Saturday, December 31, 2011


...and I had to ring in 2012 with a song too. Considering the popular myth about the Mayan prediction of doom, this song seems appropriate. I miss matchbox twenty.

2011 in summation

Though it was released in late 2010, weezer's recent album Hurley seems to epitomize 2011 for me. It's my favorite album of the past couple years, and the band's best certainly since the red album and probably since Pinkerton.

Certainly the chorus of "Unspoken" essentially says what I want to say about all that went down this year:
And if you take this away from me
I'll never forgive you, can't you see
Our life will be broken
Our hate will be unspoken

But ultimately, it's "Trainwrecks" that for me is the year in review. So let's close out the year with a rocking good song.
We don't update our blogs...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thoughts on Termination

I've heard and read a lot recently regarding abortion. For some reason, it's a topic that's people seem to be talking more about again. Public figures make statements that get people angry. People make policies and decisions that others dislike. And I was just thinking about some of those things right now.

Have you noticed the strange use of terminology? First, the use of the word "abort". I can understand how it applies, but it does make it difficult for people to use it on other correct contexts. "Abort the mission!" you might still hear someone say, but no one would ever refer to this act in it's noun form: as an "abortion". To me, the word abortion is clinical, technical, and somewhat innocuous. But now that it's got so much baggage, I find more often people use the word "terminate". As in, "They were deciding whether to terminate the pregnancy." Again, there's accuracy to it, but I find that word to have more negative connotation. When I hear "terminate", I think of people harshly fired from their jobs. I think of Moff Tarkin ordering Princess Leia's execution. I think of a buff cyborg from the future sent to murder women. I think of napalm raining from the sky. To me, "termination" is a much more violent word, and while perhaps apropos, I think it a surprising word from those who would support the choice and argue against calling the fetus a life or a person. Just an observation.

The Obama administration has recently decided against the FDA recommendation that emergency contraception (also known as Plan B and "the morning-after pill") be available over the counter without an age requirement. Currently, girls under 17 must have parental consent to obtain it. This to me defeats the purpose. It really should be available to anyone, and I'm surprised that a supposedly liberal government wouldn't make it so. This may surprise some people, but I am fully in favor of emergency contraception. I'm against abortion, but I do not see this as the same thing. It doesn't violently rip apart living human tissue; it prevents uterine implantation. A blastocyst that's only undergone minor cell division is not the same thing as a mass of differentiated human cells with nerves and a heartbeat. The extreme pro-lifers argue that life begins at conception and therefore a girl could have a zygote in her uterus that the pill would prevent from implanting, thereby killing it; that makes it an abortion. They even go so far as to call it an "abortion pill" at times. We should be clear there are abortion pills out there (like RU-486) which are designed to terminate existing pregnancies. That's not what this is for. It's so nothing CAN grow inside. People need to think about just how many naturally occurring conceptions happen that naturally never implant, passing out of the vagina without anyone knowing or giving it a second thought. The earlier the pill is taken, the more effective it is and the less likely it will flush out something that has already begun to implant. For this reason, I would think anti-abortion activists would WANT it available to girls as soon as possible without restrictions.

My other prime argument in favor of emergency contraception is that it effectively eliminates the one argument for abortion that no one likes: "what about rape or incest?" Whenever abortion rights are discussed, those against it will argue it's always wrong, often that the decision should have been made not to have sex or at least use some sort of prophylactic, but then the opposition always asks, almost smugly, "but what about rape or incest? They never HAD a choice!" Well, give such people access to Plan B, and this question never has to come up again. You were raped? Then you can go right down to the pharmacy and make sure you don't get pregnant. And after that, go to the police.

While we are on this subject however, what of that argument? What of the case that abortion is okay in matters of rape? Well, I was just thinking today that rape is a pretty good case to keep the pregnancy. I know the mother won't like the idea of this foreign body growing in her that was violently put there against her will. But in this situation, that baby is not just a complication, it is evidence. Let me say that again, as callous as that sounds, if she has the baby, it becomes EVIDENCE of the rape. I know she might not want to be reminded of that, but what if they didn't catch the rapist? What if there was no evidence found? What if there was no semen left behind or she tried to wash it away? That child holds the DNA of that perpetrator. Even if you give it over for adoption, isn't it better that it live as proof of the rape and a means of tracking or convicting the rapist? The same goes for incest. Some pervert father might just call his daughter a whore and say she's been knocked up by some other guy. But give the baby a paternity test and prove that he did it.

From a Christian point of view, a lot of the arguments come down to what gets classified as "murder" and things like that. Because there's nothing in the New Testament about abortion. It doesn't tell us one way or the other, and we have had to infer. However, did you know that there are a number of books and Christian writings from the first few centuries that DO condemn abortion specifically? They were widely circulated among the early church, and some were considered for inclusion in the ultimate New Testament canon. However for one reason or another, they were not. These are not texts that are primarily about abortion, but it is mentioned. So it seems that the early Christians were definitely against it, and just think, if one of these books had been included, Christians today would have the issue clearer for them. But for whatever reason that didn't happen. Ultimately, I think the decision was correct to leave these texts out, but it is sort of a shame that this issue seems less clear to us now than it did two millennia ago.

Anyway, this is just some stuff I was thinking about and thought I'd throw in my opinion. I'm no crazy activist pro-lifer. I don't support killing abortion doctors or boycotting certain hospitals. I don't walk around saying things like "anyone born after 1973 is an abortion survivor!" or "it's a good thing Steve Jobs' parents didn't decide to abort him." That's sensationalism and drives me crazy. But at the same time, there has got to be some common sense in these areas. Thinking solely based on extreme ideology, on both sides, is only terminating good sense with extreme prejudice.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Best Scene in the Movie

Just in time for Christmas, I present to you a segment from the classic Bing Crosby film, The Bells of St. Mary's. This is easily the best part of the movie, and one of the best Christmas scenes in any movie -- and one that doesn't get played on TV all the time.

Unfortunately, they won't let me embed it, but you can see the scene here. So if you have 8 minutes to spare, give it a watch!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

new favorite song

Why use this version someone put together with My Little Pony? Why not. (by they way... what the heck hast this generation done to My Little Pony?)

Monday, November 14, 2011

GLEE: "I Am Unicorn"

The title of this episode comes from a Brittany metaphor. She says that a unicorn is a pony who does a good deed and is rewarded with a horn. Then it poops out cotton candy until the horn falls off and it forgets it's magical. I don't know where she gets this stuff; it is certainly not in any unicorn lore I'm familiar with. It's not even My Little Pony stuff. She says she wants to help Kurt because he's the school's biggest unicorn, someone who "knows they're magical and isn't afraid to show it." I'm at a point where now I'm really concerned about Brittany and the show is not doing itself any favors by making her this naive and dumb. Either her parents should be brought up on child abuse charges, or the school should be reprimanded for failing at educating her. I did like though that we got to see a bit of her in class. This show has a history of forgetting that these kids actually have classes to go to.

We learn that Vocal Adrenaline did NOT win Nationals last year, but came in second. Their coach was fired, so Vocal Adrenaline may be vulnerable. For this reason, Mr. Schue says he needs to focus all their attention on glee club, and this means he cannot direct the musical. For this reason, the directing duties go to Emma and Coach Bieste, along with Artie as student director. In the meantime, Mr. Schue is instituting a "booty camp" for the kids to improve their dancing, and Mike Chang is helping him. It's about time! Their dancing has always been a weak, and if they really want to win these are the sort of things they need to do. If he got the Acafellas working, surely this will help. Mercedes however resents having to go to booty camp.

Annoying Miss Sugar got her rich daddy to give money to the school if they would hire Shelby Cochran (Rachel's mom) to coach a second glee club highlighting Sugar. This is bad for the school, but it's a way for the show to get back to the storylines of the first season. Season two went by with almost no word at all about Quinn's baby.

Quinn makes a deal with Sue to star in a propaganda video about how the arts ruined her life. Sue has convinced her that she was fine until she joined glee club. She goes to Mr. Schuster to tell him on camera that glee club ruined her life, but Schue gives her an earful. I like that he tells her off, and that they mention the time that she was living with Mercedes, which was ignored all last year. I guess her parents took her back. The biggest problem with the video scenes is that it makes Becky a joke again, carrying a boom mike in the shot. Meanwhile, she is missing her baby and doesn't like that Shelby is back. Shelby tells her that if she wants to be a part of Beth's life, then the new grungy Quinn has to go. Uh oh, just when I was starting to like new Quinn.

Brittany's plan for Kurt's campaign is lots of pink and glitter and rainbows that just screams gay. Kurt's idea is for something more understated, but frankly his poster is just as gay. It's gay in a different way, but still. Though for once it's nice for Kurt to not want to walk around with a sign saying that's he's "gay gay gay". After last year, I appreciate him wanting to be seen as more than that.

