26 January 2008

What's Good on TV?

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Well maybe rather than "What's Good?" I should ask "What's Entertaining?" Without regular access to new scripted programming (like new episodes of The Office and 30 Rock) because of the writer's strike, our television watching time has definitely drifted toward "reality" programming. So a list of our favorites...(in no particular order):

Extras. HBO and Ricky Gervais' recently concluded, and far too short, series Extras is absolutely brilliant. Rent the DVD, if you are lucky it will have closed captions so you can read all the jokes you are missing due to the language barrier or your inability to hear over your own laughing. The first season seems a little dry and is a lot funnier when you go back and watch it after you have seen the second season and the finale. The show really hit its stride in the second season, and the finale was a hilarious and touching 85 minutes. A little longer and I would have gladly paid to see it in the theater. Stephen Merchant, Gervais' pal, co-creator, and co-star makes me bust a gut everytime I see him on the screen. His animated face make me think of a live action depiction of Wallace of Wallace and Gromit fame.

Masterpiece (Theatre) on PBS. I am not entirely sure what I think of Masterpiece Theatre's new incarnation, but I am loving the complete Jane Austen that they are showing. It almost feels like too much all at once, an embarassment of riches as it were. It would be better if they were spread more throughout the year rather than what seems to be feast or famine.

Question: How many different versions of a novel adaptation do you have to see before you can claim that you have read the book? The only Austen I have read is Northanger Abbey, but I have seen two different versions of Persuasion and at least two different versions of Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Does this mean I can pretend that I have read them? The most recent version of Persuasion on PBS seemed, in many ways, like a differnent story than the cinematic version from the late 90s. Maybe I just need to read the book.

Project Runway. A perennial favorite regardless of what else is on. I love to see creative, talented people doing what seems to me like the impossible. I feel the same way about Top Chef. I can't get enough of it and I can't wait until the new Chicago Season starts. In general Bravo does a good job with kind of show. Low on personal drama, focus on the creative process. I only wish they aired more of creative process and more of the judges' deliberation. Remember when the initial thought behind the Bravo network was to focus on the performing arts. With the exception of Inside the Actor's Studio, there ain't much of that goin on anymore.

Real Housewives of Orange County. The people we love to hate. Makes one ask the question, How do all of these seemingly dumb people end up with so much money? We haven't watched the Lauri wedding episode/season finale yet. I can't wait for Real Housewives of New York to begin. Check out this NPR story.

Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane. Mindless entertainment. Just saw it for the first time--no one could ever accuse me of being an early adopter--and I kind of like it. At first I thought she was a bit annoying, then I realized that I kind of her, she seems to have a good sense of humor.

Planet Earth. We missed this when it was originally on the Discovery Network, but we have been Netflixing the DVDs and are amazed. It is like all of those nature shows we loved as kids but so much better. Some of the scenes they are able to capture are like none I have ever seen before. It is mind-boggling to think that we share the same planet with all of the flora and fauna shown in this series. It makes me want to travel a lot more but it also makes me even more worried that our planet is in trouble even though so far we have only noticed one mention of global warming. This is not to be missed, especially if your TV and DVD are HD capable.

Academy Awards

Well the nominees for the Academy Awards are out and I need to get myself to the cinema. I promised on my 40 by 40 list to see all of the Best Picture nominees and I haven't seen any of them. So I think tonight will be Atonement. Juno intriques me. George Clooney seems to only make good flims these days so I am looking forward to Michael Clayton. Normally I wouldn't spend any time or money on a flim like No Country for Old Men or There Will Be Blood. But that is what is kind of great about this challenge--or at least what I hope will be great about this challenge--is that I will be exposed to films I might not otherwise go see.

I Finally Finished a Book

You might notice from my list on the left side of the screen that I finally managed to finish a book, the first one of the month and the first one of the year. By this time last year I had already finished 7 books. I am not really sure what has been keeping me from reading these days but I sure have had a hard time finishing anything. Maybe it was just reader's block. Now that I have finally broken through, maybe the next books will come in quicker succession.

