I’m watching everything

15 03 2015

So, CSI:Cyber has premiered.

Is it terrible? Of course it is.

Do I watch it? Of course I do.

~~~

I remain [perhaps overly] fond of Numb3rs. As mentioned [too many times] previously, I like the relationship between the brothers and between them and the father, I like the humor, I like their guest stars (Jay Baruchel and Josh Gad, in particular), and what I liked most of all was that and how they dealt with the misuse of force by the main character, Don. Yeah, the show got a little loopy at times in the sixth season, but since the sixth was also the last season, all was ended before the rot set it.

What I really did not like, however, was how David and Colby would—repeatedly—from 10 yards away from a suspect pull out their badges and yell, “FBI: stop right there!”

The suspect always runs. Always.

Guys, this happens every freakin’ time you walk up on someone. Can you not learn to wait until you’re right there before pulling the whole “we’re cops/you’re busted” routine?

~~~

Why hasn’t Cryptonomicon been made into a cable series yet?

It’s too involved for a single movie, or even a trilogy, but it would seem to be perfect for season or mini-season show on, I dunno, TNT or Netflix. I’m not necessarily a fan of all things Stephenson—I doubt I’ll ever get through Anathem–but Cryptonomicon is, relatively speaking, pretty straightforward.

Okay, so that relatively speaking does a lot of work, but imagine breaking up the episodes by different chapters or sections, and then offering the viewers a guide on how to watch it: You could watch episodes in the same order as they were presented in the book; you could isolate the WWII sections; isolate the 1990s sections; note those featuring the different characters; even include those bits on the details of cryptography (which I most assuredly would skip).

Stephenson can be annoying because of all of his digressions, but those same digressions are also why so many people like his books: they’re nerdy and overstuffed and repay repeated readings. (I watch the same shows over and over again; you can’t be surprised I re-read novels.) A well-done version of Cryptonomicon would be watched and re-watched and blogged about and argued about over and over and over again.

There would be some real issues to do with regarding language, and given all of the war scenes, it wouldn’t be cheap to film, but given Wikileaks and Snowden, this would be a great time to turn this text into television.

And man, I’d really love to see Bobby Shaftoe and Goto Dengo onscreen.





Then we take Berlin

2 03 2015

Yet another procedural, but with a Euro-twist: Crossing Lines.

I know, pathetic. I did start watching Once, and liked the main character well enough and LOVED the bad gal, and maybe I’ll go back to it, but the whole kid-who’s-sussed-it-all-out trope is a bit much.

And I started Continuum, which is proceduralish, but I’m not crazy about the main character, and, having looked ahead in the plot synopses, I see they they fuck hard with the timeline—and that does not suit me.

I hate it, really. I mean, I liked the timeline-fucking episodes in Star Trek: Voyager and Stargate SG1 but those tended to be stand-alone things, not upend-everything-you-know-forever-with-nary-a-glance-backward (Fringe!). I was actually pissed when Eureka shifted timelines, but they handled it well enough, insofar as the five main characters had to come to terms with the shift, and do so repeatedly.

Why do I hate timelines-shifts? I (irrationally—do I need to put this in here?) take it personally, as if the producers are saying Oh, you got all invested in those characters and their relationships and that whole world? Psych! It also seems cheap, like We ran outta ideas, so. . . , but mostly I feel cheated.

Back to Crossing Lines. It’s got the same set-up as approximately 40.372 percent of all procedurals out there: one man brings together a disparate group of individuals, each with his or her own ISSUES!, and molds them into super-group of crime fighters. And the set-up itself is ludicrous on its face (which, oddly, makes it easier for me to ignore): the International Criminal Court authorizes this super-group to investigate cross-border crimes, apparently on the belief that Interpol and Europol are not up to the task.

Like I said, ridiculous, but the crimes are less pervy-gory (Criminal Minds) and more sober-serious (trafficking trafficking trafficking—except for that one episode about roadside forced-fight club), and the settings are awesome! The Hague! Paris! Prague! Rome! London! There was even an episode set in New York, which, while screamingly wrong*, was still enjoyable, largely because it featured Carrie Anne Moss.

(*As in, prominent shot of the Bergen Street 2-3 train in Manhattan—only there is no Bergen 2-3 stop in Manhattan, and the 3 was in a green rather than red circle. Green is for the deservedly-much-maligned G-line.)

And have I mentioned that Donald Sutherland lords over all of this, enjoyably pompous and given to uttering ridiculous lines with such grave sincerity that, once again, I find it easier to be charmed than put off?

