television

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It surprises me to look back on my last post, my joyful boasting about my favorite new appliance and my wishful thinking of summer soon to come, and to find that among my list of most looked forward to items I did not list Mad Men.  I have a shameful confession to make: I forgot!

I could pine away with mournful excuses, but instead I’ll simply say that I’m human. Perhaps like Don Draper, who is super humanly human. Fortunately it was all over Facebook and everything else, so I set it up to record along with everything else.

And wow, what to say.  I’ve long enjoyed reading the A.V. Club’s write-ups of the shows I keep up with. Their write-up of the Mad Men opener is a bit broken up, as it apparently was based upon a preview reel and then expanded, but it offers some food for thought. Of course you don’t have to stop there.  Write-ups and reviews of shows abound on the internet these days. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a TV blogger on some parts of the internet anymore.

the Inferno

An accurate representation of how I myself read important Italian poets on the beach… but with less cool voice overs.

There are, it seems, two interesting recurring themes this episode:  the opening lines of Dante’s Inferno, which goes, “Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and awoke to find myself alone in a dark wood….”  Despite my deep and abiding love of Italians (and especially Italian women), I’ve never read Dante, so I don’t have much insight except to wonder if quoting from Inferno is perhaps a little heavy handed.  And if Mad Men started off in season one with a man (Don Draper) straying from life’s path midway… well then where the hell are we now?  He strayed back onto the “right” path for some time, and then of course right back off of it… and we’re still only midway?  Life is not like a commercial it seems:  it’s fucking long, and we’re back where we started.

Kinda.

I like the point that I read (and I forget where) that certain characters have morphed into each other.  Pete into Don.  Peggy (also) into Don.  Don into Roger.  Roger into Burt.  They even added in an obsequious new character (played by James Wolk), and I’m guessing he’s going to morph into Harry Crane… because, hey fuck it.

The other theme that kept coming up was Chopin.  Particularly this piece. I’m not the biggest classical music nerd in the world, but I do enjoy some Chopin. (And if you are a non-initiate then I’d point you to the succinct and wonderful Pianist soundtrack for a nice sampling.)

So there are clearly some heavy meditations upon death… though I would suggest that really it’s much more about happiness.  Success, status, beauty.  They make us happy until they don’t.  That really has been Matt Weiner’s milieu through this whole show, and goddamn is he good at it.  The start to this season seems no different.  The AV Club’s write-up kept suggesting that the show started by meditating and confronting its own past.  That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

But I wonder of what’s to come.  I love the last season, with it’s disjointed plots and themes… episodes that focused solely on single characters.  We’ve got less than two seasons left to go, and I wonder where Matt Weiner and company are taking us. I don’t expect this season to play out like last season, but I sure hope it doesn’t echo too much of other seasons past.

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Here are some current things…

Current Obsession:  This song, by Burial.

Current Thing I’m Most Lazy About:  Cheese.

I subscribed to this magazine not long ago called Culture: the word on cheese.  I have two subscriptions to two magazines in the whole world, one of them a regular dude sort of magazine, and the other a magazine about cheese (I keep putting off subscriptions to a few music magazines).  And anyway, what I wanted to do was start maybe something like a food diary and make cheese something of a true hobby, but I haven’t really gotten around to it.  I do love cheese more than most things in life, but truth is I just haven’t had time to cook much this summer.  And that means little time to visit my local cheese monger.  This is another thing I must rectify.

Current Most Excited About: New Orleans.

The girlfriend and I have been anticipating a New Orleans trip in a few months, probably just after the holidays.  She’s never been.  I’ve only been once, but I can’t wait to introduce her to it.  Just thinking about it… there truly just is something about that city.  I think she’s gonna fall in love with it as quickly as I did.

Current Whatev’s: Gears 3.

