April 15, 2015

April 15, 2015

Cinco de Quatro

The recent announcement that Arrested Development would be getting a fifth season made me realize that I’d neglected to watch the fourth. I remedied that this weekend, absorbing 15 episodes of Bluthy goodness via my willing eyeballs over the course of two days.

Unlike a number of critics whose reviews I seem to remember reading when S4 was first released, I loved it. I’d forgotten how chock-full AD is of verbal and visual gags. Though 30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and others have since inured us to commedia dell’fast-and-furious, AD was really a pioneer in the genre.

My favorite episode? Probably Buster’s by a hand nose, though the machinations of GOB’s “A New Attitude” also had me in hysterics. I’m a sucker for old-school and/or physical gags—pratfalls, revolving doors, and the like—and the scene involving GOB, Egg Ann, and Tony Wonder considering various forms of masked sexual congress required me to spend time in a quiet room afterwards.

Though my favorite moment remains the Lucille/Buster smoking scene.* I could watch an extended cut of this, on loop, for days.

It’s been too long since I watched S1-3 for me to fully appreciate all the callbacks and returning cast members, but good on everyone who returned to or joined the cast. (Though I was hoping for more of both Annyong and Bob Loblaw.) Kristen Wiig as young Lucille in particular was spot-on, and Ron Howard was a much better sport than I would be if asked to play a version of myself.

Things I didn’t care for? The Real Housewives storyline (Bobby Lee notwithstanding), Lindsay’s new face, DeBrie, the three surplus Richters (which ones? YOU DECIDE), and the bees.

Overall, a solid A for me. Curious to see where S5 goes, and whether the banana stand gets resurrected. There's always money in it.

*Favorite visual gag: The tiny “HELP” written on GOB’s finger while he was trapped in the cave, as seen on traffic camera footage.

March 19, 2015

March 19, 2015

Putting the NO in MONOPOLY

Because humanity can never leave well enough alone, a new “Here & Now” edition of Monopoly now features American cities as the properties. Here are some pictures of the game board:

I found out about this because my hometown placed in the red group at #11. But, to paraphrase our youth, I can’t even with this. To wit:

1. Pierre is #1? Really? REALLY?

2. Why is the image representing Milwaukee two people in Packers regalia? While most Milwaukeeans are Packers fans, you couldn’t have picked—oh, I don’t know—something actually unique to MILWAUKEE?

3. What is the deal with the currency symbol? Is the USD not good enough for Monopoly? Because it’s good enough for the rest of the freaking world, Hasbro.

4. Community Chest is now First Class? What the crap does that even MEAN?

5. Have the pieces all changed? My favorite pieces have always been the iron and the thimble. But I see, like, the Statue of Liberty and maybe a Shakeweight? I guess I need to start carrying my own pieces around. I refused to by represented by a bowl of quinoa.

6. FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE RAILROADS? (If they were replaced with airports, where are the other two? And which airports are we talking about here?)


8. Why does the “In Jail” guy still look like a 1930s hobo? (Props to keepin’ him white, though.)

9. Do we not have houses and hotels anymore? Is it all virtual? Do you build equity in a property by Airbnb-ing it?

I’m skeptical, people. I don’t know whose Here & Now this is supposed to represent, but it’s not mine until they add Vegas, change the Milwaukee picture to the Calatrava, and bring back the little green plastic houses that make a satisfying tinkle when you rattle them together.

Strike two, Monopoly.

March 11, 2015

March 11, 2015

I'm Lovin' It

Friend-of-blog M and I were recently talking about signature McDonald’s items. As proud children of America’s restaurant industrial complex, our childhoods were filled with the joy of fats and carbohydrates. When I was your age, I didn’t even know what quinoa was. SO THERE.

M’s a big fan of the McChicken sandwich; I’m partial to the Filet-O-Fish. Both worthy choices, as are the McChicken Nugget, the McRib, Shamrock Shakes, the Big Mac, the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, the Big Breakfast, and the short-lived but much-loved-by-me Arch Deluxe. You can keep your wraps, tenders, and apple slices. And if you had given me a Happy Meal with milk in it, it’s possible I would have punched you in the face.

