Archive for September 2011

Parks and Recreation: The Two Tammys

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Today I'm going to talk about the general direction of the show, and why I think the relationship between April and Andy might be the key to understanding all the relationships on the show.

Annoyingly, this episode took the Modern Family tack of having three unrelated storylines in the same episode, and as with that show, one story inevitably suffers. So let me address the two lesser stories in the episode before discussing the one we all care about: the Many Tammy's of Ron Swanson.

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"Lastly, I hate the name Angelo, so here's your new name - Jello Shot. You with me, J-Shot?"

Tying Ben to Tom's entertainment "empire" is a good play by the writers. Keeping him around City Hall would lead to too many scenes between him and Leslie awkwardly mooning at each other, and the writers seem to have learned all the right lessons from Jim and Pam.

Let's face it, Ben is the straight anchor in the show, and he works best as a center to the more zany plotlines.

And really, what could be zanier than Tom and Jean-Ralphio running an entertainment company? Oh how I've missed Jean-Ralphio, the most loveable douchebag in the history of television. I'd like to think that these two are making enough from Snakejuice to keep these fabulous digs alive.

In other important news, I want a party switch.

DIABETES!

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"Just as good if not exactly the same as the last one."

There was something off with this plotline, and I can't put my finger on exactly what. Part of the problem is that Ann has finally become a funny character in her own right, and Chris is a little too generically "quirky". He doesn't always feel entirely real to me, which sticks out considering how earthbound this show is.

Which is a shame because Ann has never been more defined. She's a dark mirror of Leslie: she has none of Leslie's neuroses, but also none of Leslie's self-confidence. So there's nothing to build on between her and Chris, apart from a certain amount of general actorly chemistry.

Chris Traeger just isn't that interesting unless he's at odds with someone, whether it's Leslie, Ron or Tom. I like having him on the show as a "villain" of sorts, as his brand of villainy is the kind most people would actually encounter in real life. Meaning he doesn't think he's an asshole, but he just kind of is.

Then again, maybe I'm overanalyzing the characters, and these scenes didn't work because they just weren't funny, and didn't tie in to the rest of the show.

RON AND TAMMY PART THREE AND FOUR

Operation Rescue Ron

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"First of all, income tax is illegal!"

We learn a number of new facts about Ron (it's a shame that there isn't more of a fanfic community devoted to this show, because his childhood? Damn.) I would love to see a spin-off of Ron Swanson: The Teenage Years. I imagine it would feature Ron being bossed around by his mother and Tammy One, followed around by manic Tammy 2.

As always, I admire the writers' dedication to traditional storytelling. All the guns are in the first act, and they go off in the third. Foreshadowing to Ron's mother, for example: "Every thirty days I buy shotgun shells and cigarettes to send home to my mom." And thusly, we learn that Tammy 0 is a gun-toting mountain beast.

Even with all the comic detail we get about Ron's backstory, the show never loses sight of one truth in Ron's life: Leslie Knope. The only woman in his life who offers him support instead of discipline. It's incredibly moving that in spite of the disparate women who've tried to pull him in many directions, it's Leslie that makes him man up and shake off all the Tammys.

Operation Golden Dove is in Trouble

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For two episodes in a row, it seems that the writers are setting up Andy and April as Bizarro parallels to all the other relationships in the show.

In Alyssa Rosenberg's piece over at Think Progress, she notes that one of the best parts things about this show is how it doesn't treat love as an end unto itself, and that relationships are a means to secure support, not romantic love necessarily. So because they have a true and fair relationship, of course Ben would support Leslie's choice to leave him and run for office.

Likewise, April and Andy support each other's desires and dreams. Of course, they are much earlier in their life journey, so they don't even know what those dreams are, but for them, it's about enabling each other to figure them out.

But, April clearly has the upper hand in that relationship.  When we meet henpecked Ron, he bears more than one resemblance to Andy, with the same goofball cheeriness and inability to make decisions for himself. And April idolizes Tammy One, for obvious reasons. Tammy One is April in 30 years, if April had never met Andy.

Note the small moment when Andy has an idea and everyone dismisses him. I expect this to come up again in the future.

OTHER

-CONTINUITY ERROR!!!! Shock-horror. Remember how April was Venezuelan? Well, now she's Puerto Rican. Oops.

-Am I the only one who is now hoping for a puppet episode? Also known asThe Simpsons.

-Amy Poehler took a page from Will Arnett with her "jail, jail, jail Ron jail."

-Leslie's look of pride at coming up with "Operation Soaring Falcon" was priceless. C'mon Leslie. Why not go the whole hog and name it Operation Hot Mother?

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Seriously, what is that?

-Patricia Clarkson is so funny I don't even have words to express it. Even her pronunciation of "Terrahote" had me in giggles. But nothing more than "In a sense, yes. But in another, truer sense, no."

What's your favorite part of the latest episode?

This is mine:

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(thank you Tumblr for all the gifs)

Yes, They've Invented a Pizza Vending Machine...

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Here's something that's long existed in my list of "totally pointless and totally inevitable." But this doesn't just reheat a frozen pizza, it makes it right in front of you! College students worldwide will wonder how they ever survived without this magical machine.

If you think the obesity rates in your town are shrinking too fast, boy has this guy got the product for you.

Now that's what I call Mystic Pizza.