I had been jumping up and down anticipating Gears of War three for not only months, but years now.  And then it came, and then I finished the campaign with a friend just last night, and…. man I’m kinda over it.  I think I must feel the same way about Gears that some folks feel about Halo these days.  I never got tired of Halo, but by the time this last Gears rolled around I had simply had my fill.  The campaign is on rails… which at first felt so innovative.  The game played like a cinematic theme park ride.  But now it just feels overly scripted to me.  The characters were always pretty thin to begin with, and seriously, it was three games of fighting the same damn monsters again and again.  (And having said all that, it really truly amazes me that I never tired of Halo).

Current Obsession Bordering on Religious Fervor: George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series.

I never thought I’d get roped into these, but after seeing the HBO serious I just had to have more.  There are only two salient facts when it comes to George R.R. Martin:  1) his fantasy epic is pure, unfiltered nerd crack; 2) George R.R. Martin is a motherfucker.  This man giveth with one page, and he taketh away with another.  I almost screamed, tore at my clothes, and then ran into the streets like a lunatic when I read “the red wedding” chapters.  That son of a bitch author is just downright cruel sometimes.  But oh how I can’t quit him, how I can’t….

Current Project: a Deadmau5 head.

I’ve dithered like crazy wondering do I call it a Deadmau5 mask, helmet, what?  I dunno.  A Deadmau5 head thing.  The girlfriend and I had the dubious task of choosing between The Black Keys and Deadmau5 at Virgin Freefest.  I love The Black Keys to death (as does she–it’s her fricking ringtone), but we were both so glad we opted with the Canadian mouse man DJ.  His stage was this gigantic all LED installation that just blew everyone away.  One of the things that was so cool about the show was how many folks turned up with their own Deadmau5 heads on.  I knew right then and there what I wanted to do for Halloween.

As of now though…. I haven’t lifted a finger.  I’m giving myself about a 50/50 chance of following through on this one.  A lot of folks have posted their how-to’s online, so there are plenty of guides.  But some of them get a little pricey ($200? shit!)… and plus I just had this clear idea of how I wanted to do it.  No idea if I actually can though.  I guess we’ll see.  I promise to post pics.

Current Bummer: Missing out on Wild Flag/Eleanor Friedberger tickets in DC.

Sad face. :(

Current Best Decision Lately: Getting rid of cable.

This was a group decision, actually, by me and the roommates, but so glad we did it.  I had gotten into such a routine.  And understandably so, I mean, those shows on HBO and Showtime are so fucking good these days, not to mention all the other channels with their own pet shows.  But our bill went up to around $180, and we were like just fuck it.  Basic cable isn’t worth it, IMO, and the roommates were happy to cut down a monthly expense.

I haven’t missed it, I’m so happy to say.  Been catching a few things on Netflix, but for the most part just changed up some of the routine.  God my ass off the couch.  I’m sure I’ll have it again someday, but I hope that day is a ways off.

Current Thing I Should Be Doing instead of Writing This: Going to bed.

Good night!

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Generally speaking, I’m a fan of routines.  Regular, predictable events and actions that string days together easily and seamlessly.  They empower the imagination in an inverse sort of way: I can easily imagine, for example, what my next Monday will look like.

Perhaps that thought is a little disturbing: the looming specter of the Monday next.  But really, it’s only a negative if your days are negative.  Do your days routinely suck?  Then maybe you should make some changes.  Most of my days are good, or at the least, they definitely aren’t bad.  So I’ve few complaints.

That imagined visage of a comfortable, routine day is seldom as warm as when displaced.  I get this when I go on long vacations.  At a certain point I get homesick and long to return.  And I’ve felt a little bit of that in a strange way lately.  Moving, house shopping, packing, unpacking, and constantly working on the house have me so displaced from my usual self that I’ve been longing for some normality.  I can’t stand living out of boxes.  The other night, as I was crashing, I felt an aching desire to thumb through one of my books before I fell asleep, but the book was buried in any one of a dozen boxes.  What is the point of owning books if you don’t return to them on occasion to remember their treasures?

Still, though, I’ve managed to weird myself out a little.  One habit that I never wanted to become a habit is television.  If there’s one form of background noise that I positively can’t stand it’s television.  Whenever I’m at a parent’s house, the television is incessantly blaring.  At my father’s it’s always on in the background.  At my mother’s, she and her husband are interminably glued to it.  Either way, I hate it.  I never wanted to be a “tv person.”

