Sunday, October 31, 2010

"I'd Ask My Secretary to Do It, But She's Dead"- Don Draper

With "Mad Men's" fourth and best season newly over, and an astonishingly tall, handsome man on my arm, I really didn't even have a choice about my Halloween costume.  Obviously my boyfriend was Don Draper.  Obviously I was Betty Draper.  Obviously I was pregnant, because how many times in your life do you get to drink and smoke in a bar while pregnant without being judged?  (I don't know, depends on how many kids you have.  Zing!)

I rarely post personal photos on the blog, but this T.V.-themed adventure was worth putting up.  It's also a good lead-in to a belated discussion of the finale and the fourth season.







Previously on the blog, I referenced Vulture's review of "Mad Men's" transcendent Season 4 episode, "The Suitcase." Vulture is always eloquent and usually astute, but there were parts of Vulture's conclusions about "The Suitcase" that I disagreed with.  Not so with their review of the finale, which I thought was dead on.  So if you're missing "Mad Men," read the review, let me know what you think of it, and look at my hot Halloween pics.  Don't lie, I know you're already downloading them to your hard drive, you creeps.

With Halloween over and "Mad Men" on hiatus until next season, what's a girl to do?  Oh that's right, AMC, who seems poised to never ever let me down, premieres a new Sunday night show tonight called "The Walking Dead".  Is it:
  • in Mad Men's time slot? Check. 
  • about Zombies? Check. 
  • filmed in ATLANTA (where I live)? Check.
  • "series recorded" on my DVR? Check!
See you guys Tuesday! 

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Med-"Glee"-ocre

    Tuesday night's Rocky Horror-themed "Glee" was just the latest in a series of corny, disappointing episodes of an overall second-rate second season.


    "Glee" started out darker, sharper, funnier.  Its first season was a mockery of high school dramas, infused with charming, self-aware musical numbers. The show had a jagged edge to it that, like the brilliant Mean Girls and Saved before it, made "Glee" a satire of its genre and a tribute to it at the same time.  It was self-aware and self-deprecating, but also showcased some incredibly talented performers and dramatic plots that were, at the end of the day, ridiculously entertaining.

    The music choices were unique, diverse, prismed through a young, energetic lens. Remember Artie's acoustic version of Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself"?  Or Kurt's side-splitting "Single Ladies."?  Or the I-can't-believe-Queen-didn't-arrange-choral-numbers rendition of "Somebody to Love"?  Not to mention the time "Glee" put down the costumes and the jazz hands to watch Kristin Chenowith's "Maybe This Time," a soft, sad, unbelievably perfect number that reduced more viewers than just Kurt to tears.


    They threw in campy pop numbers, too, but they were always set in a scene where the characters were as embarrassed to be performing them as we were to be watching them. (Think Lea Michelle's "You're the One that I Want" from Grease.) It was so silly and sincere, and it tried so hard that you couldn't help but picture yourself with your hairbrush microphone singing show tunes into your mirror...Or maybe that was just me. Yesterday.

    But this season has been a departure from all that.  The characters and relationships take a back-seat to gimicky musical numbers; plots seem hastily constructed around that week's musical theme.  "Glee" has always been a little hokey, a little forced, but we forgave it because it was so damn lovable. "Glee's" first season seemed to waddle shakily on baby-deer legs, gingerly trying out new jokes and new routines; this season it's fully-grown, over-hyped, and maybe suffering from the same sort of second-album over-confidence that plagues so many pop-stars.

    Salon magazine said it better than I just did in an article called "'Glee' could be great -- if it weren't so awful." Heather Havrilesky writes, 
    Has there ever been a TV show that's at once more delightful and cringe-inducing at the exact same time than 'Glee'? Ever since it returned for its second season, this off-kilter dramedy (8 p.m. Tuesdays on Fox) has been nailing its high notes while still flaunting its many flaws with even more bravado than before.
    I had a conversation with Emily, a friend of mine, last weekend about "Glee".  She's an actress and a singer and has been even more disappointed with this season than I have.  Her major problem with the show is musical the lip-synching, the overproduced, heavily-mixed sound.  Heather Havrilesky agrees.  Talking about Lea Michelle, the show's star vocal talent who belts a ballad every week, Havrilesky writes,
    ...the overproduced, overprocessed sound that 'Glee' traffics in takes all of the warmth and freshness of Michele's voice and turns it into a Hostess cupcake, full of sugary, stale perfection. Every single one of her solos is glazed over with the same overamplified, crescendo-loving treatment, so that they're practically interchangeable.
    Unfortunately for creative-types (and opportunely for critics and bloggers like me), it's always easier to judge something than it is to praise it.  I lovingly watched "Glee" for a whole season, danced around in my living room and bragged on it to my friends, without ever blogging about how fun and engaging it was. Now, after a few missteps fueled by 70s cult musicals, I publicly take "Glee" to task?  It doesn't seem fair, does it?