Amy Kalafa and the Looming Lunch Wars

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Until Jamie Oliver's show last year, I confess that I'd never given much thought to the healthiness of school lunches. Growing up as a vegetarian in Texas, it was always an issue of "stuff I eat" vs. "stuff other people eat." School lunches were never really an option, unless I was desperate enough to pick the pepperoni off of the pizza. But I still found my way to all sorts of junk food.

And that is probably the most valuable contribution Amy Kalafa makes with Lunch Wars: cafeteria lunches are only part of the picture. The really bad foods are often doled out in the classroom as "rewards," in vending machines, from ice cream salesman. I didn't get fat from my mom's healthy lunches. I got fat from Flamin' Hot Cheetos and Everlasting Gobstoppers (sadly, I seem to have as little resistance to these forms of crack today as I did when I was 15. But I digress).

However, while Kalafa's heart is clearly in the right place, I found the book a little too evangelical in nature. She wants you to feel bad about the choices your children make in school, and seems to suggest that protecting schoolchildren means becoming a nutritional Big Brother, keeping eyes on them at all time in case of trans-fats.

That said, this is an extremely serious issue, and I'm glad to learn a little more about it before (God forbid) I bring my own spawn into this universe.

Be sure and check out the great discussions at BlogHer about the issues raised in this book.

This review was paid for by BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

 

Don't Drop the Soap

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Nothing causes more hand-wringing than health care (and as the news keeps reminding us, nothing leads to less hand-washing).

Dr. Abigail Zuger writes in the New York Times of the demise of simple, inexpensive medical procedures in favor of more expensive options:

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Take what must be the greatest cheap medical fix in all of history: the bar of soap. Soap never stops proving itself. As recently as 2005, a study from the slums of Karachi, Pakistan, showed that free bars of soap (and lessons in how to use them) cut rates of childhood killers like diarrhea andpneumonia by half.

But you don’t find soap in American hospitals anymore, at least not in its classic solid rectangular form. A variety of expensive improvements have replaced it, all created in response to the various ways in which modern doctors and patients reflexively undermine good, inexpensive tools.

First, we automatically capture these things for our own personal use: Bars of soap left in any public place are likely to disappear in short order. (That is why toilet paper rolls are generally locked into their little metal houses.)

Second, we find fault with them. People will actually use the observation that bar soap is “dirty” as an excuse not to wash their hands. (Studies have shown that you will not pick up somebody else’s germs from a piece of soap, however dingy it may look.)... (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/27/health/27essay.html?_r=2&ref=science)

It's worth a read. Most damning is her assertion that if people would simply lose weight, medical costs will go down by $20,000 per capita.

Woody Allen Blogathon: What's New Pussycat

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Since announcing my Woody Allen Blogathon, I have watched the first 8 films, and I haven't had a moment to write about them. I shouldn't have watched so many, because the exemplary quality of the other 7 really interfered with my revisit of What's New Pussycat, which has to be one of the worst films I've ever seen. I take consolation that in this case it's not Allen's fault, as it will be in many films to come.

SCRIPT #1

What's New Pussycat is a total mess that somehow became a box office hit. Originally starring Warren Beatty, the title refers to how Beatty used to answer the phone. Woody Allen was called in to punch up the script. His jokes were such a hit that the producers asked him to rewrite the entire script.

SCRIPT #2

As it turns out, in the rewrite, Allen gave most of the best jokes to himself, and Warren Beatty quit in a fit of pique, to be replaced by Peter O'Toole. According to sources who have seen this script, it has well-defined roles for the women in the film and a much neater parallel between Woody Allen's nebbish character who can't get a date and O'Toole's manwhore. I would love to see this script (and this film). But sadly it was not to be.

SCRIPT #3

Peter Sellers agreed to play the small role of the psychiatrist as a way to ease back into acting after a heart attack. The star power of Peter Sellers was not in doubt, as this film sits in between Dr. Strangelove and Casino Royale. Sellers, naturally, demanded that all the best jokes be given to his character, and also demanded a bigger role. And then he started improvising on set. Tensions ran high, until producers reduced Allen's role and made Sellers the star of the film.

Then, as these things go, the producer forced them to cast his supermodel girlfriend in a minor role, then demanded that they enlarge her role. As you can imagine, this pissed off all the other women in the film, especially established stars like Ursula Andress.

WHAT'S LEFT

Basically, man-about-town Peter O'Toole consults Sellers' deranged psychiatrist to help cure him of his sex addiction. Instead. Dr. Fassbender merely serves as a sidekick on O'Toole's strip club visits and 60s twisting. This movie made me long for Austin Powers. That's never a good sign. At least Austin Powers is occasionally funny.

Only one good thing came out of this project. Okay, two.

The first is the theme song, "What's New Pussycat," which was a number one hit for Burt Bacharach and Tom Jones, and is way classier than this movie deserves.

The second is that What's New Pussycat was a big enough hit that Woody Allen could demand total control of his films henceforth.

Have you seen this movie? Am I being too harsh? If you haven't seen it, here's the trailer, which perfectly encapsulates the manic silliness of the movie.

Un-Rigorous Comment Policy, aka, I'm the Queen of the Castle, You're the Dirty Rascal

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I've probably given the more uncouth elements of the internet more consideration than they deserve, but as they say, beliefs don't count unless you still believe them when you're tested.

While I know that I am effectively the queen of my Oncoming Hope castle, I can't be persuaded to use my power to deny the citizens their rights, not without reason.

So I will never pre-moderate posts.

You know why? I've learned that some of the most antagonistic posts come from people who are genuinely looking for someone to hear them. It's amazing how civil some trolls are once you respond to them in an even-handed tone.

