Sunday, May 31, 2015

10 Years of Doctor Who Reborn: Series Two

Hi there, Whovians! Today is another installment of my weekly series of posts looking back over the 10 years of Doctor Who since it was relaunched back in 2005. 

Last week, I ranked the episodes of Series One from worst to first. This week, I do the same for Series Two. There is no scientific basis for any of this analysis, just my own feelings and reactions to these episodes. They're just opinions that I am not prepared to fight to the death to defend. 

As I did last week, I will review two parters as separate episodes. Also I was either too generous with last week's post (5 stars for Rose? All of 2 stars for World War III and Boom Town? Really?) or I'm overcompensating this week (there are some 1 star episodes). Well, I never said this was scientific. Hopefully I will find my rhythm with this project soon. 

Anyway, moving onwards... 

Series Two was a challenging time for Doctor Who. The series had relaunched the previous year to mostly positive acclaim, helped in no small part by Christopher Eccleston's portrayal of the Doctor. But Eccleston opted to move on after only 1 year in the role so it came time to find a new Doctor. 

And what a Doctor they found in David Tennant. Tennant's geek chic 10th Doctor quickly captured fans imaginations and propelled him to the top of a lot of Favorite Doctors lists. But how did David's first year as the Doctor go? At least in my opinion anyway. Let's find out after a lovely picture of the Doctor and Rose.

And let the countdown begin. 


#14  Fear Her *
If you're wondering why this one is at the bottom of the list ahead of...well, you know...this episode is done in by a little thing and one big thing. The little things like the neighborhood where the kids have gone missing seems to be suffering from nothing more than a little bit of tension; given the number of children missing, the whole area should be in some kind of total meltdown and/or lockdown. Seriously, the Doctor and Rose are the only ones checking into this? And the big thing is casting. Chloe Webber is so central to this mystery but the actress portraying her is just not up to the task. I know its just one role in the story but every time Chloe is on screen, it's just so overwhelmingly bad. Bonus points: the TARDIS gets stuck between two dumpsters, Rose saves the day and the Doctor saves the Olympics.

#13  Love & Monsters *   
Ah, this is the one you thought would be at the very bottom of the list, huh? Here's the thing: it's not a bad episode...for about 20 minutes. The idea of people only peripherally aware of the Doctor coming together is a charming idea, made even more so as they find among themselves new friends with a love of ELO. Then the story takes a sinister turn and before its all over, everyone's dead, all because they knew about the Doctor and had bonded over the fact. If the writer and producers had trusted in what they had in the beginning, this may have been a better regarded show. Instead the sweet idea sold to the audience winds up delivering a sour betrayal at the end. 

#12  The Satan Pit *  
The Doctor spends much of the time in a space suit with a helmet while wrestling with a philosophical dilemma. Rose gets some great "take charge" scenes. The bit at the end where she shoots out the rocketship's view port and sends the big bad on his way to oblivion is totally awesome. But despite the Devil himself with an army of murderously deranged Ood, too often I find this story rather boring. Which is interesting because even less happened in Part 1 but...well, I'm getting ahead of myself.  

#11  The Idiot's Lantern **
An alien menace sucking out souls into television sets leaving behind faceless bodies is a conceit worthy of The Twilight Zone. And there a number of lovely touches: the Doctor and Rose on a scooter, the Doctor starting to talk himself out of getting punched in the face only to get punched in the face, the way the Doctor turns the tables on the detectives as he goes from suspect to in charge of the questioning. Still there is something feels a bit empty about the episode. And a real bone of contention: the Doctor's dramatic speech about how nothing was going to stand in his way when he sees Rose as been zapped faceless by the alien. Before now, you were all screwed but now its hurt my girlfriend so I'm going kick this thing's butt! (Maybe not really but it reads like that.)  

#10   Rise of the Cybermen ***
The Doctor, Rose and Mickey wind up in a parallel world where Rose's dad is still alive and so is Mickey's grandmother. The Doctor is against this but who's listening? Besides the Doctor finds himself a mystery that leads to a new group of Cyberman coming to life on this alternate Earth. The revelation of the other world's "Rose" and the Doctor's reaction to it is priceless as is Mickey's meet up with his doppleganger, Rickey. A lot of chess pieces being moved around so this mostly set up but a solid set up for what comes next.  

#09  The Christmas Invasion ***
What? The 10th Doctor's first full episode is no higher than a 9? What am I thinking? Well, there are some good bits: the TARDIS makes a dramatic entrance as it crashes down (seems to be a trend as we'll see with future first stories for new Doctors) and the Doctor's big entrance about 3/4ths of the way into the episode as he confronts the Sykorax is nothing short of awesome. But we spend too much time with the Doctor not being the Doctor; go see the classic series story Castrovalva on how well having your new Doctor laid out most of the time...doesn't work. And the bit when the Doctor sews the seeds of Harriet Jones' downfall? Man, that does not work. Yeah, he looks so bad ass bringing down the Prime Minister with six little words but it makes the Doctor look temperamental and judgmental and maybe just plain old mental. We know Jones may have made the wrong decision to have Torchwood destroy the retreating aliens (I'm not entirely sure she did) but she has been set up as being a very good leader for Great Britain. And the Doctor by himself decides to tear that down to satisfy his (self) righteous indignation. No, not good.