    But I'm not going to stop watching "Glee." I still love it, and I think it brings a truly novel, artistic blend of talent and pop to television.  I just want "Glee" to remember what it does best: showcase awkward twenty-something high school kids singing and dancing against a brutally funny backdrop of teen angst and insults. Bring back Puck so he and the new kid can fight for Quinn, give Mr. Schu a real love-interest, and for shit's sake, stop making Santana talk like Jenny from the Block.  Is that so hard?

    Editor's Note: Later, I did give a deserving episode of "Glee" a good review here.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    See You Next Tuesday (Anita Hill)

    See You Next Tuesday is the Boomstick's first regular themed column. It features the week's most laughable idiots and scumbags for your reading pleasure. 
      
    In honor of the upcoming midterm elections, this week's See You Next Tuesdays are bipartisan: 

    From the Right: Ginni Thomas and her bizarre, belated phone call to Anita Hill.  The basic backstory is this: when Clarence Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court, a woman named Anita Hill came forward and testified that Thomas had sexually harassed her.  Thomas' nomination was approved anyway, and despite some embarassing stories involving a Coke can, no one has really thought about this story since it happened in 1991.  Fast forward nineteen years, and Thomas' wife calls Anita Hill at 7:30 in the morning asking for an apology?

    Above the Law had some great theories on what Thomas was thinking.  But the real news story is just how un-newsworthy this whole event is.  To give you some context for how old this vendetta is, I made you a time-capsule of what was relevant back when Anita Hill was. (Collages are so 1991.)

    From the Left: NPR fired journalist Juan Williams over the kind of totally unalarming (if uncouth) generalization that every single person makes every day.  The full text of the shocking statement, via Politico (where you can watch the video):

    “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot,” Williams said on the "The O'Reilly Factor" Monday. “But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

    Williams' comment on The O'Reilly Factor may have been politically incorrect, but it wasn't totally shocking.  Critics of NPR are pointing out that Nina Totenberg (who has my dream job) publicly wished a political opponent and his grandchildren would contract AIDS, and wasn't disciplined.  But hypocrisy and partisanship are not reasons why NPR won today's See You Next Tuesday.  It's because NPR is being a total pansy about it.

    NPR justified Wiliams' firing by saying, "we don't allow our journalists to voice personal opinions."  But what they meant is, "we're a progressive news source and don't approve of our journalists pandering to conservative talk show hosts by making unpopular, vaguely racist statements.  Plus we really thought we signed up for someone way more diversity-conscious and touchy-feely when we hired a Panamanian-Brooklynite-philosophy-major."  (See, that's exactly the kind of un-alarming generalization I was talking about!)

    Immediately, Fox News offered Juan Williams a 2 million dollar contract to work for them not a shabby bump up from public radio.  The Daily Show, of course, put it best, saying that NPR challenging Fox News was like "bringing a tote bag full of David Sedaris books to a knife fight."  That it is, Jon, that it is.  See you next Tuesday!


    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Robo-Lawyer

    If a robot tells you to do something, you do it.  So when a robot lawyer lectures you on why you shouldn't go to law school, you should listen closely to his electronic voice. (See below.)
    Judge Dredd spent time in private practice

    There's been a movement lately among law students and recent graduates for "Law School Transparency;" a demand that law schools accurately represent their post-graduation employment statistics to prospective students.  The recession hit the legal community hard, leaving countless new associates jobless, summer clerks offer-less, and 1Ls hopeless. Yet law school enrollment is at an all-time high.  So, disillusioned would-be lawyers are taking to the "blawgs," (isn't that cute?) trying to tell the truth about the law school experience, the resulting debt, and the dismal job forecast.

    "Law School Transparency" activists blame law schools for inflating job reports in an effort to recruit more students and make more tuition money.  But that's because if lawyers know how to do anything, it's how to blame someone else for their own mistakes.  I'll admit, it's an attractive proposition to convince myself that I was "lured" into law school by some scheming, mustache-twirling admissions officer who lied to me about my inevitable $160k starting salary.  But the truth is, I had a useless undergraduate liberal arts major and I didn't see a lot of upward mobility in my retail job at J.Crew, so I went to law school.  And chances are, that's why you did, too. 


    Blaming law schools for being businesses is just dodging responsibility for embarking on a career you didn't fully understand and ended up not liking.  The bigger problem is this: while law school really is a glorified graduate degree, perfect for poli-sci undergrads who want to put off the "real world" for three years, practicing law is a skilled profession; law school has managed to become completely separate and next-to-useless training for being a lawyer.  So liberal arts undergrads with only the vaguest notions of the Constitution, distant political ambitions, and/or parents who say "blogger" isn't a career, go to law school, read a lot, graduate, and then have to compete tooth-and-nail for a job as a "lawyer" when they don't know what being a lawyer actually means.

