I Love Chuck!!! (spoilers) Thursday, Jan 21 2010 

If you have not seen Episode #4, the Operation Awesome episode, of the third season of Chuck, DO NOT READ FURTHER.

Wow, wow, wow. I had so much fun watching this episode it prompted me to write something here after almost a year!

I have actually missed every single episode of Chuck this year so far, and have watched them online, turning the volume off during those annoying repetitive commercials. I was shocked — SHOCKED — to see Episode 3 (the Angel de la Muerte) episode, in which it looked like Awesome had been killed. (Usually you kind of hear about these things in advance, online or in previews or something.)

I love the Awesome character. I am super-impressed with the writers’/actor’s ability to create a character that is so darn perfect and “awesome” in every way…and you actually don’t hate him! In fact, he seems like a genuinely nice guy, somebody you’d like to hang out with as a friend, or to be your older brother.  You’d enjoy hanging out with him even though he’s smarter than you, better-looking than you, more charming than you, more athletic than you, etc. etc. etc.  This ain’t easy to pull off, folks!

So I was both shocked and very much saddened. I wondered why they did it, and figured, I guess shows do what they have to do, you know, and killing off Awesome brings some “reality” to what is an absurdly unreal show (I hated it in the first episode and didn’t watch again until I think the second season…when I “got it” — oh, it’s comedy!), and it opens up dating storyline possibilities for Ellie. Then I also thought, well, it’s kind of refreshing how they did it, no violent struggle or anything, just a quick look at a guy’s face and his needle, Awesome’s awesome bedside manner, cut. Cue largely wordless scene of Chuck reacting to the news about Awesome, and watching Ellie, anticipating her reaction. Interesting storytelling, I thought, maybe we won’t see the scene you “have to” see, of the closest person getting the bad news.

I don’t watch much TV these days. So I didn’t see the promos that some people on the official Chuck message boards referred to that clued them in to what would happen in Operation Awesome. Right before I watched the episode (the episode where I expected to see them dealing with Awesome’s death, and, based on the title, going after the guy who killed him), I saw a Season 3 cast photo, which Awesome was in, and I thought…maybe, just maybe…he’s not dead? Oh, I have to watch right now!

Opening scene — Awesome’s very much alive! OK, yeah, I said it out loud — “He’s alive!” And I was absurdly happy. (“Absurdly” b/c we are talking about a TV show here…I had a frustrating day at work, maybe that contributed!)

Oh. My. Gosh. This is a classic Chuck episode. All the things I like about Chuck. Laughter, family/friend/loved one feel-good stuff, ridiculous juxtapositions of all types.

Favorite lines/moments:

Big Mike: “Usually mornings are Big Mike Time. Time for reflection and pastry.

Awesome and the cat…no, wait, the bear…no, wait…the headless bear…oh, my gosh, I loved Awesome more with every word. Oh, and LOL again, Ellie’s little reactions to Casey after Chuck’s version of the evening.

Casey: “Something else you should know about me. I love guns.” (after several couple of characters have told us how much they hate guns)

Morgan…quite unexpectedly!…takes control of the rebelling employees. What a nice bit of character development!

I think it’s still a question whether the show can continue to be the feel-good fun that is with Chuck and Morgan “growing up.” I hope it succeeds, because it’s pretty rare for a show to actually develop its characters rather than leaving them static…really rare in comedy! One odd moment in this episode, I thought, was when Angie Harmon’s Sydney looked at Chuck and just based on looking at him was like, “You can’t be the spy.” Well, in Seasons 1-2, OK, I can go with that. They had Chuck looking pretty nerdy/goofy/geeky, whatever you prefer. But this Season? His hair is very different, and I don’t think he has that nerdy/goofy/geeky look anymore, I don’t know if it’s just the hair, or they’re costuming him differently, or what, even makeup could make a difference, but I just didn’t see anything in his physical look that would make a character with a stereotypical view in mind say that about him — he looks like a very good-looking guy now (not just a “good-looking guy once you get past they nerdy/goofy/geeky factor,” which of course he always was). Maybe she thinks only guys with blond hair are spies, so Chuck is clearly not a spy?

Anyway, this was a rip-roaring good fun episode. I can’t believe I actually believed he was dead! I didn’t doubt it for a second, not until moments before watching this episode. I mean, really, I grew up with soap operas — no one’s ever dead, not even if you saw them die right in front of your eyes. I remember reading about one soap where a character was decapitated…and still came back later. But I never questioned this. I don’t know if it was tiredness on my part, or just a really Awesome job by writers/directors/actors/and all.

In retrospect, of course, the brief “informing Chuck” doesn’t make much sense now — was it Sarah that told him? “It’s Devon.” Then hugs. Yeah, that’s not how it would have played in Chuck-land had Awesome been kidnapped. It was a cheat. But…I forgive them. The surprise in the next episode was…Awesome!

This season’s episodes can be seen online on NBC’s website.

