Archive for review

Give Me A Minute And I'll Give You 2013

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In case you missed it

I love quick recaps to bring me up to speed. As much as I always think I'll remember things, even as recent as last week, I generally forget. In the world of TV, they know you will, so most dramatic TV shows start off with a recap. Those words, "Previously on..." head up most dramatic series. It's kind of a cheat but it allows you to enjoy what's upcoming despite missing something earlier. Well, 2014 is here and to start you off on the right footing I'd like to recap for you 2013. It was quite a year. You either missed a lot -- or in the state of politics, very little.

So, as you begin your new year, maybe today's your first day back to work, you might enjoy a quick and amusing review, all told in just over one minute: everything from twerking to Obamacare to "Breaking Bad" to the government shutdown to Amanda Bynes' meltdown to a revival of our love for "That's So Raven."

Thanks to our friends at Animation Domination:

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Video- NYT: 2013 Year in Review- Breaking Down the Numbers

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Why We Are Not Following The Following

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Guest post by skippy the bush kangaroo (@skippybkroo)

nobody likes good tv as much as we do, and nobody is as thrilled with the evolution of long-form story-telling on television as we are. add that to the fact that mrs. skippy loves kevin bacon, and we were incredibly excited to see the new fox tv series starring mr. bacon, known as "the following."

 photo following.jpg

"the following" which airs on mondays nights on fox-tv, tells the tale of an imprisoned serial killer played by james purefoy, who manages to communicate with his cultish acolytes on the outside to manipulate them into gruesome, bloody and shocking murders at his behest, like some sort of cross between charles manson and hannibal lecter. bacon plays the fbi agent who originally caught purefoy's character, and is now back on the case to try to figure out...wait for it..."the following."

now, we have no problem with explicit violence in service of a good scary or interesting story. we think breaking bad is one of the greatest piece of popular entertainment of all time, and we are big fans of dexter, justified, and the walking dead as well. but the difference between those afore-mentioned shows, the following, is simply this: "the following" sucks.

and it sucks in a big, big way. firstly, all the cops are really, really stupid. secondly, all the bad guys are really, really smart, and really, really evil. and that's about it. what other, little characterization there is seems to be lifted wholesale from a thousand previous police procedurals (bacon's character is world-weary! and alcoholic! purefoy's character is charismatic! and handsome! the black guy gets killed! almost right away!).

but wait! there's explicit violence, just like on those cable shows! stabbings! immolations! eye-gouging! and all in the name of edgar allen poe, who is supposedly the inspiration for all these killings, in the worst mis-reading of the works of american literary giant since disney animated the legend of sleepy hollow.

the problem with all this gore-nography, as we call it, is that there's nothing else very interesting in the show to hang it on. breaking bad isn't about drug dealers killing each other; it's an intricate study of the moral breakdown of a man already being beaten by the system. dexter isn't about slicing people up, it's a complicated analysis of the definitions of good and evil within each of us, asking if the indulgence of one can serve the other. and walking dead has zombies, so...

we expected so much more from kevin williamson, the creator and executive producer of the following. williamson wrote the scream films, which happily played with the tropes of horror movies even as they worked as a horror movies themselves. but in the following, williamson doesn't do anything with horror/serial killer tropes, other than steal them from thomas harris and criminal minds. even ryan murphy at least has fun juggling horror tropes around in american horror story. williamson seems to be writing this crap in his sleep, or else farming it out to some junior high creative writing class somewhere.

last week's episode was a prime example: the fbi followed (no pun intended) the clues to a specific individual's house. he wasn't home, but his wife was. the fbi interrogated her and decided she didn't know anything about the murderous cult her husband was involved with. now, at this point, we literally shouted at the tv "yeah, sure she doesn't! like paterno didn't know about sundusky!" but the fbi let her go back to her house, and sent one agent (the afore-mentioned one black guy in the cast) to guard her. even worse, he felt really safe turning his back on her in the kitchen where they keep all those knives and cutting implements. well, if you couldn't see his extremely bloody death coming a mile away, then we've got an original story about killing a man and hiding his still-beating heart under the floorboards to sell you.

there is something to be said for the subplot of two straight (bad) guys who pretended to be gay to get close to the ex-wife of purefoy's character in order to kidnap her son, only to later realize that maybe they liked being gay, but there's an evil girl involved who doesn't like them being gay, so she stabs one guy, who goes out and kidnaps an innocent lady and beats her up and keeps her in the basement. well, ok, there's really nothing to be said for that subplot, now that we write it out and look at it.

we are sorrier than you know to say this show is a turkey. we like to think that television has entered a second golden, or at least a silver, age of story-telling, with shows that demand actual attention paid by its audience, and multiple views of every episode to suss out the nuance and layers of human interaction. lost, the sopranos, fringe, as well as the shows mentioned above, are great examples of complex, substantive examinations of human folly.

"the following" is just a pale imitation, a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. if you ask us if we are going to keep watching it, we'd quote poe's raven.

nevermore.

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My Impression of GUTS by Kristen Johnston (3rd Rock from the Sun)

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First, big thanks to Kristen for letting me read this early. As most of you know, I'm still struggling with the eye issues, and this is the very first complete book I've ready in over 2 years- I didn't just read it, I gobbled it up in a couple of hours.

(Disclaimer: My huge affection for this book has nothing to do with the multiple similarities between Ms. Johnston's life and my own- We're both "big girls who grew up in the Midwest attending Catholic schools with matching neurosis and equally self deprecating humor." Nuh uh, makes no difference at all.)

