Monday, February 17, 2014

W - Bones

As mentioned before, I love Netflix for the different TV shows that I manage to stumble across. Recently I found the series "Bones", which features a somewhat socially inept but thoroughly brilliant forensic anthropologist who teams up with a bit of a neanderthal FBI agent to solve various murders. If it sounds a bit quirky it's because it is. It's also a combination that works an is both funny and entertaining.

The show features as Dr. Temperance Brennan A.K.A. "Bones" and as FBI special agent Seeley Booth. These two provide the key contrast in worldview and personality that makes the show work and also have a strong attraction to one another, again making for good tension. They are supported by a large ensemble of other "squints", as Agent Booth calls them, who work in the lab with Dr. Brennan. The leading characters in the Lab are Dr. Jack Hodgins and Angela Montenegro. Again, interpersonal relationship issues create some fun tension.

************Spoilers Below ***************

The first couple seasons focus on the actual crimes and introduce a lot of really cool, albeit totally unrealistic, tech. (OK, you simply *cannot* get a useable image of the reflection in someones eyeball from a picture printed on the cover of a tabloid magazine) These first season also set up the relationships and define the characters very well.

As the show progresses two things happen that seem to be common in this type of show. The first is that they shake up the format a bit by getting rid of one of the ensemble. This is frequently done on shows because of contract issues, but in this case the person reappears a couple times later on, so that was probably not the issue. What bugged me was both the fact that he was one of my favorite characters and that the way they got rid of him was really a break from his established character. If they want to shake up the cast a bit that's one thing, but at least don't mess up the character development you've been doing all along.

The other development, also common to shows of this type, is that the episodes move from being primarily about the case to being primarily about the characters and their interactions and relationships. Several times from Season 5 on I felt like they really needed to go back and re-watch the first season to remind themselves of what the series was about. The relationship stuff wasn't badly done, and was mostly well integrated into the plot, but the shift in priority was a bit off-putting.

I am currently in the middle of Season 7 and there are at least 10 seasons with the show still going. I am very curious to see how it does. My experience is that it is almost impossible to keep this type of show interesting and viable for more than 6 or 7 seasons. Almost every one has clearly jumped the proverbial shark by season 8. My hope is that Bones does better than the norm. There are troubling signs, but maybe they will pull it back from the brink.

Highly recommended if you like crime drama with a bit of quirky humor and a dollop of romance, not to mention some really gross shots of maggot infested dead people.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

W - The Unusuals

I really like having a Netflix account. I especially like finding oddball TV series and watching them in a pretty consolidated chunk. You get a better feel for the flow of a show when you watch two or three episodes a week than when you only see one each week.

There is, however, a bit of a downside to this. That downside is that there are a lot of shows that I find that are very good, in my opinion, but which never made it past their first season or even to the end of their first season. The Unusuals is one of those shows.

First of all, it is in many ways a typical police show. Each episode has one major crime and a couple smaller ones that have to be solved. In several episodes they all tie together, showing some pretty good writing along the way. The thing that made me really like The Unusuals, however, is that the emphasis is on the character and struggles of the cops themselves. The approach is one that is quirky, but not quite comedy. The ways that they all cope with their hidden secrets and personal fears can be humorous, but the acting is excellent and you can feel the truth behind the oddity.

One season was not enough, although in the one season they got almost all of the major characters secrets exposed, if not dealt with. I found myself not wanting to watch the last episode because, while I really wanted to see how it played out, I didn't want to reach the end.

I guess in the corporate world it is hard to sell quirky. If it doesn't fit into a clear genre the powers-that-be just can't handle it. I wish there were more episodes because there are still some secrets that haven't been dealt with. If you've got the time, I heartily recommend that you watch it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I - It Wasn't Missing In Action

Ah, the Super Bowl Halftime Show! That all-American tradition where over-the-hill entertainers try to regain some small sense of relevance. As has become somewhat to be expected, this year's show was punctuated by a small touch of "inappropriateness". It seems that some strangely named singer(?) decided to enhance her(?) performance by, well..., by flipping the bird. Now the exact rationale behind this move is a bit unclear, and I have to admit that I am pretty much absolutely, totally uninterested in why it happened. What seems much more entertaining is all the howling that goes on about it afterwards.

Now I'm not a big fan of semi-obscene gestures on TV, but within the context of a highly sexualized song and dance number involving pretty explicit body language and gestures I'm not sure that one errant digit really deserves so much attention.

One other thing. What's with the weird name? Why call yourself M.I.A.? It doesn't make any sense to me why someone would name themselves Mindless Infant A**h**e. Oh well, I guess I'll never understand the world of today.

Friday, December 30, 2011

L - Dyna-What?

So this was on the counter at the doctor's office today. What's next? Turbo-Lube? Why do I feel like I stumbled into a weird cross between an auto repair shop and an adult gadgets store?

On the other hand... No. Not going there.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I - Cell Phones or Booze... Tough Call

NTSB Proposes Cell Phone Ban

I have not generally been a fan of a total ban on cell phone use while driving, but the more I watch how people seem to be infected with a total stupidity virus when behind the wheel the more I consider it. The real problem is that it is a type of behavior that is very hard to catch people at so is very difficult to get any real traction in enforcing. Without strong enforcement there is really little chance of changing behavior. Here in Oregon they outlawed talking on hand-held phones and for a few months people pretty much stopped, or at least got a lot more cautious about it. Now my observations show that probably around 10% of the drivers around here are on their phones, which is about what it was before the ban.