#08  Army of Ghosts ***
The people of Earth are being visited by the ghosts of long lost loved one but the Doctor has to poke it with a stick and yep, they're Cybermen. And the Daleks pop out of a large gold ball for good measure. And in between we get the Doctor in the TARDIS with...Jackie? The Doctor tries to pass her off as Rose but aged due to exposure to the time vortex. The Doctor comes in contact with Torchwood which, for all the buildup all seasons, does not strike me as being that impressive. It really seems like they're UNIT-lite, a vaguely sinister secret agency but with social skills. Overall, it's a fairly enjoyable episode and set up for things to come.

#07  The Impossible Planet ***
As I noted in last week's post, two part episodes are rarely balanced; that is one part is going to be better than the other. This episode sets up The Satan Pit. There's nowhere near the action going in the first part as there is in Part 2 but Part 1 keeps me interested more. The sense of dread and doom is almost palpable as the Doctor and Rose finds themselves trapped on a planet that shouldn't exist. 

#06  Wolf & Claw ***
There's a really cool "Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon" thing with some red robed bald headed monks at the start  of the episode. Then nothing like that ever happens again. Which seems a little weird. Still cool to look at, though. So the Doctor and Rose meet Queen Victoria and take on a werewolf. I'm not sure why I'm rating the episode as high as I am. Well, there are a lot of good bits besides the monk/ninjas or whatever they were. The Doctor using Jamie McCrimmon has an alias, Rose attempting to speak with a Scottish accent (no, no, just don't, no), The Doctor and Rose in a bet to see who can get Queen Victoria to say "we are not amused". 

#05  New Earth ***
I know a lot fans don't rate this so well but I found this to be a solid episode with a lot action, horror, humor and drama. Having reappearances by Cassandra & the Face of Boe from Series One helps with the transition from the 9th Doctor to the 10th. Cassandra's consciousness hopping from Rose's body to the Doctor's and back again gave David Tennant and Billie Piper some wonderfully funny moments. We also see the start of the 10th Doctor's obsession with shops in hospitals and his disdain of cats. All in all, I thought this was a very good showcase to get the 10th Doctor on his way.

#04  Age of Steel ***
The pieces put into place in Rise of the Cybermen come together with some fast paced action sequences and real character development. The Doctor and Mrs. Moore in the tunnels was delightful to watch until Mrs. Moore's untimely end. Rose with the parallel world Pete Tyler infiltrating the Cybermen factory, Pete trying to figure out what the deal is with Rose; their quest meets a tragic end when they find that world's Jackie Tyler has been converted to a Cyberman. But the big surprise...and a much welcome Mickey Smith. Mickey, scared of his shadow when we first met him in Episode One of Series One, now steps up big time: hacking the Cybus computers, overriding the Cybermen, piloting the zepellin to rescue Rose, Pete and the Doctor and opting to stay behind in this world to carry one Ricky's work and take care of of his rediscovered grandmother in a parallel world. 

#03  School Reunion ****
Maybe it's nostalgia that fuels my appreciation for this episode. The plot about using mind controlled school kids to computer hack the secrets of the universe is not as interesting as it could've been. But no one was tuning in to this episode for the plot. No, the draw here is the return of Sarah Jane Smith, the first real tangible connection to the classic series other than the Doctor himself and the blue police box. The progression of Rose and Sarah Jane from animosity to camaraderie ("every man's worst nightmare: the missus and the ex") is fun to witness. Sarah Jane's reaction when she sees the TARDIS for the first time in years is priceless as her realization that the new school teacher, Mr. Smith, is the Doctor. Sarah Jane's frustration with the Doctor for leaving her behind so long ago and never coming back, Rose's worries of being left behind like the Doctor's other companions and the Doctor opening up about why he keeps moving on, all of this and K-9 too is what makes this episode special. 

#02  Doomsday ****
Daleks vs. Cybermen. We could stop there if it was just a matter of watching these classic foes of the Doctor in battle with each other. But they also trash talk each other too! ("You are superior to the Daleks in only one aspect: you are better at dying!" Burn!) And then there's so much other stuff like Parallel Pete Tyler meeting this world's Jackie who really doesn't care how wealthy Pete is. ("How rich?" Well, it doesn't hurt to ask) Or the perky head of Torchwood, choking back tears but she still strides ahead to face her fate as a Cyberman (which comes around to help things a bit later on). But the big change up comes at the end when the Doctor rids the Earth of the Daleks and Cybermen but loses Rose to the parallel world. The sheer drama and pathos as the Doctor burns up a star to bridge the gap between universes just to say goodbye is powerful stuff. And Rose declares she loves the Doctor and the Doctor realizing he may never have this chance again, says "Rose Tyler..." and he's gone. Women were determined that the Doctor was going to tell Rose he loved her and dudes of all ages thought that was just icky.

