Scandalized.

So Earl and I have been binge watching “Scandal” since late spring, trying to catch up with the existing five seasons so we could hit the ground running this autumn with the premiere of season 6. 

A week or two ago I mentioned this to my friend Christine, who is an über media guru, and she cautioned that we were watching “peak Scandal” as we made our way through season 2 (at the time). Tonight we watched the mid-season/winter premiere of season 4. The episode is entitled “Run” (season 4 episode 10) and it was just awful. Miserable. Dreadful. Any snappy dialog was gone. The politics of D.C. were out the window. There were hardly any familiar characters. No one was “fixing” anything (as the main character is known for “fixing” situations, she was nowhere near herself.) The music included dubstep idiocy with choppy and screwy cinematography. 

I paused Netflix through about 4/5th of the episode (it was actually about 8 minutes in) and asked Earl if he was enjoying himself. He responded to the negative. I declared that I hated it but we trudged on through the episode and came to the end of it.

It was then that I swore I would never watch another episode of “Scandal” again. It assaulted my sensibilities. It insulted my intelligence, and without giving away any of the plot, here’s why:

1. The main character, who is known for being smart, on top of her game, able to fix any situation, drops a gun after shooting a man, even though she knows there’s more men to shoot. She basically dropped the gun down a plot hole.

2. The other main character of the episode, a man that has never been seen before this episode, has been a prisoner for a very long time, though he’s quite groomed looking with a clean shave and everything. The bathroom that they keep showing is disgusting and the female lead is having a bad hair day because she can’t shower or do her hair, but by god the man can shave daily.

3. Did I mention the god awful wailing sounds of the soundtrack, coupled with idiotic rewinds, alternating slow and fast motion sequences and that god awful dubstep music? It made me wish for the technology where Jaime Somers could jump with a ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba bum sound.

4. There was absolutely nothing familiar about the plot, the show or the premise of the show. For all we know this could have been a backdoor pilot for “How To Make A Woman’s Hair Frizz in 40 Minutes”

5. The god awful dubstep and wailing was punctuated with old dialog echoing over and over and over again. We get it, “Shondaland”, you have nifty computer toys in your editing studio.

When the episode was over I swore, today, on my 48th birthday, that I would never watch another episode of “Scandal”. And I won’t. I’m steadfast on that, just as quickly as I dropped “Private Practice” when that drug woman came in or “The West Wing” when CJ decided to sleep with the Vice President.

It is abundantly clear that this was an award nomination grab of the most gratuitous, masturbatory degree possible. Every line, every wailing noise, every dubstep horror, every special effect dripped of “someone should get an award for THIS! NOW!”

Such a friggin’ disappointment. I’ve read numerous times that Shonda Rhimes can get a series going but she can’t keep one going for more than a season or two.

It would appear that she’s living up to that hype. ’Tis a pity.

 

Video: Singing The National Anthem.

Every year around the Super Bowl I often turn into super critic after hearing someone sing the National Anthem before the big game. My biggest gripe is that the singer routinely turns the opportunity to bring the crowd together in national unity into something much more self-serving, bringing the spotlight on their performance instead. Performers often slow the song down to a ballad, which is contrary to the original intent of the song. It’s meant to be an uplifting tribute, not a schmaltzy ballad.

In all fairness, some have retorted in the past, “yes, but could you do better?” Fair enough. So here is a video of me singing “The Star Spangled Banner” into the webcam on my MacBook. I did this in one take, as if it was live. There’s no edits, no technological tricks, no auto-tune, no backing track. Just me singing the National Anthem a cappella. I cringe at the facial expressions I make and you probably will too. But this is how I sing the National Anthem, with just a touch of my personal inflection, in an effort to encourage others around me to join in if they so choose, at a nice jaunty pace.

TV, Part 1.

Earl and I spent the evening catching up on the new television season courtesy of our DVR last night. We watched five shows and enjoyed four of them, so we are off to a decent start.

I’m purposely leaving out spoilers because I’m nice.

“How To Get Away With Murder” kicked off season two right where season one left off. Shonda Rhimes packed in a whole boatload of twists and turns in the season premiere and it was in the final moments of the episode that the season storyline arc was firmly established. We are eagerly looking forward to the next episode; what they built the series on in season one solidly continues in season two because it works.

