Friday, February 3rd, 2023

We were watching the first episode of “The Last of Us” when my mom texted me. She was housebound because she’d been hit by the same deep freeze that was keeping all us inside, but for her it was worse: she lives in Arkansas where the road maintenance crews don’t go out to salt or sand the roads, so she was stuck at the end of her cul-de-sac, unable to go anywhere. We stayed in just because we didn’t like getting cold.

So she told me about the books she was reading and I told her about the zombie show we were watching. “The funny thing about zombie movies,” I texted her, “is that you have to pretend that everybody in the movie has never seen a zombie movie.”

“I have never seen a zombie movie,” she texted back, “and I hope I never do.”

So I guess it is possible, then, that in a zombie apocalypse there might be one or two people who didn’t realize what was going on. I stand corrected.

improbable | 5:57 am CST
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Wednesday, January 18th, 2023

We’re binge-watching the Showtime thriller crime series “Your Honor” and if you haven’t seen it yet stop reading right now because I’m going to spoil it in a big way.

The show stars Bryan Cranston as Michael Desiato, a judge in New Orleans, and Hunter Doohan as Adam, his son. Adam crashes his car into Benjamin Wadsworth playing the part of Rocco Baxter, the son of a crime boss. Don’t get too attached to him, he dies a grisly death in the first episode. When Adam tells Michael what happened, Michael takes Adam downtown with the intention of turning him over to the police, but when Michael learns that his son has killed the son of the crime boss, he slinks out of the precinct unnoticed and the craziness begins.

I was sort of into this show for the first five or six episodes. The first two episodes were about how Michael covered up the crime, how Adam suffered a full-blown crisis of conscience, and the next few episodes were about how the cover-up began to fall apart, but the last episode we watched last night was totally looney toons. To say they lost me is an understatement. In the final scenes, I was rooting for the bad guys, although to be absolutely fair by the end of the episode it was clear that Michael is just as awful as the mob boss he’s hiding from, and Adam is an apple that hasn’t fallen all that far from the tree.

While Adam was unraveling emotionally after killing Rocco, he attended a memorial for Rocco where he met Fia, Rocco’s sister. The next day, Adam “accidentally” ran into Fia in a coffee shop. He’s been stalking her on social media so it doesn’t feel all that accidental. She sat down with him and they began to chat. Adam told Fia his mother had been murdered. Fia told Adam her brother had been murdered. They bonded over their mutually shared anguish and left the cafe to spend the day together. They had good chemistry and looked adorable with each other. It was a really sweet date, or would have been if Adam hadn’t had to keep dodging the fact that he was the monster who ran over Fia’s brother and left him to die.

Later that night as Michael makes a sandwich, he tells Adam the heartwarming story of how me met Adam’s mother. Sorry, not heartwarming. I meant to say psychopathic. These two are psychopaths. Adam killed Rocco. He was spectacularly broken up about it until he started dating Rocco’s sister after e-stalking her. Now his heart is healed and he’s in love. Or something similarly warped. Meanwhile his dad, Michael, has done such a half-assed job of covering up Adam’s involvement in the murder that Rocco’s mob boss of a father is killing off everyone he thinks is responsible. And Michael knows it. But he’s in the kitchen telling his son stories of romance and eternal love. Totally psycho.

So when Rocco’s father, the mob boss, thought he had it figured out that Michael killed Rocco (and Michael let him think that) I wasn’t all that worried that Michael was going to get a bullet in the brain. I knew that wasn’t going to happen, of course, because there were four more episodes to go and the series has been renewed for a second season, so they weren’t going to kill off the star of the show. But I was kind of hoping they would anyway. And a little disappointed that they didn’t. Oh well.

In the two episodes we watched tonight, Adam is still dating Fia and they still look kind of cute together, but still in a really creepy way because Fia keeps mentioning her dead brother and Adam keeps tap-dancing around it by mentioning his dead mother. How does he think this is going to end? Happily ever after? Best-case scenario (for him) she never finds out until he’s telling his own “how I met your mother” story to their kids and it slips out that he ran her brother down in the street. Oopsie.

All that said, Bryan Cranston has gotten pretty good at playing a psychopathic monster. If you liked him in “Breaking Bad” you’ll like him in this. Same character, really.

your honor | 9:28 pm CST
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Thursday, December 8th, 2022

Kate Hudson acquitted herself admirably on Hot Ones. See for yourself:

On a related note: I was today years old when I learned that Kate Hudson’s mother is Goldie Hawn, and her father is Bill Hudson. I, who came of age in the 70s, was not only familiar with Goldie from Rowen & Martin’s Laugh-In, but was also lucky enough to experience The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show.

hudsons | 8:36 pm CST
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Saturday, November 19th, 2022

Every time I start a new episode of Star Trek Prodigy, that little button in the lower right corner of the screen that says “Skip Intro” pops up and every time I think to myself, “Skip intro? Are you kidding? This is the best part of the show!”

Star Trek Prodigy is a Nickelodeon creation, so it’s written more for kids than adults, but I enjoy it quite a lot even so. I mean, it isn’t any hokier than the original series by a long shot. Together with Star Trek: Lower Decks (both stream on Amazon Prime), it’s one of the two best Star Trek shows in the franchise, if you ask me.

prodigy | 8:49 am CST
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Sunday, November 13th, 2022

And now, some inspirational words from comedian Tom Papa:

“I don’t know why we don’t feel like we’re doing great. You work hard, you do all the stuff you’re supposed to be doing. You’re doing your best and still, you feel like it’s not enough. I think it’s social media. Before social media, I thought I was kicking ass. Now every time I open my phone someone’s in my face. ‘Are you killing it today? Are you living your best life?’ No, I’m not. Because that’s not normal. You know what’s normal? How you feel right now. Right now in your funny little gassy bodies. A little achy, a little tired, light-headed, taking deep breaths so you don’t pass out in front of your friends, worried about your bills, worried about how you’re getting home, worried about that thing you found on your ass. That’s normal.

“And it’s exhausting. And that’s normal, too. Being tired, which I know you are, all the time, that’s normal. You don’t need a five-hour energy drink, you need to lay down once in a while. But we beat ourselves up about it all the time, right? All my friends: ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Two o’clock in the afternoon, every day, I get so tired. What’s wrong with me?’ Nothing. Nothing. You woke up in the dark, went to a job you don’t enjoy, already put in five hours, they gave you twenty minutes for lunch, and now you need a nap. And they won’t let you, so you’ve got to hide in the bathroom stall from your co-workers with your feet up and close your eyes for ten seconds so maybe you’ll get through the god-damned day.

“You’re doing fine.”

Tom Papa’s set “You’re Doing Great!” is on Netflix and it’s well worth one hour of your time.

great | 8:14 am CST
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Sunday, August 15th, 2021

All the men: (spit up blood, drop dead)
All the women: The men are all gone! Let’s fight!
President’s aide: Madam President, power plants will start to shut down.
President: Wait, aren’t there some, y’know, skilled women who can run those?
Woman: People are gonna have to pick a side.
Other Woman: Why?
Woman: So we can descend into barbarism and turn the world into a burning hellscape.
Other Woman: Wasn’t that the men’s thing, though? I mean, we don’t have to fill every niche they left, do we?
Woman: You are reproductively interesting.
Last Man: Could you please rephrase that so it doesn’t sound like you’re going to keep me alive just to harvest my sperm?
Woman: I probably should have, yeah. Oopsie. (shoots him with tranquilizer dart)

all the single ladies | 4:23 pm CST
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Monday, October 26th, 2020

There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where everybody on the Enterprise disappears by ones and twos at first, then dozens and hundreds at a time, until only Doctor Crusher is left. She tries to get Jean-Luc, Will Riker and the rest to help her figure out what’s happening, and they do, at first, but they all have a look in their eye like they think she’s cuckoo bananapants.

Turns out she’s trapped in a warp bubble her son Wesley made accidentally while she was visiting him in the engine room. Wesley was tweaking the warp engines “to increase their efficiency” when there was a flash of light and the warp bubble collapsed. 

“What was that?” Wesley asks Geordi, the chief engineer. “That shouldn’t have happened.” Georgi and Wesley share concerned looks, but the Captain is in a hurry to leave space dock, so they shrug it off. Then Wesley looks around for his mom, who was standing RIGHT THERE a few seconds ago. He has a puzzled look on his face. He wanders away down the corridor, puzzled. It’s puzzling. 

I still love Star Trek TNG, but it will never not bug me that Wesley and Geordi and Doctor Crusher shrug their shoulders when weird shit happens even though every single episode is not only about weird shit happening to them but IT IS ALWAYS SIGNIFICANT. They’ve been tootling around in outer space for years! I would expect them to know better than to shrug it off.

But no. Even thought Geordi and Wesley are totally weirded out by the flash of light, and even though Wesley is clearly concerned that his mother has disappeared, they both still shrug their shoulders and pretend everything’s normal. My warp bubble went poof and my mom disappeared! Oh well, the captain says it’s time to pull out of space dock. Let’s not tell him some weird shit just went down. 