#01  The Girl In the Fireplace *****
What can be said about this episode that hasn't been said a million times over? If someone is really new to Doctor Who, this episode is at the top of my list as a first time entry point. It travels in space AND time. It has comedy AND drama. It has romance. (Romance, I tells ya!) It has period costuming AND alien robots. Steven Moffat's script covers a lot of bases of what we expect from Doctor and some things we might not. (Did I mention romance?) The plot hinges on a lot of suspended disbelief but who cares? There's a fairy tale vibe to this episode of fantastic action (The Doctor. On a horse. Crashing through a mirror. Need I say more?) and star-crossed affection. (The Doctor and Madame de Pompadour never line up again until he sees her body leaving Versailles for the last time.) If you're not experiencing the feels by the end of this one, then you too may be a wind up clock robot and you just don't have the parts.  


So there's my list ranking of the episodes of Series Two. Next week, Martha Jones joins the Doctor on the TARDIS as we take a look at Series Three of Doctor Who. You may not be surprised at what's at the bottom of the list but may be for what's at the top. I know I surprised myself.  

Until next time, remember to be good to one another. 

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Here's a Tip: Buy Low, Sell High

There seems to be a lot of back and forth when it comes to restaurant tabs. 

On the bad side, there have been insults from patrons about the wait staff or insults about the patrons from the wait staff on credit card receipts. It's nice to know that in this modern age of Twitter and Facebook, we can still send messages by passing notes. 

But on the good side, we've seen stories of the big tips and messages of support and gratitude that appear on credit card receipts. The most recent of these to make the news is the story of the $93.00 restaurant bill... and the $2,000.00 tip! (Click here for more on that story.)  

My experience with being a tipper did not get off to a great start. My first time paying for a meal in a table service restaurant, I did not leave a tip. Why? Because I was stupid, that's why. When I was kid growing up, the big culinary excursion for my parents and I was to travel 20 miles north of my hometown to eat at Hardee's. And not even IN Hardee's. No, we would eat in the car. To be fair, I kind of thought that was cool. 

But I think I can count on one hand the times we actually went to a proper restaurant where we sat at a table and was served by a waiter or waitress. And either I wasn't paying attention to the act of tipping or my dad didn't leave a tip. 

In my defense, I think that when I was a kid, the idea of tipping wasn't a universally understood thing. It was one of those things rich people did in fancy restaurants on TV or in the movies. Maybe tipping became more of a thing because we wanted to show off like movie stars. "Thanks for the meal, babe, and here's a fiver for your trouble." 

Tipping is a lot easier with credit cards. If you spend $10.00 on dinner and all you had left was 3 bucks and that was for gas to get home*, well, sorry, lady or lad, but I can't cover the tip. With the advent of credit cards, tipping became easier. You could be generous to your waitress, even you had no change in your pocket and your credit limit was buckling from the stress. 

*Clearly this in 1970's money. 

Still, I tried to be meticulous with tipping, calculating down to the penny what I was going to leave for a tip. "OK, the tip comes to two dollars and 47 and a half cents. Ah, live a little, make it 48 cents!"  

When my wife and I started dating, the standard for tipping was 15%. I was good with 15%. I mean, anybody can figure 10% then add half of that amount to the total, voila, 15% tip. 

Over time, the range for tipping has inched up to between 15% and 20%. Some restaurants will helpfully calculate choices for tip amounts for 15% ("you cheap bastard!"), 18% ("you picky bastard!") and 20% ("Thank you, sir! Next time, we won't spit in your food!")  

20% seems to be the accepted standard. But my wife still keeps trying to calculate 15% whenever she pays for dinner. "David, what's 15% of $30?" she'll ask and I'll tell her $6.00 so the waitress still gets her 20% and my wife thinks she's saving money. Everyone's happy! 

But these big tippers showing off with their $100 tips or $500 or even $2,000? Are they setting up an expectation for servers that anything less than a miracle largess is less than satisfactory? God, I hope not. I can't tip in that league. 

I did go a little happy with the tipping a few times last summer and fall. The El family was venturing out from the Fortress of Ineptitude to watch Doctor Who episodes at the Geeksboro Coffeehouse & Cinema. On the same block is an Elizabeth's Pizza so during that 12 episode season of Doctor Who, we ate at that location 4 times. I would've been glad to eat there every Saturday; Elizabeth's has great Italian food. 

So we got a waitress named Amber who looked just like Jenna Coleman who plays Clara on Doctor Who. And Amber was funny and friendly, the whole family just enjoyed having her as our server. So when I settled up the tab which was about $30.00 (not bad for the best pizza you'll ever eat plus salads and drinks) and wrote in a tip for... $10.00! 

Yep, I tipped our waitress 33%! 

But we loved Amber (seriously, I think we would've adopted her as a daughter if we could!) and we asked for a table in her area in our next visits. The problem was I had set a precedent as a big tipper! A full 20% tip would make her think she did something wrong. So I reigned myself in and only tipped her 25%. Which is what I tipped her the next time. My wife picked up the tab for the last meal.  

"David, what's 15% of $30.00?"

"Uh, $8.00."

"I thought it was $6.00."


"Oh, okay." 

