Gwnewch y pethau bychain

Month: May 2010 Page 1 of 2

Jenna is Home

She’s hiding under the bed and not talking to us at the moment, but she is home and seems to be in reasonably good shape. We have a variety of medicines for her, and we’ll get a call as soon as the biopsy results come in.

Thanks again for all the good thoughts.

A Month of TV Commentary: A Meme in 30 Parts: Day 8

From , via , the 30-Day TV Meme.

Day 08 – A show everyone should watch

Well, obviously, any of the shows I watch i think others should, because I think they’re awesome. But to pick one is hard.

I’m going to go with Mythbusters, which is hardly in dire need of a ratings boost, but has many qualities that I really like. It’s a lot of fun, and it shows practical science (and the scientific method) as something that’s enormously cool. Even when they go in with expectations of results, they let the data speak for itself. And when their methods are flawed and the fans call them on it, they revisit their work in many cases.

Most science documentaries operate under the assumption that if you’re watching it, you already think science is cool. Mythbusters is populist science taken the extreme, and it’s something I think everyone can get something out of,

Update on Jenna

Well, she came through the surgery with flying colours, and was awake and eating late this afternoon. They’re keeping her overnight, but we should be able to bring her home tomorrow.

The surgeon said there was no mass as was suggested on the ultrasound, though the colon was thickened and abnormal, and there are signs of lymphoma. We’ll know more when they get the biopsy back. At any rate, there are hopeful signs at this stage.

Thank you all for your kind wishes and support. It means a lot to all of us.

Good thoughts requested

A while back, our cat Jenna had begun getting very finicky about food, and was losing weight at an alarming rate. We took her to the Cat Clinic of Roswell, and they kept her overnight, ran a bunch of tests, and eventually came up with a diagnosis of thyroid problems, put her on medication, and that seemed to be the end of the problem. But recently, we noticed that she was having more bouts of diarrhoea than previously, and had more distressingly picked a couple of spots in the apartment away from the litterbox to deposit this. And she was still thinner than we’d like.

We took her back to the vet, for more tests and, after pancreatic deficiency was ruled out, brought her in for an ultrasound, because the vet was increasingly worried about bowel cancer. The ultrasound found a mass in her abdomen, so today, she’s having surgery to have it removed and confirm what it is. There’s still a chance that it’s not cancer, though I’m trying hard not to get too attached to that idea. Even if it is, we’re hoping that it can be excised and that we got to it early enough that even if it later recurs, she’ll have several more happy years with us.

Aside from the gastric distress, you’d have no idea she was sick. She’s still as active as you’d expect a 13 year old cat to be, and very affectionate and content. It’s much too early to contemplate her leaving us. So if you have some good thoughts to spare today, please send them our way.

A Month of TV Commentary: A Meme in 30 Parts: Day 7

From , via , the 30-Day TV Meme.

Day 07 – Least favorite episode of your favorite t.v show

While coming up with a favourite Doctor Who, episode was hard, this one is easy. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of bad Doctor Who episodes. Even forgiving the budgetary restraints that they had to work with, and being as kind and generous as possible, there’s still a lot of stories that weren’t very good, went on too long, contained glaring continuity holes, and all the other nonsense that separates the good from the poor. (While watching the DW: Confidential for a recent episode, kitanzi saw a clip from 1970’s “The Silurians”, laughed out loud at the rubber-suit alien and said “C’mon, they weren’t even trying!”)

For all that, however, in this particular case, one episode does stand out to me as the nadir that Doctor Who was capable of on a given day. An episode so notable for its awfulness that even to this day, thirty years after it first aired, hejira2006 and I will say “Well, that was bad. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as ‘The Horns of Nimon’.

I wish I could find a clip of Graham Crowden mincing through the halls of the spaceship, calling out “Lord Nimon! Lord Niiiiiiimon!” to give you an illustration of just how absurd this one was. (No offense to Crowden, who has done good work elsewhere, most notably in Waiting for God, which I rather enjoyed.) It may not be the very worst of Doctor Who, but it’s an exemplar to stand in for the worst the show has to offer.