12 January 2008


A couple weekends ago the other Mr. MyPorch and I went out to Bethesda, Maryland to a stereo repair shop and ended up having a blast.

Let's unpack that rather loaded statement:

  1. Bethesda, Maryland is a suburb of Washington, D.C., and, while easily accessible by both Metro and automobile, we pretty much never get out there. Living in the District and commuting by foot and Metro, it seems the only time we get in the car is to make a trip to the grocery store and the occasional trip to New York. (After almost three years our car only has 11,000 miles on it.)
  2. In our disposable, it is cheaper to replace it, way of life, who in the world knew that stereo repair shops still existed? However, lo and behold in the yellow pages--yes the big yellow book still exists as well--there were a few listed for the Washington area. The folks at the Electronic Clinic in Bethesda were as friendly as could be and their shop was chock-a-block with every kind of stereo equipment and electronics you could think of. Although some of the equipment was definitely of recent vintage, the shop was like a step back in time. Opened in 1969, the year I was born, it took me back to my youth when not every store was a chain. I also felt rather proud of the fact that I was having my 20-year old Kenwood amplifier repaired. I bought the thing when I was a junior in college, and let me tell you, I could not afford it at the time. I charged it on a credit card and felt so guilty for not putting cash on the barrelhead that I covered it with a towel and didn't use it for about 3 weeks. Perhaps even more of a throwback, was the fact that I was getting the amplifier repaired so that I can listen to my turntable.
  3. Had a blast in Bethesda? It was great to poke around a part of Bethesda (or anywhere for that matter) that still has space for small useful shops like the Electronic Clinic. There were enough other interesting shops and restaurants that we ended up spending the rest of the afternoon in the neighborhood. One particularly nice shop we almost passed by without going in because it was such an unlikely building and location for such a nice store. Specializing in Swedish antiques, the store Tone on Tone is a spacious and calm haven of beauty. Our only disappointment was that our 1400 square feet can only fit so much furniture.

Lesson learned: Get out of DC more often.

Never Underestimate the Power of These Womenfolk

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Clockwise from top: Lalah Simcoe (aka Judy Fine), Babs Cooper,
Jean Amos, Leni (Ashmore) Sorensen.
(Photograph by Sean Haggerty)
Here is a photo from The Womenfolk's reunion in November 2007 in Charlottesville, Virginia. This was the first time the women had been all together in 40 years. You can read about The Womenfolk and WF related items here, here, here, and here.

01 January 2008

Reading by the Decade - The Final Update

Back in May I entered an online reading challenge to read 12 books from 12 consecutive decades in 12 months. I wasn't worried about the volume of reading. I read tons. What I should have been worried about was my selections. The good news is that I enjoyed almost every book that I finished. The bad news is that I gave up on three of the twelve.

The Zola started out interestingly enough. I kind of had fun looking up descriptions of the diseases the characters suffered from. But it didn't take long for that to get old. I set it aside in favor of something more interesting. As I have mentioned earlier, despite being 2/3 of the way through the Roth, I couldn't be bothered to finish it. It just bored me. As for the James, I hope to pick that up again one day. Given my tastes in reading I feel like James is an author I should really like, but the only novel of his I have ever finished is Washington Square. Just think of all his great works that I could read if I can get over whatever obstacle is keeping me from enjoying him.

As I wrote in this November post, as I tried to pave the way for me not finishing this challenge, life is too short to read books one finds tedious.

1890s: Lourdes by Emile Zola
1900s: The Golden Bowl by Henry James
1910s: The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence - 5/23/07
1920s: Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley - 7/16/07
1930s: The Big Money by John Dos Passos (3rd in his USA trilogy) - 5/30/07
1940s: Dirty Snow by Georges Simenon - 5/20/07
1950s: Mountolive by Lawrence Durrell (3rd in his Alexandria Quartet) - 2/27/07
1960s: The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark - 7/1/07
1970s: A Word Child by Iris Murdoch - 6/4/07
1980s: In the City of Fear by Ward Just - 11/10/07

1990s: American Pastoral by Philip Roth
2000s: I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe - 4/20/07