There are only two seasons currently on Netflix, and I only have two episodes left. Who knows, maybe after these I’ll finally fire up Orange is the New Black—which is, it should be noted, not a procedural.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.





Turn and face the strange

26 08 2014

I knew that birthday call to my sister would last awhile—it always lasts awhile—but I didn’t think it would go on that long.

This, by the way, is my excuse for not posting last night

~~~

Classes begin on Thursday. I am, as ever, looking forward to it.

I recycle a lot of material from semester to semester—if it works well, why change it?—but I periodically amend or even overhaul courses: maybe it works well, but I’m bored, or maybe it doesn’t work so well.

The politics & culture course got revamped (due to boredom) last year, and while it worked okay, it just never came together the way I wanted it to. So for this semester I fiddled a bit with the first third, left the last third alone, and redid the middle third.

I’d been using Charles Taylor’s edited volume Multiculturalism to get at, well, issues of multiculturalism, but the argument of he and his interlocutors was pitched a bit, ehhh, not high, but not in the direction that was most fruitful. So I tossed Chuck and added some online readings, readings which come to the pointy-point much more quickly than Chas and his gang.

(If you’ve ever read Taylor you know exactly what I’m talking about. He’s smart and his stuff is worth reading, but good lord the man won’t use 10 words when a hundred will do.)

Anyway, I think it’s a good bet that the students will be more engaged by Ta-Nehisi Coates (among others) than academics speaking academically.

As for the bioethics, that’s pretty damned well set. I did add some short bits on gene therapy and epigenetics, but otherwise it’s the same. I did dig out for my lectures some more recent stuff on genetics and stem cells and, later in the semester, will on ART issues, mostly to make sure I’m not giving my students out-of-date or, even worse, wrong information.

The lectures on the science are, as I repeatedly warn the students, ur-basic and no substitute for the real thing; still, while I’m willing to simplify, I don’t want to mislead.

The good news is that it doesn’t look as if anything I have been teaching has been wrong.

~~~

I’m watching Criminal Minds on Netflix and it is, of course, terrible.

Yes, I have new shows in my queue and I do watch them (The Fall, Bletchley Circle), but I’ve gotten so televisionally-lazy that more often than not I prefer comfort and predictability over innovation , or even just the mostly-unwatched.

This is a failing, as I often do like something new, (Leverage! Yay, Leverage!), but if I’m in any kind of mood at all, I’ma gonna click on a link that takes me to a place I’ve been before.

As with Criminal Minds. I watched the first season or two on t.v., when I had a t.v., and this past year I’ve been watching the current season on CBS.

Well, okay, not wholly watching: I am over watching psychos torture their vics, so I zip through those portions. And the show has gotten more savage over the years, stretching out the screen-time given to crimes; in the early seasons, these are more glimpses than extended scenes.

And it’s not as if I particularly like any of the characters on the show. I don’t hate them, but, as with NCIS, they range from boring to annoying to eye-roll-inducing.

So why watch? Goddess help me, it’s a fucking procedural and fucking procedurals are my televised comfort food. This fall I’ll probably end up watching both that NCIS New Orleans show and CSI Cyber or whatever the hell it’ll be called.

Jesus.

Yes, I should change my diet, but I’ll probably only go as far as occasionally adding something more intellectually nutritious, and will keep mowing down the junk in the meantime.





The birds all sing as if they knew

10 11 2013

Yeah, they did it. Surprise, surprise: did anyone really think a mere church burning would stop them?

I’m talking about Brennan and Booth on Bones, of course. They got married. Of course. After numerous obstacles (because psycho-killer Pelant wasn’t enough of one) they married in a white tent, with Cindy Lauper singing “At Last.” Of course.

It wasn’t terrible, as these things go, but utterly entirely predictably predictable. I mean, why introduce the former-priest pal-o’-Booth at the beginning of the season unless he’d be the one to perform the ceremony?

Oh, about that: If these two were so tight, why didn’t we meet Mister Former Priest Bartender before this? And where were Jared and Russ? Did these brothers not even merit a mention?

Bitch bitch bitch, I know. I’m not hate-watching Bones—really! I’m not!—but it is true that I’m grumpy after almost every episode. Why am I even bothering?

One, even though it’s nowhere near as good as it was in the first 4 or 5 seasons, it’s still not bad. The plots have gotten pro forma, but the writing is still pretty good.

Two, I like the characters. Hodgins is my favorite, and I like his relationship with Angela (even if he is a bit too moony), and I like Cam quite a bit. Booth & Brennan may both be a bit stale, and Caroline has been softened too much, but she still gets some good zingers.

