Saturday, July 24, 2004

Having now seen three episodes, I am completely hooked on the fifth series of The Amazing Race on CBS. Still not a big fan of the whole "reality TV" genre explosion, but there's a difference between "Okay, today, we're going to run from one end of the continent to the other" and "Wanna see me eat a bug?"
How great a movie is The Bourne Supremacy? At the beginning of a high-speed car chase through the streets of Moscow, Jason Bourne (once again ably underplayed by Matt Damon) pulls out a street map and looks at where he is going.

Of course, I got the stupid time wrong--or, more accurately, assumed the schedule would be the same as yesterday--so I had an hour to kill. So I got myself breakfast and found myself seated next to a pair of construction workers discussing the marital problems one of them was having. And I kept overhearing phrases like, "When she pushes you away physically, she's also pushing you away emotionally," and, "No, she's right; you have changed, you change a little every day." And my first impulse was to suggest that this might be a conversation better suited for when these guys are having their pedicures done, but that would be an uncharacteristic gender stereotyping on my part. And what it really boils down to is this: if you're within my earshot, please make sure the things that I'm going to be stuck listening to you say are going to be interesting, or shut up. I blame cell phones. That is all.

Anyway, back to the movie. For those of you coming in late, I loved The Bourne Identity (the Matt Damon film; haven't read the novel or seen the Richard Chamberlain miniseries or any other versions). I loved that it was an action spy movie for smart people. I loved that it felt like it was made by people who learned how to make these sorts of movies back in 1972 and who had never heard that you can do special effects on a computer I loved that the characters were characters, not Male Lead, Female Lead, Villain, Henchman, and that the events in the movie arose from the plot, not because somebody in a suit in a studio office said "We need a car chase to compete with the new Matrix movie!" And what I love about this one is it's more of the same, pretty much. The characters and story aren't quite as deep, but there isn't the same convenient journey of discovery for the character, either. This does feel like a legitimate continuation of the story, as much a "next chapter" as Spider-Man 2. Part of me hopes it does well enough for them to continue the series, but another part of me doesn't want to see it get to the point where it does become a contrieve series of "Jason Bourne's Next Adventures." We'll see.

And, once again, car chases in Europe still look way cooler than car chases in the US.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Welcome to Memorable TV

Just another site of junk for me to waste my time on...
Finally finished reading the Faction Paradox novel Of the City of the Saved... this morning. It took forever, but not because I didn't want to read it. No, it's the sort of book that demands focus and concentration, and those have been in short supply in recent months. So I would read it in concentrated chunks spread out over too long a period of time. Fortunately, I managed to remember most of what I had read, and in the end, found it pretty satisfying. I always feel like I have trouble with these sorts of complicated world-building science-fiction novels, but I found this one to be pretty accessible. Maybe it's just that it was rooted in a mythology I already understood, being part of the Faction Paradox series. (Of course, Kevin Anderson's Saga of Seven Suns series is also the sort of epic sci-fi series I would have thought I'd hate, but I'm completely captivated by that as well. So perhaps it's not the big, imaginary-world, multi-book epic nature of these things that's been putting me off; maybe I just really don't like Lord of the Rings.)

My other reading goal this weekend is to finish Sign of the Qin by LA Bass. It's a Chinese fantasy story, very Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but with more demons. It also features a virtual army of characters, and is the first book of a trilogy. (So, yeah, it probably is Tolkien, and not the genre. Sorry.) After that, I have a couple of shorter YA books I want to get through, and I'll probably stick with the shorter things until after the NLA conference.

Oh, did I mention I'm doing a presentation on graphic novels at the NLA preconference for school libraries? Yeah, so that'll take up some of my time between now and then. As will a trip to Utah to support my dad at a botanical conference where his students are giving a symposium to honor him. Obviously, I'm happy to be with my family, but it's a botanical conference, I'm not a botanist, it's in Utah, and it's a week before my first professional presentation at a major conference. I can see the possibility for my attention being divided.

Almost certainly going to see The Bourne Supremacy today...

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Warren Ellis has a new weekly column, and this week he discusses the relative failure of his brilliant (I think) Global Frequency in the traditional comic book market, and its relative success elsewhere. And, once again, I feel somewhat ashamed to be a comics fan... except that I think I fall outside the "complete and utter freaking nerd" line enough that he's not really talking about me.

