Monday, March 31, 2014

7 Things: The "How I Met Your Mother" Edition

Tonight is the last episode of "How I Met Your Mother".  HIMYM started with a quirky little premise - guy sits his kids down on the couch for the longest tale ever, and then immediately took advantage of it, by telling the story of how he had this huge crush on this woman, did elaborate things to get her attention, and then revealing, that actually, that was their Aunt Robin. 
Television is generally considered to be telling it's stories in present tense.  Sure, there are exceptions, there are flash forwards, flashbacks, and even sometimes flash sideways.  But HIMYM took advantage of the frame of a guy telling this story years later.  Stories weren't always told in order, often in ways that seemed way more amusing.  (Sometimes not.)  Things were forgotten, like Blah blah's name.  And sometimes he'd give hints of why this piece of information was important. 
The challenge with telling what is theoretically one story (although really is multiple overlapping stories about a group of friends) is that when you hold out this one secret for too long, people have already spun through just about every possible theory ever. It's really hard to maintain suspense or surprise that long and not burn out the goodwill. 
This final season we got to meet the mother.  And has been wonderful.  But the frame of the wedding weekend they used this season has been troubling, to say the least.  In the end, I don't know if tonight's episode will be worth the wait.  Certainly, it will be impossible to make everyone happy.  My hope is that I find it enjoyable, that it provides a lovely endcap to what I still think of as a great show, even if my list of caveats is a little longer now. 
But, here's seven of the great things the show did. 
1. Robin Sparkles.  I mean, really.  See the slap bet part was interesting (sometimes), but the video that was the center of the controversy, was entirely amazing.  Oh.  Let's Go to the Mall, guys. 
2. Lily and Marshall.  There are lots of shows about friends.  There are lots of shows about friends that are partially paired off.  But usually, shows about friends that start off in their twenties have a lot more - well, reconfiguring, even if one couple gets to get back together at the end.  This isn't to say that Lily and Marshall never had problems, never had issues, or even, never broke up.  But ultimately, they belonged together.  And, as Ted said in his toast, their inability to be apart, is actually one of their most endearing traits. 
3. The Canada references. The Canada references were wonderful, well-used, and always done with pride.  (Well, okay, Barney wasn't always respectful, but well, Barney.)
4. Barney's theories.  Many of Barney's theories were, well, nuts.  But some of them, like the Crazy/Hot scale, I think should be permanently entered into the pop culture lexicon.  (PS, the crazy/hot scale indicates that you can only be as crazy as you are hot.  Otherwise. No.)
5. The two minute date.  Ted often gets a lot of flack for being the boring guy, or the sap, and he did have moments, but mostly I found those realistic.  And it was things like two minute date eh put together for Stella that made the upside of his crazy optimistic romanticism clear.
6. The doppelgangers - finding doppelgangers of each member was fun and they tied it in to the bigger picture of the show so that it wasn't just gimmicky.
7. Barney's search for his father.  The "Price is Right" episode was great. But so was Barney's ultimate decision to ask his mother for the real truth.  HIMYM often confronted the realizations that the stories our parents told us weren't quite right, which is a little meta, given we know Future Ted glosses over some things with his kids. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. Code Switch had a great post on Neil Degrasse Tyson, looking at, among other things how he faced some roadblocks and expectations of failure on his way to becoming an astrophysicist as a black man.  It reminded me of Natalie Maclees' post about some of the roadblocks she'd encountered taking math and science classes as a woman.  In her post she talks about some little things other classmates could do, even if it was coming up to someone afterwords because often people don't want to challenge a teacher or professor even if that person is being a jerk.  Another person I spoke to said the next wave of a lot of the school sponsored anti-bullying campaigns was about educating and empowering other students to speak out and how to safely intervene.  So hopefully, the next batch of students won't be held back by expectations of failure. 
2. I have heard - in historical visits no less - that beds were smaller because people were shorter and liked to sleep sitting up.  But apparently the answer is really that bedposts used to be bigger
3. And I was directed to this article about the Helsinki Bus Station theory that suggests originality often comes from following the beaten path, at least at first. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ode to a Completed Show