Auditions are fast approaching for West Side Story. Both Kurt and Blaine want to audition for Tony, which has Kurt very nervous. Rachel of course wants Maria. She was planning on auditioning with "I Feel Pretty", which shows just how dumb Rachel is. It's a fluffy song and doesn't showcase her range well, or what Maria is about. Furthermore, Sondheim is on record saying he dislikes his lyrics to it. Shelby suggests doing "Somewhere" instead. So Rachel tries it, and while it's a better song I think it is still not a great audition. The problem with "Somewhere" is that it's as much identifiable with Barbra Streisand as with West Side. And so Rachel falls back on her old standby of Barbra imitation. She sings it with her mother and it's far too bombastic and loses all the sense of the lyric. The song is about hope for love in a violent world and I don't get any of that from this performance. All I get is notes.

Puck visits Shelby at home and very much wants to be involved in his daughter's life. He even drew her a picture of a clown that looks more like a pig (actually it looks like a leprechaun in a bow tie). And again the state of the American education system is hinted at: on the top of the picture Puck wrote "Too Beth". The lack of spelling ability in high school students really saddens me. This is not an exaggeration; read my previous posts on the subject to prove it.

And now we come to Kurt's audition which is a strange blend of good and bad ideas. He performs on scaffolding, which allows him to be somewhat athletic, climbing and swinging. This is good if he wants to be Tony. And yet once again he chooses the wrong song. He may think lyrically it's right, but it's still a girl's song and he needs to prove himself masculine for once. The scaffolding did help, though at times it felt less gymnast and more pole dancer. Also, just to be picky, these bits make it clear that he's singing to a prerecorded track because it would be a lot harder to belt out those notes will upside down and all. I'd have preferred a vocal that was more authentic to this situation, and less clean. But he caps it off with some fantastic knife twirling, which I think was Chris Colfer's idea. That moment was really spectacular, and if he had chosen a different song then it really would have helped him. Or if he wanted to stick to his usual self, he should have sung "Maria" which would at least have suited his range, and been a song from the show.

This might be a good time to mention that for some time now I've thought it would be good for Kurt to sing They Might Be Giants' "How Can I Sing Like a Girl" on this show, because it fits him perfectly.

Kurt overhears the directors talking about him, and while Emma is in favor of him for Tony, Coach Bieste doesn't think he's "street" enough. So with this in his mind, Kurt flips out when he walks down the hall and sees Brittany has hung all of her glittery unicorn campaign posters. The last thing he wants now is to be seen as feminine. To counter this unfortunately, Kurt does the gayest thing he could possible do. He performs a scene from Romeo and Juliet with Rachel... in full Elizabethan dress. I mean, he does put on a nice gruff voice, but that doesn't stop it from eliciting giggles from the directors. Oh Kurt, why are so naive?

Quinn comes back to glee club all prettified again, with the pink washed out of her hair. We learn that she's doing it just for show in order to get custody of Beth back from Shelby. But even so, I miss troubled Quinn. Couldn't she have at least kept the nose ring? Even just a stud? I like nose studs. Oh well, there goes my favorite part of the season so far.

Ultimately, Kirk embraces Brittany's design elements for his posters, but by then Santana has convinced Brittany to run for president herself. And Kurt's got competition for Tony as well. Blaine auditions for the musical with the perfect Tony song, "Something's Coming" which he nails, of course. Blaine really is a perfect Tony. However, I will save my further opinions on casting choices for the next episode, when things get heated. Mercedes was wearing a shirt that said "Diva" in this episode, and that's going to prove true.

Not a bad episode, but a lot going on. There was barely any music in this episode!

Songs in tonight's episode:
Somewhere -- from West Side Story
I'm the Greatest Star -- from Funny Girl
Something's Coming -- from West Side Story

favorite line
Burt Hummel on Kurt: "Dude, you're gay. And not like Rock Hudson gay, really gay. You sing like Diana Ross and you dress like you own a magic chocolate factory."

Next Episode: Brittany's presidential campaign, Mike Chang in trouble with his parents, and the war of the Marias as both Rachel and Mercedes fight for the lead in the musical

GLEE: "The Purple Piano Project"

Time to finally catch up with these reviews. So... here's what I've missed on Glee!

Just like last year's premiere, Jacob Ben Israel's show opens the episode. It's a fun way to catch everyone up on what happened over the summer. It's also a way to address internet confusions. In this episode, it is clarified which kids are juniors and which are seniors. Mention is also made of Mercedes having dated Sam. Unfortunately, at the start of the season Sam is off the show. So his relationship with Mercedes is over. The in-show explanation is that his dad got a job out of state. Isn't that how he ended up on the show in the first place? I hope they aren't still homeless. Mercedes is now dating a big black football player. This was the direction they started going in last year, until the writers were more concerned with Kurt and almost entirely excluded Mercedes from story lines. In many ways watching season three begin feels like wiping away a lot of what was wrong with season 2, and bringing focus back to some of the elements of the first year.

Mr. Schuster is now seeing Emma. The season opens with them in bed together. Has she gotten over her frigid thing? I like the cute little element of them packing each other's lunches in cartoon lunchboxes.

Mr. Schue plans to push the club harder this year because he let them down last year. Yes, he did, but it's NOT because he wanted to be in April Rhodes' musical. He still could have done that over the summer, and I don't understand why he didn't. But just like last year, his big plan is to recruit new members with some stupid idea. This year, it's the Purple Piano Project. He's placing donated purple pianos around the school and whenever glee members see one, they have to sing a song. It's really a terrible idea, but even the episode doesn't take it seriously. Despite the fact that it's the name of the episode, it's once again and assignment on this show that gets dropped halfway through the episode.

Kurt and Rachel are planning to go to Juliard, probably because they've seen Fame a few too many times. But Emma informs them that Juliard has no musical theater department. She suggests Kent State, saying it has a musical theater department and a "macabre backstory" which can put things in perspective if they don't get the lead. I found that pretty funny. I know it's sick, but I always laugh at Kent State jokes. So now the plan is for them to go to NYADA: New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts.

I'm glad they've continued the story about Sue running for congress. Unfortunately, she thinks the best way to get ahead is to trash the arts. It feels artificial to me, just as a way to get Sue back on the mean side. Oh, and her purple track suit seems too obviously tied in to the theme of the show.

Strike one for the Purple Piano Project: Mike and Tina come on a piano, but don't sing. They play "Chopsticks".

By far my favorite element of the new season in this episode is burnout Quinn. She's become so jaded and cynical she feels the need to totally reinvent herself. She now has pink hair, a nose ring, and hangs out with other burnout girls called the Skanks. This tranformation makes perfect sense to me. After losing yet again and no longer having her cool or her power, swinging the other way seems understandable. And the embarrassment she suffered during the prom queen campaign surely didn't help. Here's a girl who tried so hard to reinvent herself; Quinn the cheerleader was an affectation to a point. So a new affectation is exactly what she would do, and why not embrace a philosophy of total indifference? People like that are often more accepting of other "different" people. The Skanks hang out and smoke under the bleachers. This reminded me a lot of Freaks and Geeks, and was a part of the high school experience this show was missing. I'm surprised the network let them show lead characters smoking on television. It's a shame that some of the Skanks look a little too pretty to really be these kinds of people. Like, Mack seems too made-up to me.

Rachel says she should have spoken up last year when Quinn cut off all her hair and thought it would solve all her problems. Thank you, Rachel! Didn't I say this last year?

Mr. Schuster says that he's thinking of starting a family with Emma. That's not fair to Terri! Remember when she had that hysterical pregnancy?? I hate the way the show treated Terri. She deserved better. I dislike television that breaks up marriages.

Sue decides to make Santana and Becky co-captains of the Cheerios. Both of them hate this idea. I like that this is getting back to treating Becky like a regular person, and not exploiting her for comedy.

For some reason, the glee kids have rehearsed a number to sing for recruitment in the event of a purple piano being around. This seems to defeat the purpose of the piano in the first place, doesn't it? I mean, this is really just what they did with "Empire State of Mind" last year. So that's strike two for the Purple Piano Project. The band is there and everything!!

The choice of song is The Go-Go's "We Got the Beat", which is a great choice of song. I hope they keep doing older songs. There was way too much contemporary garbage last year. However, this whole scene is utterly ridiculous. They are dancing around in the cafeteria on tables and everything and people barely react! They get through the entire song before a food fight breaks out. And take it from me, you can't just burst into song in a school cafeteria without faculty yelling at you or something. Again, the song was a good choice and sounded pretty good, but why the band? I want something like this to actually feel spontaneous for once! Wouldn't it have been interesting to NOT have it be an overproduced album track, but just be the kids getting up and singing, getting others into it? That's what the piano thing would have been good for. Instead, it was just an excuse to do an entire routine in the cafeteria and was hard once again for me to suspend my disbelief.

And in comes a new character who I hate. Her name is Sugar Motta, the daughter of the guy who donated the pianos. She auditions for glee club thinking that she's better than everyone. She also claims to have self-diagnosed Asperger's, giving her free reign to say anything insulting she wants. Anyway, she's a TERRIBLE singer, and just a bad human being. Mr. Schue is stuck wondering whether it's worth letting her into the group. She doesn't realize how bad she is; she's delusional. And I frankly hate the Asperger's thing being thrown around. It's insulting to Aspies, I think.