But one of the most annoying things about my move was that I got behind on my shows.  “My shows” see there I said it.  I’m deliberate about what I watch, and I always DVR it so that I  can skip the commercials.  But still.  I feel that I’ve become a shade of my parents in this way.

Now this isn’t a new concern of mine, but what surprised me about the temporary interruption was the realization of how important these shows are to my relaxation.  I mean, they’ve really become my decompression routine.  When I get home from an eleven hour day at the office (or even a nine hour day), I queue up one of my shows and chill out.

Partly this is good.  I’m glad I’ve found an outlet.  But at the same time, I don’t like the feeling that television is necessary.  I’d like to think that I could cancel my cable subscription at any time and with few regrets.

So this is a goal for me to work on this summer.  I want some new routines.  Routines that feel a little more active.  It’s going to be tough.  Trueblood just started back up, as did Top Chef, and Louis CK’s new show starts soon.  Oh, and did we mention Entourage?  Oh and MadMen will be here before you know it.

You see what I mean?  You see!  It’s an endless spiral.

I’m hoping to get some major unpacking done this week, and once those things are settled, we need to focus on some new routines.  Even if they’re old ones revived.

Oh, but I am still planning a fitting Treme wrap-up post here.  Both Treme and the Tudors just wrapped up.  All I really have to say about the Tudors is “Henry VIII with a conscience” sounds more like a thought experiment than basis for a tv show, but the writers made it work.  Recommended.

Treme, now.  I’ve been thinking about Treme.  And you should be watching it.  I feel guilty even calling what David Simon does “tv” anymore.  It’s just so damned good.

But more on that later.

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Did not make it to work today.  This is not a good thing, since I am running the training room all week and teaching a rather technical lesson.  Luckily it seems that my backup is going to be okay with covering me.

Also, supposed to have a date tonight, and really not so sure that that’ll be happening.  Yeah, bad time to come down with a cold.

Gonna try and get some things done around here though, which will include some posting on this page.  I need to inveigh against Tim Burton.

I was a little surprised by the ending to last night’s Lost.  Guess I won’t spoil it here, but we’re not used to seeing Ben Linus episodes end that way.  Ben is at the end of the day a tragic character.  It was nice, though, to see Tania Raymonde return to the show.  I find her almost supernaturally beautiful.  I wish that I could call her, and that she would go out with me, and that I could put my mouth on her mouth.

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Gonna try and make some more posts later, but thought I would upload this now.

Here is a whole heeping load of Lost theorycraft.  Lots of neat ideas that I haven’t considered.  Then again, I’m not getting paid by a magazine to sit around and research possible relevant mythology.

A couple of this guy’s ideas, though, are pretty interesting.  What if Jacob was searching for a candidate to replace Smokey?  Interesting.  What if Dogen knew that Smokey can’t harm the candidates and vice versa when he sent Sayid after him (or even the suggestion of this idea to begin with)?  Very interesting.  It goes on.

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I seriously cannot wait for Lost to start tonight.  I’m used to catching up on it on DVD, which means that I’ve digested each season whole hog.  I’m somewhat trepedatious about watching it one episode per week.  Once I get into a season of Lost, I become a total junky for it.  And man did I love last season.

Here is a link that I randomly found providing a select list of books that appear in the show.  I’ve read stuff by most of these authors, but none of these specifically (I think I tried to read Valis once, ug…).  Maybe I’ll read through some of these to hold me over between weekly episodes.

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I didn’t realize that Sanjuro meant “thirtysomething”.  That’s probably because the last time that I watched Yojimbo I wasn’t a thirtysomething, or maybe I was only thirty.  It’s been a little while.

I had some time off today, convalescing, and I realized while lounging magnificently on the couch that there are a number of Criterion Collection movies on my Netflix Instant.  The morning was spent learning that old French movies make no sense.  But the afternoon was for an old favorite:  Yojimbo.

