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J.P. on TV: Homeland Season 1


(originally written October 16, 2012)

Michelle and I just completed the first season of Homeland, the much-lauded Showtime series that won this year’s Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series AND Golden Globe for Best TV Series, as well as a slew of acting awards. I had heard plenty of hype about the series for nearly a year. Critics loved it. My Twitter feed was resplendent with praise for the serial suspense thriller. President Obama is apparently a fan. It was time to see what all the fuss was about, so we sat down over the course of a few weeks for the 12-episode first season.

So, does the show live up to the acclaim? Find out (with some spoilery-discussion) after the jump.

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It’s finally here! My first official print collection of comics, “As You’re Up: The Firts Etidion (There may be one or two mitsakes)” is now for sale right here! It’s also available on Amazon if you prefer, though they take a bigger cut of the profit!
You can read some more info on the book here, but here’s a little about it:

To say that As You’re Up is the brainchild of Chris Spain and Cameron Livesey (two self-proclaimed “coolest guys on Earth” — both very, very wrong) would probably be an egregious misappropriation of the word “brain.” A more accurate description would be that it is a comic strip about two friends and all the wacky adventures they never go on.

From Rather Dubious Confectioneries to Time-Traveling Electric Razors, As You’re Up: The Firts Etidion collects more than 140 original strips — several of which have been remastered or redrawn completely just for this book — into this 7” x 10” full-colour tome, and delivers them directly to your brain’s chuckle cortex via those big, beautiful eyes of yours. There’s also an introduction from the authors, which touches on the origins of As You’re Up and inevitably goes off on numerous tangents.

And to celebrate, I’m giving away 2 copies of the book, which I’ll be signing and sketching in! If you want to win one of these luverly things, here’s how you can!

Da Rules:

  • Reblog this post to enter!
  • Likes count as an additional entry (but ya do gotta reblog)!
  • Following me gets you an additional entry, but ya don’t gotta be!
  • No giveaway-only blogs, c’monguys aww
  • Ya do gotta have your ask box open, so I can contact you if you win and find out what you want me to sketch!
  • Winner has 24 hours to respond, or I gotta choose a new one!

Deadline is Weds 26th June at midnight PST (so 2 weeks from today!)

Good luck er’r’r’body! :D

I gotsta win! Looks great.

The Iowa Caucuses and the Race So Far

In general, I’ve been pretty quiet about the GOP primary race so far (except on my Twitter feed) and have actually tried to avoid reading news about it at points, because it has been pretty depressing. Of course, those self-imposed outages have all been short-lived because I am a politics junkie. It’s sad really.

However, tonight is the long-awaited Iowa caucuses. In fact, Iowans began their process a little less than 20 minutes ago as I write this sentence. Before the primary season proper kicks off with the release of precinct returns, I thought I’d offer some thoughts on the race so far and the potential results tonight.

Let’s start with the GOP field overall. Holy Jesus in Heaven afar, Mitt Romney has been a lucky man throughout this process. It’s Romney and 7 fatally-flawed candidates who were also-rans the day they announced, as far as serious election watchers were concerned. Sure, Perry had a chance early on, but his heart was never really in it. Gingrich was in the race to sell books until he actually had a shot at being the nominee for 8 seconds. Huntsman, one of the most objectively conservative and accomplished candidates in the race, slammed the far-right in his campaign’s opening days and it was all downhill from there. Oh, you have 3 hot daughters? How nice for you.

Don’t even get me started on Bachmann, Paul, Santorum and the biggest performance-art candidate of them all, Herman Cain.

I had legitimate concern about the possibility of a few serious candidates entering the race over the spring/summer. I winced at the thought of Mitch Daniels and/or Haley Barbour entering the race (though they probably wouldn’t have run against each other, as they’re close friends.) That’s because, in my opinion, they would be strong in a general election. I considered Chris Christie a viable and threatening candidate even though he didn’t seem very interested by the proposition of running. Even Sarah Palin seemed poised to parachute in and reconfigure the race, though I doubt she would have fared better tonight than, say, Gingrich or Perry will.

