Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Television Tuesdays: Loving the Last of LOST

As LOST winds it twisted way to its end, some of the best work yet on that show is unfolding on the television screen. I've been thinking about when it debut, the huge billboards on RT 95 in Pennsylvania as I drove my mom to the Philadelphia airport every six weeks for her flight to Massachusetts via Rhode Island or New Hampshire. My life has changed dramatically since then. Now LOST is catching up.

And with the 2 ½ hour finale looming ever closer, I keep thinking one thing: They better not kill Sawyer.

OK – that's not the only thing I'm thinking. There haven't been too many shows that I've followed from start to finish unbroken. Friends and Buffy come immediately to mind, but not much else. Trouble is, few shows can maintain a high level of quality indefinitely (I'm looking at you, Grey's Anatomy!). Eventually I'll get tired or bored or frustrated and just drop away. Even Friends and Buffy had their weak times and, with Buffy in particularly, as we got closer to the end, I grew more and more dissatisfied (Friends rocked all the way to the end. God, I miss that show). Hey, I like to see people achieve happiness in the long run. Joss Whedon seems bound and determined not to let his characters get happy for long and usually starts racking up the body count when they do. Realistic? Maybe. Entertaining? Not really.

Through highs (oh, way too many to list, but Desmond and Penny's reunion tops it) and the lows (Nikki and Paulo, Bai Ling) I've stuck by LOST. And it's rewarded my loyalty with a kick ass final season. Some hiccups, yes, but the story is now running full tilt to the end and, seriously, I can hardly catch my breath as I watch it.

Even if I have absolutely no idea what's going on.

All right, that's not entirely true. I have a pretty good idea of what's going on for the most part, but there's no way I remember all the subtle layering that the showrunners have put in place over the last six seasons. I think it's a pretty safe call that nearly everyone is going to die. I have no idea how the sideways flashes are going to intersect with the island action. But now that Desmond is in metaphysical play, getting everyone together in the sideways world and, hopefully, coming out of the well in the island world pretty soon, I expect all that will interweave very soon. It has to, there's only 2 or 3 nonfinale episodes left.

I'm expecting to cheer when they eventually kill Kate – though with my luck, she'll be the lone survivor. Still that gunshot could get infected in the island air. Hope springs. She's long outlived her use for me, wavering between the Jack and Sawyer so much I wanted to smack her upside the head by season three (though I did think the polar bear cage nookie was pretty hot). I do wonder if she and one of the guys will be the skeletal couple discovered in season one but then yesterday, I thought maybe it'll be Claire and Alt-Locke. Hmmm. That's definitely one long term question I'm looking forward to finally getting the answer to. And I'd like Hurley to come to a happy end, though I doubt there's going to be such a thing for anyone. Maybe he's destined to be the voice of all those island whisperers, the souls of those who died on the island.

The deaths last week were heartrending. Showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof have said in interviews since that they wanted to make it abundantly clear that Alt-Locke is a bad dude. I never thought anything else. The guy murders people left and right. Pretty good indicator of bad in my book.

Sayid's explosive end happened so quickly and so much trauma occurred right afterwards, what with the flooding and the drowning, that there was barely any time to process it. Then Jin and Sun died and while poignant and painful and beautiful, I kept yelling at the scream "what about your daughter, you gits?" So much for the parental bond, huh. Also, this was a Whedonesque crappy thing to do. They're finally reunited – remember Jin and Sun haven't seen one another since the freighter blew up at the end of season four – and happy again and the very next episode The Powers That Be (to complete the Whedon analogy) go and kill them both off. Cuse and Lindelof said they did it so we the audience know that no one is safe. Dude, have you watched the last six seasons? No one is ever safe.

Not even Sawyer. Poo.

Tonight we get the full skinny on Alt-Locke, also known as Smokey or Esau or The Man in Black (no, he's not Johnny Cash. At least, not yet). Allison Janney of West Wing hits the beach tonight. I love this endless wealth of quality actors peppering the entire series. She's one of the best yet.

