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My Emmy Picks

Posted by Mike on July 8, 2010

Here’s who I think should win in categories I feel comfortable enough to evaluate and perhaps a few more.

DRAMA
OUTSTANDING DRAMA
Lost
Breaking Bad
Dexter
Mad Men
True Blood
The Good Wife

On this list the only one I’m not familiar with is The Good Wife. But still the vote would still likely go to Breaking Bad, still the best show on television. Mad Men would likely be the second and Dexter was pretty terrific this year as well. But none of these shows put it all together like Breaking Bad which excels in acting, directing, and production. It just seems like few other programs are willing to deal with the consequences of the plotting as unflinchingly. And there were at least 3 or 4 iconic scenes as well.

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
Mariska Hargitay (Special Victims Unit)
Glenn Close (Damages)
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
January Jones (Mad Men)
Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)

I’m only familiar with Close, Jones and Britton on this list. I think Britton might have deserved the Emmy in this category for the third year running, so it’s great to finally see her nominated. Definitely a well rounded character in a marriage that strikes me as one of the most balanced on television.

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Hugh Laurie (House M.D.)
Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
Matthew Fox (Lost)

Am familiar with the whole group here, most of which are perennials this year. The safe bet could go to Cranston (enthroned two years running) or Hamm, but again I’m pretty thrilled to see Chandler in this group, particularly as he’s been at his best in the last season, which has really been the best one since the first. Cranston’s always great, although since I’m not sure he’s developed a lot of new moves in the last season and has won it two years running I’d have to go with Chandler. I’ve got to admit to laughing to see Fox on this list as he don’t think he’s remotely in the same class as the rest of these actors, even if Lost’s last season was his best work. Hugh Laurie’s pretty close to the top for me though, particularly in last season’s opening two hour episode where they finally shook it up some, and in the season finale where he dealt with an amputation decision for someone trapped in an accident. But six seasons running he doesn’t feel particulary exciting to root for.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
John Slattery (Mad Men)
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
Martin Short (Damages)
Terry O’ Quinn (Lost)
Michael Emerson (Lost)
Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age)

I picked Aaron Paul last year and would do it again this year, he’s as much of a reason for why Breaking Bad is so great as is the rest of the cast. The scene where he lashes out at Cranston’s character in the hospital after nearly getting beat to death is Exhibit A. Anyway I’m familiar with all of these other than Braugher in Men of a Certain Age. Most of the rest of these don’t seem to have developed a great deal in previous seasons of their shows.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Sharon Gless (Burn Notice)
Christine Baranski (The Good Wife)
Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
Rose Byrne (Damages)
Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)
Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)

Of these I know Hendricks, Byrne and Moss. Of those three I’d go with Moss for her character arc in the last Mad Men season. Byrne’s always pretty good too, but seemed to take a bit more of a back seat in the last season.

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Beau Bridges (The Closer)
Ted Danson (Damages)
John Lithgow (Dexter)
Alan Cumming ( The Good Wife)
Dylan Baker (The Good Wife
Robert Morse (Mad Men)
Gregory Itzin (24)

I know Danson, Lithgow, Morse and Itzin in this group and would easily go with Lithgow who was a great deal of the reason I thought Dexter was at its best last year, playing both family man and serial killer. He was absolutely terrific in the role and was as much supporting actor as guest actor.

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Mary Kay Place (Big Love)
Sissy Spacek (Big Love)
Shirley Jones (The Cleaner)
Lily Tomlin (Damages)
Ann-Margret (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit)
Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost)

Both Big Love candidates I missed when HBO’s On Demand servie mysteriously left episode 4 out of their line up. Finding the series a bit depressing anyway I wasn’t terribly motivated to continue. So that leaves Tomlin and Mitchell, the latter barely showing up in the final season and not wowing at all in V. So not sure in this one, I’d have to remember a lot of stuff last year to make a choice outside the list.