That’s not a trick of perspective. That soda is as big as my entire head. Just how the good Lord intended.

(Also, I appear to have barbecue sauce with my nuggets, which is causing a little crisis of faith for me. I am a staunch honey apologist, but I am here faced with apparently incontrovertible visual evidence that I at least once got the barbecue sauce. Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?)

What was your food- or drink-stuff of choice? Extra points if you grew up abroad and it’s an item special to your own country’s restaurants, like McBangers and Mash or something. McSpaghetti. McPaella. McCurry. I could do this all day.

March 9, 2015

March 9, 2015

His Name is Alexander Hamilton

CBS Sunday Morning (your favorite weekend morning newscast and mine) did a lovely piece on Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hamilton yesterday. The full 9ish-minute video is here, but the salient points are thus:

- Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of hip-hop musical In the Heights, has a new musical about Alexander Hamilton.
- It’s currently running at the Public Theatre but moving to Broadway this summer.
- In LMM’s words, Hamilton is “The story of America then, told by America now.”

I’ve been looking forward to this musical since fall 2013, and bought tickets as soon as they were available to plebes like me last year. I saw Hamilton at a matinee last month and I still can’t get over it. It’s just that good. A taste—the first song, performed at the White House some years ago and materially unchanged since then:

Hamilton, to be frank, lived a hell of a life. The salient points are thus, copied from his Wikipedia page:

- Born out of wedlock and raised in the West Indies, local wealthy men helped Hamilton get a college education after he was orphaned as a child.
- He became the senior aide to General Washington, the American forces' commander-in-chief.
- He founded the Bank of New York
- He helped achieve ratification by writing 51 of the 85 installments of the The Federalist Papers.
- Hamilton's opposition to Adams' re-election helped cause his defeat in the 1800 election.
- Taking offense at some of Hamilton's comments, Burr challenged him to a duel in 1804 and mortally wounded Hamilton, who died the next day.
- Hamilton became involved in an affair with Maria Reynolds over a nine-month period that would be revealed to the public several years afterward.
- The main administration building of the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, is named Hamilton Hall to commemorate Hamilton's creation of the United States Revenue Cutter Service, one of the predecessor services of the United States Coast Guard.

ALL ONE DUDE, people. All one dude. And the musical contrasts him with Aaron Burr (played absolutely brilliantly by Leslie Odom, Jr.), who was less committal if no less brilliant. Is it better to burn out or fade out? Maybe neither?

I’m already trying to figure out how to get back to NYC to see the show on Broadway. Tickets are pricey, but 100% worth it. Chicago is very definitely in danger of losing My Favorite Musical status, and I don’t say that lightly.

March 3, 2015

March 3, 2015

50 Shades of STEM

Tonight, I get one step closer to scientist bingo by attending a lecture by Dr. Michio Kaku at Sixth & I.

I just need Bill Nye to come back to D.C. and I’ll be set. TheBoy has already seen both Bill Nye *and* Michio Kaku, but he argues that Stephen Hawking should be on the card and I’m like “ARE YOU MAKING THE RULES OR WHAT?” Next thing I know, he’s going to tell me to put women on the card or something similarly ridiculous.

Anyway. Science.

I think I nerded out hardest over Brian Greene, because The Elegant Universe has blown my mind during regular re-watches over the past decade. But should I ever get to ask Bill Nye a question, there’s no question I’m going with “Why do we have seasons? BECAUSE THE EARTH IS TILTED.”

[Related: In searching for that clip, I found a number of full length Bill Nye episodes on YouTube. Danger, Will Robinson!]

It’s not that I’m opposed to adding to the scientist bingo card. But I want true revolutionaries of theory. Nothing applied. Nothing I can understand. The current frontrunner is Yitang Zhang, a New Hampshire mathematician who apparently determined the range (or “bound gap”*) within which you are guaranteed to find two prime numbers. Reminder: I don’t really get why this is something we need to know, or how you would calculate it. Therein lies the beauty.