We haven't been back since Doctor Who's last season ended. It seems like every Saturday has some other plan or obstacle that keeps us from going. And what if Amber's gone? She was working her way through college and maybe she's moved on to bigger and better things. Which would be great for her but would suck for us. 

Except I would be able to save money on more reasonable tips. 


Hey, I brought up Doctor Who and that segue-ways us into tomorrow's post as present another installment of this blog's celebration of Doctor Who's 10 years back on the air. Tomorrow, rank and review the episode of Series 2, the first with David Tennant as the Doctor.

Until next time, be good to one another. 

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

Friday, May 29, 2015

Black Bird Flying in the Early Morning

I was standing with my daughter as we waited for her school bus. Miranda's going to high school next year but so far, she still wants her dad standing with her and I don't mind.

This particular Thursday morning, we looked up and saw a large black bird with gray tips on his wings soaring through the sky above our street.

"Wow,  that's some hawk!" Miranda commented and I certainly agreed with her. This bird had an enormous wing span that rode the air as he gently arced gracefully above us. It was one of those moments you can't plan for yet brings such joy and wonder to life.

Miranda's bus made its turn down our street which is my cue to head back to the house. She might like the company of her dad while waiting for the bus but once the bus is in sight, buh-bye. Teenagers, what can you do?

As Miranda's bus pulled away, I was just about to get in my car to go to work when I noticed the house across the street. The large black bird my daughter and I had seen before came in for a landing on the roof of the house next to another black bird with gray tipped wings.

"Oh, there's two of them," I observed, but I was wrong. I became aware of movement on my neighbor's deck when I saw another one of these birds perched on the railing. Then he flew up to join the other, FOUR birds on the roof, making a total of 5 large black birds on the house. 

No, the total is now six, wait, seven because back down at the deck, another bird flitted up to perch on the railing while another one soared down to join her. (Her, him, I really have no idea but Miranda hates it when I refer to animals as "it" so...)

Now the total of these birds comes to nine as two more alight on the roof with five perched on the peak of the roof and two more hanging around the deck.

Nope, not nine birds but twelve as three more drifted down from the sky and landed in my neighbor's back yard. One of this group flew up to land on the side of the roof while the other two joined the two already perched on the deck railing.

Seeing birds in my neighborhood is not usually a big deal. There are wrens and sparrows aplenty and, of course, North Carolina's state bird, the cardinal, makes fairly regular appearances. And there are the crows, lots of crows. As for larger birds, I have seen an eagle once or twice. Hawks and hawk-like birds are not uncommon but I've never such a large gathering in one place of birds of this size. I wondered if all twelve of those birds hooked their claws into the roof and flapped those majestic wings with all the power they could muster, they would fly away with my neighbor's house.

Thankfully they had no such nefarious intent to purloin this residence. It appeared to be just a convenient rest stop or meeting place.

Later at work, I took a little time at lunch to research these birds and as best as I can determine, being large black hawk-like birds with gray wing tips, these were black vultures which can be found here in North Carolina.

But knowing they were vultures sort of gives the gathering of these winged shadows on the top of my neighbor's house a more ominous tone. But still it was a sight to see, the morning of the great black vulture convention.

Hey, everyone be good to one another. I'll be back with another post tomorrow.

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rejected Hobbies

Yesterday, I posted about death. Yeah, a really depressing subject that I managed to make even more depressing

So how to counter-act that? With something stupid and random. And there is nothing stupider and randomer than... 

Reheated Tweets! 

Here's the bit: I take Tweets that I post on my Twitter account (which can be found here) that nobody reads over there and I re-purpose them for a single blog post that nobody reads over here. 

So here are some Tweets back in April on the subject of Rejected Hobbies! Enjoy! 

And that's a thing that happened. 

Another post coming up tomorrow. Until then, be good to one another. 


I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

An Unfortunate End

Sorry in advance: This is going to be one of those blog posts where I get all introspective and stuff. 

Seriously. Real Debbie Downer material. 

This weekend, John Nash, the genius mathematician who was the subject of the film A Beautiful Mind, died in a car crash along with his wife. He was 86 years old. 

His death made the news media outlets across the internet including where the posting of Nash's death shared the page with some other stories. 

Yeah, not good. (Eventually NBC moved things around a bit.)

I'm not going to pontificate on John Nash or the film about his life. If I may, I'm going to be a bit selfish (it is my blog after all) to ponder something that really bothers me. 

John Nash died in a car accident at age 86.  

A few months ago, 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon died as a result of a car accident at the age of 73.

No one gets to pick and choose when and how we die. (Well, maybe you can but that's a hot topic for another time.) But there's a certain tragic twist when someone has lived a long life, makes it to old age but they don't get to die in their bed of old age or any related illnesses or conditions. No, they get taken out by a car crash. Or a gunshot. Or a fire. Or some other form of catastrophic tragedy. 

Fate is funny like that, I guess. I'm not sure what I expect out of life or death. Certainly not fairness. Maybe I think life is like the game of Sorry. You move your pieces around the board; at any moment, any of your opponents can zap you and send you back to Start. But eventually you make your way to a Safety Zone where no one can get you. Then you go to the final position where you stay safe and sound. 