There's no way to be happy with whatever ending Cuse and Lindelof have cooked up. I know some things will tick me off, others will totally wow me, and still others will baffle me for endless wasted hours to come. I'm OK with all of that. LOST has been an awesome ride and I've loved every climb and dip of it.

I wanna see how it ends.

Edited 5/12 to Add: OK - If you watched last night's episode, you know I was way off with speculating the identities of the two skeletons in the cave and I want to say that I'm perfectly happy to be so. That was an awesome reveal, really, even if some other elements were a tad clunky with the info dump download.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Taking it Easy

Still reeling from a very hectic weekend that involved A Lot of driving, I took today off.

This morning, I went to see Iron Man 2, which I loved, at the 10 AM showing and no, I was not the only one there, though that would have been great. I'll review it here next week. This afternoon I sat on a couch and held my baby nieces and laughed with my best friend (they're her babies) who I haven't seen in nearly 2 months. Tonight, I will scrub the stove so it stops smoking and I can cook dinner, clean the cat boxes, and write.

There may also be some kitty cuddling. Could you resist this belly and that face? Your heart is far harder than mine then, friend.

And that's saying something.

The writing has been going really well, which probably means I'm going to crash on it soon, but for now I see things very clearly and it jazzes me to get to it. I gave up trying to push through to the end just to push through the end because that wasn't working for me. Yes, I know that not finishing for finishing's sake means having the best written first chapter in the world, but I can't write the end to the story when I already know how the middle is going to have to change. Now that I'm fixing the middle, the emotional journeys are coming out and some very, very cool stuff is revealing itself and I am, as I said before, really jazzed.

Here's hoping your Monday ends with a jazz.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Linked Up – What’s Alan Watching

Welcome to the Linked Up feature of the week, also know as the I-read-too-many-blogs-let-me-tell-you-about-them segment. (Wow. I'm actually maintaining a segment here two weeks running! Sometimes I amaze even myself.)

Every single weekday, I read What's Alan Watching?, the daily television blog of Alan Sepinwall, television critic for The Star Ledger.

I like to talk about television (you may have noticed) almost as much as I like to talk about movies. Only last night I bent the ear of a coworker at a cocktail party for 20+ minutes going on about LOST, Justified, Keen Eddie, Human Target, and Community. My young, disappointed aspirations for Hollywood dominance have become an inferior Sailieri-like recognition of dramatic/comedic genius (or things appropriating that) and its lack. I like what I like and I like to talk about it and convince other people to like it too.

Alan Sepinwall like a lot of what I like, but he talks about oh so much better than I. I try a lot of programs I might not have thanks to Alan (lately Justified. No, I cannot stop talking about it. Really.) We're of the same age or thereabouts, so we have many of the same childhood reference points and more times than not, I know exactly what he's referring to. I don't like everything he proposes – I will never understand the worship he and other critics have for The Wire and I have no desire to join the Breaking Bad fan wagon – but it's easy to skip those reviews.

More than just a recap of an episode or a thumbs up/thumbs down review, Alan goes into the mythos of a show and discuss the characterizations, implications, themes, and performances of the shows he has in regular rotation. What shows are these? Mad Men, Justified, Burn Notice, White Collar, In Plain Sight, Community, Cougar Town, Modern Family, Chuck, How I Met Your Mother, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Human Target, LOST, and others. Each summer he takes a season of a show on DVD that he likes/love but never reviewed before and gives it the Sepinwall review treatment episode by episode. My favorite of these was the Sports Night summer because from its very beginning, I have had a deep and abiding love for Sports Night.