Sorry, I’m being way too hard on them. They must’ve gone to the captain eventually because in Act Three Wesley and Geordi are back in the engine room creating a warp bubble meant to suck Doctor Crusher out of her warp bubble like a Hoover vacuum cleaner, but they can’t quite make it work. But props to them for trying.

Meanwhile, Doctor Crusher has not only figured out she’s in a warp bubble but also that the warp bubble is collapsing and chewing off parts of the Enterprise in the process, so she’s got to get out of it ASAP. She doesn’t know how to do that, maybe because that’s not something they teach in medical school, but she does manage to figure out that Wesley and Geordi are trying to get her out, and she runs down to the engine room and literally dives through the portal into reality at the last possible moment before her warp bubble collapses on her, because nobody in Star Trek ever gets anything done until they’re literally on their last breath.  

It’s not one of my favorite episodes for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s an episode that  seems to exist only so they can re-introduce a character known mysteriously as The Traveler, an alien of unknown origin who bebops around the universe using the power of his mind. The Traveler tells Wesley in this episode he can do this, too. Wesley doesn’t have much to say about this news which, to be fair, is not a completely unrealistic reaction, given that it’s a lot to process. The Captain, Doctor Crusher, and Geordi likewise seem underwhelmed. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WESLEY HAS A SUPER-POWER! WHY IS EVERYONE YAWNING? 

Another thing I don’t like about this episode is the way everybody treats Doctor Crusher. They search the Enterprise with all due urgency after she reports the first missing person, but they seem to be humoring her while they’re doing it, and each time she reports more missing people they get progressively more annoyed by her. I hate to sound like a stuck record, but this is a crew which has seen some of the weirdest shit the galaxy can throw at them but, for some reason, they believe her less and less as the episode plays out, instead of more and more. In the end they’re rolling their eyes and sighing every so tiredly when she shows up to report more missing people. 

(This is even more bizarre after The Traveler explains that Doctor Crusher’s alternate reality in the warp bubble is a product of her own thoughts. If that’s true, why does everybody disbelieve her? She doesn’t exactly have any confidence issues when it comes to her standing among the crew. They should all be as driven to figure out what’s going on as she is.) 

And finally, in the opening scene when Wesley is creating the warp bubble that will flash his mom into non-existence, Geordi enters the engine room and barks at him, “Wes, your time for the experiment is over! I want my warp engine back now!” Wes answers, “Almost done, commander,” to which Geordi responds, “Almost isn’t good enough! Do you want to be the one to explain to the captain when he says engage and we just sit here?”

Why is Geordi being such a hardass? If Wesley took the warp engines off-line, I’m pretty sure he had to get the captain’s permission to do it. You don’t just waltz into the engine room and announce, “I’ve got some experiments to run and oh I’ll have to disconnect the main source of propulsion.” (Not to mention power for life support, lights and everything else.) 

I’m also pretty sure that Wesley wasn’t given carte blanche when it came to how much time he got for his experiment. You think the captain said, “Oh, I don’t want to put you under any unnecessary pressure. Just let us know when your experiment’s done. I’ve got all day.” I kind of doubt it went down like that. The only way the captain would’ve let Wesley take the engines off-line was if Wesley was duty-bound to have them back on-line at a certain time. 

And hey Geordi, Wesley works on the bridge, right under the captain’s nose! He’s well aware he’ll wind up in a great big hurt locker if his experiment runs over time and the engines go *fart noise* when the helmsman hits the gas. So lighten up, why don’t you? 

Before wrapping this up, there were these two weird glitches in continuity that nagged at me: 

Doctor Crusher goes to the transporter room to meet her friend. He beams aboard. In the very next scene, dozens of people are walking across a gangway to board the Enterprise. That seems, well, weird. 

In the final act Doctor Crusher is on the bridge, watching a display that shows the warp bubble tearing off chunks of the Enterprise as it collapses. The edge of the warp bubble quickly gobbles up half of the saucer section right before her eyes, including the front of the bridge. Yet somehow she has time to say a few more lines before leaving the bridge, and not in much of a hurry. 

STTNG rewatch – Remember Me | 5:27 pm CST
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Friday, October 2nd, 2020

“Welcome to Star Fleet!”

“Thanks! I’m really looking forward to boldly going to strange, new worlds and doing lots of science and adventure!”

“You’ll have to wear a uniform.”

“I’m okay with that.”

“Here you go!”

“Where’s the rest of it?”

“What do you mean? That’s it.”

“This is a cocktail dress.”

“That’s the official Star Fleet uniform for women.”

“A cocktail dress?”

“It’s a combination tunic and skirt.”

“This isn’t a skirt, it’s a hand towel.”

“That’s why it comes with a pair of hot pants.”

“So my butt’s not popping out all the time?”


“And what do the men wear?”

“Trousers and a pullover.”

“Why not a toga?”

“That wouldn’t be very practical, would it?”

“A cocktail dress is practical?”

“It’s easy to wear. Understated. It doesn’t take up a lot of room in your wardrobe.”

“You’re not selling this as well as you think you are.”

“Look, do you want to be in Star Fleet or don’t you?”

“Fine, whatever. Does it at least come with a wrap or a stole or something to keep me warm?”

“Sorry, no. The captain likes to keep it simple.”

“Wait, which captain? Does this have anything to do with Kirk?”

“As a matter of fact, it does. One of his yeomen came up with it.”

“Well that just figures.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s kind of an open secret that Captain Behind-Pincher is one of the grabbiest officers in Star Fleet.”

“I don’t think there’s any cause for that kind of talk.”

“Sure you don’t. The horniest captain in Star Fleet isn’t making eye tracks all over your butt.”

short skirt long racket | 7:02 pm CST
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Thursday, June 25th, 2020

Today’s episode of “A Closer Look” starts off with a single copy of “The Thorn Birds:”

A few minutes later, two more books have been added to the stack:

  • “The Thorn Birds 3: Things Be Getting Tornier!”
  • “The Thorn Birds 2: More Thorns”

The stack gets a little higher in the next scene with an all-anagram stack of “The Thorn Birds,” including:

  • “The Borsht Rind”
  • “The Third Borns”
  • “The North Birds”

Then the stack becomes a lollapalooza of goofy free-association versions of “The Thorn Birds:”

  • “The Born Turds”
  • “The Torn Shirts”
  • “The Sworn Words”
  • “The Thin Boards”
  • “The Shorn Brads”
  • “The Corn Nerds”

And finally, the stack turns into a random pile of books we’ve seen in previous episodes, including:

  • “The Thowd in the Bone”
  • “A Blockwork Thornge”
  • “198Thourn”
  • “The Picture of Thornian Bray”
  • “The Thord of the Rings”
  • “Thorntnoy’s Complaint”
thorn birds 6-25-20 | 12:01 pm CST
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Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

Today’s episode of “A Closer Look” starts off with a stack of books on the end table:

  • A Clockwork Orange
  • The Sword in the Stone
  • 1984
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • The Thorn Birds

A few minutes later, “A Clockwork Orange” has been transformed into “A Clockwork Thornge.”

After that, “The Sword in the Stone” becomes “The Thowd in the Bone”

Then “1984” becomes “198Thourn”

And finally, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” becomes “The Picture of Thronian Bray.”

thorn birds 6-24-20 | 11:50 am CST
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Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Today’s episode of “A Closer Look” starts off with a single copy of “The Thorn Birds” on the end table:

In the next scene, a copy of “The Bourne Identity” appears on top:

Next, “The Thorn Birds” and “The Bourne Identity” seem to meld into a single copy of “The Thourne Identity.”

And finally, “The Torn Birds” reappears:

thorn birds 6-22-20 | 12:03 pm CST
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Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

I finally found a reality show I like. Not that I was looking for one. I gave up on reality shows almost as soon as they became a thing. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that stiff, self-conscious drama played by terrible actors working with practically no plot almost always added up to a show I did not want to spend more than five minutes on.

Many moons later, I’m a YouTube junkie, and it started with guys who pull junker cars out of garages that are scheduled for demolition, take them back to their shop and fix them up (the cars, not the demolished garages). The guy who got me hooked regularly drags home a Volkswagen that’s been sitting in a garage for thirty years, dumps a little oil in the crankcase, connects a spare battery and fires it right up. I binge-watched his videos for weeks. It’s hard to explain why.

I can’t remember how I crossed over from that kind of fix-up video to boat building, but however it happened, I ended up on a series of videos from Leo Sampson, who rescued a historically significant wooden boat from being broken up, shored it up in the backyard of a friend’s house and started work on restoring it. He thought he’d be able to save a lot of the boat, but what he ended up doing was tearing it completely apart and rebuilding it from the ground up. (Almost. If I recall correctly, the original ballast keel is still on the ground beneath the completely rebuilt hull.) What made it fascinating to me was how detailed his videos were and how clearly and concisely he explained what he was doing. It’s like “This Old House” but for wooden boats. I’m a complete nerd for this kind of stuff.