(I feel somewhat compelled to point out the irony that while I own this on DVD, it takes Netflix to get me to watch it.  Go figure…)

There’s really not enough that can be said about this film.  Kurosawa and Mifune’s movie of a taciturn ronin turned vigilante stands the test of time with each viewing.  I could spend pages writing about Mifune’s brilliant acting or Kurusawa’s artful eye, but watching the film today I was caught up in the aspects of the film’s vigilanteism.

The two most telling characters in the film are the coffin maker and the innkeeper.  One profits from the town’s violence (the coffin maker), while the other loses.  Sanjuro allies himself with the innkeeper, but at first the innkeeper wants nothing to do with him.  Violence begets violence and all that.  The tipping point comes when Sanjuro rescues the young couple from the grips of one of the crime lords, winning the innkeeper’s undying respect.

And this is what gets me.  Neither of the neutral parties have a vested interest in the town being razed.   “This many bodies, they don’t bother with coffins,” the coffin maker moans (more or less).  And yet the innkeeper gets behind it.  He has lost his business’s livelihood as well (at least for now), but Sanjuro is a hero to him.

This I love.  This infatuation with vigilanteism.  It could easily be said that this theme that I’m riffing on is of justice, but I think the subtext is a little more subtle than that (and sublime!).

It just seems such an American infatuation to me, so I guess it strikes me so much seeing it in a foreign film.  And not just seeing it, but seeing an archetype born so full, beautiful, and fully formed.  (This film will always be remade, and yet the original will always stand.)

When I saw Michael C Hall, of Dexter fame, in San Diego last summer, he told this little anecdote that went like this:

“So we recently sold Dexter in about a dozen countries, and so I’ve been trekking across Europe for the last several months promoting it.  And there’s this thing that I noticed.  I tell people that the show is about a serial killer.  And people kind of say, ‘Oh…’  But then I say that, well he’s a serial killer that only kills other killers.  And Americans always respond with, ‘Oh, okay.  Alright.’  But in Europe they just kind of look at me and say, ‘…yeah, but he’s still killing people.’”

It makes me wonder, I guess.  Are the Japanese as infatuated with this as we are?  I’m a little behind on my Japanese and Asian cinema these days, so I’m not really sure.

I think what’s so remarkable about the character of the innkeeper is how his attitude so captures the inevitable attitude of the audience.  Yes destruction has been wrought, but justice has been done and those who have paid have been the deserving.  What I think nails it is Mifune’s performance.  He never really seems entirely approving of his actions.  His hand almost seems forced, as if there is a duty to be done and he simply has been chosen to carry it out.  I could remind viewers of Mifune’s introduction in the film:  a wandering ronin at a crossroads casts a stick into the air, following in whatever direction it lands.  Sanjuro is but a fatalistic instrument.  The wily innkeeper, though, he gets to throw up the thumbs up or thumbs down.  It would be a completely different film without him.

Anyway.

That’s enough film critique for now.  I am now convinced that as a “thirtysomething” I should adopt Sanjuro as an occasional nickname.  Perhaps if I run into any wily innkeepers they will give me a discounted rate out of deference to such a great film.

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Apologies for the lack of posts.  I got wrapped up in some things.  Things are good, actually really good.  There are just certain things I don’t write about here.  Anyway…

I added this blog to my feed reader just sort of randomly, and now and again the dudes who post on here write something very worth reading.  This semi-random but very sensible post about Don Draper is very much on the mark.  Besides, I’ve a weak spot for Gertrude Stein quotes (Valentine’s Day is coming up, which of course reminds me of that poem of hers…).  I should probably get around to reading the book quoted.  In either case, here is the link.

I’ve been getting into my John Cheever stories a great deal this past week, and it’s interesting to see how many of them were taken as templates for Madmen episodes.  The Drapers even live in Ossining, NY, where Cheever himself lived.  I haven’t even gotten to Cheever’s good stories yet, only the early ones.  For a sampling about Cheever and how batshit crazy he was–what with the sexual identity crisis and that suburban ennui zeitgeist thing–you can follow this link here.

