Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Atheism and a can of worms

An old friend of mine, C., is in religious studies. On her blog, she recently posted comments about an interview of Ricky Gervais which features an explanation of why he's an atheist. It's an interesting read and worth your time. (Click here to read the Gervais article; here to read her comments.)

In response to C's blog about the article, I left a comment which evidently opened a can of worms and she wrote an even longer blog post in response. To which, of course, I had a respone. That conversation can be found here.

What are your thoughts about God? do you believe?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Musing about music - take 2

You may remember a post from earlier this year (July maybe?) that I wrote in response to an idea my cousin Clay had on Facebook. Clay was proposing that we stop listening to music made prior to 1990 so that we'd be more open to new music. (You can read my original post and Clay's response here.)

In response to Clay's proposal, I've been making it a point to tune into radio stations with more obscure playlists which is quite a feat here in BR. And so, while I'm not exactly breaking new ground, I have developed an appreciation for artists/groups that I hadn't previously considered. Acts like Wilco, Sufjan Stevens, Regina Spektor, Mika, and Florence + the Machine, have made it into regular rotation on my playlists.

Have you thought about making an effort to add to your playlist? What have you added?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

fave 10 of '10

So, I was leaving a comment on Mo Ryan's TV Squad blog post for the best 10 shows of 2010 and realized it had turned into its own blog post. Here you go:

I'm not sure these were the 10 BEST shows of 2010, but they were certainly my favorites.

Not in any particular order:

Glee - Yes, it is wildly uneven, but most episodes leave me smiling. What more can you really ask for?

Modern Family - This show is so good, they even managed to make a family vacation episode funny.

Cougar Town - Jules and the Cul-de-sac Krewe have stolen a little piece of my heart. This show has improved so much that it is almost unrecognizable from the first episodes that aired in Fall 2009.

Justified - Timothy Olyphant kicking butt and taking names as a US Marshall. Walton Goggins as his former friend and sometime adversary. How awesome is that combination?

The Vampire Diaries - This surprised me as much as anyone. Believe it or not, it's consistently well acted, big things happen in every episode and I have yet to see an episode I wasn't entertained by. And that's not even talking about the drool-worthy cast...

Community - So, so funny. The paintball episode alone would've earned the show a spot on this list and it isn't even my favorite episode. I know all the pop culture references are a bit much for some, but they make it all the better for me.

Chuck - Season 3 was a little bit of a let down for me, but I've really enjoyed season 4. And even season 3 was more entertaining than a lot of what's on out there...

Supernatural - Yes, season 5 was uneven and had pacing issues, but when it was good, it was SO good. AND Jensen Ackles will probably never be recognized for his exceptional work as Dean Winchester. For that matter, Jared Padalecki has certainly stepped it up a notch this fall with Robo-Sam. I've been really rather amazed by his completely new character portrayal.

Friday Night Lights - FNL will always have a spot on my top 10 list, even after it finishes its fifth and final season. It's that good. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton have created one of the most realistic tv marriages it has been my privilege to see - and they make it look easy. FNL has also done a fantastic job of ushering out fan favorites as they graduate and move on with their lives while introducing new characters and making me care about them almost as much. How often does that happen? And, it has Tim Riggins. *sigh*

Terriers - oddly enough, it's filled that spot that has been empty since Veronica Mars. It's fantastic!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Charitable options this Christmas

A facebook post from a friend directed me to this blog about Christie, who truly feels called to help others, specifically a village in Africa. She has suggestions about how you can help, too, so check it out. I'll be keeping Christie and her ministry in my heart and mind this Christmas. Won't you as well?

More interested in helping a secular group? Check out One, which doesn't actually require a donation (although they'll take that too!), just making your voice heard in unison with people across the country and around the world. Another option is Matt Damon's project,, which is dedicated to finding ways to provide safe drinking water to everyone. Kiva is an interesting option; you provide microloans to small start-up businesses in developing nations which can improve the lives of whole families.