I tried watching several other video series about building wooden boats, but none were as interesting to me as Leo’s were. He had a special knack for shooting just the right video, putting it together in just the right way to tell a story, and then narrating the story in a way that was really engaging to me. He’s also got wicked good taste in music, which surprisingly makes the videos so much more enjoyable.

While I was searching for and watching other videos about building wooden boats, I also watched videos about sailing boats. There are a metric butt-ton of these and they fascinated the hell out of me for a while because apparently there are viewers who will pay to watch these videos! Yes! A typical video will feature a young couple who sold their house and their car and bought a boat, which they plan to sail around the world. You can like and subscribe the videos, which somehow makes money for them, and you can sign up to send them money regularly through a service like Patreon, and who wouldn’t want to throw twenty bucks a month to a couple in their twenties so they can sail to Tahiti and drink beers on the beach?

*raises hand*

Sorry. Not going to pitch in for gas money if I’m not going along for the ride.

(Full disclosure: I’m pitching in for Leo’s boat because that guy’s got moxie. Watch the first half-dozen videos in the series and try to tell me he doesn’t.)

I’ve given up watching most videos about sailing, but there’s one series I can’t tear myself away from: It’s called “Sailing Uma” and features, unsurprisingly, a young couple, Dan and Kika, and they – again, unsurprisingly – sold practically all their worldly possessions, bought a boat and sailed it across the Atlantic Ocean. What makes their story compelling is that, like Leo, they have a knack for creating an interesting video journal of their journey. They know how to tell a story. They can compose a shot and edit the shots together like the pros. And they are engaging and have great chemistry together that comes across well on the screen. In short, not only are their sailing videos are more fun to watch than any others I have seen, I even look forward to them.

a pleasant distraction | 5:36 am CST
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Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

Tim tipped us off to a show he watches on You Tube called Hot Ones. In it, Sean Evans interviews celebrities while they eat hot wings that get hotter as the show goes on. Some of the celebrities bail out before they get to the hottest wings, earning themselves a place on the Hot Ones Wall of Shame. Others press on to the very end even while they regret every moment of it. A few endure the experience with a calm stoicism that is truly impressive to watch.

We had our own Hot Ones challenge last night, using the lineup of hot sauces the show featured in Season Nine. Well, okay, not the entire lineup. I ordered the first five sauces because, while I enjoy spicy foods, I wasn’t entirely sure I could endure the whole lineup of ten sauces, so I decided to try the bottom half to see just how hot they got.

I like a little hot sauce on my eggs and had been dabbing them with The Classic, which has lately been the first hot sauce in the Hot Ones lineup. It’s tasty and not quite as hot as Cholula, which is the hot sauce I had been dressing my eggs with because that’s what the waitress brings me when I ask for hot sauce in a restaurant. I have to say I favor The Classic over Cholula because I think The Classic is tastier and I like that I can put more of it on my eggs because it doesn’t set my mouth on fire.

I ordered The Classic from Heatonist, a store in New York, which sells most of the sauces seen on Hot Ones, and while I was on their web site I also ordered the bottom half of the lineup so we could do our own home-grown Hot Ones challenge one day. Well, that day was yesterday after dinner while Tim was visiting. B heated up some chicken nuggets and we dunked them in a dab of each of the sauces, working our way up to number five. All of them are just delicious and even the hottest one, Los Calientes, was not quite as hot as some of the Indian food we get for take-out, although all were respectably spicy.

Then, there was Da Bomb, the famously superhot hot sauce that takes down all but the most seasoned guests on Hot Ones. I think probably the best response any of the Hot Ones guests had to Da Bomb was best voiced by Trevor Noah: “It’s just pain! What? Why? This is not ‘da bomb,’ this is trash.” (His complete thoughts on Da Bomb start at 14:10 and they’re hilarious.)

I never intended to ever try Da Bomb because almost all of the guests on Hot Ones were virtually unanimous in their condemnation of it, but My Darling B bought a bottle of it when we first started watching the show and she dug it out of wherever she was hiding it and put it on the table with the rest of the hot sauces last night. It was practically a double-dog dare. I’m a great big chicken who can back away from a double-dog dare with no regrets, but I was thinking the other sauces were tolerable; how much hotter could Da Bomb really be?

Imagine filling your mouth with gasoline, then setting it on fire with a flame thrower, then instead of putting the fire out you hit yourself in the mouth with a red-hot poker while you let your face burn. That would be almost as hot as eating something with Da Bomb on it. I have never eaten anything that hot before and with any luck, I never will again. It didn’t only burn my mouth, it cranked up my heart rate, gave me the shivers, and sent my brain into orbit. I’m getting a little dizzy just recalling how hot it was. I felt the way Tom Arnold looked by the end of his Hot Ones interview. At the peak of Da Bomb’s spiciness, I had to drink ice water constantly just to keep my head from exploding. I would slurp up a mouthful, slosh it around until it was a little warmer than ice, swallow, slurp up more, slosh, swallow, et cetera. I did that through three pint glasses of ice water and I only stopped at three pints because I wasn’t sure I could hold any more.

My Darling B, the cocky little wench, had to immediately spit out her mouthful of Da Bomb and for a few harrowing moments she was sure she was going to throw up. “It tasted the way natural gas smells,” she very accurately described it.

Would I do it again? Hell no. I’m sorry I did at all. Gonna try some of the other hotter sauces featured on the show, but I’ll never try Da Bomb again. I don’t know how Sean Evans eats that crap every week.

Just FYI, we grabbed things from all over the kitchen looking for an antidote to Da Bomb and it turned out that sucking on orange wedges helped a lot. I ate the wedges because the pulpiness seemed to help mop the fiery heat off my tongue as I chewed them up.

hot ones | 11:11 am CST
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Saturday, October 20th, 2018

One of my favorite ways to wind down at the end of the day is to watch YouTube videos of Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show, Stephen Colbert’s The Tonight Show, and Seth Meyers’s The Late Show. All the shows post highlights of the previous night’s show the next day, so I can catch up on all three in about an hour; longer, if they have a guest interview I’m interested in (normally, I’m not).

Although our flat-screen TV is supposed to be a “smart TV,” it’s pretty stupid until it logs in to our home wifi network, which normally takes a couple minutes. While it’s doing that, I surf the broadcast television channels to see what’s on. It’s almost all pretty bad reruns of the crappy TV I used to watch as a kid, including the original Star Trek television show with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and the rest of the crew. Over a 3-year period they made 79 episodes of this show, and I’ve seen each and every one of them so many times that I usually know which one I’m watching within seconds of changing the channel, no matter which scene is playing.

The other night the scene was Kirk and his crew on the bridge, but Kirk was the only one moving; everybody else was still as a statue. Ah-hah! This is the episode (“Wink Of An Eye”) where the Enterprise responds to a distress call from the Scalosians, a race of beings who move so fast they cannot be perceived by the human eye! Which is kind of a cool premise, if you don’t think about it too much. I mean, even if they can move as fast as a bullet, they spend a lot of their time in this episode just standing around talking. So even though they can move too fast to be seen, you’d think someone would notice them when they stand still.

At one point, though, the pretty girl (there’s always a pretty girl, because Kirk) steps out of the way of a phaser beam, which crawls through the air at sloth-like speed. It gives her a really awesome-looking superpower but it means she can move faster than light, assuming phaser beams move at the speed of light. (I have no clue what a “phaser” is, but it rhymes with “laser” so I think we all assumed the pretty glowing beams from phasers were moving at the speed of light, didn’t we?) If these beings are moving faster than the speed of light, or even if they move at the speed of light, then how do they talk to one another? Sound moves at a pretty slow speed, a lot slower than light, slower than a bullet, even. If one of them said something to another one of them, it would take ages for the sound to move from the talker to the listener. And yet they yak yak yak at each other without having to wait around for the sound to move between them, somehow.

The pretty girl, called Deela, takes Kirk prisoner by slipping a mickey into his coffee that alters his metabolism, making him move as fast as her. They smooch a couple times right there on the bridge in front of everybody (because Kirk), there’s some yadda yadda yadda from the pretty girl to explain what’s going on, and finally Kirk storms off to see what he can to to fight back against these invaders from outer space. My question: How the hell does Kirk get off the bridge? The only door opens to the elevator, which they call a “turbolift” because, I guess, it moves pretty fast, but not as fast as a bullet, so not nearly fast enough to get Kirk (or Deela, for that matter) off the bridge before he croaks from old age. He must have used the secret back stairway that’s never been shown in any episode before.

Kirk confronts the other super-fast beings, they fight (because Kirk), there’s some more yadda yadda to explain what’s going on, and then Kirk and Deela do it. You never see them do it, thank goodness, you only see them smooching just before, then they cut away to another scene, and when they cut back, Kirk is pulling on his boots and Deela is fixing her hair. And I’m sorry to put this image in your head, but if they’re moving faster than bullets, how do they not suffer deadly blistering from the friction of rubbing against one another? Their heads should be literally bursting into flame just from the smooching. Well, they should all be literally incinerated just by walking through the air. They would be like meteors streaking through the atmosphere. One step forward at that speed and POOF! They would never get close enough to smooch.