“The Mysteries of Laura” basically became a different television program with a slightly more serious tone. I was on the fence about this one last season because it didn’t really grab me; it took us several weeks to finally catch up on episodes. The introduction of a new character, the new captain of the precinct, killed the vibe of the light vibe that permeated the show last season. They also wrote off the quirky detective with barely an explanation, which I found surprising because she was a fan favorite and contributed heavily to the lightheartedness of the show. It was the light vibe that made this show stand out to begin with. I barely made it through the episode hoping that the captain was a guest appearance but it looks like she’s staying around. We scratched it off the DVR To Do list. If I read somewhere that she’s gone, we’ll reconsider it.

“Life In Pieces” is a new CBS comedy set up as four short stories about a family. The show is very odd. It’s kind of like “Love, American Style” with the little vignettes, but they’re all interconnected and related to each other. OK, maybe more like “Love, American Style” meets “Modern Family”. I found it difficult to digest but it piqued my interest.

“Limitless” is a new CBS action show based on the movie of the same name. Bradley Cooper even makes an appearance in the pilot to connect the two. The special effects are cool, the way they portray thought processes, etc. is interesting and it’s a decent continuation of the “Limitless” universe established in the movie. There are some hefty “leaps of faith” in the storyline but I can deal. I liked the movie, I liked the pilot and I’m looking forward to the next episode.

“Shark Tank” is more of the same deal in previous seasons with folks pitching their ideas to millionaires to get funding for their entrepreneurial endeavor. It’s a little jump the sharky with the addition of guest millionaires, the season premiere featured Ashton Kutcher, but there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I don’t particularly enjoy the shows that are missing Barbara Corcoran, because I really like her spirit and approach to the whole thing, so I wasn’t super invested in this season premiere but I’m looking forward to the next episode.

4 1/2 hours of television was all I could digest in one day. I don’t know if I’m going to keep score or blog about this again this year, but here’s what we got so far:

* “How To Get Away With Murder”: A-
* “The Mysteries of Laura”: D — first casualty of the season
* “Life in Pieces”: B
* “Limitless”: B+
* “Shark Tank”: B+

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Squatty.

We both enjoy watching “Shark Tank”. While some of the presentations from those looking for funding feel very awkward, I do enjoy watching the “sharks” wheel and deal. Barbara Corcoran is my favorite shark. I think she’s a good businesswoman.

A couple of weeks ago, a device that I had heard about over a year ago was presented on “Shark Tank”. It’s called the Squatty Potty.

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This is not me.

The science behind the Squatty Potty seems to make sense; humans weren’t really designed to sit on a chair when taking a dump, for our muscles and other anatomy to work properly, we should be squatting. While the folks behind Squatty Potty aren’t advocating ripping out conventional toilets are replacing them with holes in the floor and a couple of steady rails, they do advocate squatting by selling a stool that easily stores underneath your toilet bowl. The idea is simple, put your feet up on the stool when you’re doing your business.

We ordered a couple of them. It absolutely work.

I like holistic things like this, where we work in harmony with our body instead of trying to make our body do things it wasn’t really designed to do. This new device has basically taken the grunt work out of elimination. I feel good after using the toilet with a Squatty Potty. Things just seem to move better.

The Squatty Potty is a little pricey but it’s well constructed and it seems to do what it’s suppose to do. I’m a satisfied customer.

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Live.


Photo from the cnn.com website
 
 It has been all over the Internet but in case you haven’t seen it, Mariah Carey performed her holiday track, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration on the 3rd. Due to scheduling and timing issues and other factors, Mariah opted to perform this track live. She was accompanied by backup singers, a bunch of children dancing around and other assorted staged merriment.
 
 Admittedly, it wasn’t Mariah’s best live performance. Her voice sounds tired, but on the other hand, she performed it in the same key as the original recording 20 years ago. Unlike some of her contemporaries that would just drop the song down a few steps to a lower key to accommodate what age invariably does to one’s voice, Mariah sang it as her public knows it, albeit with a few different embellishments to avoid some shrieky high parts.
 
