Welcome to The Oyster

This is the second week of me chronicling my year of new experiences. You can check out the first week here.

This week’s tale starts once again with Meatless Monday, brought to you by Top Ramen (and a bunch of other shit). My inner frat boy was grunting, growling, and salivating as I pulled the ramen package out the cupboard. He proceeded to go cross-eyed with confusion as I lined the counter with veggies and eggs. His shock complete as he watched adult me prepare to cook in an actual pot, even though the microwave was right fucking there.

This isn’t the first time I’ve dressed up ramen, but I just recently realized that I didn’t have to add meat to make it a meal. It was time to go nuts.

I splurged and made two soft boiled eggs, cooking them up in the same spiced veggie broth I was using for the noodles to save time because veggies make me smart. Then I packed it full of roasted red peppers, snow peas, celery, carrots, broccoli, and mushrooms.

In short, I adulted the fuck out of that ramen.

With all the attention on my stomach, my ears were feeling ignored.

I’ve heard fiction podcasts referred to as “television for your ears” and I have yet to come up with a better descriptor. A blend of old-time radio dramas and modern storytelling can help liven up even the most mundane tasks.

The Oyster is a dystopic podcast best summed up by the line “the shadows were much more comfortable uncharted.”  Across seven episodes the drama tells the story of a president who turned democracy into a dictatorship, a systemically racist event called The Sorting killing 20% of the population so that the remaining 80% could fit underground, where they had to live because global warming fucked everything up and mother nature put us in timeout, and everyone is becoming more addicted to digital realities, ignoring the real world, and becoming mindless sheep.

The first novel I ever studied in a college was Brave New World, and the blockbuster movie The Matrix came out a year later. I can feel the influence of both pulsating throughout this story.

Horror doesn’t scare me like it used to.  But a dystopic future that hits a little too close to present reality?

Take my money and torture me slowly.

Speaking of books, this will come as no surprise, but I’ve always had a thing for bookstores. When I was in high school, my friends and I used to hang out at Barnes & Noble. You read that right, my friends and I used to hang out at a bookstore. For fun. On purpose. The kicker is, there wasn’t a Barnes & Noble in Grandview, we had to drive across the state line.

Fuck we were dorks.

Then when I was a young adult I lived on The Plaza. I’d cruise the aisles of B&N with a cup of coffee, breathing in air saturated with pulp and ink, listening to the whispers of authors long dead and the screams of writers newly born.

The first thing that caught my eye about this locally owned treasure was the name, Wise Blood. A bookstore named after a Flannery O’Conner novel that I studied in creative writing?

You had me at hello.

Ensorcelled by so many written words, my blood pressure instantly dropped by twenty points. Being swaddled by so many pages had me cooing as I perused the eclectic selection of new and used books, quietly debating what to take home as spoils from my journey.

I settled on two homegrown gems. This Is the End of Something but it’s Not the End of You by a local author named Adam Gnade, and an anthology series, Kansas City Noir, neither of which I would have never discovered if I hadn’t popped in.

Famished from my travels, I headed toward Mario’s Deli. It’d been years since I’d had their famous grinder and I could practically taste it as I walked down the block. What I didn’t realize was that Mario’s closed in 2017. I needed a plan B.

Mickey’s Hideaway called to me like a siren, and my stomach hungrily followed her song. Mickey’s was in the old McCoy’s space, a haunt from my misspent youth.

The layout was the same, some bones don’t break, otherwise there wasn’t a flicker of the old place in the joint.

McCoy’s was relatively unremarkable. The fact that it was comfortable and known is what kept it in business for so long. Mickey’s on the other hand had a striking combination of a contemporary feel with a fireplace and exposed brick coupled with wallpaper of black and white photos. The styles should have clashed, except they didn’t.

Until the moment I walked in, I had forgotten that it was Restaurant Week. Every year, I tell myself I’m going to let my inner fat boy take the reins for that week, pocketbook be damned. Then I forget until it’s too late.

The gods of gluttony wanted me to partake just once in 2021.

And they really wanted me to have a Smoked Chicken-Chorizo Fundido appetizer with chihuahua cheese, manzana sofrito & street tortillas. I don’t know what half that shit is. I do know I licked the bowl clean.

Still not satiated, I engulfed a Short Rib Grilled Cheese with white cheddar, fontina, caramelized onions, horseradish aioli, and parmesan fries. I left with a food baby in my womb and it was beautiful.

But on most days, home is where the heart is. And with the heart goes the stomach.

When I got my air fryer, it came with a small cookbook that I only kept for the cooking times cheat sheet. Idle curiosity guided me to a simple recipe for Inside Out Dumplings, which are essentially meatballs with water chestnuts and ginger.

But now I get to say I’ve made dumplings from scratch.

I’ve never seen the point in meatballs. If your not making a burger, what’s the point of molding ground beef (or in this case turkey) into anything? But this is a year for new things, so I decided to try it, if only for the fact that I’d never bought water chestnuts in my life.

Lean ground turkey was the absolute wrong choice when making meatballs. It’s sticky and after molding the first one you are stuck with clumsy meat hands until you’re done. Neanderthals who hit things with clubs have more dexterity than a 41-year-old manchild with meat hands. And these meat wads did not resemble the photo in the book. My meat wads were not photogenic.  

Thank God I’m single and wasn’t cooking for a date.

