Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Great American Road Trip

This blog is inspired by the fact that my friend April is on vacation in Washington, D.C., right now and I'm jealous...

One of these days, I'd like to take a real vacation and go on what I call The Great American Road Trip. I have friends and family that I'd love to see all over the country and think it would be fun to just get in the car and drive, stopping to see points of interest between destinations.

Towards the top of my places to see are the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, The Golden Gate Bridge, The Art Institute of Chicago, Gettysburg, Ellis Island, and at least 100 other areas of historic and/or cultural significance. I've also wanted to visit Savannah, Ga., in the worst way ever since Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil came out.

I think I'd also like to make a list of excellent local places to stop and eat, sort of my very own Diners, Drive-ins and Dives special edition.

Do you dream of a road trip or vacationing in a specific spot?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Musing about acting...

The other day my sibling and I were discussing Olivia Wilde, the actress who plays "13" on House. I don't remember how the conversation was started or what it was about, really, but I referred to her as "13" and James referred to her as "Jenny Riley," which was the character she played on NBC's short-lived crime drama The Black Donnellys. (For the record, I always think of her as Alex, Marissa's experimental lesbian love interest on The O.C.) From that point we started talking about how some actors are so identified with roles that they've played, that you have trouble separating the two.

I think it's a little different between t.v. stars and movies stars, maybe because you have so much more time invested with t.v. stars. T.V. stars tend to become the character they portray, whereas movie stars just remain themselves in every movie there in.

Actually the best example of this (in terms of movies, anyway) is probably John Wayne. I don't think anyone could argue against the point that he was basically John Wayne in every movie he ever made. I guess with movies, that's what makes the star.

There's something about their personality or appearance that appeals to moviegoers and that's why people pay to see them over and over again - but only as long as they have that bit of mojo. Poor Meg Ryan is an excellent example of this. In the late 90s and early 00s, she was one of the reigning ladies of romantic comedies. But when was the last time she was a lead in a truly successful movie?

Likewise, Sarah Michelle Gellar was so fantastic as Buffy that people have a hard time separating her from that role. Think about it - even if you weren't a fan of the show, when you see her or hear about her, you instantly associate her with Buffy. Hey! It's Buffy in a movie! or Buffy guesting on a t.v. show!

Same with Kristen Bell. Every time I see her, I think Veronica Mars. Hey! Veronica Mars is on Heroes or why is Veronica telling us about the lives of Upper East siders on Gossip Girl? You know she hates oh-niners.

Think about the cast of Cheers. When you see George Wendt come on screen, you think, "Norm!" and maybe even find yourself calling it out. Ted Danson, even though he's had successful runs on other shows, will always be Sam "Mayday" Malone. You get the point.

I'm not sure anymore where I was going with this post, so I'll stop now, lol.

What actor do you associate so strongly with a character that they've played that you have trouble separating them?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Geek @ Heart

I've realized that I'm a geek. I don't know why this comes as a surprise to me, but it does. I should have known this. I've always been a fan of sci-fi - movies, books, t.v., you name it.

A regular reader asked where I've been all week. The answer is that I began watching Farscape which aired on the Sci-fi Channel in the early 00s. I've watched three seasons in less than a week (and that's in addition to going to work). It's really well written and acted, even by the puppets from Jim Henson's studio. Yes, that's right. Puppets. Two of the main characters are actually played by puppets.

It's filled with action and intrigue and there have been some really interesting plot lines about prejudice and what it means to serve others. I still have a season and a made for t.v. movie to go. I understand that it was cancelled unexpectedly and the movie is to tie up loose ends. At least it got that much which is more than I can say for Deadwood, Pushing Daisies, or any one of numerous other shows.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

True Blood, you problem child...

What do you do with a show that you want to like but has major problems, most notably that you aren't really interested in the main characters? It's unfortunate, but I have almost no interest in Sookie and Bill except that they are the price we pay to have Eric, Pam, Jessica and Lafayette on the screen.

I also thought that seasons 1 and 2 flirted with too many storylines but season 3 is ri-donk-u-lus. I've said it before and I'll say it again because I think it bears repeating: I wish it was The Eric and Pam Show featuring Lafayette and introducing Baby Jessica with special appearances by Alcide and Jesus.

For the record, a friend of mine does a much more coherent review and expression of her thoughts here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

An early morning adventure

After a horrendous bout of insomnia (thanks a million, t.p.t.b.), I was still up at 6 a.m. this morning. I decided that I needed to do something. Anything.

I took a mini-road trip across Baton Rouge to see the actual facility of a funeral home that I work with on a regular basis. It's not in an area of town I've ever really spent much time in and I was curious.

I figured there wouldn't be much, if any, traffic at 6 a.m. and it was already light outside, so I got in the car and drove. Right on South Acadian, right on Government, right on South 22nd Street, past Sacred Heart Catholic Church, over I-110 and continued on to Plank Road.

I've always considered my apartment two blocks south of Baton Rouge General to be on the edge of ghetto. Today I realized it's not even close.

As I drove further and further into North Baton Rouge, the more it looked like a bomb had gone off. People were wandering aimlessly on foot or literally sleeping (I choose to believe they were sleeping anyway) in doorways or by the side of the road.

Buildings were in such poor repair that roofs were missing (in part or in whole), siding was gone leaving what insulation there was exposed to the elements, you get the idea. I lost count of how many little liquor stores, bars, beauty salons and bail bond establishments I passed. It went on mile after heartbreaking mile.

I knew things were bad in North Baton Rouge; people have talked about the problems in NBR my entire life. Now, having seen it for myself as an adult, I feel the need to do something to help. What, I don't know. Have any ideas? It's such a big problem with multiple layers that I don't really know where to start.

By the way, I never did make it all the way out to the funeral home. By that time traffic was picking up and I decided to head back to my apartment.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rump Shaker at the Nursing Home

As you know by now, I worked for a year and a half at a nursing home in Winnfield as an activity director. As part of my job, I'd go from room to room providing residents with activities in room or inviting them to join group activities.

I realized over time that when I went in many of the rooms that the t.v.'s were always turned on BET or some other station playing videos of women doing some rather scandalous dances in even more scandalous clothing. I (wrongly as it turned out) figured that the nursing aids were putting the t.v.'s on those stations while they worked in the room and just didn't change the channel when they left.

Gradually, I came to the realization that it was only happening in the rooms where men were living. And that, boys and girls, is when I realized that the phrase "dirty old man" did, in fact, have basis in truth, lol.

It does make me wonder, though. When people's personalities change drastically as they age, is it a sign of their true self coming out, of their social filters failing? Or is it just that they are now essentially a different person with different interests?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

An honest, unflinching look at a tough choice

I know almost no one watches Friday Night Lights. It's unfortunate - this past Friday's episode, I Can't, was probably the most honest portrayal I've ever seen on television of a young girl with some tough choices to make.

It was honest and unflinching, and didn't take the easy way out.

I've been debating with myself about what to say and then I found this blog by James Poniewozick of Time Magazine and this blog by Alan Sepinwall of Both manage to critique the episode with out delving into the right or wrong, or the politics, of such a decision.

All I can say is that I hope I would be one tenth as caring and empathetic as Tami Taylor was when faced with some hard questions from someone she didn't even know.

I Can't is available here on Hulu.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Emmy Nominations 2010

So, the Emmy nominations were announced very early this morning. I'm not going to list what they were, but here is a link to the major nominations.

Mo Ryan of The Chicago Tribune has an excellent take on the nominations here.

I've included some of my initial thoughts below. I may add some more as I stew about the nominations....

On the plus side:

I could not be more thrilled that Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton have finally (FINALLY!) been recognized for their work on Friday Night Lights. I've always thought they deserved to be recognized but Britton really blew me away with her performance over the course of FNL's fourth season, whether she was dealing with funeral home directors or scheming boosters, or counseling teens that don't even attend her school. I almost wish there was a category for acting duo because Coach and Mrs. Coach are the most realistically portrayed happily married couple that I've ever seen on t.v.

Modern Family absolutely deserves all of its nominations. I would've cried if Eric Stonestreet hadn't been nominated. His work on Modern Family was the real stand out to me - well, his and Rico Rodriguez's work as Manny. As the season went on, I literally find myself smiling the whole time those two were on screen, just because they were there.

On the minus side:

I would've felt a lot better about the 19 nominations for Glee if we hadn't already seen the last half of the season. Not that it wasn't entertaining, it just wasn't as strong as the first half. I'm not criticizing any of the acting nominations, those folks did some great work. I'm more concerned about the best comedy nomination. The writing was so uneven and they didn't seem able to keep track of plot lines very well, to say nothing of the fact that characters would routinely do about-faces with little or no reason. Don't get me wrong, I like Glee; I look forward to it. I just think its current host of nominations is do more to popularity than actual quality. Maybe I'm just suffering from Glee-out, though - I mean those kids have been everywhere!