Having been in the television critic business his entire career, Alan is also tapped into the industry. This means he has more than a bead on what's going on and often gets interviews with major showrunners (like those of LOST and Chuck) as well as up to the minute info of what's happening in the "biz". I like this too because I'm nosy and like to know as much as I can about the things I like. Plus, it gives great background to the shows and makes my appreciation of them even greater. Alan was also a major contributor to saving my beloved Chuck, using his column and blog to give public, detailed support to this fantastic show.

It's fitting I mention his blog now because it has recently changed homes and is now part of the HitFlix.com family. I have a feeling I'm going to have to start looking at HitFlix more regularly as this is the second reviewer I mesh with who's relocated there (the first was Moriarty i.e. Drew McWeeny once of AintitCoolNews.com, now part of HitFlix). As he's in new digs, Alan's introducing himself to new readers, so this is a great time to become one and get the skinny from him at the outset.

I don't always agree with him but I almost always check out what he recommends. For informed, intelligent (imagine that!), and appreciative commentary of the best TV has to offer today (and some of the worst), check out What's Alan Watching.

Disclaimer: I received absolutely no incentive for this review besides the juvenile joy I get laughing over the share enjoyment of a well-delivered line reading. Actually, that happens a lot.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sour Apples – the iPod Rant

I am of the strong belief that technological products should last forever.

This is completely unrealistic. I know this. But if I'm going to invest a significant amount of money in a computer or a device, I want to do it with the assurance that said product will function for a suitable amount of time to make that investment worthwhile. What's a suitable time? Whatever I say it is. Quite frankly, if a company is to have any pride in its product, then it should be made to last. You think you're the greatest in the world? Prove it.

I'm not an Early Adopter. I like to see how things play out before I purchase what I consider to be a big ticket item. These things get better as time and technology move on and I prefer the tried and true over the flashy new.

I get the fact that tech products and gadgets are like new cars: As soon as you drive it off the lot, it starts to depreciate in value. As soon as you hook some up – well, there you go.

Ya know what? I don't care. The bugger should work and that's it.

Case in point. My laptop is now four years old. It feels like I bought it only yesterday, but OK, it's been four years. I've re-upped the warranty for its remaining available year and have a mental ticker that in another year or so, I may have to look into getting a new laptop. Plan accordingly. Of course, right away something went wrong (windows installer vanished from the hard drive ne'er to be seen again) and the long and the short of it was that I had to reset to factory settings and reload all my stuff. I didn't lose anything thanks to double, nay triple backups on flash and external drives. Which is actually how this all started: I bought an external drive to back up my hard drive. Turns out, external drives now has more memory (500 GB) than the 40 GB hard drive on my clearly antiquated laptop. My baby is still clicking along though and I'm confident (hear me computer gods? Confident) that it'll hang in there for the time being.

Which brings me to the iPod.

You may remember my unmitigated glee when I purchased my iPod last year. It was epic. I carried that iPod everywhere, loading audio books on it and listening to it in the car, while grocery shopping, standing in line at the post office, etc. You should understand that I was the girl who walked home from school reading a book (and was horribly teased for it too. Like reading is something of which to make fun). Being able to actually continue "reading" a book instead of having to leave it to do more important things simply by listening to it on my trusty iPod? Nirvana. I was even reading while walking again albeit with someone reading the story to me. I was ordering massive unabridged novels from the interlibrary loaning system (which rocks). I spent hours uploading huge tomes of novels on upwards of 48 disks. I'm talking all but one of the Harry Potter books and all but one half of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER series – I'm not talking Harlequins here. And I did it with a song in my heart because I was so thrilled to listen to them on my iPod. I gorged myself on them. And then I began buying the DVD/Blue Ray 2-disc packages of newly released movies and uploading the included digital version to the iPod. Too much glee. I was totally, unequivocally in love with my iPod.