What do YOU want from church? Saturday, Nov 15 2008 

“I love my church, but — ”

Fill in the blank.

Surely there’s something. In fact there may be a lot of somethings! We in America are some of the world’s greatest consumers, and we often take our consumerist attitudes to church with us. We complain about the length of the sermon. The topic of the sermon. Which pastor or minister is preaching. The children whispering behind us. The style of music. Too many/too few hands in the air. Too many/too few musicians. The praise team because we prefer choirs/the choir because we prefer praise teams. The parking space that required a five-minute walk to reach the sanctuary. Too many jeans/too many suits. The size/shape/consistency of the communion wafers.

Surely, surely, by now I’ve written something that you’ve actually complained about. If not out loud, in your head. (God knows about those too! 😉 ). I was able to come up with them because I’ve had critical thoughts about most of them at one time or another!

Some complaints are legitimate. God calls us to be discerning. One of the churches I visited in the area where I live had a lot of things about it I liked. The sermon was biblically-based and delivered well. The church’s doctrine seemed pretty much in line with what I believe the Bible teaches. But the music…well, for part of the music they sang TV show theme songs. There was a point to this, as the theme songs were all on topic related to the topic of the sermon. Is it a sin to sing TV show theme songs in church? I would not be so legalistic as to say that. It seemed weird, but…okay, fine. But then they did the Laverne & Shirley theme. Is Laverne & Shirley a wicked show? Well, actually I’ve never watched it, but I wouldn’t guess so. But the chorus basically repeats how “I did it my way.” Sinful words? Well, not necessarily, probably depends on the context. The context here was church. The House of God. Rather than shaking a playful fist at convention or men or whoever it was those gals were shaking fists at, it kind of seemed like shaking a fist at God. In my opinion, at best it represented a glaring thoughtlessness about the choice of songs. I never went back to that church. Did I overreact? I don’t know, but I think this example goes beyond a personal preference, and it wasn’t about what I “got” or didn’t “get” from the church.

Another example from music — where so many of our criticisms come from — is the song “You Deserve the Highest Praise,” which has bothered both me and my friend Amy because of the phrase “sendin’ it to ya'” — boy that sounds petty, doesn’t it? But should God really be referred to as “ya”? It doesn’t feel very godly. It doesn’t feel very respectful. It certainly doesn’t remind me of God’s holiness. And therefore it bothers me.

So, what’s legitimate to complain about (broadly speaking, to include critical thoughts), and what is a sign of an arrogant and ungodly consumerist attitude toward church? I certainly don’t claim to have the answer (now THAT would be arrogant). When it comes to the things that are clearly personal preferences rather than clear violations of biblical teaching, I think it has at least something to do with (1) how we express our disagreement or criticism, or otherwise respond to it, and (2) whether it distracts us (or worse, prevents us) from worshipping God and fellowshipping with church family.

At the third service of my church (the service I usually attend), there is a young man, almost certainly in high school, who plays the electric guitar. I do not like this electric guitar. I think the music would sound much better without it. And after all, shouldn’t three guitars be enough? I try very hard not to let this electric guitar distract me. It has only really distracted me twice — when I found myself wincing from a headache I’m pretty sure it contributed to. But I say this only in a very anonymous fashion here. I’m sure the young man who plays that guitar is very talented. I’m so glad (SO GLAD!) he’s using his talent in public worship of God. I’m glad he’s there as a testament to the youth in the service. I’m glad he’s there to bring a sound to the music that — while I’d happily do without it — others may really enjoy. I hope that his participation is as much a blessing to him as it is to anyone sitting in the pews. So I try not to think critical thoughts, and I succeed. Usually. And writing all this has made me realize that I should pray I succeed all of the time.

Without further ado, though, check out the following two illustrations of the negative and critical attitudes we sometimes bring to church with us. Laugh…but be convicted as well. And please, I’d love to see your comments on the things you’ve said or thought (or you’ve heard from others) that you know are signs of an improper attitude — again, funny, but convicting.

A Sampling of 90’s Music Memories Tuesday, Nov 11 2008 

Today I have been playing around on Youtube, looking at top 100 hit lists by year and going, “Oh, my gosh! I remember that!” And, though I’m an 80’s gal, these songs are some memorable ones (or videos) from the early 90’s that you don’t hear much — or at all — anymore. Here are a few gems.

(1) Signs — I didn’t know this one well but always thought it was funny — check out this user video. I laughed so hard my throat hurt. What’s your favorite sign? Ooh, oops! Actually, warning, bad word in the first couple of frames. I’m having internet problems last couple of days and missed that frame first time around. Anyway, for me it’s a toss-up between the sign on the bridge at about 1:00, the bicycle sign at 1:42, and the fine (the LEAST of your worries) at 3:07. [Ratings notice: in addition to the bad word in the sign, in listening again, I think there may be a few naughty words in the lyrics themselves, though online lyrics list different words.]

(2) Three Little Pigs by Green Jelly — oh my gosh! How I remember screeching “Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!” with my friends in college.

(3) If I Ever Fall in Love Again by Shai — I was never terribly into R&B, but man is this song pretty! Love it! What a nice sentiment too!

(4) Informer by Snow. Heavy rotation on MTV, and no one could understand the lyrics so they started playing the video with lyrics onscreen, like here.

(5) Ah, and the only one of these you’re at all likely to hear on the radio once in a while, the Bee Girl Song! Okay, that’s not the title, but that’s what it was famous for, to the point of controversy. The Bee Girl overshadowed the group! But I LOVE this video, and the song. The 90’s were kind of lousy for music if you like upbeat fun stuff — so glad grunge is gone. But look at the colors in this video! You almost can’t help but feel happy…just like the Bee Girl in the end!

Who Knew Rabbits Could Be Useful (and cats love cake)? Tuesday, Jul 22 2008 

Short and funny and I thought I’d share.

Handy bunny

And this one…now, honestly, if you had a choice between Fancy Feast and chocolate cake…which would you choose?

Bosnia’s Nadrealisti Sunday, Jun 15 2008 

Nadrealisti I guess means “surrealists,” but basically it’s kind of a joke. There’s a line from a song by Dino Merlin I like, “Burek,” from the album of the same name (what is burek?), that says (please check it out!):

Fundamentalisti no! [Fudamentalists, no!]

Unitaristi, no-no-no-no-no! [Unitarians, no…!]

Neokomunisti, no! [Neocommunists, no!]

Nadrealisti, eto to je to! [Nadrealisti/Surrealists, there, that’s it!]

I’m no expert on nadrealism/surrealism, nor on the Bosnian Top Lista Nadrealista comedy sketch group I was thinking of today. Perhaps my all-time favorite comedy skit, “Šest jezika” [Six Languages], comes from this group. If you understand any Slavic language you will get this, especially if I add that “potpuno drugačije” means “totally different.” The gag is that “Serbo-Croatian” is clearly six distinct languages (my favorite is the division of “crnogorski/Montenegrin” into “crnski and gorski/Montean and Negrin”) and we get to hear how “potpuno drugačije” the phrase “ja čitam/I read” sounds in all six. It continues from there on the same theme, speakers of Hercegovinian needing translators for basic interactions with speakers of Gorski, etc. This kills me!

And then, shockingly, while poking around for more Nadrealisti videos I can understand (on many of them the sound quality’s not so good, and my Gorski 😉 isn’t good enough to understand through that), I found some that have been subtitled! Cool! I’ll share a couple below.

This one isn’t subtitled, but here’s it’s almost more important to know something about the war in Bosnia than to know the language. They’re talking about the American Plan, and who’s going to go where, etc. Having just finished reading Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation, this one really struck a chord with me. The visual is enough. I almost cried.

Computers are Taking Over the World! Saturday, Jun 14 2008 

They have a plan!

This is a spoof of this.

(If you aren’t familiar with Battlestar Galactica, you might want to watch the second link first — both are very short, about one minute put together.)

Battlestar Cast on Letterman Monday, May 5 2008 

I hardly ever see the late night talk shows anymore, but was perusing “Major Tom” videos (see the next post!) of all things when I came across this. Is it just me or do some of the cast look pained? Do you think they were forced at gunpoint to do this? I got the biggest kick when I realized they were coming out in costume — at they were introduced in character. None of the lines were funny, in fact they seemed to all be saying the show was lame. (???) Maybe they weren’t told the lines in advance? The funniest line (not saying much) was when Underwear Model Gal (okay, that’s probably rude and judgemental…but I can’t remember here name! Oh, now I do, Tricia Hilfer or something similar) comes out in her trademark minimalist candy-apple red Six dress and says, well, you can click and find out. And Lee/Jamie Bamber’s Brit accent comes out! And just how much did they have to pay Lucy Lawless to be there, I wonder?

Let’s Hear it for the Nazarenes! Saturday, May 3 2008 

OK, I must confess I know next to nothing about the Nazarenes…apparently because I’m not from Kansas and I’m not sure I’ve even driven through there…maybe once on a family vacation, but if so we didn’t get further than a few fast food places and gas stations (sorry, Kansas). Check out the following clips! I’d love to sit down with a Nazarene who could explain all the inside references! I think mostly what I got is they don’t drink, they’re not Calvinist (I think…?), and there’s a whole lot of ’em in Kansas! Entertaining stuff.

Educacion de la Matematica Saturday, May 3 2008 

I have no idea if that was good Spanish or not, but check out this funny post about the changes in teaching math over the years.

Cats and Engineers! Tuesday, Apr 29 2008 

Too funny. Don’t watch with a full bladder.

This will be my first test to see if I can attach an actual YouTube video as opposed to linking to it elsewhere.

Yeah…so far not working.

Still not working.

Success! Woo-hoo! I am the king queen of blogging technology!

Ummmm, Amy, how did you put in that smiley face???