June 17, 2013 Leave a comment
Arrested Developments will love this. Non AD fans may find it mildly amusing. If you are in the latter category, consider joining the former.
Politics, parenting, science, education, and pretty much anything I find interesting
June 16, 2013 1 Comment
So, my guess is that for Father’s Day today (and happy Father’s day to dads out there, though I’m really not the biggest fan of any of these Hallmark holidays. I will enjoy my free Father’s Day treat at Skinny Dip Frozen Yogurt) many dads will be taking their kids to the movies. And that’s because it seems when it comes to taking kids to the movies, this is a dad thing, not a mom thing. This has been the case in our family for 10-11 years, or since whenever I started taking David to the movies. I always assumed that it was because I just like movies a lot more than Kim. But apparently, this is actually a common feature in families. Via the Atlantic:
Across the United States, there really are more dads than moms on their own with their kids at the movies. A 2011 study by polling firm Ipsos found that dads are 50 percent more likely than moms to take young kids to the movies. (This holds true for films of all ratings, from G to R.) “Dads are more interested in finding content they can enjoy with their kids,” said Ipsos senior vice president Donna Sabino. Moms may remain the key decision-makers about most household purchases, but fathers increasingly rule in one area: entertainment.
The piece, by a gender studies professor, then goes on to a pretty fascinating analysis of the clueless dad animated stereotype and the very common daddy-daughter theme. Short version: the movie-makers know their target audience.
We do almost all our movie watching at home, but there is something special about going to the theater. We caught a cheap showing of the Lorax this week, which I enjoyed much more than I anticipated (and was surprised and enjoyed its unabashed bashing of excessive materialism and big business). And when Monsters University comes out, I’ll spring for the big bucks on that one (as about only Pixar will have me do).
June 12, 2013 Leave a comment
In general, I’m a fan of a catchy opening theme for a TV show. Katia Bachko has a nice essay in the New Yorker about how binge watching may make opening credits obsolete.
During the first few episodes of “The Wire,” I had genuinely enjoyed Tom Waits’s “Way Down In the Hole.” David Simon picked a recording by the Blind Boys of Alabama for the first season, and then substituted new covers of the song for the later seasons. The opening chords—electric guitar and a little jazz drum—hint at the swagger of the Baltimore cops and thugs. I loved the sound of singer’s voice, gravelly from too many cigarettes. But by episode four, I’d had enough. As the opening notes began to play, I grabbed the mouse and fast-forwarded past the song. “Hey! I was listening to that,” Kenan objected from the couch, and launched into his own rendition of “Way Down in the Hole.” But hadn’t we just heard it? No matter; Kenan couldn’t get enough. As we worked our way through all five seasons of “The Wire,” this division became more apparent. I became particularly good at clicking exactly past the theme music; Kenan took to humming it around the house…
I love the ringing bells and feather dusters on “Downton Abbey,” and I love watching Louis C.K. swallow a slice of pizza almost without chewing, but I don’t need to watch these events more than once a night.
Personally, I’m just not a binge watcher. I don’t think I’ve ever watched two complete episodes of a show on the same night. My binges are watching the same show multiple days in a row. And there’s almost no shows where I automatically fast forward the opening credits. I really like how they put me in the mindset of a show. I’ll sometimes fast forward to the end of the Boardwalk Empire credits (even though I like them), but still make sure I get the last 15-20 seconds of credits before the show begins. I love the opening credits to my two favorite shows that are currently airing. Just seeing the walls of stylized Don Draper’s office dissolve away as he falls down the skyline is still terrific every time for me. And the Game of Thrones intro is pure awesomeness:
And that also gives me an excuse for my favorite Simpsons opening ever (not that I watch the show any more):
June 5, 2013 2 Comments
Just finished reading with David last night (I presume I’ll stop reading to him when he goes to college, but otherwise I will as long as he wants me to) a great book, The Ask and the Answer. It’s the second in a young adult trilogy, “Chaos Walking” set in a dystopian world/society where everything that men thing is literally broadcast out of their heads as “noise.” Women, however, are unaffected. I’m a sucker for a good dystopia and also for an engaging first-person narrative voice and great use of language. These books hit the trifecta. Two books in, I’d definitely put it as superior to the Hunger Games trilogy (in part, because the latter two books in that series were a huge letdown). Anyway, definitely worth a try if this sounds up your alley at all. I knew within the first few pages of The Knife of Never Letting Go, that I would really enjoy the book.
