Saturday, January 24, 2009

TV Update: 3 Season Premieres

Spoilers ahead.

Battlestar Galactica: I'm tremendously glad to see the return of one of my favorite shows, but the first two episodes, while they haven't been bad, have just kind of been... there. There have been a few shocker moments, mostly in the first episode: Starbuck finding her crashed ship containing what appears to be her own charred corpse inside; Dee blowing her brains out; Ellen Tigh being revealed as the final Cylon (maybe -- I'm not sure I'm ready to swallow that one yet); Tyrol learning he's not the father of his child. And, to the delight of shippers everywhere, Adama and Roslin finally did the nasty. But there hasn't been much real forward progress. The political machinations of the Council just don't grab me, and Gaeta's fomenting mutiny rings false (though I certainly wouldn't blame him if he put a bullet in the back of Starbuck's head). In all fairness, after the letdown of Earth, it's realistic that the fleet would be reeling in bitterness and depression, and mostly spinning its wheels. But I'd like to see a little movement next episode, please. Hell, at least let us see what the Cylons are up to!

Lost: Another returning show I'm thrilled about. The two-hour premiere was packed with action and dizzying revelations. The island is skipping around in time? Neat. Sayid kicks a bunch of ass? Super. Sun totally rubs Kate's face in the fact that she basically let Jin die? Cold. Ana-Lucia appears to Hurley, and lets him know "Libby says hi"? Whoa. There were a couple of bits that I didn't even understand until doing some internet research. I had forgotten about Miles' ability to see/hear ghosts, so I didn't initially get how he found the dead boar in the jungle. And I didn't recognize Ms. Hawking, played by Fionnula Flanagan; I had forgotten her original appearance, when she laid out Desmond's destiny for him in season 3. I assumed she was Faraday's mother when she appeared at the end of the episode, talking to Ben. (And who knows, maybe she is.) But, despite all the cool things that happened, I was slightly disappointed. There was forward momentum, there were great character moments. I just never really felt utterly blown away, as I always am following Lost premieres and finales. I think my expectations were a bit high, because really, these were two great hours of television. I'm being greedy, asking for anything more. And yet, here we are.

The United States of Tara: Toni Collette is absolutely amazing in this new Showtime series as Tara, a suburban housewife with multiple personalities. (I don't even want to get into what the proper technical term for her disorder is; you know what I mean.) It's truly an incredible performance -- performances. She's utterly different as each personality she inhabits; her facial expressions, the cadence of her speech, her walk and body language. It's more than enough to make up for the several forcibly quirky Diablo Cody-isms peppered throughout the script (Collette can even sell a line as absurd as "I hate you for not fucking me" with an immature pout and a petulant exit). I loved Cody's Juno, but her dialogue can definitely be a hindrance to connecting with her characters. To her credit, both in that film and on this show, her characters are strong enough to transcend the occasional gibberish line, and to sell their emotional reality. What I especially love about Tara, beyond Collette, is the way her family accepts and supports her, even when they're frightened or confused by her (especially her "Buck" persona, a belligerent redneck who derides Tara's son with homophobic name-calling, yet also leads a standing ovation for Tara's daughter's ballet recital). It's a compelling familial dynamic, one not often seen on TV, where even in family sitcoms the characters do nothing but sling put-downs back and forth. Tara's family is completely messed-up, yet fully functional. I loved the first episode of this show, and can't wait for the new episode tomorrow.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hottie or nottie?

I think we all know which side I take in the big debate on The Office tonight:

Still the only former 90210 castmember with two Oscars.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Everything's fixed now, right?

The two lines that stood out as perhaps most significant in Obama's Inaugural Address (emphasis mine):

1. "We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost."

I adored how a majority of the speech was a big "screw you" to Dubya (who, as Jon Stewart pointed out to Obama on The Daily Show, is "sitting right behind you!"). But above rejecting Bush's partisan politics, the politics of fear, the exclusive favoring of the wealthy, and the explicit authorization of torture we suffered under Bush's dictatorship... above even all that, I was made hopeful by the idea of a President and his administration once again embracing science over religious dogma. Intelligent Design is not science, folks. It's bullshit. As is willful ignorance in the face of global warming. As is banning stem cell research. You get the idea. Yay, science!

