Friday, April 21, 2017

"The Catch" - Charming but...

I fell out of the habit with "The Catch" last season.  It had an intriguing hook, security consultant falls for a charming man who turns out to be conning her, which he reveals by stealing all her stuff, except, it turns out, his weakness is her, and they spend the season trying to catch each other. Kind of. 
I never deleted the pass on my DVR, so when it restarted I found myself curious enough to try again, and huh.  So apparently she (Alice, played by Mireille Enos) teamed up with Interpol to catch Ben (Peter Krause) and then felt bad when he turned out to love her too, so gave him a head start and there were double crosses upon double crosses, and whatever, all this I have gleaned from the previouslies. So, Ben is in jail.  Alice's firms computers are all in custody, which, as you might imagine has put a crimp in their business.  And Ben's ex Margot (Sonya Walger) is now in charge of the evil crime family.  Rhys, Ben's partner in crime is on the outs with the crime family yet not in jail.  So, now, Interpol and the FBI (and really it hardly matters, supposed good guys) have offered Ben a deal, where they will reduce his sentence if he does this thing.  And Margot, realizing the problem with crime families is that you can trust no one, hires Alice's firm to investigate.  Needless to say, Alice and Ben are only telling each other part of what they are up to.  Oh and Alice's brother Tommy has shown up totally coincidentally because his former employers are dead, but he has some money is his name, and yeah, absolutely no reason to believe anything shady or underhanded is going on there.  
So here's the thing.  The cast, including the other three members of Alice's firm (played by Rose Rollins, Jay Hayden, and Elvy Yost) are all wonderful.  Gina Torres as our FBI agent learning how charmingly frustrating Ben is, his total inability to do a job within the defined parameters.  And T. R. Knight is knocking out of the park as the bumbling but charming and maybe not as bumbling brother.  
But here's the thing.  The cast is great.  The sets are slick.  And the plot, is there.  Do I care who Tommy's murdered employers really were?  No.  Do I think if you are chasing an international assassin you should plan an elaborate thing where everyone carries different colored umbrellas the theory being that the assassin will then be forced to shoot at all the umbrellas giving them time to catch him? I mean, spoiler alert it worked, but instead of being impressed, it makes me wonder how this international assassin survived so long.  It is the perfect example, they used a visually appealing, but ultimately not super well thought out idea to catch the assassin, turned him over to intended victim Margot, and the episode ended with her hiring them.  That is an intriguing double cross, but much like fellow TGIT show "How to Get Away With Murder" the episodes often seem like misdirects leading to a new breadcrumb revealed at the end.  So, you could fold laundry or multitask while you watched the show, and look up for the end and get most of what you needed.  
There's nothing wrong with any of this, there are plenty of shows that get by more on the charm of the cast, than the plotting.  I just find myself hopewatching, because there is such incredible potential there, and I will say that I think HTGAWM does a better job (admittedly over more cumulative episodes at this point) at making me care about the characters, instead of marveling at the visuals, and the acting.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. Having been away I am catching up on things like the annual Peeps contest which got taken over by the Washington City Paper this year.  I usually find the runner up a little more to my personal taste, but they are still all amazing. 
2. I was never a very good "Survivor" watcher, but this post about the missed opportunity the show had, as they hid under the guise of we have to show what happened, is interesting.  "Top Chef" has had issues with bullying, and this year they at least acknowledged - however awkwardly - the optics of having the first challenge at a plantation be an elimination between a black chef and a white chef.  These are all adults, they sign on for a lot, but these shows also exist in the world.  
3. I read 13 Reasons Why and found it interesting, but have listened to the criticism about the show, that for it's unflinching look at serious issues, it has issues and isn't safe for some folks.  This take (by another YA author) addressed some concerns. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

#VeniceWriting2017

Last week I was in Venice at a writer's retreat. This opportunity came at such a perfect time for me, that I remained convinced the world would snatch it from me, but it did not. 
I decided trying to recap a whole week was silly. 
This retreat was organized by Rachael Herron - who I knew before the trip, and we spent mornings from 9am-12pm gathered up, working with writer prompts and sharing writing.  The group was writers at a mix of stages in their writing journey, fiction and non-fiction, and the propmts and excercises had meaning and help for all.  It really is, I would have thought, a tricky balance to making things useful and workable to as wide a range as we had, and yet it really worked.  
In the afternoon there were optional excursions, but it was incrediby easy to opt out, whether to explore on your own or to split into a smaller subgroup.
Basically, it was delightful.  I loved the trip.  I loved the people - some of whom I knew or internet knew beforehand, and some of whom I did not.  I was like writer summer camp.  You know, in Venice. 
I had not been to Venice before, and I loved it and see why it calls to others. 
Italy, you may have heard has a pretty carb based food tradition, which is terribly dangerous for a carb addict like myself.  There were signs in some places for vegan this, and gluten free that, and so there were options.  Had I been staying longer than seven days, I would have made a better effort to find a greater variety, but my suffering, if you call it that, was delicious. I even found a Venetian wine I liked, which for a picky wine palette like mine was a win. 
So, some numbers. 
Number of gelato consumed: 4. 1 with Bailey's on it, so while it was very tasty it's possible the Bailey's and whipped cream influenced my feelings. 
Number of pizzas eaten: 1. It was large and probably should have been shared or saved. Oops. 
Number of sights seen: At least 7.  It depends on if you count things pointed out on the walking tour, or wandered past or all the bridges and boats and towers spotted. 
Number of neighborhoods or sestieri wandered through: 4. And we took the vaparetto to Burano and Murano. 
Number of boats ridden: 10.  At least.  I may be missing one.  
Number of bridges crossed: Innumerable. 
Number of times I got lost: 1. Fortunately I was with someone who was ready to find the adventure in it.  We had headed in what I thought was a mostly northerly direction, and turned out to be north and west, which I figured out when I saw the signs for the train station.  We were adopted as we tried to follow some o fhte signs directing us to the vaporetto, that seemed to disappear and then reappear in ways that were not super intuitive and she spoke a lot of Italian at us, despite our clear lack of understanding.  We followed her, kind of (we were backtracking from a dead end) and then found a museum courtyard where we managed to convey that this was what we meant to find, and the nice smartphone had enough signal for us to verify our speadiest way back to the Grand Canal.  Certainly, the nice museum people also could have helped us so we were just the tinest bit lost but we got to see more of San Croce than planned, so there was that. 
It also appears possible that Italian mosquitoes do not like me, or are at least slow to recognize me as fresh meat.  This will require further investigation. 
Pictures of things and food.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

