As you can probably tell from this incarnation of a blog that began in the last century, I like good television. Some shows I latch onto from the beginning (Jericho, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Rubicon), and others I discover later, after realizing my first impression wasn’t a good one (Sons of Anarchy, The Shield, Mad Men, Justified).
Recently, two more shows fell into the latter category, House of Cards and The Walking Dead. One is a show in which each episode attempts to make you throw up even more of what you ate that day, showing the blood, carnage and gore associated with the end of normal society, and its transition to a state of terminal inhumanity.
The other is a show about zombies.
I was disgusted and completely put off by both of these shows after watching approximately 20 minutes of their respective pilots. After hearing much critical acclaim, mostly from friends, I decided to give the shows second chances, and much like with Sons of Anarchy, once I got past the early minutes revulsion, I was hooked. In truth, these three shows, Sons, Dead and Cards share common roots. They are about power, politics and survival, and all have characters who are fighting the good fight, doing the right thing.
Okay, I haven’t found anybody like that in House of Cards yet, but I’m only nine episodes in. There’s nobody in that show I’d vote for, but let me tell you, both Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead have a number of characters for whom I’d go door to door. In fact, there have been several “walkers” in Dead who would get my support if they were running against any of the politicians in Cards. And Sons? Let’s just say that if you see an SUV around town sporting a “Jax/Chibs 2016″ sticker, that’s me.
It’s hard to say whether The Walking Dead inspired, or simply took advantage of the recent resurrection (sorry, couldn’t resist) of the interest in zombie movies. Even the government has taken notice. The Center for Disease Control pushed Zombie Preparedness content out on their website, which was creepy in an “old guy breakdancing” way, rather than a “zombies are coming” way. A Montana EBS system was hacked and announced a zombie apocalypse on television and radio, which quite frankly was, to more than a few weary Top 40 and Adult Contemporary listeners, a relief in its assurance Adele would not be able to release any more hit records. Believe me, as a 30 year Radio veteran, I would welcome spending the rest of my life battling the undead as long as there wasn’t a followup to the theme from “Skyfall.”
The point is, right now, we’re loving zombies, a fact reflected in the success of AMC’s gorefest. But that leaves me a bit unsettled, because since the dawn of electric entertainment, and accelerated by the beginning of electronic entertainment, hit shows and movies can inspire and influence our interests and behaviors. How many kids in the early 60s became pilots because of Sky King? The delightful Nichelle Nichols (I can say this because I’ve met and interviewed her a couple times – she’s the most delightful of the Trek actors, and that’s saying a lot, because George Takei, who played Sulu is pretty goddamn delightful himself) inspired, and through a program with NASA, actually recruited a number of women and African Americans to the space agency. In my own experience in the late 70s, because of my love of the TV show Starsky and Hutch, I wanted more than anything to drive a 1976 Candy Apple red Ford Gran Torino with a white strip. I never got my Torino though, and had to settle for a belted sweater jacket and a perm, the point being, shows that grab our attention, interest and devotion will inspire us in real life.
A great example of this is legendary outlaw biker Sonny Barger, who when he took over a tiny, fledgeling group of motorcycle enthusiasts and moved them to Northern California, did so because he wanted to be like the fun-loving Lee Marvin character “Chino” from the Marlon Brando movie The Wild One. He loved the ideas of brotherhood and motorcycle riding in the movie, and was inspired to bring those things to his club, called Hells Angels (and by the way, there is no apostrophe in the name). Yea, Brando’s movie wasn’t inspired by Hells Angels, it was the other way around. Even back then, TVs and movies could have a great influence over what we do and what we love.
And that’s what scares the bejeezus out of me about House of Cards. As if we don’t already have enough criminals and sociopaths in Congress, do we really want to start attracting the kind of people who are excited by all the dirty-dealing they see in Cards? If there’s a zombie apocalypse, I’m all for a lot of people being prepared because, inspired by The Walking Dead, they learned to use a crossbow, but it’s tough enough watching the nonsense and criminality that goes on inside the Beltway and radiates outward to touch all of us, without worrying that Netflix, who produces and distributes the show, is sending up a red flare, attracting all who would hoodwink, fleece and otherwise sell down the river, good, hardworking, law-abiding Americans, to the city that already makes both Soddom and Gomorrah look like Mayberry and Hooterville.
Please, watch House of Cards. It’s a great show. Kevin Spacey is beyond awesome. But if you’re going to be inspired by a show, and let it spill over into your real life, store up some food, guns and ammo and maybe use Google Maps to find a nice, comfy prison to call home when the Zombie Apocalypse hits. It’s a better use for your creative energies.
This is a pretty funny (and right on the money) ad from Adobe.
The interwebs industry is full of buzzword wielding posers and charlatans who in some cases know just enough to be dangerous, but usually not nearly enough to be in any way effective.
