Monday, June 30, 2014

This why I stopped listening to critics...TV critics.

Ramblings Post #265
I got a lot on my mind, a lot left to do and little time to do it in. I got a lot of things coming at from a lot of different directions, less resources than I would like but still there is a lot I want to accomplish. And while I'm doing all that, I will occasionally take an hour out of my day to watch some TV. Or rather, read about some TV. This is about me reading about TV. 

In a free moment, well it was already one in the morning, I wasn't going to retain anything useful anyway, I watched the first episode of Tyrant, a new show on FX. This was a bad move because if the show was interesting I wasn't going to have time to watch more episodes. But I found the show interesting, at least worth an episode or three, and then for some reason went and looked up the reviews. And it reading those reviews two things became quickly evident: a) If a reviewer doesn't like the show, every little thing irritates them and b) reviewers don't really watch shows they don't like. There are other problems with the reviews as well, but I'll get to those.

The overall story is an upper middle class doctor from California, Bassam "Barry" Al-Fayeed, who left behind is former life as the second in line to the throne of a fictional Middle Eastern country, and upon returning at his wife's urging for his nephew's wedding for the first time in 20 years things get dramatic really, really fast. As he actively tries to minimize their immersion in his past life, events beyond his control start to drag him back to a life he never intended to leave. Pretty snazzy description, eh?

Our protagonist seems to be hiding a lot about his old family from his new family, and we're treated to motivations and justifications through flashbacks and brooding looks. Plus, just as the lead character is based on Syria's Assad, the character of his brother, first in line, seems to based another real figure in recent history, Uday Hussein. Cold and brooding vs. hot headed crazy! Properly told, I think the story has legs, but we'll need a few more episodes to see if it can build upon this foundation. I'd rate it a watch and see.

Now the reviewers. Ugh.

Several of the reviews likened the premise to a cheap Middle Eastern knockoff of the Godfather, which I thought was unfair. Matching The Godfather is a pretty high bar for excellence for any media offering, most programs and movies don't measure up, but apparently the critics that drew upon that as a basis didn't realize it's based on more current events, see Syria. So, this is actually a little closer to Law & Order's ripped from the headlines than classic Oscar worth cinema. Or maybe even the cliched Black Sheep. But if your whole frame of reference immediately sends you to a forty year old classic film...what are you gonna do?

One of my biggest irks was the idea one critic (and I can't find the article at this point) had of the family unbelievably treating the entire trip as though it was a VIP ride instead of a trip into dangerous territory, thus revealing to me that particular reviewer as someone who viewed the entire Middle East as just plain dangerous. First, there are countries that one can safely visit in the Middle East. And second, since the family is actual royalty - AND they were met by a private 747, picked up in luxury autos, had traffic stopped for their ride through the city and noticed the ten story propaganda photo of the head of the family on the way to the Palace where they were attending a ten million dollar wedding, I would imagine that feeling like a VIP wasn't too far off the mark. When the story added an element of tension, a possible terrorist attack on the ceremony, it was between the father and older son in private, and appeared to have been kept out of the public eye. The country seemed peaceful, they were treated like royalty, so why should the family have been worried? Just because it was the Middle East? Ugh. Update: (7/2) This is why its important to catch the first five minutes of a show. I missed the news article about strife scene completely, but only saw it on a re-watch. So, I kinda halfway got that wrong. 

And, some complained that the first episode didn't really flesh out the protagonist's children, to which I wonder exactly how long the reviewer thought the show had? It was the first episode, establishing the characters, full of exposition and setting the stage for later occurances. I can imagine there will be later episodes that give the younger actors more screen time, but for now we just need to establish them. I got the impression that the reviewers, having already decided that they didn't like the show were now just looking for reasons to trash it.

The reviews I read seemed to expect something different than what was presented, apparently  expecting Oscar worthy performances of a completely original story that fleshed out all the speaking characters in detail and fully explored the nuances of Middle Eastern tensions and culture without getting too bogged down...all in fifty two minutes.  And once they realized what they were watching was a television show and not an impossible dream they turned on it.

Am I saying Tyrant is the next Wire, Sopranos or Breaking Bad? Let me be clear here, NO. What I am saying is that the show needs to be spared the welts of failure because it is not what was expected as it drew first breath. The clips indicate that although our fictional Middle Eastern state is quiet now, it's not going to stay that way, and it looks like Barry will be right in the middle of it.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Wait, what?

Ramblings Post #264
This has no bearing at all on the post below it, except that I wrote it after I wrote the post and because of what I wrote I'm not hungry, and am fantasizing about food. Chili dogs with onions on poppy seed buns with house cut french fries. Honey BBQ wings with crinkle cut fries. Falling off the bone ribs and a baked potato. A large mixing bowl of cereal. None of which I am supposed to be eating. Again, this post is about finding out things about people you think you know....but man, for some fried chicken and corn on the cob.

 My girl Spanky heads for the Middle East next month, after many months of delays from her new employer. She's rented out her house to a friend, moved most of her stuff out, and is getting ready for what promises to be a few years in a less than luxurious accommodations. And she's going to do a little last minute voodoo.

