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friday random ten, 2004 edition

Better late than never, but this is gonna be bare-bones ... still recovering from Thanksgiving.

1. Nancy Sinatra, "Bossman."

2. Scissor Sisters, "Take Your Mama."

3. Camille, "Too Drunk to Fuck."

4. k.d. lang, "After the Gold Rush."

5. MC Hawking, "Bitchslap."

6. Lloyd Banks, "When the Chips Are Down."

7. Danger Mouse, "99 Problems."

8. Gogol Bordello vs. Tamir Muskat, "Gypsy Part of Town."

9. Kanye West, "Never Let Me Down."

10. Nellie McKay, "Inner Peace."

the shield series finale

What haven't I already said?

Just to emphasize a couple of those already-written notes, most shows pass their sell-by date long before they're actually taken off of the air. That never happened with The Shield. In fact, it got better. I always thought it was an A- kind of series, extremely good but not quite in the pantheon. The final season pushed it well past that barrier. It was one of the finest concluding seasons I can think of, as Vic Mackey finally started paying the price for his deeds, with the screws getting tighter with each episode. The finale itself was superb, with most of the characters reaching a point where we could say that their stories were realistically closed, even though in most cases we could also see where those lives were headed, post-finale. Most ... no, make that all, of the tragic endings were directly tied to the actions of Vic Mackey. There are many characters that are bad-but-we-love-them. Vic, like Tony Soprano, was one of those for most viewers. But now that the final episodes are behind us, it is hard to imagine a single viewer of The Shield who feels anything positive towards Mackey, who in the end was probably even more despicable than we realized. The arc of that character can be explained by the fact that when the series began, Vic Mackey was compared to Andy Sipowicz, the flawed but ultimately decent cop from NYPD Blue. By the end of the series, the only possible comparison to Mackey was Tony Soprano, a ruthless gangster.

Why am I avoiding spoilers? I don't know. Let's just say I have always argued that there were only two possible ways for the series to end, both tied to Vic getting his comeuppance at least. I was only partly right ... turned out there was a third way to achieve that goal. Vic is finally the true existential man.

So much great acting throughout this series, but everyone was at the top of their game in the finale. Michael Chiklis has gotten the lion's share of the credit over the years, understandably so ... but  the supporting cast never faltered, and Walton Goggins and CCH Pounder in particular had wrenching moments throughout these last episodes.

A couple of minor notes ... good to see that, even as the clock ran out on the series, they still had time for one last, new interrogation method for Vic ... never expected poisonous snakes, I must admit. One plot thread that seemed to disappear, not in a good way, was the way Julien dealt with being gay. He was treated like shit by his fellow cops, and then he fell in with one of those "cure the homos" groups and ended up getting married. After which, we barely heard anything for the next 4 or 5 seasons about his sexuality. Made you wonder why they bothered. But in the finale, there was a brief, very brief, moment that harkened back to that storyline. And Shawn Ryan said in a post-series interview that he had planned it that way, that he knew about the criticisms, but that his research suggested that men who follow that path usually take a very long time to realize what has happened ... since the time frame for The Shield was only about three years, Ryan felt it was far too soon for Julien to reach the point so many viewers wanted. OK, I'll buy it, even though I still think there were some missed opportunities there.

Not every great show starts a new paradigm, to use André 3000's phrase from last night. You can be excellent while walking in the steps of those who came before, or you can be excellent in such a new fashion that no one will ever be able to follow what you've done. The Shield took the cop show to places that had only been hinted at in the past. In so doing, it changed the rules of the cop show forever. That isn't to say that we will never again see a traditional cop show ... I'm sure there will be hundreds. But if you want to go the gritty route, you'll have to take The Shield into account.

Grade for final season: A

Grade for final episode: A+

Grade for series: A

true blood season finale

There are two types of readers for my TV ramblings: those who watch the shows I talk about, and those who don't. There aren't very many of the former ... how many of you out there watched True Blood, which just ended its first season and has been called by some the best new show of the season? There are plenty of the latter, and I've written on occasion about how odd I find my relation to those folks. They don't like TV, but they like my writing on TV, or they wish they had time for TV, but they don't, so they read my writing on TV. I'm like the New York Review of Books ... why read entire tomes when you can just read the reviews?