I'm not a fan of "girl gets celebrity, girl goes wild, girl goes to rehab, girl is REDEEMED" stories so you will be thrilled to know this is not even close to the kind of dreck that is pumped out by vacuous bimbos pining for acceptance. Imagine you get a late night call from a girlfriend you were close to in college, and you both settle down to hear what's happened since then.

From the very first page the gauntlet is dropped. Irreverent? Check. Brutally honest? Check. Bordering on spit take funny? Double check.

I enjoyed every page of it even though some parts can be so raw about her condition that you find yourself sighing and wishing there was a phone call you could have made or fit thrown to get the damn woman some help.

It's okay, she didn't need me.

Anyone who struggles with addiction or has anything to do with one will recognize the depths and strengths in Kristen's journey, so I guess the snorts and chortles are on the house.

A thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours with an extraordinary woman.

Kristen Johnston's new book out 3/13. Uniquely honest AND funny. Pre order $10 off, $1 a book goes to SLAM (Organization to get sober HS in NYC).

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President Obama by the Numbers

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If you're up to it, drop by the comments at CBS and revel in teh stupid. Via Taegan-

Mark Knoller of CBS News is the unofficial keeper of presidential numbers and offers a few highlights from President Obama's year:

Speeches, statements and remarks: 491
News conferences : 27
Town hall meetings: 17
Vacation trips: 6, including all or part of 32 days
Flights on Air Force One: 172
Flights on Marine One: 196
Rounds of golf: 29
Basketball games: 20

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Best book review ever: "It is astonishing how many major players from Bush World are here Missing in Action."

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Best review of Bush's "book" ever (or should I have said, "Bush's" book?). In fact, I'd like to read a book by Eliot Weinberger. Great insights, wonderful writing style, intelligent, thoughtful, wonderfully critical, and best of all, he knows how to skewer... exquisitely.

Just. Go. Read:

In the scariest line in the book, he has been allowed to let slip that his motive for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq was simple revenge, surely the least desirable emotional quality one would want in a world leader with access to nuclear weapons. About 9/11 the text says: ‘My blood was boiling. We were going to find out who did this, and kick their ass.’

Team DP has indeed created ‘a space into which the writing subject constantly disappears’; one learns almost nothing about George W. Bush from this book. The names of hundreds of other people are mentioned, almost always in praise – it is, in its way, the world’s longest prize acceptance speech – but none of them, outside of the Bush family, has any life as a character. Each new person is introduced with a single sentence, noting one or more of the following: 1) Texan origins; 2) college athletic achievements; 3) military service; 4) deep religious faith. The sentence ends with three personal characteristics: ‘honest, ethical and forthright’; ‘a brilliant mind, disarming modesty and a buoyant spirit’; ‘a statesman, a savvy lawyer and a magnet for talented people’; ‘smart, thoughtful, energetic’ (that’s Condi); ‘knowledgeable, articulate and confident’ (that’s Rummy); ‘a wise, principled, humane man’ (Clarence Thomas); and so on. Then the person does whatever Bush tells him to do. [...]

It is astonishing how many major players from Bush World are here Missing in Action. Entirely absent, or mentioned only in passing, are Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Yoo, Elliott Abrams, Ahmed Chalabi, Ayad Allawi, Rick Santorum, Trent Lott, Tom DeLay, Richard Armitage, Katherine Harris, Ken Mehlman, Paul O’Neill, Rush Limbaugh. Barely appearing at all are John Ashcroft, Samuel Alito, Ari Fleischer, Alberto Gonzales, Denny Hastert, John Negroponte and Tom Ridge. Condi and Colin Powell are given small parts, but Rummy is largely a passing shadow. No one is allowed to steal a scene from the star.

Now skitter on over and read the rest. You're welcome.

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Bush on Bush

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Michael Kinsley reviews GW Bush's book in the New York Times. I pulled a few random excerpts, but please read the whole thing here.

  • When he heard that American soldiers had “severely mistreated” prisoners at Abu Ghraib, “I felt sick, really sick.” Twice he reports feeling “disgusted”: when people accused him of racism in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (it was “the worst moment of my presidency”) [There were many more worst moments, but the first was when he was sworn in. That made me feel sick, really sick.]
  • “I told them I was not going to let terrorists scare me away. ‘I’m the president,’ I said firmly. ‘And we’re going to Washington.’ ” [He said, doing his best impression of a recalcitrant toddler.]
  • A pugnacious determination to be taken seriously is about half an inch below the surface of “Decision Points.” It’s poignant that even as a former two-term president, Bush should feel the need to strut the way he does. [How does one take a buffoon seriously? How does one take a corporate train wreck who led us into a fraudulent war seriously?]
  • "I always liked people with a sense of humor, a sign of modesty and self-awareness.” [If only he'd adopt some of the traits he so admires.]
  • He had no political views he deems worthy of mention before the age of 40, but a few years later he has a complete set. You do have to wonder how deep they run. [He had no political views I deem worthy of mention after the age of 40.]
  • He seems to think an embryo is like a fetus — a tiny human being — rather than what it is: a clump of a few dozen cells, invisible without a microscope, unthinking and unfeeling.  [He also seems to think torture is legal. 'Nuff said.]
  • It would be nice to say that Bush grew in office — like Henry V, the wastrel youth and son of a famous father to whom he was often compared. But judging from this book, it didn’t happen. Although Bush is admirable for stopping, he probably was more fun when he drank. [And more coherent. Wait. When he drank... as in, past tense?]
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