Friday, September 27, 2013

Premiere Week TV Report, Parts 3 & 4

(I didn't do one yesterday for obvious reasons.)

:: Like I said, I like Modern Family, but I don't love it. I enjoyed the premiere episodes for the most part. It's hard to describe. My theory for why the show is so popular is that it portrays our changing definition of family as inclusive and positive; I think it makes a lot of people feel good. That's one of the things I like about the show--it doesn't throw in a lot of the fakey drama just to make us wonder if marriages will break up or someone's going to die just to fuck with us. It just is what it is, and what it is is nice and funny and a little bit of a cartoon but it's not so big and dire and overly ambitious. I guess the worst I can say about it is that it's just a solidly-produced, entertaining sitcom. Not a lot to say about it, but pleasant to watch.

:: Happy that Nashville's back, with Hayden looking sexy as hell and my darling Clare Bowen sort of dominating a lot of the storyline. Some of the plot turns for this season look like they're going to be hilariously soapy, which is exactly what I want. I love a show that's willing to revel in what it is.

:: The finale of Broadchurch was hugely emotional and satisfying. I had an inkling of what the reveal would entail, and it's interesting all of the parallels the show drew and how they came together. Gosh, what a wonderful, involving show that was. Only 8 episodes, but probably my second favorite show all year.

:: The premiere of South Park I was ambivalent about. It got boring quickly. A few good quips here and there, but, shit, you had 10 months of things happening in the news to work with, and the best you could come up with was a shot at the NSA that felt more than a bit stale and some thing about the DMV which went exactly nowhere. Lots of wasted opportunity on that one, but at least we got pop culture's nth rant about how stupid Twitter is. Look, Trey and Matt obviously don't give a shit about the show anymore, so why not just let it die? It's not like you ever hear anyone talking about that insightful thing South Park did last night anymore.

:: I thought the Parks & Recreation premiere was great, especially Ron's whole journey. Nice to see an hour-long sitcom premiere this season that felt like an actual hour-long episode instead of two episodes back-to-back that were just aired together without a break in the middle. I hope this development of Andy staying in London for a while means we get to see more of Peter Serafinowicz rather than Chris Pratt just disappearing for a few episodes or more (I don't know if it coincided with filming on Guardians of the Galaxy or something, but I figure really they're just giving him time for that, which kind of sucks, because his presence on the show is something integral about it to me). Henry Winkler was fun. Always nice to see Jenny Slate. The show's still working for me.

:: I have mixed feelings about The Michael J. Fox Show; I think it just hasn't found its tone yet. Really liked the first episode, didn't care for the second, but I've liked Fox since I was 8 years old, and I just want to watch him. I love the guy. It seems like it could be a nice show if they let it find its tone and don't go overboard trying to turn it into another 30 Rock. For a single-camera sitcom with confessional moments, it feels kind of nicely like an old-fashioned sitcom (someone compared it to The Danny Thomas Show, which seemed apt to me, and I like the way the show is trying to do a similar premise--dad's a celebrity but his family doesn't adore him the way strangers do--without being mean or too cartoonish about it). I have hope for it and I'd like to continue watching it, but I do hope it gels together a little more completely. (Also, regarding the second episode: when was Tracy Pollan ever so hot? Damn.)

:: The Big Bang Theory continues to be The Big Bang Theory, the show not bad enough to give up on, but not good enough to get really excited and talk about. Still, as long as Melissa Peterman keeps showing up, I will, too.

:: I forgot that Parenthood was premiering last night. I watched the first four seasons back in June and really fell in love with the show. It's interesting how the show takes place in real time: it's been nine months since the show's been on, so we're catching up with the Bravermans nine months later, so a lot of the episode was sort of spent just explaining what's happened to everyone for the audience's benefit, so hopefully next week we'll just be back into their stories and I'll be enjoying that.

:: Regarding my other current project, The Office. I've got the season 9 DVDs from the library and made it through about half the season. Ed Helms was making a movie, I guess, and even though he did some good stuff on the first few episodes, I haven't missed him at all for the last several where he hasn't been around. Dude just grates on me. I'm very glad to see Catherine Tate still around, and toned down significantly from last season.

