Incoming clusterfuck…

Justice Souter is retiring.

Washington is going to implode.

Does this mean that we get a liberal version of Scalia? Or at least Roberts?

One can dream.

UPDATE: My prediction for his replacement: Ed Rendell.

What I’m Watching – The Office

My love for The Office has been stated before – so I won’t bore you with an argument about how great this show is. Instead this post will discuss the latest season of the show – which has been uneven to say the least.

The season began on a high note with the continuation of the story arcs from the fourth season – Michael and Holly, Jan’s baby, Pam going to New York, the Dwight/Andy/Angela love triangle. The problem is pretty much these storylines went no where and kind of fizzled out. Pam went to New York but failed and came back. The Michael/Holly love story sort came to an abrupt conclusion – almost out of nowhere. Jan disappeared after two episodes. The consequences for the blow up of the Dwight, Andy, and Angela storyline was remarkably clean.

The reset button has been hit a little too easily this season.

I think the big problem with this season is that it lacks the narrative tightness that made the second, third, and four seasons so fantastic. While their have been invidual moments of absolutely hilarity and many excellent character moments – the season has not hung together well this time around. I have kept asking myself where the hell are going with all this?

Many of those complaints have been washed away in recent episodes – the “Michael Scott Paper Company” arc. While at the end of the arc things were reset – yet there were some big changes that will alter how the show works forever and further character arcs that have been building since the show started. Especially with Pam. In the last six episodes the show really has been what I thought the whole season should be – tight plotting, good character work, and solid comedic moments. It almost seems like the writers need 14 episodes to hit their stride.

What I’ve appreciated most able this season though is that the writers haven’t introduced useless, stupid drama to tear Pam and Jim apart. Nothing is more lame than those sort of “plot twists” which replay the same drama over and over again.

So in sum: this season has been uneven but still funny and has improved recently.

What I’m Watching – Chuck

(The first in what I hope will be a multi-part series to get me writing here again)

Chuck is a bad show.  Not a horrible unwatchable show but a bad one none the less. In fact admitting that I’ve watched this show in passing – much less every episode of the its two season run – will get me a great deal of mocking from some quarters. But I enjoy the show – a great bit – none the less.

In many ways, Chuck has a lot in common with Ugly Betty – another bad but highly watchable show. Both are relentlessly silly, have a premise that collapses under any thought, and are escapist fiction for their target audiences. Put another way, Chuck is the male equivalent of Ugly Betty. Both shows feature improbable premises – a girl gets one of the top jobs in the fashion industry out of nowhere and a boy gets all of our national security secrets downloaded into his brain. Both shows main characters are ciphers for their target audience – Betty is “ugly” but good hearted and a hard worker while Chuck is a nerdy video gamer in a dead end job but could do so much more. In both shows the main characters get to live in a dream world – Betty gets to work in high fashion and Chuck gets to hang out with a hot chick and blow shit up. Both shows deal heavily in stereotypes – Betty of the fashion world and Chuck of the nerd/geek/dork/whatever community.

My point in all that is that Chuck fits firmly in the wish fulfillment school of entertainment. Many a geeky guy dreams of hanging out with a hot girl, saving the world, and blowing things up with the guy from Firefly. It does not seek to challenge its audience in any way – and it that ambition it certainly succeeds. It also seeks to be relentlessly entertaining and to keep its audience coming back each week – and it that ambition it mostly succeeds as well.

At its best moments Chuck is like a well-written superhero comic – it “serious” enough that you invest yourself in the plot, characters, and conflict but not serious enough to draw attention to the utterly goofy premise underlying everything. You end an episode with a smile on your face, fully entertained. At its worst moments – and there are several – everything feels forced and the whole enterprise patently insult to your intellence – sort of like watching Stargate. Shows like Chuck walk a fine line between fun and stupidity – Chuck is mostly on the side of the angels but can’t hit them all out of the park.

Personally, I feel that a show like Chuck would be more acceptable to many if it was a cartoon. Its premise and many of its plots are cartoonish – almost in the extreme. The show would be able to do more with its action sequences and would probaly be able to get away more with some of the ridiculousness it attempts to pass off if it was animated. But as a sort of living cartoon it almost works. Almost.

Chuck’s largest problem is its treatment of the character of Sarah – which comes from it roots as a show about male wish fulliment. Many plot points in the show – especially in the first season – seem to envolve getting Sarah in some state of undress – the fewer layers the better. And you know, if you can get her wet and barely dressed – things are all the better for it. This is the most deeply frustrating and retrograde aspect of the series. I can forgive many of the writers’ storytelling sins – even its association with McG (!) – except for this. In fact your can usually measure an episode’s quality by amount of explotation the writers make of Yvonne Strahovski’s body.

Summing this up: Chuck is a bad yet entertaining show. That entertainment is sometimes ruined by it retrograde treatment of its main female character. It has Adam Baldwin in it. It is well worth watching – most of the time.

A Portmanteau Is Not An Argument

Due to the Tea Party protesters crowding up the roads in front of the Merrifield Post Office, my drive home from work yesterday took more than twice as long as it should. After sitting in the rain and the traffic slowly creeping down Lee Highway, the first protester I saw was holding a sign that said “Stop CommunIslam!” An unsettling sensations settled over me. I was both appalled at the sign’s insinuations and baffled at what those insinuations were supposed to mean. The protester who made the sign would’ve called this emotion “appaffled.”


Submitted without comment: (except to say that the bolding is mine)spiderpalm

[Joe Quesada:] This also seems like the perfect time to announce our Marvel Divas limited series, beginning in July, from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Tonci Zonjic, featuring some of the Marvel Universe’s greatest female heroes in a way you haven’t seem them before.

I’ll let Roberto explain:

The idea behind the series was to have some sudsy fun and lift the curtain a bit and take a peep at some of our most fabulous super heroines. In the series, they’re an unlikely foursome of friends–Black Cat, Hell Cat, Firestar, and Photon–with TWO things in common: They’re all leading double-lives and they’re all having romantic trouble. The pitch started as “Sex and the City” in the Marvel Universe, and there’s definitely that “naughty” element to it, but I also think the series is doing to a deeper place, asking question about what it means…truly means…to be a woman in an industry dominated by testosterone and guns. (And I mean both the super hero industry and the comic book industry.) But mostly it’s just a lot of hot fun.”


Praise GOD! err…

I suppose this is why I have no friends in the religious right…I can’t keep a straight face with this shit. However I realize the hypocrisy on my part. I do embrace individuality and freedom of expression…but they bring this on themselves.


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