(I did find this one clip, from a fellow who seems to be arguing tongue-in-cheek for the opposite viewpoint. I Include it here in the interest of fairness, and to let you see both the Crowden scene mentioned above, and just how awful the minotaur costume was, even by the standards of 1979 BBC production budgets.)

A Month of TV Commentary: A meme in 30 parts, Day 6

From , via , the 30-Day TV Meme.

Day 06 – Favourite episode of your favourite t.v show

I’m really struggling with this one. As noted, if a show is your favourite, there’s not likely to be one single episode that stands head and shoulders above the rest. In my case, having declared my favourite show to be Doctor Who, I have over 30 years worth of episodes to choose from. I think it would be hard to nail down my favourite episode from each Doctor, but I’ll try…

(Yes, I’m cheating. It’s my journal. I get to make the rules.)

William Hartnell (1963-1966): An Unearthly Child
The episode that set the whole thing in motion, introducing us to the mysterious Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and the TARDIS. The show would later develop a huge and cumbersome mythology, but what this episode gave us was character and mystery. (Technically, this is part one of the first 4 part serial, which includes a trip back in time to visit cavemen, but let’s just pretend it isn’t. It holds up better that way.

Patrick Troughton (1966-1969): The Web of Fear
I’ve actually only seen the one episode of this, as the remainder are lost (along with the great majority of Troughton’s run, alas), but it was my favourite story from my favourite Doctor. I don’t recall now if the Yeti are the only recurring monster to only be encountered by a single Doctor, but something about them captured my imagination. This story also introduced UNIT, which was to play a major role in the adventures of the third and fourth Doctors.

Jon Pertwee (1970-1974): The Daemons
This one had everything. The Master in top form, played by the incomparable Roger Delgado. A quiet English village where a mysterious cult is meddling in dark occult forces, which ultimately (of course) turn out to be alien in nature. The unflappable Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, who confronted with a living gargoyle, calmly orders, “Sergeant. Chap with wings. Five rounds rapid.” This serial had everything I loved about the Pertwee era of the programme.

Tom Baker (1975-1981): The Pyramids of Mars
Every time I think I’ve picked a favourite episode from this series, I change my mind. While, unlike most American viewers, Tom Baker isn’t my personal favourite, he’s the image most over here are familiar with if they know the series at all, and over seven years he did a lot of great stories. I’m going to finally settle on this one, which has a lot of fun with trippy Egyptian mythology motifs, and features some of the best Sarah Jane Smith moments the series had to offer.

Peter Davison (1982-1984): The Caves of Androzani
Sadly, Davison’s best turn in the role was his last, in a stellar script by Robert Holmes that played to all his strengths in the role. (Davison said, in fact, that if he’d gotten more scripts of this quality, he might have stayed for a fourth season.)

Colin Baker (1984-1986): The Two Doctors
Honestly, there’s not a lot of great Colin Baker stories to choose from. This wasn’t really a high point in the series, as it was constantly on the verge of cancellation, and Baker’s Doctor never really seemed to gel for me. (It’s a pity. I’ve met Colin Baker and he’s a lovely man.) I picked this one not because it’s a superior story, because it’s a relatively pedestrian effort for a writer as good as Robert Holmes, but it does feature Patrick Troughton reprising his role as the second Doctor, and so I’m choosing it for sentimental reasons. (I note with amusement that this is the third consecutive Robert Holmes story I’ve chosen…)

Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989): Ghost Light
As with Baker, McCoy never got a lot of good scripts to work with, but story editor Andrew Cartmel had ambitions that were never realized (for good or ill, its hard to say). Ghost Light is a trippy episode featuring one of McCoy’s best performances. This story was the penultimate episode broadcast in the original series run.