Strike three for the Purple Piano Project: it was supposed to be that you sang when you came upon one randomly. Kurt purposely puts one in the auditorium so he and Rachel can sing together. And the whole band is there waiting for them. Is anyone going to actually do the assignment?? The point was to get other kids interested in singing, not to just sing by yourself for fun. Anyway, Rachel and Kurt do a truly ABYSMAL big band version of "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" for no good reason. They think THIS nonsense is going get them into NYATA? It ruins the song, making it sound even sillier than it does normally. Can they please leave Oz alone now?

Mr. Schuster somehow thinks that sinking to Sue's level is a good idea, so he crashes her Cheerios tryouts and covers her in glitter while Emma films it all. He puts it on YouTube, but it only helps Sue's cause. Duh, you moron. It makes you look like the bad guy.

Blaine has decided to go to McKinley and join New Directions. Well of course he did. Come on, you think that wasn't gonna happen? But can I just ask why he's always wearing bow ties? He's wearing one with a polo shirt today. That's not gay, that's just ridiculous.

Blaine also does his own little song in the courtyard. There's a purple piano there, but I'm not sure it's the reason for the song. Again, the whole band is there. And for some crazy reason, the cheerleaders are dancing with him. Ultimately it seems it was a trick, because then they coat the piano in lighter fluid. But until then I could not understand why the cheerleaders were performing with him. I mean, I do miss some of the first season choreography that had cheerleaders in it, but there needs to be a reason for it. Quinn flicks her cigarette and it ignites the piano. Luckily there was no one sitting at the piano at the time.

Kurt and Rachel go to a meet-and-greet of other potential NYATA kids. And these kids are insane. Like Kurt and Rachel turned up to eleven. And of course they are totally better than Kurt and Rachel. They do a performance of "Anything Goes" mashed up with "Anything You Can Do". Certainly that lyric is appropriate for the scene, and it's nice to finally see some tap on this show. Now, I'm not certain the two songs really go together besides the word "anything", but it was surely better than their ridiculous Oz thing.

I love when Rachel suggests its time to resign themselves to a miserable life of community theater and rattles off three shows, Nunsense, Love Letters and The Vagina Monologues. It's funny because that's so true.

Mr. Schuster kicks Santana out of glee club because of the piano fire that the cheerleaders were responsible for. Harsh, but understandable. I guess that they want to make the cheerleaders bad guys again.

Kurt and Rachel decide they need more extracurriculars, so Kurt is running for class president. Meanwhile Rachel suggests they do West Side Story for the school musical. It does seem like this school never gets a musical done, which is odd. Though school musicals are usually in the spring, unless the school does two. Also, they've had a very bad track record on this show of confusing the movie with the stage show, so I go into this West Side Story thing with much trepidation.

The purple piano ultimately didn't work. They tried to make the pianos a metaphor for the kids at the end, but it all feels weird and forced. The episode ends with with a big performance of "You Can't Stop the Beat", which at least continues the "beat" theme from the Go-Gos number. And everyone is in purple. Why? Because this episode has a purple theme for no apparent reason. It was good to see the show trying to fix the problems of last year, but this episode was something of a lackluster premiere. Ultimately, last year's premiere was stronger. They have yet to fix the underlying problem with the series when they try to do to many things at once and the supposed "theme assignment" of the week takes a back seat. Still, I'm liking grungy Quinn, and I hope this season is good.

Song's in tonight's episode:
We Got the Beat -- the Go-Gos
Big Spender -- from Sweet Charity
Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead -- from The Wizard of Oz
It's Not Unusual -- Tom Jones
Anything Goes/Anything You Can Do -- from Anything Goes and Annie Get Your Gun
You Can't Stop the Beat -- from Hairspray

Favorite line:
Brittany: "I have pepperoni in my bra."
Santana: "Those are your nipples."

Next episode: Brittany is Kurt's campaign manager. That should be interesting.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Another catchy song

First of all, yes I know that five episodes of Glee have aired and I haven't written anything about them. I have a LOT to say, but will do so when I have time. Just posting about one episode can take two hours. And when they get written, they will be done as if I haven't seen the episodes that follow. I will try to make them reflect my thoughts on first viewing.

But another thread on this blog that I have neglected is my list of silly, catchy, annoying songs that run through my head sometimes that I love. This was intended to be a fairly regular series, and I got lazy. These will all be songs that I love and don't mind humming in my head over and over, even if others find them frustratingly annoying. Previous songs mentioned were the pickle song from Dr. Seuss' Pontoffel Pock, Where Are You?, the theme from The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, and Sesame Street's Captain Vegetable.

Tonight for some reason I was reminded of an episode of Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers. This animated series was made by Disney when I was in grade school and was a staple of the "Disney Afternoon". Few realize however that it premiered on the Disney Channel. It used to air on Sunday mornings so I couldn't watch it, but when I had chicken pox I got to stay home from church and watch it. That first episode I saw was when Dale fakes having a broken toe. Funnily enough, for my birthday a couple years later I got that episode on VHS tape.

But the episode I'm thinking of right now is "The Case of the Cola Cult". It was a favorite episode of mine, but rather a strange one. The Rescue Rangers stumble upon a cult of mice who worship soda. They shower in it. And they flush away their worldly possessions in a bucket of soda while the company's television commercial plays. It turns out that they are being conned, and when their possessions are "fizzed" they are really being stolen by people in charge. Pretty heavy stuff for a kids' cartoon. But that commercial's jingle is so darn catchy. So here is my song choice for the night. You tell me it doesn't make you want Coo-Coo Cola.

Hope that gets stuck in your head all day. Come along! You belong! Feel the fizz!

Monday, October 3, 2011


I was surprised by last night's episode of The Simpsons, as it extolled the wonders of Teddy Roosevelt. Bart came to see Teddy as a role model and told his friends about how cool he was. There was even a debate with Lisa over which Roosevelt was a better president. I loved it because Teddy Roosevelt is my favorite president (you heard me, Lincoln!).

I thought the show was a great way to remind America what a cool guy he was. And remember, he was never elected President; he got the job because McKinley was shot. And yet he did so much good for the country and for conservation. And did you know that he had a slightly high-pitched creaky voice? He was the first President to have his voice recorded on phonograph, and it's strange hearing him knowing his image. In our media-heavy culture where every little flaw in a politician is ruthlessly ripped apart, I respect a guy who can speak before people with a voice like that. And rock the spectacles-and-mustache look like nobody can! And really, I respect anybody with the balls to name his kid Kermit. And remember, this was a guy who got SHOT in the middle of a speech, and kept going!

Now, he did rally to get America into the first World War, which I don't agree with. But perhaps his leadership would have been better than Wilson's was. Strike that; it DEFINITELY would have been better than Wilson's was. Ultimately, any involvement in that European mess I think would always have been a mistake, but Roosevelt would not have tried any of that League of Nations nonsense. Because that concept has worked really well in the years since then, right?

Best argument for Teddy in last night's episode though?
Lisa (arguing for FDR): Face on a dime!
Bart (arguing for TR): Face on a mountain!

Couldn't have said it better. He's the Rushmore face that gets the least respect, but I'd argue in terms of Presidency deserves that spot certainly better than Jefferson. His legacy lives on in National Parks, the Panama Canal and of course, the teddy bear. Just think, without him, no Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Thank you Teddy Roosevelt. And thank you The Simpsons. Bully for you!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

update about Glee

The new season of Glee has started up again, and just like last year I will be doing weekly reviews and critiques of the show. However, because I am not currently home on Tuesday nights, it will take a little longer.

Until then, enjoy this spot-on educational parody. If Sesame Street would whittle away the overuse of Elmo and Abby and do more of this stuff, it would be better off. It also includes the gayest muppet they will probably ever include (a fabulous critique of Kurt). Oh, by the way Sesame Street, why is it three different g-g-guys have played Gordon? Is it a rule that every black man has to be named G-G-Gordon, or did you think the kids wouldn't notice that you g-g-got a new actor? Just something I was thinking about today for some reason.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

They're At It Again!!

Remember several months ago when the Burlington Mall was shut down because someone reported a rifle that turned out to be an umbrella? And there was all that controversy because the umbrella looked like a sword and blah blah blah? (If not, you can read what I had to say about it here)

Well, they're at it again! Who is they? The reactionary public of course, who think they are doing the right thing. I just saw on the news tonight that a building in Boston was evacuated today because somebody reported a man with a gun. When the police finally apprehended this "suspect" they found the object sticking out of his bag. This time it was a bicycle pump. That's right, a bicycle pump. Once again, people called the police thinking they saw a rifle. Can I just ask what rogue rifleman walks around with a rifle in his backpack? That's not very effective to use in a public place. You've got to sling the bag down, open it up, pull out the gun... Or if he were being secretive about it, he wouldn't have the barrel sticking out of his bag in full view! Of any time there's ever been gun violence in a public area perpetrated by rifle, when has that firearm been in a backpack? He'd at least use a big duffel bag right? Or a package of curtain rods.