Until the game is over. 

There is no safety zone in real life. You don't cross a magic line and get a pass on being killed by a tragic accident.  "Congratulations! You've made it to 70! From here on out, you will live your life until it is over. No stabbings or gunshots, no fires or auto accidents."

So at what age is it OK to die in an auto accident? Or in a fire? Or from being shot? Of course it's a stupid question because it's never OK for anyone to die as a victim of any of these calamities. It will always be a tragedy at any age. 

But there is something that pokes at the corners of my brain when I hear of an older person dying in such a way. I think that we come to accept that for someone older, in the twilight of their life, the clock is ticking and it seems such an affront to make it so far only for the clock to be broken before it can wind down. 

But that applies to everyone, young and old, doesn't it? The clock is ticking for all of us and sometimes the clock is shattered before the time is through. 

Death is fair only in that it comes for everyone. But when and how, well, that's where Death is a cheating bastard. John Nash at 86 years old, he probably figured he would die in a bed somewhere, not in the mangled wreckage of a car. 

For all of us, there is always an end. And none of us has any say on whether or not it is an unfortunate end. 

Remember to be good to one another.   

Whoa. Hey, I tried to warn you. Maybe for the next post I will come up with something more fun...ish. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Life In the Fast Food Lane: The Horror Returns

Back in January 2014, I posted a couple of things here and here on the woes of fast food drive through. This past weekend I had a couple of encounters that I just felt compelled to share. 

Friday I had a request from the family to go by a certain fast food chain whose name rhymes with "Dick Guh May".* 

*And if you've figured out that crafty code and you're gay, lesbian, transgender or differently gendered in some other way, I do most sincerely apologize but their dicken sandwiches are SO good! I am so weak, I can't help myself! I'm sorry! 

Now there are places I go where I wish I could just tell them, "I'd like to order the Long family special" because I get the same damn thing every time (with the occasional variation 'cause I'm a rebel like that.) In the case of "Dick Guh May", my standard order goes like this: 

"I'd like to get two #1 combos with no pickles on the sandwich, fruit cups instead of fries for the side and and to drink, two small chocolate** shakes with no toppings. I also would like to get a large order of waffle fries and another small chocolate*** shake with no toppings."  

**When they have 'em, I get the peach shakes. Oh so good!

***Will always be chocolate. Always! 

The combos are for my wife and I while the fries and the 3rd shake are for my daughter. My daughter loves "Dick Guh May"...except for the dicken. (Go figure!)   

So Friday night evening I set forth from the Fortress of Ineptitude (bedazzling with a freshly mowed lawn, thank you very much!) to bring back sustenance for my family. I get to "Dick Guh May" and see that, yeah, peach shakes are back. Awesome! 

So I get to the speaker and a very pleasant voice, sounds like a young man, asks for my order. So I begin my practiced spiel. 

"I'd like to get two #1 combos with no pickles on the sandwich, fruit cups instead of fries for the side and to drink, two small peach shakes with no toppings. I also would like to get a large order of waffle fries and another small chocolate shake with no toppings."   

"Could you repeat that?" asked the still pleasant but now more confused voice. 

You may think that maybe since I know this bit so well, I might say it a bit fast. Actually I'm cognizant of that risk so I make every effort to speak deliberately and at a modest pace. I even pause a bit between the combos and my daughter's fries and shake. Still, maybe it was a bit much to process at one time, so I go again, a bit slower this time. 

"I'd like to get two #1 combos with no pickles on the sandwich, fruit cups instead of fries for the side and to drink, two small peach shakes with no toppings. I also would like to get a large order of waffle fries and another small chocolate shake with no toppings."  


"Uh, OK. Is that all?"

I have a bad feeling about this but when I confirm that yes, that will be all, he repeats the order correctly. Then he says, "Your total is $24. Please drive around. It has been my pleasure to serve you." 

Besides the impossibly good dicken sandwiches, "Dick Guh May" has the most polite people, always saying, "It's been my pleasure to serve you."

But as I drove around, I began to ponder the amount I was given. "Dick Guh May" is not a cheap place to eat but the Long family special is usually closer to $20, not $24. What gives? Have prices gone up again? 

As I drive up to the window, they have my beverages ready for me: 3 small shakes and 2 Cokes. 

2 Cokes? 

I take this up with the very patient lady at the window who says the order shows I asked for Cokes and sure enough its on the paper she shows me. Now at the risk of annoying you, gentle reader (I know, too late) but let me present ONE MORE TIME my order for the evening. 

"I'd like to get two #1 combos with no pickles on the sandwich, fruit cups instead of fries for the side and to drink, two small peach shakes with no toppings. I also would like to get a large order of waffle fries and another small chocolate shake with no toppings."  

At no point does the word "Coke" ever appear. At all! 

So here's what I'm guessing: the guy taking the order didn't grasp that I was ordering the shakes as my beverages with the combos. But since I never said what he was expecting as a beverage, he defaulted to Coke. Well, the lady at the window and her manager did grasp what I wanted and very graciously changed the order and reduced the tab by $4.00. (Damn, that's a lot for two Cokes!) 

