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dollhouse, season two premiere

At the end of Season One of Dollhouse, I wrote:

I find the powers that work behind the Dollhouse to be evil, not likably shady. They take people's lives and fuck with them for five years ... I don't care the reason, nor do I care that the people give their "permission."

After watching the unaired “extra” episode, which can be found on the DVD/Blu-ray set and, I think, on iTunes, I wrote:

It shows scenes from 2019, intercut with dream memories from approximately the time that Season One inhabited.

The good news from my perspective is that the 2019 scenes were clearly dystopian. I love dystopias, of course, but in this case it’s more than that. My primary problem with Dollhouse was the ambiguous presentation of many of the main characters, who seemed evil to me but who got off pretty lightly. “Epitaph One” shows us what happens down the road, and it isn’t pretty. It casts a much darker light on what came before …

Now Season Two is upon us, and there’s good news and not-so-good news. The not-so-good news is that, at least in the first episode of the season, the Plot of the Week wasn’t particularly interesting. The good news, and this matters much more, is that the show’s underpinnings are becoming more fascinating. You have two Dolls with some comprehension of what has been done to them, which leads to identity crises of the deepest kind. Their comprehension, combined with glimpses of possible regret/guilt from those who created the Dollhouse, means that the dystopia is already upon us. Everyone must pay for what happens in the Dollhouse; that wasn’t always clear to me in the earliest episodes of the series, and it matters very much.

For a variety of reasons, the events from 2019 were not directly addressed in this Season Two opener. Knowing where a “Dollhousian” society is headed makes everything that comes before it full of portents. This is a show that needs portents. I’d only give this episode a B+, but I’m excited about the season to come, and I won’t be surprised if it moves into the A range by season’s end.

One more thing about that “extra” episode. It’s a unique way to keep interest going in a show. Glee’s pilot was shown several months before the season began, and enough people watched it that the show had a buzz before it aired in its normal slot. FlashForward worked hard at the old-fashioned way of getting buzz, doing everything possible to make it seem like The Show of the season … of course, anything short of mindblowing would be seen as something of a failure. Dollhouse took the best episode so far, one which informs everything we will subsequently see, and buried it on disc/iTunes. It’s worth watching to see how this works … the “normal” viewer of the past, who saw things only as they were broadcast, will know nothing of this crucial episode, but perhaps there are no more “normal” viewers.

i read the news today, oh boy

Doug Henwood:

The common practice of treating financial crises as extraordinary events is obviously very wrong. That applies to apologists and critics. Cheerleaders for capital want to treat crises as unusual events in an otherwise well-functioning system. Radicals want to believe that crises can somehow be politically decisive, greasing the way to a postcapitalist future. Clearly both camps need dates with a factchecker...


Judging from the pilot, FlashForward wants to be Lost for people who don't really want to invest the time into Lost - we'll have less mysteries, and everything will be made very obvious by people repeating themselves over and over until they're sure you understand. It's not a bad show, at all, but it seemed a bit too hesitant and nervous, and more than a little unoriginal - maybe it was first episode nerves, but here's hoping next week sees less repetition and more development.

The Skeptical Teacher:

Like many of you, I was saddened to read the news of Patrick Swayze’s untimely death – Roadhouse will forever be one of my most favorite movies.  Unfortunately, there are those who will look to take advantage of any opportunity to push their pseudoscientific nonsense, just as the douchebags over at have done regarding Swayze’s death.…

Folks, this is the same kind of argumentation employed by pseudoscientists of numerous stripes, from creationists to global warming deniers to all manner of medical quackery such as the “natural cures” crowd. Note that these folks do not offer any actual science-based evidence that their supposed cures will actually cure people’s cancer, they merely talk trash and attempt to make the medical & scientific communities out to be the bad guys. They are offering no solutions that can be scientifically tested & verified, they are merely feeding into people’s most base & nasty emotions in an attempt to pawn off upon them completely useless and un-regulated snake-oil “cures” which will do nothing but lighten your wallet while making you suspicious of actual medicine which works.

You know, now that I think about it, calling these people douchebags is kind of an insult… to douchebags.

who am us, anyway?

It might seem odd coming from someone who has spent close to 8 years writing about himself on the Internet, but I have a very shaky notion of who I am. For whatever reason, I don’t trust my own senses … I need to have someone else tell me that what I see is really there. Combine this with my deep-seated self-absorption, and you’ve got someone who loves to read what other people say about him. Because if I tell you something about myself, it should be taken with a grain of salt, but if someone else says something about me, I believe it 100%.