2. "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers."

Is this the first time a standing President has even acknowledged atheism/agnosticism in a public address, let alone embraced atheists/agnostics as an important part of the American fabric? Jaw-dropping. Now, if he'd only stop peppering phrases like "God-given promise" and "God calls on us" and "God's grace" throughout his speeches... though I suppose I shouldn't hold my breath for that.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Congratulations! Now get working!

And... zero.



I almost forgot what being proud of my country feels like, and I had completely forgotten what it's like to have confidence in a President. Today is the most hopeful day for America in the 21st Century thus far. And, with one gigantic, eight-year mistake rectified, and so many, many others hopefully soon to be addressed, it can only get better.

A TOAST: Here's to a new day.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

GrimJack: "Blood Sport"

It's been a while since my last GrimJack update. And I know how much you all have been missing them. Not a day goes by that I don't receive three or four hundred emails demanding the return of this incredibly popular feature. Well, your wait is over, you lucky ducks! Cover date: September, 1984. Written by John Ostrander, drawn by Timothy Truman. From GrimJack #2, this is the 20-page story, "Blood Sport."

Surprisingly, this turns out to be a yodeling competition.

We begin our tale, as we so often do, in Munden's Bar, with John Gaunt getting good and liquored up, in the company of the equally liquored-up watchlizard Bob.

Bob's got it made.

An adorable little urchin braves the dangers of Munden's to track down Gaunt and enlist his aid.

Wait, what KIND of stuff? What've you heard, kid?

In issue #1, we saw the harder side of John Gaunt -- the cruel streak that feeds his loneliness and drives people away. Here, we get a look at his softer side, as the kid's sorry tale (and meager funds) win him over.

Still worth more than the peso.
Overpaid? Gaunt must used to have been a public school teacher.

The child is Seth Bailer, and his family is in a bad way. His mother is sick, and his father has lost his job. They've had to relocate to the Pit to scrape by. And the Pit, as you'll recall, is not a nice place (click to Biggie Size):

Click for full scale poverty.

I love that double-page panel. Truman packs a lot of grime and despair in there. (And Ostrander makes first mention of John's brothers, Nick, Jake and Joe.) He also throws in a few little jokes. Here's a street sign/personal greeting:

Franklin? Edlund? Affleck? Dover?

Here's a shout-out to Matt Feazell, master of the stick figure:


And here, next to graffiti reading "Howlin' Wolf lives!" is what seems to be the first appearance of Feetus, Gaunt's most reliable informant in the Pit. Kind of his Huggy Bear. We'll get to know him better in issue #7.

Could be some OTHER legless veteran on a hover sled, I suppose.

Anyway, Gaunt pays a visit to Seth's mom, who fills him in a bit more on why Seth came looking for him: Seth's dad, Doug, has left to do something foolish, and most likely fatal.

MARRY him, you get 100,000.

Doug is no fighter, and in a match like this, he's likely to get killed. The situation brings up some unpleasant memories for Gaunt.

Yeah, well, I didn't get the Millennium Falcon I wanted for Christmas '78, so boohoo.

Gaunt did not have a good childhood, is the point he's trying to make here, I think. We'll eventually learn that his aforementioned brothers had a lot to do with his misery. And we first hear about the Dancer, the greatest fighter in the history of the Arena. GrimJack only rated as number two.

Also, notice the picture of Bruce Lee on the flyer, with the text, "Kato vs. Butcherboy." Man, if Kato didn't beat Butcherboy, Doug is screwed.

Gaunt treks to the deepest, nastiest part of the Pit to locate the Blood Sport matches. And he gets a big surprise when he finally arrives -- the ringmaster is Mac Cabre, right hand man to the Dancer during his ill-fated rebellion, and a man who should be dead.