COMEDY
OUTSTANDING COMEDY
Glee
Modern Family
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Nurse Jackie
30 Rock
The Office

Modern Family easily. I couldn’t be corralled into a musical like Glee if you paid me and I dropped both Nurse Jackie and 30 Rock a while back. CYE was a close second with the Seinfeld reunion, but even with that type of fuel it wasn’t as good as the previous year. On the other hand MF is relevant and funny with a great cast across the board. I have to admit I thought it sank a bit in the second half of the season, but I expect it will recover. Amazing to see a show succeed so well while being so subtle.

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Lea Michele (Glee)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Toni Collette (The United States of Tara)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine)
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)

I think most of my favorites ended up in the supporting actress category so even though I know all of these other than Glee, I’m hard pressed to pick between them. Probably Collette given the greater range on display.

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
Matthew Morrison (Glee)
Steve Carell (The Office)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Tony Shalhoub (Monk)

Parsons always, even in what was Big Bang’s weakest year to date. Let’s hope the judges are over Baldwin already.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Chris Colfer (Glee)
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
Jon Cryer (Two and A Half Men)
Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)

Very strong line up on this one, I could be happy with Harris, Stonestreet or Burrell in this category, although I’d personally give the nudge to Stonestreet who is comedy gold every episode. However, I still don’t get Cryer’s inclusion at all, just such a limited role and an irritating one at that. Amazing that Ed O’Neill missed the cut, but then he’d have been the 4th MF pick.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live)
Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)
Holland Taylor (Two and A Half Men)

Also very strong, at a nudge I’d give it to Vergara who plays Ed O’Neill’s character’s wife without the portrayal ending up being bimbo-like, which such a character easily could have sank to. Bowen’s been great too (especially when she got her dress caught in an escalator one ep). But Holland Taylor? Really?

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Mike O’Malley (Glee)
Neil Patrick Harris (Glee)
Fred Willard (Modern Family)
Eli Wallach (Nurse Jackie)
Jon Hamm (30 Rock)
Will Arnett (30 Rock)

Whew, most of these I don’t remember or haven’t seen, although I can imagine Harris is probably entertaining anywhere. Fred Willard had a pretty solid guest spot in MF though.

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Christine Baranski (The Big Bang Theory)
Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives)
Kristin Chenoweth (Glee)
Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live)
Betty White (Saturday Night Live)
Elaine Stritch (30 Rock)
Jane Lynch (Two and a Half Men)

You can almost see Betty White getting the go ahead on this one. Baranski as Leonard’s mother is pretty much always a riot when she shows up, so that would be my pick.

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Parsons robbed

Posted by Mike on September 22, 2009

Just gotta say it, Jim Parsons was robbed of the Emmy on Sunday by Alec Baldwin. After watching the Big Bang Theory Season 3 premiere, even more convinced. Ratings on Monday even surpassed its lead in, Two and a Half Men, of late the #1 comedy on TV. Seriously why aren’t you watching Big Bang Theory yet?!?! Downright funniest show since Seinfeld.

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Brooks Hansen – The Chess Garden, Paul Di Filippo – Lost Pages, Torchwood – Children of Earth

Posted by Mike on August 3, 2009

I mentioned I had finished Brooks Hansen’s The Chess Garden a week or so ago. It’s a book I probably started a year or two ago, before I had a several month period lull where I wasn’t reading too much as I got a new TV and Xbox 360 and had to take time to absorb them into a multitasking personal regime, which I’ve managed to more or less (and I’ve spent the last month reintegrating my music hobby back in with all of these).