Sweets is all right, still slightly annoying, and Daisy is still very annoying—which kinda endears her to me. The rest of the interns are, whatever, interns, and it seems as if they dropped Mr. Southern Gothic from the line-up, which is fine with me. (I liked the actor just fine, but Edgar-Allan-Poe they overheated the character’s backstory.)

Three come Friday night I am not at all ambitious, so sitting down to watch Bones, even in its exhausted state, works for me. I’m mildly entertained, which most Fridays is enough.

That last may be the most important reason I’m still watching the show. There are other shows I will theoretically check out (Orange is the New Black, Scandal, Top of the Lake, The Bridge, Misfits), but I’m just really. . . lazy when it comes to getting to know a new cast & set of storylines.

Anyway, I keep thinking This season will be the last, so the coda-reason is that I want to be there not just at the end, but through the end.

If it ever ends. *Sigh*





Thinking the point was step on every crack

9 10 2013

I’ve been dilatory (cause: laziness) in continuing my reviews of Fringe.

That’s because (in addition to laziness) I did not continue watching Fringe.

There are basic leaps one needs to make whenever watching science fiction (or police/security procedurals), and for the most part I leap away. An FBI agent has a math genius brother who’s able to fulfill his teaching and research obligations to his university while also romancing his former grad student and chalking out formulae to help solve crimes? Okay. An FBI agent who partners with a socially awkward forensic anthropologist genius and her wacky pack o’ squints and their cool tools in order to solve crimes? Sure. An FBI agent whose sister was stolen by aliens when he was a boy paired with a rationalist medical doctor-slash-FBI agent to chase down oddities and supernaturalities in order to discover the truth out there? Sign me up. Hop hop hop.

An FBI agent who partners with a lobotomized genius who accidentally killed a lab assistant and whose been locked away in an asylum for 17 years as a result but now runs a lab in a spare basement room at Harvard in order to chase down oddities and cross-dimensionalities (while romancing that lobotomized genius’s son)? Wellll. . . .

I like the characters, I really do.  Olivia seemed like a real person, and I like(d) her relationship with Charlie and Philip. Nina Sharp is a fabulous cypher, and William Bell is, well, Leonard Nimoy, so, okay. Astrid, the FBI agent-turned-new-lab-assistant, is pleasant, but mostly a non-entity. Peter’s hinted-at background as a criminal matters not at all—and no, one doesn’t need to be a criminal to know dodgy-yet-conveniently-helpful small-timers—and his ambivalence about hanging around his head-chopped dad is meant to connote a kind of agony but shrinks into mere irritation. Still, one can hop along with these two.

The problem, really, is with Walter. He was apparently a real sonuvabitch pre-brain scoop, but while he retains his genius and enough of his memory, he’s mostly just pathetically creepy. He has a hankering for weed and candy, keeps a cow in his lab, and shuffles quite convincingly between his burbling beakers. He giggles at the thought of some of his experiments and appreciates the weirdness the Fringe Division throws his way, but coupled with his constant mispronunciations of Astrid’s name and his keening for his son’s love, his own weirdness comes off as less lovably eccentric than, well, pathetically creepy.

As I write that, I wonder if the show wouldn’t have done better to have pushed even further on the creepiness. The other characters periodically voice their concerns about his trustworthiness, but more because he’s pathetic than that he’s creepy. Had he retained some of those characteristics which made him such a piece of work before, Walter might have become something much more compelling than a quivering mass of goo in a sweater.

This is not a great leap (!) on my part: Alternate-universe Walter, who retains all parts of his brain, is an arrogant, vengeful leader out to destroy those who are destroying his world. He turned out to be far more complex than goo-Walter, and offered a far better character through which to consider how far one should go in order to defend oneself—and one’s world.

Still, as good as “Walternate” was, the extended stay in the alternate universe in season 3 leached away a lot of my enthusiasm for the show. I like dips into alternate universes (one of the best episodes of the terrible Star Trek: Enterprise was bad-ass Enterprise) and well as skips across the timeline (at which Star Trek: Voyager excelled), but I do not react well to permanent shifts in the time/storyline. At all.

I thoroughly enjoyed Eureka, but when they time-shifted the series in the fourth season, I stopped watching. When the fifth season hit Netflix, I did go back and rewatch the entire series, but that shift was something I had to get past. I did—Eureka‘s comedy-drama sensibility helped—but had the show not acknowledged, through the necessity of the characters themselves constantly managing that shift, that they had just messed with something good, I would have stayed gone.