I also respect the self-policing nature of the internet. On more than one occasion, other commenters have stepped up in polite, even-handed ways to inform the rude of their rudeness (seriously, thanks).

ON LINKING

I will say, right now, that unless you're sending me to a discount shoe store, I fully encourage leaving links to your own site in the comments. I've seen many bloggers righteously defend their right to not let people share links in the comments, and each time I wonder, "do you understand how the Internet works?"

The Internet is an ecosystem that can only grow and evolve when there is a free exchange of information. Necessarily, that information exchange should not be centered on one hub, otherwise you confer too much power on the owner of that hub. The Internet is meant to be democratic, and banning links is profoundly undemocratic.

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THE RULES, MOST BENDABLE

So while I will allow people to say almost anything in the comments, there are a few things I will not tolerate. Feel free to challenge me in the comments to these posts if you have an issue, and I will leave it up in this space only.

1. You can be as rude to me as you want, but if you're ever rude to another commenter, delete.

2. If you make any gender-based comments that aren't in jest, delete.

3. Corollary to #2: misrepresent feminists in any shape or form, delete.

4. Actually, that thing that goes for gender? It goes for race too.

5. If you tell me to "stop overthinking, you should just enjoy it," delete. You clearly do not know what I am about, or what this site is about. You clearly also despise thought, and are one of those horrible people who think that being educated is being "elitist". Delete.

(seriously, I got a comment on a book review once that said: "Well, I LOVED the book. I didn't read too much into it, and I thought it was fun. How DARE you read into it beyond what the author wrote.")

Also known as, DELETE!

EXTENSIVE CREDIT SECTION

In politeness and fairness, many contributed to my thoughts, and I thank them for weighing in. So here you go:

Follow @drfidelius, who linked me to the best comment policy yet.

Follow @NickMiners and check out his gorgeous rock photography.

Follow @xandermarkham and read his blog. He has wonderful things like Doctor Who commentary and "words of the week."

Follow @kellimarshall, who writes wonderful things about cinema, and who's running a lovely website of her own.

Follow Mark at Atomic Anxiety. I wish I could be as insightful as him about Who, old and new.

You are probably already be following @AlyssaRosenberg, but I will remind you anyway, and you should be reading her page at Think Progress.

Follow @theavclub at their website, because really, who gives more reliably insightful television commentary?

Follow @bookish_belle, who has wonderful things to say about books both old and new.

And last, but certainly not least, to @michelleerin, who also writes about a heady mix of old and new books, and audiobooks too!

Sandman Reblog #25: Season of Mists Chapter 5

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Given the generally static nature of this issue, this post may be more of a series of observations than a deeper analysis. We've finally reached the point in the story where I dont quite remember what happens next, so it's very exciting to read into the little hints Gaiman sprinkles through the tale.

So we begin as Dream hears a variety of appeals from characters fictional and mythical, all longing for custody of Hell (though Why is not entirely clear to me as yet).

On the Art

Has anyone else noticed that Dream's castle looks different in every issue? Where previously it sat upon a craggy cliff, this time it sits on an island, complete with water and sand.

I wonder if that accounts for the new dinosaur guard? In addition to the gryphon and unicorn who normally guard the gates, there appears to be a stegosaurus/brontosaurus hybrid. Does anyone know what mythical beast that might be?

Also, did a different artist take over from page 18, only to return on pate 20?

On Tricksters and Gods

Why is everyone standing so far apart from the Norsemen? Certainly Thor is a rapey bastard, but they are all given a wide berth (maybe all that blood makes them smell horrible).

Is it significant that Loki appears to be the only one who does not enjoy the fruits of Dream's hospitality? He says he is "content to watch," which is never the greatest thing to hear from a renowned trickster. Of course the Angels are also there to supposedly "watch," which I somehow doubt is the only reason they're in town.

Come to think of it, I wonder if Gaiman is intentionally focussing on the tricksters and not the rest of the applicants? If you pay attention to the background figures throughout this issue, there are thousands more people present who we haven't met. One is clearly Merlin, of Arthurian legend (and the Disney interpretation, hilariously). We see Merkin engage in trickery within the confines of this episode! And of course the fairies are tricksters. And just to put a point on it, the background story involves Cain and Abel performing a magic trick (sorry, illusion). And we all know cats are tricksters.

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I was thrilled to figure out on my own that the sleepwalking servant must surely be Dream borrowing someone who's asleep.

I find it interesting how Dream becomes more and more disrespectful as the interviews go on.

Man, it's been so long since I've read this that I actually don't remember who he gives hell to, if indeed he gives hell away at all!

The Good Wife: Season 3 Premiere

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Disclaimer: I need to state up-front that while I intend to cover The Good Wife as regularly as possible, I probably won't spend too much time on the cases of the week (even though 2 previous cases have come to life in truly horrible ways. #IAmTroyDavis). I'm working hard to find ways to write about television that aren't recaps, as there are hundreds of those available on the internet. So here is my disclaimer for all television discussion henceforth: I assume you have seen the shows in question. For those of you who need an intro to the show, see my earlier post here: http://theoncominghope.blogspot.com/2010/09/good-wife-season-2-premiere.html.

Onward!

It's a new season, and once again you'll find me writing about sex. While all the CBS promotion has seemed vaguely lurid, at least they weren't lying. Sex is in this show's DNA, and as always, I'm amazed at what this show can get past the censors. We'll talk more on this in a bit.