Anyway I mention this because it didn’t take me that long based on anything about the book. Quite to the contrary the book is a masterpiece, just a singularly accomplished novel (or perhaps mosaic novel). First of all the book is basically “straight” fiction, except that maybe 3/4 of it reads like a fantasy in the vein of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. This 3/4 is broken up into 12 letters which are sent home by the protagonist, a Dutch doctor who lived in the late 19th/early 20th century, from South Africa where the doctor went at the twilight of his life. The letters (and the fictional stories within in) are basically to his wife and his community and they are basically about his journey to and within an island called the Antipodes, somewhere in the southern hemisphere, which is populated by chess and other game pieces. Interspersed within these letters, which are read to the community he ended up in the United States (which was where he and his wife lived and set up the Chess Garden, a place which became sort of the central meeting place of the community both while he lived there and after he had left) is the man’s biography which recounts in a much drier fashion the man’s youth, how he met his wife, his work in Germany and subsequent difficulties and then onto what is a spiritual change of some sort that almost acts as the center of the novel and sort of shines a light on the entire book.

This would be basically his subtly handled conversion to Swedenborgian Christianity, a type of mysticism even fairly unique from, say, Rosicrucianism and other forms of Christian mysticism. I’m not blowing a plot point by saying this so much as it’s handled in a third person voice and discussed as a matter of theory, but what it does is make one muse on all the letters that have been recounted so far in terms of whether they are an allegory of this philosophy. And perhaps it’s done to keep one guessing as the philosophy itself is played fairly subtly until one absolutely profound recounting towards the end of the book which happens before the doctor leaves for South Africa during a conversation with a man researching mysticism. In it, perhaps, it brings thought to a religion that in many ways and hands has grown utterly static and mired in doctrine and rules over the years and shows why the Bible isn’t the enemy of mysticism it’s often perceived to be by more fundamentalist types, but that it actually can be read in profoundly different ways.

The Doctor’s journey in the Antipodes, while brimming with invention and creativity rarely seen in fantasy, also deals with heady philosophical concepts. As the Doctor learns during his travels, all concepts hold within themselves an original and perfect conception of each one, a reification that’s dealt with as the Doctor discovers that no matter what object exists, there’s a perfect version of it that a mysterious group of people (or chessmen rather) is trying to destroy. The theory early on is that if such an object is destroyed, then everybody forgets the purpose of said object and Hansen describes inventively a few of these objects with bizarre names, whose purpose is long forgotten. Looking back it almost seems to be if the author is drawing attention to the idea that perhaps there are philosophical and spiritual truths that have also been long forgotten due to the works of those trying to eliminate them. Of course the resolution of this thread is brough to a climax in a recounting of the mythical history of the Antipodes later in the book, in a powerful trilogy of stories that could easily have existed as fairy tales of their own. In fact that can be said for many of the episodes here and why the book is dense and rich, there are perhaps 15 episodes in this book that could have existed as nearly perfect short stories. It does seem to make the historical biographical work of the doctor seem rather staid in comparison, but the full story loses many layers of depth without it, because it is within this recounting that you learn of the tragedy and suffering behind the man’s life and how he eventually moves on to surpass this. The theme of the idea of giving of one’s self and the idea that the extreme of this is selfishness is also encountered and it is within the polar aspects of so much spiritual theory that the sublimity of the tale really comes out, that true spirituality and life aren’t necessarily the end point but the journey itself.

And like all truly profound and deep works, the book has you musing long after the final pages. I’m currently reading (and almost finished with Edward Whittemore’s Sinai Tapestry) and both of these works have really made me think over what the term “cosmic” really means. Both books, without having to spell anything out, evoke a sense of vastness, of a web that ties everything together while leaving the human viewpoint almost bereft of any true understanding of the larger picture. They intertwine a simple human viewpoint with the idea of the synchronicity or guiding hand which seems to dole out great suffering and simple forgiveness, while intimating that perhaps something vast and ancient shares space with the temporal and finite. And in both books they filled my soul with a sweet ache, an idea of a sense of greater purpose with the realization that it’s something one can only experience out of the corner of one’s consciousness.

