Monthly Archives: May 2007

I’ve been listening to the FX series while at work lately. I caught one episode a few years ago and it seemed well enough done, but I figured that it was probably an abnormally good episode. N/T is a series that by all measures I should not care for at all. I’m not big into medical dramas to begin with and that goes doubly for cosmetic surgery wherein it’s entirely voluntary and often with unfortunate motives. How can they make an interesting show about this?

I’m closing in on the end of the second season right now and my reservations have only intensified. In addition to to being about plastic surgery, it contains many things that I consider markers of bad television. For instance, it contains copious amounts of sex. Enough so that sometimes I have to momentarily stop what I’m doing to take a look and figure out who precisely is having sex with whom. The other thing is the introduction of lesbians and lesbianism. I don’t have a problem with homosexuality (particularly lesbianism!), but I’ve still found that most shows that throw in lesbian characters are trying to add jalepenos to make bland soup taste interesting. Both lesbianism and excessive amounts of sex, in my experience, are put into shows that don’t have much to offer. It really doesn’t bother me (I don’t fast forward or look away or whatever), but it’s generally something done to try to be “edgy” and “socially relevant” to compensate for weak characterization.

But despite all of this, it’s a really good show. I’ve constantly been asking myself how a show about plastic surgery that employs these techniques can be this good. It’s not the best television show out there by any means, but it nonetheless has solid characters, a good plot, and actually manages to be thoughtful. In fact, the last thing is the most impressive. It’s made me think about things that I generally don’t.

The show is thoughtful and relevant because so much of our culture is fixated on sex and beauty and a cosmetic surgery clinic is ground zero for that. I hadn’t really thought that much about it until N/T, but it’s really quite true. I would have thought that this theme could be explored in a handful of episodes, but they keep going and I am not at all bored with it yet.

The surgeons, Sean McNamara and Christian Troy, start off every episode asking a potential client what they don’t like about themselves. It’s an interesting bit of commentary about the surgery. It’s not merely about improving oneself, but it’s about compensating for what one doesn’t like. Sometimes it’s more understandable (fixing an injury or correcting a malformation), sometimes it’s frivolous, and sometimes it’s downright disturbing. I’m not sure whether real life plastic surgeons do this (they might to avoid potential lawsuits), but they screen out patients that are looking for something that physical enhancements won’t give them. The question of whether or not they will operate at all and the debates that ensues between the doctors is pretty central to the show. Questions are explored about why we want to look better than we do, what price we may pay for that, and at what point should we buckle down and say “this is who I am”?

Aside from the clinic aspect of the show, it also has an interesting cast of characters. The characters are generally pretty straightforward, but as time goes on they grow in ways that are interesting. Sometimes they’re not growing so much as you’re learning things about them that you didn’t know. And sometimes they’re refusing to grow and change, much to the viewer’s frustration and sometimes to the viewer’s delight. At the outset Sean McNamara is a typical, conservative family man while Christian Troy a licentious sex-fiend. They clash and, pleasantly, neither is proven to be right all of the time. Sean is trapped in a pretty unhappy marriage (though, unlike with some shows, with a very three-dimensional wife) and Christian is in a cycle of depravity that leaves him more numb than fulfilled. But unlike other dramas, the characters are working through their issues, and nothing so simple as as Sean becoming more laid back and Christian taking on more responsibilities.

The show is far from perfect. The sex scenes still add a bit of unnecessary sensationalism. Even though the character development is good, it probably would have been better if the starting point for the characters were a little more three-dimensional.

Premise: B+ (I thought it would be a D!)
Characters: C+/B- (The main characters start off pretty one-dimensional, but the supporting cast is great)
Discipline: C- (Unnecessary sensationalism)
Thoughtfulness: B+ (Not every episode is an ethical dilemma, but the ones they put forth are questions rather than exclamation points)
Plotting: A (It’s incredibly addictive past a couple episodes)
Acting: ?? (Hard to say because I’m listening and not watching. Seems fine, though)
Dialogue: C+ (Some good quotable quotes, but could use some levity)
Unpredictability: B+ (Sometimes I see it coming, but they’ve thrown me for a loop)
Cohesion: B+ (later revelations make earlier scenes make more sense, characters come and go in a pretty natural manner)
Final Grade: B/B+

Category: Theater

MSN and State Farm team up to bring you an automotive risk index.

My car, a Ford Escort, is one of only two cars in the Ford line to have a 0% safety percentage. Granted, the one listed is a two-door while mine is a four-door, but even so. The good news is that I am not a danger to other drives (average mark for liability), but am in great danger myself (the lowest possible mark).