When I got back to the Fortress of Ineptitude, there were pickles on the sandwiches. Yeah, you can peel 'em off but there's still that taint of pickle juice. Why, oh why does there have to be a pickle?

But "Dick Guh May" makes a damn fine dicken sandwich.****

****Again, gay people, I am so sorry! I do support marriage equality, does that help? 


My second tale of fast food drive thru takes place at, let's say McDonald's.  Because this happened at McDonald's. 

As you know, the Golden Arches have not been faring well of late as people are going to other places with actual food substances in their food instead of simulated food-like stuff that I call "McMatter". (For a previous posts on McDonald's, click here and here.) One really good innovation was the concept of having options for what you wanted with your McMeal. Instead of fries, you could substitute, among other things, a side salad. McDonald's salads aren't that great but they're not that bad and every little bit helps when one decides to indulge in a Quarter Pounder with Cheese.*****

*****Hold the pickle, natch! 

So here we go on a recent Saturday at the McDonald's drive thru. (Oh and let me say I am so glad they have the screen where you can see your order. That really comes in handy.) 

Woman's voice: Welcome to McDonald's. May I take your order.

Me: Yes, I would like to get a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a Mickey D's Sweet Tea******, 3 piece Chicken Selects  with a small mango pineapple smoothie, 10 piece chicken McNuggets and another small mango pineapple smoothie.

******Mickey D's Sweet Tea = liquid crack  

Woman's voice: Would you like to make any of those a meal?

Me: Sure, let's do that for the burger and the selects but I want to get side salads instead of fries. 

Woman's voice: OK

So I watch the screen and I notice that the meals still reference fries and not side salads. 

Woman's voice: Does your order appear correct?

Me: Well, I said I wanted to get side salads instead of fries.

Woman's voice: Sorry about that. Hold on please. 

Then two salads appear on the order increasing the price as I noticed the fries are still listed as part of the meal deals.

Me: Uh, it still says fries under the burger and the chicken.

Woman's voice: Yes sir. You said you wanted to make those value meals. 

Me: Yeah but I don't want fries. 

Woman's voice: So you don't want these as value meals? 

Me: Yes I do but I want side salads INSTEAD of fries!

Woman's voice: Oh.


Woman's voice: We don't do that anymore. 

Me: What? 

Woman's voice: Yeah, the choice of side items for value meals, they stopped doing that. 

To be honest, I hadn't really paid attention to the menu board but damn, the option to select sides for the value meals was indeed gone. 

But I'm still not happy. How many times had I said I wanted side salads INSTEAD of fries? Yet she was trying to ring me up for fries AND salads! 

If I hadn't been in a hurry (which is the only reason I was at McDonald's in the first place), I would've drove off in a huff just to make a point. But I say, "Just drop the fries and the salads."

Woman's voice: You don't want these as meals? 

Me: (Sigh!) No, not as meals. 

So I drive around and I pay, then I drive up to get my order. I get the two smoothies, my iced tea (my precious!), the burger, the McChicken Selects and the McNuggets. And also two orders of fries. I double checked the receipts and no, I did not get charged for them. But nonetheless, I had fries I didn't want. 

Yes, I ate the damn fries! 

And I'm so glad my suffering amuses you. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Who Will Forgive Mike Huckabee?

Recently the Duggar family, the ever proliferating family on the popular TLC series 19 Kids and Counting, has found itself embroiled in a scandal when it was revealed that oldest son Josh Duggar molested underage girls back in 2002-2003. 

That by itself is not a good thing but can it be made even worse? Yes. Yes, it can. 

  • Josh's father, Jim Bob Duggar, knew back in 2002 that then 14 year old Josh was accused of sexually molesting an underage girl. 
  • Josh was accused of touching 5 underage girls inappropriately from 2002 to 2003. In other words, after Dad found out about it, it kept happening.  
  • By the way, some of the girls were his sisters.  
  • Police found out about all this in 2006 because someone found a letter in a book discussing these events. The Duggars did not bring this matter to the authorities; the authorities found out by accident. 
  • When confronted by the police about this in 2006, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar said they had disciplined their son about this behavior. Josh's parents said that Josh has been sent to a Christian program where he put in a lot of hard physical labor and received counseling; if that's what you call sending Josh to live with a family friend to help with a home remodeling business (which is what actually happened), well, sure. 
The day after Duggar admitted the allegation were true, TLC pulled 19 Kids and Counting from its lineup, which was one day too many for those disgusted by this whole affair. 

Sensing an opportunity, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee offered his support for the Duggar family and said that Josh Duggar should be offered forgiveness. 


Now here's the thing: in one sense, Huckabee (please don't hurt me for saying this) is right. Forgiveness of sins by God and by each other is a central bedrock of the Christian faith.  