Paul McGann (1997): The TV Movie
There are problems with the movie. It has some questionable continuity assertions, most of which fandom has decided to collectively ignore, and the actual plot (involving an unlikely Eric Roberts as the Master) is regrettable. But none of that should take away from Paul McGann, whose sole foray as the Doctor on the screen hinted at what might have been. This was a pilot project to relaunch the series in collaboration with FoX-TV, but it never went anywhere. (After seeing how they handled Firefly, I can’t say I’m terribly unhappy.)

(Since this is an essay on TV, I’m not considering McGann’s extensive “radio” work, but he recorded several seasons worth of audio adventures for Big Finish, and that canon contains many stories superior to this one.)

Christopher Eccleston (2005): The Empty Child
The highest point in the first season of the relaunch, Stephan Moffatt contributes the first in a series of brilliant stories that would ultimately win him the head writer position when Russell T. Davies departed. No obvious alien menace here, just creepy zombie children in gas masks, the ongoing London Blitz, and introducing the roguish Captain Jack Harkness, a character so popular he’d not only recur, but get spun off into his own series, Torchwood. At the time of its airing, this was only the third Doctor Who story in twenty-seven seasons which did not feature a single death of a character. ‘Just this once,’ the Doctor cries exuberantly, ‘Everybody lives!’

David Tennant (2006-2009): Blink
Another Moffatt script, easily the best single episode of the new series and arguably the best Doctor Who story ever, Blink was a triumph of taut, scary storytelling using the time honoured DW motif of ‘innocuous everyday thing becomes an object of fear’. The Doctor himself is notably absent from much of the story, which revolves around the delightful character of Sally Sparrow, who I for one would just as happily traded for any of Tennant’s three regular companions. The Weeping Angels are wickedly effective as the monsters, and the resolution is wonderful. Tight writing and great acting make this a must-see episode.

Matt Smith (2010- ):  (no entry)
It’s too early to pick a favourite eleventh Doctor story. Of the first half-dozen I’ve seen, I’ve liked some more than others, and some less than others, and there were none I’d find no fault in. What I can say without reservation is, despite my scepticism, Matt Smith’s take on the character of the Doctor is brilliant, and he can just play the part for several years as far as I’m concerned. I’m utterly in love with Karen Gillan (settle down, kid) as Amy, and I fear from the hints being dropped about her as the season-arc progresses that she may be yet another one-season companion, but I’m hoping not. Regardless, the part is in good hands, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the latest incarnation of our hero.

So there you have it, then. Ten actors playing one part, and ten episodes of one of the greatest and longest-running science fiction epics in television history. If you’re not familiar with the history of the series and wanted an overview, you could do worse than the episodes I’ve chosen, I think.

A Month of TV Commentary: A Meme in 30 Parts: Day 5

From aiela, via madlori, the 30-Day TV Meme.

Day 05 – A show you hate

At first, i was a bit uncertain how to answer this one. There are certainly shows I don’t like, and by and large, I don’t watch them, which makes life very easy on everyone.

But recently I did watch a couple of episodes of a show that was just unremittingly bad. And I wrote about it here. So, for today, here’s a reprint of my review of NBC’s absolutely wretched The Marriage Ref, originally appearing in this journal back on March 2, 2010:

The last couple of weeks our tv-watching time has been mostly consumed with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Despite NBC’s relatively awful coverage, I still greatly enjoyed the Games, because I love Olympic sports. Perhaps because I grew up in an area where snow has ever been a novelty, I love the Winter Games even more.

Now this year, much like in the last few games, we watched exclusively on the TiVo, often 24 hours behind the results (and after falling behind over the weekend, as much as 3-4 days behind), but it meant we could easily skip past sports that aren’t interesting (I’m looking at you, cross-country skiing), in favour of sports which are more exciting. Even if we failed to avoid spoilers, it’s usually fun to see HOW the results came about, so we oohed and ahhed over the snowboarding and the figure skating.

Aside from relatively un-telegenic sports, we also skipped most of the commercials. Honestly, I miss most commercials on television, because I simply never stop to watch them. (I had to go look up the “I’m on a horse” Old Spice commercial on YouTube, because I had no idea what aiela and davehogg were babbling about). But over the course of several breaks, it’s impossible not to see a few of them, and hence we were exposed to multiple promos for NBC’s new series, The Marriage Ref.

