Thursday, February 26, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. Ms. Olivia Waite takes a stab at a booklist to address a recent piece bemoaning the supposed lack of books in another piece and also makes a point about diverse books and how sometimes you just have to actively look for what your shelf is missing.
2. Colorado tried giving teens access to free birth control...and the teen birth rate (which admittedly has been falling nationwide) fell 40 percent.
3. It's been, ahem, a while since I played Sims, but this discussion about the inclusion of homeless as either a feature or a bug was interesting.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Farewell, "Parks and Recreation"

I'm going to borrow Alan Sepinwall's dayenu idea to talk about the completion of "Parks and Recreation". 
I came to "Parks" late, having resisted the idea of what I thought was just another show like "The Office".  ("The Office" had great moments, but I thought I didn't need another.)  Many people talk about the rocky start to "Parks" but much of the things that made it amazing were there all along. Leslie just got dialed up a bit, or started to lean in a bit, if you will.  Early on Marc says that Leslie has more enthusiasm even after six years of government work than he ever had. 
And this is not to say there aren't ever episodes that don't work for me as well as others, there are so many wonderful things.  And in the most perfect thing, I have loved honestly every second of this final season, so much that I want more and yet know that it is best for all of us that this is it.  Spinning out characters past their natural end point, just leads to cartoony cringey moments.  This was the best ending for everyone.  I will be able to re-watch this show over and over in it's entirety and feel the feels happily. 
1. Weddings.  Weddings on shows are often exciting mostly because you are happy for the characters and not because watching the business of them getting married is interesting, unless their guests cause some sort of disaster.  "Parks" did a lot of weddings. Each one was wonderful in it's perfection for the characters, whether it was Andy and April having a party where they got surprise married, Ben and Leslie getting married on the night of a huge town event they had both planned, Ann and Chris torturing the poor jewelry salesman as they decided that they didn't need the marriage part to love each other and raise their kid together, Ron and Diane getting married at City Hall with Leslie bursting with joy behind them, Donna and Joe having a church wedding while April corrals and controls her various family members, and Tom deciding that Lucy would prefer a simple proposal to the flashy one he originally planned.  Each of these was different in a way that made sense to the characters, which made them wonderful.  Any one of these would have earned a dayenu, but all of them?  So much yes.
2. The Tammy's. Many shows do a crazy episode with an insane guest star.  And then, it's hugely popular and they try to repeat it.  Tammy Two came back several times, but each time in a manner that made sense.  (Diane's eye rolling response to Tammy is, by the way, crazy hilarious.) And the addition of Tammy One, and Tammy the Mom also added layers of funny, while also helping make Ron make more sense as a character.  That is seriously deft handling, and I felt like in many ways, the shortest version of this list would be to say that the drama and the comedy came from the characters which is what made it feel so feely. 
3. The addition of Chris and Ben.  Many season two's introduce a new antagonist character to up the drama factor.  But Chris and Ben, while doing that, again did that in a way that felt realistic. Many towns deal with budget crises, and that is certainly something a non-essential department would grapple with, but Chris and Ben, while shaking up the dynamics, were not just evil meanies, they had legitimate, fully formed approaches to solving these issues, they just happened to conflict with Leslie's desires.
4. Flu Season.  Seriously, "I am Leslie Monster and this is 'Nightline'" is hilarious.  (Folks who haven't seen it yet,  trust me it is.)  And again, the silly of the episode comes from the characters, Leslie can't afford to be sick because she needs to make this presentation.  Chris can't afford to believe he could be sick.  And April doesn't want Andy to know she's sick because he would come visit her.  All the silly is based in the characters. 
5. As much as these characters disagreed and had different viewpoints, they came together when it mattered.   There were many examples of this but two of of my favorites were when Leslie's original campaign team abandoned her, and when Ben and Leslie announced they were having triplets.  The rest of the team stepped in to help in a way that was wonderful, and sweet, and such an excellent example of wonderful friends. 
6. Gift giving. Leslie is a master at this as was demonstrated often.  There were the excellent presents she gave Ron, the year she gave everyone the bestest Christmas presents, and the time Ann and Ben joined forces to get her a gift and so on.  And all of this comes from Leslie's love of making people happy. 
7.  The time jump.  "Parks" was so smart to officially time jump, allowing them to skip over some of the early baby stuff and also futz with the existing relationships a little further than one might expect from a smaller break.  And the decision for Ben to run for office and how this changes things since Leslie is unaccustomed to being a candate's wife rather than a candidate further allowed them to explore the weird things we do to people who want to make our governments run, and also, given Leslie's experience running for and then being recalled from city council, and Ben's prior campaign experience, the idea that either of them would commit themselves to a campaign again is the truest expression of the hope that embodies the series.  In the end "Parks" is about hope and positivity and love and how that plays out through a bunch of bureaucrats. 
8. Many different people. Throughout "Parks was a wonderful sense that people, women shaped people included, of all different shapes, sizes,  beliefs, and ages could work together.  Not without every arguing.  Not without ever going too far sometimes.  But they could do it.  And they could succeed. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

