Thursday, January 31, 2013

Morning Coffee (1/31/13)

How is it the last day of January already?

Whoa: Hackers in China Attacked The Times for Last 4 Months

Look look look! The cover for Robin Wasserman's The Waking Dark has been revealed.

You must listen to Jewel and Kelly Clarkson duetting on "Foolish Games."

Prince Charles and Camilla rode the Tube for the first time.

Never forget that Ryan Seacrest is really darn good at his job.

How Smash Became TV's Biggest Train Wreck

Robert Frost: Darkness or Light?

Artist Uses Kittens to Recreate Classic Album Covers

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Morning Coffee (1/30/13)

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has abdicated in favor of her son.

I desperately want these Perfumes Inspired by Dead Writers to exist.

Amy Poehler is writing a book!

Ben & Jerry's is making a 30 Rock flavor.

Ripper Street was renewed! I am always in favor of more Matthew Macfadyen.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Morning Coffee (1/29/13)

Exciting day in the book world yesterday: The ALA Youth Media Award winners were announced. (That's the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and more.) I have read... not enough of them.

Also: The 2013 Rainbow List.

Hey, romance readers: Harlequin has a new line called KISS and you can download a free book to try it out.

I don't agree with all of this, but it's an interesting read: ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ Lena Dunham, ‘Django’: Stop Politicizing Everything!

Fascinating: For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II

Behind the Screens: Getting to Know The Fug Girls

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Quick Take on The Following

After much hubbub and critical hand-wringing, FOX's new serial killer/FBI drama, The Following, finally premiered last night. I'll admit I was inclined to like it: I like other things (like The Vampire Diaries) from creator Kevin Williamson, and I was immediately pulled in by the literature connection. (The serial killer is a literature professor obsessed with Poe and other romantics.) And, of course, the cast is great - James Purefoy, Kevin Bacon, Natalie Zea. But a large percentage of the critics and journalists who saw the show in advance and were talking and writing about it were focusing on how violent and disturbing it was, so I wasn't sure if I'd a) like it and b) be able to handle it.

But the premiere made me entirely buy into the show. Sign me up. First of all, it didn't actually strike me as particularly violent or disturbing - though that is surely in part because all the hysteria made me expect it to be worse than it was. Don't get me wrong: there's violence and disturbing imagery and the show certainly will not be for everyone. And that's fine. The best shows are not for everyone. (No, I'm not claiming that this is among "the best" shows, whatever that means. More than one episode is necessary for that sort of evaluation.) I tend to be more bothered by creepiness than violence, and there were a few moments that scared me, but the rest of it was so compelling that I can get past that.

The reasons why I liked the pilot had little to do with the violence or the serial killing or any of the other things people are mostly talking about. I liked the amazing cast. I liked the literary references. I liked the damaged, tortured hero. I liked the villain who managed to be both charismatic and terrifying. I especially liked their scene together at the end. Sure, the violence was part of it all, but to me, it felt organic, not like random violence for the sake of it.

And really, the most promising sign for any pilot: I want more now.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Morning Coffee (1/18/13)

Fringe is ending tonight. I am not ready. But if you need to kill time until the finale starts, my friend Marisa has been posting lots of great interviews with the cast and J.H. Wyman this year. I've already linked to a few, but not all, so check them all out here.

Also worth a read today: TV Guide's four-part Fringe oral history. Start here.

Pauline Phillips, a.k.a. Dear Abby, passed away on Wednesday. The New York Times obituary is a work of art. Also: 10 Weird And Wonderful Dear Abby Columns

Read this if you've been following the story: Manti Te'o in his own words

Whoa: FX is splitting into comedy and drama channels.

Matt Bomer Designs 'White Collar' Inspired Line

Take A Minute To Watch The New Way We Make Web Headlines Now

Yeahhh.... Author of novel attacking lack of academic integrity runs essay-writing service.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Morning Coffee (1/16/13)

I liked Syfy's new Canadian import Continuum. Here's my take at TheTelevixen.

Did you see the Fringe series finale trailer? Eeeep. Also: The Fringe Cast Talks About the Show's Cultural Impact

Here are the National Book Critics Circle Award finalists.

As apologies go, this one from the Atlantic about their Scientology sponsored content is pretty decent.

The Oscar Best Picture Showcase is always tempting, but I also worry that watching that many movies in a row would just make me unable to enjoy them.

Prepare yourself: A new Dan Brown book is coming in May.

I'm fascinated that The Bachelor and Harlequin actually teamed up, because when you think about it, that really makes a lot of sense.

I finally read that Elizabeth Wurtzel thing everyone's talking about, and . . . wow. I think my favorite sentence was "Mostly, they make six-figure incomes and somehow manage."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Morning Coffee (1/15/13)

Your actually important read of the day: Transphobia Is a Goddamn Embarrassment to Us All

How to Choose a Bottle of Wine

To promote their new show The Following, FOX released clips from a fake true crime show about the case. This is an awesome idea and I really can't wait for the show now.

Presented without comment (mostly because I haven't had time to finish reading them yet): The Beyonce and Lindsay Lohan stories everyone's talking about.

Another terrible-sounding Twilight AU fanfic has a big book deal. Commence hand-wringing as needed.

Lance Reddick and J.H. Wyman Remember Their First Days on Fringe

Danish/Swedish show Bron, which has a U.S./Mexican version in the works at FX, now has a British/French version coming too. I'm fascinated by how the different relationships between these sets of countries will affect the shows.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Morning Coffee (1/14/13)

Did you miss the Golden Globes last night? Here's my liveblog!

Hidden images found under Tudor portraits

Read Todd VanDerWerff on making your own luck.

How Scientology Seduced Tom Cruise

J.J. Abrams Named MIT Media Lab. The tweet I first saw about this referred to Abrams and a "cohort of characters," so I was hoping that meant that MIT had given Walter Bishop some sort of official position, but alas.

Bad News for Vampire Cops Everywhere

Mo Ryan's Girls season two review has an interesting context/comparison for reactions to the show.

How Well Do You Know Jack the Ripper?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Trailer: Blancanieves

This version of Snow White set in a romanticized 1920s Spain looks completely fascinating.

The Only Writing Advice You Really Need

I know a lot of people resolved to write more in the New Year, and there's tons of advice flying around. And most of it is nonsense. Or, rather, it's something that worked for one person, and so that person has decided it's a universal rule. No. My friend Susan Adrian has some good stuff to say about not falling into this trap of feeling like if you can't write every day or use Scrivener or write standing on your head or whatever the other popular "rule" of the moment might be, you just shouldn't try. Because that is completely wrong. Here's what matters:
I think there are three absolute "rules" you need to follow to be a real writer. These are the only things we all need to do. And we all DO them, over and over and over, from the 20-published-books author to the ones still in the trenches, at all levels. I learned them a long time ago from Diana Gabaldon, and they're the only true rules I've ever seen. Ready? Here they are:

1. Read.
2. Write.
3. Don't give up.

That's it. Nothing else matters.
Yes. I wholeheartedly believe that. But you should read the whole post, because it's good.

Morning Coffee (1/11/13)

Happy Friday! These are mostly older links that got overlooked somehow but are still interesting. I figured Friday would work for that.

The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist

THE NEW JANIE BOOK IS NOW OUT. But I kind of feel like I have to reread the whole series to refresh my memory.

The top 10 people who changed fandom in 2012

Fifty Shades of Data-Visualisations: On Sex and Text

This book of rare photos of the Queen looks fascinating.

Slate has The Overlooked Books of 2012.

If you want to never be productive again, here are scans of Godey's Ladies Book from the 1800s.

Here's a good profile of YA author Lauren Myracle.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hawaii Five-0's Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Experiment

During Monday's episode of Hawaii Five-O, fans will be directed to the CBS site or Twitter to vote for the suspect they think is guilty, and the ending that wins will be shown. (This will happen for both Eastern and Pacific airings, so I will be very curious to see whether the same ending wins both times.) I'm torn about this idea. It's a cute gimmick and I think it will work well for this show. It just has to do with the case of the week, not a major plot point or anything, so it's pretty contained. And I'm all for experiments in making TV more engaging and incorporating the Internet directly into the viewing experience.

But I have two major concerns. The first is technical. I've only seen a few episodes of H50, but as a mystery reader and procedural watcher in general, I'm suspicious of any mystery that is constructed to have three equally valid endings. One of the great joys of mysteries is that moment when the viewer or reader says "Oh, of course, in retrospect I see that he had to have done it," and that narrative satisfaction and closure will be missing here. I can't see how it could be sustainable as a premise for a show. But as a one-off, it's an interesting puzzle for the writers and I hope they find a way to make it work.

My other concern is more serious. As I said, in this context this is a fun gimmick. But I'm worried about precedent. I've seen enough nasty emails and insulting tweets and comments and even death threats aimed at TV writers to make me very, very hesitant about anything that gives that unstable minority in fandom a further excuse to think that they have some right to demand that writers do what they want. The solution to the case of the week doesn't really matter, but I'm afraid of a later chorus of "Well, Hawaii Five-0 listened to the fans, so therefore my favorite show's writers should make xyz characters get married because I'm convinced that's what most fans want."

Aside from the unpleasantness and potential danger that would cause, it's also just not what I look for in TV. Again, as a one-off, fine. But in general, I watch TV (or movies, or read books) to see what the writers have written. I don't WANT to choose my own ending.

Castle Recap: Significant Others

Castle returned from hiatus this week, and my recap of "Significant Others" is now up at TheTelevixen:
Castle returned from its holiday hiatus with a character-intensive episode aptly named “Significant Others.” The show has done a particularly good job with the slow burn of Castle and Beckett’s relationship, but it makes sense that now that they are together, some episodes will focus more on personal issues, with the actual procedural element serving as a subplot.
Read more.

Video: Matthew Macfadyen & Ripper Street

I am SO EXCITED about this show. January 19! I actually love that BBC America airs things on Saturdays, because I never have any DVR conflicts.

Morning Coffee (1/10/13)

Your delightful single-purpose Tumblr of the day: Are John Green's Books Movies Yet?

Kelly Clarkson will be singing at the Inauguration. Awesome.

How Scotch whisky conquered the world

I'm a bad fan, so I find this Star Trek Character Names & Roles chart to be extremely useful.

The Onion, funny cause it's true: Attempt To Meet Different Types Of People Thwarted By Partygoer Who Also Watches 'Friday Night Lights'

News for Avonlea/Ramona fans: Sarah Polley just won the Toronto Film Critics' Association documentary award, and her movie sounds fascinating.

Ten Notable Classical-Music Recordings of 2012

10 Book Series So Addictive, You Never Want Them to End

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Cougar Town: Blue Sunday

Cougar Town returned last night, premiering in its new home on TBS, and oh my goodness am I happy to have it back. This premiere would have to be a little weird regardless, so I'm glad they went for it and made it meta, with characters saying they felt like they'd been away for a long time and finding ways some of the running jokes and character quirks to each other (and the audience). It also nicely set up the dynamics for the season: Jules and Grayson are adjusting to being married, the rest of the gang is adjusting to the changes that marriage makes in their group dynamic, and Travis and Laurie's flirtation is continuing to head toward something perhaps more real. There was a lot of focus on Travis is an adult now, presumably to make the Travis/Laurie thing less ooky, but actually no mention of Ellie and Andy's child (nor Grayson's). Interesting. And, of course, the ending tag, with the cameo I won't spoil because it was just so surprising and delightful, was brilliant.

I'm very curious to see how the show actually does on its new channel, both as an academic question (Will the fans find it? Will it actually attract anyone new?) and because I love it so much and want it to stick around. There were a million reminders on Twitter yesterday of the new time and channel - it was verging on annoying at some points - but I also couldn't help but think about the millions of TV watchers who aren't on Twitter or engaged in the online TV-watching community at all. Would they know? And hey, if you missed it, you can watch the episode at the TBS site. I really recommend you do.

Bunheads: You Wanna See Something?

I recapped the winter premiere of Bunheads over at TheTelevixen.
Last night’s winter premiere of Bunheads, “You Wanna See Something?”, centered around the main characters all realizing that they needed Fanny’s dance studio – and each other. This, of course, is the challenge when you have a finale that burns everything down as effectively as Michelle’s macing of The Nutcracker and subsequent flight from Paradise: Before you make any real progress in the next season (or half-season, as I suppose this technically is), your premiere has to get the band back together.
Click through for the rest!

Morning Coffee (1/9/13)

This ongoing local crime story is puzzling and horrifying.

Here are some good clarifications on that rape infographic that's been going around.

How board games sum up the meaning of life through colorful cards and painted pieces

Aladdin is coming to Broadway.

Amazing: 27 Surprised Cats Who Can't Believe What They Just Saw

Yes, I'd love to control my kitchen from my phone.

These shoes are awesome.

Lev Grossman: Shakespeare in Klingon: Literature in the Original and My Total Failure to Read It That Way

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

TV Trailer: Da Vinci's Demons

This looks AMAZING. Or terrible. Or both. Whatever. I AM IN.

Women in New Hampshire Politics

There has been a fair amount of coverage about the way that women are in pretty much all positions of political power in New Hampshire right now. On the one hand, yay. On the other, it's not coincidental that NH state reps make practically nothing, and Amanda Hess makes good points:
What does it mean that the first state ruled by women is also the state where local politicians are valued the least? Seelye notes that the state “has a long history of volunteerism,” and serving as a local rep is so low-paying that it “amounts to an act of volunteerism.” Maybe nonwealthy men were unable or unwilling to seek office. Maybe women were more easily accepted into a version of public office that was seen as a public service as opposed to a high-status, high-paid political gig. After all, volunteering is a historically feminine realm, where women have been able to find meaningful unpaid work while their husbands followed a traditional career track.
As someone who is not an expert but has lived and voted in New Hampshire for a decade, I'd also point out that there are a ton of female state reps, yes, usually married women who don't work outside the home, but there are also a lot of retired people. The difference is that the young-ish women are the ones more likely to rise through the ranks and seek higher office rather than resigning after calling for eugenics.

So . . . yes, it's good that this system has managed to promote women. But I still think that a system that makes it virtually impossible for anyone who isn't independently wealthy, retired, or being supported by a spouse to get into local politics is ultimately problematic and needs to be changed.

New project: Read the Screen!

I've been tweeting and telling people about this, but I just realized I never actually posted about it, so in case you missed it elsewhere: I just launched a new project, Read the Screen, where I'm writing about movie and TV adaptations of books. You can read a little about my plans for the site here, and follow along on Facebook or Twitter. (Likes and follows are of course most appreciated!) I may do a weekly roundup of those posts over here - is there interest in that?

New Fun. Song for Girls Soundtrack

Yes, this is basically the most predictable thing ever for me to like, but . . . I do.

Morning Coffee (1/8/13)

I've never really watched soaps, but the online revival of One Life to Live and All My Children is huge, huge news.

And so is Warner Bros. finally licensing eight shows (including Fringe and The West Wing) to Netflix.

I don't really care about Superman, but I care about Superman with a voice cast of Matt Bomer, John Noble, Stana Katic, and Molly Quinn.

Richard Ben Cramer, political reporter and author of What It Takes, has died.

One of these will be the next Olympic sport.

Fascinating and heartbreaking: The Children Who Went Up in Smoke

Oh my gosh, it's a Hulk stapler.

"For a sport timed down to the thousandth of a second and measured in millimetres, Formula One seems to be finding it surprisingly difficult to get to grips with a calendar." Heh.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Now that season 2 of The Hour is over...

...well, my opinion has changed a bit. In my favorite shows of 2012 post, I said I was liking this season of The Hour but not loving it like last year, and commenter Nic asked me to check back in after the finale (which aired in the States last night). It turns out that while I still wasn't as captivated by the second season as I was by the first, the final hour did a good job of pulling everything together and of pulling me in.

In general, I still preferred the early days of The Hour (meaning the show within the show here), when Bel and company were such underdogs and everything was a thrilling struggle. And I KNOW the spy stuff was dumb but it was still spy stuff! The vice plot just didn't grab me this season - until this last episode, when it tied together beautifully. Oh, Hector. I'm so glad he wound up trying to do the right thing. Finally. I really do think he means well and just sometimes can't figure out how to cope with things not going his way.

So:
  1. Who's the father of Marnie's baby??
  2. Lix and Randall's story was really the breakout of the season, no? That final scene between them in his office was incredible.
  3. I was never particularly a Bel/Freddie shipper - I really like their friendship, actually - but this last episode won me over there, too. "You are possible. You are possible with me." Swoon.
  4. Oh, FREDDIE. You must be okay. "Moneypenny." That ending was perfect.
Please please please, TV gods, give us another season to see how this all turns out!

Morning Coffee (1/3/13)

Happy New Year (a little late)!

Libyans' new love affair with ice cream

Oh my God, this George Costanza dress.

This piece on Evelyn Waugh is fascinating. Confession: I haven't read him yet, but he was one of my grandmother's favorite writers so I've been meaning to for years.

Queen's stunt double Gary Connery up for adventurer award

Umberto Eco on Why We Love Lists

Whoa, knitted brain.

Newspaper on Cape Cod Apologizes for a Veteran Reporter’s Fabrications

Interesting read: Kosher Jesus: Messianic Jews in the Holy Land