7 Things: DC's Missing Girls

It is a strange and surreal thing to watch a local news story become the viral thing that everyone's talking about how no one is talking about it. 
1. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)* recently made some changes to the way they handled missing persons cases.  They had been posting such alerts to the police listservs.  They added posting them to the Twitter account and other social media, and a website.  They have also been posting when a person is found. 
2. I tend to - anytime I see a missing person or pet posting - go back to the source.  Partly because, as we all know things move fast on social media.  Lost pets, kids, and seniors get found.  Being found doesn't always get reported on the same sources that reported being missing.  Also, not to be crazy paranoid, but there have been cases of a stalker setting up a I-need-to-find-this-person post, trying to get the internet to help them.  Stalkers would (one hopes) not be able to make use of the police, so sourcing is a good idea. 
3. Until this year, it is my understanding that the MPD's missing person's site only listed Relisha Rudd. Relisha Rudd disappeared in 2014.  I could speculate why they weren't making use of the website (MPD has said internal policy change) for other cases, but basically, if you look at the site, it looks like DC had a missing person in 2014 and then nothing until this year.  That is inaccurate. (They have now added some additional cases back to 2009, along with stats about how many missing persons cases were closed.) http://mpdc.dc.gov/node/1227736
4. I could tell who had looked at the site, because several of the posts I saw floating past on Twitter had Relisha's face, which I do recognize, because it was a very big deal here when she disappeared.  She disappeared about the same time as a man who was later found dead.  There was video of them together, he was not officially a person who had custody, so an amber alert was activated.  So I have seen her picture, and recognize it.  It's likely that folks who weren't here in 2014 did not see it posted all over the place the way that those of here do, but it created an easy way to tell who had bad info since I saw quite a few people listing her as someone who had disappeared this year.  She is still missing.  So, if you think committing her picture to memory will help you, this post has a timeline along with links to pictures and videos
5. All of this context does not make the overarching point that missing kids of color get less media attention than missing white kids.  I can name several missing white kids, including ones like Elizabeth Smart who was found years later.  I don't live anywhere near where Elizabeth was kidnapped, or where she was found and I still heard about it.  I cannot think of a similar case that received national attention for a child of color.  
6. One of the things the MPD and members of the local DC government said about the missing kids, is that they appear to have left voluntarily.  As others have pointed out, the key word there is appears.  Now, appears means there was no sign of struggle, no sign that someone broke in and took the child by force. Once of the kids (who has since returned) posted to Instagram that her foster family was terrible. I understand that the police have a different type of invesitgation on their hands when signs seem to point to runaway. (We could also examine why we tend to assume teenagers have runaway absent evidence. Or that running away is rebellion and not a sign that things are so bad, that being on the streets seemed like the better alternative.) 
7. I saw one post from someone with a PR background who had helped out a family member when a child had gone missing.  And she talked about how hard it was, even with her contacts and knowledge, to get media interest.  So again, we really do need to think about why some stories get national coverage and others don't.  I also saw a small backlash as people got some context and assumed that therefore they had been lied to about the missing girls.  You weren't lied to if you read a flyer and didn't follow up.  There are still missing people, many of them girls, and girls of color.  You should still think about why you still remember Natalie Holloway's name and probably her face even if you've never in your life been to Aruba.  You should still think about why a post about 8 missing girls maybe made you feel it was less of a big deal if two had been found.  That's still six families.  

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. You know I love a good story about teens changing the world, or at least their high school.  So these teens who interviewed the incoming principal and found some, shall we say, irregularities with her resume, resulting in her resignation, well, here's hoping this is just one high point in their careers. 
2. One of my high school classmates took her kids to see the WERK for Peace dance party by the Pences rental before they moved into the Vice President's house. So, I wasn't surprised to see that the party by Ivanka and Jared's was well received, but this interview with the neighbor caught enjoying the dance party with her wine is also a peek into how a lot of, shall we say, experienced DCers often feel about changing administrations. 
3. This discussion among several Asian American actors about "Ghost in the Shell" touches on a number of things, from the flattening that occurs when you try to strip away the cultural source of the material, to the circular arguments used for whitewashing characters.