And Then There Were Four...Probably

Note: Discussing "Sleepy Hollow" here, so if you haven't seen the end of the second season, you may wish to back away. 

Given my thoughts at the mid-season break, I thought I'd chat a bit now that we've made it to the end.  So, in theory at least, (because come on, in paranormal shows death is never the end) no more Jeremy/Henry, and no more Katrina.  But now Frank is back.  Again.  Good this time.  They say. It is tempting to say that this was a lot of stuff to get through to end up not too differently from where we had been, but I certainly think we can argue that the steps it took to get there were important. 
I like where they were ultimately going with both Henry and Katrina, even if one could argue that Henry's sudden feelings of maternal love when before he'd been only too happy to impregnate his mom with a demon (which is not my idea of a loving relationship, but I suppose we could argue that Henry had a rocky upbringing) was not well motivated by anything other than she's my mom, but the idea that maybe inside he had just been seeking parental approval, sure. 
And I understood why both Katrina and Ichabod had trouble understanding that there are only so many times your kid can rain death and demons on the world before you have to accept that reform is probably not in the cards.  (Or not in time to, you know, save the world.)
So Henry was killed and Ichabod was sad but understanding and Katrina was not.  And leading up to that they finally admitted that Katrina's magic had been wimpy, and then it was suggested to her by an evil warlock (always a reliable source) that her magic sucked because she was suppressing the desire to go dark.  And voila, Katrina was pretty good at dark magic.  Good enough to try to hit undo on everything, traveling back to the day of Ichabod's death.  And here's where it gets a little problematic for me.  Certainly, Katrina's decision to save Ichabod by putting him on magical ice for a few centuries has not worked out like she planned.  She doesn't seem to like the future which involves her son teaming up with demons and ultimately dying, her husband teaming up with modern folk who killed their son, and well, headless seems like he maybe was the better pick. But, there is a really convenient few things that Katrina is glossing over.  And I don't want to be all rah-rah the future is better, but Abbie (who got an accidental hitch on the time travel spell) visited Franklin and telling him about post offices, libraries, the success of the American Revolution and he was thrilled that the future was what they were fighting for.  And Katrina, who yes, was grief stricken over her son's death and her husband's apparent acceptance, well, decided to undo the saving of Ichabod. But she got back there, and then when she realized Abbie was there too, immediately teamed up with Headless to put a wrench in everything, because why?  Yes, Abbie was going to try to reset, but at that point Katrina's motivations boiled down to wrench in the works, which was a shame.  Because Katrina came into her own, but she didn't get more nuance, she got less.  (I also feel like maybe someone should have made her watch some time travel stuff.  It never works out when you try to muck with the past.)
So, Katrina got some power and motivation, and while I really love where they are now, I hope next season we don't have to take one character and mire them in indecision or inaction for a bunch of episodes to justify the payoff at the end.  I really enjoy this show, so these criticisms are leveled with love, but sometimes it's easy to get too focused on the endgame and ignore that within each episode if the character just seems stuck, it doesn't help for them to get two episodes at the end of action.
But, past Ichabod and present Abbie hugged it out, and Abbie also broke herself out of jail.  So, there was that. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