Is it Mardi Gras already?

Gaunt intercepts Doug just before he's about to enter the ring, and takes his place. Click to enlarge:

Click for full scale nipple rings.

Not sure why Butcherboy is a different color here than on the cover, but once you accept an eight foot genetic mutant with giant nipple rings, I guess color is irrelevant.

Gaunt spends the next three pages getting his ass thoroughly kicked. Names from the Arena float into his mind as he reels: Blacjacmac, the Dancer, the Wolfpack, Uncle Willy. We'll discover more about those names in due time.

Just as Butcherboy is about to deliver the killing blow, Gaunt turns the tables as he so often does: he fights dirty.

'Pan'? What is he even hitting to get the 'Pan' sound effect?

"Gertch!" indeed. With Gaunt back in control, he delivers an ultimatum to Mac Cabre.

Really, it's Mac Cabre's fault for leaving his spikes lying all over the place like that.

"Your choice." Classic Gaunt.

Mac Cabre caves, and pays up. And he lets Gaunt know that he's not the only one who should be dead that's still alive and kicking: the Dancer is back.

Gaunt walks Doug back home, and settles up with him, again revealing his soft heart:

To counterfeit a cred, looks like all you need's a sheet of green construction paper.

But Gaunt is troubled by Dancer's return, and puzzled by his motivations: why the Blood Sport matches? What was he planning? Maybe we'll get some clues next issue. For now, we take our leave of GrimJack for the week.

Oh, but not before a final phone call to good buddy Blacjacmac:

And he's having your baby!!

Dun dun dunnnn!!

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sidebar Update, '09 Style!

It's the first Sidebar Update of '09, on the cusp of a new and brighter era. Love it!

The current Object of My Affection is Rosario Dawson. That's right: Rosario Dawson! I'm calling her my own! As she is apparently the official Object of Affection of every hetero male on the internet (and a significant number of females as well), I fully expect war over this declaration. Bring it, bitches! She's mine!!

I am now Reading David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster, having finished David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. I sense a pattern. If you are curious about DFW and are a bit intimidated by a 1,000+ page novel, you should probably take a shot at Lobster. It's a fantastic collection of essays, featuring the full array of DFW's literary quirks (primarily multiple footnotes). And the first essay is all about the Adult Video News Awards, which is awesome.

Watching the second season of Venture Bros. on DVD, having recently completed the first season. This is one of the smartest, weirdest, funniest cartoons ever created. Even if you don't like cartoons, I suspect you might like this one, if only for its clever references to a vast array of pop culture (for example, David Bowie and Iggy Pop are significant characters in the final two episodes).

Listening to R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People. Aside from it being a flat-out incredible album, I will always have a particular personal fondness for Automatic due to its serving as my European soundtrack. Over Christmas/New Year's 1992-93, I spent a month in Europe, visiting my sister (who was spending a year studying abroad in Barcelona). I went to Ireland, Geneva, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, and much more, with Automatic as almost the only music I listened to on my Walkman; it eventually became inextricably linked to Europe in my mind. (Though the night club in Brussels, in which the entire bar sang along to Ice-T's "Cop Killer" on the radio, was another peculiar musical highlight.) I haven't owned the CD for ages now, and when Amazon offered the album as an mp3 download for only $1.99 yesterday, I jumped at the chance to own it again. It makes me very happy (even while listening to "Everybody Hurts").

Hating: Dubya. Still. Less than 48 hours left!

And the Lyric of the Moment is one final illustration of the failure of the Bush years, from "Everybody Wants To Rule the World," by Tears for Fears. Don't let the door hit you in the ass, 43.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Part hope. Part change. All cop.

I promise this is the last one for tonight.

Vote for me or there will be... trouble.

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Hope works here. Change works there. Swords work everywhere.

One more GrimJack picture, courtesy of Obamiconme:

Call me a mercenary. Call me an assassin. Call me a president. I am all that and more.

I would've voted for him.


