big topics.)

    I don't consider comic books to be something one outgrows, but fighting the crowds at the multiplex is something I have outgrown, so we didn't go that opening weekend. And last weekend my wife had to work on a project so we couldn't get to it then either. So although the pop culture world has moved on from actively discussing the movie, it is only now that I can speak to that specifically, as we finally saw it over the weekend.

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    Roaming to Roemer

    On a recent Common Sense podcast, host Dan Carlin interviewed independent presidential candidate Buddy Roemer, who talked frankly about the corruption in Washington and how campaign finance reform would be his primary issue if he were elected.

    It all sounded very good, but as one who was political jaded before I could even vote I am hard pressed to muster the belief that Roemer wouldn't be ripped to proverbial shreds by the campaign machines of both of the major parties—especially in light of how his campaign would be based on fixing the problems that are so beneficial to them. They'd find some skeleton (or merely concoct one that would prove effectively dissuading to the easily influenced). That I wouldn't want any decent person to have to endure.

    It's very difficult to believe that there are enough smart people in this country who aren't already in the pocket of the Democrats or the Republicans. It's nigh-impossible to think that people really want what's best for the whole country; they want their side to win and choose to believe that's what's best for everybody.

    Who'd want to preside over that?

    Thursday, May 17, 2012

    Getting artsy at the DIA

    Over on the photo site you will find a plethora of shots taken at the Detroit Institute of the Arts (DIA) taken during last month's visit to the Motor City. What's almost as good as actual art? Pictures of it!

    Click on over to see the rest, and enrich yourself.

    Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    Open letter to the Spanish-speaking person who keeps calling my cell phone every so often and leaving a voicemail

    First, be advised that I do not answer the phone from numbers I don't recognize, so I'm never going to pick up. However, even if I were to, that likely would bring us to the larger issue: I took French in high school, and my Spanish extends only as far as ordering food or beer, counting to ten, and asking where the library is; I suspect that would be insufficient. Perhaps you'd recognize that I was not speaking the same language and would glean that I am not the party whom you are trying to reach, but based on a prior similar incident some years ago, I suspect you'd merely keep calling back for a while until it became clear you had the wrong number. And for that same reason that's why I won't be responding to your voicemail.

    I merely hope that you will eventually you will realize that your messages never get a response and verify with your intended party as to why that is, discover your incorrect number, and make the appropriate adjustments when you dial.

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    How My Wife's Car Met 200,000 Miles

    On the 2007 How I Met Your Mother episode "Arrivederci, Fiero" the plot revolves around how Marshall's car is about to hit 200,000 miles on the odometer. Anticipating the milestone he had celebratory cigars in the glove compartment. As the odometer is on 199,999 he directs passenger Ted to get the cigars, but at that moment the car hits a pothole and stalls before the numbers roll over on the dash. With the car at the mechanic the episode explores the car's history through flashbacks, with the first one involving a cross-country trip Marshall and Ted took back in college wherein it's revealed that the only music they can listen to is a cassette-single of the Proclaimers' one hit, "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," which is permanently stuck in the car's tape deck (and which they go through phases of loving and hating and loving again).

    I mention all that as a preface for the story of the last Sunday in April. As we were driving back from a birthday party for our nephew, my wife's '98 Volvo was bearing down on 200K. However, with maybe 15 miles until we got home it was only at 199,960; at that pace the momentous moment would occur on Monday as she was driving to work—a less-than-momentous scenario. She wanted us to be together when the odometer's first digit rolled from 1 to 2, not sitting in traffic alone on the 405, so we exited the freeway and headed down to the ocean around Palos Verdes (a peninsula jutting out from the line of the coast). However, even with that detour, when eventually we were close to home we still had 8 miles to go, so we proceeded past home and farther along the coast to the eastern part of Long Beach.