And just how frequent is rifle attack these days? Besides Lee Harvey Oswald and a guy in a clock tower, when have you heard anyone was shot at by rifle in a public place? That's for home defense. Anyone these days going out to shoot people up is carrying a hand gun. I know there's been discussion of the constitutionality of carrying assault rifles, but do people actually do that? And even if the carry them, are they used? Not in Massachusetts. At least, I haven't heard of such an occurrence.

So for the second time, an innocent American is held responsible for holding up the city because somebody thought they saw something. When was it made a crime to carry a bike pump? Oh, what's that? It's not? Then maybe we should get our facts straight before we report something.

If I sound like I'm being hard on the citizen activists here, let me say I don't hold them (or he or she or it) fully responsible. No, the real blame lies on the Massachusetts police. You see, after that little non-incident in the Burlington Mall, they told the public that what they did was correct. They didn't feel they as the police did anything improper (though when you really look at what was done, it was obviously excessive). And then they continued to say that those who reported it did the right thing and that it's always right to report something suspicious. Well, maybe you can argue that, but at what point to we define "suspicious" as "any cylindrical object seen from a distance". So I lay the real blame on them, for encouraging this kind of fear-based behavior in the public.

At what point do these trigger-happy whistleblowers get to call out the police? This sort of reaction is just as destructive as a man with a rifle would be. And certainly more so than a guy with a bicycle pump.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I just knew it! I heart this so much!

I just read on IMDb that the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles has decided that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is worthy of midnight movie status, and will begin screening it monthly in this fashion beginning next month.

This makes me so happy because I just knew this was the kind of movie it was from the day I first saw it. I predicted time and again that it would remain forever as a cult movie. In fact, I even said so in my Ten Best Films of 2010 post where I named Scott Pilgrim my favorite movie of the year and said the following:

I hope it becomes a cult favorite worthy of midnight screenings. This movie deserves it. I heart Scott Pilgrim so much.

So ladies and gentlemen, I called it!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Say It Like You Mean It

This post may end up being the first in a series of church habits that particularly annoy me, or it may stand on its own. But suffice it to say there are a number of things about modern church practices that drive me crazy. This is going to be more of an evangelical thing, but may have application elsewhere.

There are all kinds of patterns people fall into whenever they do anything. And when you get them in a group, certain phrases and sayings just become rote and turn into an unwritten code. But it's developed so far now that if you walk into almost any evangelical church and says "God is good", half of the people will respond "all the time". This post is not about that, but boy does that annoy me. There are songs based around the phrase, and yet I have no idea who originated that. It's just annoying, like every time someone says "God is good" it has to be said. Like a game of Marco Polo. And to my immediate recollection, there is no scripture that uses that full statement. I can however point you to a scripture that says God is angry all the time. So chew on that.

But more innocuous than even that is the way church people have come to use "Amen". And I am so tired of it. They say it at the end of their prayers, many with no idea why they do it. Like they are just supposed to. As if it's like saying "the end" at the conclusion of your story; a signal that you've finished.

What amen means is "so be it" or "let it be" or I like to think of it in Captain Picard terms: "make it so". But let me tell you what "amen" does NOT mean.
It does NOT mean "I agree with that!"
It does NOT mean "You all heard me, right?"
It does NOT mean "I'm checking to make sure you are awake"
It is NOT a question. Ever.

It's a word that gets overused and I'm tired of it. Now, in some of these contexts it technically makes sense. For example if someone says "Let's keep the parking lot clean, amen?" and everyone responds, "Amen!" I guess that second one works, but why use it in such a way? But it's not a question, and it's not a way to lead people to respond. I think sometimes people use it just because it's a "churchy" word. Like if it were a similar situation outside the church someone might say, "You bet," but that implies gambling and that's not holy. So Christians fall back on "amen" because it makes them feel Christian. And I find it tremendously aggravating.

I just happen to think that words mean what they mean. If you don't really understand what a word means, don't go around saying it. And maybe it would be nice if I didn't have to sit through a church service where "amen" is used 5 different ways, 30 different times.

So please, if you're in the habit of using it to say "I agree! That's right!" then STOP it.
If you're in the habit of saying it after every sentence from the pulpit, STOP it.
If you think you're being holier by ending prayer with not just one amen but with "amen... and amen... and amen," STOP IT.
but if you mean it like it means, there are lots of areas in the church world and Christian life where we want God to "make it so". And you can say so.

Let's keep the word reserved for it's proper meaning; there's more power in it that way.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

BREAKING BAD: "Box Cutter"

The fourth season of Breaking Bad finally premiered this week. I've been an avid viewer since the pilot of the show, and a fan of Vince Gilligan's writing since his time on The X-Files. Because I no longer have cable, I was terribly annoyed that I would be unable to see this season until DVD. AMC doesn't stream it online like it does The Killing, nor does Hulu have it. However, I found that I could buy it on iTunes. Since I just happened to have iTunes cards lying around from Christmas, I was more than happy that I could watch the premiere finally!

The episode is just as disturbing and dramatic as you would think. The part of me that was hoping Jesse didn't succeed in killing Gale was saddened by how the episode opened. No X-Files fake-outs on this show! Actually, they did do that between the pilot and the first episode, so maybe Vince didn't want to push it. The teaser of the episode was a flashback, a style they had used a lot in season 3. We saw Gale first setting up the super lab and discussing whether or not it was worth having Walt work for Gus. When the episode picked up after the title, it picked up the split second after last year's ending. I thought that was cool.

So much of the episode focused on Walt and the dangerous game he plays in the aftermath of his little risk. Can he convince Gus he is still needed? Gus more and more shows that he is not a man to be messed with. In some ways I worry because I don't like this show having a "villain". It headed that direction in season 3 with the cousins, and it felt a bit too traditional. There's already a lot of dramatic irony to contend with. Yet there is a certain reality to the types of people Walt will deal with if he continues to delve deeper into this world. I come to realize more and more that Walt's biggest problems stem from his ego. He is blinded by his own idea of his importance, the purity of his product, etc. Whenever there's a real game change, it's because Walt thought he knew what he was doing and got cocky.

It was good seeing Saul again, who is understandably skittery after his run-in with Mike last season. We also got back to the Hank and Marie relationship. Hank is still not happy with his situation, and who can blame him. I'm not sure how much time has passed here since he left the hospital. It can't have been much. But in the meanwhile he's been buying rocks off eBay. Marie keeps trying to be optimistic and talk to him about how his therapy is going, but he wants none of it. I've noticed this about women in general; they always want to discuss the last thing any man wants to talk about. The shooting, the physical therapy, the indignity, that is all Hank can brood on and the last thing in the world he wants to talk about. To me, Marie would be better off discussing anything else. Though it's also in her character to not be that smart. Side note: I wonder what's become of her kleptomania, and will that play a larger part later in the season?

There's a very shocking moment that comes toward the end of the episode that I won't spoil. But it does put things in perspective. The more the show goes down the rabbit hole, the more I wonder whether Walt can ever be redeemed, or is he sealed to a bad fate? The show is growing very Godfather-esque undertones, with Walt being the Michael Corleone. We just had the shooting of Fredo. Is there any hope for him? So because it's seeming like Walt's hubris will be his undoing, the character I'm most concerned about is Jesse. If Walt started a good guy who is descending into hell, Jesse started the troubled burnout, leading me to hope he can become something better. Whenever we're teased with that, it's been snatched away. Jesse's nobility gets him in more trouble. After what he's gone through the past three episodes, I hope he doesn't stay zombified.

With all the darkness, it was nice to see a few touches of the old dark humor back, which almost all but disappeared in season 3. It was there, but a lot more subdued. There's an awkwardly funny scene where Marie comes to see Skyler. And another reminder of how bad Walt and Jesse are at the tough guy business in a moment that recalls season one. I hope the show retains some of it's humor. I'd also love it if they could get back to the kind of "subversive chemistry lessons" the show used to do in the first season. Though the way the showing is going this seems unlikely. It is odd to feel I should start rooting for Hank. Finally, the show ends with a tease of where things might go that could make life difficult for Gus's operation in the future. The show has started to come down to this trend of ret-conning story threads. I hope they keep it to a minimum. Last year's RV story worked, but too much of that makes a mess of continuity (though this show is very good about continuity) and cheapens drama. At any rate, season four is off to a good start. Though last year had some really great moments for Aaron Paul, I still think the second season was the best so far. Will this year top it? Hope it was worth the wait.

Oh, and one of the later scenes made me really wish there was a Denny's around here.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I've just returned from a back-to-back (well, half hour break in between) screening of Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2. My immediate gut reactions from memory will be shared below. Feel free to add your own thoughts as you see the film. I'll try not to get too spoilerific, but there will still definitely be spoilers, so if you do not want to know anything at all, don't read any further.