My favorite, though, is Heifer Project International. It's similar to Kiva in that it provides a family with a way to start a sustainable business, but Heifer provides families with a way to change the life of not just a family, but an entire community. Heifer gives families in developing nations livestock that can provide continuing food and income sources. For instance, if a family is given a flock of chickens, they can use some of the eggs for food but sell the rest. Then when their flock has grown in size, they pay it forward by helping other families in the community by giving them a small flock of chickens. How cool is that?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Father Knows Best

In the very early 1990s, The Black Crowes exploded onto the music scene with hits like "Hard to Handle" and "She talks to Angels." At the time, I tried to convince my dad that their "Hard to Handle" was superior to Tony Joe White's or Otis Redding's or any of the other earlier artists to cover this song. Needless to say, he laughed at me. I'll let you judge for yourself:

Here's a version performed by Otis Redding:

Here's The Black Crowes:

Here's a link to listen to Tony Joe's version.

What do you think? Which version did you like better? Are remakes (music or other) ever as good as the original?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I got to fix a beauty pageant!

During my year-and-a-half in nursing home hell, I had to plan, promote, publicize and pull-off a beauty pageant for my residents so we could take the winner to the regional pageant. Never having been to a pageant, much less in one, I was kind of at a loss. Thankfully, one of the girls in the office, Kacey, had a lot of pageant experience and was actually excited about helping out.

We got businesses to donate prizes, contacted families to see if they wanted their resident to participate, ordered flowers for the winner, found guest judges and an emcee, ordered crowns, decorated sashes, the list goes on. You get the idea. And of course, since family members and the public were present, we had a party afterwards, which I also had to coordinate and have set up. (At least the kitchen staff took care of the food prep.) Fortunately, it was around Valentine's Day, so we had a decorating theme that was relatively easy to execute for both the pageant and the party.

Thirty residents wound up participating, 23 women and 7 men. Can I tell you how hard it was to make sure that everyone got a prize that was unique to them? That everyone got a question that they would be able to answer? That the aides made sure that the right people were washed and dressed up their Sunday best if they didn't have family to help? Logistical NIGHTMARE. I'm not usually one for lists, but during this job I became one. I had lists of lists of lists.

Are you ready for the funny part? After having gone to all the trouble of arranging guest judges, I was asked to fix the results so that the Mr. and Mrs. Nursing Home we took to the regional pageant were the best combination of appearance and well-spoken, thus having the best chance to win. And no fixing was necessary - the winners would've won anyway, thank goodness.

We wound up taking Jack and Annie. They were so excited - they even got to take multiple trips to Alexandria to be fitted for a tux and formal (at the nursing home's expense, of course), a trip to the salon, and then finally for the event itself. Neither one of them one, but Jack and Annie didn't care. They really were excited just to participate.

I'll tell you what - that whole experience gave me an appreciation for event planners that I didn't have before. The amount of unseen effort that goes into such an event is enormous.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Five shows gone too soon

Earlier this week, I blogged about actors and actresses that I'd like to see back on t.v. This post is a list of five shows from the first decade of the 21st Century that I wish had been on longer. These shows aired for one season or less, thus leaving some of my favorites like Veronica Mars, Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone, Everwood or Life off the list.

Jack & Bobby - This show about two brothers, one of whom grows up to be President, and their single mother, whom is sometimes a help and at others a hindrance, has a lot of heart and and a surprising depth for a CW show. It a had a fantastic group of character actors in recurring roles - I think their entire budget may have been spent on guest stars. Available streaming on Netflix.

Keen Eddie - Mark Valley was terrific as a fish out of water New York cop who somehow winds up attached to the London Police (or maybe Scotland Yard? I was never really clear about that.). It was sly, funny and completely unlike anything else on t.v. at the time. To top it off, Valley had terrific chemistry with co-star Sienna Miller. Fox canceled it after airing a handful of episodes, Bravo aired the rest. It remains a treasured part of my dvd collection.

Kings - This retelling of the story of David & Goliath wasn't perfect, but Ian McShane was mesmerizing as King Silas, as was Susanna Thompson as Queen Rose. The machinations of these two made me glad that I'm not involved in politics at any level. Ratings-wise, it was a disaster for NBC in spite of heavy promotion. Available for viewing on Hulu.

The Middleman - ABCFamily let this delightful gem go after airing only 12 episodes. On the one hand, I'm terribly disappointed. On the other, I'm glad. About how many shows can you say honestly that you enjoyed every single episode. This is one of those shows - even the vampire puppet episode. That's right, I said it. Vampire puppets. And, especially in the finale, Matt Keeslar gives us a memorable performance.

Wonderfalls - Quirky, sarcastic, charming, there aren't enough adjectives for me to use to describe what was right about this show. It also had a terrific cast with Caroline Dhavernas, Tracie Thom, Lee Pace, William Sadler, Diana Scarwid and Neil Grayston.

What are your favorite shows that aired for less than a season in the past decade?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Five actresses I miss on t.v.

On Tuesday afternoon, I posted a blog entry discussing the five actors I most miss seeing regularly on t.v. Now it's the ladies' turn.

1. Kristen Bell - Okay, you could argue that she's still on t.v. as the voice of Gossip Girl's narrator, but I don't think that really counts. Kristen, sweetie, I love you, but please stop doing crap romantic comedy movies and come home to television. Have you done anything since Veronica Mars that was nearly as good or satisfying? Nope, didn't think so. Get together with Rob Thomas and y'all come up with something, okay? Maybe you could even talk the CW or a cable network into letting y'all do a VM sequel about her time in the FBI. That short bit on the season 4 dvds was so genius.

2. Caroline Dhavernas - Who you ask? Granted, most of this Canadian actress's work has been in film, but her work as Jaye in Wonderfalls was fantastic. Fox only aired a handful of episodes before cancelling this great show. If you haven't seen it, add it to your Netflix list right away. Caroline's performance is quirky, snarky, heart-filled and completely original. (oh, and did I mention it also has Lee Pace?)

3. Liz Mikel - Fans of Friday Night Lights often talk about what realistic marriage Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton portray as Coach and Mrs. Coach Taylor - and it's true, they do. Liz Mikel appeared in seasons 1-3 of FNL and is often over looked in spite of her very fine performance as Corrina "Mama Smash" Williams, a single mom struggling to raise three kids by herself. Some of her scenes with her son, Brian "Smash" Williams (Gaius Charles), were so powerful that I could believe he was really her son. What Liz can do with a lip and chin quiver and a little righteous indignation is truly amazing.

4. Emma Caulfield - Why, you ask, am I picking this Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum over Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar? Emma's portrayal of the very literal ex-demon Anya was hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time. SMG hasn't really done that much either, but her role as Buffy is so iconic, I'm not sure people would be able to see her as anything else. Emma, on the other hand, did a great job but isn't as well known, so people would almost definitely have an easier time buying into a new role for her. [update: I hadn't heard this but evidently Emma has been on Life Unexpected. Should have done my homework!]

5. Dichen Lachman - Her turn as Sierra on Dollhouse would have been a break out performance if more people had seen it. I don't think I would be out of line to say that she was deserving of Emmy recognition (even though it would never have happened), especially for the episode where we learned how Sierra came to be in the Dollhouse. Her scenes with Victor (Enver Gjokaj) throughout the two season run were equally fantastic.

Honorable mentions: The very charming Anna Friel from Pushing Daisies, Rachel Bilson from The O.C., Mary McDonnell and Trisha Helfer for BSG - both ladies were so good, I couldn't choose, and I was also going to mention Sarah Shahi from Life, but it turns out she has new show coming out on USA in January.

Who would you add to the list and why?

Five actors I miss on T.V.

It's no secret I've been somewhat disappointed by the Fall 2010 television season, so I've decided to list five actors that used to be on t.v. but aren't right now. Somebody in Hollywood, write shows for these people already!

1. Adam Brody - I really miss Seth Cohen's Cohen-y Cohenisms on The O.C. He was hilarious, and his sly, sarcastic pop-culture references cracked me up every time. Since he evidently came up with a lot of his own material, I'd love to see him in his own show. Come on Josh Schwartz, you've got several shows on right now. Can't you find room on one? I just know he'd fit right in on the geeky goodness that is Chuck.

2. Jason Dohring - As Logan Echolls on the late, great Veronica Mars he took a character that was a one-dimensional, completely unsympathetic bully and turned him into a fully realized, conflicted character who was completely able to hold his own with Kristen Bell's Veronica. (BTW, if you haven't seen Veronica Mars, get thee to Netflix now and stream at least the first season. Definitely worth your time.) I even watched the mediocre-at-best Moonlight because this guy was in it - and he was definitely the best thing about that show, even if he was a secondary character.

3. Lee Pace - The Pie Maker! My t.v. has been in mourning since the quirky, romantic and charming Pushing Daisies went off the air. He was also funny as Jaye's brother in the little seen but fabulous Wonderfalls. Lee even does dramatic well - he turned in a heartbreaking performance as a transgendered individual in Showtime's made for t.v. movie Soldier's Girl. Marmaduke? Really? Someone with as much talent and range as Lee deserves a well-written show of his own.

4. This guy was so amazing as Victor on Joss Whedon's Dollhouse that he literally stole the show from Eliza Dushku's Echo. In addition to Victor, he was required to play a wide variety of characters and delivered every time. I think my favorite was probably Kiki the dancing college girl. Check it out!

5. Jamie Bamber - An alum of Syfy's Battlestar Galactica remake, he's currently on Law & Order UK. Since I don't have BBC America, I'm not counting it. His nuanced performance of Capt. Lee Adama on BSG made me want to simultaneously kick him in the butt for being hateful to his dad or Starbuck and give him a hug because he'd had so much hurt in the past.

Honorable mentions to Farscape's Ben Browder and Tahmoh Penikett from Dollhouse and BSG.

What do you think of my choices? Who would you like to see on t.v. that isn't currently working regularly? Tomorrow I'll post five actresses that need to be on t.v.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

School Pride

NBC's School Pride just aired the episode the filmed here in Baton Rouge over the summer. They gave Lanier Charter School an extensive face lift, inside and out. One question they kept asking over and over again was, "How did it get this bad?" You can watch the episode here:

Trying to explain what happened to public schools in Baton Rouge is a tricky thing - and a decades long story. My original draft of this blog was too long, too hard to follow and meaningless to people who aren't from here.

What it boils down to is this: they're fucked. Most school plants are in terrible condition and too many teachers aren't competent. And people with money in Baton Rouge don't send their kids to public schools, so they aren't invested in making them better.

Some time ago, I blogged about an early morning trip to North Baton Rouge and how I felt the need to really make a difference but didn't know how because the problems are so big. It's the same deal. Where do you start?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

2010 season so far

As I was replying to a post by my friend, The Pop Culture Curmudgeon, I realized that it was, in fact, an entire blog post about my feelings about the new t.v. season. Here you go:

Don’t bother with No Ordinary Family. If you want to see it, stick The Incredibles in the dvd player instead. Much better!

I’m really enjoying Raising Hope. I find it hilarious and oddly sweet at the same time. I feel the same about last year's Cougar Town. I really wish it had a better name, I have friends that refuse to watch it because of that very reason.

My favorite new show of the season is definitely Terriers. It reminds me oddly of my beloved Veronica Mars. I’m cautiously optimistic about a second season since the dvr numbers turned out to increase the viewership by 50%. If not, at least we got a whole season.

I haven’t really gotten into any of the other new shows this season. In addition to Cougar Town, I’m really enjoying the return of many of last season’s shows – The Vampire Diaries, Community, Modern Family and Glee, to name a few – as well as some old friends like Chuck, Supernatural, Bones, and Castle.

I’ve given up on House. Even with the House/Cuddy development, it still wasn’t able to hold my interest.

What I’m most excited about though, is the Oct. 27th return of Friday Night Lights on DirecTV’s 101 Channel. I was amazed at how quickly I came to care about the East Dillon Lions and view the Panthers as the enemy. (And, they better find a way to get my beloved Tim Riggins out of jail before the season is over!)

What new shows are you most enjoying this fall? Any older ones you've given up on?

Sesame Street videos

Is it just me or does Sesame Street seem to be releasing a plethora of video spoofs? Here are a few of the ones I've seen lately, but not all of them are new. I refuse to put the latest one up, the "whip your hair" song by Will Smith's daughter. That is quite possibly the most annoying song I've ever heard - worse than the macarena! I'm not sure how I missed some of these the first time around, lol. Do you have a favorite Sesame spoof that isn't shown here?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Random bits of interest 10.15.2010

I don't have any one thing that rates a whole blog entry, so I've decided to have one blog post with a bunch of different links that I found of interest recently.

1. Michael J. Fox wasn't the original Marty McFly in Back to the Future. WHAT?!?!? It was actually Eric Stoltz. The production had been shooting for five weeks when it was decided that he just wasn't right for the part. Click here to read more.