Let me explain.

Spanky called me yesterday after a long break, which normally means she's been doing something that she knows she shouldn't be doing, is ashamed of and doesn't want to hear my pithy but usually astute thoughts on the subject. Translation : She's still going out with him. But she claims this time it's just because she's been really super busy trying to get everything in order for heading out. Since I have one required outing a day - and had skipped the previous day - I suggested a late lunch. She declined, as she had a few more things to get ready for her cleanse. I winced when she said it, because I remembered my own intestinal cleanse and although it cleans you out, the little nozzle they use feels like, I digress. Then ole' Spanky said she still had to pick up the roosters. Wait, roosters?
I have no proof her cleanse started like this...yet.
And cue the surreal music.

I inquired what kind of cleanse was this, and why did it require live chickens? Well, it turns out a 'spiritual' friend of her's from FB was going to perform a ritual to cleanse her before she left the country, involving not one but several chickens. Forgoing any details, primarily because I still wanted to eat that late lunch, I asked her if she was serious. Spanky then revealed this was her SECOND such cleanse, the last of which occurred after her previous horrible paramour and right before this horrible paramour. So it's not so much a "hey, why not" and more of a "You got anymore of them voodoo" type of thing.

I was at a slight loss for words.

I learned long ago that sometimes those things your friends do when you're not around might stop them from being your friend. As a kid it might have been finding out your friends family actually has a Family Game night. In college, that your best buddy doesn't believe in cleaning as a thing. Something they do that's just a little out of kilter, that skews the numbers just outside of acceptable. I'm not saying this is that thing for me and ol' Spanky, but let's just say it's not looking good. Maybe her trip to Middle East has her mind working on different levels. Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe I prefer my chicken to come with cole slaw, fries and some bread or a roll.

Damn, now I want some fried chicken. And some dirty rice. How far is Popeyes?

Barkeep, put that in a to-go cup. What do you mean that's illegal? 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bar Chatter

Bar chatter #30
Sometimes it ain't enough to equal a whole post, but still needs to be said.... it's bar chatter. 

This right here, this right here is a problem.

Okay, maybe it's me. As a young man burgeoning with emotion as a child, I was told that women value more of what's inside that what's out. Apparently I was told a lie. All that work I put into making myself urbane, cultured and witty, fun to be around and just generally good time doesn't stand a chance against a good jawline and pair of green eyes.

I weep for humanity.

I often hear women complain that men only seem to be after them for the looks, that we're so shallow, etc and so on. That on the left is his recent mug shot picture. That on the right is a mock ad made by someone smitten by him. He is currently in jail. Further, the tattoos on his face and neck do not bode well for his history of life decisions. Sure, he could be a Rhodes scholar or work with homeless puppies, but as it turns out most of his admirers do not care. He's been dubbed Dreamy McMugshot. 

Ladies, welcome to the shallow end.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Things I Meant to Comment On...

Ramblings Post #263
I've gone back to basics and turned a new leaf, broken out the old tools while looking at things a whole new way. Taking the traditional straight uptown. Metaphor about something I used to do and using that to make a personal transformation to improve. Making the old school the new school upgrade. The only constant is change, which comes even when we're not ready. So the only choice is to always be ready. And to have pie. So here are a few comments I haven't had time to develop, but still need to be heard.

The World Cup

I like futbol. I played as a kid, played in high school and have Football Manager 13 & 14 on my laptop. It is a beautiful game, but just isn't that American Football which I grew up on that has it's own particular set of nuances that make it just so enjoyable. Because I have other things on my plate, I really don't even have a team....because I know the USA isn't going to take it.

Oh, and if anyone from the American committee is reading this, if FIFA suddenly decides that Qatar is not suitable for the 2022 and want America to pick up the slack, tell them "You made your bed, now lie in it!" Just take a look at the finances of Brazil behind all this glitz and glamour and point FIFA and 'nem on down the road. I hear that Nigeria would love the games. One of their Princes told me.

Eric Cantor

As we used to say in the country...."Goody for you!"

I never liked the man honestly, and maybe it was because he gave off an expensive suit-plastic grin-dead behind the eyes-you mean nothing to me kinda vibe. He looked like a cutout that was just placed in the background at times. He just seemed creepy. And he was Republican! Okay, not so much the last one, but it surely didn't help.

In realistic terms, until we can determine if the folks in Virginia really are that dead set against
immigration or if the Democrats sabotaged the open primary, I can't really call this one. What this vote does show however, is that a relatively small group of folks - in this case less than 65,000 - can effectively change the course of federal policy. Oh wait, if you've ever heard the word 'lobbyist', you knew that. 


You have to look back at this point and ask yourself, was it all worth it? Unless you're one of the 'contractors' who pulled down a few hundred thousand as danger pay, the Middle East has just been one long headache. Now the Al-Qaeda spinoff/reboot/remake called ISIS is mirroring the original 2003 battles instant replay style, just when we'd taken our toys and gone home.