While, the stories in Paul di Filippo’s Lost Pages aren’t (perhaps by nature) quite up to the profound worlds of Hansen and Whittemore, they too deal with cosmic things if only by the nature of playfully rearranging the histories of famous figures from science fiction writers to public personalities. All of these stories show a deft touch and vast intellect that ties together everything from historical events to the subtle personalities of well known individuals. In one story a young (post Empire of the Sun) J G Ballard hitches a ride in a plane flown by a pair of famous pilots in a world where a plague has wiped out most of the Western world. In another, a soldier in an alternate history learns in a bar of a history that never was and a third world war averted. And in another three science fiction writers who took different paths in a new timeline, come together to stop an alien threat only to find in the end that they become newly reborn in manner hilariously similar to their known work here. And really because so many of these stories are obscure and in fact almost insular on so many levels, I felt like I missed some of the most subtle cleverness. Overall it doesn’t seem so much like a book for SF readers, but one for SF writers whose research has given them insight into the way worlds collide and how personalities often treated with fondness would have reacted to the very weirdness they often imagined.

Torchwood: Childen of Earth, a miniseries that basically acts as the third season of the show, aired a few weeks ago in Britain and a couple weeks ago here, but due to Comcast’s inability or lack of desire to pick up BBC America in HD in Sacramento, I decided to forego transmission and pick up the Blu-Ray as it was released the very Tuesday after. Torchwood’s an adult Doctor Who offshoot that kind of plays like the X-Files meets Angel in the Who universe and while I’ve found it entertaining for two seasons, I’ve never thought it great until this miniseries. Quite frankly this was probably one of the most harrowing and intense 5 hours of television I’ve seen in years and perhaps some of the best TV I’ve seen since maybe the fourth season of the Wire or the initial season of Breaking Bad. And it is so because like these shows it’s unflinching in its set up and repercussions. Basically this extraterrestrial organization, already depleted at this point due to the outcome of previous seasons is witness to a series of events where the children of the entire world stop all at once and start recanting creepily “We are coming.” And so the latest alien invasion is afoot, the Doctor is nowhere to be found, and not only that but the British secret service sees fit to eliminate Torchwood due to a historical event the ageless and deathless Captain Jack Harkness was not only witness to but complicit in, that is, the previous arrival of the same aliens. The repercussions are brutal as the team is splintered and left to exist on their own strengths as the shadow government moves to encounter the alien threat on its own terms. The further revealing of the aliens, why they’re there, the secrets behind the original encounter and the horrible consequences the government takes to stand off this alien threat are met boldly and unlike the previous series or virtually any other television. The climax and ending of the miniseries are so tragic and morally ambiguous you’re left thinking about it long after it ends (and one of these tragic conclusions is very reminiscent of the end of The Shield). What really blew me away in the end was the acting of the whole cast and in particular John Barrowman, who I never thought had this type of talent within him based on his previous work, but this was truly virtuoso, as was the entire cast including all the guests. Perhaps the critics of Russell T Davies who often held he couldn’t write anything dark might finally relent now. And overall, like all really good TV, it already makes me want to play it again, although I think I’ll wait until I’ve got the psychic strength to go through that again.

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More Game of Thrones casting/Doctor Who Series 5 starts filming

Posted by Mike on July 20, 2009

GoT casting here

Sean Bean’s certainly great news, although not particularly astonishing given his turn as Boromir in Lord of the Rings. Much more exciting for me was to see Harry Lloyd picked for Viserys. Lloyd was spectacular as a young schoolman turned alien in one of the best of the modern Doctor Who two-parters starting with Human Nature, and played a very different Will Scarlett in BBC’s Robin Hood, two parts which showed a wide range for the young actor. Viserys I guess will be played closer to the former role, and Lloyd can do snooty and scheming like noone’s business. Mark Addy plays King Robert and Jack Gleeson, his son Joffrey. So far so good…

Here’s Martin’s blog post.