2. Possibly the worst idea ever: Top Gun 2 complete with Tom Cruise as Maverick. Need I say more? Click here for more info.

3. Lee Pace, the Pie Maker from Pushing Daisies and a complete cutie, is going to be in Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. I could wish that he was headlining a project of his own, but I'm just happy to see him. :) click here.

4. Glee is featuring a Rocky Horror tribute. I was more than a little concerned when I first heard this but the video clip looks like a lot of fun.

5. A funeral director friend of mine posted a picture of this tombstone. Take a second and look at it. I think it is quite possibly the most awesome thing I've ever seen.

6. A man in Clinton, La., north of Baton Rouge, was recently in court and ordered to pull up his pants which were allowing his underwear to show. As he was leaving the courtroom, he pulled his pants back down, the bailiff saw, and the judge booked him on contempt of court. I love it - the sagging jeans look is not flattering and the origin is disturbing. I'm ready for it to go away... The article that appeared in Baton Rouge's newspaper, The Advocate, is here.

7. Hannah Montana really is no more. I guess it's unrealistic of me, but I have these thoughts about Miley Cyrus' new video: 1) If I were the parent of a young Miley fan, I'd be horrified to see my children watching this extremely sexualized crap. 2) If I were Miley's parents, there's no way in heck that I'd let her writhe like that on screen at age 17 for all the world to see. Check it out for yourself.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Glee - Grilled Cheesus

So much to discuss and so little time!

The good stuff first:

1) Kurt's relationship with his dad, Burt, has always been a wonderful part of Glee. Burt, for a blue collar, football loving kind of guy, has always been amazingly accepting and supportive of his obviously gay son. The flashback scenes where they were at Kurt's mom's funeral and then having a tea party (complete with pinkies held just so!) were both heart-warming and heart-breaking. And, oh, my gosh! That kid they got to play young Kurt looked so much like teenage Kurt, it was ridiculous. I even wondered if they'd spent a fortune on special effects for those scenes.

2) I think that different sides of the God/no God opinions were well done and true to the characters that voiced them. I can easily see how Kurt would have trouble believing in a God that would make him gay and therefore easily made fun of. I can also see Sue claiming to have rejected God since he didn't do her bidding and "cure" her sister.

On the other side of the coin, I can easily see Finn, one of the dimmest and most naive of the gleeks, believing in God because his face appeared on a grilled cheese sandwich. I can also see the different gleeks wanting to express their feelings and support of Kurt through song and how they'd want to give him the kind of support they'd want, not necessarily what Kurt wants and/or needs.

I also loved the part where Sue realized that her sister, the one whom she'd lost her own faith over, believes in God and asks her to pray for her. I'm not ashamed to admit that I got a little teary.

The bad:

1) This is one of the few episodes where I didn't care for most of the song selections and felt like there were too many musical numbers crammed into the episode. I did enjoy Puck's Only the Good Die Young and thought Kurt's I Wanna Hold Your Hand was sweet (even if it was kind of an odd choice if you go beyond the title). I thought Mercedes' I Turn to You and Rachel's solos really felt like diva moments more than an outpouring of feeling. Finn's Losing My Religion was an understandable choice, but good grief, it was terrible...

There are so many good songs out there about faith (or lack of it) that I was kind of disappointed in the obvious song selections. One of Us? Really? It really felt like more of an opportunity to add hit songs to the Glee collection than anything else and I'm more than a little disappointed that they didn't figure out a way to add Don Henley's Little Tin God or The Doobie Brothers Jesus Is Just Alright.

2) The God/Christ that I know would never condemn a person for being gay or for believing/not believing a certain doctrine. After all, the greatest commandment is Love: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul; and love your neighbor as yourself. The God that preaches this would never condemn someone to hell.
It did feel kind of like the show was a little heavy on the Christians are crazy and narrow minded soapbox but then there was that scene with Sue and her sister. I did feel better after that bit.

the Awesome:

Brittany: I did an entire book report about heart attacks if you want to give it to the doctor. They took of a letter grade because it was written in crayon.

Sue: I realize you're only half orangutan but I'm still allergic to your lustrous ginger mane.

Kurt's hat! It was fantabulistic - quite possibly the most amazing hat I've ever seen.

I feel like I've rambled on. What did you think about this episode? Find it here if you haven't seen it yet.