I paired my meat wads with Black Narcissus, a mini-series that had been staring down on me from Hulu for quite a while. It checked quite a lot of boxes. Historic fiction. Check. Supernatural elements and religious imagery used for dark purposes. Check. On FX which has a kick ass track record when it comes to dark content. Check. Watching that was the longest three hours of my entire fucking life.

It was like watching nuns watch paint dry in a convent. In India.

The highlight of my evening was when I figured out the male lead also played Nick Cage’s brother in Face/Off. But Nick Cage wasn’t there this time. Nick Cage turned this down.

You have to pack a lot of suck into a script for Nick Cage to tell you to keep your money.

Between the meat wads and the mini-series, date night with myself did not go well. In fact, I didn’t even score.

After that I needed to get the fuck out of my house.

Hyde Park is so old that it was originally part of the City of Westport before it merged with Kansas City in 1897. And I found my forever neighborhood when I moved here from South Plaza seven years ago.

Janssen Place, a subdivision where nineteen captains of Kansas City industry gathered to build magnificent homes back at the turn of the twentieth century, is hidden within the folds of my awesome neighborhood. And I have been running among them for years. Until this past Sunday I had never once taken the walking tour, complete with pamphlet.

Taking on a mission of this magnitude in the frozen tundra of the outside world required fuel. My first stop was at newer, more modern Hyde Park staple, Mother Earth Coffee.

I should probably mention that I fucking loathe coffee shops.  They are douche sacks dripping in pretention. As such, the persnickety attitude of my barista was on brand and predictable.  I wanted to tell him that that rosewater scented body spray wasn’t washing away his sins, but he would have held my coffee hostage.

The coffee was good enough for me to buy a bag to keep at my house, so I could support this local business without having to ever set foot in it again.

Fueled by an egg and bacon croissant and with an organic dark roast to keep me warm, I let my stroll through KC’s past begin. The sun had come out and it had turned into a vibrant morning.

On my journey I learned that Janssen Place was developed by Arthur Stilwell, who founded KC Southern Railroad, which is still a giant today. The iconic limestone gateway was designed by architect George Mathews, who studied under Henry Van Brunt, who was enough of a heavy hitter to have a boulevard named after him. I also learned that my favorite house, the house I’m going to buy when I hit it big like Stephen King, is called the Pickering Mansion. This brick and stone structure was built by the VP of the Pickering Lumber Company which at the time was among the largest lumber companies in the world. It also turns out that I’m into Italianate Revival architecture, such a renaissance man am I.

I also learned that the actual Hyde Park was the first golf course in Kansas City, the Kenwood Golf Links. I’ve driven, walked, and ran past it thousands of times and never realized I was driving past the place that introduced the full-bodied frustration that is golf to my native city. I may or may not have mimicked my god-awful golf swing in salute. Passers by may or may not have wondered if I was having a stroke (see what I did there).

I did have one more experience that I wasn’t looking for this week. I got stuck in a fucking elevator. Like the had to call the fire department, get me the fuck out of here, stuck in an elevator.

At first, I didn’t believe it was happening. This shit only happens on TV.

In all honesty, it could have been worse. After all, I remembered to take a piss before heading out, just like my mother taught me. So that was a small mercy. But fuck that elevator went from small to suffocating in the blink of an eye. I will never look at the phrase “the walls are closing in” quite the same way again.

Time works differently in a broken elevator. Just as you are suspended in air, so are you suspended in reality. I was certain that weeks, maybe years, had passed since I first lost contact with the outside world. At a minimum I figured I missed the Chiefs game and Biden’s inauguration.

Turns out it was less than thirty minutes. Our fire department rocks. I made kickoff and my fur niece and nephews nursed me back to health.

Fur baby snugs can solve everything.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

hd TV

Or at least it used to be. As a proud TV nerd the premiere of fall TV is one of the most sacred of times for those of us that worship at the altar of the remote control. Every year I devour the various fall TV preview guides and set my DVR accordingly as I embrace my dorkiness and get to watching a blend of old favorites that left jaw dropping cliffhangers and new shows that seem to be full of promise and at least one or two surprises.

But this year feels weird. And not good weird. There is not much to get excited about in an era where two of TVs most obnoxious trends continue to fuck viewers in the not so fun way.

Let’s start with the continuation of this mind-numbing trend of rebooting and reviving everything that was good from the 80s and 90s.

Magnum PI‘s original eight season run was done at a time before the concept of “blue sky shows” had saturated all aspects of TV. Giving a fresh coat of paint to this relic is out-of-place in an overdone genre that has passed it by. Plus, doesn’t CBS already have Hawaii 5.0? How many excuses do they need to shoot in the Aloha State?

Murphy Brown was iconic during its original run. It was witty, engaging, and established that a show with a strong career-minded female lead could be successful and dominant. It blended comedy with the tough issues of the day. We have other shows that do that for us now. And as great as Candice Bergen is, I don’t think she can haul this show into a new century. Also, I saw the preview during the Chiefs game yesterday and fuck it was terrible.

The Charmed reboot is way too soon. And they were lucky enough to capture lightning in a bottle twice (both with Shannon Daugherty and her replacement Rose McGowan) in terms of casting chemistry. I don’t think they can replicate that a third time. The CW network doesn’t need this. Their lineup is pretty solid. At their core reboots are a publicity stunt, and the network doesn’t need the attention and I hate seeing their limited hours wasted on this.