OK – there were some bumps in our relationship. It tended to freeze if I asked it to rewind too many times, and since I could never remember the button combination to restart it, I had to wait for the iPod to run out of juice and reset its self. Also, I really, really, REALLY don't like the way Apple controls how you use music and how the device links to the computer(s). For instance, when my office hard drive crashed and (I thought) I'd lost everything, I learned that you cannot transfer from the iPod to the computer – this was a one-way music street. Here though, iTunes came up to scratch and set up my purchased songs to be downloaded again. My other peeve is that even though both office and home computers are authorized to my iTunes account, I can only sync the iPod to one computer. Yes, I know, you can transfer purchases from two authorized computers, but if I'm loading my CDs onto one computer, I don't want to have to do it all over again on another one. I get the anti-piracy thing and I support it because I create stuff and I don't want anyone poaching it. But I'm not poaching, I bought this stuff and I should be able to move it around however I want it to go. Apple disagrees.

Still, all this was more irritating than deal-breaking and I know very little about DRM and personal device technology but enough to suck it up as part of the price of being a lesser being in the iPod world. Kind of like being a woman in the "modern" evangelical church.

And then the bloody thing busted.

It's only a year and 6 weeks old!

Needless to say, I was not happy. I was actually totally flabbergasted. For years, all I heard was how great apple was, how their computers never got viruses and never crashed and here my very first apple product that I was – in cannot be said strongly enough - enraptured with totally tanked.

And so I entered the Apple store zone. I zoomed up to the Rockaway mall the very next day and had the helpful scrum at its entrance confirm that it was, indeed, gone. Big honking red X in a circle on my iPod screen should have been my first hint. I asked the girl why. She said, it happens, especially on the refurbished ones. I say, oh no, this isn't a refurbished one. I bought it new off apple.com. She said, well maybe, but they've not really new. They've been sitting in the warehouse for years. I said Wha –huh? Really, quite literally, my jaw dropped and I said "Wha- huh?" Because see, I was under the impression that I'd paid all this money for A BRAND SPANKING NEW IPOD.

Essentially she couldn't even help me. Oh no. I had to make a tech appointment with one of their "geniuses" for the next day who told me that it was totally gone. So back and forth I went, sun setting and rising between my Apple store visits. Thank God – THANK GOD – I had bought the warranty. The tech "genius" offered to replace it on the spot, but I'd had it engraved and wanted the same engraving on my new one. That meant I had to leave the store and contact apple by phone. I'm convinced that their telephone customer service department is on the other side of the planet. Polite and competent as the service eventually was, given my state of mind by now, this was NOT the time to make communication problematic.

Plus my faith in Apple was completely gone. I no longer trusted that either the store or telephone customer service would actually give me a new one. By now, I'm beginning to doubt they have them at all. This distrust that was upheld when my "new" iPod arrived with a caveat note that said it may actually be a refurbished one – no guarantee that it's new. So here I thought I'd bought a new iPod and the extended warranty, which guaranteed that it would be replaced with a new hard drive should something happen only to find when push came to shove that Apple is only too happy to shove someone else's problems off onto you when fulfilling the terms of your warranty replacement.

How nice of them.

I've had the new iPod for two weeks and only now have I begun to connect it to my laptop and start loading it up. All my previous glee is gone. I've lost my urge for audio books on the iPod and have returned to the radio for in-transit entertainment. I'm back to be surly and aggressive in the supermarket derby and have returned to DVDs on the computer when I'm cooking (rare as that is) and cleaning (often equally rare).

And I am completely soured on Apple. Had I known any of this earlier, I never would have bought my sister the iNano. She is currently experience excessive iNano glee so much that I was actually considering splurging for one for myself. I haven't the heart now to burst her bubble.

Look, I expect Microsoft products to screw me. I know to stay far away from Vista. I'm prepped that my laptop has a shelf life that will never ever be as long as I need it to be. But Apple has spent years selling a type of product that doesn't exist. Maybe its computers are better constructed. Certainly a number of writing friends swear by Macintosh and their iMacs and wouldn't dream of returning to the PC world. I was considering becoming one of those people in the next one or two years.

Not anymore.