However, he hates superhero comics, and I don't. And there's an essay-length entry percolating in my brain about that which will probably be written tonight or tomorrow. Depends on how much time I have to spend checking Japanese anime for exposed breasts. Stay tuned. (Or tooned.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

After seeing the premiere of Rescue Me on FX, I think I may have a new favorite American TV series. (I suppose it's a good thing that HBO isn't airing new episodes of Deadwood right now, or my head might explode.) What sets this show apart from so many others that I enjoy is a feeling of reality. I don't mean a fake, gritty, pseudo-documentary sort of style, but just a down-to-earth sense of the characters and their lives. As much as I enjoy shows like Nip/Tuck or The Shield, and as complex and three-dimensional as the characters and stories of those shows have grown to be, I never don't feel like I'm watching a TV series when I watch them. There's still that element of stylization, of larger-than-life-ness, that keeps it from feeling quite real. They're real life the way we'd like it to be, not the way it really is. Rescue Me, on the other hand, feels real. Which, considering it's got Denis Leary talking constantly to ghosts, is pretty incredible. (It also stars Andrea Roth, thank God, and it looks like Callie Thorne is going to turn up in later episodes.)

And it's late, and I don't feel like writing any more tonight, but if you've got cable, watch this show. That is all.
Since a friend of mine asked: Timbers (my neighborhood bar 'n' grill) is not, in fact, a pirate-themed restaurant (as in "Shiver-me-timbers").  I suppose it's more lumberjack-y themed, if I'm going to try to make a connection to the name.  Very meat 'n' potatoes: burgers, steaks, chicken, pork chops, that sort of thing.  Some gestures towards being "hip" and "modern" with wraps (how Atkins) and Southwestern flavored things, but mostly stuff that can be ordered without too much explanation, and after a few beers.
Looking forward to the premiere of Rescue Me, the new Denis Leary show about fire fighters on FX tonight.
BBC - Cult Television - Doctor Who

Full Frontal Nerdity! The new Doctor Who actually began shooting this week in the UK. Actual BBC Wales crew members put film in a camera, pointed it at actors like Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper, turned the camera on, and recorded them pretending to be the Doctor and Rose in the first new Doctor Who TV story in almost 10 years (and the first new series in almost 15). This was the point I almost didn't believe we'd get to. From this point on, everything else (editing, postproduction, broadcasting the thing, etc) almost feels like a formality. It's really coming back!

And the new Doctor's costume isn't a costume! It's clothes! He's not dressed in a great big sign that says, "Look at me! I'm an eccentric hero!" He's wearing a T-shirt and a leather jacket! And suddenly, I find myself tumbling down to the bottom of the complete goon pile, because while online fans are freaked about that, I'm okay with it.

A BBC morning show did a story about the beginning of filming, which can be viewed using RealPlayer here. Hopefully.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Tonight's episode of Summerland was written by Graham Yost! The same Graham Yost who created, produced, and wrote most of Boomtown, who wrote for Band of Brothers and produced From the Earth to the Moon, who wrote Speed and Broken Arrow and reportedly huge--uncredited--chunks of Twister, and... well, you can see his full credits here.

And as much as I'm enjoying Summerland, it just seems odd that Graham Yost would write one script for it. Maybe he has some connection to the cast or the producers or something, but coming in and doing a freelance script for an Aaron Spelling family show for the WB just seems so outside the trajectory of his career. (And, to be honest, an Aaron Spelling family show hiring Graham Yost to write one episode seems equally weird.)

I should point out, I didn't see the whole episode; I got a phone call almost immediately after the credits. But I'll catch either the Sunday or Monday rerun. (And I missed Nip/Tuck for the same reason, but that'll be rerun, too... And to think I had the whole day off and didn't watch hardly any TV!)
The Grid ended up being pretty much what I expected: not as good as Spooks (the first season, anyway), better than Threat Matrix. The British stuff (set in the UK, with the British characters) was more interesting than the American stuff, but it gets bonus points for having the American counterterrorism agents getting everything so completely wrong, and the British agent--who, of course, nobody listens to, at tremendous cost--so completely right.