“That looks dreadful,” kitanzi said, and there was no reason to expect otherwise. Still, my curiosity was piqued. There were some talented people attached to this. How bad could it really be?

Having sampled an episode, I am here to report: It is very, very bad indeed. I’m reminded of Opus the Penguin’s film review in the old comic strip Bloom County: “George Phblat’s new film, ‘Benji Saves the Universe,’ has brought the word ‘BAD’ to new levels of badness. Bad acting. Bad effects. Bad everything. This film just oozed rottenness from every bad scene… Simply bad beyond all infinite dimensions of possible badness…Well maybe not that bad, but Lord, it wasn’t good.”

The premise of the show is fairly straightforward. A real married couple is having an argument over some absurd thing, Unable to resolve it, they present the facts of their argument to a celebrity panel, who make jokes about it, the host refers to a news researcher who presents some sort of statistical context for the disputed notion, the panel makes some more jokes, and then the host decides for one side or the other. The couple is brought onto a live monitor, the host informs them of the decision (with more jokes), they react predictably, and then it’s on to the next segment.

In the one episode I watched, (thanks to Hulu), there were two arguments to be settled. In the first, a man wanted to have his faithful canine companion stuffed by a taxidermist, in order to create a small shrine in the living room. In the second, the husband wanted to install a stripper pole in the house, which he imagined his wife would entertain him with. In both cases, the argument was so patently absurd that you really couldn’t figure out (absent evidence of severe brain damage) precisely why this was such an intractable issue. On the other hand, kitanzi and I once had a four-day long argument over the question “What, precisely, is poetry?”, so perhaps I shouldn’t throw stones too hard.

I could, if I were so inclined, complain about how the show perpetuates the “men are idiots” meme that has been a staple of sitcom humour for the last 30 years, but my heart isn’t really in it. Men, quite often, ARE idiots, and while I’m willing to defend them generally, I’m not really motivated to advocate for these two yahoos. They each had the hallmarks of a stubborn jackass who has made up his mind what he wants, and is so wrapped up in his desire that he isn’t listening to anything being said to him.

I could also make an argument that the very concept of this show represents a continuing dumbing down of television in the Reality Era, which makes a habit of putting ordinary people on screen for the purpose of making fun of them, but that doesn’t really have a lot of traction either, even by the notoriously low standards of reality television. Compared to pabulum such as The Bachelor and Rock of Love, The Marriage Ref is Shakespeare. Besides which, it replaces the unlamented Jay Leno Show disaster at 10pm, so it’s hard to say just how far the standards have really declined from what previously held the time slot. In truth, I’m reasonably confident that the primary reason that this show is on the air in the first place is that NBC suddenly needed to come up with an extra five hours of programming in a hurry, and it was quick to film and costs about $3.87 an episode to produce.

No, the real letdown of this show is simply that it isn’t really all that funny. I’m not really familiar with the previous work of Tom Papa, but Jerry Seinfeld is usually a funny, if somewhat annoying, comedian, and you would think he’d have better instincts than to be involved with this mess, let alone help create it. If this were being made by a bunch of unknowns in a basement studio for release on the web, it might be able to aspire to that “so bad it’s good” status, but this show is too polished, too promoted, and too well funded for that.

Without a doubt, The Marriage Ref is the most dreary, unfunny, and mediocre half-hour of television I’ve sat through in quite some time. In the final results, you’ll find it down at the bottom of the standings, with the notation “DNF”.

A Month of TV Commentary: A Meme in 30 Parts: Day 4

From aiela, via madlori, the 30-Day TV Meme.

Day 04 – Your favorite show ever

Doctor Who

As much as I’d love to say Firefly, my first great TV love was and is always Doctor Who. When I was in Junior High and High School, I was completely obsessed with the series. I collected books, comics, magazines, posters…anything I could get my hands on. I studied the series obsessively, and never missed it. I had every episode aired on North Carolina Public TV on VHS tape. My friend Jeff and I even conducted a Doctor Who Role Playing Game campaign that was epic in scope. (He was by far the better Gamemaster, though, and in all honesty was primarily responsible for it’s success.)