Guns work here. Magic works there. Sketches work everywhere.

Courtesy of Johnny Bacardi, who recently took requests for a sketch meme on his blog, here is the finished product of my request: GrimJack (of course!).

Now if you can just have him fighting RoboCop...

Very, very cool. Thanks, JB!

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Friday, January 16, 2009

TV: Top Ten of 2008

Used to be a tradition here at You Know What I Like? to sum up, at year's end, exactly what I did like in the preceding year, in the form of various Top Ten lists. Unfortunately, I didn't seem to absorb a lot of pop culture in 2008. I couldn't possibly write a Top Ten list for music. I maybe bought three or four new albums, tops. I can't attempt a Top Ten list of comics; I haven't collected regularly for years now. I could take a stab at movies, though I'm not entirely sure I've seen more than ten movies in the theater this year. I may have to double check that.

What I can do, though, is a Top Ten list of TV. Ah, good ol' TV. Always there, always reliable. Oh, except for 2008 kind of sucked for TV, overall, what with coming off the writer's strike, all kinds of shows being forced into hiatus at the beginning of the year, just when they were getting interesting. The strike also helped result in a pretty damn lackluster Fall premiere season. Not a lot of keepers out of that mangy lot.

Still, when TV was good in 2008, it was very very good. (And when it was bad, which was more often than not, it was horrid.) So here are my picks, only a few weeks late, for the ten best shows of 2008.

1. The Shield
How could it be anything else? The final season of this landmark drama started out a little slow for me, with a little too much emphasis on the "Blackmail Box" MacGuffin. But it built to the most emotionally powerful and rewarding final two episodes in television history. Shane didn't exit the way I expected him to, but it was all the more achingly devastating for not seeing it coming. Walton Goggins richly deserves Emmy consideration. Speaking of earning that Emmy: I don't know which was more riveting, Michael "Vic Mackey" Chiklis's chilling testimony in the penultimate episode, or his condemnation to the hell of his own making in the finale. When he pulls the gun out of his file cabinet at the end, what do you think is going on? Is it an empty reminder of the man he used to be? Or is it a promise that he plans to go out on his own terms? Not suicide -- never suicide, for Vic. He is the ultimate survivor. No, I mean: is he going to go fuck shit up any way he can, within the confines of his cubicle prison, in a neverending game of raising stakes? Because it never seems to be about the win, for Mackey; it always seems to be about the gamble. As despicable as Mackey proved himself to be -- I hope it's the latter. I hope that shark keeps swimming.

2. 30 Rock
The third season has been a little overstuffed with guest stars that don't quite work (how can Steve Martin not be an automatic home run?), but with Tracy's pornographic video game and his gold shoes and money suit, Jack's romance with C.C. (Edie Falco) and his battles with Devon Banks (Will Arnett), Liz's ill-advised reunion with the Beeper King turned Subway Hero and her struggles to adopt, Kenneth's... well, everything Kenneth does, ever, but especially his engineering of a Night Court reunion, and the insanely uproarious finale to the second season (featuring a guest star who did live up to his full potential, and more, Matthew Broderick as "Cooter"), 2008 was an incredible year for the funniest show on TV.

3. How I Met Your Mother
I think 2008 is the year when it became common wisdom that Neil Patrick Harris is completely awesome as Barney (and HIMYM began to be taken seriously as a quality sitcom), and I think it's just a matter of time before he starts winning scads of awards like David Hyde Pierce. (Can't you so easily picture NPH as Niles, by the way?) The rest of the cast is very strong as well, especially my fave Cobie Smulders, whose chemistry with NPH is the highlight of the show, and the writing and direction are always clever and inventive. Best sitcom you're probably still turning your nose up at. (Don't end a sentence with a preposition? I end mine with two, suckas.)

4. Lost
The flash forwards, The Constant, the island disappearing -- this was a season for a lot of wow moments. The predetermined number of remaining episodes gave the fourth season direction and momentum it has often lacked in previous seasons, and the show hasn't been more consistently thrilling since the first four episodes. Can't wait for the fifth season to begin next week.