The Connors will only prove that Roseanne, as awful as it is, cannot survive without Roseanne, as awful as she is. Not even John Goodman (or President Walken as he will always be to me) is strong enough to carry this shit-show. I am actively rooting against this one and it’s death rattle cannot come soon enough.

And it wouldn’t be TV season without the endless parade of police and medical procedurals. Because eighty-seven versions of NCIS, CSI and Law & Order aren’t enough. The assholes that voted for Trump are the same assholes that give these shows the ratings that keep them on television.

The Rookie looks like a bad mashup of competing clichés made worse by staring Nathan Fillion, who I love. I loved him on Buffy and Firefly and I would really like it if he would stop making absolute shit like Rookie and Castle, he has a bad habit of playing down to the drivel when he is on shows like this. and go back to the Whedon-verse where he shines.

FBI? Procedurals are so lazy they don’t even try with the names. This show promises to be every bit as unoriginal as its name and all the others that came before it. These shows just prove that this genre will not be dying until the baby boomer generation leaves this earth and takes CBS with it.

I’ll admit that when I saw the name New Amsterdam I got hopeful for a second as I thought they were bringing back a short-lived show starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldauing before he went off to be Jamie Lannister on a little known show called Game of Thrones. But nope, they lied. It is (another) show about (another) pubic hospital where they save lives while navigating ER politics and personal issues. Don’t talk to me about medical dramas unless you’ve found the next House.

Netflix is spending a fuck-ton of money on original programming and have definitely developed the mindset that quantity is more important than quality. The Good Cop is one of the mutilated fetuses produced by this misguided mentality. A show starting Tony Danza and Josh Groban as father and son odd couple roommates and cops. What could possibly be so bad about that. Everything. Everything will be bad about that. This show isn’t even gonna pretend not to be terrible.

There are a thousand other shows that look terrible for various reasons and I could spend thousands of words sniping at most of the shows that fall TV has to offer. For your sake and my sanity I won’t be doing do that.

But not everyone in Hollywood has lost their fucking minds. There are some shows that have some promise, and others that promise to break my heart.

The Purge has been the surprise of the season for me. I watched the first episode mainly out of curiosity about how the concept of the movie franchise would translate to the small screen, and whether or not they could make a show about one (murderous, violent) night engaging. The answer is yes. Yes they can. The show is surprisingly multi-layered with some slow burn appeal.

My jury is still out on Mayans. I loved Sons of Anarchy and Kurt Sutter’s unique style has been missing from TV for far too long. It’s intriguing enough to keep me going so far, but I’m gonna need to see something more dynamic soon in order to stay engaged.

A Million Little Things looks like it could be my generation’s Thirtysomething with the right blend of adult angst, secrets and interactions. TV Guide’s preview actually calls it Thirtysomething meets The Big Chill, and I couldn’t have put it better so I won’t even try. ABC needs to start promoting it though. I hadn’t even heard of it before last week, and I devour TV news.

I loved the Dirty John podcast, and if you haven’t given the six episode yarn a listen, you should find the time and do that. I am not at all surprised that they are making this into a show. Add Connie Britton and Eric Bana to the mix and you can count me in. As a side note, is adapting podcasts to TV shows going to be the next thing? If so, I have some suggestions.

The Romanoffs takes a classic historical tale and brings it to the present. The fall of the Russian monarchy is a dynamic piece of history and the theory that some of the Romanoff children actually escaped the palace is one of the most intriguing tales. It also doesn’t hurt that it has an all-star cast and is written by the creator of Mad Men. Although Amazon has had some misses, they have had their hits too, and I’m excited to watch this become one of them.

Escape at Dannemora looks like it could be Showtime’s next hit. And with Homeland winding down and Shameless issuing its death rattle, the network could certainly stand to add to its arsenal. Who doesn’t like a good prison break story that has tones of seduction, Ben Stiller behind the camera and Benicio Del Toro playing one of the leads. It will be interesting to see how far this show can get before it runs out of road.

Hopefully Netflix can make up for the its bad decision to make The Good Cop with the release of Maniac. Fronted by Emma Stone and Jonah Hill, the star power definitely gives this show about a chemical drug trial a boost. This show has some tones of Limitless, both the awesome movie and the too-short-lived show which has my curiosity piqued.

Into the Dark is the anthology I never knew I needed in my life but now can’t wait for. A dark horror anthology that comes out monthly and revolves around specific holidays, starting with Halloween? Yes please. That’s one Christmas special that I will definitely be tuning into.

The Haunting of Hill House definitely checks all the boxes for me. I mean, it’s based on a Shirley Jackson tale, so what isn’t to love. One thing I am looking forward to in seeing it as a series rather than movie is how they can take some of the creepier aspects of being trapped in that house and really do a good, terrifying slithering narrative that I won’t be able to take my eyes off of.

Mr. Inbetween looks compelling. I have always been a sucker for the double-life shows and having the main character being a hitman rather than a spy will be a nice spin on the genre for me. I also think that FX, which brings such great shows as American Horror Story and The Americans is the perfect network for the balancing act.

Of all the shows I am looking forward to, Manifest is the one that is going to break my heart. Disappearing plane, lost time, strained relationships, debates between science and faith with dashes of mystery and mysticism. This show is screaming, no begging, to be the next LOST. So of course I am going to watch it. But that is a tough needle to thread, and every show that has tried has failed. And the betting on how many episodes until I am screaming at the TV begins in three, two, one.

So, just like the real Christmas there isn’t as much to look forward to, the sense of wonder is gone. But unlike Christmas, there are dashes of hope sprinkled in.