    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    Obama comes out for same-sex marriage

    The hullabaloo this week has been first the Vice President on Meet the Press Sunday and then the President in an interview that aired on GMA today but was widely leaked yesterday saying they support same-sex marriage. Obama may not have done the interview had Biden not been so seemingly brazen with his opinions a few days ago, but I'm hard-pressed to think that anything said on TV in an election year is glib or uncalculated; candor is not a luxury politicians can afford.

    While many have been praising the President about this, with an "it's about time" caveat—and certainly I concur with that sentiment—I am cynical enough to temper that with a bit of this:

    Okay, Obama campaign, you've seen that your other tactics haven't distanced your ticket from Romney and you see the need to double-down on your base to ensure that they head to the voting booth in November. I'm not taking away from finally expressing a non-equivocated stance that is what should have been your position all along, but there seems little chance this happening now is coincidental. You're conceding a voting block to the GOP that probably wasn't going your way, so it's not as risky as it might seem.

    Wednesday, May 09, 2012

    Going to Carolina (in my mind): A California perspective

    Yesterday North Carolinian voters passed an amendment that not only took their existing law against same-sex marriage but made it such that it's part of their state constitution. And while I had that People wonder why we won't move to the South reaction, the reality is that the same sort of proposal passed here in my home state a few years ago. It was, of course, overturned as unconstitutional, but it's not like there's any shortage of bigotry and intolerance in the seeming liberal bastion on the left coast. And somehow I find the ability to continue living here.

    I've been to North Carolina multiple times. There's plenty of nice people there who have no issues with gays and lesbians. It's not fair to take this sort of political incident as justification for dismissing the state any more than it would be to write off California.

    Tuesday, May 08, 2012

    Special interest

    The difference between special interests and the common good is this:  Whatever you don't agree with is "special interest" and whatever you do agree with is the "common good."

    Glad we've got that cleared up.

    Monday, May 07, 2012

    Oh, men

    One morning last week on the train a young woman got on about half way through the line, and shortly thereafter the aisle seat next to me opened up and she sat down. She was conventionally pretty, with a good figure and wearing a v-neck blouse. And out of the corner of my eye I noticed her trying to put on her ear buds and presumably listen to an iPod or some such device.

    I say trying because for the entire rest of the trip a young man standing nearby was chatting her up. From time to time I'd hear her laugh in a manner that made me question its authenticity. I wasn't paying attention, but to the extent I noticed the man did the overwhelming majority of the talking.

    Wednesday, May 02, 2012

    Avenging superhero movies (sort of)

    On the Culture Gabfest this week they opened with the impending Avengers movie, which they generally found to be so-so. Film critic Dana found it to be pretty much the same as many recent superhero films, competent but nothing special; editor Julia was disappointed only that as a Joss Whedon devotee it wasn't a better end result with all the talent involved—not that it wasn't worth seeing, but that it should have rendered a superior movie; snob Stephen thought it somewhat "shameful" that as adults they were discussing it, thinking this was the sort of thing he enjoyed at 9 but then grew up.

    As one who started reading superhero comics at age 7, and then continued reading and collecting them into my teens and (as I've mentioned before) worked in a comic book store for many years as the job that got me through college (well, mostly), it's impossible for me not to have some response.

    Tuesday, May 01, 2012

    Transcending time

    One day last week when I walked to the place where I was going to eat lunch I encountered a closed door and a sign on the door (which appeared to have been prepared on a computer and printed on an inkjet printer) that read "Temporally closed."

    For a second I thought about snapping a photo with my phone but instead just turned and walked to some other restaurant a couple blocks away. There was something about resisting the impulse to document what appeared a clear malapropism (or perhaps spell check switch, as a computer appeared to have been involved) that seemed… not admirable, by any means, but at least a step in something of a better direction; undoubtedly there's always going to be unnoticed errors that I'll encounter, and particularly with these where there'd be no possibility of an editor to have proofed, it wasn't worth expending a moment's disappointment. Even a tiny condescending amusement was undeserved.