    Law schools are flawed because they don't provide appropriate technical training to be an attorney.  Every other "professional" career requires some sort of practical on-the-job instruction, complete with focused specialties. But lawyers all graduate with the same J.D., modified slightly by their particular mix of generalized classes, largely without having learned any every-day lawyering skills.  It's possible to graduate from law school without ever doing anything that remotely resembles being a lawyer, other than some occasional legal research and spinning around in a firm's office chair for a few weeks one summer.

    That's not to say that everyone who goes to law school is misguided or miserable.  After admittedly stumbling into it, I personally really enjoy a lawyer.  I love my job and the opportunities my degree afforded me.  But law is not for everyone, and it may not be what you think. This video says it best:


    This link was featured on Above the Law. More importantly, it was featured on my friend Clint's g-chat status. So take our word for it.

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    See You Next Tuesday (Dinosaurs)

    See You Next Tuesday is the Boomstick's first regular themed column. See previous editions here and here.

    You know what's really lame? When someone stomps on your dreams. You know what's really mean? When someone makes you care about them but they don't even exist.  That's why this week's See You Next Tuesday is devoted to the Triceratops, a non-dinosaur that lied to my face and stole my childhood.
     
    Triceratops
    His MySpace pic was totally photoshopped.
    Like everyone else who was awesome, the Triceratops was totally my favorite dinosaur.  It looked like a Rhinoceros mated with an alligator, complete with three awesome horns.  Triceratops also had a badass "bony frill" that protected his neck from predators and made him look fashionable when Rembrandt painted his portrait.

    Triceratops-inspired fashion.
    But now it comes out that the Triceratops never really existed.  The Triceratops that we knew and loved was actually just a baby version of a dinosaur that no one has ever heard of, the Torosaurus.  Science-y people talk about it here.

    So frankly, it's not all that devastating the Torosaurus looks a whole lot like the Triceratops.  But it doesn't have the prefix "tri" to connote its three awesome horns or the suffix "tops" to connote both where the horns are on its body and where the dino ranks on the list of awesome dinosaurs.  Not to mention it totally screws up The Land Before Time for the next generation.

    As if destroying the Triceratops wasn't bad enough, this week scientists dealt yet another death-blow to the coolest creatures ever to walk the Earth.  They found some really old footprints maybe the oldest ever  of a "dinosaur" in Poland.  But this wannabe was a "pipsqueak" of a creature about "the size of a domestic cat."  And the only artist rendering we have looks like one of the paleontologists' kids drew it on a day he forgot his Adderall:

    Polish Catosaurus.

    So, folks, now we have the Polish Housecat-osaurus instead of the Triceratops. And that, my friends, is a See You Next Tuesday move.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    If You Don't Invite Gays to Your Tea Party, Who'll Bring the Finger Sandwiches?

    In response to my Christine O'Donnell post last week, I was sent this article from the Wall Street Journal.  It's a short and interesting read, and basically argues that youthful indiscretions have historically not barred the wrongdoers from political office.  From Washington to Kennedy, everyone makes mistakes (French and Indian war? Washington's bad!) and the American people have traditionally been willing to forgive and elect.  Sure, O'Donnell made some embarrassing statements as a teenager, but should a social faux pas two decades ago really prevent her from holding office as an adult?

    "My Bad!" - Washington.
    No, I don't think so. And I don't think that the "witch" clip, though great fodder for an SNL sketch, is the reason O'Donnell won't be elected.  If anything, dabbling in witchcraft is the most liberal item on her resume.  She won't be elected because Delaware is a moderate state that won't vote for an extreme Right-winger.  Is O'Donnell a bad choice for the Republican party? Maybe not.  Is she a nearly impossible choice for Delaware?  Probably.  As one pundit put it, Republicans lost a Senate seat the day O'Donnell was nominated. 

    But the bigger point that I was hinting at, and the point I wanted to clarify, is this: I strongly believe that extremists on the Right aren't doing Republicans any favors vote-wise.  By catering to social conservatives, the Republican party is alienating younger, more libertarian voters and attaching themselves to outdated, ultimately unpopular viewpoints.  Our generation will see Don't Ask, Don't Tell repealed, will see gay marriage legalized and constitutionally sanctioned, will see marijuana decriminalized, and will not mount any legitimate, successful challenges to Roe v. Wade or Casey v. Planned Parenthood.  So why is the G.O.P. digging in their heels and clinging to losing battles?  The overwhelming tide of change is in the direction of social progress, and social conservatives are wading into the water wearing cement shoes. 
    If these dudes don't love Project Runway, I don't know who does.
    Republicans fundamentally support small government.  So how did we get involved all this social law-making in the first place?  Economics are the whole reason Republicans have a chance to reclaim Congress in the midterm elections; why not stick to those issues and stick together?  Privatize health care, extend the Bush tax cuts, abolish the estate tax, make legal immigration easier than illegal immigration.  Hell, I think Republicans could even garner meaningful support for the Fair Tax if they were just willing to divorce that issue from hating gays and beating Bibles.