And since the head honcho of this new force in the region used to be US custody while we were there, how many folks will want to bet someone will say the detainees we just released will be next up to bat. Which begs the question, in a war with no standard of victory, are we to hold the prisoners of that war indefinitely?

Just out of curiosity, where are the conspiracy folks, screaming stuff about "false flag" operations to bolster the US military industrial complex? Oh, wait, those operations only happen to make us want to get rid of guns. My bad.

Online Comics

Because I'm broke, and because they're free, I read a number of online comics in the few spare moments that I have to let my mind stop working. And yes, I'm about complain about free stuff....I am feeling very entitled. If the author says he's going post updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I expect to see them on those days. Or just every Saturday? Fine. But don't say it and then not do it.

Or, say you'll do it, keep the story rolling, then you stop for a month or two....right when the story is picking up...and then wander back later. As a reader, I get a little invested in the tale, and I feel a little betrayed when every time I click through for three months I get the same page. I'm just saying.

Spurs win!

It's not that I don't respect LeBron, it's that I don't respect LeBron. Why? Because with five minutes left to play he basically sat down and had that look of 'whatever'. Yes, I understand that was a monumental hole they were in and the momentum was not on their side, but that is when champions rise. Or at least gutsy spoilers. People who turn over the table just to see the look on the other guy's face. I mean, Tracy McGrady, who Lebron is supposed be very much better than once scored 13 points in 33 seconds...against the Spurs...I'm sorry, against THESE Spurs, not just a random Spurs team. Yes, Parker, Duncan and Ginobili were all there. No, my hearty Heat bandwagoneers,, fans, champions are on the bench begging coach to put them back in because its either 'we win or go down swinging!'

My Diet...

I think I'm fat again. My face doesn't look as good as it used to in my mirror. Maybe I need a new mirror. Oh, it looks good, damned good, but it looks better with my classically defined jawline, which now is visually smudged. That or I have too much fluid in my system and just need a flush. So that's broccoli and green beans? Or grapes and peans? A natural diuretic. I gotta look some stuff up.


I haven't really seen Atlanta. I use my one day "off" per week (I be busy, man!) as advised by everyone under the sun to be out for a second on my limited budget, which is working out well. Two weeks ago - Party Boat on Lake Lanier, last weekend, House party. Both times I was home in bed by 1am. I'm not the party monster I was in the past, at the second I actually packed a change of clothes because I expected to sleep where I was. But around 11pm I realized that I probably should just head home because the whole thing was kinda slowing down, because people were headed home to their kids. So I'm also beginning to think my people aren't quite the same old crew of party monsters I remember either. Which might be a good thing.

Barkeep, I shall drink on the patio. Send a waitress with a menu and bag of Funyuns!   

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bar Chatter

Bar chatter #29
Sometimes it ain't enough to equal a whole post, but still needs to be said.... it's bar chatter. 

I don't have a lot of time to put together blog posts these days. Very busy. This is about to be quotes and stuff like this for a minute. And stuff I wrote before but never put up. Sigh, priorities have to be in order.

But in the fifteen minutes I took to make sure that America was still a country - politics being what it is these days - and to make sure none of my friends had won the lottery - hey, you know we go back, right? - I saw this thing where you open your music player, ipod, iPhone, G4 or whatever and hit shuffle, then list the first 20 songs that pop up.

It's supposed to tell you something about the person. That they're deep, or insightful or listen to way more rap than you realized existed, or something, I'm not sure what though. But I needed a post and this was simple. So I opened my player, set it shuffle, started the first song then hit next...

Like Water for the Desert (Rain Montuno) - Ottmar Liebert
Day Dreaming - Anthony Hamilton
Leap Frog (Take 7) - Charlie Parker
Uhh Ahh - Boyz II Men
I Forgot To Be Your Lover - Jaheim
Tea for Two - Youmans (Composer)
Caipira - Ottmar Liebert
These Eyes - India Arie
Have You Seen Her - The Chi-Lites
Thug is a Drug - Mos Def
No Ordinary Love -  Sade
Esperanza - Body & Soul
Atomic Dog - George Clinton
The Fifth Symphony - Beethoven
Ms. New Booty - Bubba Sparxx
King of Rock - Run DMC
Grazing in the Grass - Boney James & Rick Braun
Cre-a-tine - Cool Breeze
Morris Brown - Outkast
Love the One You're With - Luther Vandross

So, am I am crazy? Really cool? Pretentious? Or do I own a lot more jazz and old soul than even I realized.

Barkeep, a nice Cabernet if you've got one. And the appetizer menu. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Odd Quotes

“There is a gaggle that seems to consider that expertise is an unfair advantage, that all opinions are equal; an idea that people who are experts in climate change, drugs or engineering are given unfair preference just because they spend much of their life studying these things. I do not think it is fascism that heart surgeons seem to have the monopoly of placing hands in a chest cavity and fiddling with an aorta. Though I have my own opinions on driving, I have decided to let others do it, as I have never taken a lesson. I do not consider myself oppressed by the driving majority. I own an umbrella and a thermometer, but I do not believe this is enough to place me on a climate change advisory body.”
~ The Fascism of Knowing Stuff