I can do without this ongoing "Pam and the sound guy" thread, where we have to watch Jim and Pam's relationship go through some kind of drama because we really love and care about them so much and whatever inorganic interference they want to throw in there. I see they're doing the same thing with Andy and Erin, a pairing I will never accept as the other Jim and Pam no matter how much the show has demanded that I do, even though the previous season was all about the big, stupid things Andy did to win Erin back. Get it together, show.

:: I probably won't be doing a part 5, because the only things on tonight are Shark Tank (and who wants to talk about that?) and this bizarre news MasterChef Juniors, which probably won't be as big a weird disaster as I'm hoping it will.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another Medication Update

I went back on the buspirone a week ago after talking with my therapist and my case manager.

I don't think it's going well.

I mentioned previously that when the wedding was over, I felt my anxiety level might go down. Instead, it's gone way up. I said before that I was somehow more nervous, even though I had less stress. Actually, what I said was: "I'm tired, sometimes uncoordinated, sometimes lightheaded, a little irritable and I'm having those long, drawn-out, meticulous, exhausting stress dreams every night."

I stopped taking buspirone to see how it affected these symptoms, and only a few them went away. The extreme fatigue eventually cleared up, but the sense of being irritable only got worse. In fact, not only have I become much more impatient, but I'm somehow quicker to anger than I was before. I'm more aggressively angry than I've been since before I started therapy (during my withdrawal period). That just got worse, even after stopping buspirone to see if it would go away.

I admit, I'm suspicious of being on drugs like that because of my bad experiences with Lexapro and Prozac. I'm sure that there's some hypervigilance on my part, and the fact is, because of my high blood pressure, I can be very, very sensitive to medications. Everything goes through my body more quickly than it should, and so I do have a tendency to feel side effects very quickly.

My therapist and case worker both wondered, independently of one another, if what had happened to me was that my nervous energy now has nothing to focus on. I was so worried about the wedding, so focused on getting everything right and surviving what turned out to be my biggest period of outside activity since I was teaching, that now all of that anxiety didn't have a drive behind it and I was reacting to not having anywhere to put it. I thought that sounded reasonable and agreed to go back on the buspirone to see if it helped me deal with this new burst of nervous irritation.

But it hasn't, and I feel like I'm just getting worse.

The thing I'm most ashamed of and worried about is my anger. I've had serious anger issues in my life, and I've worked hard to try and get them under control for a decade now. My first instinct--and this is partly blood pressure-related, because the adrenaline and anger go through me so fast (my fear does, too, which is why I panic so easily)--is to yell and scream and throw and break and hurt, and I've worked so hard to not only get to a point where I can try and swallow that and not lash out, but to make strides to process my anger more reasonably so that I'm not just trying not to lash out, but trying not to even have the reaction where I want to lash out. I've been somewhat successful, and I was proud of that.

But sometimes I slip, and I've been able in recent years to just sort of punch out at the air instead of hitting myself or putting holes in walls or smashing something on the ground, all things I've done in the past.

I don't know if she's going to see this, but this is behavior I internalized at an early age from both my mother and my grandmother. My mother was the same way I am: she got angry very easily, and the frustration from her anger would often prompt her to just hit me. So I learned that response: get frustrated, hit something. I'm not blaming her for the way I am, because the anger issue is its own thing. But it's a response to the anger and frustration that I was inadvertently taught.

Another thing I don't like to talk about is that I've hit Becca once before. A long time ago, before we even moved here. It happened because we were fighting about something and I got really frustrated and smacked her on the butt really hard. So hard she fell down. I hate that I did that, and I was immediately guilty and fretted for a long time that doing it once would just make it easier to do again. It's why I never got into boxing as an outlet for my nervous energy, because I was worried it would internalize in me the idea that the reaction to that energy was to hit something. But, I realized later, I already had that idea in me.

I vowed never to hit anybody again after that, and I never have.

But sometimes, I'll admit, I feel that instinct. Not Becca specifically. But that instinct that the thing that's annoying me and making me angry needs to be smashed. And it scares me, and that's why I've worked so god damn hard to not let that emotional response overcome me.

And it's been fading away this week. All I want to do is take out my anger by throwing things, breaking things, hitting things. Becca touched me at one point yesterday and I lashed out and almost hit her, and I will be horrifyingly honest, the only reason I didn't hit her is because I missed. I tried to slap her hand away--very hard--and missed her. Thank Christ.

