Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer Television: Part 2

Yep, it's happened.  I'm now addicted to Breaking Bad, available on Netflix streaming.  This is the program Tam identified in a previous post as the one that a critic described as not the best TV show ever (which is of course The Wire) but still a really great show.

A kind of idiosyncratic thing I'm loving about it is the appearance of Bob Odenkirk, of sketch comedy Mr. Show fame, as a horrible cheesy corrupt lawyer.

Better call Saul!

Bunny Viewing Ramp Up

Tomorrow we're going to the state fair to see bunnies, lots and lots of bunnies!  In preparation for this event, I've been posting photos of bunnies from last year's fair on FB.  For my very special EQ readers, though, I include this bonus state fair bunny shot.

A handsome loaf of bun

Today I had an absolutely horrible time getting home from school that involved wandering around not being able to find where the bus home now stops (it regularly changes due to construction on campus), having to walk through knee-high grass to get out of an area that was fenced off, walking home in only warm (82 degrees) but extremely humid weather after giving up on finding the bus stop (I had sweated through my clothes entirely about halfway into the 2.5 mile trek), feeling dizzy, having heart palpitations, and then with about a mile left to go, getting increasingly painful stomach cramps.  Not fun.  But there was one good thing:  in those first moments of blissful ignorance re: the bus situation, as I was walking on campus toward the bus stop, I caught a glimpse of a furry brown butt and a white cotton tail leap into some bushes.  Any day I see a bunny is a good day.  And this bunny's bun was only a promise of the bunnies to come.

Summer Reading: Part 2

If you like coming of age stories in which people attend schools of magic (I do!), I recommend the high fantasy novel The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (the first book of the Kingkiller trilogy; there are two published right now and apparently the third one is already written, so we're not facing a Game of Thrones situation here). 

It starts off really slow, with this boring inn and these boring cardboard cut-out fantasy novel characters telling boring stories about the dark times while drinking their boring drinks, and I wasn't feeling into it at all.  But then the story-within-a-story got started, and it ramped up pretty quickly from blah to interesting (but beware, the pacing remains on the slow side). 

The main character can be a very annoying adolescent of the "I am superior to all of you!" variety, but the fact is that he, you know, really is smarter than basically everyone else on the planet.  His staggering genius combined with his arrogance keeps him from being a disgustingly wholesome Wesley Crusher type, but there were definitely times I was irritated not with the character (though many reviewers on Amazon are, it turns out) but with the writer.  Writing an all-encompassing genius is kind of a cop-out, you know? 

Nevertheless, I would say that if you like this genre of fantasy, it's definitely worth giving it a shot.  Even when certain aspects of his story are somewhat predictable, and there's no big central conflict to get resolved at the end, I still just like seeing the whole magic school thing play out.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer Reading: Part 1

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton

In this Victorian-style comedy of manners, there are complicated courtships, deathbed confessions, lawsuits, problems with servants, scheming in-laws, lost children, ambitious clergymen, endangered reputations, dinner parties, frilly hats, treasures, and blushing brides.

Oh, and dragons.

They're all dragons.

Brilliantly conceived, delightfully executed.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Cooking

Robert and I made 12 servings of beef and kidney bean chili and 12 servings of chicken and broccoli casserole.  (We'll freeze half of these for later.)  It's surprising how little time and effort is required to double these recipes.  The chicken and broccoli is especially easy overall because it requires no chopping of vegetables (it uses frozen broccoli and canned mushrooms).  I pretty much made that one by myself while Robert was playing golf, though he showed up just in time to help me with the white sauce.  Having two pans into which I'm trying to pour chicken broth and milk at the same time, while whisking the sauces to get rid of lumps and not burn anything, was a bit much.

Also, I can't help but point out that it was slightly warmer in my kitchen, working over a hot stove, than it was outside today.  During the heat of the day, it was about 81 degrees in the kitchen and about 79 degrees outside.  Tomorrow the temperature is going back up to about 88, which qualifies as quite warm by local standards but which would be laughed out of town for those of you experiencing temperatures over 100 degrees.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Summer Television: Part 1

I've been watching a bit more TV than usual this summer, especially since I have signed up for streaming on Netflix.  It's been an enjoyable escape activity (that is more treadmill-compatible than other standbys, like reading, though I've been doing more of that as well).  I still don't have TV reception but the backlog of shows on Netflix will keep me going for quite a long time.  Here are some shows I've watched/been watching this summer.

The Wire:  About a month ago, I read an online review of another TV series that started out something like, "Most people think The Wire is the best television show ever.  Well, that's true, but [This Show] is also really good."  (Sorry, I don't recall the source.)  Seriously, The Wire is the best TV show ever.  If you have even a passing interest in cop/crime dramas and have not seen this yet, I envy you.  And aside from how totally awesome it is from the first episode to the last, it also introduces you to a host of actors you will see show up again on other programs (esp. other HBO ones).

Glee:  My mom got me into watching this.  In some ways, it's a natural fit - I have liked other teen shows (like Buffy, Friday Night Lights) and it's a musical.  The cheerleading coach character totally steals the show.  And it addresses important social issues in an amusing way - you know, like to what extent are hot Jews required to hook up with other hot Jews and how can we stop people from exposing others to the musical travesty that is the oeuvre* of Journey.  I've caught up with the first two seasons now and basically enjoyed it, though I was disappointed with the ending of season 2.  It seems silly to say that I had an issue with how contrived (and desperate seeming) the rationale for the outcome of their last performance was, given that being ridiculously, ludicrously contrived is a central aspect of the show, but still.  We'll see if they can get it back a bit in season 3.

*I was utterly shocked to spell this word correctly on my first attempt.  Robert and I have been playing a ton of Boggle this week; I am now looking forward to these letters showing up in a future game. 

The Killing:  I had trouble getting into this program at first, but then it hit its stride and got super-interesting.  But it suffers from the same problem as Twin Peaks: it's really hard to make solving a single murder take longer than a full season.  One reviewer nailed it by noting that what started as a novel idea for a crime drama turned into a 13-hour long episode of Law & Order.  (Why can't I relocate any of these reviews?)  There's the use of shocking, unexpected twists to keep things lively, and then there's just fucking with the viewer, and last episode definitely veered into viewer-fucking mode for me.

I watched Twin Peaks for the first time this past year, and the entirety of the uneven (especially season 2) show was justified for me by the completely unexpected revelation of Albert's path (Albert Rosenfield, the sarcastic, mocking genius/asshole forensic scientist whom is brought in by Dale Cooper to occasionally assist with the case and who constantly insults the local police to their face).  I don't think anything on TV has ever stunned then awed me into wide-eyed laughter the way this scene did.  I had to watch it about three times before I started to come out of my daze/hysteria.  (If you haven't seen the show, this clip will not have the right impact at all.)  Dale Cooper's observation that "Albert's path is a strange and difficult one" sums up how I feel about my life in graduate school some days. 

The Muppets:  OK, this was a movie, not a TV show, but I have to go on record saying that Tam's prediction that I would really like the "Man or Muppet" song (written by Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie) was correct.  "If I'm a muppet, I'm a very manly muppet" -- I love.  And the choice of actor to play the "man" version of the muppet Walter was brilliant.  At times, the movie was kind of boring and slow-paced but not in an unenjoyable way.  I don't see myself watching the entire thing again, but that "Man or Muppet" scene is an awesome 3 minutes.