There’s a lot more that’s wrong with this episode, but I’ve already written way too much about it. It’s just Star Trek, after all. You’re supposed to just sit back and enjoy it. But damn.

fast forward | 2:39 pm CST
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Sunday, January 21st, 2018

I’m about halfway through Monty Python Speaks, a sort of oral history of the show, the movies, and everything else Python.  I happened to find a copy while I was at the library trying to convince the desk clerk I returned the copy of The Geek Feminist Manifesto that I checked out last year.  While she was on the phone talking to the branch that alleged I kept the copy for myself, I wandered over to the shelf of staff picks and my eye was immediately drawn to the obviously Gilliam-influenced cover art of the book, flipped it open, and started reading about how the Python boys got started in comedy, how they got together for the series, how they wrote material, how they filmed it and, eventually, how they started to get on one another’s nerves.

I’m a total geek for this stuff.  I took the book home and I’ve been reading it almost non-stop ever since.  Right away, an odd thing happened: I was reading about how they developed characters for the sketches and they kept on naming a character I couldn’t recall ever hearing about.  I’m a pretty hardcore Python fan.  I can’t recite whole shows from memory any longer (I could when I was a teenager, though), but I can tell you all about the sketch you’re going to see if you show me the first five seconds of the video.  Yet somehow I couldn’t recall this Mr. Neutron guy they kept mentioning, so I searched the internet and of course I got my choice of about ten thousand videos to watch.  It was an episode from Monty Python Season 4 I couldn’t recall ever seeing.  It kind of rocked my world.  I was so sure I’d seen them all.  So now I’ll have to start at the beginning and watch them all.  I’m going to get very little sleep this next week.

Mr Neutron | 6:13 pm CST
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Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Watching this made me so happy.

Just watch | 6:45 pm CST
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Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

We binge-watched the entire second season of Stranger Things last weekend, making us the two people in the whole nation who didn’t see it within the first twelve hours after it was released. Procrastination: it’s not just our middle name, it’s our mission in life!

Loved the second season and, I have to say, I was prepared for a let-down, because I the first season was so much fun that I didn’t see how they could pull off a second season as good as the first. Better Call Saul was the last one we watched that just kept getting better and better. It doesn’t happen that often.

That said, I’d be perfectly happy if they didn’t make another season, because this one tied up all the loose ends rather nicely (except that one in the icebox) and even gave us an (almost) happy ending.

I think my favorite scene was toward the end of the second to the last episode: The monsters are closing in. The kids are holed up at the Byers’ house with Hopper. Dusty whips out a Dungeons & Dragons manual to explain the hive mind of the monsters by describing how a character in the game works: “The mind flayer: It’s a monster from another dimenson.”

Hopper: “None of this is real. It’s a kid’s game.”

Dusty: “No, it’s a manual. And it’s not for kids. And unless you know something that we don’t, this is the best metaphor —”

Lucas: “Analogy.”

Dusty: “Analogy.” Beat. “THAT’S what you’re worried about?”

Of course that would be my favorite scene.

Most disappointing scene: The one that never happened, when one of the dog-monsters ate Max’s douchebag brother. Was so waiting for that scene.

Second most favorite scene: Dusty goes to the Wheeler’s house to look for Mike, has this conversation with Mike’s dad at the door:

Dusty: “Is Mike here?”

Dad: “No.”

Dusty: “Where the hell is he?”

Dad: “Will’s”

Dusty: “What about Nancy?”

Dad: “Allie’s. Our children don’t live here, didn’t you know that?”

Dusty: “Seriously?”

Dad: “Am I done here?”

Dusty: “Son of a bitch.” (walks away shaking head) “You’re really no help at all, y’know that?”

I just realized the thing these two scenes have in common is Dusty, who happens to be my favorite character in the show.

And my favorite reaction in the show was from Lucas, after Max got her first look at one of the hounds from hell and asked him, “Are you sure that’s not a dog?” Such a perfect “Are You NUTS?” look he gave her.

Stranger Things | 6:30 am CST
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Saturday, December 19th, 2015

Spoiler Alert: I watched the ending of The Man In The High Castle last week, and it’s time to unload the various and sundry brain vomit that’s been building up inside me. And grump alert: I thought it could’ve been better.

In the last half-hour of the last episode, Frank wants to know what’s so damn important about these films that Jules is after, so they thread one into a conveniently handy projector (there’s always a projector around when they want to watch a film) and Frank sees himself being lined up with a bunch of Nazi resistance fighters and shot.

Up until this point, it hasn’t been clear whether the films are a record of a reality that had somehow crossed into the alternate timeline where Frank and Jules lived, or they are a propaganda stunt. If they were from another universe, cool. But for nine episodes there was no reason to believe they were anything but a fantasy spliced together in somebody’s garage for the hell of it. Why did we have to wait ten hours to learn that the films were somehow crossing over from our reality into Frank’s?

And what the hell is with Frank, anyway? His mind is blown when he seems himself shot in the film, but just a minute or so later he snaps back to being all mad and mopey about Jules and Joe. Dude! You just saw yourself in another universe! There’s no other plausible explanation! And you got shot! In! Another! UNIVERSE! Your girlfriend and her other boyfriend are not as big a deal as that!

And another thing: The resistance has been devoting practically all their time and effort to getting hold of these films. They don’t know why. They don’t even know what’s on the films. They just know they’re important, so they do everything they can to get them. The Nazi SS in New York is doing the same thing by planting a mole in the resistance to steal the films and pass them along to Hitler, who has a special interest in the films, we’re told. The resistance is getting the films for someone they know only as the man in the high castle, which turns out to be, Guess Who?

So if the resistance has already been maneuvered into getting the films and passing them along to Hitler, then why is the SS trying to take the films away from the resistance in order to give them to Hitler? Seems to me that the first item on the things to do list of the SS commander would be: Make sure nobody stops the resistance from getting those films to Hitler.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so hung up on the films. Maybe they were meant to be nothing more than a McGuffin, but it seems to me that the story doesn’t work that way. The films point the way to an alternate universe. That would make them, and every action related to them, very important. Where am I going wrong here?

film at eleven | 8:58 am CST
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Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Our latest guilty pleasure has been watching The Man In The High Castle, a television series streaming on Amazon video that was released just two or three weeks ago, so we’re almost keeping up with what other people are watching. The premise of the story is a pretty straightforward what-if that has made lots of money for dozens of writers: What would America look like if the Axis powers had won the second world war? This show has some pretty good-looking visuals to answer that question. They’ve obviously devoted a lot of brainpower to giving the streets of occupied American cities look foreign and retro. Wish they had saved some of that ingenuity to translating the story to the screen as well.

I’m not sure what the story is, to be frank. We’ve watched five episodes and so far, about all I know is that there’s this guy everybody calls the man in the high castle and he’s got something to do with a film that’s a what-if story about what America might look like if the Axis powers had lost the war. Very meta, right? There’s also a resistance movement that doesn’t seem to be resisting very much. They appear to be spending most of their efforts on getting the film in bits and pieces to the man in the high castle. Beyond that, the show is mostly atmosphere and people speaking very elliptically in hushed tones. “If you knew what it cost me to get here.” “My mission must not fail.” And so on.

atmosphere | 6:04 am CST
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Saturday, November 28th, 2015

We binge-watched all thirteen episodes of Jessica Jones last week, if you consider it binge-watching when we only watched two shows on most nights. We started with three episodes on the Friday before last when the whole season was up for grabs on Netflix; I think that’s as many episodes of any series as we’ve ever watched in a single gulp. We finished it this last Friday morning. B wanted to finish on Thursday night, but I was burned out after two episodes and had to go to bed. For some reason, she waited for me, but insisted that we watch the final episode right away Friday morning. Which we did.

Jessica Jones is unlike any other television series built around a superhero. She’s really not much of a superhero, for a start. She can’t fly or shoot laser beams out of her eyes. She’s not bulletproof, and ordinary people can knock her out by bonking her over the head with a stick. All she’s got, at least in this series, is the ability to punch people really hard and jump really high. She doesn’t wear a costume; she mostly wears undershirts and the same old ratty pair of jeans. And she doesn’t have a superhero name. Her real name isn’t even all that unusual. She’s just Jessica Jones, a private detective who isn’t especially good at investigating things, even though everybody says she is. As far as I could tell, she found out what she wanted to know because everybody was after her all the time, and when they caught up with her, she punched them really hard until they answered her questions.

Which brings me to the second point of how unlike other “gritty” comic-book hero series this is: Instead of filming it mostly in the dark, or by throwing in lots of gory fight scenes, they made this one seem real through the simple expedient of making the characters pretty ordinary. Even Jessica’s arch-nemesis, a guy who can make people do what he wants by merely suggesting it to them, is the spoiled brat you would expect anybody with that kind of power to be. Not that it makes him any less threatening. His cat-and-mouse game with Jessica over the span of thirteen episodes kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time.

Daredevil was not quite as engaging as Jessica Jones. I started watching it several months ago when I was down with the flu, got through eight or nine episodes in three or four days, then stopped and didn’t pick it up again until this week after we finished Jessica Jones. The show seems to have a much slower pace and the villain isn’t nearly as vibrant or engaging. He’s meant to be the most canny businessman ever who just happens to have a penchant for occasionally beating people to death, so the few times you see him doing that, he’s truly awful, but most of the time you see him he’s in meetings with other evil villains, expounding in his drawn-out, reserved baritone voice how he’s going to make the city better. Yawn. I can’t imagine why they didn’t go with a much more immediately threatening villain like Bull’s Eye. There was a guy who could have kept Daredevil on his toes and made his justifications for becoming a vigilante sound more reasonable and less like rationalization. Not that I minded Daredevil questioning himself. If I had one little nit-pick about the hero, it would be that I had a really hard time believing he could take as much punishment as he did, and he took a lot of punishment: he was beaten, stabbed, shot, disemboweled and thrown off one building after another, and yet he still got up and walked away, slept it off and was back on the streets, beating up bad guys the next evening. Didn’t seem too plausible, given that healing fast wasn’t one of his super-powers. I’ve got one episode left, and I’m hoping the resolution will be as satisfying as the one they wrote for Jessica Jones.

boob tube | 11:26 am CST
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Monday, November 16th, 2015

There’s a certain kind of funny that doesn’t seem to register on my funnybone. Maybe I sprained it?

The other night I was listening to a podcast called Pop Culture Happy Hour. Three people were talking about how much they loved the television show Brooklyn 99. They thought it was one of the funniest shows on television today, funnier than Parks and Recreation, a show that, from what I’ve been able to tell, virtually every person on the planet believes is hilarious.

I’ve watched both, and I am here to confess that I have not so much as cracked a smile at either show. It kinda makes me feel like a grinch. These shows are not hyperpopular for no reason, but I just don’t get the funny, even though I can tell when the characters deliver what is clearly meant to be a joke. They even pause for audience reaction. It couldn’t be more obvious if there was a laugh track. But the jokes just don’t register on me. I don’t get it.

By coincidence, Brooklyn 99 was on TV the night I’d heard the podcast. It had been several months since I’d tried watching it, so I sat through the episode to the end, thinking that maybe this would be the episode that would flip the switch. Maybe that discussion I heard on the podcast gave me the insight I needed to properly experience this show. Maybe, but no. No funnies.

The weirdest example of funny shows that are not funny to me was the very excellent The Last Man On Earth. The first episode had me doubled over laughing until I was in tears. Those were the funniest twenty-two minutes of my life. Naturally, I wanted to binge-watch the whole series after that, so I went on to the next episode. It was … meh. Could’ve been a misfire, I thought, so I went on to the next episode, which was … okay.

How did that happen? How did they go from a first episode that was so funny I was struggling for breath every single minute to a series of episodes so meh that was struggling to find reasons to keep watching? After the fourth or fifth episode I couldn’t think of any, and stopped watching.

I’m not blaming television, or anybody else besides me. I’m completely okay with owning this. It’s clear to me that my sense of humor fossilized in the 1980s and can’t understand what young people these days think is so darned funny.

sprained | 7:00 am CST
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Monday, June 15th, 2015

In a scene from an episode of True Detective that we were watching the other night, the characters played by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey passed a pint bottle of Jim Beam between them, each taking a generous swig at the end of each line of dialogue before passing it back.

This was not the first television show or movie where we’d seen people knock back the hard stuff like it was water. And no, I’m not stupid, I know it was water, like I know it’s a television show. But I have to wonder, are there people who really drink like this? Or even close to like this? If I drank like that, I would be unable to speak by the time we got to the fourth swig. I like a drinking buzz as much as most people, but one beer and I’m already there. There is no way on earth I can drink a half-pint of whiskey and keep on talking so it makes any kind of sense. I have my doubts that anybody can. Not only that, but in the show we watched the other night, Matthew McConaughey’s guy kept not only drinking but snorting coke and remained lucid. I’m pretty sure nobody can do that. But what the hell, it’s television.

booze | 6:46 pm CST
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Monday, January 19th, 2015

It’s been ten years since Battlestar Galactica was rebooted by the SyFy Network.

Everybody else’s take: Greatest Television Show Ever Broadcast.

My take, staying in the five-word format: Looks great, stupid as hell.

Looks great: Really great, if you get off on space ships, and who doesn’t? Stupid people, that’s who. And also, killer robots! What’s not to like?

Stupid as hell: The killer robots lurch and shamble like old-school zombies which nonetheless manage to sneak up on the humans even though they go whirrr-whirrr, whirrr-whirrr and CLANK! CLANK! CLANK! with every step.

Looks great: I like watching Edward James Olmos do just about anything, and I especially liked the way he growled through his role as Adama.

Stupid as hell: Baltar is crazy. Raves, talks, jumps and squirms because an invisible Cylon is constantly harassing him. I get it that nobody can see the Cylon, but everybody can clearly see that Baltar constantly, relentlessly acts like he’s out of his goddamn mind. The only crazy thing he doesn’t do is foam at the mouth, and yet the other key people in the show listen to him as if he behaved like a wizened sage. Wait, maybe they’re all batshit crazy. I just thought of that.

Looks great: The new fighters look cool!

Stupid as hell: Why are there one-man fighter planes on the Galactica, a ship that must be at least a mile long with enough room inside to carry destroyers, dreadnaughts, cruisers, torpedo boats, anything with more firepower than fighters that carry just two guns!

looks great but | 10:42 am CST
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Saturday, July 19th, 2014

We watched four episodes of Under The Dome before we lost interest. It’s not a terrible show, but it’s not a good one.

I admit I was predisposed to hate it. I thought the idea was dumb when I read the review of the Stephen King book it’s based on: A dome appears over a small town. It wasn’t built there, it just appeared. It’s transparent to light, it stops sound completely, and when cars drive into it or airplanes try to fly through it, they’re smashed as if they hit an indestructible wall. Everyone in the town is trapped there, with no idea how long this will go on. If that seems to you like something that could happen, then you might like this story. It sounds dumb to me, so I figured I probably wouldn’t.

To my surprise, the first episode was not all that bad. It was mostly about introducing the main characters and hinting at the intrigues they were involved with. The dome descended and most of them reacted in ways that seemed believable, so we kept on watching. Over the next couple of episodes, though, it pretty much fell apart. Why did they spend so much time on screaming girl? One or two scenes were all we needed to establish that she was trapped by psycho boy and that she could scream like a Wagnerian diva, but they kept coming back to her every five minutes. See, she’s still trapped down there, and she’s still screaming. Man, that girl can scream, can’t she? Let’s listen to her scream for a few more minutes before we cut away. Surprised they didn’t have some crystal wine goblets on hand for her to shatter with her piercing voice.

Weirdest to me is that, after four episodes, which works out to about three or four days, nobody has set up a way to communicate with the people in radiation suits waving Geiger counters at the dome and the soldiers standing guard around it. Although they can see each other, only one person has thought to write a note and press it up against the dome for someone outside to read. That was in the first few minutes after the dome fell on the town; after that, the people inside spend hardly any time at all trying to get the attention of the people outside, and the people outside literally act as if the people they can easily see inside the dome aren’t there.

All those grunts standing guard is a bit of a mystery, too. If they were there to prevent people on the outside from getting too close, that would make some kind of sense, but most of them are facing the dome, as if they were trying to keep people in. What the hell is that? And even though they’re standing at port arms all day long facing the dome, they don’t taunt or tease the people inside, never flip them off, don’t leer at the pretty girls. “You could strip naked and they probably wouldn’t react,” the rugged-looking ex-Army guy tells the gorgeous young journalist. Oh, please. She could strip naked and the soldiers wouldn’t bat an eye? Which army were you in?

So we’ve had enough of Under The Dome. Time to move on to something more believable, like maybe an Adam Sandler movie.

Under The Dome | 11:07 am CST
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Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Orange Is The New Black has a rockin’ theme song by Regina Spektor with lyrics that start, “The animals, the animals, trapped, trapped, trapped til the cage is full …” But I wasn’t listening at all to the words the first two or three times I heard it, so it only half-registered on my consciousness as “The Alamo, the Alamo, trapped, trapped, trapped in the Alamo.”

B thinks this is about the goofiest thing I have ever said.

Round about the second time I heard it, the thought half-registered on my brain that it didn’t make much sense for her to be singing about the Alamo, so I wondered what else it could be and actually thought of “the animals” but then I thought, c’mon, why would she be saying that? And I moved on to much more credible possibilities, such as “pie a la mode” and “Los Alamos.”

Then I remembered I had the internet on my phone and I just looked it up.

The Alamo | 6:08 pm CST
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Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Stuck in traffic on the way home yesterday evening, my iBrainPod had the Minnie Riperton bubblegum-pop tune Lovin’ You looping incessantly, not because I ever liked that song (who did, amiright?) but because I just recently saw this:

I started watching Generation Kill last weekend – picked the first episode totally at random from the free video offered on the Amazon Prime bulletin board so I would have something to watch out of the corner of my eye while I was folding clothes, and pretty soon the clothes were left heaped in the basket while I was engrossed in it.