It's good seeing the movie as one big four hour whole. I'm not sure how the second part will hold up just on it's own, as it is very action-heavy. It does have it's own kind of climactic rhythm, and in a way it's own themes, but Deathly Hallows is very much all of a piece. It's likeGone With the Wind or Kill Bill. Actually, it's structure reminded me a lot of Kill Bill, which I always thought was too heavy on one target in the first part, just as the first horcrux takes up all the time in the first movie, then the next two are dispensed with fairly quickly in part 2. These faults are Rowling's.

We open with a brief recap of the final scene of the last movie, then move right into Hogwarts. We haven't seen Hogwarts at all in Part 1, and this movie will take place almost entirely there.
I should mention also the 3D. They gave out special round Harry Potter 3D glasses, which was cute, but also a little annoying because having to wear them over my own glasses made them feel not quite large enough. While there are some shots that look cool in 3D, the movie didn't really need the conversion. I will say though that there is no frenetic action where the 3D makes this hard to make out. It's the best 3D of a Harry Potter I've seen. Still, there were moments that didn't feel dimensional at all, and other times, like when Harry is in his invisibility cloak, where the effect just looks distracting. I'll probably try to see this again in 2D.

The Dementors are still the bad unhooded version that Yates seems to like. In fact, I think this is the worst the dementors have ever looked in a Potter movie.

For those bothered by the lack of Dobby's gravestone in the last movie, it appears in this one.
John Hurt has a nice little scene with Harry, and it was nice to see him return as Ollivander. We didn't get much of him in Part 1. Though we never learn what happens to him AFTER this scene, as we get pretty quickly into the bank robbery.

Helena Bonham Carter does a great job playing Hermione as Bellatrix. It doesn't last very long, but it's memorable. I notice that in these films the non-human characters seem like they've been made a little more human. That may be why Dobby looked weird to me; they softened him and almost made him too human-like in the face. It's the same with the goblins. Their make-up has been toned down a bit, and sometimes feels too much like midget human bankers. Also, the dragon is so almost flesh-colored, and I'm not sure why. But the bank sequence on the whole is pretty good and kicks off pretty early in the film. This movie continues the conceit from the last one that each horcrux has that tea kettle sound. It allows Harry a kind of sixth sense of being able to hear them, which they come right out and say in this movie. To the point where he is hunting them by sound. While quick and easy for the movie, it takes away the logic of looking for something of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. The cup is never mentioned to be Hufflepuff's. He only knows about the diadem being Ravenclaw's because of flashes from Voldemort's mind.

We meet Aberforth Dumbledore, who is pretty well played. The biggest problem here is that the backstory is not explored enough. It is alluded to, but little more. Here would be the time to TELL us, but the movie refuses to. Aberforth has a beef against his brother, and we see the portrait of their dead sister, but the circumstances of her death are kept vague. No further mention is made of Grindelwald in this movie either. Thus the whole relationship and story leading up to the taking of the Elder Wand are gone. The movie should have tried harder to explain this somewhere over the course of two movies. Otherwise, there's almost no point in even HAVING the character in the movie.

The mirror thing is finally explained, somewhat. Instead of the story in the book, where it is given to Harry by Sirius and it smashes (maybe because Kloves didn't write the fifth movie), Harry's shard is a missing piece of one mirror. The rest of it is with Aberforth. He claims to have gotten it from Mundungus Fletcher, who took it from the Black house. It's an explanation that mostly works (though leaving that until the second movie is harsh). However, I'm left wondering why there is only one shard broken out and all the rest of the mirror is fine. How did it break and how did Harry come to have that piece? If he had found it while they were in hiding at the Black residence I would have bought it. But he started with it on Privet Drive in Part 1. That's poor scripting to me.

Then we get to Hogwarts and all our old friends are there. Neville, Seamus, Dean, Cho, even Lavender Brown appears, though she doesn't really say anything. I liked that Cho helped with the discussion of the diadem of Ravenclaw, since we barely even saw her in Part 1.
Snape stands before the school and asks anyone who knows Harry's whereabouts to step forward. No one does, until Harry himself comes forth in a great moment, followed by the Order of the Phoenix. Snape and McGonagall have a minor fight, brought on by the knowledge that he killed Dumbledore. Snape flees out the window.

McGonnagall's take-charge of Hogwarts is good. Once Snape is gone, she brings lights back up. It's still dark, but adds a bit of warmth. Yates still likes his movie to look all grey, but it's not so dark as Phoenix was. And we get cameo appearances from many of the school staff going back several films. Trelawny, Slughorn, even Sprout make appearances. Filch appears, though he's once again played a bit too hard for comedy. Minerva even calls him a "blithering idiot". Though his idiocy is still more in character than it was in some of the other films (especially Goblet of Fire). There's a point when Voldemort's voice calls for Harry Potter to be brought forth. Pansy Parkinson calls for someone to grab him. At that, McGonagall has Filch take all the Slytherins to the dungeon. I like that this is the first reference to the dungeon since the Columbus days. However, I had a real problem with this action, as it reinforces the idea that all Slytherins are evil. How is her rounding up all the Slytherin students any better than the Ministry rounding up all the mudbloods?

The battle on Hogwarts is epic, and hard to describe her. Events which are only talked about after the fact in the book are put onscreen. Still, we don't get everything. Giants do storm the castle, though I at first thought they were meant to be trolls. There is no fake-out Hagrid death. Actually, Hagrid feels a bit off to me in these two movies for some reason.

Neville and Seamus are told to blow up the bridge, and there's a great call back to how Seamus is always blowing stuff up.

Though he gets less to say or do, Dean Thomas also has a couple nice moments onscreen.
I thought the Gray Lady stuff was handled well. The actress was good, and there was a moment where she was scary. However, the ghost effect looks nothing like the ghost effect seen in the previous movies. I know those effects looked cheesy most of the time, so it's hard to say which is better. She's more in color and more spectral and animated. It's a better effect, but not consistent with the other films.

What IS consistent with the other films is the Chamber of Secrets. I'm so glad it's the same sets. Hermione and Ron have a nice kiss here, but it's missing something for me. This is the one casualty of the SPEW storyline being excised. In the book the moment is so perfect when Hermione finally pounces on Ron. Here, it's meant to come as a moment after they both thought they were going to die but it's too sudden for me. At a point a scene or two later, Ron says something that proves he had actually retained something Hermione had said last year. I think that might have been a more book-like impetus for her to kiss him. Though in the film it seems to be a mutual decision. I'll let you folks decide how you like it.

The Room of Requirement and the fire is a great scene. There's even cameos from the pixies from Chamber of Secrets. Since the actor who played Crabbe was arrested on drug charges before filming, he doesn't appear. Instead, joining Draco and Goyle is Blaise, which I kinda liked. It also allowed another black character to have some screen time.

Alan Rickman finally gets something to play beyond brooding and hitting people on the head. The moment when he dies matches what I pictured reading the book. I was always afraid they wouldn't be able to capture the sense at the end when Snape looks at Harry and sees Lily. It's subtle in the book, but I think it says the last thing he saw was Harry's eyes. Anyway, in the film they get the point by having his dying words be that he has his mother's eyes. And it doesn't play like that broken record it's been in previous movies. Harry collects Snape's memories from his tears. I don't remember it being that way in the book, but I liked it.

The Snape's memory stuff is very good. It's better than the brief bit we saw in Order of the Phoenix. While still not all that's in the book, and missing some key conversations with Lily, you get the emotion and the sense of plot as there is a lot of retcon exposition to give. Unlike in Half Blood Prince, the pensieve images are not all smoky and inky. They only get that way when transitioning in and out of scenes. This is nice because it allows the first meeting of Lily and Severus to be brightly lit and pretty. I also very much appreciated the way footage from all the previous Potter movies was worked in, especially the death of Lily. I'm sure it was hard to match up with a scene shot ten years ago (and so little of it), but it looks almost seamless. Too bad Chris Columbus will not get the credit he deserves for the stuff in this movie that he is responsible for shooting, and for designs he okayed for his films. Why does producer David Heyman get all this credit now? Anyway, these scenes are some of the best in the movie.

I really hate that Harry's invisibility cloak is never revealed to be one of the Deathly Hallows. It made bad sense in the first part when he went to places like Godric's Hollow without it when in the book he had it, knowing that everyone was after him. But I figured that maybe they were saving it so the audience wouldn't immediately grasp that his cloak was THE cloak. But then what? He uses it in the bank and then it's never seen again. Also, the "cloak-vision" is not the same as it always was before. Yates uses the same sort of "magical wall" effect he used with Hermione's enchantments in part 1. He spends a lot of time these two movies flying through windows and barriers and such, actually.

Harry's little reunion in the woods with his dead friends is nice. Good to see Sirius again. The one problem here is the acknowledgement about Lupin's kid. Harry says, "What about your son?" First, only Lupin is there, not Tonks even though we know from earlier that they were both dead. Second, there was only a passing reference in the first movie about her being pregnant. Yes, she must have had the baby in the months Harry was in the woods, but the movie doesn't tell us that. In fact, there's no point at all where Harry would even know that Lupin had a son. I suspect there was a moment shot and then cut out for pacing. Still, it makes me wonder if it was even worth putting the baby bit into this movie. Reminds me of Lost, and how Sun and Jin were killed off leaving an orphan. Actually, the King's Cross scene reminded me of the ending of Lost too.