But I did yell at her last night. And that hurts, too. It's wrong of me, and I'm terrified that I'm getting to a point where I'm not going to be able to control the outbursts anymore and I'll just yell at her all the time. I've already been very quick to snap at her sarcastically. The yelling means it's escalating. And I can't do that. I won't do that. She doesn't deserve it. No one deserves to have to tiptoe around a monster who could explode at any moment. I will not be like that again.

If a drug meant to control my anxiety is giving me this much aggression, I can't be on it. It's too dangerous.

I've been reading around the web a bit about the side effects of buspirone, and I can see cases where it does make people more angry and more aggressive. Not everyone who takes it, of course, but there are a few incident. It seems like a pretty small number, but I appear to be in that number.

Also: the incoherence. I had a bit of it before, and now that's coming back, as you can probably see from my blog. (I've been noticing more rambling than usual, more spelling errors than usual, more grammatical errors than usual.) I've had trouble concentrating in conversation again. I've lost track of time a lot lately, too.

Oh, and the long, drawn-out, exhausting stress dreams? They went away. But only because I've got insomnia instead. (Another possible side effect of buspirone, according to everything I've read about it.)

And I'm experiencing another problem. Remember how I said that the high blood pressure pushes everything through my body too quickly? Well, sometimes--not always, and not even incredibly often with the blood pressure medication I'm on--it can cause my heart to beat too fast. I can actually feel it when it happens. I'm really sensitive to what's happening inside me, and I can feel when my blood pressure is high or my heartbeat is too fast because I get dizzy and/or fatigued and/or nauseous.

See, last night I went to bed and slept for about two hours. I couldn't sleep because my extremities were tingling so hard that I couldn't be comfortable. My feet, my hands and my arms were tingling. They still are, actually, though it's not as bad as it was overnight. (Though I've had a lot of coffee this morning--ever since I overdosed on the stuff back in 2003, caffeine has had the opposite effect on me that it's supposed to have, and coffee makes me really calm.) And I could feel my heart rate was up. I stopped laying there and trying desperately to sleep, came out here into the living room at 3:30 in the morning, tried to meditate to calm down, couldn't, and then exercised for an hour. After that, I watched TV for a bit and then tried to go back to bed about 5:30, but I never did get to sleep. I was more comfortable laying down after having worked out (got a lot of that energy cleared out and gave it a purpose), but my fast heart rate and the tingling in my arms made it impossible for me to relax. I'm still not relaxed now. I'm exhausted, but not relaxed, and if I can't relax, I can't sleep. I stopped trying at 7 and just gave up on the idea of getting sleep today. I'll take a Xanax probably and see if that calms me down for a while, because it usually does.

But I felt really suicidal all night. It was the return of the feeling I had on Prozac, the impending doom that says "You know, maybe killing yourself is the only way to make this all just stop." I was mentally composing my suicide note there for a while. It's pretty sobering when you're laying there in bed next to the sleeping figure of the person you love most in the world, the person who makes you happiest, the person who makes life worth living, and you're just ignoring all of that because you really believe that the best thing you can do for anyone--especially you--is to erase your own existence

So that's dangerous, too.

I didn't take buspirone today and I'm not going to do it again. I just can't live like this. I can't be that person again who snaps and yells and lashes out in anger. I can't sleep. I can't relax. I want to kill myself just to make it all go away so I don't have to feel like this anymore.

I can do better than this.

I have to do better than this.

UPDATE 9/27: My therapist agreed with me that stopping the buspirone was a good idea. She said to expect the side effects to continue for at least the next four or five days, but she agreed with me that the best thing to do would be to stop trying to put me on a regular medication and go back to what I was doing before, which is relaxation techniques/breathing techniques/etc. combined with an occasional Xanax as needed when the anxiety goes too much into panic territory.

When I was in with her, I was a shaking, twitchy mess, but she made me close my eyes and do a relaxation technique with her that calmed me down a lot. We went over to med services together and they took my blood pressure (higher than my normal high, 160/104), my weight (444) and my pulse (62, better than I thought it would be, but I calmed down so much in session--not only that, but I'd gotten hugely emotional as we talked, and cried so much that I wore myself out).