Fringe was hampered in this shift-management insofar as Peter was the only one aware of the previous timeline. The other characters apparently come around (I did dip in and out of season 4), but, coupled with the cross-posting of “Fauxlivia” (yeeks) in the regular universe, I just thought, This shit is too much.

And the fifth season? Haven’t seen it, not least because the setting has been shifted once again, this time into the future, where our plucky gang has to save the world from, apparently, genocidal Observers. Whatever.

I’m not saying I won’t go back and finish it out. But that will only happen once I no longer care so much about those characters, and thus am no longer so bothered by the artless manipulation of them.





Do whatcha gonna do

14 07 2013

Late afternoon and all I could think of was how sticky I was. An ice cube where my cleavage should be wasn’t going to cut it.

Time again for the a/c.

The cats reacted predictably, giving me reproving looks along the lines of what took you so long, cheapskate? They’ll get theirs, tomorrow, when I turn off the air and open the windows and abandon them for my office.

Anyway, I finished watching Eureka last night and have moved on to Fringe. Eureka will likely make it into that round of shows which I re-watch because I like the characters and I like the dialogue and I’m having that kind of day or week in which I like knowing how things turn out.

This actually gets in the way, the liking knowing how things turn out: I re-watch old Bones and Numb3ers and Buffy and Waking The Dead and shy away from movies I’d probably like and shows which, once I’ve seen them, I’ll want to see them again.

I did, on dmf’s suggestion, watch Wallander, and I’ve seen a chunk of the first series of Luther, but too often I’m unwilling to stretch myself beyond the familiar. I’ve heard good things about The Bridge and Orange is the New Black, but will I bother with something that might catch me unawares?

That’s really it, isn’t it: I don’t like to be caught out, and that dislike has metastasized beyond defensive behavior and into defensive viewing. Which, to be frank, is silly.

Oh, I don’t have a problem deepening all kinds of bitsy issues, but, honestly, some days I do just need to get over myself. I fret about stagnating and changing my defaults and on and on and then I fret over watching a fucking television show.

Which, to be frank, is silly.

So I’ve watched the first episode of Fringe, and it’s sci-fi-y and police-procedural-y and it stars Joshua Jackson and Blair Brown and Kirk Acevedo who I like and Anna Torv who I don’t know but who has great eyes and—wait while I put my hand where my cleavage should be—Lance Reddick, who is always the most interesting man on the screen.

(He lives in Brooklyn. My chances of running into him are nil and my chances of making any kind of impression on him are less than nil but oh my. My oh my.)

Fringe and Lance Reddick and sarcastic cats in the conditioned air: it ain’t much, but in the bowels of July, it’s all right.





Brothers in arms

23 06 2013

It’s a modest little show, charming without being precious.

Eureka. I’m (re-)watching Eureka.

I’d happened upon the show at either Hulu or Netflix, watched it here and there, skipping around enough to keep loose track. I liked it, that’s all.

I don’t know if it would qualify as sci-fi. I guess so, insofar as it doesn’t really fit into any other genre—even with a sheriff at the center, it doesn’t really count as a police procedural—and with all the  future-tech, it is fictionalized science. Anyway, I like science fiction, I like clever writing, and I like odd characters.

And on second viewing, I’m latching on to the characters. This isn’t deep stuff by any means, but I’m enjoying how they relate to one another. There’s romance and friendship and antagonism and collegiality and over time it’s. . . nice to see how it all plays out.

The primary relationship is probably that between Sheriff Carter and Global Dynamics head Allison Blake, with a close second that between Carter and his daughter, Zoe, but for me, the central relationship is that between Carter and Henry.

It’s a real friendship between these two, and the actors, Colin Ferguson and Joe Morton, have good friend-chemistry. More than that, they acknowledge that they’re friends, and note on regular occasions how important that friendship is to both of them.

‘Buddies’ aren’t anything new to television, but these guys aren’t buds: they don’t drink beer and knock each other the shoulders and misdirect whatever affection they have toward one another toward, say, a basketball game or a car. They like each other, and that’s enough.

I think that’s one of the reasons I so like Numb3rs. At the center of that show is the relationship between the brothers, Don and Charlie. Don’s a bit of a hard-ass and the genius Charlie is annoyingly needy, but they check in with one another, as brothers. They look out for each other, get on each other’s nerves, and are still working through the weirdness of their childhood relationship.

It’s not a one-time thing, the working on the relationship, and I think that’s what sets apart Eureka and Numb3rs from buddy shows. It’s just there, from episode to episode, and sometimes it’s frayed and sometimes it needs work, but the friendships are demonstrated in their constancy, not in some grand epiphany.

It’s nice to see that, in men. And for them, too.