I didn’t even know Generation Kill had been made into a miniseries. I tried reading the book after it came out but didn’t finish the first hundred pages. It just didn’t get any traction with me at all.

But the show is really effing good. (There are as many or more eff bombs as there are any other bombs dropped in each episode, just so you know. It’s HBO, after all.) I can’t remember the last time I saw such an unflinchingly honest and accurate depiction of military screwedupedness. I have to laugh even when it’s tragic, maybe especially when it’s tragic, because every cringeworthy episode is so spot-on.

I’m almost done watching with the show already – there are only eight episodes. Might have to give the book another look after I’m finished.

Generation Kill | 7:09 am CST
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Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Bill Murray. Just because.

I could be wrong, but I think that’s a mascara brush he’s got clamped in his teeth like a cigarette holder.

mascara | 12:59 pm CST
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Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Been watching the first season of The West Wing not for the first time; re-watching just for fun and have only now come to the realization that it’s a comedy. The show sorta grinds to a halt whenever they try to get all serious about gummint.

Bradley Whitford wasn’t the coolest dude on the show, no matter how much he tried to act like he was, but I would watch a whole episode of him and Janel Moloney swapping Sorkinesque quips.

The runaway best character on the show had to be Sam Seaborn, probably because I didn’t expect Rob Lowe to turn out to be so much fun to watch.

And those are my random thoughts about that. If you stuck with me this far, thanks!

The West Wing | 9:26 am CST
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Monday, March 10th, 2014

I spend a big part of last week stretched out in the front-room recliner, a box of Kleenex close at hand, watching the hell out of Netflix as I was trying, and failing, to fight off a head cold. After days of playing with it I ought to be a Netflix expert by now, but I never did figure out why I can’t just search for a movie by title. Their clunky interface makes it looks as though I should be able to, but when I do, I end up with anything but the movie I’m searching for. That’s not really a “search,” is it?

I did somehow end up watching several shows I was interested in, one of them the Ken Burns documentary The War. The introduction said it was supposed to be about people from four different towns – Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; Luverne, Minnesota, and some place in Connecticut I forget right now – and how their lives were affected by World War Two. Several people from each of those towns were featured, speaking to the camera in classic oral-history fashion, but I was a little disappointed that the documentary spent what seemed like an awful lot of time summarizing the events of the war.

Not that it wouldn’t be necessary to recap what was going on at the front once in a while, but the first episode of The War was something like two and a half hours long, quite a lot of that time devoted to who fought what and showing lots of archival footage of bombs going boom. I’ve seen that. I wanted to listen to the people tell their stories.

But as long as I have to watch all this archival footage, I’ll trot out one of my pet peeves and let him take a wee on what could have been a very watchable documentary except for this common slip: If you’re going to all the trouble of putting together a film montage of, for instance, the battle of Midway Island, why would you use film and photos of action that never could have taken place there? If you were explaining how dive bombers saved the day at Midway, why would you show film of any plane but a dive bomber? That makes as much sense as describing a recipe for barbecued spare ribs while showing a film of a guy pan-frying pork chops. Not only does it make your documentary look amateurish, it’s just a little insulting to the people you’re featuring in the interviews. Get the damn details right. It’s not hard.

The War | 6:21 am CST
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Sunday, February 16th, 2014

On Friday night, when many of the people I knew were celebrating Valentine’s Day with dinner at a favorite restaurant or some other kind of night on the town, My Darling B and I had pizza delivered and wolfed the whole thing down while we watched House Of Cards, because nothing says romance like a drama whose central character is a monomaniacal politician bent on destroying the lives of pretty much everyone in Washington because he wasn’t selected to become the attorney general by the milquetoast president he helped get elected.

I was yawning even as I wrote that sentence, but it’s a really, really gripping story, as good any of the political intrigues Shakespeare came up with. I can’t believe I just said that, either. But just when I think the plot can’t get any more convoluted or evil, Frank Underwood, the central character, finds out he has to screw over several more people who stand in his way to total political dominance, then he comes up with a new and completely unexpected way to screw them.

And in the crossover episodes from the end of the first season and the start of the second, Underwood crossed the line from being scheming, malicious, self-centered and amoral to being nothing less than a truly evil monster, which is too bad as far as the series is concerned because it means that, like Walter White, Underwood will have to get caught in his own tangled web eventually. He’s clever, but people in the show are starting to wake up to the fact that he doesn’t want his share of the power, he wants it all, and the number of people who have seen what he’ll do to get it is growing. Underwood and his minion, Stamper (no, really), were able to keep the witnesses quiet when there were just a few, but their numbers are becoming unmanageable.

Underwood will be unhorsed eventually, maybe this season, maybe the next. We viewers have even been treated to a foreshadowing of his fall already, but until his enemy hits him in the back of his head with a rock, the second season promises to be a pretty wild ride.

House of Cards | 7:56 am CST
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Monday, February 10th, 2014

Four Star Video was having a sale last weekend and we were there to browse anyway, so we spent an extra-long time wandering through the aisles, poking through the cases and reading all the labels. Well, not all of them. There’s at least a million six DVD cases in the basement alone, so I stuck to the drama section where things looked most promising. I didn’t find anything, but as I was leaving to go find My Darling B, I crossed through the television section and my eye happened to fall on a collection of Saturday Night Live recordings, mostly from what I think of as the later years: Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Chris Farley, that lot. I stopped watching SNL after that. Just couldn’t relate to the humor any more. I might have taken home a Mike Myers for a buck, but it was priced ten apiece so I shoved it back into its slot and almost walked away without checking to see what was in the boxed set.


I don’t care what you or anybody else says, it never got any better than those goofy years when the Not Ready for Prime Time Players were on. I should’ve shoved the whole boxed set down my pants right there and then so nobody else would even see it and try to arm-wrestle me for it, but for some reason I walked away to find B. When I did, she pointed out the signs everywhere that I’d missed advertising the sale: Boxed sets were half off! “Well, in that case I’ve got to show you this!” I said, and dragged her back to the television section. She went oooh and ahhh and wouldn’t let go of it until we got to the check-out counter, where the clerk had to oooh and ahhh over it for a while, too.

We broke it open last night after dinner. George Carlin hosted the first show, came out on the stage and told jokes between skits, which were mostly silly stuff that the audience didn’t seem to know how to react to. There were a few laughs and a smattering of genuine applause here and there, but mostly they just sat and watched, not the rowdy crowd that would hoot and cheer all through the show in later episodes. I’ve read that when they originally conceived of the show, they brought Carlin on as a more or less permanent host, but if that’s right then the idea didn’t last long because Paul Simon hosted the second show. In fact, the second show was practically The Paul Simon Show. He opened it with a song, he followed up with another song, he brought Art Garfunkel on and they sang a couple more songs (Garfunkel did not look at all happy to be there), he brought on several other people – some gospel singers, Phoebe Snow, Randy Newman – it was almost a solid hour of music and singing. I think the only comedy bit was Simon playing a round of one-on basketball against Connie Hawkins, and NBA pro, and winning.

Two shows seemed to be enough to satisfy us so we quit there, until I was putting the disks away and noticed that disk two included Lily Tomlin singing “Saint James Infirmary” with Howard Shore and His All-Nurse Band, possibly my all-time favorite of the musical appearances on SNL. I wish there was a video I could link to, but I can’t find one right now and even if I could, I don’t think it would be up long. I found an audio clip that gives you just a hint of how cool it was, but you really have to see it to get the full effect of the whole SNL band dressed in nurses’ uniforms. If you can lay your hands on a copy, watch for Paul Schaffer at the keyboard of the grand piano Lilly Tomlin’s sitting on.

SNL | 6:08 am CST
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Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

We weren’t feeling very hungry when we got home last night, so we decided to watch the latest episode of Sherlock before we sat down to dinner, but while we hung up our coats and unpacked our bags we munched a little from the bowl of cashews that was sitting on the table. Cashews are good for you. And they’re cashews. Yum.

The cashews were all gone by the time we sat down to watch Sherlock but My Darling B was having a little trouble getting it to play on our new TV. The TV has the clunkiest internet browser I’ve ever seen, and our internet connection is already too slow to reliably stream video, so B was basically just trying piss herself off, which she succeeded in doing just fine. While she was twiddling with the TV I refilled the bowl with cashews, brought it to the sofa and entertained myself by watching her get steamed while I snacked. B helped empty the bowl.

We gave up on the TV after ten or fifteen minutes of frustration. B whipped out her tablet and started Sherlock playing on that, but she couldn’t get the sound up high enough. Rather than have to lean in to the tablet during the whole show, I ran downstairs and returned with the speakers I use when I want to play music from my smart phone. When everything was plugged in and we were settled, we watched Sherlock until the browser froze about ten minutes into the show.

Finally, I booted up Amazon Prime streaming video on the TV and paid five bucks for the latest episode of Sherlock, over B’s protests. She didn’t want to pay for it when it was free on the internet. I suppose I can see her point, sort of, but we’ve paid three bucks in rental fees and twenty bucks in overdue fees to watch movies that we didn’t even enjoy, so why not spend a fin on a show we’ve been looking forward to?