I'm doing everything I can to help flush this out of my system as quickly as possible. Drinking lots of water, cutting back on my caffeine intake (no coffee today), and staying active (walking, exercising, whatever I suddenly decide today's cleaning project is--something else that keeps me focused... probably the kitchen floor today).

Last night before bed I took a Xanax and finally slept through the whole night. I was so exhausted for days, but I feel rested now. That tingling sensation is still in my arms, but it's gradually receding; mostly it's my hands and forearms now.

I know I have serious problems. I have four diagnosed mental health disorders. And I want to learn more about them and more about myself, because that's what's been helping me to manage them. I was making a lot of progress with the many relaxation methods I've learned and with exercising and with eating better and doing more things that make me feel like I've accomplished something. I want to keep getting over all of that internalized trauma that has repeatedly told me how worthless I am and made me so damaged.

It's just that every time they try to put me on a daily medication, my body goes haywire. So I can't do it. I have to do it for myself, which means I have to work harder. But if that's how I still get to be able to sleep, then I'll do it. My life with my wife is worth that.

For fuck's sake, I owe it to myself, too.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Premiere Week TV Report, Part 2

:: Wow, I really enjoyed Agents of SHIELD. It fits in nicely around the fringes of the Cinematic Marvel Universe, just like I was hoping.

It's interesting reading some of the reviews. I particularly think it's cute how so many of the reviewers are saying that think this show--set in a comic book universe--should tone down its comic book references and in-jokes, while simultaneously creaming in their jeans over its Joss Whedon references and in-jokes.

But I've seen a few reviews that say "Well, I'm not sure how much I would get this show if I hadn't seen any of the Avengers movies and was just walking in cold..." but I'm not sure I value that kind of criticism. It's too much of an attempt to be even-handed over something that is based in a world that's been established in seven movies and a few short films and comic books that have existed for 50 years. Frankly, without that, I'm not sure I'd care so much about watching it, because there are already a lot of TV series on the air about a team of (mostly white) specialists investigating mysteries, crimes, the supernatural, etc. (What I used to call the Michael Crichton Plot--a team of hastily-assembled specialists investigate something weird while trying to get along.)

I'm also not sure how much a pre-familiarity matters for a couple of reasons. One, the existence of all this other stuff means the show can hit the ground running, worrying more about establishing its characters (which is why they're all so exaggerated at first, like a comic book) than establishing the world it takes place in. I like that, because its world already feels full, like it exists outside of how its characters experience it, which is something a lot of shows don't attempt in a first episode.

And two, because I think it's really hard to gauge what someone walking in cold will think is obvious or will process quickly compared to someone who's grown up as a comic book fan. I remember when the first X-Men movie came out in 2000, and comic book fans were saying it was amazing how the film could take decades of comics history and boil it down to its easily-digestible essence--"It's the comic book movie that you don't have to be a fan to understand!" And then, at the same time, a lot of non-fan reviewers felt the movie was confusing and too crowded, and I remember Roger Ebert suggesting that theaters hire an X-Men fan to sit in the lobby and answer questions for any bewildered audience members who didn't understand what was going on. So there are differences in perception there.

Anyway, The Avengers alone made enough money that I think we can safely assume that a lot of people went to see it and those people are the target audience. In one respect, I think it's nice to see a show give you some credit for being caught up. If you're not... well, now's a great time to see the movies you missed. Most of them are on Netflix, and most of them are really good. Even the bad ones are fun on some level.

One of the things I particularly liked about the pilot episode was the sort of "human vs. superhuman" theme. Something else I tend to not like in a lot of genre shows is the way that they're always some sort of secret society or somehow operating in total secrecy and no one ever figures out that, say, vampires exist in the world and they're engaged in some sort of shadow war with a select group of Chosen Ones who have set out to stop them. I know a lot of that is usually budget-dictated, but sometimes I also think that's a failure of imagination. I guess it could also be because there's a decision not to portray a world that's too radically different from reality because there are people who think that makes something harder to relate to. I like that SHIELD exists in a world that knows there are superhumans out there and where everyone's trying to adjust to this and figure out how to live in a world that's radically changed. I like that the pilot talked about the idea that some people might find that a scary world with possibly fewer advantages for mere humanity.