So, Romney has been a lucky duck. And yet, his level of support is pretty unimpressive. If he wins tonight, he may end up garnering the lowest percentage of any Iowa winner in history at ~24%, which is not unlikely. I think, based on what I’ve read over the past few days, that a useful indicator of whether Romney really will have “won” the caucuses tonight is if he surpasses his support from 4 years ago, when he was running against a much stronger field.

Just as an aside, I cannot f’ing believe Rick Santorum might win the Iowa caucuses. This is a pretty big commentary on how terrible and volatile the race has been in Iowa. But it also shows how desperate iowa Republicans are to find someone who isn’t Romney. As anyone who is from PA knows, Santorum is so out of touch with the mainstream that it’s not even funny. How they think he would survive a general election against an incumbent, even a middlingly-popular one, is beyond me. He is just the guy who’s insurgent at the right time. If he wins tonight, which the current returns are showing might happen, that will be absolutely apparent as the primary season continues and he’s subjected to greater scrutiny.

The most striking thing to me though is how much harder a time Romney would have if the field was smaller and the anti-Romney people were less fractured. As it stands, Romney may win the nomination without ever breaking 50% in a single seriously-contested primary. journalists are hoping for a long nomination fight but I absolutely see the race being essentially over by the morning after Super Tuesday. Let’s also not forget that a short nomination fight would mean very light scrutiny and testing for Romney before the general.

My feeling is that Romney is the eventual nominee but will have a somewhat difficult time getting widespread full-throated GOP support before the convention and the VP pick.

Anyway, very interested to see what’s next.


Anonymous asked:

Not asking, but wanted to comment...loved Spader on the finale; I thought he was terrific and hated Catherine Tate. She mumbled her lines so much with that thick lower class British accent that she was practically unwatchable. I have the feeling that you might hate Spader because of the Emmy wins...if so, that is pretty little of you since he did not vote himself the awards it was his peers. I have seen him in a few things I was not crazy about, but I have also seen him in numerous roles where he was fantastic. Listening to your podcast I just thought those were very nasty comments regarding an actor who is talented and a nice guy.

Otherwise I agreed with much of what you said regarding the Emmy nominations and who you were pulling for to win.

Thanks very much for the comment. I actually don’t really have an overall problem with James Spader. If I saw him on the street, I would shake his hand and wish him luck. I don’t know where he lives but I live in LA, as I’ve said on the show, and there is an actual chance of that happening, so those aren’t just words.

Kevin actively dislikes him and I won’t question his opinion there. I didn’t think he was a good fit for The Office and am sort of surprised he would be chosen as the “new Michael”, at least that seems to be the indication from NBC last I heard. He was not great on that one episode of Conan, in our opinion. Otherwise, as far as I’m concerned, his work on Boston Legal, the thing I most solidly associate with him, was just fine, I personally don’t begrudge him his Emmy wins or his success, and I don’t think any dislike on our collective part stems from those wins.

I think you’re probably referring most especially to Kevin saying that he should be like his characters in the 80s/90s and “have a coke habit and die” or something like that. I can’t speak for Kev but just knowing him, he probably said it more for the sake of exaggeration and comedy than any actual intense ill-wishes.

I promise we are not always so “nasty,” as you say. We can be nitpicky and mean at times, sure, but our goal isn’t mainly to hurl vitriol at famous people. We made some subjective judgments of quality in very specific James Spader TV appearances, with some over-the-top statements thrown in. I think that’s about all we intended there.

Anyway, feel free to leave another response to what I just said, if you have further thoughts. I hope you continue to tune in to the show. We’re just getting started.

TV: Falling Skies So Far

I will never not have something to say about new sci-fi television. With that rule firmly in place, time for some thoughts on Falling Skies, TNT’s new original series about human resistance fighters facing conquest and extinction six months after a devastating alien invasion.