30 Rock again? Really? Community or Party Down are far more deserving of those spots. 30 Rock has been hilarious in the past but this was not its best season and there were so many more comedies to choose from this.

I'm so mad that Katey Sagal got shut out of the best actress in a drama category. It is literally a crime - I'm not sure what law was broken but surely one was. Her work on Sons of Anarchy this year was brilliant and breathtaking. I'm afraid that people look at it as "that biker show" and don't give it a chance. The whole show is amazing with strong performances by all of the actors, lead and supporting.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The day Clay blew my mind... Musing about music

So... The other day my cousin Clay posted an idea on his Facebook page which immediately caused him to lose his favored cousin status. It was something along the lines of "Let's destroy all music created before 1990."

That blew my mind. My first thought was what about The Beatles? closely followed by U2? Mozart? Beethoven? Beastie Boys? Carole King? James Taylor? "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones? Aretha Franklin? Heart? The list goes on... you get the idea.

Clay later explained that he feels that we often get to stuck in the past when it comes to music, that we often keep listening to the same old things - because that is what we feel comfortable with - rather than giving new music a try.

I sort of understand where he's coming from. I do find myself enjoying music that I grew up with at home (The Beatles, Chicago (pre-Peter Cetera), Doobie Brothers, Eagles, James Taylor, Carole King... thanks, Dad)and from my teens and early 20s more than most of the new releases I hear today. But I find myself sticking to "music for Generation X" stations more than pop music stations or KLSU. And, I think my heart would break if I didn't get to hear "The Ode to Joy" on occasion.

Maybe I'm not giving music made in this new decade and century enough of a chance. I do like some new music - after hearing my sibling rave about them and then seeing them as an opening act for U2, I find I do like Muse quite a bit. I think Jack White is a genius and am willing to give any of his projects a try whether it's The White Stripes, The Raconteurs or The Dead Weather. On the other hand, Ke$ha is complete crap and I'm not that crazy about Lady Gaga (don't stone me, okay?).

What do you think? Should music have an expiration date? Should I (we) be more open to new music?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

An interesting exercise...

I was listening to the Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan Podcast featuring Maureen "Mo" Ryan of The Chicago Tribune and Ryan McGee (formerly known as Zap2itLost) of Ryan McGee mentioned that if he was stranded on a desert island and could only have one season of one television show to watch ever, he would choose season 1 of Veronica Mars.

I tried to narrow my list down to one season of one television show ever and wasn't able to get there. I did manage to whittle my list down to one season of five different shows but have a list of honorable mentions a mile long, so I'm not sure it even counts, lol. Regardless, here is my list (and not necessarily in this order):

Chuck Season 2 - an amazing confluence of action, comedy, drama and pop culture references. I'm not sure anyone could have created a show more tailor-made for my enjoyment. The chemistry between Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski as Chuck and Sarah is amazing and Adam Baldwin can do more with a grunt and a look than anyone I've ever seen.

Veronica Mars Season 1 - I have to agree with Ryan McGee on this one. It's a wonderful combination of hard-boiled mystery complete with private detectives, romance, interesting family dynamics and a really good combination of stand alone episodes and episodes that service the over all arc of the season.

Wonderfalls - The Complete Series I relate so strongly to Jaye, the main character, that it borders on the ridiculous. If you have a taste for funny, quirky and a little odd, give this gem a try. It was originally aired for three or four episodes on Fox before being cancelled.

Pushing Daisies - Season 1 Witty, charming and visually interesting with a snappy dialogue, Chuck and Ned the Pie Maker had me at hello. Each character is fully realized and lovingly written. I just wish ABC had been able to justify keeping it on longer.

Last, but certainly not least, Friday Night Lights Season 3. Why Season 3, you ask? After three seasons with the denizens of Dillon, Texas, I feel like I know these people and their stories intimately. Because the actors have fully grown into their characters, there were fantastic send off episodes for beloved characters, and even though it's only 13 episodes, the writers manage to pack a full 22 episode season's worth of story in. (Don't get me wrong, I love Friday Night Lights. All four seasons are amazing television and permanent parts of my dvd collection. This is just the one I'd most want to have with me.)

I'm not going to go into my list of honorable mentions - I'll save that for another time. What are your favorite shows? What would you have to have with you on that mythical desert isle?