The Newsroom

My new favorite TV show is the Newsroom. It is the new hour length drama created by Aaron Sorkin for HBO. Sorkin is the writer/creator of The West Wing. He’s also written such movies as A Few Good Men and The Social Network.

The show is arrogant. In concept it is “Here is how to do TV news correctly.”. But so was West Wing. What makes it work are engaging characters, plots and issues worth carrying about and the fortune that the words in the script are almost as good as Sorkin thinks they are. A little bit of humor always helps it work too.

It is only a show in. It is too early to tell if the elements will work together. I hope they do.

But I have two issues with the high concepts of the show.

The first is that the show is set in the recent past – 2010. Not long ago, but enough that the tenor of the news is changing. I think talking about news now without talking about crowd sourced news is impossible. Tomorrow will be the first Sunday without an Edmonton Journal newspaper published. If you’re under 30 your news is likely coming from Twitter and blogs. Maybe even if you are older. The gives items that are either polished media releases or items with no provenance.

Fixing TV news is cool. But it seems the world has already moved past that. The biggest question is how to get news is today’s world.

The second issue is the show’s investiture in “Great Men.”. The show seems quite confident that the right person at the tiller can change the world. This hits against my own biases. Great people have an impact, but change only comes in groups. Tolstoy indoctrinated me I think. Looking to others to bring about positive change is only a dream. The only way to create change is to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. If enough people do so, society can change. Not by the actions of great men, but the actions of normal men and women.

Still, so far I love the show. New episode coming up.

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Three worst falls

This isn’t a shiny happy topic, but I’m presenting it because I think it is kinda interesting. Not to generate sympathy. Although it may. But I’m cool over here. Really.

I’d guess I fall once every six months. The last time all the guys were over. That was easy. Or the day I got stuck in bed because that required help too. But those were pretty easy.

The worst falls aren’t the ones that hurt. Most don’t. I’ve banged my head a bit and sometimes my legs get a bit twisted under me. But no injuries make this list. These are all the scariest times. And scary comes from isolation or helplessness.

3. Soon after I wasn’t able to stand on my own anymore, maybe 6 or 7 years ago, maybe more, I fell while out getting comics. This is pre-walker, but post-cane The ramp to the old comics store was a hazard. Any wet or ice made it slippery. I slipped right near the bottom and fell. Normally when I fall outside people rush to help. But not this time. I butt marched over to my car and tried to get in, but it didn’t work. In the end I called my Mom for help. It was bad because no one helped and some folks drove by. And because I hate calling Mom. She worries and can’t really help lifting anyway.

2. This one prompted me to get an alert pendant to call for help. And to never walk in the dark – I always keep lights on even if I need to go ahead and turn them on and then go back to turn them off again. On my way to bed, I turned off the front hall light and went down the bedroom hall. My walker caught the closet door sliding track, twisted and stopped. I also twisted but momentum moved me forward. Then I went down. It turned out to be bad for two reasons. First I found I was no longer strong enough to sit up. So I was stuck in place. Second, my phone had been on my walker and went flying. In the pitch dark, flat on my back I had no idea how to get help. I finally relaxed and began a search for the phone. It had went into the closet. I shimmied the half foot required to get it and called Dave. Dave rescued me. (it’ll be the same rescuer in the next one.). The dark, the constrained space of the hall, my mostly immobility and the lack off options made that one really suck.

1. But #1 with a bullet. This one is also embarrassing, I’m debating giving the whole details… I’m could still sit up and shimmy on my butt this time. It was a few years ago. The fix was raising my toilet and replacing my standing aid and starting to carry my phone everywhere I fell getting off the toilet. I had a chair in the washroom. I’d pull it in front of me and lock my elbows on the seat and lever my legs up behind me. No idea what went wrong. But I slipped. I didn’t fall exactly, but my chest went flat on the chair seat, my feet had no traction, I couldn’t get me arms under me again and my head was trapped between the seat and the chair back. I was immobile. I was still kinda seated on the toilet, but had no way to get my head out and sit back up. I needed to tip the chair over, fall the rest of the way. It was very scary. I was worried about my neck. It was a short fall, but yeesh. And what if my head was still stuck when I hit the ground?