But the problem is that bedrock is badly fractured. Too many hot headed firebrands of the evangelical ultra conservative right wing have made so many outrageous statements in judgement of other people for so long; vitriolic attacks on gays, Muslims, atheists, liberals, not to mention the President of the United States, a lot of them slung by Mike Huckabee himself, have really damaged the credibility of Christians when it comes to messages of love and forgiveness. Particularly to hear Mike Huckabee offer this olive branch of forgiveness to and for Josh Duggar rings especially hollow. Of course, Duggar should be forgiven, some may think, looking from the outside, he's one of their own.  

Maybe Duggar has genuinely felt remorse for what he has done and has actively applied himself to being a better person. But a crime was committed and the perpetrator of that crime did not have to answer for it in a court of law. You know, the same court of law where you and I would have to face judgement for our crimes ...unless you happen to know a Arkansas State Trooper  (as Jim Bob Duggar did) to help sweep things under the rug. 

The person I feel is most reprehensible in the whole sordid mess is Mike Huckabee. He saw a chance to score face time on TV which is a great thing if you're running for President. This same rat in a human suit who is not above pandering to the lowest elements of humanity, ignorance and fear, wants us to forgive Josh Duggar. 

And maybe we can and someday we will. After all, that is the foundation of not just the Christian faith but also of a just and equitable society. Sometimes we do wrong, we pay for those wrongs and then try to improve our lives so we won't do those wrongs again. Not being able to forgive is what fuels the fires of war in the Middle East. Not being able to forgive is what fuels the fires of distrust between citizens and police here in America. 

But poor, poor Mike Huckabee: who is going to forgive you? Well, I will. Mike Huckabee, I forgive you for being such a total dick. I but hope that you will accept my forgiveness and from that forgiveness, I hope you can go and be a dick no more. 

Be good to one another, everybody. 


UPDATED: 05/25/2015, 9:40 AM
Mike Huckabee digs himself into a hole on tax policy without realizing he's in a hole. For more on that, read this.


For an earlier post on the subject of forgiveness, click here for my take on the subject from June 29, 2014.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

10 Years of Doctor Who Reborn: Series One

Hi there, Whovians! It's hard to believe that the return of Doctor Who to our TV screens happened all of 10 years ago. The phenomenon that is Doctor Who has really exploded over that 10 year span to a degree that long time fans of the show could not have dreamed possible back in the wilderness days when television was bereft of the Doctor's adventures. 

Today is the first of a series of posts as I look at each season of Doctor Who and rank each episode according to the rigorous standards of my own subjective criteria. Your mileage may vary.  I will rank the episodes from worst to first and rate each episode on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 for "yeah, that could've been better" and 5 for "oh yeah, the Doctor rocks!

Also, I am rating each individual episode, even if its part of a two-parter. Sometimes two part episodes are not necessarily a single entity with Part 1 being a weaker or stronger installment than Part 2.

When this is all done, I will then assess what I think is the single best season of Doctor Who since the show relaunched. 

So let's get started with the year that started it all, 2005, when Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper made us believe all over again that a wonderful blue box could take us anywhere. 

#13     World War Three **
I know the conventional wisdom is that Boom Town was the low point of Series One and with good reason. However, I'm placing the 2nd episode of the revived series' first two parter in the bottom spot. Why? Mostly because the Slitheen just didn't work for me as effective protagonists and their whole scheme seemed so half-baked. And the solution of bringing a missile down on 10 Downing Street was a bit over the top. 

#12     Boom Town **
This was a quickly written episode to replace another script that just wasn't coming together and the seams show. I don't rate this as dead last simply because I like this type of "slice of life" episodes as we see the Doctor and his crew just hanging and swapping stories. Margaret the Slitheen was slimy and creepy even as she appealed for mercy. 

#11     Aliens of London  **

After this one, we're done with the Slitheen, OK? There are some good points to this episode: the Doctor getting the time wrong (Rose has been gone for 12 months, not 12 hours), the space ship crashing into Big Ben, the media frenzy over this alien encounter, the reactions of regular people. But I have a sense that once we have the set piece of the space ship crash landing, there's an uncertainty as to where to go next. 

#10     The Empty Child ***

As I noted earlier, the thing about two part episodes is that they don't always work as a cohesive whole. The set up may be a doozy but the pay off sucks. Or the pay off is stronger than the set up would have us believe. Steven Moffat's first contribution to the revived Doctor Who kind of fits in the latter camp. There's a lot to like about this episode: the skin crawling atmosphere, Rose's first encounter with Capt. Jack and more. But this is all set up and I have to admit a bias against the first scene where after watching this episode several times, I still have no idea what the Doctor and Rose are saying.

#09     Bad Wolf ***

The opening is a bit frantic for my tastes and the joke about the reality TV shows of the future wears a bit thin. But the big reveal of the Daleks at the end and the Doctor's kick ass speech that he's going to rescue Rose and blast every Dalek out of the sky? Epic! 

#08     The Long Game ***

The subplot with Adam seems like filler and eats up way too much time. Still, the pointed commentary about a society having access to so much information but lacking true knowledge and wisdom is aimed directly at us here in the 21st Century. And Simon Pegg's performance as the evil Director elevates the proceedings. 