When I moved down to Georgia to live with stars_and_magic, I became active in local DW fandom, and met a great many friends as a result.

When they announced the plans to revive the series in 2004, I was skeptical. After all, that had been tried once before to no great success. But when the rough cut of “Rose” leaked on the Internet, I downloaded it, put it up on the TV and watched. And at the end, when Rose runs towards the TARDIS and the sting of the theme began, there were tears in my eyes. It wasn’t perfect, by any means. But it was back. And that’s all I cared about.

I hope this run of the show lasts as long as the first run. I could well do with another 25 years of the good Doctor’s adventures.

A Month of TV Commentary: A Meme in 30 Parts: Day 3

From aiela, via madlori, the 30-Day TV Meme.

Day 03 – Your favorite new show (aired this t.v season)


When I first heard about Glee, I thought “That sounds like it might be cute.” So one day while I was playing video games, I pulled up Hulu on my laptop and noticed the pilot was a featured selection. I cued it up, thinking it would make a nice diversion.

Three hours later, kitanzi returned home from having coffee with a friend, and I called her over to the sofa and said “You have to watch this.” We were both hooked, and it went on the season pass as soon as it actually debuted that fall.

There’s a lot of things to love about this show, the music not least of them. But most of all, I love this show because I grok these kids. When I was in high school, it was theatre and not glee that gave me sanctuary, but I defiantly know what it was like to be the weird kid that never really fit in anywhere, and how much that artistic outlet meant to me as a result.

Glee isn’t a perfect show. But it’s darn close, and it’s such an unlikely hit in this day and age that I can’t help but smile just to think that it’s on the air and not only surviving but thriving. Score one for the music geeks.

Honourable Mention: Accidentally On Purpose

Were it not for Glee, this would be my winner. Another one that I watched online and got so enthralled that I added it to the TiVo, this one succeeds largely on the combination of sharp, clever writing and the adorable Jenna Elfman’s pitch-perfect comic timing. It’s also one of the sweetest, realest, and most honest relationships I’ve seen in a sitcom in a long time.

A Month of TV Commentary: A meme in 30 parts, Day 2

From aiela, via madlori, the 30-Day TV Meme.

Day 02 – A show that you wish more people were watching


Most of the TV shows I watch these days are reasonably popular, and most are well into or past their third or fourth season, and not showing any immediate signs of going off the air. Castle has, in fact, been picked up for a third season, which is delightful news. But I’m picking it anyway, for a variety of reasons.

  1. It stars Nathan Fillion. As I mentioned yesterday, I was a big fan of Firefly, and I’m always pleased to see those actors get really good roles. (I’m not consistant about actually watching them, mind you. I never watched The Sarah Conners Chronicles despite Summer Glau’s participation, and I can’t quite seem to muster up any interest in V either, even with Morena Baccarin.)
  2. Stana Katic, the actress who plays Castle’s partner Kate Beckett, is delightful. She manages to find the perfect blend of qualities that make her an engaging and real character.
  3. It’s a good old-fashioned buddy-cop show. Now, I love me a good procedural, and CSI:NY is still on my weekly must-watch list, but sometimes I like my crime show a bit less technical. (And to be fair, the CSI shows have gotten slightly less technical as time has gone on.)
  4. It has, hands down, one of the best father-daughter relationships I’ve seen on television. I think my favourite scenes in the show have involved the wonderful interactions between Rick Castle and his daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn). These subplot scenes add a great deal to the depth of the character; they show us that Castle does, in fact, have a serious side, and this helps to keep him from become a caricature.
  5. On a personal note, a very dear friend of mine is the show creator/head writer’s sister, so I’ve been pulling for it just because I know his success makes her happy.

I was delighted to get the news that Castle would be returning for a third season, and if you haven’t given the show a try, I highly, highly recommend it.

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