I really dug it, and I look forward to watching more. It looks expensive, so I hope it does well so they can keep it around. And Clark Gregg is just awesome. I'm much more enthusiastic about this show than a lot of the shows I've watched so far. (Granted, it's only been two days.)

:: I also watched Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition last night. I've been into that. Dance Moms ended, so this will hold me over until the next season starts. I hope there's a next season. There's a next season, isn't there? Please? How in the hell did I get addicted to that show? Like, you guys don't even know, because I don't talk about it a ton here, but I freaking love Dance Moms.

:: That's Tuesdays for me for now. Becca and I are already talking about just giving up on Castle. I'm not generally one of those people who keeps watching a show when it gets bad. I do sometimes (obviously), but I know some people who are just completely uncritical about watching a show they once loved, because if they love the characters they don't feel there's such a thing as a bad episode. I tend to be more the opposite: I don't want to sit around and watch a show I once loved wither and die. So, if next week's Castle was as bad as this week's, I think it's one of those things I'll just catch up on, maybe, a few years from now. Same with Revenge, which hasn't even started, but which I didn't enjoy last season the way I did in the first. I'm not really looking forward to catching it again. I hope they hit the ground running. Otherwise, I might be gone in a few weeks.

:: Speaking of shows deteriorating, I do need things to distract me from my disorders sometimes, and bingeing a TV series helps, because there's a forward progression and a clear goal in sight, and that's the kind of thing that focuses me. So I've been catching up on Netflix with those final two seasons of The Office that I didn't watch when they were on. It started off okay--better than I figured it would, but mainly that was because of James Spader. It's reached the point for me now where the clear hand of interference for the sake of interference is happening. Sorry, but another woman making a play for Jim is just one of those plot developments that happen because they can't think of anything else to do with it, and it feels insulting because so much of the show was about Pam and Jim and their unrequited love. It's kind of what did the show in for me, getting them together, because once they got married they kind of became assholes. (It was the Michael Scott maturing story thread that was my major interest, which is why I dumped week-to-week viewing when he left the show.)

It's easier to take this, though, when you're going through these developments at a relatively quicker pace. Without commercials, these things run 19 minutes long, so you can blow through half a season in less than four hours, which--since I can't work right now--is just an afternoon for me.

This is the thing about week-to-week viewing vs. binge-watching that I never see talked about in the stupidly copious volume of online debate we're having about this: when it comes down to it, it's the show that helps you make the decision. It's the level of excitement and interest you have over it. I didn't want to devote nine months of my life to The Office every year because it wasn't worth that time investment. Sure, it was only 30 minutes a week, for usually three or four weeks in a row at once, but watching it week-to-week also demands a certain amount of mental investment in keeping the story in your mind. I didn't feel The Office rewarded me for keeping up. But taking my lowered expectations to Netflix for a few afternoons gives me enough entertainment (because some bits are still funny, even though a lot of the plot developments aren't) as a whole.

Does that make sense? When the volume of entertainment per episode became smaller, it became more worth my time to watch more episodes at once.

And with some shows, like Low Winter Sun, it just doesn't hold my interest week-to-week. When I started watching it, I watched the first five episodes at once, over two days, because I'd recorded them but not yet watched them. It pulled me along and I was interested to see what happens next. But waiting a week between episodes, it doesn't hold me. It's not involving enough to me. The suspense wears off. I still haven't watched the episode I TiVo'd on Sunday because I'm just not interested. And I probably won't, either. I don't feel like watching any more of it. And the kicker is there are only two episodes left. But I don't care what happens. It's not that kind of show for me. Watching all 8 episodes in a day or two, though, would have been a more compelling experience. Hell, it was.

I just don't see it as some sort of bad thing that you can control your rate of consumption on a TV show. Sometimes shows work better--particularly shows that are serialized and depend on a level of suspense and momentum--when you watch more episodes in a sitting than waiting another week or two or four (depending on what time of year it is when it's airing).

Wow, this went on way longer than I meant it to.