Female Friendships

The writers seem to have swapped Alicia-Kalinda for Kalinda-Sophia. They seem like much better foils for each other than Blake-Kalinda, and I like the idea of an intense professional rivalry juxtaposed with genuine affection and respect. The conflicts and challenging nature of female friendship has always been an important part of this show, and I'm glad they've found a way to work it in even though Alicia and Kalinda won't make up anytime soon (I don't think).

Of course, this won't last, as Kelli Giddish has been cast as the new lead on Law and Order: SVU. Oh well. One day, maybe the Kings can spin them off and they can go around beating people up together.

Wife vs. Husband

It's a tale as old as time, but I can't think if it's actually been told since Zeus vs. Hera. Come to think of it, Peter Florrick has more than a few things in common with Zeus.

We've seen dramatic conflict between ex-spouses a million times before, but I'm not sure we've seen it taking place in a professional arena. There's an extra layer of potential nastiness given how driven both Peter and Alicia are, and it will be interesting to see how they balance between parental civility and the animosity that drives their personal and professional interactions.

The web becomes ever more tangled, as the professional triangle between Alicia-Eli-Peter solidifies and becomes even more fraught with conflicts of interest.

"Diane thinks I'm going too hard on you."

It was only after I finished (ahem...Alicia finished...) that I thought...where the hell did that scene happen? For you, dear readers, I shall revisit that scene.

...ten minutes later...

I have no answers for you. But we know they're in Will's apartment, so why are they clothed? (This may be my least favorite tv trope.)

That said, this is easily the most torrid scene on network tv since the season 2 premiere of The Good Wife, and once again, we don't see anything below the shoulders. Somehow, this is still a hell of a lot sexier than the Showtime/HBO approach of Look! Boobs! Aren't we adult? I remember thinking when I was watching Game of Thrones that the sex scenes were bordering on comical, making them doubly extraneous.

(Please don't try to tell me that the sex scenes advance the story in Game of Thrones. The writers threw exposition into those scenes so they could distract us from lame infodumps with boobies.)

But I digress.

In Conclusion

It looks like the show is going to become a lot more political (if such things are actually possible). Bringing Eli into the firm as a "political consultant" is a genius move, and will allow the cases to take a much broader scope.

I'm very much looking forward to Eddie Izzard next week!

Favorite Detail:

  • Love how the bailiff rolls her eyes everytime the judge goes on about how he used to get into streetfights. We're raised to treat judges with the utmost respect, but of course many of them are repetitive blowhards in their personal lives.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Any other favorite moments?

Doctor Who: Closing Time

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Another disappointing episode, but at least it wasn't as rage-worthy as the last three. Let's get on with it.

The writers have no interest whatsoever in dealing with motherhood.

Once again, the woman leaves at the beginning of the episode and returns in the end. Although, this didn't trouble me as much this time around because it's clear that Sophie has done the parenting and Craig hasn't quite connected with his child in the same way. Methinks the Moff has serious daddy issues.

At least this one's emotionally grounded

The friendship between Craig and the Doctor feels remarkably real to me, with so much genuine affection. He accepts their friendship for what it is, with a splash of hero worship.

The Doctor's doing another victory lap

But at least this time it isn't just because he's regenerating. He thinks he might actually die (and it's fascinating how accepting he is of his fate. The best stuff in this episode involved him facing up to who he is and how others see him and how nothing is quite so simple as he imagines).

Just when you thought Amy Pond couldn't get worse, she does

Cosmetics model? Blech. Nice to know that her adult emotional journey has gone from brainless adult sexpot to brainless adult sexpot, turning into an actual doll along the way.

And really, "The Girl Who Was Tired of Waiting"? She has literally learned nothing from God Complex, and as she doth protest too much, that only means she is still waiting.

The Cybermen have officially been Dalekked

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The writers have taken a formerly terrifying villain and reduced it to something weak and silly, which not only undermines any feeling of danger within the episode, it undermines every encounter with the Cybermen before or after. Mechanical engineering can be defeated with love!

River Song has been out-camped

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The actress who plays Madame Kovarian seems to have escaped from the set of Animaniacs, she's such a ridiculous cartoon. Complete with eye-patch and evil laughter. God.

Also, we learned that Let's Kill Hitler now makes no sense whatsoever. If River doesn't know she's a weapon, why did she try to kill the Doctor? Though it now makes sense why she would call him "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived". He's her historical obsession!

If you're going to make a merely so-so episode, don't make call backs to widely beloved episodes

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Just as God Complex called back to a classic Sylvester McCoy episode, this time we called back to a beloved Peter Davison episode.

Lynda Baron, the old lady in the shop, played one of my favorite Who villains ever, a campy space pirate on a quest for Enlightenment, in the Peter Davison episode Enlightenment (which is easily one of my top three Who episodes of all time, and frequently sits at #1 depending on my mood).


Fringe: Neither Here Nor There

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Fringe is finally back, after one HELL of a game-changing cliffhanger. I would like to write intelligently about it, but plenty of other people do that, so you get humor instead. It's a hard life for all of us.

1 MINUTE REVIEW

Peter's really gone, which has made Walter even crazier than before. Lots of plot happens, but all that pales in comparison to the luminous presence of sexy Lincoln Lee, who joins the show full-time (squee!).

THE 5 MINUTE VERSION

Previously on Fringe, there was a totally different show. I miss that show, but I'm excited about this new show we're introduced to today.