Speaking of Doctor Who, series 5 began filming today, with some nice pix of cast, including new companion Amy Pond played by Karen Gilman, who’s truly a knock out. This to me is one of the best parts of the series, seeing how its reinvented over and over again for a modern audience, so I’m excited to see it underway and love the fact they’re going back to the Hartnell years for the TARDIS look.

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Here’s who I think should win (some of) the Emmys

Posted by Mike on July 16, 2009

I will bold my pick and comment and am cutting out those I don’t have much of a say in.

Outstanding Comedy Series
Entourage • HBO
Family Guy • FOX
Flight Of The Conchords • HBO
How I Met Your Mother • CBS
The Office • NBC
30 Rock • NBC
Weeds • Showtime

I’ve only seen about 1/3 of this season’s episodes because I’m just catching up with it, but I’d give this category to The Big Bang Theory easily and have no doubt after catching up I’ll feel the same way. I think the nominees really missed the boat on this one. Entourage was at its nadir, Family Guy just completely sucks now, I couldn’t finish season 1 of Conchords, I haven’t seen any of the last season of How I Met Your Mother but it’s never been laugh out loud funny to me, The Office was pretty strong this last year so it’s the best on the list, 30 Rock I could never stay with because I never found it particularly funny, just quirkily amusing, and while Weeds is a LOT better this year, I didn’t think much of it last season. Big Bang is nearly always funnier than all of these.

Outstanding Drama Series
Big Love • HBO
Breaking Bad • AMC
Damages • FX
Dexter • Showtime
House • FOX
Lost • ABC
Mad Men • AMC

No question on this one, Breaking Bad’s still the best drama on television, definitely the most challenging, best acted, directed and written and I keep up with every single program on this list. I’d switch out In Treatment with House which is growing weaker by the year. I dunno if Chuck counts as a drama since it’s also a comedy but I’d switch it with Lost. And while Damages season 1 was fabulous and 24’s last season was terribly week, I’d almost switch their places this year (except that I find it hard to take 24 this seriously). Friday Night Lights was another one that could have been close. So my top 3 would be Breaking Bad, In Treament and Chuck with Big Love 4th and Mad Men 5th.

Outstanding Miniseries
Generation Kill • HBO
Little Dorrit • PBS

I’m about halfway through Little Dorrit, but am finding it tedious as I generally do with the average Dickens milieu. Gen Kill started out pretty awful but grew stronger as it went on.

Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series
The Colbert Report • Comedy Central
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart • Comedy Central
Late Show With David Letterman • CBS
Real Time With Bill Maher • HBO
Saturday Night Live • NBC

Probably The Daily Show on this one, Maher close behind. Most of these shows are terribly up and down though, I don’t watch Letterman and I only picked up SNL again after the presidential campaign got started. It hasn’t deserved to be on an Emmy list for at least a decade. Funny how left wing this list is. 😀

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory • CBS
Jemaine Clement, Flight Of The Conchords • HBO
Tony Shalhoub, Monk • USA
Steve Carell, The Office • NBC
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock • NBC
Charlie Sheen, Two And A Half Men • CBS

Parsons easily. Funniest guy on TV. The rest of these guys don’t hold a candle to him.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad • AMC
Michael C. Hall, Dexter • Showtime
Hugh Laurie, House • FOX
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment • HBO
Jon Hamm, Mad Men • AMC
Simon Baker, The Mentalist • CBS

This is a tough one. Probably Gabriel Byrne for In Treatment this year because he was just incredible in what was probably the most grueling job among any of these. I’d be surprised to see Cranston get a repeat but would be OK with it. Laurie’s always great, but the writing isn’t as good as it was. Dunno the Mentalist. Hall and Hamm are always good but I don’t see em above the pack this year.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures Of Old Christine • CBS
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who? • ABC
Sarah Silverman, The Sarah Silverman Program • Comedy Central
Tina Fey, 30 Rock • NBC
Toni Collette, United States Of Tara • Showtime
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds • Showtime