Category: Road

According to The Onion, CBS is set to release its own version of The Office.

The show’s pilot, a shot-for-shot re-creation of NBC’s Office pilot, features comedian David Spade as boss Peter Craig, the fun-loving and inspirational boss of a small-town Ohio paper company.

“Having David on the project is such a thrill,” said Klein, who offered Spade the part after Ray Romano and Kevin James turned down the role. “Don’t get me wrong—Steve Carell is great, but David’s combination of zippy one-liners and all-out zaniness just can’t be beat.”

The remake will also feature the same will-they-won’t-they love story between a plain-looking receptionist engaged to a man from the company’s warehouse who doesn’t appreciate her, and a perfectly suited coworker who pines for her from afar. But producers at CBS said the love triangle will be “completely revamped” for the new series, as new names have been created for all three characters.

“The budding romance between Jen and Tom is really the foundation of the show,” said director Howard Gatson, who has made their connection “more believable” by casting more traditionally attractive actors in the roles. “People are going to tune in every week to see if Jen will ever leave her fiancé to be with Tom. And they’ll be so relieved when she finally does in episode three.”

The Onion kids, of course. But I have seriously been wondering why CBS (and ABC and FOX) haven’t done their own version of The Office. Obviously, they’d need to ditch the documentary angle and the cast. They’d also need to try to find some different lens from which to view it. They’d need to make it a little less zany in the vein of Office Space or more outlandish like Dilbert, most likely. But the success of Michael Scott and the Pam/Jim storyline only accounts for part of the show’s success. A lot of it comes down to the familiarity of the office environment. There are lots of archetypes that we’ve worked with that aren’t used by that show.

It used to be that whenever a show was successful you could count on seeing some clones pop up either on the same network or a different network. Beverly Hillbillies was followed by Petticoat Junction and Green Acres, for instance. The Friends format has become a friggin’ institution.

Another show I am surprised was never really copied was The West Wing. The West Wing knock-off even has a built in angle to capture fans alienated by TWW. Make the president a conservative Republican. I don’t know if Hollywood could pull off a sympathetic Republican president and I’m not sure if I would have liked it, but surely Fox could have given it a go. But heck, they could have had another liberal Democrat (or an independent whose enemy was Republican, a la Geena Davis) and taken it in a slightly different direction.

There is some stigma around a show being a “copycat”, but I think it’s a mistake to apply it. The 3-on-3 format of Friends was successfully adapted by Living Single, Two Guys and a Girl, and Coupling. Though they all had the 3-on-3 format, they were each had something to differentiate itself from Friends. The same producers from Cheers produced Wings, which had a similar backdrop but a unique set of things to like and dislike about it.

In addition to different experiments using the same basic ingredients, it also gives viewers an opportunity to further immerse themselves in things that they can enjoy. Having 48 episodes of The Office would be far too many and the characters would become stagnant, but having a copycat show would allow me to enjoy some of the same things that I do about The Office (laughing in 9-to-5 despair) and do so without character stagnation. There are seven nights a week of television to watch and there are 30 weeks a year where a new episode of a given show is not coming on.

Why are the only shows replicated these days those reality TV shows and prime-time gameshows? Some of it is risk-aversion (such shows cost little to set up) but you would think going with an already successful formula would also be more prudent. And how come when they do retread a concept to death, it’s typically the dumbest ones (sitcom with teacher teaching cute cute kids!! Hefty slob of a husband with sexy, all-knowing wife!) or the ones that have little in the way of ongoing storylines (Law & Order and CSI)?

Most frustrating. There is room in the world for both Garfield and Heathcliffe!

Category: Theater

My brother and I were talking about bad waitering the other day and he came up with a bizarre one. He was wearing a University of Delosa shirt and the waiter, a Southern Tech alum, started badmouthing the school. “You went to DU? I’m sorry.” and started uptalking our football program. Bantering between alums of rival schools is not uncommon, but it’s not particularly wise when you’re waiting on their table. Futhermore, it’s not a good idea to talk football trash when your team can’t seem to beat theirs to save your life.

Category: Kitchen

As a Quality Assurance Technician, it’s generally a bad idea to mark “FAIL” on something that is actually not incorrect. It’s worse still when not only are they not wrong, but you are wrong. Sort of.

A piece of software that we wrote spelled the word cancelled with one “l”. I have spelled it with two “l”s my entire life, but it’s good to check these things before you send them back so I looked it up and discovered that the English language is retarded. Or I should specify: the English language as spelled by Americans. Apparently the Standard English spelling is with two “l”s (aka “right”) and the Americans decided to go with one (aka wrong).