But some thing's don't change: Olivia vs Fauxlivia is still the most fun anyone could have without taking their clothes off. In the brief flash we see of Peter, I imagine he's thinking of doing both.

The Observers are California Dreamin'. Over a nice bottle of Tabasco, they decide that Peter isn't quite disappeared enough, and September emoes for the camera.

Sexy Lincoln Lee declares a jihad on toast in the family of Hey! It's That Guy!. Unfortunately for That Guy, he's killed before we have time to say anything more than Hey!

Now we all remember that this show has evolved into a superior version of Doctor Who. And now that Peter's gone, Olivia needs a new companion. Luckily for us (mostly me), Sexy Lincoln Lee auditions for the job. He impresses Olivia with his cleverness, his curiosity and his humanity. Yup, Doctor Who.

Which brings us to Walter, of course, looking lustfully at his pet cow while tinkering with chemicals. That's never a good sign for poor Gene.

We know something is horribly wrong in this world because Walter calls Astrid Astrid, not Astroturf or Assturd or any of his wonderful alternate monikers.

Lots of plot happens in the middle, but we don't care about that, right? What's important is that we're returning to a dropped plotline from season 1: how Olivia was quite literally able to see through John Scott. Apparently it's another kind of shifter.

We conclude as Olivia tries to convince Fauxlivia that Walternate's back to his old tricks. Fauxlivia responds with the smirkiest smirk we've ever seen, and gives bedroom eyes to Sexy Lincoln Lee.

BUT SERIOUSLY, FOLKS

What's important is that all these people are missing something inside themselves and have no idea what. As a result, they're impacted in particularly different ways: Astrid is more hands-on, Olivia is back to being her hard season 1 self (and yet she wears a softer look?), and Walter is more nuts than before.

I assume the revitalized dead bird is a metaphor for something...perhaps that Walter is seeing dead people (or nonexistent people, in this case).

We don't know why things have developed the way they did in this version of events, but I look forward to finding out.

Earth-3, here we come.

Life Lessons from Parks and Recreation

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We're back at last! And not a moment too soon. I thought I was going to melt in the face of so much terrible summer television. Let's kick things off with five important lessons from the season 4 premiere of Parks and Recreation.

1. You can't run away from your problems...especially if you have only nine toes.

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2. L-Shaped chocolate eclairs lead to insta-sex.

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3. Always keep a bag of provisions stashed away in a ventilation shaft in case terrifying ex-wives return.

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4. "Anne, you beautiful naive sophisticated new-born baby."

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5. You don't need to find Patricia Clarkson, she'll find you.

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Troy Davis and the Death Penalty

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Not many nations have a state-sanctioned death penalty: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, China and the United States. Now that's what I call hallowed company.

36 states in the United States allow the death penalty. That's 36 too many.

I can repeat facts until I'm blue in the face, but that's not the problem here. The problem is fundamentally with how we view "justice".

Troy Davis was sentenced to death for a crime in which there are now serious doubts. His conviction was based on the testimony of 9 witnesses, 7 of whom recanted. One of the remaining witnessses is the man that the other witnesses said actually committed the crime. There was no physical evidence tying Davis to the crime.

Troy Davis was left lying on a gurney for 5 hours yesterday as the US Supreme Court considered his last minute appeal. Here's the problem. He was convicted because, at the time, there was no reasonable doubt about his guilt. To get a conviction overturned, there must be no reasonable doubt about his innocence.

Now that's pretty twisted.

In this case, justice has been treated as the correct and proper adherence to procedural norms. Creating procedural norms is a well-established technique used by countries who wish to institutionalize atrocity.

Once you have a legal framework that allows execution, you can slowly expand the reasons that justify execution. That is actually what has happened in the United States. There are now 41 crimes for which the death penalty is acceptable.

One of them is trafficking in large quantities of drugs (18 U.S.C. 3591 (b)). While drug trafficking hardly counts as a victimless crime, I don't think anyone could equivocate trafficking with murder.

Killing someone for killing someone else is not justice. It's revenge. The taking of one innocent life is too many. But by giving the state the right to execute any citizens at all, we have surrendered too many of our freedoms.

City Lights: San Francisco

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Welcome back to City Lights, a series about films set in different cities, inspired by an ongoing series at I Luv Cinema. Today, we're hitting San Francisco.

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Star Trek IV: The One with the Whales isn't generally regarded as one of the finest, but as with many movies on this list, I am not ashamed to love it. There's a ludicrous "plot" which sends the Enterprise crew back in time to save some magical space whales. It's all very silly, but the cast are clearly having a great time romping through San Francisco, and the light comic tone is a welcome breather from the movies before and after it.

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The Game uses one of my most hated storytelling techniques: the false ending. But its probably my favorite David Fincher thriller. I'm not sure I've ever felt quite as tense in any movie, as Michael Douglas's steady loss of control bleeds through the screen.

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The Rock. What's there to say about it? It's a modern classic. Long before Nicolas Cage became a series of punchlines, he had a great bro-mance with Sean Connery. And consider the many uncredited screenwriters: Quentin Tarantino, Aaron Sorkin and Jonathan Hensleigh. Though I'm not sure if the existence of this film balances out all of Michael Bay's other atrocities.

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Is there any film quite so scary as The Birds? Vertigo gets all the critical love, but I think The Birds is far more rewarding if you're willing to consider its subtext. It's not about the birds, it's about Tippi Hedren's inability to connect.