Hagrid is being held by the Death Eaters in the woods, but with no explanation as to how or why. Harry's "death" is a good moment. The King's Cross scene is nice and I like the whiteness of it all. Though it being a train station also calls to mind the opening of The Matrix Revolutions.

Sissy Malfoy has this odd moment when she checks Harry's body, sees he's not dead and tells Voldemort he is. That's fine, but she says "Tell me he's alive Draco." and Draco's not even there.
Neville has a great little speech about how the fight doesn't end just because Harry's dead. He sums up much of the movie's theme by saying that people we love live on with us in our memory. It also seems like an invention of Kloves' to get Neville to in some way call back to his parents since he doesn't get to personally avenge them.

The slaying of Nagini is cool. It's all intercut with this long fight between Harry and Voldemort. The death of Bellatrix is not as good as it should be. It feels like there's not enough build-up to it. The "Not my daughter, you bitch" feels like it comes right out of Aliens, and yet the delivery doesn't feel like it comes from an emotional place. At least not to me. In the end, Mrs. Weasly fights Bellatrix quickly, nearly strangles her by tightening her corset magically, then BLOWS HER UP.

The end of the movie also plays out differently. Draco never quite redeems himself in the same way he does in the books (which I don't remember well). Sissy definitely turns good, and Draco does have moments where he doesn't want to kill Harry. During the final battles, the Malfoy family just sneaks off and runs away. Lucius, Narcissa and Draco just head off into the woods and that's the end of them. Harry's final confrontation with Voldemort is almost all physical. None of that standing around explaining wandlore like in the book. He just disarms Voldemort and kills him. It was so abrupt to me (it comes almost immediately after Nagini's death) that I was confused. Only later when Ron and Hermione ask does Harry explain his theory about Draco being the true master of the wand. In a way this less dramatic rendering helps iron over the severe illogic of this story point that I've never been happy with. I don't get how Harry is master of the wand for disarming a completely different wand from Draco. That just makes no sense to me. I understand allegiance wand to wand, but some wand shifting allegiance based on ANY wand being taken? It makes sense that the wand wants Draco and thus doesn't work for Voldemort and that is enough for me. It doesn't NEED to be Harry's ability to wield it that does him in, does it?

After this, the movie follows the epilogue and jumps ahead 19 years. This scene is mostly successful. However, it is here that I really fault Yates' direction and muted color palette. It made sense when Voldemort was in power, but this is a happier time that is supposed to recall the glory and wonder of the first movie. So I think it should have been shot with much brighter golden hues reminiscent of those days. If there was ever a time to get back to the Columbus look, it's here. Also, the passage to platform 9 3/4 is now on the other side of the screen, which bothers me. The aging looks good on Dan and Rupert. Emma looks almost the same. The scene is nice, I just wish it were brighter, to give more of a happy ending feeling.

Finally, I think it was nice for there to be music cues from previous films in this score, and in the credits it mentions John Williams' score from "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone". I was impressed they used the real title there in the credits.

Anyway, that's all I can think of right now. I'm sure there are other points that I've forgotten or glossed over. On the whole, it's a good movie despite the missing exposition. Better than some Potter films. Is it the best? That's a tough call. I'm not even sure how to grade it by itself as Part 2, but as a whole Deathly Hallows is a good ride. It's really more a unified film than other similar projects.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Tribute to Sherwood Schwartz

Today television legend Sherwood Schwartz died at the age of 94. What better way to celebrate than with the opening themes to those ridiculous but entertaining shows with the frustratingly catchy music?

Unfortunately I couldn't embed the Gilligan themes, but there are links there.

Gilligan's Island (1964-1965) -- first season

Gilligan's Island (1965-1967) -- intro with Professor and Mary Ann

Gilligan's Island (1964-1967) closing theme

It's About Time (1966-1967)

The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)

Dusty's Trail (1973-1974)

The Brady Kids (1972-1974) -- did every popular show in the era have a nonsensical animated counterpart??

Big John, Little John (1976)

The Brady Brides (1981) -- short-lived series spun off from a TV movie

The Bradys (1990) -- ill-fated one-hour drama version of everyone's favorite blended family

And the less said about The Brady Bunch Variety Hour the better.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

GLEE: "New York"

The time has come...
I've put this off for far too long...
Season finale...
a full season of posts leading up to this...
Nationals are upon us, and Glee goes on location in New York City (that's right, there's a "City" in the name -- New York is a state).
Now let's talk about it.

At first I was going to praise the show for its use of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" opening the show. But then I remembered that's exactly how Woody Allen opened Manhattan. Even so, the montage of Times Square under the Gershwin is a nice homage to Woody Allen's movie. And one that suddenly transitions into a seeming Mary Tyler Moore Show homage with Rachel standing there in her little beret saying, "I made it." Is this a reference to "You're gonna make it after all"?

Rachel buys tickets to Cats from a scalper. Quinn points out that Cats closed 11 years ago. How is Rachel the theater geek so stupid that she doesn't know Cats closed? Why does she still think it's the longest running show? It WAS... but has been surpassed by Phantom of the Opera. I hope another show comes along to take the title back from Andrew Lloyd Weber.

Rachel asks Finn in a throwaway line, "Do you know why it smells like it's wet here all the time?" One of the few points in the episode that shatters the "New York is the best place in the world" illusion otherwise perpetuated by the episode and all other American popular culture. I can't speak to the observation, as it was raining when I was there. But honestly, New York is just like any city, only more so. If you're from nowhere Ohio, then yeah I guess it's magical. But if you've got a city nearby, it loses its luster. In many ways I prefer Boston.

I like that Kurt says "I feel like Eloise." Though I've never much liked the Eloise books.

Okay, hold up here... they are in New York for the competition and they still haven't written any songs yet??? And yet they think they are going to win?? With unwritten, unrehearsed music? This is wrong on so many levels. It's irresponsible. And it's bad TV writing. Did they come prepared with ANYTHING??

While the kids are left to work on songwriting, Mr. Shue goes to work on the April Rhodes musical. The first of the kids' song attempts is Brittany's ode to a cup. It's funny, of course, but proves why they should have had something solid written before they left. There's a great shot where Santana is struggling not to laugh. But what I also like about the song is that it makes perfect sense coming from somebody whose favorite song is "My Headband". In that way, it's a nice homage. And if you watch the previous scene closely, you'll see Brittany is playing with a cup. So that's nice motivation for her writing it.

The kids decide to go out into the city, thinking the inspiration will help them write songs. They do this bizarre ode to New York mash-up thing that totally destroys the opening from On the Town until it is unrecognizable. Leonard Bernstein is rolling in his grave. I don't know where this song came from, but I hate it. I also would like to know where all the people are in this city. I noticed it throughout the episode, but particularly this part. It seems like there should be a lot more folks out on the streets than there are. There are shots where it frankly looks like the production crew drew an imaginary radius around the actors that nobody could cross. So it's like the club is in the center, there's big empty space around him, and THEN all the normal people hanging or walking around. I know there's a certain "musical" aesthetic we are used to, but it's very hard to know whether this episode is supposed to have a realism or not. The sequence ends with them up on this raised platform around a fountain... how did Artie get up there? Did they lift him up just so he could be there too?

The show perpetuates another myth: that of girls pillow fighting. And why are they always feather pillows with feathers going everywhere? That's not real. And somebody is going to get charged for ruining all those pillows.

Meanwhile, Mr. Shue is alone on an empty Broadway stage back at April Rhodes' theater. So he stands there and sings a song for himself. ...Who is lighting it? April and the crew have gone to dinner. A theater worker comes in and tells him he's got talent. He says he was trying out something for the show. Actually, it was just a way for Glee to plug Matthew Morrison's new album by showcasing him singing his song, "Still Got Tonight".

The guys advise Finn to try having a romantic day with Rachel in the city if he wants to date her. He tells her to meet him at the bridge in the park and dress up. I like that the score in the background is "Someone to Watch Over Me". They eat at Sardi's, and Patti LuPone is there, so Rachel goes up and speaks to her. It's weird for celebrities to play themselves on this show when so often they play other characters. She tells Rachel to "never give up". You know, like they always do. Did this show need her cameo? Not really. And if I haven't said so already, I don't get why people love Patti LuPone so much. She's all right I guess, but I wouldn't go out of my way to talk to her. As night comes, and Finn and Rachel walk down the street, the other guys are there to perform "Bella Notte" from Lady and the Tramp. Since when can Puck play the accordion? Finn goes to kiss Rachel, but she says, "I can't," and leaves. The guys take no notice and finish their song.