Why the heck should there be one “l” in cancelled? When a word ends in a single “l” the past tense gets two “l”s, not one. It’s not propeled, it’s propelled. It’s not compeled, it’s compelled. Of course, travelled is actually traveled, but that’s just as retarded as “canceled”. And why should cancelled have one l but cancellation gets two? That doesn’t make sense! Same with trave

Apparently I’m not the only one confused on this issue. A brief look on Google demonstrates that there are over twice as many links with the two-L version than there are with the one-L version. And lest you think it’s because Standard English is that much more common than American English, the American spelling of the word color beat out the British spelling by a 5-to-1 ratio. So I think I can say that there is a distinct possibility that more Americans are spelling the word wrong than are spelling it right. And if Google says it, it must be true!

I think that I’m going to actually stand my ground on this the same way I do for the word “theatre” which just doesn’t work as “theater” as far as I’m concerned. Same with “spectre”, where the American “specter” for some reason makes me think of something that is used to poke something else and not a netherworldly being.

Here are a bunch of other words that the Americans, the English, or the Canadians spell wrong. On a sidenote, though I knew that the Australians used Brit spelling I thought that Canadians tended to use American. Apparently, in their haste to split all differences they take different aspects for each.

In closing I will note that Firefox’s spell checker is going nuts with this post.

Category: School

Freakonomics’s Steve Dubner got some really good service from IBM/Lenovo*:

On Wednesday morning, IBM sent me a sturdy shipping box with a return DHL label. On Wednesday early evening, I packed up my baby and sent her to a company called Solectron in Memphis. I left town on Thursday (to Madison, Wisc. — my first visit; great town), and got home by late Friday morning. There she was waiting for me, my smart little machine, all fixed up by someone halfway across the country, at a cost to me of $0.00, the entire transaction taking about 36 hours.

I like to regularly point out that the same people that complain about the poor customer service from IBM & Lonovo’s rivals typically scoff at the cost premium on a ThinkPad. It costs more, but they take care of their customers in ways that most people don’t believe companies do anymore. My favorite story is that they used to have a person call me every few months to make sure that everything was going okay with my purchase. One time I commented that I’d been having some problems with the mouse but other than that I was doing okay. He asked if I wanted to be connected to customer support, but I declined because I didn’t want to wait. That evening he had a tech support person call me with the solution to my problem.

I bought a laptop shortly before moving down to Estacado. I was a little irritated that they had a 6-8 week backlog on the model I wanted. The salesguy proposed an alternative that had me paying a little extra for a little less along the lines of what I wanted, but I needed it ASAP so I agreed. Even after I agreed to spend the money, when we got off the phone he looked for a better deal and came back and gave me something closer to what I wanted for $200 less than I had originally planned to pay ($300 less than what I’d already agreed to).

They’re not perfect, though. I’ve heard more than a couple complaints about their inability to fulfil orders in the same manner that I had trouble getting the particular model that I wanted. My father-in-law tossled around their website for three hours trying to get something within a month. My bud Quen’s employer wanted to restock their computer fleet but Lenovo couldn’t get their act together in time. They really need to fix it so that nobody has to wait two months for their computer. But if you can wait and you don’t mind spending more money for an superior product (they can treat you well when your computer breaks down because your computer rarely breaks down) and superior service, I wholeheartedly recommend them.

* – The ThinkPad line used to be produced by IBM, but IBM sold their ThinkPad and ThinkCentre lines to a Chinese company called Lenovo. Part of the arrangement is that my computer, which was built by Lenovo, still bears IBM’s name until Lenovo can get their own name out there. Another part of the arrangement is that IBM is taking care of a lot of their customer service and, interestingly, sales, which is why it’s often hard to distinguish between one company and the other.

Category: Market

trumwill: Over the weekend the company changed everything on the network. They sent out an email with our new network passwords.

quinkyle: Wait, they sent out *an* email?

quinkyle: with everyone’s password?

trumwill: Everyone’s password being the same, yes. They advised us to create a new one.

quinkyle: wow

trumwill: Which would be possible if we could, you know, log in to see the email. Which of course we couldn’t because our passwords didn’t work.

quinkyle: Oh yeah… there’s that on top of it

quinkyle: hahaha

quinkyle: Jaysus… and they pay your IT department?

trumwill: We figured it out because they used the same default password we get when we first start at the company.

trumwill: Let me tell you, 1234 is an impenetrable password.

quinkyle: Well, it is a big number. If you start at 1 and start going upwards, it would be your 1234th try. My wrist aches just thinking about it.

Category: Office, Server Room