I was a little disappointed by the show, as it turns out. Sherlock faces his greatest enemy yet! Well, no. The villain turns out to be no more than just a sleazy asshole with a lot of money, and Sherlock doesn’t do a lot of sleuthing. Any, really. I had to scrounge some comfort food out of the fridge to console myself. Hummus and olives. On sweet potato chips. It helped, a little.

not hungry | 6:21 am CST
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Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

tvdoorWe finally got a television. And so far, we’re disappointed.

Mostly because it doesn’t play internet shows like we thought it would, but first things first: We ordered a new television from Amazon last week. They didn’t deliver it by drone, so there’s the first disappointment. Coming home to a drone-delivered television set would’ve been awesome.

Instead, it was delivered by good old UPS, or Fed Ex, or somebody else who leaves stuff on our doorstep. That’s right, just up and left a honking big television set in its original packaging on our doorstep. Good thing we have honest neighbors.

It’s a smart TV, which means it can connect to the internet. Like I have to explain that to you. It’s a fair bet that everybody out there knows that TVs connect to the internet now. I was the last guy on earth who didn’t know.

And as the last guy on earth who didn’t know TVs and internet go together, I didn’t prepare by getting a faster internet connection, so we spent most of last night looking at that little twirling circle thingie that you get when the stream is buffering, instead of watching the latest episode of Sherlock. In the end, we had to watch it on My Darling B’s tablet. Why it streams just fine on a tablet and not on the smart TV is one of those tech mysteries, I suppose.

It’s kind of stupid to spend all that money on a smart TV if all we get to watch is the symbol for buffering, so I imagine we’ll have to spend at least a couple more hours to check out the price of upgrading our internet slash TV service, then probably even take a day off work to wait for some guy to come to our house between nine and three to install it. This is fun. I can see why people love TV.

buffering | 6:06 am CST
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Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

There was a gaping plot hole in the weekend’s episode of Sherlock – did you spot it? Sherlock gets a tip from a self-avowed train geek that a something fishy’s going on in London’s subway system. The train geek’s daytime job is to review the security camera recordings of subway platforms, lucky bastard, and he notices that a passenger gets on one train but doesn’t get off at the next stop. Later in the show, and only with a little accidental prodding from Sherlock, the train geek suddenly remembers that there’s a “ghost station” between the two stops – as if a train geek would not have suggested that very possibility from the start! Lame.

But otherwise, a fun show and an excellent kickoff to the final season.

Sherlock | 5:40 am CST
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Monday, January 20th, 2014

We tried to watch the first episode of this season’s Downton Abbey last night using Amazon streaming video through a PS3. If that didn’t make any sense at all, here’s how that breaks down:

First of all, yes, we’re fans of Downton Abbey. Roll your eyes all you want. We like it.

Tim left us his PS3, which is a computer made by Sony to play video games. He bought it to play one game in particular and then, when he got tired of the game, he boxed up the computer and pretty much forgot about it until he was cleaning out some of his stuff, found it again and was trying to figure out how to get rid of it. I had just learned that a PS3 will pay Blue-Ray movies and I’m too cheap to buy an actual Blue-Ray disc player, so I offered to pay him whatever he wanted for it, and that’s when he gave it to us. Thanks for the free computer, T-Dawg.

I don’t remember how I found out that we could watch Netflix on it, too. I think Tim told us that. However we found out, the PS3 works just fine as a Blue-Ray player, or to watch Netflix. Love it. What doesn’t work very well, though, is streaming instant video from Amazon. I’m not sure why. Netflix video streams with no problem, but Amazon video buffers all. The. Time. Try to watch a two-hour show when that little twirling arrow thingie freezes the action every three minutes. I can put up with some video buffering when I’m trying to watch a ninety-second video of kittens, but it drove us both up a wall last night. We eventually gave up and watched Downton on B’s tablet. By the way, watching TV on a seven-inch tablet isn’t so bad when you’re watching with somebody who doesn’t mind cuddling up to you.

PS3 | 9:09 am CST
Category: damn kids!, entertainment, play, television, yet another rant
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On the other hand, My Darling B and I binge-watched the last season of Breaking Bad this weekend, watching five episodes Friday night and finishing the rest on Saturday afternoon, and it was hugely satisfying. I can’t remember a more satisfying conclusion to a television series I’ve watched from the beginning. Not that there have been many TV shows I’ve watched from the beginning. Now that I think about it, I think this might be the first show I’ve watched from beginning to end. But anyway.

Better than the ending, even, was the third-from-last episode, Ozymandias, where everything really went off the tracks for Walt. I expected him to get what was coming to him sooner later, but I sure didn’t expect that episode to unfold the way it did. Gripping stuff.

breaking bad | 6:48 am CST
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Saturday, December 28th, 2013

Mike RoadAlas, Mike Road, who passed away this year in April. I found out about it only this morning, though, so I’m just as shaken as if it had happened yesterday.

Mike Road was the voice of Roger “Race” Bannon, super-secret undercover agent and bodyguard of Dr. Benton Quest and his son, Jonny. Quest had a PhD in just about everything and was perpetually developing ray guns or rocket ships for the government, so every baddie on the planet had a plan to capture him and slowly torture all his secrets out of him. These plans often include capturing Jonny because, hey, they’re bad guys. And that’s where Race came in.

Race was the Captain Kirk of the cartoon world. There was no situation he couldn’t get out of. Show him a sumo wrestler and Race would throw him across the room. Show him an unstoppable mummy and Race would shoot the hell out of it. Nobody and nothing was more badass than Race. There was no prison that could hold Race. He could get a boat moving so fast it would fly. There was no aircraft Race couldn’t pilot, no car he couldn’t drive faster than anyone. In one scene where a scorpion was threatening to sting Jonny, Race grabs the only weapon in the room, a bullwhip, and before using it to literally crack the bug into a thousand pieces, says something like, “It’s been a while since I’ve used one of these things.” Because of course Race knows how to use a bullwhip. That’s one of the requirements to become the ultimate badass.

It was critical for Race to sound exactly the way you’d expect a judo-chopping badass to sound, and Mike Road’s no-nonsense baritone voice delivered in spades. I don’t know how they picked the actor to give Race his voice, but it has to be one of the all-time great casting choices ever. His voice had such a distinctive timber that, for years afterwards I’d recognize him in television shows only after he spoke. At one point I’m pretty sure he did a voiceover for Timex that, for a brief moment made a dimestore watch seem as rough and ready as the ones the astronauts wore to the moon.

So long, Mike Road, and thanks for giving us kids of the space age a hero with a kick-ass voice.

Jonny Quest comic

Mike Road | 10:53 am CST
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Friday, December 6th, 2013

All those channels of shit TV shows make it easier for you to get the quality shows you like to watch, according to the geniuses who study and write reports about his kind of crap.

Having just returned from a business trip to Hayward, Wisconsin, where there is very little to do in early December other than sit in a hotel and channel surf between meetings, I can tell you that there’s still nothing on television I want to watch except movies that are so old they’re shot in either technicolor or black-and-white.

57 channels of shit | 6:17 am CST
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Thursday, September 12th, 2013

We watched just three episodes of Boardwalk Empire before we got bored with it and moved on to the next television show in our To Be Watched pile of DVDs, House of Cards, another show about corrupt politicians but a much better one. The good writers HBO couldn’t find when they were looking for someone to write the script for Boardwalk Empire must have come out of the woodwork for House Of Cards. We both so enjoyed watching Kevin Spacey doing a modern-day Richard III even while we despised his character, a congressman who gets jilted by the president he helped to elect. Plots and intrigue are a lot more enjoyable to watch as they play out than gangsters blowing each other’s faces off because the writers couldn’t come up with anything more interesting.

House Of Cards | 6:13 am CST
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Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

We’ve watched the first three episodes of Boardwalk Empire and I have to say, neither of us are too impressed so far. It’s got more bare boobies than Game Of Thrones and more blown-off faces than any television show or movie ever, but that’s about all it’s got. There are two more episodes on the second of the first two disks we picked up from the library, and if it doesn’t get any better by the time we’re done with those, we’re going to give the rest of the series a miss. Too bad. Sounded promising.

Boardwalk Empire | 9:46 pm CST
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Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

KangKang is dead. Long live Kang.

If you watched a lot of television shows from the 60s and 70s you must’ve seen Michael Ansara in something, same as you must’ve seen John Colicos, the other television actor who was in just about every show back then and was also one of the original Klingons from Star Trek – dark hair, swarthy complexion, goatee, stripey shirt, and the demeanor of a conquering khan.

Colicos is the Klingon everyone seems to remember, and a pretty good one he was, too: devious, ruthless, and enjoyed his work a little too much, but Kang was my personal favorite, the Klingon you’d most want to trade punches with, if you were into getting beaten to a pulp by a Klingon the way some people are. Kang was also the first television alien that made me wonder: Why do they all know how to speak English?

