Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Unofficially, I've been on hiatus since last week, but this post makes it official: Friday I'm getting married and then spending the next week vacationing in the Adirondacks. When I get back from that, having to do two weeks worth of work in one will probably mean that I won't have time to resume blogging again until mid-August. Until then, be sure to check in with one of my new daily "must-reads". (Also, I'll probably be posting here and there on various message boards: you can't expect me to go without the internet completely?)

Monday, July 9, 2007

Current TV Faves

  1. Ice Road Truckers: This show fascinates me for a couple of reasons. (1) The ice road project is an amazing example of human ingenuity and invention. I also knew nothing about it at all before watching the show. I know there must be things like this all over the world: staggering feats of engineering and daring that you'll never encounter and/or even hear about if you're living a standard, middle-class-ish life in the lower 48. (2) It is an extremely dangerous endeavour and, as far as I can tell, it is an unnecessary danger. That is, the truckers are shipping equipment to diamond mines and the only reason there's any money in that is because the demand for diamonds has been artificially manipulated. This isn't like, say, drilling for oil: for better or for worse, oil fuels the worldwide infrastructure. (3) I don't actually find the truckers themselves all that interesting, but I can't help wondering how much of their behavior on screen represents them trying to behave like they think people on a reality show should behave.

  2. Paula's Home Cooking: So - my mom has always been a pretty good cook when she's wanted to cook. The thing is, she's always worked a lot and she doesn't really enjoy cooking as much as she enjoys, say, reading sci-fi novels or playing video games, so, while growing up (and continuing on to today), except on special occasions - Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays, etc. - she tended to make a lot of low prep stuff as well as picking up a lot of prepared food and/or ordering take-out (this was an especially popular option while we were living in Montreal). So part 2 - my fiance does like to cook and she's good at it, but she's a vegetarian and she's usually on a diet, so while we definitely eat well (I'm not complaining!!!), we don't eat anything like the stuff Paula cooks up on her show. Health-wise, this is probably a good thing, because when Paula says "I'm gonna add just a little bit of butter" that "just" means "only one stick". But that gets to the heart of why I love this show: I guess it works for me the way that, say, Cribs works for other people. That is, I get a chance to dream about all this stuff that I would really like to have: it's my consumer fantasy!*

  3. John from Cincinnati: Don't believe the hype and don't believe the non-hype! From a business perspective, I think the people at HBO were crazy to think that this would make a good follow-up to The Sopranos. But it's a pretty ballsy artistic choice: sci-fi (???) without any of the trappings that signal sci-fi to a mainstream audience; a contemporary setting with dialogue that's nearly as stylized as what we'd hear in Deadwood or Firefly; central characters who aren't quite as sensationalistic as the ones from your standard HBO/cable series (polygamists! mobsters! movie stars! drug dealers!). Now, scene-by-scene it's a little uneven: some things seem to work well, but I find myself watching a lot of it in a kind of "wait-and-see"-mode: like, I'm willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt because even when scenes fall flat it seems like they might be setting up something that could be really interesting down the road. Also, David Milch earned my trust with Deadwood so I'm willing to give him a lot of rope. I can say that 4 episodes in, I am much more interested in what the show is up to than I was with Big Love 4 episodes in.

  4. Flight of the Conchords: I love jokey little shows about fake bands (see also the original Tenacious D). The songs are the main draw, but the sketches are amusing and low-key. Favorite lyrics (sung to a "What's Going On"-ish kind of tune):
    Oohh, come on, sont zootka they’re turning kids into slaves
    They’re turning kids into slaves just to make cheaper sneakers
    But what’s the real cost, ‘cause the sneakers don’t seem that much cheaper
    Why are we still paying so much for sneakers when you got little kid slaves making them
    What are your overheads?

  5. Burn Notice: Okay - this isn't actually a good show. It has the exact same strengths and weaknesses of the other USA network programs I watch (Psych, which starts up again next week, is by far the best of them): the plots are all recycled from 1970s/1980s TV-mystery shows like The Rockford Files and Magnum P.I. (which in turn got them from cheapie noir pulps), but the actors are all game and consistently enjoyable/entertaining to watch. Like, the plot/theme ideas in the first episode were all pretty lame, but getting to see Bruce Campbell play a washed-up, alcoholic, ex-spy is worth it.

*Okay - not completely a fantasy. My fiance bought me Paula's book of dessert recipes and I'm planning to make a pretty scrumptious-looking coffee cake when we go on vacation in two weeks.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Movie Chat: Mutual Appreciation

Mutual Appreciation

Andrew Bujalski has a good sense of balance: he's clear-eyed about his characters' problems - I think he gets the details of self-and-other-forms-of-deception just right - but he's also sympathetic to their failings and aware of their strengths.

Like: Alan - played by Justin Rice - came off as a little bit of a tool during the first part of the movie, leading me to wonder if we were supposed to think it was kind of a joke that the women in the film found him compelling. But then we get to see him perform and, it's like: yes, I get it now. Justin Rice completely gets across the idea of this kind of wishy-washy, passive-aggressive guy who finally (only?) really comes alive on stage.

Again, I'm not sure if I would like this movie as much if I didn't completely recognize these type of people and their lifestyle from my own past. That is: part of what I appreciate is that Bujalski really seems to get the specifics right. On the other hand, at this point in my life, I'm far enough removed from that kind of scene that I can view it with a certain sense of detachment, which also helps.