UPDATE 2:32 PM: Forgot to mention that I watched Trophy Wife, which sounds like I probably didn't like it, but I did. It was breezy and cute, and I love Malin Akerman. I like having a breezy, cute comedy, and since Happy Endings and Don't Trust the B----- in Apt. 23 aren't coming back (damn it), this one's going to be batting cleanup for the probably brief amount of time it's on.

Tonight it's the returns of Modern Family (a show I enjoy but don't love) and Nashville (a show I do love because it's basically everything I want out of a silly primetime soap--hope it doesn't follow the example of too many second seasons and just roll downhill). Also, the finale of Broadchurch; are you as excited as I am? And also the season premiere of South Park; are you as enthusiastic as I'm not?

Also, just mentioning I watch Shark Tank for the sake of completion.

UPDATE 5:25 PM: I finished season 8 of The Office. Didn't realize season 9 wasn't on Netflix yet (apparently it just hit DVD a couple of weeks ago), so I'll see it later. The season didn't veer off the way I thought it was going to, and also I love Catherine Tate pretty much always, so that helped make some of the final episodes funnier (I've always found Ed Helms rather grating).

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL... (2012)
Two girls who hate each other (Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller, who co-wrote) end up sharing an apartment with one another and, in order to make money, start their own phone sex line. As their line becomes a success, they become closer and closer friends. This is sort of a female version of Superbad--not similar in plot, but in its approach and its humor. It's a lot of crude, graphic jokes, but the friendship at the core of the film is presented as very sweet and sincere. It's raunchy, but it's sweet and the two actresses are funny (particularly Ari Graynor, whom I want to see a lot more of). ***

What I think is interesting about this movie, away from the plot, is how mixed the reviews are. I feel like if the movie had starred two of the guys who make cameos in this flick, like Seth Rogen and Ken Marino, a number of critics would have taken more seriously. But starring and written by women, funny or no, it sort of gets dismissed as too raunchy or trying too hard, when this kind of thing feels more organic to me than a lot of comedies that star women, because these are the kinds of women I've always grown up around or been friends with. Not that For a Good Time, Call... is an insta-classic, but I had a much better time with it than a lot of the weirdly offended reviews implied. And that goes beyond the simple "I just didn't find it funny" reviews. A lot of the reviews were just so annoyed at the idea of women trying to make a raunchy comedy.

(Incidentally, that's the reason I'm still suspicious of a lot of reviews of 2 Broke Girls. Maybe you don't find it funny. Maybe you think a lot of it is lame. There is a lot about it that's lame. But I've also read a lot of reviews that come down on the side of "Jesus Christ, women try too hard to be funny.")

Anyway, just something I was thinking about.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Premiere Week TV Report, Part 1

Not a whole lot to say yet. I think I've realized how much of my TV watching right now is inertia; the last decade just turned out to be a lot better--or at least hit me and my interests better--than the 90s did, and I watched a lot of TV. Now I wonder if I'm going to ebb off again. I don't buy into that "this is the Golden Age of TV because serialization!" jazz that outlets like the AV Club are always going on about. But I've really dug some shows and have been enjoying myself a lot more. But based on last night, my enthusiasm is spreading thin.

:: The best viewing experience I had yesterday was watching the TiVo'd second-to-last-ever episode of Breaking Bad. I know some people get weirdly pissed off when other people praise Breaking Bad, but I think it's the best show of the past decade. There are very few other shows I watch as actively. It's the kind of show that, when an episode ends, I'm emotionally aware that I'm watching great television, because there's almost no other show that gets me as involved in what's happening. So many emotions are stirring up for the climax, and I can't wait to see how this show caps off its run. It's exciting.

The only other show that's airing right at the moment that I can think of that makes me feel that way is Boardwalk Empire, which had a tremendous third season and is now having a riveting fourth. Jeffrey Wright is a great addition to the cast, and his character is downright scary in his focused calm. Just watch the way he talks in scenes; he barely blinks, and he just looks straight at, straight into the actor he's talking to. That's a great character effect, and it's all Wright's performance.

:: AMC's Low Winter Sun is intense, and it's nice to see Lennie James, but I don't think I'd watch a second season of it. Sometimes there's a level where the darkness of a TV show just gets too depressing for me.

:: I don't think I ever followed up, speaking of AMC, but I did end up really liking a lot of Mad Men. I think there's a lot in that show that's of particular interest to me, going through what I'm going through right now, because of the way it examines expectations vs. reality and how that often leads to... not unhappiness, but frustration. There's a lot to explore there.