I don’t watch the first three on this list, so will have to go with Toni Collette who should be getting more of a Drama award on this one than a Comedy one, but she was great with the multipersonalities. Have no idea why Parker ever gets nominated, she seems to play the same woman (herself) in everything. Queue blank look and lazily sassy line and it’s the same shtick.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters • ABC
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer • TNT
Glenn Close, Damages • FX
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit • NBC
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men • AMC
Holly Hunter, Saving Grace • TNT

Don’t watch most of these shows, and I’m dead even with Close and Moss in the ones I do. But I’d put Collette over either. I think most of the best acting in this category probably should go to supporting actresses.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
Kevin Dillon, Entourage • HBO
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother • CBS
Rainn Wilson, The Office • NBC
Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock • NBC
Jack McBrayer, 30 Rock • NBC
Jon Cryer, Two And A Half Men • CBS

Based on previous seasons I’d go with Harris, his Barney is pretty well played, but since I haven’t seen S4…. McBrayer’s also good but along with Morgan, just played a bit too over the top for my tastes. Rainn Wilson’s good too, but only when he’s also not over the top.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
William Shatner, Boston Legal • ABC
Christian Clemenson, Boston Legal • ABC
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad • AMC
William Hurt, Damages • FX
Michael Emerson, Lost • ABC
John Slattery, Mad Men • AMC

Aaron Paul for sure, absolutely brilliant this year in one of this season’s finest character arcs. This is a strong category too just about everyone here is good, although Shatner’s not really doing anything he hasn’t since Season 1 of BL.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies • ABC
Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live • NBC
Kristin Wiig, Saturday Night Live • NBC
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock • NBC
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty • ABC
Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds • Showtime

Would have to go with Kristin Wiig on this one, she’s practically half the reason SNL is even watchable lately. Don’t find the rest of these all that funny. Williams and Perkins? Really?

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
Rose Byrne, Damages • FX
Sandra Oh, Grey’s Anatomy • ABC
Chandra Wilson, Grey’s Anatomy • ABC • ABC Studios
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment • HBO
Hope Davis, In Treatment • HBO
Cherry Jones, 24 • FOX

I’d give this to the actress who played the young college student on In Treatment on I think it was Tuesdays, in fact it’s hard to believe she didn’t get this over Davis and Wiest who were certainly very good. Byrne’s always good as was Cherry Jones as the prez. Actually Sandra Oh is pretty good too, but I run screaming everytime the character’s anywhere near my TV, but we can probably chalk that up to the acting right? Not that I could stand Grey’s Anatomy for long (didn’t see a minute of this season).

OK that’s enough…

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A few things….

Posted by Mike on June 9, 2009

Jack Vance fans like myself are eagerly awaiting the Songs from the Dying Earth collection at Subterranean Press, a collection edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois and featuring dozens of some of the finest spec fic writers out there paying tribute to one of the classic “science fantasy” milieus (somewhere between Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique stories and Gene Wolfe’s Urth quintet) . They’ve just put on line Lucius Shepard’s “Sylgarmo’s Proclamation” as a teaser and it’s a pitch perfect tribute in every way, with a knowledge of the Vance lexicon that goes as deep as the subtle humor and worldbuilding, yet kind of a different take on a tale of Cugel that has some nice Shepard coloring at work as well. I got incredible deja-vu reading this, like I was rereading a Vance story I’d forgotten. Highly recommended, if the rest of the stories are only half this perfect this should be a real treasure chest. Tributes are rarely about one insanely talented writer paying tribute to another insanely talented writer, but this one is.

Looks like I will be part-time contributing to a new music blog created by my long-time friend and Gnosis co-creator Tom Hayes at:

http://unencumberedmusicreviews.blogspot.com/

Tom and I are both at the “no hassle” stage of music reviewing, basically wanting to write only about things we have passion to write about, which generally means this won’t be a blog that covers a lot of new music or is up to date or comprehensive. It’ll also be intermittent, which works for our up and down schedules, and it means I probably won’t post a lot, but I’m looking forward to getting the bug again. This also means that Outer Music Diary, while still available as archives (thanks to Mike Borella!) will basically be ending its run formally.