5. The Office
2008's first episode of The Office was one of the year's -- and the entire series' -- highlights: "Dinner Party," in which the spectacularly dysfunctional relationship between Michael and Jan was revealed in all its hideous glory. One of the best half hours of 2008 on any TV show. And the Fall season began with the beautifully bizarre mating of Michael and Holly, whose doomed relationship generated some genuine pathos amidst the hilarity. Throw in Ryan's coke-fueled downfall, Dwight and Angela's affair, and the show's success in keeping Pam and Jim both together and still interesting, and The Office showed no signs of slowing down.

6. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Much of the season built on the familiar formula of picking a topic, and having the Gang react like idiots to it (the gas crisis, home makeovers, healthcare) -- and don't get me wrong, I love that formula. Charlie in a green suit hitting someone in the balls never gets old. But this season also featured two unusually ambitious, and tremendously rewarding, departures: "The Gang Cracks the Liberty Bell," a Revolutionary War period piece in which the Gang gets to call the British "dicks" a lot, and "The Nightman Cometh," the disastrous staging of Charlie's rock opera (which most of the rest of the Gang misinterprets as having a lot of man-boy rape). Always funny, in the crudest way possible.

7. Corner Gas
Either you like it or you don't. Me, I love this low-key comedy about a bunch of colorful eccentrics living life in the slow lane in Dog River, Saskatchewan. And I'm dying for WGN to begin broadcasting the final season in America (nine episodes of which have already aired in Canada).

8. House
This show falls too often into rote formula, but I enjoy House's new team a great deal (especially Kal Penn as Kutner, and let us not forget the recent OoMA, Olivia Wilde as Thirteen), as well as the tentative steps toward romance between House and Cuddy (though I am sorry private detective Lucas, Cuddy's seeming alternative romantic interest, was written out so quickly). And the heartbreaking storyline bridging seasons four and five, in which Wilson's beloved Amber died, basically as a direct result of coming to House's aid, was a thrilling and agonizing break from that familiar formula.

9. Battlestar Galactica
It was an uneven season (or first half of a season, with the second half set to commence tonight!), with way too much time spent on Starbuck's side quest. But, as usual, the beginning and ending of the arc were terrific; the climax, involving the abduction of Laura Roslin, the revelation of four of the final five to one and all, Baltar's messiah cult, the eventual truce between humans and Cylons, a beautiful 'shipper moment between Roslin and Admiral Adama, and the discovery of a nuclear war-ravaged Earth, was especially powerful.

10. Pushing Daisies
Often a little too whimsical for my taste, the show nonetheless boasted a truly original vision, from the color scheme to the oh-so-proper narration to the random outbursts of song (and cleavage) from Kristin Chenoweth. And it had a touching central romance between Chuck and the Piemaker. Plus Chi McBride as Emerson Cod was a total badass. Too bad it got the ax.

Honorable mentions:

The Sarah Silverman Program
Vulgar, stupid, offensive, filled with fart and balls jokes. Which is hilarious.

The Rachel Maddow Show
Vulgar, stupid... oh, wrong show. Sharp, funny, insightful. A new bright spot in cable news.

The Big Bang Theory
It makes me laugh. So there.

A Colbert Christmas
I rarely get the chance to watch Colbert's regular show anymore, but his Christmas special was ingenious, highlighted by a surprisingly sublime rendition of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding" as performed by Colbert, Toby Keith, Willie Nelson, Feist, John Legend, and Elvis Costello in a bear costume.

Allegedly great stuff that I didn't watch, though I swear I will catch up on most or all of it on DVD some day:

1. The Wire
Yes, yes, YES, I know it's the greatest TV show of all time (according to a lot of you). I'll get to it. Now lay off!

2. Mad Men
Watched the first couple-three episodes of the first season of this show, and I thought it was damn fine. Then... I don't know. I fell out of the habit. I missed an episode somehow, and didn't want to watch the next episode without seeing the previous one, and... now I haven't watched it since the beginning. That's my bad, and I know it.