I've been slowly watching "Breaking Pointe" a show I stumbled across channel flipping and then immediately added to my Hulu queue.  Short version - ballet reality show.  Longer version - Driven teens and twenty somethings who all work to hard and have almost no social life outside of work.  (Disclaimer 1: some of them probably do and just choose to keep this social life off camera.) It takes place at Ballet West, the Salt Lake City company  and in the two short seasons manages to cover things like contract time twice where folks are offered (or in some cases not) a chance to continue with the company, what happens when you need to find another job, getting moved into the company, getting promoted, getting - well - not promoted but the chance to stay there, and getting injured. 
There's also casting.  There's relationships, the forming, the clashing, the breaking, the realigning, and the state of the relationship talks. (Disclaimer 2: I think we agree that all reality TV is a little crafted.  You can practically seen the handprints on this one as people meet in a bar or restaurant that seems to contain only them and ask each other how things are going when it's clear that these are not the people they share things with.  Or that someone has suggested it would be helpful if they stood off to the side and updated each other on this.  Or someone just happens to be standing somewhere (like the middle of the street) long enough for them to film them on the street, from the window, and from the other side. Disclaimer 3:  Doesn't mean I don't love it.) 
I can only imagine if one is a teen or twenty something this feels very real.  As someone who is no longer that, I remembered how much, I, well, don't want to go back to that.  This isn't to say that being a teen or twenty something is horrible - it isn't, always.  But, things are very fraught for these folks.  Partly that's age, partly that's, as I said before, being in this world where you work crazy hours with people, and then, the show would have you believe, party only with those people, and well, it's pretty typical of any insular group - be it co-workers, college dorm buddies, or various other cliques. 
It also means sometimes you know just enough about what's going on with the others to stick your foot in it, or to make pronouncements you kind of know nothing about. 
I once read a formula for reality show success that included a world I know just enough about to be curious about it, and I think ballet falls into that.  I have seen ballet, I even took ballet way, way back in the day for a very short period of time, but mostly, this stuff is new to me.  And so I found these episodes a lovely snack.  I'm sorry they are over because I find myself ridiculously curious about the next round of choices these folks will make, but such is life. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Divergent - the Movie Version

I saw the "Divergent" movie and I will share my thoughts.  First, I read the first book about two years ago, I have been stalled about partway through the second for a while, so while I haven't gotten to the thing that apparently makes the internet very mad, and I still intend very much to finish I have not.  I did not brush up on the book before the movie which is sometimes something that lets me relax and sometimes makes me go, wait, didn't they, hmmm, is that different? 
Also, if you want a review from someone who hadn't read the books, may I suggest this one.
Overall, it was enjoyable.  I felt like it would be more enjoyable to fans of the book, but not incomprehensible if you hadn't read it.  (You just might have more questions after.)
So, short overview - Dystopian world, in a post-World War Chicago, society divides itself into five factions so that each person can develop their personal strengths.  Teens are given a test to determine their aptitude, but also have the option to make a different choice.  Most choose the faction they were born into.  Your choice is final.  If you choose to go elsewhere, you cannot go back.  Beatrice and her twin brother are about to take the test.  Only Beatrice gets an odd result, she doesn't show as only one faction, she registers as divergent.  Advised to keep her test results secret lest she be hunted, she has to make the choice without the guidance of the test.  She chooses Dauntless, the faction in charge of security rather than the Abnegation she grew up with who handle civil service.  Now the question is, can she survive the training to become Dauntless, and do so without her secret being discovered. 
The movie follows Beatrice (Tris).  This is just like the book, and is not a criticism, just a note, since, for example, the "Hunger Games" movie has scenes that Katniss is not present for.  The closest we get here is people muttering to each other behind her back.  The challenge with a book to movie conversion is that two hours is still less story than your average book, so there are things that you lose.  "Divergent" employed a Tris voiceover to quickly establish the concept of factions which I thought worked until they repeated it approximately five times in a row.  (Once for each faction?) 
The performances were good.  There was some time compression particularly up front which was interesting because I thought the book started slow the movie gets you very quickly to faction training time.  The scope of things I had tried to imagine in my head, worked well on the big screen, the jumps look scary, the pit seems huge, the destruction of the city is visible almost everywhere. 
Also the training fights seem reasonably, well, bad.  Because most of them are bad at fighting.  These looked bad both because they looked painful and they looked like they were some of them not natural fighters. 
I would have to check the books, but to me the training seemed segmented.  There were two phases of training in the book also, but I didn't remember Tris having all this extra time to hang out with Four at his place and just be during phase two.  That could be my faulty memory too.  (Also, I don't usually notice continuity stuff like hair and bruises and scabs, but I did here.) 
There was more time in the book to discuss things like growing discontent among the factions, rumors being spread about Abnegation, suggestions that they had let the power of running the government go to their heads.  There are mentions in the movie, but it struck me that some of these comments just seemed like inter-faction ribbing until you suddenly realize that oh wait, no - there is a giant conspiracy lurking here.  This was the aspect I would expect non-book readers to be a little thrown by.  There were hints, but it might seem a little, oh, yeah, so it turns out they're planning to overthrow everything, um, right now.
And well, the Four Tris relationship that was nice.  I enjoyed watching it. There were some lines that seemed a bit clunky, but overall, very well done and it made me interested to see what would happen next. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. In case you heard about cookie shot glasses, or hadn't, but wanted to know how to make one - here you go.
2. V E Schwab had a wonderful post on why she would add to her plate and go off to pursue a masters degree when she was gainfully employed as a writer.
3. And Carolyn Jewel had a thought provoking post on why requiring real names for book reviews is problematic.

Monday, March 17, 2014

7 Things: The Marshmallow edition

As you may suspect (especially if you follow me on other social media) I saw the "Veronica Mars" movie this weekend.  Short version loved it.  My mostly non-spoilers 7 things I loved follow.  (These will obviously be 7 things in the movie, so if you want to know nothing, stop now, come back later.)
1.  Setting.  I know.  I tend not to think about setting in shows expect for obvious ones like "Justified" and "Longmire" where clearly the location of all these people is embedded into the characters.  Neptune is seemingly a generic beachside California town.  Of course it has a dark underbelly, a class difference that had been new, and now ten years later is more entrenched. 
2. Veronica and even Piz looked different in New York.  It was kind of like the "Ally McBeal"/"The Practice" crossover where you realized that the folks from "The Practice" looked weird in the yellow happy light of "Ally McBeal" and the "Ally McBeal" folks seemed extra quirky in the grim blue lighting of "The Practice". I kept thinking Veronica looked so severe.  Not in a bad way, she's just about to finish up law school, and while she was a marshmallow, Veronica hadn't been super soft looking before.  And then, as she spent more time in Neptune, she looked, well, more Veronica. 
3. I think the balance of getting to see all the characters I wanted to see and yet, having that wrap into the plot was well done.  This is always a tricky thing.
4. Speaking of balance, Keith has always been riding the line of wanting to encourage Veronica to question and be smart (or, perhaps, not entirely squelch that) and yet encourage her to think bigger, and focus on getting out of Neptune a town that he knows full well will build you up and tear you down.  Ten years on this is still true. 
5. I rewatched the movie and while the cheering section from my couch was smaller, it was still wonderful.  And I caught little bits and hints when I know what was coming.  I always think that's a great sign. 
6. I am so grateful to have another glimpse of Veronica, Keith, Wallace, Piz, Gia, Deputy Sacks, Weevil, and even Dick.  There are some others old and new too. 
7. And well, Neptune.  Like I said, it seems like a beachside town.  But it will build you up and tear you down.  Or sometimes just tear you down. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. There's a lot of heart disease in my family, including some folks who left us after what was their first and last heart attack, so I appreciated this guest post by Stephen Toulouse about making the decision to call an ambulance, and to agree fully that if you think you are having a heart issue, it is absolutely worth the money, time, and possible embarrassment to get that checked. 
2. If you find weird legal cases fascinating, then this one about peanut butter pretzels might interest you. 
3. 10 library living cats, because, come on. 

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. A study has shown that sexually aggressive men in bars are sexually aggressive because they are hoping drunk people are better targets, not as a result of being drunk themselves.
2. You may have heard this winter has involved snow.  Possibly.  Well, New Jersey ran out of salt.  And then discovered an old trade law meant a ship full of rock salt couldn't just move itself on down to New Jersey. 
3. The cold led to one woman, who wears a hijab, discovering under enough layers people treated her differently. 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014