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George of the Jungle is the second film on this list that I love totally unashamedly, despite any sort of critical justification. It makes me laugh everytime I've seen it, and I've seen it a hundred times. Apparently Roger Ebert agrees with me.

Representations of the Minotaur in Doctor Who

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The God Complex centered around a minotaur who's a prison guard (at least I think that's what happened. I'm a little confused about the mechanics of it all, to be frank). But minotaur he was, with the usual trappings of horns and labyrinths and general menace.

But this bull-headed creature is no stranger to Doctor Who, whether we're talkingabout the original minotaur (The Doctor lent Theseus a ball of string, didn't you know) or variations thereof. Here's an overview.

THE MIND ROBBER

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The Mind Robber is widely considered one of the most clever and imaginative episodes in the entire run of Doctor Who, tackling the very nature of creativity and fiction, and giving us fun set pieces like Rapunzel hooking up with comic book characters.

One episode of the story centers around a labyrinth populated by a variety of classical myths, such as a terrifying unicorn and Medusa. And at the center of the labyrinth, there is, you guessed it, a minotaur.

THE TIME MONSTER

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Let me begin by saying that this story centers around something called the TOMTIT machine (that's what she said!). Blah blah Master/Doctor HoYay! plotty-cakes, and we all end up in Atlantis.

The magical plot device in this episode is guarded by the Minotaur in the heart of a maze, allowing the Doctor to continue his genocidal trend of eradicating all Minotaurs from the cosmos. You guys just need to see this episode, it's completely nuts. Sergeant Benton turns into a baby, and the Master hooks up with a Bond girl. I don't even know why the Minotaur is in it.

You do get this lovely "Doctor remembers his youth" scene though:

PELADON AND AGGEDOR

There's the actual minotaur. And there's Aggedor, who isn't technically a minotaur but has all the trappings. He brings us this wonderful scene in Curse of Peladon (Rule #21: The Doctor should never sing). This scene has the added bonus of perfectly encapsulating the relationship between the Doctor and Jo, who wanders through her episodes like she's on an acid trip. Skip to 1:21.

And then, rinse and repeat for Monster of Peladon (why they set two episodes in this horrendous storyverse is beyond me):

Wherein, somehow, Aggedor becomes a fire-breathing statue with a massive belly button:

HORNS OF NIMON

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Nimon was of course referenced in The God Complex as a distant cousin of the minotaur in the new story. The Horns of Nimon is widely considered the nadir of the Tom Baker era, but I won't lie, I kind of love it.

Basically, an ambassador Nimon travels to a planet, pretending to be a God with advanced technology. There, it would convince worshipful residents to build a labyrinthine Power Complex to power a small black hole to bring in more Nimons. The Nimons would then drain all the locals of their life essence, and then move to the next planet as part of their "The Great Journey of Life."

It is suggested that the minotaur of classical myth was in fact a Nimon scout. Luckily, the Doctor and Romana (Romana, mainly) are there to save the day, leading to this great instance of "acting":

And there you have it! Minotaurs through the Doctor Who ages.

Three Wishes for the Fall Television Season

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Well kids, it's started! The first few pilots have rolled out to the public, and the returning series are beginning to roar back (thank God!). It's been a dreary summer for television, so dreary that I watched True Blood despite my initial vow of refusal. If there were a good TV fairy (we know there isn't, or there would be no Jersey Shore), then these would be my three wishes.

1. That at least 2 new shows turn out to be good.

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TV Shows should have the same desire as parents, to replace at least themselves when they are gone from this Earth. Thankfully, I didn't lose any shows to death last season, but I did disown a few, and it's the networks' job to replace them! Luckily there are many promising shows this season, unlike a year ago, when all the networks tried to bring back ::shudder:: comedies with laugh tracks.

The Disowned: The Office, maybe Bones.

Adoption Candidates: 2 Broke Girls, Up All Night, Revenge, Prime Suspect, A Gifted Man, Homeland, American Horror Story, Grimm, Once Upon A Time

2. That They Don't Ruin Leslie Knope

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Please don't ruin Leslie Knope. Please don't ruin Leslie Knope. If I say it enough times, she'll be fine, right? I trust the writers completely, but her narrative has literally boiled down to choosing either a man or a job. There's ample room for this to go horribly wrong. But with the strong feminist bona fides of Amy Poehler behind Leslie, I am more confident than not that things will turn out ok.

3. Alicia and Kalinda Stay Awesome

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I don't know what this entails exactly. I do miss their drunken friendship, but I also enjoy their completely aggressive bitching at each other. For almost 2 years, they had one of the most realistic friendships between women that television has ever portrayed.

For the record, I do secretly believe that the real romantic through line of the entire show is Alicia-Kalinda. I don't meant that in a slash fiction kind of way, but I do find it telling that the biggest emotional beats in the show have thus far involved the two of them, their bonding and subsequent betrayals.

Whatever the writers do, they have to be careful. Alicia's not going to forgive Kalinda so quickly, and how Kalinda responds will be key to the rebuilding or utter destruction of their relationship.

What are your wishes? And before the clowns take over the room, no, you cannot wish for more wishes.

Doctor Who: God Complex, aka The Characters Un-Complex

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In which the writer, Toby Whithouse, borrows from one terrible Classic Who episode and one very good one...

Which is fitting because I don't know how an episode can be simultaneously so wonderful and so terrible. It has become abundantly clear that the writers have been spinning their wheels until they could get rid of the Ponds, and though I'm sad to say it, it has happened not a moment too soon.