:: So How I Met Your Mother started, and except for Roger Bart, last night's episodes weren't demonstrably better than last season's mess. I used to love this show, but it's been going downhill forever, and I'm really only watching it this season because it's the final season and I've invested enough time that I want to see how it ends. (Also, Jason Segel was good, but he's always been the best part of this show to me.) And we finally met the mother and, surprise, she's boring. But, hey, she's into Ted, and every single one of Ted's girlfriends (except Robin) have been boring. And, of course, we're going back to the Ted-can't-get-over-Robin well, which holds absolutely no suspense because the basic premise of the show and the pilot episode both make it clear that Ted and Robin don't end up together. There is no drama at all in this, but the creators just can't stop going back to it. At this point, it's almost unrealistic that Ted and Robin are still friends, because I've never known many women who put up with that kind of inconsistent level of trust. It can't be fun for her being friends with Ted and not being able to trust that he's not going to be making yet another romantic play for her. And it's boring to watch.

One more season. Then it's over and maybe one day, years from now, reruns from the first four seasons will make me nostalgic.

Gonna need about a thousand percent more Roger Bart, though.

:: The high point for me last night was 2 Broke Girls. I can't defend this show, because a lot of what's lame about it is truly lame, but I love Kat on it and it makes me laugh more than it makes me groan. It's just easygoing and stupid in a fun way, and doesn't try too hard to be a show that's symbolic of anything or that gets too wrapped up in the pointless drama that a lot of sitcoms about women get mired in. (If I see another love triangle that only exists because the producers can't think of a woman doing anything else but getting caught up in love triangles... ugh.)

:: The new Chuck Lorre sitcom Mom is okay. Like every Chuck Lorre show, there are a hundred main characters, each designed for maximum heightened wackiness, and no one's really sure what the actual focus of the show is yet. I dig Anna Faris and Allison Janney, so we'll see. Not holding out for anything, might suddenly stop watching it, I dunno. No feelings either way.

:: And then there's Castle and its lame cliffhanger ending. No, not the one from last season, the one from this episode. Yes, I'm sure they'll kill the title character at the beginning of the season. Or, you know, maybe they should. This is a show that's really running on total inertia for me. Last season, they got back a bit of the fun character interplay that made this show special once. Last night felt all over the place. Frankly, Castle's starting to feel like a guest star on his own show, and that special chemistry just didn't feel like it was there. Most of the supporting cast felt totally shoehorned in (and Penny Johnson-Jerald didn't even make any screen time), and the most interesting stuff that happened involved Lisa Edelstein (as will often happen when Lisa Edelstein appears on an episode of television) and she's completely underused.

It felt like they were trying to awkwardly retool the show, and in trying to juggle too many elements--Castle and Beckett's long-distance relationship, Beckett's new job in the FBI, the mystery of the week, the precinct back in New York, Alexis and her vacation relationship spilling over into Castle's apartment--they all felt flat. It made me wonder why I was taking the time out of my night for this thing. Maybe it'll get better, but I'm starting to think that maybe I don't care if it does. The show nearly lost me once already, maybe this time it'll just shake me off for good.

:: Anyway, tonight is Agents of SHIELD, and I have my doubts going in. I want it to be great because I love the Cinematic Marvel Universe, but it's also produced by Joss Whedon, and except for the second and most of the third season of Angel, I really don't like any of Joss Whedon's TV shows. From what I've read, it seems like it depends on the level of Whedon's involvement. Then again, I loved The Avengers and The Cabin in the Woods, so maybe I just like what he's doing now.

We'll see. Open mind.

UPDATE 10:03 AM: Broadchurch on BBC America is one of the best things I've seen on television this year. Amazing that a show this complex and rich with character is from Chris Chibnall, probably my least favorite Doctor Who writer ever. The show's fantastic.

Laura Gemser

Monday, September 23, 2013

Marvels: Tales to Astonish #38

"Betrayed by the Ants!" by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(December 1962)

This is another filler story that I'm going to blow through.