#07     The Unquiet Dead ***

I wanted to rank and rate this one higher. I don't find anything particularly wrong with the episode, an entertaining combination of gothic horror, science fiction and real history in the form of Charles Dickens. It's a solid story, not too flashy but it holds together well enough.  

#06     The End of the World ***

This one declares with no hesitation, this is not your old Doctor Who. A plethora of alien races, a massively realized sci-fi base, a major cosmic event and Brittney Spears. In addition, we see some of the complexity of a Doctor/companion relationship that was rarely explored on the classic series. 

#05     The Doctor Dances ****

If I was kind of "meh" for the first installment, this second part of Steven Moffat's story kicks things up to the next level. The banter between the Doctor, Rose and Jack is rapid-fire and clever. And the ending is so heartbreaking realized yet ends on the most joyous of notes: "Just this once, everybody lives!"

#04     Father's Day ****

One thing the classic series didn't really do a lot was to explore the background of the companions. Basically, once someone gets on the TARDIS to travel with the Doctor, that's all they are until it's time to leave. Father's Day brings a level of drama and pathos not seen on the show back in the day and underscores the importance of the companion and her story. 

#03     Dalek ****

How to make the Daleks scary? Show just one, beaten, damaged, helpless. Then watch as that one Dalek rises up to slaughter on its path. Yet for all that, this story actually does the impossible and makes you care about a Dalek, at least for a little bit.

#02     Rose *****
Yes, I'm giving this one five stars. No, it is not a masterpiece of creative writing but it does exactly what it needs to do as the first episode of the revived Doctor Who. 

#01     The Parting of the Ways *****

There's so much at work here and it's not just the spectacle of the Doctor up against a Dalek armada. We see how Rose has been affected by her journeys with the Doctor and we see growth in Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler. And there's the Doctor himself, facing up to his guilt over the Time War evening as he brings himself to realize that he can't do the same thing again, sacrificing innocents to stop a more dangerous threat. 

And there's my first list of episodes. You may disagree with their rankings or ratings but that's OK, this is just my thing. 

This time next week, I look back on Doctor Who Series Two.

Until then, be good to one another.  

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

Saturday, May 23, 2015

...And In Conclusion

Besides the end of The Late Show With David Letterman (which I posted about here and here), other things in pop culture have to come to an end recently.

Mad Men
The falling silhouette in the opening each episode had suggested to fans the ultimate fate of Don Draper. Of course no one expected that would really happen so if Matthew Weiner had in fact ended Mad Men with Don Draper taking a high dive off of the Time-Life Building, that would've been surprising despite being foreshadowed in the opening for the last 8 years. 

But perhaps not as surprising as what actually happens: Don Draper comes up with one of the most famous advertising campaigns in history, "I'd like to buy the world a coke and teach the world to sing." Yeah, a weird intersection of the fictional (the world of Mad Men) and the real world we inhabit. I wonder how the real creator of that Coke campaign feels about that? 

Anyway, sorry to see the show go. Particularly, I'm going to miss Peggy and Joan.



Grey's Anatomy
No, you didn't miss an announcement. Grey's Anatomy was renewed for another season. But c'mon, with the death of Dr. McDreamy....wait a minute, spoilers? Really? I don't even watch the show and I know about Patrick Dempsey leaving the show and his character's permanent exit. 

Maybe longtime fans of the show see other things going on but the central relationship of the show being fractured forever would suggest a show struggling to find ways to keep things interesting. But what do I care? I don't even watch the show. Anyway, how much longer can the show go on without McDreamy (Psst! I don't think that was his real name!) for women viewers to drool over? Can it carry on with just ...what's her name know, the woman who is the central character ...something Grey, I would think. 

The Marvel Universe
OK, we're swinging over to comic books now and Marvel's big Secret Wars mega-event. Or as I think of it: Crisis on Infinite Marvel Earths. Like Grey's Anatomy, my awareness of this event is not based on my actually reading the comics. But the Marvel Universe that began with Fantastic Four#1 in 1963 is no more after colliding with the universe of Marvel's Ultimate comics line. It's big and messy, something that I suppose Marvel fans will just eat up. So new guys brought into the comics game by Avengers: Age of Ultron, eh, not so much.

Supposedly something or another will get worked out by the end of it unless Marvel's planning on charging $3.99 an issue for blank pages. 

The Late Show With David Letterman...Set
Mere hours after David Letterman said good night at the end of what a lot of people consider to be a very well done finale, the set for the show was being hauled away, a lot of it winding up in dumpsters. 

Parts of the set are going to various organizations to be preserved and displayed. Some pieces that David Letterman and Paul Shaffer requested are going with them. As for the stuff in the dumpsters, a rep for Dave's production company, Worldwide Pants, described those items as "mostly fragile pieces that could not be preserved."

The quick dismantling of a TV set is nothing new. Click here to link to Ken Levine's blog and read the comments there, particularly the 2nd and 4th comments from Adam Paull and Danny. 

Enough of endings! Starting tomorrow, a series of posts on Doctor Who inspired by the show's return from exile in 2005.

Until then, be good to one another.  

OK, one more time....

Peggy and Joan!

...and I am outta here! 

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