The next day, Kurt and Rachel go have breakfast at Tiffany's. You know, as you do. And once again the score gets points from me for being "Moon River". It's the best incidental score of the whole season. Rachel has decided that she is coming to New York for college when she graduates because it is where she belongs (you and a million others, kid). She doesn't know whether to choose Finn or Broadway. Kurt says he can help her decide and brings her to the theater where Wicked plays. They sneak into the theater. Some usher catches them, but gives them fifteen minutes, like this happens all the time. I like the ghost light on the stage.

Before I go further on this scene, I want to mention that Kurt has his gayest hairstyle ever in this scene. And I don't really understand why gay men seem to all want their hair to be pouffy and pointy on top. I've always thought it looked tremendously stupid. Anyway, Kurt tells Rachel to imagine singing with an audience. Then suddenly he waves his hand and the whole set changes. At what point did Kurt obtain MAGICAL POWERS?? And in case you think this is all imaginary, they use all the set pieces as they sing, and it doesn't change back when they are done. Kurt and Rachel perform "For Good" from the show, and it's pretty good. I'm not a fan of the show (it is NOT Oz), but most of the music is fine. Last year I thought that the album duet of "Defying Gravity" was the best version I'd ever heard. This performance tops it, maybe because the song is better. It's one of the few I kind of like. Though I dislike how it treats the characters. But I still like the song all right, and sometimes have entertained the notion that it will be my wedding song. The performance is good, but I don't really see that it answers her question any. It was just an excuse to put the Glee kids on the set of Wicked. There was a moment when Kurt sings "I guess we know there's blame to share" that it almost sounded like "Blaine to share" which made me laugh to myself.

Quinn is still upset about Finn. There's a funny moment where she thinks Santana is coming on to her. And then Santana and Brittany give her the same pick-me-up advice that Steve observed years before on Coupling: to get a haircut. There was this one rant where Steve says that men would never "reach that level of earth-shattering boredom and mind-numbing despair where we would get a haircut recreationally." But that's apparently what Quinn does. The real reason is that Diana wanted to cut her hair, so they wrote it into the show. I grow tired of these young women chopping all their hair off, but at least the end result is better than Emma Watson's pixie cut. We never actually see the haircut though. This makes me wonder if the scene was written after the fact to explain it.

Hey, nice continuity! The hotel guy chastises Mr. Shue about the destroyed pillows in the girls' room. And here I was complaining. On the whole I will say that having done hotel stays with large groups of teen drama kids, the show has a pretty good sense of what goes on. The Vocal Adrenaline coach knows that Will is planning a Broadway debut and is using it to his tactical advantage. he told the kids about it, and they are angry. I don't really understand what everyone is so angry about, since the plan was to do the show after Nationals during the summer, and then be back. But Will decides that he already had his moment on the stage, so he's not going. Wait, why can't he still do it over the summer? There is no reason to worry about it, or tell the kids about it. I have never felt there was any drama in this story point.

Why does Will think they have "a really good shot at winning this thing"? Has he even heard their original songs? When the heck did they rehearse them? It didn't seem like they were ever all in the same room very long! We are informed that the Nationals level is a multi-layered event with several rounds of finalists. From 50 schools, it's narrowed down and then narrowed down again. So this is a built-in trick of the writers to ensure that there's always a level for the group to strive for and lose next season.

The first group we see is an all-girl group doing some standard club song. Their outfits are these grecian things which look nice when they are standing still, but ridiculous when you see their choreography. It's mostly white girls trying to act black. There were some black girls too... why didn't one of them get the solo? And can I just ask why anyone continues to call girls "Shorty"? Do any girls actually like this? Mercedes says, "They're really good" and I'm thinking, no they're not!

In the bathroom Rachel runs into Sunshine. Remember her, the girl that left the school back in the first episode? She's so nervous and hates Vocal Adrenaline, so she is thinking about going back to the Philippines. There's a sort of reconciliation here where Rachel helps her get over her nerves. This character was one who went nowhere this season.

So Vocal Adrenaline performs. But I spent more thought wondering why there are always these glittery microphones. It starts with just Sunshine on an empty stage, but ultimately the rest of the group comes on. You know, like New Directions did for Regionals. The choreography was good, though we've seen better from the group.

Backstage, Finn makes a good point: all Rachel's ever done is beg to be with Finn and now he's basically begging for it and she says no. These conversations always happen just before they go on, don't they? So they come on and perform a duet called "Pretending" which is all about whether they should be together. I wonder if Finn wrote it. It's basically an anthem to underlying sexual tension. I'm waiting for someone to do a little YouTube video about Mulder and Scully with this song. The song ends and before you can say Mitch and Mickey, Finn and Rachel kiss right there onstage. Many in the audience are shocked. Jesse St. James considers it unprofessional. I think they might have gotten away with it if it weren't so long.

Next up is a song that allows almost everyone a solo moment, which is nice. Some of the choreography was nice. But it was mostly clear that it was a bit thrown together. It was a fun performance, but not a winning one. So it was totally obvious that they were not going to place. Actually, I figured from the beginning they wouldn't win, because that would give next season somewhere to go. In the realm of predictable television, you can generally bet that Glee will continue losing in each finale. The show is built on struggling losers. Once they win Nationals, it becomes about maintaining a title, which is a different energy. Like comparing Karate Kid III with the first one.

It's a shame they couldn't have at least beaten Vocal Adrenaline. The best thing about the list of Top 10 schools is some of them have really funny names. Names like Singaz Wit Attitude, an obvious parallel to N.W.A. Then there's Teenage Scream, Soundsplosion, and Jefferson City Airplane. The writers room must have had fun coming up with these. But my personal favorite is The Waffletoots.

Maybe it's sad, but did they really think they could coast into Nationals that way? They came to the city completely unprepared and they were SURPRISED they didn't place? Santana goes nuts, like Ricky Ricardo nuts, shouting in Spanish. When Kurt tells it all to Blane afterwards, he doesn't mind. He got to sing on a Broadway stage and all. Then they exchange "I love you"s faster than any couple ever has on this show. Kurt says, "When you stop and think about it, Kurt Hummel's had a pretty good year." What?? Maybe Kurt's had a pretty good two weeks. But we are talking about the same Kurt Hummel who had to change schools because of threats to his life, had an unwelcome kiss from a closeted homophobe, the bird he was watching died, his father nearly died of a heart attack, and he was embarrassingly singled out as queen of the prom. And he had "a pretty good year"? Time to put down the glass of optimism, Kurt; it's now half-empty.

We also learn that Mercedes and Sam are indeed now an item. Which is good for Mercedes, but not an odd ending knowing now that Chord Overstreet is not returning as a regular next year. Will Sam at least show up here and there?

Brittany and Santana have another of their weird locker love scenes. Brittany sums up the year saying it was about acceptance. As if any of us who watched it all couldn't have figured that out. Trust your audience a little more, Ryan Murphy!

Finn is blaming himself for losing Nationals. To blame it all on the kiss is wrong, since they lost out of their own lack of preparation. I fear that they won't see it that way now that they have something else to blame. Rachel at least has decided it's okay to date Finn for awhile.

They finished in 12th Place? Why are they so depressed? Don't they know how fantastic that it? That's out of FIFTY. That means they did better than more than half of the schools. That they were two slots away from placing. And that was all with stuff they threw together in a hotel! If they actually planned and prepped properly, they could EASILY place next year. So why not learn from this and be optimistic?

In the end, this season has been all over the place. The finale was okay, but was it as good as it should be? Probably not. But better than some other episodes this season. Much that was teased last summer didn't happen. The MySpace audition search for new cast members was essentially a lie; that all got thrown out. Did any of those people end up on The Glee Project? One could seriously charge them with false advertising, I think. Characters were introduced that went nowhere. Mercedes was supposed to get a boyfriend this year, and it took the whole season. Not fair to her. I did like Coach Beiste, probably the best new character. A shame she seemed to disappear at the end of the season. The series had some of its lowest points ever, and relied too much on Kurt and being preachy, but there were great moments of the sarcastic wit that made this show so good originally. Those few times showcased why it's still a good show and if they can harness that back again, they can pull together an amazing third season. If not, the show will continue to steadily decline. I hope not.

My hope for next year? Nationals in California, and a Beach Boys-themed episode. That would be awesome. See, I should write for this show. If you're out there reading this, Ryan Murphy, can I join your writers' room?

Songs in tonight's episode:
New York, New York
My Cup
I Love New York/New York, New York
Still Got Tonight
Bella Notte
For Good
As Long As You're There
Light Up the World

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

GLEE: "Funeral"

I really should finish these up, since I have these two episodes I still haven't posted about. Again, it's been so long now that I have to go based on my notes, but it should be okay.

I loved when Santana said that Finn sings and dances "like a zombie who has to poop." It was all I could think about while watching him sing and dance during these episodes.

Jesse St. James has come on as a consultant to the glee club to help them beat Vocal Adrenaline. He tells them Vocal Adrenaline's stragety: find the best singer and highlight them. That was certainly clear last year. I was bothered by their "Bohemian Rhapsody" last year when it was 90% Jesse singing, and everyone else just dancing around. But Jesse is clear in this episode that's how they do things, and he wants to do the same here. And rather than just give the solo to Rachel (wouldn't that be suspicious?), they decide to hold auditions. Finn has been insulted enough and doesn't want to audition.