But it worked. However although that was the worst bit, it wasn’t over. My bathroom is tiny. Especially with a big guy and a fallen chair on the ground. And my flailing had caused some water to leak from somewhere. Just a small puddle at the back of the toilet but that was where my feet were and they were slick and slippery now. Getting sitting and making my way into a corner to I could open the bloody door was not easy. Not too scary because I always made progress and didn’t feel helpless, but it was hard.

Then comes the embarrassing part. This was before I carried a phone everywhere, so I needed to get out and butt wiggle to a phone. Um, I was naked, planning on taking a shower next. And I had, um, cleaned myself after the, um, toilet having never made it to my feet. So after you could track my progress on the carpet by the, um, brownish trail I left behind me. First to the phone, then to unlock the door, then to my bedroom to get underwear before my rescuer showed up. Really it is kind of funny. I saw a cat do the same thing once and although it was disgusting, it was also hilarious.

So worst because the fall after the fall and having my head trapped was terrifying. And embarrassing because of the mess I made that I couldn’t hide.

Most of these worries are moot now. The call pendant I have is always on and always with me. So the last two I would have just called from my falling place. So no need to be worrying about me. I’m cool.

Weekly Recap

Let’s talk about work, baby.  Let’s talk about you and me.  Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be.  Let’s talk about work.

I think that is how that song goes.

I had a deadline on Friday.  The project goes into a new phase this week.  Last week was a nightmare.  Last minute missing loose ends.

Today we entered that new phase.  Sigh.

Plus my boss is now gone for 6 weeks.  I’ve inherited a whole new set of duties starting today.  Stuff not just related to the project or change management or supervising my staff, but to the rest of the ministry operations.  This is cool, but even more work.

I really want some time off.

Last week I thought about work.  Everything else was secondary.  I read books, watched movies (Brave), ate at Edo, read books and watched Lost.  These are good things.

The highlight of the week was likely gaming night.  But we’ve already hit summer season and attendance is getting really spotty.  I got another of my birthday gifts – it was a game – and we played that.  It is a press your luck style game.  But with more player interaction and some strategy.  It is a neat game.  All of us played poorly.  But I lost.

And that is the that of the that.

Redshirts – A review’ish blog

I’ve been on a bit of a reading kick lately.  It is cutting into my time watching Lost.  Lessee – I read Railsea by China Mieville, The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski, King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham, I’ve started At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson and the Feynman Lectures by Richard Feynman.  I could take a week just doing book reviews here in the ole blog.

Finished Redshirts yesterday.  It is the new novel by John Scalzi.  I’d previously read the first two novels in his Old Man’s War series.  I follow him on Twitter and generally find his Twitter feed and blog better than his novels.  Not that there is anything wrong with the novels.  They just aren’t my type of thing.

The setup for Redshirts is that Adam is assigned as a junior ensign on the Starfleet flagship the Intrepid.  Four other ensigns start the same day as him.  Soon they all realize it is because during away missions and other encounters, the junior officers have a very high mortality rate.  The more experienced officers have noticed and do everything in their power to avoid being called on such missions.

The book is actually four separate stories.  The main story of Adam and his fellow ensigns dealing with the perilous situation in which they find themselves and three short stories told around minor characters encountered during the main adventure and told as epilogues to the main tale (Scalzi calls them Codas).

The main story has a lot in common with the movie Galaxy Quest.  It is primarily a comedy, but it uses that to slowly build up its characters and surprise you with moments of drama.  When I say comedy though I don’t mean sitcom style.  But the situations the characters find themselves in are so ridiculous that even the characters comment on it.

The plot has an easily guessable mystery at the core, but the resolution to their dilemma is clever and well worth reading.  There is a Grant Morison style twist in the last chapter that I don’t feel added much to the book – maybe it was mind blowing for those who hadn’t encountered similar twists before, but it feel a bit flat for me.

The story ends with a final joke that I found to be very funny.

I approve quite whole heartedly.  It was funny and sometimes a bit poignant, but most impressively a compulsive page turner.

The codas on the other hand are a different kettle of fish.  Scalzi tries to be clever here.  He switches the tone and style in each coda.  And he does so noticeably by changing the narrative voice used in each one.  First person in the first, second person in the second and third person in the third.  Each coda also becomes more dramatic and less humorous as they progress.