Which is why, even though this never occurred to me, I find it fascinating that Profe over at Latino Like Me says of me that I have the “unique perspective of being a baby boomer with genX sensibilities.” First, it’s just an honor to get props from Tomás. But also, I like having a new way to explain my tweener identities. In terms of cultural/historical events/movements, I’m a tweener. I was only 3 when Elvis recorded “Hound Dog.” My teenage ambition was to be a hippie, but that’s just it: I was only 14 during the Summer of Love. I had fantasies of being a punk in the late-70s, but by then, I was in my 20s, with a wife, two kids, and a job as a steelworker.

But it’s not just the music I listened to that gave me tweener-itis. I’m a hyphenate American, half whitey, half Spaniard. But even there, I barely have access to “real” tweener status. To say you are half-Spanish is to say you are 100% white European. My roots don’t reach back to Pancho Villa, but to Hernán Cortés. My childhood is more accurately reflected in Steven Spielberg movies than in My Family, Mi Familia. I grew up in a town where the only people who weren’t white were brown … I was olive. For as long as I can remember, I have both been a part of my environs, and separate from them.

And I’ve been romanticizing that separation my whole life.

So, finding out I’m too genX for the boomers, and too old for genX? Makes my day.

friday random ten, 1996 edition

1. Tracy Bonham, “Mother Mother.” It’s not fair to call Bonham a one-hit wonder … she has continued to make music to this day. But she waited five years after this to release another album, and that’s not the best way to keep your name in the mainstream.

2. The Tony Rich Project, “Nobody Knows.” I continue to argue that this is one very weird song. Rich explains that his heart is broken, and no one knows this but him. Except he’s telling the world in his song, so I guess everyone knows, after all. Beautifully done, in any event.

3. En Vogue, “Don’t Let Go (Love).” Sorry, Charlie … I know you don’t like this one. Oakland’s finest.

4. Fiona Apple, “Criminal.” Kanye’s got nothing on Fiona … “This world is bullshit.”

5. Sheryl Crow, “If It Makes You Happy.” It’s hard to call someone this popular “underrated” … shoot, she’ll probably end up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and she’ll be pretty old when it happens, since she was already in her 30s when her first album was released). I’m not that big a fan, myself, although I like her enough, I guess. But she ranks #676 on the Acclaimed Music list of the top artists of all time, two spots below the Average White Band. I’m just saying, she might be a little better than that.

6. Better Than Ezra, “Desperately Wanting.” Two top tens ago, there were a bunch of songs that sounded like this, white boys over-emoting. Now there’s only this one.

7. 2 Pac, “Hit ‘em Up.” In which Pac over-emotes. He’s really good at it. I’ve always been fascinated by this track, which is all the more disturbing in the context of his death. This ain’t no freestyle battle, indeed.

8. DJ Shadow, “Midnight in a Perfect World.” The album is supposed cited in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “First Completely Sampled Album.” See ya later, Ezra.

9. Nas, “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That).” Who makes the Hall of Fame first, Nas or Sheryl Crow?

10. Sleater-Kinney, “Good Things.” A day doesn’t pass that I don’t miss them. Why do good things never wanna stay?

[edited to add Spotify playlist]

i read the news today, oh boy

Gene Lyons:

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean insists that the bill simply must include a competitive public insurance plan: "Because it's the only thing that works ... If controlling costs, which is part of the president's agenda, is going to happen, you have to have a public option. If you want to get some people insured by 2010, which I think is essential for the future of the Democratic Party, you have to have a public option."

Is that because Dean's a left-wing ideologue?

No, it's because he's a doctor.

Adam Serwer (via Jonathan Bernstein):

Make no mistake however -- al Qaeda has won battles since 9/11, the most significant of which is its success in persuading one of America's major political parties to embrace torture. Al Qaeda can't destroy the United States militarily -- all it can do is warp our society by making us so fearful that we abandon everything that makes us who we are. When it comes to torture, they've made great progress.