To begin, I think the show has promise, even after seeing the first four episodes, which I would characterize as a mixed bag. The show is clearly trying to build a solid mythology, and focusing on the central questions that are plaguing the resistance itself - what are the aliens after? What are their motives? Why have they abducted children and turned them into a slave labor force? Where and who is their leader? What’s their Achilles’ heel?  The writers seem to know where they’re going in this respect - the creator has suggested in interviews that he’s already got at least the major aspects of the just-approved Season 2 nailed down. In fact, revealing these pieces of the puzzle are what the writers are doing best. Such little revelations are always intriguing, and at least for me, get me thinking and even scheming like the humans would - “how could we use this new info to our advantage?”

Likewise, Noah Wyle does a good job as the show’s central character, Tom Mason, a history professor with three sons, one of which has been abducted by the aliens. It’s evident that he knows the character inside and out already, which I think is in many ways holding the series together. In fact, after the last episode, I cannot think of any other characters I really like or identify with.

And that’s where my concerns for the show come into the picture.

First, I think it’s an understatement to say that major plot points have revolved around characters losing their cool under pressure (to put it diplomatically). While I understand that a weary, emotional, battle-beaten, civilian-soldier would probably not act with the calm demeanor of a Special Forces soldier. I can’t say exactly how I’d act under similar circumstances, but I would probably be more cautious than these folks. Making the point that this is an army full of teachers and doctors and teenagers is fine, but you don’t have to make it 10 times an episode, when your characters are alerting the enemy to their position at every turn.

This is different but related to my criticism of The Walking Dead's first season. In Walking Dead, I complained that the characters defied the logic dictated by their dire situation by putting themselves in grave danger for little potential reward - for instance, returning to the zombie-infested streets of Atlanta to retrieve the likely dead, loathsome, white supremacist brother of one of the “crew.”  Falling Skies is marginally better - characters act irrationally and even stupidly, but they seem to recognize their mistakes afterwards, for the most part. The invasion has taken its toll on them emotionally and mentally, and I get that. I just hope that the plot starts progressing because of characters who are acting intelligently, instead of incompetently.

Second, if the mythology-building scenes are the show’s strong point, then the character interactions are its biggest weakness. I guess it’s because I’ve seen the same dynamics before, particularly in Battlestar Galactica. If I want to see a gruff commanding officer who views the civilians under his protection after a civilization-wide disaster as a burden, I’ll watch Adama at any point in the first season of Battlestar, thanks. If I wanted to see the “witty, survive-at-all-costs, lull-your-enemies-into-trusting-you” character, I won’t opt for Pope, the outlaw the resistance finds in the second episode.  I’ll watch Gaius f’ing Baltar.  If I cared about a love triangle, I’ll watch Lee and Kara and Dualla battle it out in Season 3 of BSG - or any teen soap opera.

I don’t mean to say there’s nothing good here, it’s just too coarse and poorly-defined in some ways, and too tried-and-true in others, to really grab my attention. Perhaps the best interactions are between Tom (Wyle) and his oldest son. At least, those are the ones I don’t roll my eyes at most of the time.

Speaking of rolling my eyes, does the ending of every episode have to be twee and inspiring? It’s hard to accept 42 minutes of dark sci-fi goodness when you have 2 minutes of golly-gee “I’m thankful for this food” dialogue at the end of it. Give us some cliffhangers! Give us some last-minute intrigue! I think the only episode so far that did not have some kind of “strength-of-the-human-spirit” ending was the third one of the season, probably the strongest outing of the bunch.

In the end, Falling Skies has to decide whether it is hardcore serial drama or something more, well, TNT-esque.  It needs to start punching above the weight of its network counterparts, which are not terrible shows, but not terribly impressive either. That will be the challenge as it

The Kids Are All Right (-Wing)

On Tuesday, the St. Petersburg Times in Florida covered the Liberty School, a new Tea Party summer camp.