So...The Oscars

Saturday, we did the remaining best picture nominees, and hmm.  I had seen "The Imitation Game" already, but was curious if it would do better on rewatch, since while I didn't dislike it, I liked it better on reflection.  (I did, mostly, but some of the theme leaning was still a bit overt.)
Again, we had some more noticeable themes (other than, yes, white men).  Both "Boyhood" (which was quite wonderful) and "Theory of Everything" ended up spurring questions about the bits left out.  (What happened to the step siblings?  Was is medical advances or something unexplained that led to Hawking so supremely outliving the initial diagnosis.)  Again, a movie can only be about so many things and this batch already ran long (not in a bad way, but I didn't need any of them to be longer), but I just had questions.  Fortunately, the real people are much easier to search on.
Real people was another theme (yes, "Selma" was about real people too, they could have swapped out "Boyhood" and made it a whole weekend of real people.) And real British professors, since "Theory of Everything" was followed by "The Imitation Game".  And then we had two war heroes since "The Imitation Game" was followed by "American Sniper". 
Amid all the movie fun, there was sleet and snow out there.  It was strange because it didn't look too bad where we were, but apparently Dulles got significantly more and understandably the theater had employees who wanted to get home safely, so they pushed up the showtime of the final movie which meant I consumed way more movie theater food than I had planned to that day. 
And then I watched the Oscars Sunday. There were still many many movies I hadn't seen (although I did also have "Unbroken", "Big Hero 6", and "Feast" under my belt). But it meant I had a better sense of the choices.  I know the decisions are made based on far more than, well, the content of the movies, but still.  It did not do anything about the Oscars refusal to adhere to a schedule of any sort, or to, say, cut unnecessary numbers or patter once it's clear they are wildly off.  I realize that this is a big deal for many of these people and they should absolutely get their moment on stage.  But, I still had to go to work the next day.
But it was fun, and there were some great moments. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. It is no surprise that there are still places where not having physical evidence of one's, okay a female's virginity is an issue, so now there are virginity suppositories.
2. That the music industry's current business model makes few people money is not really news, but I still found this post about Aerosmith making more money from a video game interesting.
3. Sometimes, the day just calls for famous paintings with a photobombing fat cat

Monday, February 16, 2015

Oscar Movie Marathon Part the First

So, I've been meaning to do the Oscar Movie Marathon that some of the theaters do for quite some time.  Combinations of scheduling, the invariable, nope, not even if you paid me movie choice have prevented me but this year there were some movies that wouldn't have been my choice but only one I had no way levels of concern and I had the appropriate days free.  So, a friend and I went to the first half this weekend and discovered a few things. 
First, a surprising number of people showed up partway through, having either already seen some of the earlier selections or just not been able to get there that early.  (It was interesting because while the day was well priced for four movies, and still reasonable (comparative to current movie prices) for three, the value started to disappear if you were only seeing one or two. 
Seating becomes much more important when you are going to be there for four movies.  Also, it meant I did not shush the couple who started talking during a key moment in "Whiplash" because, well, we were going to be hanging out for two more movies and they did stop.  (I still could have shushed them, but really, it's not like people don't know you can hear them talking when you are right next to them.) 
There are themes you can predict going in.  Best Picture nominees tend to focus on dark journeys taken by misunderstood men.  But, watching them back to back, there are also things like, "Whiplash" featured a drummer, and so the drum heavy score of "Birdman" started to seem like a weird continuation.  Each of these movies featured credits only at the end, which is certainly not rare, but I feel like it is still not the norm so seeing four in a row with that was interesting. 
For this lineup of "Grand Budapest Hotel", "Whiplash", "Birdman", and "Selma", "Birdman" was the one I felt most meh about and I ended up liking it.  Discussing the movies after with my friend, it was hard to say which of these might win, and harder still to say which one we'd want to see again.  "Selma" was wonderful, but terribly heartbreaking even with the small triumphs earned. "Grand Budapest Hotel" was gorier than I had expected (it was cartoony violence, I simply hadn't expected it which probably says more about me than the movie) but quite fun in parts.  "Whiplash" and "Birdman" also had in common some non-traditional story arcs as they followed their protagonists on a journey that might make or break them.  I think next week's batch will be a bigger mix as far as my reactions, although I have already seen "The Imitation Game" I'm interested to see if a rewatch will shift my experience some. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Three Interesting Things

My brain is still recovering from Romance in the Digital Age, aka #poprom which I shall attempt a better post, or at least storify later.  But three other interesting things are here.
1. So schmoopy, but I have the wonderful luck to know this couple, so love this story about them.
2. I read something recently that talked about how all media is problematic to some extent, such that our constant need to address the problems becomes noisy and can often lose the point that ultimately we liked something.  I think this Vox post on "Fresh Off the Boat" which has made me strangely nostalgic for the nineties touches on how great the show is and yes, also looks at how some things in the show get glossed over. 
3. And this post talks wonderfully about how librarians are in a special position as they fill the shelves with choices for their patrons. 