I've also mentioned more than once recently how frustrating it is when people say they don't watch but they like what I write. As I have noted, the point isn't to convince you I am a good writer, the point is to get you to watch the shows I like. This is especially relevant right now ... as I write this, we're a little more than 24 hours away from the series finale for The Shield, one of the best television shows of our time, and I know most people reading this don't give two shits about that show, so why bother writing about it, especially when I've written so often that it's a show that makes the audience feel dirty? (Tim Goodman today uses the same "you'll need a shower after watching" routine I've trotted out many times ... I probably stole it from him to begin with.)

But that's for another day. The show under examination in this post is supposedly True Blood. But I'm stuck for something interesting to say. It's a pretty good show ... back when HBO was king and Showtime was a niche channel, True Blood would have fit right in on Showtime, but now it's Showtime that has the buzz and HBO who is playing catchup ... and True Blood is on HBO. I can't just use the shorthand "it's a good series for Showtime," because Showtime is the home for Dexter and Weeds and The Tudors, and it's the better of the two premium channels right now. (FX, which has arguably passed them both, is a basic cable channel.)

True Blood has some lovely actors who look great and utilize a potpourri of the most awful accents ever. To be honest, I can't actually tell that the accents are bad ... I'm one of those Yanks who thinks all Southerners sound the same, apparently ... I can vouch for one thing: despite the fact that everyone lives in the same small town in the Louisiana bayou, no two people have the same accent. This makes sense ... the star was born in Canada and raised in New Zealand, the guy who plays her brother is from Australia, the main vampire is played by an English actor, the star's best friend is from Vegas, one of the king vampires is played by a Swede ... you get the idea. Oddly, the character with the least-obtrusive accent, a bartender/weredog/something, is actually from New Orleans.

Oh well ... you'll notice I'm into my fifth paragraph without saying much about the show itself. Did I mention the actors look great? Anna Paquin is a grown-up now ... her first nude scenes were a big Internet hit, by the third time she got nekkid, she was already old news ... Alexander Skarsgård has a relatively minor role (much smaller than his part in Generation Kill), but he's much hotter than the guy who plays the show's most prominent vampire. The show is a mystery with a coded cultural setting that allows vampires to fill in for other oppressed groups, most obviously gay people (one church has a sign that reads "God Hates Fangs"). None of it matters much, if you ask me ... it's a fun show, some of the acting is as over-the-top as the accents (and I mean that in a good way), Rutina Wesley does a lot with a little as Paquin's best friend (the role is a stereotypical sassy black woman, but Wesley and the writers do a fine job of taking it beyond the stereotype), vampires suck blood, Anna Paquin takes off her clothes ... really, what more could you ask for? Is it the best new show of the season? Hard to say, since it's hard to define "season" anymore. Off the top of my head, the only other new shows I'm watching are Life on Mars and Sons of Anarchy ... I probably like Life on Mars the best of those three, but all have their moments. I don't think any of them are on the level of The Shield, but not many shows are. Grade for Season One of True Blood? B+.

mongol: the rise of genghis khan (sergei bodrov, 2007)

It was interesting seeing how Genghis Khan had a plan to bring together all of the various tribes into one unified "nation." But it was odd ... like an apology for fascism, in the old "he made the trains run on time" mode. He made everyone follow the same law, which was a unifying factor, to be sure, but one of the primary laws was "never betray your Khan" (convenient law for the #1 Khan to come up with). Then there was the part that made me think of the movie preview guy ... "In a time when tribes warred against other ... only one man could bring them together. But there was a woman ..." Mrs. Genghis Khan ... well, the movie seemed to offer up a contemporary version of romantic love, where Genghis Khan did all of this great stuff in part because he loved his wife and she loved him. I'm not as sure about the history as Jean is, but I'm guessing that's a bit of a misinterpretation of history. Finally, the movie suggests that Genghis Khan had God on his side. Well, don't all dictators think something similar? It's like one of those athletes ... "I couldn't have scored that touchdown without the good Lord." God helps Genghis Khan conquer the world, which makes everything he did OK, I guess.

a plan big enough

President-elect Obama's weekly address:

I have already directed my economic team to come up with an Economic Recovery Plan that will mean 2.5 million more jobs by January of 2011 – a plan big enough to meet the challenges we face that I intend to sign soon after taking office.  We’ll be working out the details in the weeks ahead, but it will be a two-year, nationwide effort to jumpstart job creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy.  We’ll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels; fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead.