We finally meet Becky's mom in this episode. Becky wants to join the glee club because Sue has kicked her off the Cheerios. Mr. Shue turns her down as politely as he can because they are gearing up for competition. I was taken aback by this whole thing at first, but was at least glad that it meant the end of the exploitation of Becky as Sue's lackey. And then we learn why Becky was fired; Sue's sister has died, and Sue can't be reminded of it. Throughout this episode we are going to get a weird mix of cuddly Sue and mean Sue. Since last year's softening of her character, the writers have been walking this bizarre tightrope of how to maintain her demeanor. Is she warm and understanding, if distant, or is she horrible and belligerent? This episode manages to have an excuse to be both.

Remember when I didn't understand what the big problem was with April Rhodes a couple episodes ago? Remember I said that Will could just do the show during the summer? Well, he apparently took my advice because that's what he's planning to do. And it makes perfect sense. He hasn't told the kids yet, though.

The center of this episode is the auditioning for solos. I like that there was a sign-up sheet, and Rachel signed with a gold star, recalling the pilot. Auditions take place in an empty auditorium with just Mr. Shue and Jesse at a table. Jesse took a class in reality show judging before he flunked out of school, so he comes at this thinking he's Simon Cowell.

First up is Santana. She performs "Back to Black" and it's all right. I thought at times she sounded a little like Emiliana Torrini (the chick who does "Gollum's Song" at the end of The Two Towers). At least it wasn't another lesbian love song. Jesse doesn't think much of it.

Next up is Kurt, and as you would guess he's singing a showtune written for a female. In this case, a great song: "Some People" from Gypsy. I thought that the arrangement was too high for Kurt. It sounded slightly high to me as it is, and Kurt ends up having problems in his upper register during this song (not sure whether to belt or go falsetto). Having said that, he has some fun with his choreography, ending with a great slide at the end. Jesse is weirded out by him doing a girl song. I will say, Kurt shouldn't ALWAYS do girl songs (though they usually get the best ones in musical theater). He also says that if Kurt is going to take on a song like that which has been nailed by legends like Ethel Merman and Patti LuPone, he needs to really hit it out of the park, and he didn't. Mr. Shue thinks he did a great job (of course he does). Kurt is angry and offended by Jesse's comments. But he's right. He didn't nail the song. It was good, but was it good enough? It was a very Simon Cowell thing to say.

Next up is Mercedes. She comes on with a powerhouse performance of "Try a Little Tenderness". Mr. Shue is blown away, and lays the praise on thick ("Thank you so much for letting me hear that!"). Jesse calls her out for being lazy. There was no choreography, she just stood at the mic. He then asks whether she's willing to really work a song until it's perfect for nationals. She counters that her music is spontaneous and she just comes out and does her thing. Jesse argues that's not good enough. Again, he might be a little harsh here, but from what we've seen of Mercedes this season, IT'S TRUE. She is lazy. She thinks everyone should just bow down to her while she gets to the mic and does her thing. She needed some reality.

Finally, Rachel is up and she decides to sing the finale from Funny Girl. It's not bad. Jesse has no criticism for her. And therein lies the obvious bias. He is pulling for her and has been from the start. I agreed with his prior criticisms, but there must have been something in Rachel's performance to pick out. For me, it's that whenever she sings a Streisand song, she feels the need to effect a "Barbra" voice. She gets an accent and mimics. She shouldn't hide behind that; this isn't imitation, it's performance.

Finn wants to be nice to Sue, and he suggests the glee club plan the funeral. She agrees, only so that she doesn't have to do it. We learn that the sister's favorite movie was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory, so it's a Wonka-themed funeral. There's even a chocolate fountain. ...Can I just ask, has anyone ever been to a themed funeral? I love it when she first walks in the door, and the music is the exact same bit of score (those first notes of "Pure Imagination") that are used in the movie when the door to the Chocolate Room opens.

The club performs "Pure Imagination" at the funeral. It's not bad, but it sounds like it's too high. Why raise the key? It leads to the guys having to strain out the upper notes. It's not a power ballad, they shouldn't have to shout the lyrics. I also am having a problem in general with the group singing simple songs as if they are modern day pop songs. Just trust your voices and the song; you don't have to sing like Boyz II Men.

I have in my notes "good break-up scene". I guess this must be Finn and Quinn in the car. I thought it was a good dramatic scene. And I also wondered whether Kurt and Blaine will end up getting a good break-up scene. After all, can we really expect them to be together forever? Wouldn't that overly mythologize the gay experience?

The auditions are tearing the group apart. There is jealousy and anger among all those who tried out. Mr. Shue has final say over who wins the solo. Jesse thinks it's in the bag for Rachel. But instead Mr. Shue fires Jesse and says to forget the solo thing. They will do original songs again and work together as a group. Then everyone magically hasn't a bad word to say to each other. What?

I'd also like to add that Nationals are VERY soon, and you have no idea what your set list will be? In real life, you'd be rehearsing the same songs over and over to get them right. This winging-it approach will not garner them a win, nor should it. Just like Mercedes, it's lazy. They should have at least ONE number locked down. But no, they are going to write another song? Why not just do "Loser Like Me" again? Nobody there will have heard it! It will be new to THEM. And this is a problem with the competitions in general. Glee doesn't want to repeat itself, so they never perform songs that we see them rehearsing. At least in the first season there were story reasons behind that. But the unreality is starting to catch up with this show.

Sue lets Becky back on the Cheerios and apologizes. That's nice. I hope Becky doesn't go back to being mindless lackey. Oh, and Sue says that she's pursuing her dream of running for the House of Representatives. Hey, that's a dream of mine too. Sometimes anyway.

And then the worst news of all... Terri is moving to Miami! NO! Terri, this show needs you!

Songs in tonight's episode:
Back to Black
Some People
Try a Little Tenderness
My Man
Pure Imagination

Next episode: The season finale with Nationals in New York. Will a new location make for a good episode? If you're reading this, you've probably already seen it and can answer that question.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

They Got Him

I turn on the TV this morning to find that the FBI has finally captured Whitey Bulger, the notorious Boston crime lord who's been one of our most wanted for a long time. Wow things sure are getting done these days. First Osama, then Bulger. Also curious how America's Most Wanted gets cancelled, then some of our most wanted are found (not saying there's a corollary, just think it's funny happenstance).

It used to be there were things you took for granted as absolutes here. The Red Sox will never win a series, Whitey Bulger will always be out there somewhere, etc. But now that the Bruins have won the Stanley Cup, it seems our sports teams have all been good again recently. Now they got Whitey Bulger. I don't know how to live in such a world. What's next, a clean Charles River?

I kid of course. Good job, FBI.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Obama 2012

I'm watching the Republican presidential debate right now, and it's growing clear to me that we're looking at another 4 years of Barack Obama. That's assuming he runs for re-election, of course. If the Democratic party starts from scratch, it might play out differently, but the gathering of eight potential Republican candidates is not looking good. Mitt Romney is not a good candidate to my mind, certainly not as a Republican. Can any of the others beat Romney? I'd say no. A couple have a shot, but it's tough. And then can any beat Obama? At this point, I'd say no.

I'm not a Republican. I'm an un-enrolled voter with Libertarian leanings. To me, from a somewhat objective standpoint, it's a bad omen when the most attractive candidate seems to be Ron Paul.

Right now I think is a golden opportunity for some charismatic and brilliant independent candidate to campaign hard for the job. Because even though it's early, it's looking to me like the writing is already on the wall. I would love it if an independent candidate actually won the Presidency and proved that the whole silly partisan way we've been running elections in this country can be circumvented. I consider our present system at worst unconstitutional and at best bad for America.

In any case, this debate wasn't much of one. More like a "who can claim he espouses the most conservative Christian ideologies" popularity contest. I'll keep my eye on one or two of them, but it doesn't seem like most of these people can think enough for themselves. And who was that woman there? She proved with every word out of her mouth she had no business being on that stage.

And while I'm on the subject, I'd like to implore all candidates in all future debates to just SHUT UP AND ANSWER THE QUESTION. Stick to your time, DON'T pull that "can I just respond to that question five questions ago?" DON'T twist everything into a way to take up time talking about your pet issue ("I don't support that policy, but I do support jobs!"). But most of all, and I know this is sticky, don't waste your time pandering to the voters or the folks asking questions. We KNOW you appreciate the military service of the veteran who just asked you a question. Guess what, so does everyone else on that stage. So stop wasting 5 minutes thanking his family for his service and just ANSWER HIS QUESTION. That speaks far more than your platitudes that you think make you look good.

Of course in the end it shouldn't really matter since the President is elected by Electors. But as we go into primary season, to me it looks like the only hope the Republicans have is if the Mayans were right; if we're all still around for 2013, I see another inauguration for President Obama in our future.