And while the interview didn't go too badly this morning, I did not make it to the next, final round (the top two candidates are to be interviewed by the college vice president this afternoon, and I just got the phone call that I'm not one of them). I'm not sure how I feel; sort of a mixture of disappointment and relief. I would have liked to have been so impressive that they offered me the job, so I could have at least decided for myself whether I wanted it or not. On the other hand, I'm not sure if I did want it, so now I don't have to worry about making that choice.

I will say that I felt more relaxed at the interview this morning than I have at any other interview. I actually do enjoy doing what I do, so there wasn't this tremendous pressure to escape from it. I felt pretty confident about most of my responses, but there were one or two questions that I felt less sure about. If I had to guess, I'd say that's where I stepped wrong, but it's so hard to tell. At least I have a good working relationship with one of the people who did interview me, so I hope to get some feedback from her on how to do better next time.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Last night's episode of The 4400 built nicely upon the first.  I like the idea that these 4400 mysterious abductees were apparently returned to fulfill specific tasks.  Perhaps it makes the show a bit Touched By an Angel-y, but not in a particularly stupid or obvious way.  It's also a gimmick that may work better in the limited series format than the long run.  We'll see how it all plays out, but I'm planning on watching it.
Tonight sees the premiere of the new TNT antiterrorist miniseries, The Grid.  It's a coproduction with (I think) the BBC, and my hope is that it's closer to Spooks than Threat Matrix.  I'll give it a shot, because what else is there to watch on Monday nights?
Well, obviously, there's always Joe Schmo 2, my favorite fake reality show.  (The executive producer has a pretty nifty blog here, with lots of nifty behind-the-scenes stuff.  Seriously, if you're not watching this show, you're totally missing out.  Or not a real man, I guess, since it airs on Spike!, the Network for Men.  Whatever that means.)  But I probably won't be watching Joe Schmo 2 live tonight, because I have to get up early for a job interview.
Yes, that's right; a job interview.  I'm happy where I am, but I've decided to at least explore what other options are available to me, and tomorrow, I have an interview at the local community college.  If it goes well, I have some difficult choices to make.  I'm not sure if I want to change career paths, which this would definitely mean, but I have to consider what opportunities will be available to me where I am.  (Of course, this is if they actually offer me the job, but if I didn't think that was a realistic possibility, I wouldn't even be bothering to interview.)
I received my DVDs of the first season of Boomtown today, the "groundbreaking" crime drama NBC canceled last season which innovatively told its stories from multiple points of views.  I don't know; maybe my expectations are too high, but I can't get excited over TV that gets labeled as "daring," or "innovative," or "cutting edge" any more.  To me, the shows that win all the acclaim represent the minimum acceptable level that TV ought to be.  They don't stand out from the pack because they're good; they stand out from the pack because they're not bad.  I'm not saying that everything needs to be as different as a Boomtown or a Nip/Tuck.  Shows like Judging Amy or Stargate SG-1 are told in a traditional manner, but they tell their stories well.  And I think Las Vegas is all flash with no substance, but it's hard for me to watch that show from an objective viewpoint.  (They never have to fight traffic, they never have trouble parking, nobody ever offers to box up their meals right in the middle, and I'd bet every grocery store they go to has the freaking soda they're looking for, and yet it takes place in the same city where I have to deal with all those things.)  I just wish "groundbreaking" hadn't become a synonym for "better than mediocre," because it loses a great deal of its meaning that way.
Oh, and I got bitched at by a deaf guy today.  He was panhandling inside the library, showing people a note asking for money.  So I wrote him a note telling him he couldn't do that.  And he wrote something nasty on the note back to me, which I can't remember, and didn't even make a whole lot of sense, but it sounded mean, and he gave me a really nasty look.  This is why I'd consider taking the job at CCSN if it were offered to me, even though I'd hate to give up youth librarianship: some days, I just want to get out of West Las Vegas like you wouldn't believe.  (Ultimately, though, I realize these are small things that will pass--perhaps as painfully as kidney stones, but still--and that I will get out of that branch eventually; these, on their own, are not reasons to completely change the direction of my career.  But they are considerations...)
MSNBC - Exclusive: Election Day Worries

Okay, don't particularly want to write about it. But I am getting worried about the future of democracy in this country.