May 23, 2013 Leave a comment
Earlier this month HuffPo ran a fun feature on gendered book covers. I.e., what if you took book covers that were marketed to men and flipped them to appeal to women– and vice versa. A fun idea– here’s a few examples:
Pretty cool. Anyway, I was reminded of this by a very interesting essay in Slate about likability in female characters. Apparently, if you are a woman and write likable female characters, people take your work less seriously. Personally, I just finished a great novel with a very likable male character (and a likable, but subsidiary, female character). But, I also love novels with more complex, darker characters (Humbert Humbert, anyone). The likability of the characters just strikes me as a strange way to judge the literary aspirations of fiction.
May 1, 2013 6 Comments
So, you probably don’t watch HBO’s Game of Thrones, but you should. The series (based on a series of novels, which I have not read because they are too long), is basically an alternate Medieval Europe, but with some magical/mystical elements thrown-in– primarily zombie-esque White Walkers and the classic fire-breathing dragons. I’d actually prefer the show without these elements, but I’m fine enough with them in there as long as they don’t take the focus away from the realism of the human characters. The show also has its own religious firmament of which most characters clearly believe in “the gods” who don’t seem to do much but be used in stock phrases, but there’s a small minority who believe in “The Lord of Light,” who’s catchphrase is the title of this post.
Okay, all well and good. Thing is, last season, the Lord of Light seemed to show some pretty special power to directly interact in human affairs through a character who is a sort of priestess. Not a fan of that. Too magical and too easy. Alright, not that big a problem, though. In this week’s episode, though, the Lord of Light clearly demonstrated extreme supernatural interference into human affairs. Alright, fair enough. But the thing is the Lord of Light seems to be worshiped by just a fringe sect. Yet he can have amazing supernatural influence (don’t want to spoil it, actually) in human affairs. Meanwhile, the other gods are little more than “may the gods watch over you on your journey” phrases and that’s about it. Now, this fails the test of realism. If there was one god with totally awesome supernatural powers who actually used them and a bunch of other gods– real or not– who never seemed to do much of anything directly for his/her followers, those gods would get completely dominated in a real-world competition between religions. Everybody in Westeros should be worshiping the Lord of Light– he actually does stuff.
Short version: either the Lord of Light should be the same essentially meaningless figurehead as the other gods or who should be the dominant god in Westeros; that he should be the only god to show genuine power yet be the object of worship of just a small fringe movement make no logical sense. I don’t know whether to blame the show or George RR Martin, but either way I don’t like it.
April 15, 2013 Leave a comment
I don’t write about it all that much here (mostly mentions to the Wire and Mad Men), but I really love good TV. And we are truly living in a golden age of more high quality TV than ever. Oh sure, there’s the naysayers out there who still think most television has not evolved from Three’s Company or Dynasty, but much of the very smartest writing for entertainment these days is on television. I do all I can just to keep up with the very best shows and feel bad knowing some of the very ones I’m missing. Of course, that’s got to be even worse for a professional TV reviewer. Really enjoyed this recent piece from Alan Sepinwall:
Because FX keeps track of this, I asked their research department for some hard numbers on how many shows we have now versus then. In 2002 — the year “The Shield” debuted on FX — there were actually 28 original scripted dramas on premium and basic cable (some of it famous stuff like “The Wire” and “Monk,” some of it long-forgotten like “Falcon Beach” and “Breaking News”) and 6 original comedies. In 2007, there were 42 original dramas and 17 comedies. By last year, that number had ballooned to 77 original dramas and 48 comedies. And in the first four months of 2013 alone, there have been 34 dramas and 19 comedies. And that’s on top of everything that ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and the CW are doing. That pace will slow down somewhat as we shift into summer, but I’d still expect 2013 to top the 2012 numbers, and to keep rising. Netflix is making its own original shows now, and releasing all the episodes at once. Amazon has pilots in development. The amount of television expanding, but so is our definition of what counts as “television.” …
I talked about this with James Poniewozik, who suggested the problem isn’t with the top tier, but the tiers below it. Great shows may come and go, but there’s a manageable number of them. I’m not going to miss an episode of “Mad Men” or “Justified” or “Game of Thrones,” and new entries from FX, Showtime, etc., tend to stay at the top of the viewing priority list longer than, say, shows on CBS. And that’s not a knock on the quality of CBS shows so much as it is the idea that crime procedurals (the bulk of their output) don’t lend themselves as well to episode-by-episode dissection as the kinds of shows you find on cable.
