Current Entertainment Friday, Jan 22 2010 

Currently reading: Yikes, nothing at the moment. I guess I should fix that. Most recently read the absolute worst popular fiction book I’ve ever read. (Not my usual reading fare, but it’s good airplane and travel reading.) There didn’t seem to be any plot development at all until the last couple of chapters. The characters did out-of-the-blue unmotivated things. The guys got together and hung out and talked about their feelings for the girls (what guys really talk about at diners, or what girls like to think they talk about at diners, hm?). Huge cast of characters drawn over from a previous book; more time was spent going over the plot from the first book than having a plot in THIS book. Took place in a small town…small enough that anything anyone did outside of their house was seen by at least one — usually more — other main character; I’m from a small town and it ain’t quite like that. Reading this book was kind of like work, but once you start you feel obligated to finish. I find it remarkable that anyone published this book.

Currently watching on TV: Chuck, loved-loved-loved the episode I just watched online, “Operation Awesome.” This is good fun stuff that leaves you with that “feel-good” thing. The Closer remains at the top of my list, though it isn’t currently showing. Can I marry Fritz? 24 has just started, so far so good. Could be interesting. Gosh, did you see what Renee did to get the security bracelet off that guy’s wrist?! Woah, was that unexpected! (Oh, yeah, “that makes her craaaazy.”) Yeah…I turned away from that one, as one sometimes has to do on 24. I just watched the first episode of Human TargetMostly because of the lead actor, who I like and have vaguely followed over the years. It’ll probably be like for most things these days though, if I’m home and happen to want to watch something on TV, I’d watch it. I still like the Law and Orders, but don’t catch them often. Have gotten into Criminal Minds recently after being turned off earlier by some uber-violent sicko stuff in some episodes, but again I don’t catch it often. I think that’s about it! I can always dig people house-shopping on HGTV.

Most recently watched movie: Airplane! Oh yeah, baby. “And that’s when I developed my drinking problem.” “And don’t call me Shirley.” “–A hospital? What is it? –It’s a big building with sick people in it, but that’s not important right now.” “And they’re perfect for keeping hot dog buns fresh.” “Would you like that smoking or non?” “Jim never has two cups of coffee at home.” “El noa you smoko.” “Everything is perfectly fine. And, by the way, does anyone know how to fly an airplane?”

Most recently watched movie in the theater: Uhhhh…the latest Harry Potter movie, months ago!

Currently listening to: The Moody Blues and New Order, both hits albums. The Moody Blues are mostly a band from before my time, though I loved “Your Wildest Dreams” in the 80’s. It’s so weird that I’ve come to love them so much. I love the harmony, the richness and energy of the music with all the different instruments, oh, the flute in “Nights in White Satin”! I could listen to that CD over and over and over again…and have! I got New Order just recently, man is that a fun album. New wave I’d call them, not sure exactly what it is, synth pop or something. Somehow I never heard of them in the 80’s, though I vaguely knew 3 songs. “Blue Monday” is the best, and the long version of it on Disc 1 is awesome. It was a good buy, I like the songs I didn’t know before too. Good fun stuff, good to clean your house to and dance around a bit.

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.

Current Entertainment Monday, Feb 23 2009 

I happened to wind up over at my old blog, and realized I’d forgotten all about the various random things I’d posted there. I came across one that was interesting to look back at, “Current Entertainment.” Since it was interesting to look back at the old one, I decided to write a new one. Friends and family, feel free to share what you’re watching/reading etc. in a comment.

Currently reading: Well, I just finished reading Perspectives on Election. It was OK. Sometimes I can only take so much of the polemical kind of stuff. It’s in the “5 views” series, with 5 contributions plus responses from two Calvinists (one supra- and one I guess infra-, I’ve already forgotten precisely), one Arminian, one open theist, and one Christian universalist. I think I found the Christian universalist chapter most interesting because it was a view I was unfamiliar with (though I can’t say I was convinced by the author’s argument). At least the book was mostly in good spirit — 4 of the 5 authors were considerate and respectful in their responses. The fifth, a fellow named Reymond (the supra-), ended several chapters saying he was praying for the authors to see the error of their ways and basically came off as quite smug, arrogant, and condescending. On the whole, not a bad book if you’re interested in what the various views are out there among the broader Christian community.

I hate starting books (love reading them but hate starting them…if that makes any sense), so I haven’t started it yet but I have from the library Peace Like a River, which my friend Amy told me about. That’s next on the list.

Currently watching on TV: Monday nights are a killer! I would need to take a day off work to watch all this in one day. At 8 I watch Chuck and House. House is beginning to annoy me a bit, but I still watch it so far. Chuck I used to think (from the first episode and maybe part of another) was the dumbest thing I’d ever seen. But recently I’ve seen a few more episdoes and found it hilarious. One of my favorite recent TV lines comes from here, “I was having a great time until the terrorists stole my pants and tried to kill me.” It really captures the spirit of the show, too. It’s kind of silly, but fun and with a really good heart. Kind of like Chuck.

At 9 I watch The Closer and 24. The Closer (along with Battlestar Galactica) has really become my only must-see TV. I had gotten to where even though I watched every 24 episode, it was mostly because you had to to get what was going on. But this season is different. The new FBI agent partner brings a human face to what had become almost a joke of “who’s going to get tortured in this episode?”. Seeing it through her eyes, in my view, makes it fresh again.

At 10 I watch one of the two shows I had to miss on my DVD recorder, if I managed to record them. Otherwise I watch them online later.

Normally I actually don’t watch too much TV anymore.

Most recently watched movie: Ummmmm…oh my gosh, I actually can’t think of one. I saw The Village a month ago or so at a friend’s house. That was pretty good. Oh, my most recent in-house movie was Consenting Adults. Rated R but not nearly as sketchy as it might sound from the title. I’d wanted to see it for some time because a young Kimberly McCullough, who grew up on General Hospital in the 80’s-90’s and is still on today, was in it. Not worth it for that, BTW. I don’t think she even had lines. The movie was pretty disappointing on the whole. The plot had promise, I guess, but somehow I never really bought into those characters, except maybe for Kevin Spacey’s character, the bad guy.

Most recent movie watched in the theater? Oh, my, couldn’t say. I’d’ve liked to’ve seen the new James Bond movie, and also the new Liam Neeson movie Taken, but it never worked out. Maybe Mamma Mia was it? Found that one extremely disappointing. It is wrapped up in happy bouncy songs and happy bouncy people, but it is at it’s heart a celebration of hedonism and lack of responsibility. I think a lot of people missed all that amidst the happy bounciness. I did really like the dance scene to “Lay All Your Love on Me” (I song I LOVE from Information Society, didn’t know ABBA did it first) where the guys are out on the dock and they all jump off.

Around the same time I saw the new X-Files movie…extremely disappointing is putting it mildly.

Currently listening to: In the morning when I wake up, the radio. My CD player alarm broke. It’s not even a good wake-up station. There is a good wake-up station, but for some reason I can’t pick it up well in the master bedroom. In the car, I’m seriously missing my free SIRIUS subscription and my favorite channel, 22. I’m listening to the radio or to one of three CDs — Burek by Dino Merlin, Big Thing by Duran Duran, or Who We Are by Lifehouse. That is more or less random, the CDs that happened to be there.

Time to go set up those other Monday night shows to record!