I had a few problems with the codas.  They seemed too obvious as storyteller tricks – I could feel myself being manipulated.   That was on purpose – Scalzi is trying to show the strings.  But it didn’t fit my paradigm of appreciation. Second, there is a reason very few books are written in the second person voice.  It is hard to write, hard to read and the second story didn’t really have a reason for using that voice other than to fit the conceptual framework of the book.  Finally, I thought the main theme of the book had been elucidated sufficiently in the main story.  The three codas offering variations on that theme felt like a sledgehammer.

In total, I though the codas read like a college creative writing assignment.  They were professionally done rather than amateurish, but still not great.

So I recommend the book, but mostly for the main story rather than the short stories at the end.

I referenced the main theme before.  I read it as a theme of taking control of your own life.  I wasn’t going to mention that because it might reveal too much of the story twists.  But in mentioning it above, I can’t very well not spell it out.

I liked all four books I’ve mentioned  as having finished in the last few weeks.  Redshirts and the Wheelman are the most engaging and readable.  And Redshirts is likely my favourite of the bunch.

Let’s see if I get around to reviewing the rest.

 

Bad Ideas

The other day, as I was falling asleep, I had the thought of doing a blog entirely in haiku form.

I think we are glad

That that concept was forsook

And wind rustles leaves

🙂

I have bad ideas all the time, but fortunately I am a big proponent of inertia and do not act on them all.  Unfortunately, that applies to other ideas as well.

Anger and Rebellion

Did I ever tell you my theory about rock music?  I did this at Toastmaster’s once, but I’m not sure who else I’ve told.  It doesn’t work 100%, but I’m willing to submit those flaws as proof that it must be accurate.  🙂

The theory is this: Rock music is angry, rebellious music.  Guitars, Drums, vocals.  Form and style.  These are factors, but the root is the feel.

Here’s a link to Rolling Stone’s Greatest Albums list. Check it out.  (It is a hard list to just browse.  That is a pain.

Now it might be righteous anger.  It might be petulant.  The rebellion might be against society.  It might be satire.  It might be against injustice.  It might be rebelling for the sake of rebellion.

These elements might be in the lyrics or the melody or the arrangement or the production.  But they are in there somewhere.

This is why when great rock musicians age, they stop making great rock albums.  They might mature and be producing better music.  But if they aren’t angry anymore – they are doing something else; if they aren’t rebelling – they are doing something else.

Sometimes people try to rock without that, but it feels hollow.

Sometimes people rebel against rock.  They do something else.  Rap or punk.  The anger is there.  That is neat.  Sometimes rock will eat those forms up a little and bring them in.  Sometimes it doesn’t.

Not all angry music is rock.  I’m not saying that.  Only the reverse – all rock is angry.

Rock might also be sad.  Joyful.  Thoughtful.  It might be those things.  There’s room for other sentiments alongside rebellion and anger.  But not to their exclusion.

It is probably good to listen to some music other than just rock from time to time.  Listen to something without anger.  Maybe.

Artists in the top of the list from Rolling Stone:

  1. Beatles
  2. Beach Boys
  3. Bob Dylan
  4. Marvin Gaye
  5. The Clash
  6. The Rolling Stones
  7. Elvis
  8. Miles Davis
  9. Velvet Underground
  10. Nirvana
  11. Jimi Hendrix
  12. Bruce Springsteen
  13. Van Morrison
  14. Michael Jackson
  15. Chuck Berry

Lost Season 2 – Reminisces

I finished season 2 last night.  Again.  Season 2 was and is my favourite season of Lost.

Why?

It engages more in the mysteries of the island.  I really enjoyed the new introduced characters: Eko and Desmond remain my two favourite Losties.  The Others became more than just a menacing presence.  The Dharma initiative was just nifty.  There was a real sense of threat and consequence in the season.

But in rewatching it also has most of the flaws that were annoying in the end of the series.  The Jack/Kate/Sawyer love triangle was already getting old.  John’s pendulum swings from absolute faith to a complete lack get repeated for the second time.  Characters are introduced with the intention of filling time in the season and then are killed at season’s end.   Mysteries are introduced as answers to previous mysteries.  Some mysteries are just written out of the show… (Walt’s special nature in this season.)

Season 3 is up next.  It was always my least favourite season.  Too much time spent with the Others turned out to be less interesting than more.  Le sigh.

But watch it I shall!  Then comes Season 4 when they start to switch up the flashback formula with the flash forwards.