And a heavy shout out for CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, which is possibly the best and funniest sitcom since Seinfeld. I’m not a huge fan of this genre but BBT’s look into geek culture with a cast who have insanely good chemistry and a comic genius in the works with Jim Parsons’ Sheldon is well worth looking into for anyone who has had experience with these types of personalities and quirks (progressive rock fans, TV fans, science fiction etc etc).

Posted in Books, Music, Outer Music Diary, TV | Leave a Comment »

All things Doom and more

Posted by Mike on May 28, 2009

The Xbox special edition of Doom 3 comes with both the original games, Doom and Doom 2. I’m pretty sure, like almost everyone with a computer a decade or so ago, that I played at least the shareware levels of the first Doom way back when it was first released, but for some reason my only living memory is of the red, yellow and blue keys otherwise I’d probably have no idea. While both Doom and Doom 2 (which are basically the same game with small differences) are graphically primitive nowadays, I still think they’re quite a bit of fun, even if they probably weren’t envisioned as being played on a 46″ HD screen. I think between the two of them there are least 50 to 60 different levels, most of which I managed to get through, although one is always surprised what secrets are missed along the way. The only sticking point is that the Xbox port of Doom 2 fails miserably on the final level, freezing your system every time you try to reload a save. At least in this case I didn’t have any doubt I’d have beaten the big bad at this point with a bit of effort. But overall I’m amazed at how fun these are still, there’s something still quite visceral about levels as puzzles and demon carnage.

Doom III looks surprisingly amazing still, as an Xbox game it’s still late enough to be wide screen and even if it’s not HD it’s quite great in that area nonetheless. The first two Dooms had little in the way of a story, substituting a bit of slow moving text in between groups of levels as a way of guiding you through the story. Doom III reboots the original story with a lot more detail even if the idea of a Marine fighting the devilspawn on Mars is still basically the idea. I did think the addition of an archaelogical site was a nice touch and basically found the whole thing creepy even if I’d normally be a bit annoyed at having to play an entire game practically in the dark, switching between flashlight and gun. But it was all suitably creepy and the boss fights were all fairly challenging without being impossible, mostly thanks to the instant save system. It was fun enough I ordered the Resurrection of Evil expansion. Even though I’m playing these games years late, I think they still hold up really well in the 360 world. And it’s a nice change of pace from Lost Odyssey, a Japanese Role Playing Game, which while quite epic and movie like, has nearly lost me with its incredibly tedious battle system (I’ve gotten through 3 of 4 discs and haven’t had the interest to continue on as of yet).

So anyway for the hell of it I checked out the Doom movie from the library to ensure I paid nothing, which is a good thing as it’s one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life, not the bad you can laugh at, the bad that’s so boring you can barely care. I guess fighting devilspawn on Mars was probably too controversial for a Hollywood studio, so they turned it into a ridiculous zombie movie. Funny seeing Karl Urban (the new Star Trek’s McCoy) in it though. But overall the lamest Aliens rip off ever made and that’s saying something.

Digging my new Blu-Ray though. Rented 3 movies as a starter once I got it: Zach and Miri Make a Porno (typical of the dirty and sweet Seth Rogen-helmed comedies that are fairly common these days, mildly funny and surprisingly charming), Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (quite good this one, I’m generally very fond of most movies that run on musical conceits no matter what the genre and for some reason it hit deja-vu in a number of spots), and The Day the Earth Stood Still (no good on any front, as a remake, movie or parody, but with Keanu in tow I didn’t expect much better). I actually had better luck with the pay channels and kid movies, Starz running Wall-E and HBO starting up Kung-Fu Panda. Apparently my nephews have better taste in movies than many critics. Or perhaps I’m just much more into optimism than I used to be.