Creative Favoritism

Creative Differences

I’m sitting here re-watching the show 24. The post I want to write about going back to old favorites doesn’t seem to want to come crawling out of my head. Nor do the thoughts about a post about how creative people experience the world differently. Instead they just want to play peek-a-boo.

Then I realized that I’m an idiot. These posts don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Not entirely. The way I see the world as a creative is one of the reasons I always have an old favorite on in the background when I work.

I am a writer. I am a creator. I see beauty, inspiration and story everywhere I look.

I’m not a big fan of silence. Unless I’m meditating, reading, editing or taking in the gorgeous views of nature I really don’t have much use for it. Even when I write I have something on in the background. It helps me focus. I’m weird. And I accept that.

Hell, I don’t even sleep in silence. I sleep with either the TV, Stitcher, Overdrive or Audible telling me a story. Yes, I am 39 years old and still fall asleep being read bedtime stories. You should try it sometime, you might like it.

Then again I am also a notorious insomniac and maybe the voices just keep me company.

But the fact is, there’s so much content across all these different mediums that it would be impossible to consume it all and have any kind of actual life. So why waste time going back to old favorites, or things you have seen before?

To be fair I’m not sure that I would if we didn’t live in a world where access to these things came with my streaming services. I would not actually pay real cash money to watch something that I have already seen. I spend enough as it is.

I have a few different reasons for doing this.

One, as I said, I am not a big fan of silence. I feel more comfortable having something on in the background. I have lived alone for years, and absolutely love it, but the silence can get claustrophobic. In this way, I’m similar to people who like having the radio on in the background at work, or while they are tooling away in their garage. I just do it with TV I have seen before.

I also go back to these old favorites because seeing them before means they won’t distract me from what I am doing. It’s one thing to listen to something new while driving or cooking or cleaning, etc. But when I am in the middle of trying to write a post, or a podcast script, or a story or a novel outline, I need to be hanging on my own words, not theirs.

The two shows that I most frequently go back to are West Wing and LOST, which also happen to be my two favorite shows (I’m in the minority I actually liked the ending of LOST). At this point, I could probably recite each episode line by line.

Since I spent years both as a political consultant, and stuck on a remote island, it makes sense that these shows would speak to me. Okay, so only one of those things is true.

But there are only so many times you can re-watch a show. You need some other pieces to throw on this fire. My most recent three have been X-Files, House and currently 24 (which all originally aired on FOX now that I think of it).

If watching Star Trek and Lost in Space re-runs with my mom created my love of Sci Fi when I was a kid, X-Files solidified and turbo-charged it. For a bit, I actually wanted to be an FBI profiler so I could be just like Fox Mulder.

House is the only medical drama that ever actually gripped me (no, I wasn’t an ER fan, judge me if you want). It was based on the character Sherlock Holmes, also not one of my favorites. The fact that two things I didn’t really care for could be blended to create a show that unique and delicious is what creating is all about.

And 24 brought a truly game changing format to the TV medium. Never before had a television show spent an entire season covering one day, hour by hour. Events occuring in real time. Even in the always fast-paced spy game genre, there was a danger of things moving at a snail’s pace without ingenious writing.

Those are the most recent three. The examples go on and on.

None of these shows have much in common other than their quality. And even though I just have them on in the background, I still see something new each time I watch.

The concept of learning something new everytime you go back to an old favorite, or a classic, was a favorite mantra of one of my lit instructors in college. I was so inindated with new material to read and analyze, the concept went right over my head at the time.

I get it now.

Plus there is just something comfortable about having them on in the background. And I swear to God it helps me be a better creative. It keeps me motivated. And makes me hungry.

I see the awesomeness of these shows that I love and get inspired. It creates a feeling of being nurtured and pulled in the right direction all at the same time. It feels like home.

Creatives see the world differently. We find inspiration everywhere, even from the ghosts of content past while we write in the present, to make it our future.

Optimus Prime

That's Just Prime

Today I want to talk about a first world problem that has been plaguing my life lately. Forget world hunger, or the fact that the only thing keeping us from WWIII is Trump’s angst filled bromance with Kim Jong-un. My first world problem is as serious as it gets. I am woefully behind on movies, and I don’t like any of my options for catching up. I am a victim of streaming services and their arbitrary licensing deals.

This is serious shit, and the streaming universe needs to fix this so they can get more money from me.

Like millions of Americans, I came to my senses and dropped my Netflix disc plan several months back. I was getting emotionally manipulated in the relationship. I would get a disc in, and then not be in the mood to watch it. So it would sit on top of my Blu-ray player. First for days. Then for weeks. Then for a fucking month. Essentially I was paying to have this disc sent to my house, eat all of my food and stare at me with its judgy little disc eyes while I watched other shows.

And I didn’t want to send it back for something else because that would be a waste of money. That would be admitting defeat. The defeat that comes from being in a different mood when the disc gets in than I was when I delicately placed it at the top of the queue. Or when Netflix flexes its bi-polar power and took a movie from Very Long Wait to It’s in the Fucking Mail. It just isn’t fair to toy with my emotions like that. So I ended the relationship.

And don’t talk to me about Redbox, if I wanted to drive to rent a movie I would just go to Blockbuster. Oh, wait……

I have Hulu Live, Amazon Prime and Netflix. What more could a man possibly want? Movies. A man could want movies. New releases if he so desires. Or old favorites. Or the bin of “holy fuck how did I miss that” movies. A man could want access to this at the touch of a button.