 Now, of course it’s 20 years later. Mariah’s voice is not going to sound the same as a 40-something as it did as a 20-something. Very, very few people sound the same that they did 20 years ago, whether they’re speaking, screaming at their kids or singing in the shower, so why there is an expectation that she’d sound the same live in 2014 that she did in a recording studio in 1994 speaks volumes about the dumbing down of the American entertainment consumption public. People have been rather vicious with their critiques and quite frankly, I find this all to be quite unfair. To rub salt further into the matter, an unscrupulous audio engineer at the event recorded her raw, isolated mic feed and leaked that onto the internet. I’m not going to link to it, but if I’ve heard it and it sounds as I would expect it to sound; like a professional singer singing live into a microphone with absolutely no audio processing at all, whilst moving around a stage and expecting embellishments from the backup singers and the backing track where the singer knows his or her voice is not at its strongest. Anyone with any sort of performance acumen would know this, but people delight in the negative today, even when someone is trying to sing her best for an uplifting, holiday celebration.
 
 Now, I’m the first to be critical of raw audio from the likes of Taylor Swift and the other smattering of manufactured crap pop princesses today because they’ve NEVER been able to sing without a lot of computerized, manufactured audio magic to make them sing good, but, even though I’m not particularly a fan of Mariah’s singing style, the woman can sing, has an incredible range (which has undoubtedly been shortened with age), can carry a tune and she still has an amazing quality to her voice. Does she sound like 22 year old Mariah Carey? No she does not and quite frankly if she did it wouldn’t be genuine.
 
 As I said, I’m not particularly a fan of her vocal runs; she has led the charge in what I call the “urban yodeling movement”, what with the splattering of singing loudly and splattering notes on and all around a melody line in some sort of tonal gymnastics that some find impressive, but when nuts comes to bolts and all the pieces are calmed down and following the reasonable laws of physics and music, Mariah has always had an excellent voice and she continues to do so, albeit with adjustments for age.
 
 So, as to the audio engineer that leaked the raw mic feed from the 12/3 performance, quite frankly I think you’re a dick and you’re probably hiding behind a union of audio engineers that will protect you for it. As far as the armchair critics go, the mean spirited comments are just that, mean, and you’re not entirely to blame because the recording industry has used way too much magic for way too long and ultimately set artists, both real and manufactured up alike, up for failure because no human can meet the robotic and artificial sounds of auto-tune with any sort of natural singing voice.
 
 Thank you Mariah for lending your talents to what was a joyous celebration. I enjoyed the performance as it was presented and I hope you continue to share your ability just as you wish for as long as you want.
 

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Aspirations.

Business Insider recently published their list of the Top 11 Most Miserable Places to Live In America. The data is based on a recent Gallup poll. I’ll set aside the title of the article, which should say the “Top 11 Most Miserable Places to Live in The United States”, because Gallup didn’t poll anyone outside of the U.S. But that’s just me being nitpicky.

I’m kind of surprised at the placing of our area on this list as I thought it would be up in the Top 5 or so. I’m curious as to why they listed the “Top 11” instead of the Top 10; was it just to get the Utica-Rome area onto the list to begin with? Were people going to be crankier if Utica-Rome wasn’t included on the list? Perhaps the author of the article wanted to make this area feel special.

And speaking of this area, I always feel bad for Rome. This area is constantly referred to as “Utica-Rome”. It’s not like “Minneapolis-St. Paul” or “Dallas-Ft. Worth”; there are four villages, a couple of townships and 15 miles or so between the downtowns (and I use that term loosely) of Utica and Rome. Rome always gets the short end of the stick, “You don’t need a Home Depot since there’s one in Utica.” That’s not nice. I think the populations differ considerably in ethnic make up.

I don’t like living here. I moved here over 20 years ago because the same job here paid almost double what I was making in the tiny city of Jamestown. It was also closer to my family (no offense, but people ask ‘how close’ and I say ‘close enough’.) I don’t find the weather particularly enjoyable nor are we really active with the scant amount of gay community here. That last point is by our own choosing. They built an impressive road for the new microchip plant that they’re suppose to be building nearby, but word on the street is that deal fell through and their going to build a Pringles factory instead. There are even signs pointing to the exit that hasn’t been built for the chip plant that doesn’t exist.