We would all have been better off if Moffat hadn't decided that River was the daughter of the Ponds. That revelation has given no narrative payoff whatsoever, and has only served to make the Ponds seem unlikeable and irresponsible.

I won't be sorry to see them again, but I won't care particularly about them one way or another. Even my deep love for Rory Pond will not save what's happened to Amy.

Well, La-Di-Da

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"How can you be excited about a rubbish hotel on a rubbish bit of Earth?" Goodbye Amy Pond. You will absolutely not be missed, not with a worldview like that.

On the one hand, it was gratifying to know that the writers not only recognized how weak a character Amy has become but actually wrote that into the episode:

"Oh, you're good. Oh, she's good. Amy, with regret, you're fired."

Although, with that statement, I knew that shiny new Person of Color was dead (Rule #214: You can be animal, vegetable or mineral, but if you're colored and you aren't a recurring character, you're toast).

On the other hand, Amy Pond has never been less likeable. When the Doctor had an emotional response to the death of someone he liked and respected, she shook her head!

You watched a real person die, and die bravely. SAY SOMETHING!

It's fine for Rory to show no reaction. He already knew that Rita would die. Check out the look of hate he gives the Doctor when he realizes the Doctor has drawn his love into yet another life-threatening situation:

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He's very aware that they're not just daytripping through time and space, even when Amy isn't. And when the Doctor pointed out the past tense of Rory's statement, we know that he's already decided to leave, that he's checked out from the adventuring.

Breaking the Faith

I'm not just harping on about the writers' poor characterization of Amy because it's fun (though it very much is). It has created a serious narrative problem in this episode: it was far too easy to disabuse Amy of her faith in the Doctor.

Think about how that faith came about.

He showed up in her room for five minutes, and that was it. Then she waited for 14(?) years. In that time, she developed a near-psychopathic obsession with him. So how can he suddenly just reason her out of it? Of course he can talk sense to young Amy, she hasn't been damaged yet. But our Amy would need more than words to destroy her faith in the Doctor, even for a moment. As the previous episode demonstrated, it took decades of believing herself to be abandoned in a medical facility for that to happen!

Watch this scene from Curse of Fenric, a near identical moment when the Doctor must break Ace's faith in him to defeat Fenric and save their lives:

See that? The stakes are real. Ace's belief in the Doctor is built on the fact that he sees her for something more than what she sees in herself. He had to specifically challenge that. And most importantly? Even when she finds out he was lying, she's still angry.

Amy just wants to...carry on doing exactly the same thing. If they're leaving anyway, she could have expressed an actual desire to leave, rather than being dropped off unceremoniously. The Doctor sees her as a child that needs to be tended to, and he's right.

People who actually experience a loss of faith don't tend to be smiley afterwards. Whithouse was clearly trying to make some statement about faith, but its exploration was utterly shallow.

"Forget your faith in me."

"Ok! Cause faith is a switch you can flip."

"Our anthem is glory to...[insert name here]."

When the Doctor tells her that now she must be Amy Williams, I had the unhappy realization that he is exactly right: Amy has no conception of herself apart from the men she aligns herself with. I can't be upset with the Doctor for pointing that out, since the writers haven't included anything in the show to contradict that.

I had high hopes that this show would contradict the long-standing trope that women don't have stories to tell after they get married, but no. Post-marriage Amy behaves like that has completed her life, that there's nothing more she could want or have. Not even a baby. Not a career, not vagabondism, not a quiet shop selling peanuts in Mexico, nothing.

Why does Rory have no faith? Isn't it abundantly clear that he believes in Amy? Or maybe he doesn't anymore, which would be a nasty though unsurprising (and not OOC) turn for Rory to take, given that he just saw an Amy die, an Amy he believed to be the real Amy. Not for the first time, the Doctor sends the companion off with a character who might well come to hate her.

The Doctor's Agenda

The director of the episode went completely nuts with the angles, drawing shots from Orson Welles and Fritz Lang, but he did make one inspired choice: flipping from young Amy to old Amy in the Doctor's eyes.

Of course the Doctor simultaneously sees his companions as themselves and their even younger selves (to him, humans must permanently resemble fetuses, after all). He feels guilty about disappointing that young girl, the same way that parents feel weirdly disappointed when their children find out Santa Claus isn't real (you created the lie in the first place, you assholes!).

OTHER

-Can we stop with the running around corridors? The classic series typically had four episodes of 30 minutes each, and usually needed a bit of padding to keep the budget down. There's no excuse in 42 minute episodes, and this is the third episode in as many weeks with pointless scenes of wandering around.

-When Rory makes jokes about being a henpecked husband, there's no evidence whatsoever that Amy is so commanding anymore, so it just feels like cheap jokes that are in the script for the sake of...cheap humor.

-Can't wait to find out who the new companions will be! Will we finally get River in the Tardis?

-I'll be back with a non-Pond centric analysis later in the week (I had to cut so much material from this post, I have 4 full posts ready to go!)

And the biggest question of all: what's behind door #11?

Oncoming Emmy Predictions

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Everyone else is doing it, so why can't I? Read on for my choice of who should win, and who I think will win. The Emmy's don't have a history of awarding left-field candidates, but they may yet surprise us! I'm only doing the main awards here, as I've seen most all of the shows, unlike in the supporting categories.