The Cheney mindset is arguably al Qaeda's greatest victory since 9/11.

flashforward series premiere

Interesting premise, could have legs. Large batch of characters who could be interesting. Yes, it could become a new Lost. But it ain’t there yet. The premise might have legs, or might only be good for a season. There are a lot of characters, but few of them are interesting from the start. There are some actors you’ll recognize, but not necessarily because of their acting skills. In short, this one gets an incomplete grade.

stuff i read today

Amy Benfer:

[I]sn’t it a little odd that a show that, among other things, warns about the dangers of seeing the past in too amber a light has spawned an industry devoted to fetishizing nostalgia for that same flawed past? Isn’t it strange that the same show that makes us all say thank God I’m not a secretary/suburban dad/housekeeper/elevator operator/Jewish department store owner living in the early ‘60s also inspires us to turn around and play dress-up with our favorite characters? What kind of play-acting are we engaging in?

The Onion:

BREAKING: Democrats Hoping To Take Control Of Congress From Republican Minority In 2010

here we go again (rock and roll hall of fame nominees)

I take a yearly interest in this because it gives me an opportunity to rant. But I feel like bypassing that stage this year. My sense that it’s all about taste preferences has been made stronger in the past year … don’t know why. The nominees list allows me to detail my own preferences (i.e. biases), which is what a blog is about, in the end. My biases are 1) I don’t like bland, 2) I don’t mind technical proficiency but am not awed by it, 3) I’m unimpressed by sales figures, 4) while each critic has their own bias, a consensus of critics is often useful, which is why I am so enamored of Acclaimed Music, 5) I think “rock and roll” includes hip hop and disco and r&B and soul. With all of that, my thoughts on the twelve nominees:

Abba. I can’t stand them. #1 definitely applies … they are as bland as it gets.

Chantels. I’m a doo wop fan, and Arlene Smith deserves recognition. But … and this is the first time in this post I’ll make reference to baseball’s Hall, which I always end up doing when this topic arises … “Maybe” belongs in the Hall the way Joe Adcock deserves a mention for hitting 4 homers in one game, but that doesn’t make Joe Adcock a Hall of Famer.

Jimmy Cliff. Peak value or career value? Your opinion on Cliff depends on whether you think his early career was good enough to warrant his induction. I see someone who made some good music, is remembered for his singing and acting in The Harder They Come, and then? In baseball terms, he’s Travis Fryman, who was an All-Star at the same age Cliff was when he made Harder They Come, and lasted nine more seasons while only occasionally reminding fans how good he had once been.

Genesis. Here is where taste preferences get the best of me. I am unqualified to judge Genesis, because I’m not interested in what they do.

The Hollies. Nice harmonies, reasonable chart success. Very much a second-tier British Invasion group, at best. Baseball match: Ralph Terry, decent pitcher who appeared in five World Series because he had great teammates. The Hollies are a decent band who are fondly remembered because any British Invasion band that didn’t suck is fondly remembered.

Kiss. One of the most contentious subjects in the Rock Hall discussion. I like a couple of their songs, don’t have much use for them otherwise … their case is made (or not) depending on the importance you place on their stage show and their popularity. I wouldn’t vote for them, but their induction wouldn’t be the worst idea in Hall history (they’re like Jim Rice in that way).

LL Cool J. At his peak, he was among the best. For my money, his peak lasted long enough to warrant induction.

Darlene Love. Arlene Smith, only more prolific, which is why I might vote for her.

Laura Nyro. I was never much of a fan … my favorite of her albums was the covers one she made with LaBelle. I imagine she’s one of the more influential singer/songwriters, and for once I mean that in a good way. Not in my personal Hall, but a reasonable choice for the actual Hall.

Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’ll pass on this one. I just don’t get it. I like a couple of their songs, they have a great bass player, and other than that, I don’t have the slightest idea why anyone would consider them a candidate for the Hall of Fame. So clearly someone else needs to decide … see Genesis, above.

The Stooges. On the one hand, they seem like slamdunk inductees to me … extremely influential, ahead of their time, with an iconic front man and a handful of seminal albums. On the other hand, I’ve always appreciated them more than liked them … I’m a Velvet Underground man, not a Stooges man. I’d vote for them, but they’re far from my favorites. Baseball match: Kirk Gibson.

Donna Summer. If I had only one vote, and these twelve were my only choices, I’d cast my ballot for Donna Summer. An underrated singer in an underrated genre … heck, she was a singer in a genre where the singers weren’t supposed to matter as much as the producers, and she worked with some of the best. On top of that, she was a mighty fine rock and roll singer … heck, she even sang backup on a Gene Simmons solo album (as did Katey Sagal, Helen Reddy, and Janis Ian … maybe I should give that platter a listen). And let’s not forget, on the man’s 60th birthday, that she sang a Bruce Springsteen song on her self-titled 1982 album.