Now how to get him on the lecture circuit?

* Could be all the 50 Shades of Zeitgeist talking, but does this sound a little dirty? Mathematicians, you saucy minxes!

February 27, 2015

February 27, 2015

My Favorite Instrumental TV Theme Songs: A Threeve

As I alluded to earlier, I’ve been working on a list of instrumental TV theme songs. A list like this is all about the methodology, so I decided to limit it to songs without lyrics on the show or added later (making Bonanza and I Love Lucy ineligible). I also wanted themes evocative not just of the show, but of the zeitgeist. L’espirit du temps*, if you will. It was this criterion that caused me to drop many good themes from solid shows, Mad Men, The Simpsons, and L&O among them. In doing so, I've cut this down from a top ten to a threeve, as originally intended.

As always, this list is filtered through and limited by my own experience. YMMV.)

Mission: Impossible
Suspense + bongos. It’s the ‘60s in a nutshell. Even if you’ve never seen the TV show** or the films, that “bah…bah…bah DAH” riff is synonymous with spy hijinks. Spyjinks.

Hawaii: Five-O
Oozes cool, from the strings to the woodwinds. Harken back to a time when law enforcement was breezier.

(Close runner-up: The Pink Panther)

The X-Files
Remember when technology and government overreach were starting to be things? Yeah. Plus, that episode about the green glowy flesh-eating bugs. THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.

(Close runner-up: House of Cards)

Sex and the City
Late ‘90s. New York City. Women who, while perhaps not filthy rich, were pretty darn comfortable. They dated, they mated, they brunched.

Bluestone 42
Had to get an international pick on here. Bluestone 42 is a BBC comedy about a British bomb disposal squad in Afghanistan. Sadly, YouTube is lacking on clips of the theme song, which is a sort of raging, guitar-laden, head-banging, we-will-have-our-way-with-you anthem that perfectly describes the testosteroney*** armed forces.

Update: TheBoy found a clip video that includes the theme at the beginning. Times like this are why I got married.

* Did that translation without looking it up, so thank you, two years of high school French.
** One of my favorite shows of this era, BTW. Rollin Hand’s face work is incredible, and that is not a euphemism.
*** “The real San Francsico treat!”

February 23, 2015

February 23, 2015

February in a Nutshell

Spent quite a lot of time on my recent New York City visit in and around Greenwich Village. I’d always assumed the New York version of me would live on the Upper West Side, but I really dug the village. I don’t know what this means.

Anyway, the highlight of the trip was seeing one of the final Hamilton previews. It’s a hip-hop musical about the founding father, and my thoughts on it are still coalescing. Brilliant stuff. Truly brilliant.

Still recovering from the Oscars, which weren’t even four hours but have me feeling tired today. I blame Eastern Time and my advancing years. My notes on the show boil down thus:

1. Fantastic speeches.
2. Lady Gaga was surprisingly good.
3. Neil Patrick Harris was a bit of a disaster.

Reading Tales from the Perilous Realm (first time) in preparation for re-reading The Silmarillion. I’ve reading LotR dozens of times but the Silm maybe two or three times. A travesty.

Working on a blog about “best instrumental TV theme songs” that started as a threeve and is now probably going to be a top ten. Even if you scrupulously define “best” and “instrumental,” there are a LOT of good ones. The top two remain immovable: Mission: Impossible and Hawaii: Five-O. Number three fluctuates between The Rockford Files, Bluestone 42, Parks and Recreation, and a number of others.

Appalachian Outlaws has popped back into my Hulu queue, and the stakes appear to be HIGHER than EVER this season. Directly correlated: the amount of subtitles I need to understand what's going on. Actual quote from the episode I watched yesterday: "I know where there's a good honey hole at." I love to diagram sentences but come on, REALLY.