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(this image courtesy of: http://maddevelopment.tumblr.com/, a mash-up of Mad Men and Arrested Development. Tread carefully, for you might never leave)

BEST DRAMA SERIES

  • Mad Men
  • Boardwalk Empire
  • Game of Thrones
  • The Good Wife
  • Friday Night Lights
  • Dexter

SHOULD WIN: I have not seen Friday Night Lights (I know, I'm sorry), but of the five, I do think The Good Wife was most consistently good. Which is frankly incredible given that it had the full 23 episodes, and the rest had 12, and still managed to have clunkers within the 12.

WILL WIN: Boardwalk Empire. Mad Men has had a long streak of winning, and I bet they'll be looking to interrupt that. I think The Good Wife is a little too edgy for the Emmy's (a woman enjoying receiving oral sex? Bisexual investigators? The horror!) Also, I think all the backstage drama at AMC has led to a serious loss of goodwill for Matthew Weiner and Mad Men, which may weaken it across the board.

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BEST COMEDY SERIES

  • Modern Family
  • 30 Rock
  • Glee
  • Parks and Recreation
  • The Office
  • The Big Bang Theory

SHOULD WIN: Parks and Recreation. Duh. Every episode was wonderful and hilarious. Can you say that of any of the other shows?

WILL WIN: Modern Family. I'm ok with that. I had thought while watching, that season 2 wasn't as good as season 1, but upon rewatch it was hysterical (watching Phil wrestle with his manliness through a smoke alarm is a comedic highlight of the year). If Glee wins this, I am cutting my hair off. Yes, it is luscious and long, but it will be gone. And I might stab myself in the face.

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LEAD ACTRESS: DRAMA

  • Kathy Bates Harry’s Law for “Innocent Man”
  • Connie Britton Friday Night Lights for “Always”
  • Mireille Enos The Killing for “Missing”
  • Mariska Hargitay Law and Order: Special Victims Unit for “Rescue”
  • Julianna Margulies The Good Wife for “In Sickness”
  • Elizabeth Moss Mad Men for “The Suitcase”

SHOULD WIN: Julianna Margulies. There's no question that this was the superior performance. All the actresses nominated are deserving (with the exception of Kathy Bates. WTF?), but there's a difference between deserving and exemplary.

WILL WIN: Julianna Margulies. She anchored a big, exciting year in a big, exciting show. There's a possibility that Elizabeth Moss will sneak in, but given her reduced role on Mad Men this year, winning lead actress would not only be unfair but ridiculous (I know, I know ridiculousness never stopped anything before).

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LEAD ACTRESS: COMEDY

  • Edie Falco: Nurse Jackie for “Rat Falls”
  • Tina Fey: 30 Rock for “Double-Edged Sword”
  • Laura Linney: The Big C for “Pilot”
  • Melissa McCarthy: Mike and Molly for “First Date”
  • Martha Plimpton: Raising Hope “Say Cheese”
  • Amy Poehler: Parks and Recreation “Flu Season”

SHOULD WIN: Amy Poehler. She deserves any number of medals for consistently putting forward a hilarious performance on Parks and Recreation. She really is the heart of a very funny show. This season of 30 Rock has been just on the right side of dreadful, and may need a mercy killing soon.

WILL WIN: I wouldn't bet money in this category. There's a chance voters will reject the Showtime nominees as stars of shows that aren't really comedies, and if that happens, Amy Poehler will win. Otherwise, it's probably Laura Linney.

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LEAD ACTOR DRAMA, NOMINEES

  • Steve Buscemi Boardwalk Empire for “A Return to Normalcy”
  • Kyle Chandler Friday Night Lights for “Always”
  • Michael C. Hall Dexter for “Teenage Wasteland”
  • Jon Hamm Mad Men for “The Suitcase”
  • Hugh Laurie House for “After Hours”
  • Timothy Olyphant Justified for “Reckoning”

SHOULD WIN: I think a good case can be made for any of these actors apart from Hugh Laurie, who's clearly phoning it in at this point. But if you twisted my arm, I'd go for Steve Buscemi. The weirdest looking guy in the world, who somehow manages to come off as not only suave, but almost attractive.

WILL WIN: I bet it's Steve Buscemi. Critics seem split on Jon Hamm's performance this year, many of whom have said that he doesn't have the heft to carry off the increasingly more dramatic role of Don Draper. I don't agree necessarily, but I can see where they're coming from. There were more than a few "wtf" moments with Don in the last season, and not necessarily in a good way.

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LEAD ACTOR COMEDY, NOMINEES

  • Alec Baldwin 30 Rock for “Respawn”
  • Steve Carell The Office for “Goodbye, Michael”
  • Louis C. K. Louis for “Bully”
  • Johnny Galecki The Big Bang Theory for “The Benefactor Factor”
  • Matt LeBlanc Episodes for “Episode 107”
  • Jim Parsons The Big Bang Theory for “The Agreement Dissection”

SHOULD WIN: If we're judging purely on quality, then it has to be Louis C.K. But I think Steve Carell deserves a nostalgia win for all the great work he's done on The Office. Even this year, when the show clearly demonstrated its fatigue, he was still awesome as Michael Scott.

WILL WIN: Again, no bets here. I think I'd be happy if Carell, Louis or Jim Parsons won. Even Matt LeBlanc was superb as an evil version of himself in Episodes. But please, for the love of god, stop giving 30 Rock awards for anything. It deserved many in its first two seasons, but since then it's been an uneven train-wreck.

What do you guys think? Agree or disagree?

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