The organization, which falls under the tea party umbrella, hopes to introduce kids ages 8 to 12 to principles that include “America is good,” “I believe in God,” and “I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.”

Now, whatever a parent wants their 8-12 year old to do during a few days in the summer, that’s not my business. I do take issue with introducing kids that young to the terrible, awful world of political ideology, but again, not my kids. And really, taking a look at the activities, it’s not so heavy-handed that the students will be walking back into classrooms in September and preaching the importance of limited government to their confused classmates. Some choice lessons:

One example at Liberty: Children will win hard, wrapped candies to use as currency for a store, symbolizing the gold standard. On the second day, the “banker” will issue paper money instead. Over time, students will realize their paper money buys less and less, while the candies retain their value.

"Some of the kids will fall for it," Lukens said. "Others kids will wise up."

Another example: Starting in an austere room where they are made to sit quietly, symbolizing Europe, the children will pass through an obstacle course to arrive at a brightly decorated party room (the New World).

Red-white-and-blue confetti will be thrown. But afterward the kids will have to clean up the confetti, learning that with freedom comes responsibility.

I like how the first two examples involve somehow tricking these hapless, bored kids who would probably give anything to be playing Xbox or…whatever 12 year olds like doing these days….trading in securities?

Bottom line: My feeling is that this 5-day camp could be a 50-day camp and it wouldn’t guarantee a class full of little Alex P. Keatons down the line. If anything, forcing kids to go through this will make them LESS likely to be passionate about the Tea Party. If their parents are into it, they’ll want to be as far away from it as possible. I want a “Where are they now” story on the inaugural class in 10 years. Put it on your 2021 editorial calendar, St. Petersburg Times!

Anyway, this whole business got me thinking: why don’t Democrats have a rival camp along the same lines. Maybe they could even put it across a lake from the Liberty School, in true cinematic fashion. Here are a few proposed activities/features.

  • Students will be forced to sit in silence and actually read Atlas Shrugged. They may stop and go outside for recess if they say the magic words: “I love socialism.”
  • Justin Bieber is brought in to play “the Federal Government” in the camp talent show.
  • "Gay Marriage: So Fabulous It Should Be Mandatory for Everybody"
  • Students are given wet willies by counselors. They are then forced to seek “health insurance” from a group of disaffected teenagers, who repeatedly deny them coverage for their pre-existing condition.
  • Actual death panels.
  • Every morning, students will pledge their allegiance not to the U.S., but to John Maynard Keynes.
  • Students will be placed in quicksand. They can ask for a “bailout” from the counselors and receive help, or they can attempt to pull themselves out. Fat students will automatically be deemed “Too big to fail.”

TV: AMC’s “The Killing” -Thoughts So Far

I am generally very picky with serial drama, and crime/police serials in particular. They have to be done just right, and they can easily trip themselves up if they’re not careful. I watched the first season of The Wire and loved it, but the plodding season 2 premiere turned me off, and I’ve yet to return to it. If The Wire couldn’t keep me, what hope do any of its spiritual descendants have?

Still, the buzz around The Killing, AMC’s new brooding murder mystery drama, was quite positive virtually from the moment it was announced. Wary of the network that brought us The Walking Dead and its abysmal first season, but buoyed by the likes of Mad Men and Rubicon, I watched the 2-hour premiere episode, and the normal-length third episode, with cautious optimism.

After those 3 episodes, I’m prepared to give The Killing a full season order on my TV. The series shows a lot of promise, albeit mixed with some already-emerging trouble spots. My detailed thoughts, and some spoilers, after the jump.

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If they care at all about their children or grandchildren, and sometimes I doubt that — I think, you know, grandchildren now don’t write a thank-you for the Christmas presents, they’re walking on their pants with the cap on backwards listening to the enema man and Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg, and they don’t like them!
Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), in an interview on Fox News, scolding the elderly for complaining about possible Social Security cuts.
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