    This is where the Tea Party should come in: as a single-issue lobbying group determined to realign the Republican party back to its low tax, small government core.  It should abandon the faith-base for the fiscal-base.  In my humble opinion, Republicans need to get back to the issue on everyone's mind in a recession: money.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Not Quite Sinatra, But it Does Involve Witchcraft...

    My friend Ben Sheehan, whom you might remember from his "Global Warming's Good for You" and "I'll Be Watching You (Miss You Coco)" videos on the blog, has done it again.  By "it,"  I mean made a surprisingly high-quality homemade music video featured this week on Funny Or Die.  This time Ben tackles Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party-backed candidate from Delaware who beat out former Governor and nine-term incumbent Mike Castle for the Republican nomination to Congress.

    O'Donnell appeared more that 20 times on "Politically Incorrect" back in the 90s, but apparently has refused to make an appearance on Bill Maher's new show "Real Time."  In retaliation, Maher has made good on his promise to show an O'Donnell clip every week until the midterm elections.  And let me tell you, these clips definitely belong under the title "Politically Incorrect."

    First, there's O'Donnell saying that Evolution is a myth (because if it were true, "why aren't monkeys still evolving into humans?").  There's O'Donnell admitting she "dabbled in witchcraft" (perfect imagery for an election two days after Halloween, right?). And of course, there's the amazing '90s MTV spot where O'Donnell, looking like a "Party of Five" cast member, campaigns against masturbation: 


    Are these really the candidates that the Tea Party has won for Right-leaning America?  Extremist Evangelicals who eschew libertarian principles in favor of Puritanical sexual mores and scientific ignorance?  Really?  With so much open dissatisfaction toward Obama and the Democratic Congress, why does the Right feel like now's the time to jump off the deep end of religion and abortion and make themselves look like uneducated hillbillies who are going to pray on the budget crisis instead of solving it?

    What's so unfortunate is that O'Donnell's crazy takes away from some of her more palatable viewpoints. Her stance on taxes, illegal immigration, and health care all speak to core libertarian policies. But instead of a leader who champions small businesses and small government, Delaware Republicans have picked a crackpot wannabe-Palin who wants people to stop having sex.  And there's no one who should be more offended by this choice than those of us who are Republicans because we hate taxes, but not because we hate gays or science or sex.

    Now that I've ranted on this, I'll give you Ben's more humorous take on the subject.  Ben's video, in his sugary-pop-coated satirical way, makes all these points about O'Donnell.  But in his comedian way, Ben makes it much funnier than I just did.  Enjoy:

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    See You Next Tuesday (Mormans and Gays)

    See You Next Tuesday is the Boomstick's first regular themed column. It features the week's most laughable idiots and scumbags for your reading pleasure. 

    The past week brought such truly great fodder for See You Next Tuesday, I couldn't pick just one. Check 'em out:

    "Duh" Moment: "Kody Brown, the leading man on TLC's new reality series Sister Wives, about a husband and his multiple wives, is being investigated by the Utah police for felony bigamy. They were tipped off by the fact that he stars in a TV show all about how he is a felony bigamist." Don't believe me? Well I copied it from Vulture.

    Bigamy is a third degree felony in Utah. While it's rarely prosecuted, in 2001 polygamist Tom Green (not that Tom Green) was convicted for his five marriages and spent six years in prison. He drew the attention of Utah authorities after promoting his lifestyle on national TV talk shows. Lesson: if your last name is a color and you have more than one wife, don't talk about it on T.V.. Duh.

    "WTF?" Moment: First, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell stalked the University of Michigan's openly-gay student body president, Chris Armstrong. Then he wrote a blog about it called "Chris Armstrong Watch" (now, unfortunately, "for invited readers only"). Then he drew swastikas on pictures of Armstrong's face and called him a Nazi. Read the original story at Above the Law. Then Shirvell went on Anderson Cooper 360 where his high-pitched voice and hours spent outside an 18-year old's house cause Anderson Cooper to say, "You seem to be obsessed with this young, gay man.”

    No comment on Shirvell's complete misunderstanding of how Nazis felt about homosexuals. If you check out the video below, you're doing yourself a favor: (Here's a transcript for at-work readers, but there's no substitute for seeing Shirvell in the flesh.)



    Shirvell is currently on a "voluntary leave" from office. No word yet from Michigan's Attorney General on formal discipline for Shirvell, but I bet it'll be really rough coming from Mike Cox.

    Folks, I can't make this stuff up. See you next Tuesday!