These aren’t just steps to pull ourselves out of this immediate crisis; these are the long-term investments in our economic future that have been ignored for far too long.  And they represent an early down payment on the type of reform my Administration will bring to Washington – a government that spends wisely, focuses on what works, and puts the public interest ahead of the same special interests that have come to dominate our politics....

[W]hat is not negotiable is the need for immediate action.  Right now, there are millions of mothers and fathers who are lying awake at night wondering if next week’s paycheck will cover next month’s bills.  There are Americans showing up to work in the morning only to have cleared out their desks by the afternoon.  Retirees are watching their life savings disappear and students are seeing their college dreams deferred.  These Americans need help, and they need it now.

The survival of the American Dream for over two centuries is not only a testament to its enduring power, but to the great effort, sacrifice, and courage of the American people.  It has thrived because in our darkest hours, we have risen above the smallness of our divisions to forge a path towards a new and brighter day.  We have acted boldly, bravely, and above all, together.  That is the chance our new beginning now offers us, and that is the challenge we must rise to in the days to come. It is time to act.  As the next President of the United States, I will.

guess it's time for a house update

[Edited to fix a picture. And yes, Six is touching Starbuck.]

We don't really have a living room right now, even though that room isn't being remodeled ... it's holding all of the stuff that used to be in the rooms that have been torn down:

living room storage

There's finally a handrail for the stairs to the attic:


Here is the frame for the walls that will surround the spiral staircase that will go from the sewing room into the basement. The sliding door is the white thing to the right ... all the way to the right is the exit to the kitchen:

frame for staircase

Here is the basement shower/bathtub. The little white thing on the far left is the old sink ... the dark space on the right is where the washer and dryer are:

basement bathtub

Finally, here is what the old computer/new sewing room looks like these days. The plywood on the left covers what used to be the window. The saw is ... well, the saw:

big ass saw

As a bonus for those who've made it this far, here is that rarest of events, Six and Starbuck being nice to each other, or at least not hating each other:

loving kitties

friday random ten, 2003 edition

1. Beyoncé, "Crazy in Love." A Top-Ten hit in something like 325 countries.

2. The Raveonettes, "That Great Love Sound." We're entering the era of the two-piece bands, usually one male, one female. We're also entering the Garage Rock Revival era, a sound promoted very hard by Steve Van Zandt on his syndicated radio show. This is a great example ... there are plenty more.

3. Kelis, "Milkshake." Seriously, what am I going to say about this song that you haven't already thought up in your own head?

4. Carla Bruni, "La noyée." Ladies and gentlemen, the First Lady of France!

5. 50 Cent, "In Da Club." As good a place as any to demonstrate how fully hip-hop has entered the mainstream. 50 Cent is (was?) a key figure in the later days of gangsta rap. As has often been pointed out, he actually lived a lot of the life described in the music. My wife is a 55-year-old white lady who listens to oldies channels and couldn't tell the difference between 50 Cent and E-40 if her life depended on it. But if the opening hook of this track comes on, she'll start dancing and shaking her shoulders to the music and sing "it's your birth-day!"

6. Jay-Z, "99 Problems." Two words: Fuck Oasis.

7. OutKast, "Hey Ya!" Not gangsta rap. OutKast is one of those rap acts that seem safe to play around your grandmother. Think, oh, I don't know, Arrested Development. The difference is, OutKast are good.

8. Pink, "Trouble." Co-written by Pink and Tim Armstrong, which I mention only because Rancid are big fans of the San Jose Earthquakes, and I'm always looking for a chance to mention the Quakes.

9. Jet, "Are You Gonna Be My Girl." How many iPods do you suppose this song sold?

10. The White Stripes, "Seven Nation Army." Probably the most famous of the two-piece, male/female bands. I'm not as big of fan of them as some folks are ... well, I'm not a big fan of Meg White's drumming. But you could say she's the Moe Tucker of her day, and I love me some Moe, so I should probably revisit this one.

[edited to add Spotify playlist]