What really gets me about this issue is the regular citing of a study that showed that people were more dangerous driving while talking on their phones than they were driving drunk. That study has been bantered around all over the place, but no one ever seems to really think through the evidence. All the test really showed is that someone fully engaged in talking on their phone is less aware of their surroundings than is someone who is drunk and fully engaged in their driving. The problem is that virtually no one who is driving drunk is really as engaged as they are for the study. In the study they knew that they were drunk and knew that they were being observed. Those on the phone were also being told to stay on the phone and talk. The real-world situations are going to be a bit different, as most people who are on their phones are going to respond to traffic issues by stopping or interrupting their conversations. They aren't going to do as well as they might if they weren't on the phone, but they won't do as badly as they did in the test. Likewise, one of the major dangers of drunk drivers is that they are not aware that they are impaired, so they don't try to concentrate on their driving. Instead they are busy talking, messing with the radio, racing other cars, using poor judgement and taking excessive risks - all factors that the test effectively removed from their behavior. So let's just throw out that whole "cell phones are more dangerous than booze" thing and consider the real issue.

Fundamentally, the problem is not cell phones, it is concentration and distraction. Distraction is actually a pretty nebulous area since what constitutes being dangerously distracted at one time, say on a busy freeway at rush hour, may be quite different in another time and place, like a quiet rural road with no other traffic. There are a lot of ways people distract themselves while they drive. I've seen people using their laptops, programming their GPS, fixing their makeup, eating lunch and even reading the newspaper while driving. Actually I've seen all of that in one day. The problem is obviously not the device, but the operator.

Now banning the device may prove to be an effective interim solution, although history would tend to indicate that it won't be, but the ultimate solution is one of education and training. After seat belts started to come into use it took at least a full generation before they were widely accepted and used. I still know people who will hook the belt over their shoulder to fool the cops but won't buckle up because they are afraid of getting trapped in a burning car or feel that they are safer getting thrown out. But younger people seem to just automatically buckle up when they get in a car, especially when they are in the front seats. The difference is education changing cultural understanding and expectation. There will probably be more results from a long-term media campaign than from any legislation. Only when people decide to change will the law be effective.

Texting while driving is a different animal, however. I can think of no circumstance where I would consider it to be even remotely acceptable. The problem again comes down to social training. We have become trained to answer the phone when it rings and to respond to a text ASAP. That training puts us in danger when we are driving because even when we know the risks it is hard to resist the urge of social pressure. This is where our instant society has conditioned us to expect instant gratification, so we can't stand having it delayed. Imagine a room full of young people - say, 16-30 years old - who all have cell phones and who are all receiving a variety of calls and texts during a 1 hour period but are not allowed to answer any of them. They know they are coming in and they know that none of them are critical, and they know that at the end of the hour they will be able to answer them, but they can't do it when they ring. That crowd will go nuts. They have been trained since the days of Alexander Graham Bell to answer the ring as soon as it comes in. What we have to find a way to do is to re-train ourselves as a society to be able to delay that gratification when we know that satisfying it is a higher risk than it is worth.

I don't know how to do that, but that's also not my job. My job is just to point out where society is getting weird.

And more on it from Time.

Friday, November 25, 2011

T - Real People

One way of taking the temperature of society is to go to any news web site and read the comments. This is especially true if you read the comments on the opinion or entertainments or humor columns. A few minutes studying the gems of literary bombast that flow from the (hopefully) inebriated minds of the average web reader will convince you that average IQ is probably a severe exaggeration.

The sad truth is that most of the people writing comments seem to be utterly selfish, hopelessly stupid, incredibly bigoted, abysmally uneducated and irritatingly illogical. If you allow yourself to realize that this is the voting public you suddenly understand why our political system is irreparably broken. These people should never be allowed to vote and preferably never allowed to breed either. Good grief! At least gain enough literacy to be able to tell the difference between news and opinion. Think long enough to understand that news articles are written without all the facts that will ever come out being available. If you waited for all the facts you would still be waiting to read about President Kennedy's assassination. And for the sake of all of us who aren't utterly humor-deprived, develop a sense of humor! When a humor columnist writes about "5 ways to tell your dog is depressed" you can pretty much make bank that it isn't going to be chock full of veterinary advice - key word here "humor" - get it?

What the heck, it's not likely to change soon, but my suggestion is an IQ test before you are allowed to post a comment on a news article. Or better yet, a common sense and normal humor test.

Monday, September 5, 2011

L - Goodness all around!

Nothing says yummy like a two gallon jug of pork rinds - and here's a whole pallet-load of them!

Friday, September 2, 2011

L - Hip Hop

Hippity hop-hop. Hopalong Hippy.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

L - Footnotes

If books can have footnotes, why not blogs?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

L - It's the Pits

Sometimes it's just the pits.

Some time back my wife and I were looking at patio furniture and portable firepits for our deck. We found ourselves in a store that will remain unidentified other than as "the Shopko on the North side of Bend, Oregon" where we found a nice set of seats with a table between them (in the background with the Dear Wife being a leg and wrist model) and a matching fire pit. It actually looked pretty good to us, so I did some more snooping around and studying how it was made and all - sort of due diligence for the deck set. I soon found a slight oddity that perhaps reflects poorly on the floor staff at the store: