Saturday, October 31, 2015

Doctor Who: The Story So Far....

Hi there! I'm Dave-El and this is I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, the #1 blog among ancient Viking warriors. 

And a special shout out to my fellow Doctor Who fans. 


For the last 6 weeks, I've been posting reviews on Sunday of the previous day's new Doctor Who episodes. I thought today I would take a look back at Series 9 so far and rank the episodes from #6 to #1. Yes, they were two parters but Part 1 and Part 2 are not always on par with each other. 

But before we get to that review....

Doctor Who News!!

That's right, I'm going to deliver some of the latest in what's going in the world of Doctor Who and by "latest", I mean stuff I heard about days ago. 

Tennant & Tate - Take Two

We learned this week that David Tennant and Catherine Tate will return in ALL NEW adventures for Big Finish audio as the 10th Doctor and Donna Noble. With apologies to the Doctor-Rose shippers out there, I thought the Doctor/Donna team was the strongest match up of Doctor and companion of the Russell T Davies era and perhaps one of the top pairings over the course of the entire series, classic and new. It'll be great to see...well, HEAR the Doctor and Donna back together again in new adventures. 

And if you really want to see AND hear David Tennant in something. Marvel's latest Netflix series Jessica Jones will be debuting soon with David Tennant starring as Jessica Jones. No, wait! Sorry. Tennant will be playing the evil mind controlling bad guy Kilgrave, also known as...The Purple Man

Movies Go To the (Robot) Dogs

Every once in a while, someone floats the idea of producing a new big screen Doctor Who then someone pulls it right back down. I think the special cinema showings of Doctor Who episodes have satisfied my desire to see the Doctor in a movie theater. Well, if Doctor Who can't make it to the movies with an all new big screen production, maybe a certain robot dog from the Whoniverse can? 

Yes, the word is that K-9 is getting a movie and it will be in theaters in 2017. So that's a thing. K-9 does have a special place in the hearts of Whovians from his time with Tom Baker's 4th Doctor. K-9 also apparently has a special place separate from Doctor Who when it comes to the rights to the character. That's why K-9 has a solo TV series that was not produced by the Doctor Who production team or the BBC. That's why K-9 was relegated to only cameo appearances in the Sarah Jane Adventures. As for the TV series, I have not seen it but I understand that for the most part, it's not very good. And I imagine any movie will be spun off from that series. So the idea of a K-9 movie? Not really worked up about it. Just incredulous that such a thing can exist.  

Don't Call It a Comeback

Since Peter hasn't actually left yet. Reports came out last week that Peter Capaldi is confirmed to return for at least a 3rd season of Doctor Who. Which is a good thing. Capaldi's take on the Doctor has been refreshing and different; I don't want to see him go anytime too soon. What I've read is that he's on board for a 3rd series with an option for a 4th. But given the pattern set by David Tennant & Matt Smith, I would not expect to see Peter go beyond a 3rd series. 

And Peter's commitment to coming back for Series 10 doesn't necessarily mean we're getting Series 10 in the form or schedule as we've gotten in his two previous series. As I wrote here, there are a lot of tea leaves that suggest that Series 10 will be delayed in same way or form. The fact that Capaldi's on board for a 3rd series with an option for a 4th plays into my thought line that Steven Moffat may be making his exit soon. By having Capaldi down as an option for a 4th series, an incoming producer may elect to have the continuity of a Doctor from one producer to another if Capaldi is up for it. Or this new producer may want to go with a clean break as happened when Davies handed the reins to Moffat.  

For now, enough ponderings on what the future may or may not bring. Let us look back on the bounty that has been Series 9. How has this latest season of Doctor Who stacked up so far? (For longer write ups, click the episode titles for links back to my previous reviews.)  

#6 The Girl Who Died

This is at the bottom of the list not because it's a bad episode. It isn't. But there are missteps that pull this episode down. One of the most egregious is the lack of quality time between the Doctor and Ashildr. Since the Doctor is going to do something radical to save Ashildr from death itself, it would help if they had more than just one scene between the two of them. Instead this brings us to misstep two, the blunt shoehorning of "where did the Doctor get his face from" bit from Deep Breath to provide motivation for the Doctor to do what he did. The Doctor's urgent need to not have Ashildr stay dead should've come organically from within the episode itself. 

Otherwise, some good bits: Clara staring down Odin and the Mire and getting them to turn back...well, almost. The Doctor shows his godlike power via his....yo-yo. And the overall take down of the Mire by the Doctor, Clara and the villagers is rather clever. 

#5 The Magician's Apprentice

I'm a little surprised to find myself putting this one so low. The ominous quest of Colony Sarrf. The mystery of airplanes frozen in the sky. The off the hook return of Missy. The Doctor in the Middle Ages....playing an electric guitar...while riding a tank...while everyone calls him "dude". The deadly fate of Missy and Clara at the hands stalks of the Daleks. And the scenes that bookend the episode, the Doctor with the young Davros who will become the creator of the Daleks and the grim choice facing the Doctor. 

At the time, I greatly enjoyed the episode. In fact, I still do. But ultimately I'm putting this at 5th because it's less of a story and more of a getting things in order for the actual story to come in Part 2. 

#4 Under the Lake

As I noted in my original review of this episode, this plays out like a story from the classic series: the TARDIS plops the Doctor and his companion in an unusual place where stuff is going on with mysteries to solve and so, so, so much running. And that's a good thing. It's good to have a solid Doctor Who adventure that's not necessarily there to support some larger story arc or explore the mythology of the show. There are people trapped in an underwater base and ghosts are trying to kill them. How can the Doctor and Clara save the day? There, you have my attention.  

#3 Before the Flood

This two parter was the most consistent from one installment to the next; this is why Before the Flood and Under the Lake are next to each other. Still, I give the edge and the slightly higher rank to the 2nd part because we really get to empathize with the guest cast; this is, after all, our 2nd week with these guys. The clues to mystery provided in part 1 are deftly brought together in part 2. And we get a bit of timey-wimey weirdness brought into the resolution of the plot thanks to the Doctor meeting his own ghost. 

#2 The Woman Who Lived 

For all the hype about Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones being on Doctor Who, I really didn't get the big deal about here from her first appearance in The Girl Who Died. But in the follow up, I was very much impressed with Williams who brings to life an immortal woman both blessed and cursed by her condition. And the story is stronger for focusing on the Doctor and Ashildr while the sci-fi McGuffin played out well enough to keep the story moving but not distracting from the heart of the story. And at the heart was a woman who could not die and the man who made her that way.

#1 The Witch's Familiar  

If the first part was just putting pieces in place, the 2nd part sees the Doctor, Davros, Missy, Clara and the Daleks plunge into the core of the story and never lets up. Even during the quiet moments between the Doctor and Davros, there's still an air of building suspense. Davros is up to something, but what? And how does the Doctor's encounter with Davros as a boy play into all that? And the "buddy" team of Missy and Clara strikes all the right chords as they make there way back to the Dalek city to save the Doctor from the Daleks...or maybe from himself. And it ends on a satisfying note, the Doctor using the Dalek's own cast offs to defeat them. And in the end, the Doctor, as he did many, many years before when he wore a different body, remains true to himself and saves Davros. The Daleks are still coming. But they have a flaw, thanks to the Doctor. They have a concept of mercy. 

Over these 6 episodes, a few thoughts come to mind. 
Typically, the most irritating problem with a 2 parter is that usually the first part sets up everything so well, then the 2nd part is less than satisfying. That is a trap that Doctor Who has deftly avoided so far with the follow up stories being as strong if not stronger that the story before it. 

There does seem to be a recurring theme about time. 

  • The Doctor is faced with a choice to alter time, destroying the Daleks before they're born by stopping Davros while he is still a boy. 
  • The Doctor dares to change time to prevent Fisher King and his ghosts from killing Clara. 
  • The Doctor has to save the Viking villagers from a alien race without those aliens or their allies destroying the Earth nearly 1,200 years ago. 
  • Ashildr gets to live forever but time is a prison; she must walk through her eternity one day at a time and the Doctor won't help her. 
  • The Doctor is particularly concerned about changing time; it's okay "to make ripples...don't make waves." 

A lot of this centers around Clara. Since we know Jenna Coleman has left Doctor Who, then all these actions and decisions are fraught with an uncertainty over Clara's ultimate fate. There's a lot of foreshadowing around Clara not being around anymore: 

  • Clara admonishes the Doctor to not die on her; he can die on whoever comes after but not on her.
  • Ashildr chides the Doctor about how many Claras has he lost. 
  • The Doctor witnesses the Daleks kill Clara but he immediately challenges that when he confronts the Daleks. Is he in denial or does the Doctor know Clara can't die...yet? 

The shadow that extends over Clara's remaining time on the TARDIS is omnipresent and informs almost everything the Doctor does. 

So where are we heading next? 6 more episodes to go. We know the Zygons are up next for a couple of weeks. And we've heard that Maisie Williams is not quite done with Doctor Who yet. More than that, all we can do... is just watch the episodes as they come around for a half dozen more Saturdays. 

Tonight, we watch The Zygon Invasion.

Tomorrow, I will write about it! 

Until then, remember to be good to one another. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

STOP! Hammer of Truth Time!

Birch Barlow: Sideshow Bob, Councilman Les Wynan says that you're not experienced enough to be mayor. Sir, what do you have to say about that? 
Sideshow Bob:  I'd say that Les Wynan ought to do more thinking and less whining.
Lisa Simpson: There's no Councilman Les Wynan.
Bart Simpson: Good line, though.

---Sideshow Bob Roberts, The Simpsons, Season 6

Tonight: Presidential Debate
Tomorrow: Mexican Pot Luck 

“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media!” 
---Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), 10/28/2015, 3rd Republican Presidential Debate. 

Here's why the American people trust politicians even less. 

Sen. Cruz continues: "“You look at the questions: ‘Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?’"

Donald Trump was asked how he would fulfill his promises to “build a wall and make another country pay for it” (Mexico), “send 11 million people out of the country” (undocumented immigrants), and “cut taxes $10 trillion without increasing the deficit.” 

What was NOT said at all:  ‘Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?'

Sen. Cruz continues: "‘Ben Carson, can you do math?’"

Ben Carson was asked how he would close the $1 trillion gap between current federal spending and the revenue projected from Carson’s 15 percent flat tax.

What was NOT said at all:  Ben Carson, can you do math?

Sen. Cruz continues: "‘John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?’"
John Kasich of his own volition described Trump’s and Carson’s promises as impractical and incoherent. 

What was NOT said at all:   ‘John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?’

So what question was posed to Sen. Cruz that launched this tirade about the lack of substantive questions during the debate? 

He was asked explain why he opposed this week’s agreement to raise the debt limit. A rather substantive question to give Sen. Cruz an opportunity to expound upon his views of government spending and its impact on the American economy. Instead, he used time to complain about a lack of substantive questions while failing to answer the substantive question posed to him. 

Of course, as his time ran out, Sen. Cruz complained about not having time to answer the question. 

Donald Trump got in on the fun when denied that he had called Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator” for promoting immigrant tech-worker visas. Trump went as far as suggesting CNBC's Becky Quick made that up. By the way, where did Quick get this information? From Trump’s own website! She was reading it from his website! And as I write this, it's still there! 

Marco Rubio got into the blame the liberal media game as he accused the media of ignoring Hillary Clinton’s lies about Benghazi after “she spent over a week telling the families of those victims and the American people that [the attack] was because of a video." 

Yeah, this is one of those bullet points that GOP talking heads trot out every other day. Except there is no evidence that Clinton made any such statement 
attributing the violence in Benghazi to a video during that time frame.* 

*For more on the Republican's war with the press, click here which provided significant support for the preceding portion of this blog.   

 The thing is...the really, really, really scary thing is that none of this matters to these candidates. They can say whatever they want with zero concern with if anything they say is actually true. It only has to sound true; Fox News and talk radio will take it from there. And the party faithful, their brains deep fried by angry, hateful, ignorant rhetoric, will take it all in and not question any of it. Because, to them, it's all true. 

And this debate shows this process steeping to its lowest level. We're not talking about Ted Cruz refuting facts from last year or last week. We're talking about refuting facts that happened within the last half hour. Donald Trump denied a fact that was verifiable at the precise moment he was denying; when confronted with it, Trump blew it off. He didn't care. It may not be true that Marco Rubio is Mark Zuckerberg's personal senator.  

But, to quote Bart Simpson, "Good line, though."  


Before I wrap this up, some blog stuff:

Tomorrow is the first of two (Count 'em, baby! TWO!) Doctor Who posts. 

Saturday, I look back over the first half of Series 9 and see how it all stacks up so far. Also in the post, I'll ponder some other stuff like who's getting a movie, which Doctor is coming back for new adventures and what does the future hold of Doctor Who. 

Sunday, I'll do my recap/review thing for Saturday's episode, "The Zygon Invasion". 

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

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Radio Daze - Part Five

For the last four weeks, I’ve posted about my time working in radio. And for some reason, I have felt compelled for some damn reason to begin each post with an introduction written in 3rd person. I don’t know why but I can assure you that today, as I present the last of my Radio Daze series of posts, I will not be indulging in that silliness.

Let me make it clear: No third person narration!

Got that? 

You had a dream once, when you were young. What a great life it would be to earn your living behind a radio mike, playing music and talking to the listeners. They would listen to you, rely on you for their favorite music and important information like the time. And the current temperature.

But you came to realize that the radio life was a hardscrabble life, moving from town to town, up and down the dial. It was a hard business with few rewards and you would have to pay a price for those rewards, a lack of security, a lack of stability.

Still, you wonder perhaps that maybe, just maybe you could’ve made it work somehow. Maybe the wandering existence of a radio disc jockey would have made you a stronger person, a wiser person.

But you will never know. You let the dream go. You are David Long and this 2nd person narration is fricking irritating!

When I got out of college, I had an idea that I would get a job in radio somewhere. I didn’t think it would be too hard. The downside risk of radio (always getting fired) meant that there was an equal upside opportunity (getting hired).

I knew I would have to start at the bottom, working nights or overnights, that came with the territory. And quite frankly, that’s how I saw myself in those early days, working after the sun went down, staying up when the normal people laying down their heads to sleep. Playing music and talking to the night owls and the 3rd shift workers and the lonely people who couldn’t sleep. I definitely did not see myself as a morning guy or an afternoon guy. I didn’t want to be the guy in the spotlight; I just wanted my own little light in my own little corner.

Modest goals, I thought. I could do this.

But I couldn’t.

I wanted to stay very close to the market in and around Greensboro NC, as if I was making some grand sacrifice. It’s like you want to be on TV and you can’t get on CBS but that’s OK, you’ll settle for the CW. I don’t care if it’s the number 1 network or the last place network, there’s only so many slots open for so many shows. You’re damn lucky to get on TV if your show winds up on C-SPAN, for crying out loud. So that was my problem from the get go. I thought starting in a mid-level market was as close to the bottom I was willing to start.

It also became apparent that few people working in radio as on air announcers got to do just that. At most radio stations, most on air talent have additional behind the scenes responsibilities as well. All  I wanted to do was slink in under cover of darkness and sweet talk the lady listeners until I melted away with the dawn like some kind of Caucasian Venus Flytrap. But getting a gig like that was rare indeed.

I want to share a story of a radio job I didn’t get which probably put to rest whatever ambitions I may have had as a broadcaster. It was a job in a small community north of Greensboro called Reidsville.

Reidsville is the archetype of a Southern town, built with the sweat of farmers and the blood of factory workers. It’s a nice enough place but too much like the small town I had escaped from when I went away to college.

I was a couple of months out from college graduation and my only real radio job so far was my part time overnight gig at WMAG. I paid bills with other jobs including a part time job with a financial services company; I was doing well there and the boss man indicated he would like me to come on full time the next time he had a position open. It was good money and solid, secure job. But this is not what I went to school for. This was not what I expected to do.

Making a living in radio was just not working out; still, I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I don’t know how I found out about it but a station in Reidsville was hiring. Not that far of a drive from the Greensboro area so maybe I could get solid radio work in one place and keep my ear to ground for opportunities in the other place. So I was willing to give this a shot.

I almost missed the station when I arrived. It was not near any other businesses in Reidsville; in fact, the station bordered a cornfield. Also the radio station was inside a converted mobile home. A single wide mobile home.

Radio stations working out of manufactured housing is not that uncommon; WTAB eventually moved to a mobile home. (It was, at least, a double wide.) But this was my first encounter with this sort of thing. Perhaps I should’ve admired the gonzo nature of this operation, broadcasting out of a mobile home outside a cornfield. But I couldn’t help of thinking about the transmitter shack with the leaky roof at WTAB/WKSM. A radio station in a mobile home (and I must re-emphasize, a single wide) didn’t inspire much confidence.

We took the grand tour of the place, being careful not to walk too close to the control room when the DJ was on the mike less our creak footsteps being heard. I sat down with the program director in his “office” and we talked about what this job was all about.

The announcer job was in the morning. OK, I’m not a morning person but I can’t be too choosy, can I? I would be on the air from 6 AM to 12 Noon.

Yes, a 6 hour shift on the air. And then I would go to work at my afternoon job, making calls to local businesses to sell ad time on the station. I would probably be doing that until 6 PM.

AND…any time around all that, I would be responsible for producing commercials for the station.

This job would have me working 12 to 16 hours a day. But that wasn't really that big of a deal breaker for me. No, the problem was this whole thing was the exact opposite of what I wanted out of radio. Believe it or not, I didn't want to get into radio to talk to people. Well, not directly anyway. No, I wanted to talk into that mike to reach out to lots of people and at the same time talk to just one person, the person near their radio, alone under the florescent lights of work or alone in the darkness of their room. That was my vision. I am not nor have I ever been a salesman; selling ad time was not part of my vision. Getting up early in the morning and talking to people under the light of the sun, that was not my vision.

Of course, none of that mattered. I was clearly too young and too raw to do all they were asking. Perhaps someone else my age could've made it with that kind of a job but I wasn't that person.

But wait, there's more! After I left the job interview, I pulled out on the country road that ran by the mobile home radio station. Unfortunately, I was heading the wrong way so I had to turn around. In doing so, I wound up with the back end of my car in a ditch.

So that was a thing that happened. I was stuck, no way I was getting my car without help. A tow truck came out to get extract the car from the ditch. I can't remember how it came to be there; this was before cell phones so I know I didn't call. It's quite possible that the tow truck just happened to be driving by. Well, it was nice of him to help me out, a shining example of southern hospitality.

It cost me $20.00.


Looking at the radio landscape today, I'm glad my career path veered in another direction. I'm at the age now where a station manager would be firing me to replace me with younger, cheaper talent and my path in radio would've taken me back to Reidsville or some other station like it.

It's a different world than when I was young. I know, that's a thing old people say. Don't mock me for it, you young whippersnappers; one day you'll be saying it too. But going back to radio, the homogenization of play lists and on air talent is a depressing trend. As more and more people defer to music streaming services like Pandora, radio responds with even more repetitive song rotations, more ads and more cookie cutter on air talent. And then the powers that be in radio wonder why the steady drain of listeners continues unabated.

Recently I rediscovered college radio, a local campus station called WQFS. Boy, those kids on the air need a lot of work before they get better. But so did I in my earliest days on the air. As for the music, I like quite a bit more than I would've thought. Maybe I'm not so old after all. But like a song or not, chances are I will hear something I haven't heard before and that joy of discovery is not something to be dismissed.

And I think that is that for this series of posts on my association with radio. Thanks for indulging me on this journey.

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

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Comic Book Wednesday - Vampires Or Zombies: Why Not Both?

Are you a vampire person or a zombie person?

Vampires have appealed to our imaginations for the longest time as a combination of power and curse, of romance and loneliness, of eternal life and endless damnation. Vampires have become a bit romanticized in recent years, what with the abominable Twilight series so it may be that the appeal of vampires has lost its teeth, in a manner of speaking.

Which may explain the rise of the zombie as the epitome of horror over the more vapid vampire. There is nothing to romanticize about zombies, shambling, rotting mockeries of humanity. Being a vampire is to be cursed to the darkness for eternity but it is still life of a sort. Being a zombie is to fall victim to the jacked up bastard step child of Ebola and AIDS.

It is the choice between being a zombie or being vampire that lies at the crux of a graphic novel I read this past summer, The New Deadwardians by  Dan Abnett & INJ Culbard. This book is the compilation of an 8 issue series published by DC’s Vertigo imprint back in 2012. It is about a world in the age of post Victorian England when a zombie plague as afflicted the world. A cure is found to keep one from being turned into a zombie. The cure is being turned into a vampire. Zombies only infect the living, not the undead.

Actually, the word "vampire" does not come up in this story. Rather those who have taken The Cure are described as "Young", a euphemism that doesn't lend itself to much understand with humans caught between the elite cured and the cursed undead. 

Also the normal sobriquet of the walking undead, "zombie", is not used either; instead they are caled "the Restless".  Still for purposes of this post, I will rely on the more traditional terms of "vampire" and "zombies".  

Becoming a vampire is not without price which leads to a three way division of life. At the lowest rung of society are the zombies, natch. At the very top are the vampires. And stuck in between and feeling the squeeze are the humans, too poor or too defiant to become a vampire, in constant battle to stay out of reach of the zombies. Humans are ostensibly the middle class in Deadwardian society, a class threatened by an ever growing population of zombies below them and cut off by an increasingly isolated vampire class from above.    

There are other costs to  bear besides the payment of money. For a vampire, there is a sense of disconnectedness from life. Being a vampire may save one from being a zombie physically but in many ways, the vampires of this new society are zombies in a mental and emotional sense. They’re cut off from human feeling, empathy and passion.

The story in this collection centers around vampire Chief Inspector George Suttle who is called out to investigate the murder of another vampire. Which is a pretty neat trick since the only way to kill a vampire in this world is to cut its head off. And the victim appears to be in one piece. Suttle’s investigation of the murder drives the action but the real appeal of the story to me was the exploration of this world and how people try to live in it. In order to save his maid from becoming a zombie after she is bitten by a zombie, she’s given the cure and doesn’t quite like it. She feels alienated from her old life and she misses things she didn’t think about missing. For example, dogs. She loves dogs. But dogs don’t care much for vampires who are both there and not there at the same time. Suttle goes about his investigation with a human driver who provides some interesting insight about what it means to be human in a world where zombies overrun most of the world and vampires rule from heights of emotional detachment.  It is that very detachment that gnaws at him. The murder case leads him to a human prostitute that stirs things inside the Chief Inspector that he thought long forgotten, like, for example, sex.

When The New Deadwardians gets underway from page 1, the world of humans, vampires and zombies has been established for nearly 50 years. There are some hints as to how it all started but I was more invested in this world as I found it in than how it all began. The denouement exposes the horrible secrets of how this world began and provides answers to questions I didn’t need to have answers to. And naturally it’s all tied into the murder mystery that Suttle is seeking to solve which is a  bit convenient but hey, coincidence is the engine that drives storytelling. 

I should say something about the art. INJ Culbard captures the Edwardian styles of the story very well and conveys depths of character with a minimum of lines. Yet detail comes into play as it needs to with city streets, manors and, of course, swarming mobs of zombies. This is a world where the bizarre and the mundane walk side by side and Culbard captures it all very well. 

Overall, an interesting comic book with a thought provoking premise and a well thought out exploration of that premise.

Currently Abnett & Culbard are paired up on a series called Wild's End published by BOOM Studios. I have not read it but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, a mash up of Wind in the Willows and War of the Worlds. As for The New Deadwardians,  I have no idea if a return to that world will ever be in the cards but it is a world of depth and complexity with more stories to tell if Abnett and Cubbard want to tell them.

Thanks for popping by the old blog thing today. Another post is coming your way tomorrow. Until then, remember to be good to one another.

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

This (Non) Sporting Life: Panthers and Eagles

Hi there and welcome to another edition of This (Non) Sporting Life, the blog post about sports by a guy who does not know a lot about sports.


This past Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles came to Charlotte NC to pay a visit to the Carolina Panthers. In years past, it may have been a foregone conclusion that the powerhouse Eagles would likely defeat the woebegone Panthers. The Panthers have not had the best history, riddled with missed opportunities , losing streaks and an assortment of head coaches. But over the last couple of years, the Panthers have been getting a little bit better. Their quarterback, Cam Newton, getting a little bit better. And this year, heading into this past Sunday’s game, the Carolina Panthers were 5 – 0. Unbeaten. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles, a few years past being considered a powerhouse were sidling into town with a 3 – 3 record.


So last week, I decided to take a chance.


I was heading up a meeting with people in our North Carolina office and our counterparts in the northeast US. I work for a rather large company spread out over several locations so achieving company unity can be a bit of struggle but is always our goal. Our customers don’t care which part of our company they’re communicating with, as long as they’re communicating with the company. So we need to act with one voice for all our clients, regardless of which area of the country we’re in.


So I took a moment to speak towards that unity. And then destroy it.


“Meetings like this are important to bolstering a spirit that we are one company with one mission, to serve our clients in a manner that is consistent in both the accuracy of our work and the quality of the customer service we offer. We may be geographically apart but we are, ultimately, one company.


“However, there are challenges to that unity. For example, I understand that the Philadelphia Eagles are coming to play the Carolina Panthers this Sunday. I know our teammates in the north are mostly fans of the Eagles while we tend to pull for the Panthers here in the south. I think it’s going to be a great game and I hope everyone has fun watching it. But remember, we are still one team, one company, united in one purpose, no matter what happens. Whether the Panthers beat the Eagles….or the Panthers beat the Eagles by a lot.”


The reaction of our brethren in the north told me it was on!


To be fair, I did not blunder into this bravado based on a 6 – 0 record vs. a 3 – 3 record. I may not know a lot about sports but I know enough that one team’s winning records might be the result of easy games and a team with a less than good standing may be up against some real  challenges and are getting better as a result. So I did a little research. And what I gathered was there was a chance the Eagles could turn it around in North Carolina but not a real big one. Those smarter than me about football were giving the odds to the Panthers. 

That being said, I don’t really have the best record for trash talk. I tend to, uh, jinx things by being too supportive of a sports team. No matter how good my favorite team in college basketball is (and that would be, of course, the Duke Blue Devils! DUKE, BABY!), I tend to hold myself in check. If you challenge me with, “My team is going to kick Duke’s ass!”, my retort to that would likely be, “Oh, yeah? Well, listen to me, I think that Duke has a fairly reasonable chance of most likely winning based on an accounting of statistically possible outcomes. So take that, punk!”


OK, let’s cut to the chase: the Carolina Panthers beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 27 to 16.


Monday morning, my boss pops by for a quick visit. He thought the meeting last week went well and appreciated the element of levity I had introduced into the meeting regarding the football game.


“But,” he added, “it’s a good thing the Panthers won, huh?”


Yes, I suppose so. But sometimes, you just have to take a chance.


Thanks for popping by the blog today. I’ll be back with another post tomorrow. Until then, remember to be good to one another.





I’m So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

Monday, October 26, 2015

This Is A Job For Supergirl (and Not For Her Cousin, God)

I watched the Supergirl series premier on CBS tonight with rest of the family here in the Fortress of Ineptitude. There was a lot riding on this latest television venture from DC Comics and not just successfully leveraging a comic book character to another medium. The fact that this is the first TV series to star a female super hero since Wonder Woman in the 1970's is something that has affixed itself to this project. There's more at stake than just creating a TV show that will draw enough eyes to please the advertisers. No, there is the added weight of Supergirl providing a role model for girls and young women, something that has been in short supply in film and TV super hero adaptions. 

So does Supergirl have what it takes to succeed at either of these objectives? 

On the front of producing an entertaining hour of televison, Supergirl has the right pieces in place. The problem with pilot episodes is that there is a LOT of exposition and people introducing themselves. So as a stand alone episode of a TV series, this debut of Supergirl comes up a bit short. But what is presented here, as cumbersome as a pilot may be, is done so with wit and charm. It's pretty fast paced; a lot gets done with in a hour (less commercials). And the special effects are pretty good quality for TV. The sequence where Kara saves the crashing plane is amazing. It maybe disconcerting to see the lovely, winsome Supergirl getting the crap beat out of her by a super powered opponent but it feels like a battle with a super powered opponent. 

And let's give it up for Melissa Benoist who just hits her marks and more as Kara Danvers, the put upon assistant to a multi-media mogul, and Supergirl. This is a character in both her guises is called up to be strong or uncertain by various turns or often at the same time. Kara knows what she wants to do but she is out of practice in the use of her powers and unprepared to deal with the consequences of her debut as Supergirl. But she faces up to her responsibilities with determination even as she takes joy in the act of flying. Melissa Benoist has set a fairly strong baseline to develop both sides of her character.  

With so much going on, the supporting cast doesn't get a lot of time to develop. The stand out here is Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant who channels The Devil Wears Prada. It's a bit over the top but there are nuances there, like when Cat foists on Kara the job of writing termination notices to the staff of a newspaper she's shutting down. Is she doing it because she can't be bothered or is it that she can't bear to pull this trigger? There's a bit of ambivalence on her motives. 

As for the rest of the cast, there's a lot of work to be done to make us care but hopefully the series will give them time to breathe going forward. 

There is one element of the Supergirl pilot that becomes hard to ignore: the avoidance of referring to Superman as Superman. "Superman" gets named checked in Kara's opening narration but after that, he gets referred to as "cousin" a lot. Also disconcertingly frequent are the times Superman is referred to simple as "him". What, is Superman...God? 

And lo, the prophet James the Olsen delivered unto Kara the Danvers a gift from Him, He who dwells in the sky. Kara looked upon the gift, a cloak of crimson, red as the sun from which He had been sent forth to guide and protect us. Kara took the gift with humility and gratitude so that she might please Him who gaveth the cloak so that she might serve the children of Earth as He does in His image. 

Yeah, it was a bit like that. 

Anyway, the family here at the Fortress are willing to give this series a shot.  

And what about the other burden that rests of Supergirl's shoulders, of being a role model? That may be more than we should ask of any entertainment program. But if girls and young women are seeking a role model among the super powered set, I don't think they can do much better than Supergirl.

Everyone, be good to one another. 

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

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