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Sitting back and ruminating whistfully for a few moments here on this penultimate evening of the year, the moment doesn’t exactly necessitate declarations.  However, I am prepared to declare 2009 a pretty good year.

It started off with me in a major funk actually.  Last winter.  It was sort of inexplicable, although I think it came down mainly to being in too much of a tedious routine at work.  I was hitting up the junk food restaurants and avoiding the gym after work.  Which was a real shame because I had gotten into pretty decent shape back in ’08.

But I fixed that.  Got promoted to another division at work.  Got back into shape a bit.

I moved.  I live in a very swanky apartment that I’m completely in love with.  The mastery of my own domain has brought me a wealth of inner tranquility.  Already I’m dreading the day that I move out of here.

I went on a few vacations that were a lot of fun.  Had to take a break from that once I moved out on my own (no roommate!), but I’ll be back at it soon enough.  Next time out I need to get further from home.  I’m thinkin’ about Europe (perhaps I should resolve to brush up on my Spanish this year… or perhaps learn some French).

I dated a lot this year.  More than in most years, if not any year.  Did that online dating thing for awhile, and it was like new date, new date, new date every week.  It was alright.  A few of them lasted a little while, and each of them not working out was a shame in its own unique way.

Oh, by the way, I am no longer dating the lovely young lady I was most recently dating.  I think I had mentioned her on here.  I wish I could say that it was something I did, but she went rather suddenly from being really, really into it, to being really, really not into it.  Don’t know what to say.  We talked about it a bit during the breakup conversation, and the gist of it was mainly that she’s got too many things going on right now and can’t get her head into a relationship right now.  God typing that out right here, it just sounds trite.  Like nonsense.  One thing that life has taught me is that no matter how pure one’s intentions are going into a breakup conversation, pretty much all of it ends up coming out like nonsense.  I’ve only been on the receiving end of that conversation a few times, and I’ve learned that what I tend to do is go into super, super sweet and understanding mode.  I become Mr. Copacetic.  There’s probably a psychoanalysis session in there somewhere…. something about my mother and father’s conflicts, for sure.

Oh but speaking of being super sweet, after talking about this whole episode with one of my BFFs, the one who I can pretty much tell ANY relationship stuff to, we came up with a dating resolution for me:  be more crazy, or be more of an asshole.  Girls don’t suddenly get bored with and ditch crazy assholes.  So that’s something I can work on this year.

But enough talk of dating. Except to say that this one was a real shame. I really liked her a lot.  Nothing to do but move on and forget about it right now.

And right now I have a different focus anyway.  Being single really behooves me in these first few months of 2010.  I’ve got to buckle down and finish some things that I started here.  One of them includes working a lot of overtime, so that I can pay down a credit card.  The other involves getting back into the shape I was in not so long ago.  Actually, muscle tone wise I’m already out ahead.  I can bench more than I used to, and I hope to be able to bench my body weight this year.  We’ll see.

Just in general, though, I need more discipline right now.  I’ve been in this sort of, I don’t know what to call it, hedonistic I guess kind of mode.  I’m fine with that version of me, but I don’t want to be that version of me right now.  I need to drag out a different set of habits.

As to the rest of the coming year, it’s hard to predict.  It’s funny, not to bring up that recent breakup again, but one of the things she said was something like “my life is so hectic and transitional right now, and you’re so settled down in your life.”  I don’t really see it that way.  I feel changes in the air.  The last thing I want to do right now is buy a house, settle down, and resign myself to life as an insurance man.  I’m okay with being an insurance man right now, but I sure as shit don’t want to die one.

But, that said, I’ve got a lot to sort out.  Before I do any of it, I need to put my nose to the grind for a few months.  Once these loose ends are tied up I can start focusing on other life changes.

Anyway, adios 2009!  Please don’t feel remiss that 2010 is going to make you seem horribly lame by comparison, but yes 2010 is going to rock.

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