Perhaps the best stuff I saw recently is the last couple weeks of HBO’s In Treatment. Seems like no matter what the other channels are dishing up, HBO always has something of extraordinary quality to see and this pscyhological drama grew really sublime at the end, questioning the worth of therapy in general, touching on Jungian levels with talk about true selves and perfectly reflecting just how human the man in the chair is and in many ways how little different he is from his patients. Cheers to the writers, Gabriel Byrne’s tour de force performances throughout the series, and perhaps specifically to Alison Pill who’s role as a young 20-something with cancer was truly remarkable. Definitely one I hope returns for a third run. Especially as I’m so worn out with vampires that I don’t think I can stand a second run of True Blood. Quite frankly I’m glad it’s summer.

Got some books finished too, maybe more for another post if I get the urge, especially as none of them were memorable.

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Peter Dinklage cast as Tyrion in HBO’s Game of Thrones

Posted by Mike on May 7, 2009

Link 1 Link 2

Dinklage is pretty much the perfect pick for this role, has recenty been touted as the fan favorite for Tyrion based on his roles in the cancelled series Threshold and others. He’s truly excellent. So far this series has the Midas touch.

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Lost

Posted by Mike on April 9, 2009

This show was great when it started, faded to the point I almost stopped watching it during the first part of Season 3 and has recovered into something a lot more impressive in the last two seasons. But I don’t think (The Constant aside) it’s ever been better than it was last night. I think one of the most powerful storytelling devices is connecting whatever size story, small or large with ancient myths and archetypal ideas. Lost has done this somewhat playfully over its course, but made some of these references completely overt last night. (Spoilers for those not caught up yet after the break) Read the rest of this entry »

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Weekend

Posted by Mike on January 12, 2009

Crazy weekend. Turned in my essay for this book, an illustrated collection of essays on Krautrock from a somewhat cosmic perspective. I did an essay called Amon Duuality, bridging the Beatles, Theosophy and the Amon Duul commune. Should be quite neat, there’s some interesting names writing essays in the book. Waiting on publisher comments and the like…

Got hooked on the FX show Damages, some of the best TV I’ve seen in a while, perhaps better than any show I was staying current with last year. Rose Byrne plays a young lawyer signing up with a firm who’s in the middle of tackling a major case against a powerful senator. Framed from the present where Byrne’s character emerges shellshocked and drenched in blood and is taken into custody, the 13 episodes are masterfully plotted with a host of great actors (Glenn Close, Ted Danson, Zeljko Ivanek, etc). Looks like Season 1 is on line. I’ve learned my lesson from The Shield not to watch anything this intense on a worknight, so I’m happy to hear Season 2, which started last Wednesday, will be going up on line as well. Awesome, addictive TV.

24 just started as well in what I’m calling “The 24 Case for Torture.” For this show, which ranges from epic fun to completely idiotic, sometimes in one episode, I always have to brush logic to the side and “play pretend,” guess who the traitors are and stuff, since it’s generally stupid as hell and could be totally offensive I sat down to think about it. But when Sutherland gets scrunchy face it’s hard not to want to urge him to twist that arm a little harder. Or use that ballpoint pen. Anyway TV is slowly returning, including the last run of Battlestar Galactica this weekend. And the return of Friday Night Lights to NBC for those of us without direct TV. And everyone’s favorite polygamist drama, Big Love Sunday.

And my oldest nephew is now 7. Yike. In the cool developments they didn’t have when I was a kid category (along with 30,000 toys) are bowling gutter fences. These turned my youngest nephew into a near master bowler on Sunday. But I can rest confident that our arcades were a LOT cooler than theirs. All that’s left is driving games and variations on ticket-spewing foozball. On the other hand Atari 2600’s did not have Nerf guns you could shoot at TVs. Alas.

All cool, until I turned up to find my license plate stolen. Some serious Murphy’s law in effect lately…

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