A genius called Egghead (he has an egg-shaped head to denote his super intelligence) builds his own machine to talk to the ants. He orders them to turn against Ant-Man, because he's subjugated them. Then the ants help Ant-Man defeat the Egghead, because the ants don't consider Ant-Man their master, but their partner in fighting crime, because keeping the human world free of injustice would obviously be very important to ants.

In this issue, Ant-Man introduces some new gadgets--springs in his boots that allow him to jump high into the air (relatively speaking) and an unbreakable nylon fiber lasso--which I don't recall him using again any time soon. Maybe I'm wrong. Ant-Man is just so unmemorable.

Egghead gets away in the end, and he'll return in the future. So there's that. He's at least smart enough to use a bellows to throw Ant-Man off-balance. I still don't know why someone doesn't just step on him or spray him with Raid or something.

And that's Ant-Man.

It's also 1962 wrapped up. In 1963, Marvel's going to cancel The Incredible Hulk, but they're also going to introduce Iron Man, the Avengers, the X-Men, Sgt. Fury, and finally start The Amazing Spider-Man. So there are a lot of good comics to come, and there's a lot of filler, too. I'll be reading it all!

Next time: The Return of Doctor Doom!

Saturn and Titan

[Via Wired]

The Casual Vacancy

Well, I've been trying to read JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, but I've just had enough of it.

So, this isn't really a review, it's just me saying that I started reading The Casual Vacancy, got about 170 pages in, and just decided not to finish. The book was due at the library, anyway. Rowling has a good grasp of character, it's just that none of the characters are particularly interesting, and most of it is just these unpleasant people priding themselves for being that much better than everyone around them. If I want to read things like that, I've already got the internet.

It's not poorly written. I like JK Rowling as a writer. I'd like to read The Cuckoo's Calling but that has 67 holds in my library system right now, so I'll wait a while for that. Like I said, her characters are fully realized, they're just all kind of loathsome on one or several levels. Interesting to read her writing for adults; it doesn't come across as forced or as precious as we always expect YA authors to come across when they're writing adult fiction, which is probably an unfair expectation, anyway. It's just... not fun. And not compelling. Nothing I'm reading is urging me to read on any further.

Time to move on.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Song of the Week: "Out for Blood"

It was Lita Ford's birthday on Thursday. She turned 55 and she's still rocking her heart out. So this video takes us back 30 years, to 1983, and the kick-off track from Lita's first solo album, Out for Blood. When I was a kid, I was really into this kind of metal, and of course I was into Lita because the chicks I liked were the chicks who rocked hard. (Yeah, the Joan Jett imprint was pretty strong on me. Still is.) Lita was so tuff. I was in awe. Still am.

Ender's Game Sounds Terrible

I want to recommend again the series of Ender's Game recaps Tom Foss is doing at Fortress of Soliloquy. The newest installment is astounding, and I had to pull this whole paragraph:

It's a very white heterosexual male privilege utopia, the world of Ender's Game. Everyone just accepts that women don't belong in positions of power or the military, because biology. Everyone just speaks the same language in the same way, except the French, and it's not imperialism but sensibility--obviously everyone just adopts the most superior language, English, probably with a homogenized midwestern accent. But while the French are nasty rebels for clinging to their accents, Ender's parents are heroic rebels for clinging to their religious beliefs, because the only artifacts of culture that matter are things like religious traditions that white culture values. Homosexuality only exists as an insult, a sinister taint that people can be accused of (especially those effete French, attracting people with their exotic accents), because deviation from a masculine ideal is unconscionable. Racial divisions no longer matter, because we've gotten rid of the political correctness that makes people feel guilty when they say racist things, and minorities finally just learned to be cool with racial slurs.

I probably shouldn't be surprised that Orson Scott Card--of all people--would introduce anti-gay bigotry and casual racism in his novel about a sociopath who's really good at video games advancing the cause of imperialism, but still, there's some pretty shocking stuff going on in here. Once again, I've never actually read Ender's Game, and just based on Foss' posts, I'm really glad I haven't, and it kind of makes me question anyone over the age of 14 who told me I should read it.

(On a separate note: Carl told me recently how much he had enjoyed reading my series of Twilight recaps back in 2009--wow, has it really been that long?--and suggested I do one now for 50 Shades of Grey, which I feel is at once a fun and a horrifying idea.)