Kang | 3:59 pm CST
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Friday, June 28th, 2013

Too good not to share:

Dumb Ways To Die | 9:47 pm CST
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Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Another favorite from the British Arrows, the best of television advertising for 2012: Madness singing a much more relaxed rendition of Baggy Trousers than I’ve ever heard before. Been stuck in my head all day.

Just in case your memory needs refreshing, here’s a link to the original version.

Baggy Trousers | 12:12 am CST
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Monday, April 15th, 2013

We watched The British Arrows last night. It was an hour-long collection of the best television advertisements of 2012. This one gave me the best belly laugh of the evening!

Aldi tea advert | 9:28 am CST
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Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Have you heard of this sequester thingy they’re doing in Washington DC? It’s basically like the time that Jim, Spock, Scotty and Bones threatened to destroy the Enterprise when a couple of bad guys wanted to take it over. Each one of them had to tell the computer, very slowly and deliberately, not to mention boringly, to blow up the ship by reciting their names, birth dates, serial numbers, and secret identity codes. Very. Very. Oh. So. Very. Slowly. And the bad guys just stand there and let them do it. If they’d have punched Scotty in the throat, he wouldn’t have been able to tell the computer his secret code and Kirk wouldn’t have been able to pretend he wanted to blow up the Enterprise. Even weirder, one of the bad guys (Frank Gorshin, it turned out) could shoot hot blue electric lightning from his fingertips, which he used later to fry the computer so Kirky and the boys couldn’t do that self-destruct thing any more. I’ll bet there are more than a few Republicans and Democrats who wish they had that superpower.

Or better yet, Frank Gorshin himself could walk through the halls of congress zapping senators and representatives right out of their socks with hot blue electric lightning bolts until they stop trying to make the government self-destruct and get back to work. That would be awesome!

gorshin | 6:03 am CST
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Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

I’ve not been posting much lately because My Darling B and I have turned into a couple of TV-watching video fiends, and catching up on pop culture is not something that leaves me a lot of extra time to write this drivel, or shower. Now you don’t have to ask what that smell is when you come over to visit. You’re welcome.

We haven’t been watching actual television for more than five years now, and I’m still pretty sure it can be proven statistically with, y’know, numbers and everything that we made a good decision. We’ve found maybe three or four really good television series that we like watching, and that’s three or four out of how many television shows a year, times five years? A very big number, anyways.

So we may be behind the times, but we only have to watch the good shows because, when we bring home a DVD of a show that turns out to be one of the bad ones, we just take it back and bring home a different show. There are lots to choose from.

Lately we’ve been binging on Downton Abbey, watching two or three episodes a night, except on weekends when we watch as many as three episodes a day. It’s taken up so much of our time that we haven’t watched Breaking Bad for at least a week.

I love this show. I expected an average costume drama but somehow I got all wrapped up in it to the point where I’m gasping at the plot twists and crying at the weddings. Really, I’m as bad as a housewife watching a soap opera. If you’d only seen me blubber like a girl when the boys came home from the war, you’d know. I’m not sure what we’ll do when we get to the end of season three which, at the rate we’ve been going, will be about fifteen minutes from now.

all-seeing | 6:06 am CST
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Sunday, February 10th, 2013

The thing I have the most trouble believing when I’m watching movies or television shows about zombies is not that the dead are walking the earth. For some reason, I can accept that as a mystery to be solved, or a situation to be gotten out of. What I have the most trouble believing is that I have to pretend that all the people who are not zombies have never watched a movie or television show about zombies. Pre-George Romero, it was easy to believe that nobody would be able to wrap their brains around the horror unfolding around them, but after forty-four years and who knows how many dozens, maybe even hundreds of zombie movies, well, I’m sorry, but I just can’t accept that there’s a single living person left anywhere who doesn’t know what to do in the event that the zombies attack.

A man wakes up in a hospital bed and calls for the nurse, but nobody comes. The lights are off. All the machines that go *ping!* are silent. After a long struggle, he manages to get out of bed and stagger into the hallway where he finds loose papers and other junk strewn across the floor. He pushes past a gurney parked askew in the middle of the hall, turns a corner and there, to his disbelieving eyes, is a chewed-upon corpse. Blood is spattered across the walls. Ceiling tiles are missing.

The ceiling tiles are missing! I don’t watch a lot of zombie movies, but even I know that’s one of the top ten signs of the zombie apocalypse. I’ve never heard a good explanation for all those missing ceiling tiles. There never seems to be an incidental scene of zombies chewing on ceiling tiles when the supply of brains is getting low. Nevertheless, missing ceiling tiles equals zombie apocalypse. Make a note, because you never know when you’re going to wake up from a coma in a hospital after the zombies take over. You want to be prepared.

Also: Don’t go wandering off alone; that one will get you eaten every time. If you do go wandering alone, though, and you hear what you think might be somebody sneaking up on you, you should assume it’s a zombie and act accordingly. Would you go looking for a zombie that wants nothing except to bash your brains out and eat them? No, you wouldn’t. So, if you’re dumb enough to go wandering off alone and you find yourself in that inevitable scene where you hear footsteps nearby, don’t pretend that it might be one of the other survivors you stupidly wandered away from. Don’t call out a name in a shaky voice, or go looking for whomever or whatever is following you. Assume it’s a goddamn zombie! Get out of there as quickly as you can, or at the very least keep on moving. Don’t freeze. And never, ever back up. If you have to back up for some reason, you might as well bash your own brains out and serve them up to the zombie who is without a doubt standing right behind you.

All this to say, we watched the first couple episodes of The Walking Dead last night. It was okay, but the people in it did a lot of stuff that only people who had never watched zombie movies or even heard of zombies would do. Like when Deputy Dawg rode his horse into the city past the long line of broken-down, burned-out cars. Who does that? Who wakes up in the middle of the zombie apocalypse and thinks it’s a good idea to head into a city? Stupid people, that’s who. There are millions of people in cities; therefore, there will be lots of zombies. It’s not brain surgery. Har.

The one big thing they did different was, the survivors somehow survived even though they were living in tents within eyeshot of the big city. I’m almost interested in finding out how they managed to pull that off without getting eaten in their sleep. Almost, but not quite.

Walking Dead | 11:19 am CST
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Friday, January 25th, 2013

I was watching Breaking Bad last night instead of writing this drivel. Mea culpa.

We finished off the last three episodes of the third season last night. I was a little surprised that they went with a cliffhanger that was pretty easy to figure out. For my money, I would have ended the season with the episode right before that, but then I’m not in the media mogul club and they are.

Not that it makes all that much difference to us whether it’s a cliffhanger or not. We’ll have the next disk from the library this weekend, or by Monday at the latest, which’ll be just fine. After snorfling up all of the third season in just one week, we could probably use a break.

apologies | 5:31 am CST
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Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Avast, matey! There be spoilers ahead!

On the way home from work Friday night, I asked My Darling B if she wanted to watch the last episode of Breaking Bad. We checked out season two from the library earlier in the week and had watched the whole thing in just a couple of nights, all except for the last episode. I figured they couldn’t end the season without explaining the burned red teddy bear they’ve been teasing us with all season, so I kind of wanted to find out what that was about.

“Oh, hell yes,” B answered me, “we have got to find out about the plane crash.”

For just a moment, I thought we were talking about two different things. “Plane crash?”

“No, not plane crash,” B said quickly. “I, ah, meant to say something else!” I waited a couple of heartbeats, but she didn’t explain any further what she could have possibly said that might have sounded like ‘plane crash.’

Wouldn’t have made any difference, anyway. I figured out it was a spoiler. She had been even more curious about the red teddy bear than I was and looked it up. Couldn’t help herself, really, like the other night when I wondered out loud, “How many people has Walter White killed so far?” and she googled it almost without thinking.

Turns out if you type “How many people has wa” into google, it autocompletes the question for you. (If you stop at the ‘w’ the question becomes “How many people has weeds killed?”)

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that “” is not a thing, although this tumbler post just about makes up for it.

spoiler | 2:26 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, television
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Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

I stayed up way past my bedtime last night watching Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, a television show so special it went straight to YouTube before they broadcast it on the SyFy Network.

In a few words: Looks great, stupid as hell. Or how about this: War movie cliche mashup in space. And there’s this: Badly written, and the lead actor is a block of wood.

Back to looks great: Really great, if you get off on space ships, and who doesn’t? Stupid people, that’s who. And also, killer robots!

But then, stupid as hell: Space ships in flames. Uh, flames? In space? Well, duh. Looks great, stupid as hell.

And, looks great: Um. Well, space ships, of course, in outer space. And robots. Um. Did I mention outer space?

Back to stupid as hell: Killer robots that lurch and shamble into combat like old-school zombies. Every once in a while one of them squashes an expendable extra, but only because he was too stupid to get out of the way of the killer robot, who snuck up on the humans even though it goes whirrr-whirrr, whirrr-whirrr and CLANK! CLANK! CLANK! with every step.

But I stuck with it to the end, or the almost-end, because there’s one more ten-minute YouTube episode that won’t be released until Friday. I’ll probably watch that, too, even if I have to stay up late.

BSG | 8:55 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, play, television, yet another rant
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