But  I would prefer to have these things without being treated like the streaming world’s prison bitch.

Six fucking dollars to watch a movie? That’s more than half of a monthly Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription. For one God damn movie. And nearly as much as going to the movie theater. At that point I should just buy the fucking movie at $15. But that’s like committing to watch it three times to get value, and commitment like that really isn’t my thing.

At those prices, Amazon, who I love and use daily, is never, ever gonna get my money. As much as I want to catch up on movies. There are endless possibilities on the services I have now. And since I have the HBO add-on with my Hulu Live, most movies will eventually find me.

But I have a better solution. One that would benefit not only myself, but allow a streaming service (most likely Amazon) to make some coin from me and other like-minded people who have no intention of paying $6 per movie but would be willing to fork something over.

I think Amazon should start a bonus streaming service concept to fill the void being left by people walking away from discs. And I really think they should call it Optimus Prime, because I am a dork and apologize for nothing.

Netflix offers a tiered system, you’re allowed to have one, two or three discs at a time based on your subscription. Amazon could now do the same thing, only by streaming movies rather than waiting for discs in the mail. A subscriber would be given a certain number of credits per month that they could spend however, and whenever, they chose, but after the credits are used up they would have to wait for the next billing cycle in order for them to reset, or start forking over $6 per movie. They could even make the offer exclusive to Prime members, much like they do their Amazon Pantry service. As a Prime member, I’m good with that.

Need God in your life and want to rent Dogma? One credit.

Ashamed of yourself for not seeing Shape of Water yet? One credit.

Want to stare at Jennifer Connelly for two hours? Career Opportunities. One credit.

I was on the single disc plan when I cancelled, which means if I really hustled and watched the movies the same day I got them I could watch maybe ten movies in a month. This almost never happened. That plan cost me $11. I think eight movies at that price, that I could stream whenever it was convenient for me, would be a fair. And Amazon could offer higher options for people who wanted to consume more.

As a corporate citizen this is the right thing for Amazon to do for America.

Crisis averted. First world problem solved.

Fahrenheit 451 Blows Smoke

Fahrenheit 451 Movie

“It was a pleasure to burn,” is one of the greatest opening lines in all of fiction.

I felt like an idiot for not keeping my expectations managed. HBO seduced me into a false sense of security, banking on its reputation of creating engaging and gritty content. And to be honest, all the promotions  led me to believe this was going to be a series, not a movie. A show set in a dystopic future world that was originally created by literary great Ray Bradbury equaled Fuck Yes in my book. And the source material has as much relevance today as it did when it was written, as most of the greats do.

Bradbury published Fahrenheit 451 in 1953 during the height of the McCarthy Era, when the ideas of burning books and limiting free thinking were very real threats. Bradbury also stated that the book was a commentary on how mass media had reduced interest in reading literature. In the novel, books have been banned and fireman now burn any they find, turning their typical role of putting out fires on its head. The main character, Guy Montag, finds himself questioning his work, and its impact on society.

The book is one of the most well-known novels in literature and gets bonus points for writing about burning books, which provides a degree of delightful angst for readers and aspiring writers alike. Taking on a classic is risky, trendy and ambitious. And with few exceptions the results are mixed at best.

Although disappointing overall, it wasn’t all bad. I only feel like half my time was wasted.

Let’s start with the intro. HBO is known for creating visually striking cinema for the small screen and they designed an intro that drew the viewer right in. The close shots of famous titles being burned interlaced with footage of the Nazi book burnings created a narrative without using words. It drove home how relevant the themes from this book are in this fucked up Fox News era we live in.

Also, having television projected onto skyscrapers with the fireman looming larger than life, looming over society, while the social media emojis and likes streamed upward was essentially an indictment of our infatuation with the 24 hour news cycle and our obsession with social media. This is actually given voice in the film when Clarisse says “We did this to ourselves, we asked for this.” New forms of the same thing Bradbury was railing against in 1953, advancing my theory that writers of dystopic fiction are just prophets in disguise.

The old woman who burns herself alive with her books after being caught was incredibly striking and served as a terrific turning point in the narrative. That being shown on those larger than life screens reminded me, in many ways of the news footage of huge protests for Black Lives Matter and March For Our Lives, the counter-culture to talking heads and status quo.

And the Alexa-esque AI essentially serving as big brother (and stand in for Montag’s wife) coupled with the shot of an old videotape with the Blockbuster logo and “Be Kind Rewind” written on it highlight the dangers of moving completely away from an analog world and into something completely digital (as I type this on my laptop, with my TV on in the background, a show streaming from my Amazon Fire Stick, my smart phone and Kindle closer to me than my bookshelf).

Lastly, Michael Shannon does creepy very, very well. Whatever he channeled into his role as conflicted and creepy prohibition officer Nelson Van Alden in Boardwalk Empire he brought with him as conflicted and creepy Captain Beatty. Playing creepy takes talent. Playing creepy and conflicted takes superior talent. This talent made the line “I’ve been burned so many times I don’t know where the scars end and my body begins,” one of the most memorable of the movie. His stoic expression only slightly betrayed by his tone. That takes nuance, something that stands out in a movie with such spectacularly brazen themes and actions.

After getting all of these elements to stoke the flame, they went ahead and poured water on the whole fucking thing and pissed on the ashes.

The most polite way to describe Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Guy Montag would be to call it wooden. The only time he seemed alive is when he was playing for a crowd and burning. He never sold me on his internal conflict, and his character’s chemistry with Clarisse McClellen was as disjointed and awkward as two preteens during their first slow dance. And when he meets the members of the resistance, he doesn’t steal scenes as much as he chokes the life out of them. I guess that second part would be the less polite way to describe him.

I also never bought the plot point of the group memorizing books so that the knowledge doesn’t die in the ashes. I know it’s in line with what happens in the novel, but it has a shitty transition to screen. I’m a big proponent of preserving the integrity of the source material, and often rail against shows and movies that take too many liberties. But some liberties are okay, even necessary. The director had already replaced Montag’s wife with Alexa and turned Clarisse into an informant rather than a neighbor to help fit the medium, there was probably a way to change this plot point to something that worked better visually while preserving the integrity of the work. A scanner with an air gapped computer. A microfilm machine. Something. Anything would have been more engaging.

And the ending, with Montag and Beatty and all the burning was phoned in on a rotary phone rendered obsolete in a digital age. Not even Michael Shannon’s skill could save such a poorly designed scene. Even with the filming going on and Jordan’s opportunity to play to a crowd, it was less electric and more power outage.

HBO wrote half a movie and Bradbury’s warning to us all deserved better.

The Grimmys

66th Los Angeles Area Emmys - Backstage

As the 2017-2018 television season comes to a close, I thought it would be fun to hand out some awards (named after my favorite dog Pilgrim) on what has been an interesting season to say the least. In this current golden age of television, viewing has certainly become a year-round affair. However there is something special about the traditional season with a May finish line and networks competing for ratings that will set ad rates for next year. Also network television is not nearly as dead as I previously thought, but with some of the cancellations (and ill-advised renewals) it certainly isn’t for lack of trying.

A couple of notes. These awards are not going to be your typical Hollywood bullshit. I’m not a professional entertainment reporter, nor am I going to try to be one. I don’t have a rules committee, and don’t give a fuck about uniformity. Also, these are based on shows I watch. Not shows I should watch, or shows everyone is watching. But I have pretty good taste, so you should pay attention. I apologize for nothing.

The Flirty Freshman That Caught My Eye

The Gifted (FOX): I’m a sucker for comic book shows, and I have a particular love for the X-men universe. But I was nervous about whether or not this show could deliver. It’s premise is based on some convoluted and obscure mythos that could be difficult to translate to the screen. It’s fronted by Amy Acker (who I’ve been in love with since Angel and Alias), and Stephen Moyer (Vampire Bill was True Blood) so I knew FOX was making a serious run. It did a great job of combining elements of the X-men mythos, Easter eggs for geeks like me and some deep character development that created a compelling and engaging story. And in a year where FOX used its chainsaw in a way that would make Leatherface smile, I was happy to see it make the cut and get a second season.

The I Wouldn’t Watch This Revival With a Fucking Gun to My Balls

Roseanne (ABC): Whoever greenlit this piece of shit idea needs to be shot. Roseanne is one of the most annoying characters on television and a bigot in real life. None of this is helped by the fact that her voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard being serenaded to by a feral cat in heat. Oh, and lets not forget the fact that at the end of the first go around with the show Dan is fucking dead! They teach you in creative writing 101 that you don’t do dream sequences….Do people not remember how pissed off the world was at the end of the ninth season of Dallas? How ABC renewed this trash and cancelled a show hitting its stride like Designated Survivor is truly beyond me.

*Author’s Note: Since the time this was originally published (by less than 24 hours), ABC pulled the plug on Roseanne calling her recent bigoted rants on Twitter “repugnant.” I am letting my award stand unedited, but I applaud ABC for making the right decision.

The Cancelling This Show Makes Me Want to Firebomb Hollywood

Lucifer (FOX): I’m not alone in my intense hatred of FOX for cancelling this show. Although it deviated substantially from the comics (based on my admittedly limited exposure) the series was fun and engaging with enough teeth for some deep story and character arcs. The chemistry among the entire cast has been palpable and organic over all three seasons, a feat not easily accomplished. And although FOX truly limits itself by only providing two hours of prime time content before starting the local news an hour early each night (a cheap ploy to save money), the CW has the same format, and they managed to not sacrifice any quality content because of the constraint. It was obvious by the massive cliffhanger fans were left with that the writers were also blindsided. This move makes FOX look inept, and left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

The I Want the Time I Spent Watching This Back

The X-Files (FOX): This show needs to seriously just stop. It is fucking with the end of my childhood and one of my favorite shows. To be fair, the original run of this show should have ended with season 7, the last two seasons were painful to watch. But nostalgia won the day again, and despite last year’s “limited television event” getting picked up for an undeserved second (or eleventh, depending on how you keep score) season and against my better judgement I tuned in. And holy fuck was it bad. I’m not even sure I know what the show was trying to do. I’m not sure what I actually watched it was such convoluted garbage. The chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson was non-existent. It was seriously worse than the second X-Files movie, and I didn’t think that was possible. It only took FOX six hours to ruin my childhood. The only person capable of doing that faster is Michael Bay.

The How In All that is Holy Did This Get Renewed

SHIELD (ABC): I’ve seen some dumb shit get renewed, but this show’s death rattle was a season long complete with gurgling and gagging and gasping for a final breath. It was almost as convoluted as the X-Files. It had time jumps and aliens, which would be fine for a comic book show, but there was no real rhyme or reason to the order. And the plot this year was in no way a progression of the story, it had no foundation. None. And they killed off a ton of characters in the show, and essentially left it with nowhere to go. I was fine with that. I was fine with watching it die. Watching it try to revive itself into a twitchy animated corpse next season is gonna be painful. My only guess is that ABC has next to nothing to fill all its time slots, there is no other reason this show should stay on the air.

The That Series Finale Made Me Want a Cigarette After

Once Upon A Time (ABC): Let me be clear, this season of ONCE was terrible and should not have been made. The idea to do an entire reset of the show and bringing back nearly none of the original cast members was ill-advised. It should have ended a season ago in , and just taken a handful of episodes to wrap everything up. Actually, there was so much fluff and filler last year they could have just cut that and ended it proper. But they didn’t, and as with a number of shows I watched solely to finish. That being said, the final two episodes of the season were intensely gratifying to those of us who watched from the beginning. And given that the show creators, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, came out of the LOST writers’ room it was no surprise that they went for the emotionally satisfying ending where everyone got their happy ending, especially the fans.

The Networks with Execs Who Should Be Taken Out Behind the Woodshed

FOX puts out some pretty good content. They brought us The Gifted and The Orville this year and had Lucifer, Gotham, Exorcist and Bob’s Burgers on the slate as well. And then they toy with my emotions. Ratings for The Exorcist were terrible, so I wasn’t shocked when the cancelled it. I had hoped that the lower expectations of a Friday night slot could keep it. But as you can see from above I was shocked and pissed about Lucifer. I cannot stand it when network brass doesn’t give writers an opportunity to create a satisfying ending for fans. That’s just shitting all over your customers. If that wasn’t enough, the are postponing the next seasons of Gotham and Orville until 2019, and God only knows what they are going to put in those time slots between now and then.

SyFy continues to kick me in the junk and I foolishly keep coming back for more. First, the cancelled Expanse which was the best show on their network, and the only reason it didn’t tie with Lucifer for the Firebombing Hollywood Award is that Amazon, in its brilliance, decided to pick up the rights and give it a fourth season. The network has a bad habit of doing this, axing good shows (Expanse, Dark Matter, Defiance, Dominion) and keeping absolute shit (Krypton, Channel Zero) on the air. And in the case of Krypton, they allowed a show with potential to approach a tired and overdone Superman concept from a unique angle. And then they massively fucked it up, and renewed it. The sad thing is that I will keep given them a chance, painting my junk like a bullseye and waiting for them to strap on the steel towed boots again.

Cutting the Cord

Cutting the Cord

Anyone who knows me knows of my love for television. But lets face it, cable bills have gotten positively obnoxious. I assume that part of the justification for the rising cost is the endless number of channels they offer. The only problem is that most of those channels suck. And no one needs ten HBOs, seven Showtimes and eight ESPNs. No one. Most of us only watch a handful of channels. Even me.

Before looking into other options, my bill was $190 a month, and I am not alone in this insanity. Now, $70 of it is for high speed internet, which is more or less a necessity in modern times. This leaves $120 just on content. Granted $40 of that was for the premium channels (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and Starz), but in my defense, a lot of quality shows come from them. But still, it seemed high to me so I started looking around at YouTube Red, Amazon Channels, Sling and Hulu Live.

I’m not going to go point by point on all of them. I ended up going with Hulu Live. Basically there was nothing wrong with the other options and pricing is similar, but Hulu had more to offer in terms of original content that I wanted to watch anyway (so I would have subscribed to their basic service regardless), plus the HBO and Showtime add ons I was looking for. The basic commercial-free service is $43.99 and the add ons come to $25, leaving my new cable bill at $68 per month, which saves me over $50 a month while not sacrificing anything that I was getting before, and in fact adds the Hulu original content as well. Technically, I don’t get AMC with this deal, but Walking Dead isn’t worth $50 a month, no show is worth that much.

I’ll admit I was nervous about making the switch. I thought surely at the difference between those prices I was missing something. That there was something I couldn’t live without that would send me screaming back to cable.

Nope. Nope. There really isn’t.

My guess is that cable as an institution will be dead inside of five years. When I went to return my cable boxes to Google, the woman who checked my gear in said that a lot of people were making that switch. And I have heard that Google Fiber is getting away from cable (which is why they never expanded out of KC and Austin) and wants to focus exclusively on internet, specifically WiFi.

Streaming apps are the future. My concern is that at some point there will be so many options, that costs will soon get back to what cable is currently. But for now, I am enjoying the breather.

Crossing Streams

Crossing Streams

With not only the emergence in recent years of increasing awesomeness from cable channels such as AMC and FX, and consistent awesomeness from premium channels like HBO and Showtime, we can now add content from a growing number of streaming services. Even those without cable have endless choices between Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

Is endless too much? Netflix put itself on the map (and Blockbuster out of business) by providing customers with a robust streaming lineup of several popular shows and movies for those that missed them the first time. Capitalizing on their popularity they took a page out of HBO’s playbook and created House of Cards. Since then, it has grown, and grown. And grown some more. Soon after Hulu followed suit with shows such as The Path, and more recently Handmaid’s Tale. Amazon Prime sweetened the deal on its two day shipping and streaming content by creating originals such as Man in the High Castle and Sneaky Pete.

When the streaming boom started, it was a given that whatever was released was top notch quality, and now some have the Emmys to back that up. The infusion of original, quality content served to increase the value of these services, even though not every show is for everyone.

Is too much too much? Netflix currently has contractual commitments for $16 billion (yes that is with a “b”) in forthcoming original content. My first thought was “yay, more House of Cards and OITNB,” then I started to realize, every time I turn around there is a new Netflix Original. And to be honest, a lot of them look like they suck. You know the look, it looks like the angsty teen trying too hard. Or trying too hard to look like they’re not trying (maybe that’s hipster, honestly I confuse the two). Additionally, Netflix has is getting into the movie business and take on the Hollywood Box Office machine. That makes about as much sense as taking a sledgehammer to your own balls just to prove you’re tough.

Unless we now live in a world where made for TV movies don’t suck, my concern about this is two-fold. As consumers we will ultimately pay the bill for this failed experiment. I for one want my money to developing quality, rather than quantity. I already pay too much for quantity. I call it my cable bill. My streaming services are supposed to be a vacation from that.

Streaming services are popping out of the woodwork. Two that come to mind are Disney and CBS All Access. Disney announced its own streaming service. As one of the biggest studios in the world, it has a tremendous amount of content to offer, and will leave a void in the streaming services it currently contracts with. I’m not a fan of Disney movies (not much into kid shit), but they do own Star Wars and have the resources to develop a broad spectrum of content. My problem is that between Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu (and Audible for eBooks) I need another subscription service like I need a hole in the head. I doubt very much I am alone in that issue.

My bigger problem is with CBS All Access. In the interest of full disclosure, I hate CBS.  They vomit out shitty content and call themselves the number one network. Police procedurals are television for lobotomy patients. Keep your NCIS and CSI and all the spinoffs, I want something with, what’s that thing called again, oh yeah, story. And now they are coming out with CBS All Access, a streaming service. And I wouldn’t care at all about it, but their first show is the new Star Trek, which I actually really want to watch. Just not enough to give those assholes more money for it. I understand the idea of reaching out to people who have cut the cord and don’t have cable, but this service gouges everyone. I think it is poor customer service to ask me to pay a cable bill (and all the networks have contracts with cable companies and make money off my cable bill), and then give you more money for ONE show of original content and a bunch of other shit I’ve already paid for.

I love having endless options for people of all tastes. My concern is that the quantity will undermine the quality we are enjoying, leaving the golden age at the end of its golden years.

Medium Matters

Art is Freedom

I’m going to spend a lot of time talking about creative content, and I wanted to take an opportunity to tell you what I love about each creative medium. They each have a unique way of storytelling. I’m sure there are mediums I am missing or haven’t been exposed to yet, but for now I am going to stick to those I am exposed to on a frequent basis.


Books were my first love, and still my favorite. I can read a book from start to finish in a day, real world be damned. The experience of an author’s unique voice, and the fact that no matter how descriptive he or she gets, the images of the world and characters they create come from my head, making me feel like I am part of the experience.


A good narrator can bring a book to life (a shitty narrator can also kill one) while still allowing the listener to get absorbed in the world the writer creates. Audiobooks fill the nooks and crannies of life that don’t require your full attention, allowing for the enjoyment of even more content.


I’m relatively new to the podcast world compared to other forms of creative content. Like half the country, I was drawn in by the first season of Serial (which was amazing in case you missed it) and wanted more. One of the taglines from the podcasting community is “It’s television for your ears.” And that’s the best way to describe it. There’s something for everyone, from journalism to docudramas. From the darker corners of life to reliving your favorite television series.


If books were my first love, television was my second. My first TV memories are re-runs of Lost in Space and the original Star Trek on summer mornings. I came of age at the start of the Golden Age of television, with Friends, X-Files, 90210 (the original, not that shitty remake) and my love has continued to grow as TV evolves. Like books, binging gives the opportunity to spend a day getting immersed in a different world. And a TV season allows for story and character arcs to develop over time, allowing writers to play a long game (ratings permitting).


I’ll be the first to admit I don’t get out to the movies as much. I don’t really feel like paying $10+ for just the ticket to the cinematic experience. That puts me in a lot of danger when it comes to spoilers and buzz. That being said, who doesn’t love a great movie? Everyone loves Star Wars and has an opinion on Ewoks. Quentin Tarentino changed the rules on how movies were made with Pulp Fiction. And you can get a full story, complete with a sweeping character arc in about 2 hours. And the dramatic effects bring their stories to life, I mean who doesn’t like special effects?


Much like podcasts, I am a relative newcomer. The cinematic and television universes have done a tremendous job of opening up the world of comics. I also started listening to Jay & Miles Xplain the X-Men and that got me going. Once that door was open, I quickly learned that comics aren’t just for kids (Walking Dead, Sandman, Watchmen) and that their stories have all the complexity and depth of any other medium. They blend the narrative benefits of books with the dramatic effects of art and play a long game that can span years if not decades. And they can retcon (retroactive continuity) whatever they want to suit the present narrative, which is part of the fun.

Performing Arts

Although there are significant differences between the three main types of performances I frequent (Play, Musical and Opera), for the purposes of this post I am grouping them together. The performing arts provide a uniquely intimate experience. Being part of a live audience is to share the same space as the performers. You are surrounded by the experience. A shared experience between you and the performer, and no other medium can replicate that.

This list is incomplete, and so are the descriptions. For the moment they are meant to be. I wanted to get the overview out of my system and out of the way. I will definitely be expanding on each of these, and exploring more over time. Exploring content is a constant and never ending journey.