But the tiers immediately below the top one are getting more and more populated, and therefore harder and harder to keep up with.
Anyway, time for me to go watch Mad Men on the DVR (which I did not watch at the original airing because I had to watch Game of Thrones on Sunday).
March 2, 2013 3 Comments
So, I watch the Walking Dead because I find it generally entertaining, but suffering from really mediocre writing. I’m not a particularly big zombie fan, but am easily sucked in by things post-apocalyptic in nature. I guess I shouldn’t be, but I do find it annoying how much more popular it is than so many far superior shows (who am I kidding, it’s not like the Wire or Arrested Development ever got good ratings). But this?
“The Walking Dead“ is the biggest hit in the history of AMC, and one of the biggest in the history of cable television — at the moment, it’s the highest-rated entertainment show of this season in all of television
That’s nuts. My line for a while has been that the Walking Dead is what’s considered a good television show by people who don’t actually know what good television shows are. And I find it somewhat depressing that people will put up with such aimless and ordinary writing all so they can see some zombies get splattered. Why am I watching you ask? Not for zombie splattering, but I really do love the idea of a small band of people try to survive in extremis, even if the writing is only okay.
February 26, 2013 Leave a comment
So, I missed the James Bond 50th anniversary montage at the Oscars because… I missed the Oscars. Because, I hardly see enough movies to make it worth it anymore. And Seth McFarlane– seriously? Anyway, Slate’s Alex Heimbach points out that this montage is far superior to what ran at the Oscars. I’m not going to bother with that one, but for Bond fans, this is definitely good stuff:
January 17, 2013 1 Comment
Big fan of the Lena Dunham’s great HBO show, Girls. One of the things that really impresses me about Dunham is how comfortable she is with her own sexuality. Now, it’s an HBO series, so you’re pretty much guaranteed nudity, but I don’t think there’s many young women who would be the writer/producer of a show and frequently feature themselves in various states of disrobing and sexual awkwardess. Especially if they are clearly far from Hollywood’s anorexic ideal. Now Dunham is far from fat, but she looks like a pretty typical 20-something woman you’d see in the street. And that’s almost never the type of 20-something woman you would see mostly naked on HBO. Basic point– good for her. Ta-Nehisi Coates addressed almost this point nicely:
What Girls says is “F**k the gaze.” Lena Dunham ain’t really performing for you. She’s saying people like me–which is most of you–like to f**k. And in a real narrative of real life, the people who do most of the f**king don’t actually look like Victoria Secret models. Your expectations for what f**king should look like are irrelevant. Here is how it looks like to the narrator. I kind of love that. In this (perhaps limited) sense, I can understand the “For Us, By Us” acclaim. The show’s disregard for male notions of sex is pretty profound. And it achieves this while still giving us a fairly interesting cast of male characters. [this is my cleaned up version, because, honestly, there's just some words I don't like on my blog]
December 22, 2012 Leave a comment
Enjoyed this set of photos of women guarding the works of art in Russian museums. Reminded me of my trip to the Hermitage 23 years ago. It’s got an absolutely amazing collection, but I was so jet-lagged and just tiredfrom our travel schedule that I basically slept-walk through the place without anything making much of an impression. One of my great regrets.
Stroganov Palace, Russian State Museum.
December 22, 2012 Leave a comment
Saw the Hobbit a couple days ago. It’s so hard to view a movie like this outside the context of the book. I usually try to do so, but in this case I really spent far too much of the movie thinking, “How do you make a 2:45 movie for the first part of a trilogy for a 300 page book?!” Pacing! I guess when you are Peter Jackson nobody just says, “seriously?!” It was certainly an amazing visual spectacle, but way too bogged down.
What really frustrated me, though, was the lack of realism. What? you ask. We’re talking about a movie with Orcs, goblins, dragons, and magic rings. That aside, of course. The reason the Harry Potter books are so great is because within the world JK Rowling has invented everything rings so damn true– from awkward teenage love to the desire for the ever better flying broom. No real complaints with Tolkien on that score, but in the movie, I swear Bilbo, Gandalf, and the company of Dwarves somehow managed to avoid any serious injury throughout a series of violence and mayhem that would have even killed James Bond. Sure, I get that the heroes get to avoid their share of swinging swords and flying arrows, but 16 people don’t escape hundreds of similarly armed, attacking foes without a single casualty. Dwarves, hobbits, giant flying eagles, etc., don’t pull me out of a movie and my suspension of disbelief, but surviving absolutely ridiculous attacks and calamities completely unscathed sure does.