We have an international airport on the old Air Force base. The government is shutting down the tower and there hasn’t ever been a commercial flight in or out of this airport. The last commercial flight was to the old airport and that was a decade or so ago. But we still have a customs’ officer.

Some positives of the area include there’s no traffic and if you look outside the city limits of Utica, it’s quite beautiful in the autumn. Oh, on a warm summer night you can take old fluorescent bulbs out and stand under any one of the many high-voltage power lines that criss cross the area and watch the bulbs glow in your hand.

The latest endeavor to spruce this place up is the construction of a monstrous neon sign (125 ft high!) along the Thruway with the words “Utica” on top. Apparently it was too expensive to tack on “Rome”. Perhaps the “-” put them over the budget.

I will admit that the cool thing about living here is that you can easily go somewhere interesting for the weekend. There are a bunch of major cities within a five hour radius of this place. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, Toronto; all cities that are not that far from here if you don’t mind the drive. It’s a good thing that we love to travel.

What’s really a shame is that there are some quaint towns in the surrounding areas. They’re kind of small but they’re fun to walk around in once a season or so so there’s that.

But cranky people? Yeah, we have a lot of those. Most interactions with the retailing folks is a triad of experience: hostility, futility and stupidity.

So yes, here we are, living in one of the Top 11 most miserable places in the world and my two reactions are one of a lack of surprise and feeling bad for Rome having to be tacked onto Utica again.

I’m looking forward to my travels this weekend.

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The Event.

So last night I was wandering around aimlessly in my web browser when I stumbled across a blog about a sci-fi series called “The Event.” After doing some reading, I quickly realized that I am way behind the curve when it comes to this series, because it has already come and gone and at least a year has passed since.

Where the hell was I when this series came out?

“The Event” was an NBC series in 2010 that featured some mildly known actors, including Jason Ritter, who is the son of John Ritter (and boy does he ever look the part!). I watched the pilot episode last night and then started watching the series while I was riding the exercise bike this morning.

The series is about a big government conspiracy about extraterrestrials that crashed in Alaska back in 1944. Outwardly they look human, but their DNA is just different enough (around 1%) from ours to make them alien. For example, they age much more slowly than we do. The government thought they rounded up all the aliens from the crash site back in ’44 and have since kept them in detention in a special base in Alaska, but as the series progresses we find that some of the aliens were able to integrate themselves into society.

“The Event” does a lot with flashbacks in the couple of episodes I’ve watched, but it doesn’t feel as disjointed to me as when that series “Heroes” was jumping all over the timeline and no one knew what the hell was going on. I am finding myself hooked into the series quickly, which I think must be surprising because the series was canceled after one season. And I don’t remember ANYONE talking about it, though it looks like it’d be something that NBC would promote the hell out of.

There were some rumors about a year ago that the ridiculously named SyFy network was going to show a mini-series to finish off the canceled show, but this project has never come to light. So it’s kind of weird watching a series on Netflix knowing that it’s not going to come to its natural conclusion, but I’m too engrossed in it right now to care.

And for what it’s worth, I refuse to watch anything on a network that has perverted the term “SciFi” into “SyFy”. I’d buy the DVD before I admitted to losing a few IQ points to watch a show on a poorly named network.

If you know how “The Event” progresses, don’t tell me. I’m enjoying it too much.

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Typos.

I make typos all the time. I substitute words that make no sense from time to time. I mess up a lot when I type. But I’m not a journalist. I’m not a professional blogger. I’m just your average geek with a flair for language.

When I read something from a “professional” source, I have a certain expectation of quality. A lack of attention to detail in presentation is going to significantly impact the level of credibility of the information being presented. How can a reader buy the facts when they’re sloppily presented?

This is why stuff like this bothers me. No one has any pride in their work these days. Hurry up, get ‘er done, get the revenue flowing.

I know, it’s just a typo. To me, it speaks volume of this person’s quality of work.

Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I’m cranky. But I’ll champion the causes of quality and pride in one’s work until I leave this life.

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