3. Breaking Bad
I caught the first few episodes of the first season, and I thought it was brilliant. Bryan Cranston was an absolute revelation in his role as a cancer-ridden high school science teacher-turned-meth producer. But... same thing with Mad Men. I let it slip away from me. I will catch up!

4. Saving Grace
I watched the first couple episodes of the first season (starting to sound familiar?), and... eh. I love Holly Hunter, and I admired her work in this show, especially the parts where she kept getting drunk and naked, but the show as a whole didn't grab me. I know a lot of people have heaped a lot of praise on the show. But you gotta really, really sell me on any "angel" business you're gonna throw into my TV viewing, and Saving Grace fell short on that count. I found the supernatural aspects just laughable, which spoiled the whole thing for me.

And there you go. What about you? Any of your favorites I didn't watch? Anything I did watch that you hate? Comment away!

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Thursday, January 15, 2009



Wednesday, January 14, 2009



Tuesday, January 13, 2009



Monday, January 12, 2009



Sunday, January 11, 2009

1: Serve the public trust. 2: Protect the innocent. 3: Consume fried chicken.

In lieu of actual content, here is a Japanese fried chicken commercial starring RoboCop.




Saturday, January 10, 2009



Friday, January 09, 2009

Photobucket is a piece of shit

Bear with me as I try to figure out how to fix the picture links on this blog, because Photobucket, as you may have heard, is a piece of shit.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Infinite Jest

Well, so much for posting more in the New Year. Not that I made any official resolution or anything, but still. Not off to a great start on the ol' blog here. Aside from that, 2009 already feels better than 2008, I have to say. Hooray!

One thing I've accomplished in the New Year: I have finally finished David Foster Wallace's masterpiece, Infinite Jest. I began reading it back on September 17. (At 1 AM, as I noted in the comments to that post.) 112 days, to read 979 pages of text and 388 footnotes comprising an additional 97 pages. That's less than ten pages a day. Not very impressive. I blame society. But still -- I finished it!

My immediate impression on concluding Infinite Jest: brilliant, brilliant book; disappointing ending. It feels like it ends too soon, unbelievably enough for a tome of this size; it feels like there are several missing chapters (even though the book isn't strictly broken down by chapters). As petty as it is, I want greater and more explicit detail on what became of Hal, Orin, and the rest of the Incandenzas, Don Gately, Joelle van Dyne, Michael Pemulis, Remy Marathe, Ortho Stice, John Wayne, and more in between the end of the novel and the beginning (the book wraps back on itself, with a chronological gap in between).

Like I say, though, that's petty, and simplistic. I need a little time, now that I've finished, to absorb the book. (And do a little research online, a little clue-hunting, some of which has already been particularly rewarding.) I also feel a strong impulse to immediately reread it. Maybe that's part of the circular nature of the story (the whole book is packed with circular, or "annular," as DFW puts it, allusions and references -- annular: "shaped like a ring"). After all, the titular entertainment, the "Infinite Jest" of the text, is an Entertainment cartridge so powerfully seductive it is impossible to stop watching; it seems DFW intentionally structured his novel in a similar fashion, so that the reader conceivably could keep reading it in an infinite loop.

I really hope those of you who have read Infinite Jest feel like leaving some of your impressions and interpretations in the comments. I don't want to spoil any major twists or conjectures in this main entry, in case some of you plan on reading the book yourselves (and you really, really should; it is a remarkable achievement in literature, and, as dense and lengthy as it is, remarkably accessible). I'll start things off in the comments with a couple of my own observations (some of which I admittedly have gleaned from elsewhere on the internet).

One more thing: I have been struck all over again by what a dreadful shame David Foster Wallace's suicide is. The world is genuinely diminished by the absence of the manuscripts Wallace had yet to write. At least I have the next book on my reading list to anticipate: DFW's Consider the Lobster.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

And days of Auld Lang Syne

Don't let me down, 2009.

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