Monday, February 09, 2015

Mama Shame

I've noticed a trend lately.  This idea that if people's mother's knew about their behavior they would stop or change or adjust.  And I want to clarify, if a six year old is running loose in a store, or behaving badly, absolutely, find the adult looking after this kid.  But that's not what we're talking about.  We're talking about people (okay, men, it is usually men, and for some reason we want to tell their moms and not their dads, grandparents, siblings, spouses, or other loved ones) who are saying inappropriate things either on the street or the internet.  And somehow bringing up mama shame, is seen as some sort of victory. 

And...I don't get it.  Even if the mother is legitimately sad about this person's behavior, how is this going to adjust the behavior of this person?  And if it does, how is this a victory?  Do mother's have to remain on call to answer for every bad step their child takes ever?   And what if this person either does not or no longer has a mother?  Are we then out of ways to address this?  I would certainly hope not.  And I would certainly hope that this isn't considered a viable solution for, well, any sort of adult behavior. 

And particularly in the realm of things like inappropriate sexual remarks, this really seems to me like shifting the blame to a woman.  And that doesn't seem like progress to me at all. 

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. I confess I pay minimal attention to basketball, but this piece on Diana Taurasi's decision to sit out a WNBA season and the various financial reasons (and let's face it, back to back seasons over the years would have anyone pondering a break) very interesting as to the state of women's team sport in the US.
2. I love me a musical, and so this piece on Lin Manuel Miranda's new Hamilton hip hop musical has me pondering a trip north.
3. And these three teens from across the world came to DC to learn more about how to help fight poverty.

Monday, February 02, 2015

That Twitchy Feeling

Writers (like other groups knitter, athletes, readers, etc) often have conversations about this new thing, this technique, this awesome process that they have discovered.  And generally, you have one of two reactions - either that sounds so cool or meh.  I spoke with a chapter-mate about how she went to one workshop about plot building and left a quivering mass, convinced she was deluded about this writer dream and she'd never make it.  She went to another that day, and it was an epiphany, it spoke to her, the stuff made sense.
So, I have two (at least points).  It's hard to figure out which is the thing that will be awesome, until you try.  I knit one pattern using the twisted German cast on, and honestly, I can't tell the difference in the finished product between that and the long tail.  So, I tried, for me, the long tail works great for most things, we move on.
When I first heard about NaNoWriMo, it sounded like the best idea ever.  (I still think it is really cool.) It was a ridiculous month, given the rest of my life, but I knew that the shared competition/pain would work for me. 
The second part of this is that sometimes things that you think are silly or for other people, suddenly sound awesome.  There is a Buddhist proverb, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."  Basically, things show up all the time and suddenly you're thinking, yes, I would love to learn more about martial arts and then you meet someone or remember that that person you were talking to a few months ago said something about that too. 
When I first heard about fast draft, I thought, wow, that is amazing and crazy.  That's like climbing Everest, you go have fun with that, I'll be here in the lodge.  And then, somewhere along the line, I started thinking, well, it's really only like twice as many words as Nano in like half the time.  And then I stumbled across a blog post where someone was talking about their experience going through a workshop. And I ended up signing up for one.  Even though it was in January.  Even though I had work, and volunteer stuff, and was already enrolled in another class for part of that time. 
And I did it, and it was great, and I had a draft that...changed halfway through.  So I haven't officially done that since.  But I usually try to NaNo and finish early now. Somewhere between 14 and 30 days seems a good match for my style.  And let's face it, like a lot of things, some stories, some knitting projects, some, exercise days (I hear) are different from others.  It's not always the new thing that either helped or hurt. But it's worth exploring.