Case in point:
A few months ago, I was talking to a gentleman who had helped his brother (an SEO genius, I was assured) start a company devoted to helping businesses improve their Search Engine Optimization. Setting aside for the moment the discussion about SEO being kind of…over, I nodded politely, hearing this financial dude talk about his little bro who was a friggin’ genius I tell you, and the company he helped the guy start. Amazed that I hadn’t heard of the company (I mean there are probably only, what…a BILLION SEO companies out there, right?) I looked them up on the web and laughed out loud (my wife thought I was watching Modern Family on Hulu again, much to her chagrin, because she doesn’t think that show is funny at all – but how the hell can you not think Modern Family is funny for God’s sake?) because when I hit the website, I saw this SEO company had a PageRank of…
Wait for it…
Yea, three. 3.
Jesus, I just relaunched this blog, have about eight posts on it and it has a PageRank of 3.
Okay, PageRank (named, by the way, for Google co-founder Larry Page, not for “web page”) is the definitive measure of a website’s profile on the web, based on an algorithm that takes into consideration inbound links, relevence to its own keywords, site layout, etc…YouTube‘s homepage has a PageRank of 9.
Here’s a little perspective for you. I picked what sounded like a little radio station in a little market at random to check their PageRank. Froggy 99.9 in Fargo, North Dakota has a PageRank of 4.
That’s 25% higher than the PageRank of this SEO company started by a real genius SEO guru. Really!
Maybe said guru is one of the guys in the Adobe* ad.
* – Adobe’s homepage has a PageRank of 9, by the way.
Which I (kind of) did last week.
The 2013 Florence Prison Run, sponsored by the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, was a blast. It’s all about showing support for brothers inside the “big house” and a bunch of bikers did just that. I can’t say that I know anyone in the custody of the Federal Government at Florence, but did the run anyway.
Much like the HAMC Poker Run to celebrate American Legend Sonny Barger’s birthday in October, it was well organized, well executed (sorry…poor choice of words) and welcoming to non-patchholders. Like the previous big-boy ride that I wrote about here, I felt like I should have had a Wild Hogs patch on the back of my cut, though I’m not sure whether I’m the John Travolta or the Tim Allen character. I’d like to think I’m the Martin Lawrence character but know I’m probably not, even though the whole “stay-at-home-writer” thing rings true. My book was published in December though, so I’ve got that on him.
I am comfortable in the fact that I am not the William Macy character, despite my preference for Apple products.
Some pics from the ride…
Parking just in front of my Harley was a club of metrics
My bike in the middle. Hanging my helmet on the handlebar after parking, I must admit I felt a little like one of the CHiPs guys. Ponch or John, I’m not sure…Probably John.
There were a couple patch vendors on site, one run by a lovely older couple in their travel trailer. Their inventory was HUGE. I bought this one. $7 that included sewing it on my vest.
This is really cool. In 1967, Walter Cronkite did a television presentation on what life would be like in the 21st Century. Sure, he missed mentioning Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, but his writers did come up with a pretty spot-on vision of what life would be like…well…now.
Just tonight, I paid almost $4 a gallon for gas. Wonder if he saw that coming?
The Season Six Premiere is on the schedule.
Over the weekend, was just thinking about picking up Season 5 to review, though it will be available On Demand starting February 11th.
Definitely check out this slideshow of 4 cast photos. I love the way the actors (Vincent Kartheiser, Elisabeth Moss and January Jones) are aging into the late sixties. Pete rockin’ the sideburns, Harry Crane heavying up on the frames. I was just reaching the age of reason during this period in the show’s timeline, and everywhere you look, there are things remembered.
American TV used to be good at the mini-series, the first of note being Roots, another being V. Heck, even Battlestar Galactica (the new one, not the old Star Wars ripoff version) was initially a mini-series that found an audience and became a several season series.
But, for a number of reasons, American TV moved away from the 5 or 6 episode series, to more open-ended shows that, if they proved to find an audience, could go on laying golden eggs for a long time. It’s a shame we do that, because when a show is designed to go on and on, there’s great motivation to not mess with key characters. Certain standout shows have been able to refresh by changing characters out, whether the method used is death or moving on. Law and Order (oops, sorry, I meant THIS ONE) comes to mind, as does House. More recently, Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy have killed main characters off, but in truth, both of those shows have arcs that are designed to play out in a relatively short time.
Television in the U.K. continues the tradition of the mini-series though, and do it really well with Line of Duty, available in the U.S. on Hulu+ Though Line of Duty has been picked up for a second season, the five episodes that make up the first season are a complete story with an extremely final and conclusive (if not perfectly satisfying) ending. Oh, it’s satisfying as storytelling goes, it’s just not the kind of “feel-good-balance-and-justice-is-restored” kind of ending American audiences love. If you doubt that, ask yourself why the awesome Rubicon on AMC wasn’t picked up for a second season.
Lennie James is a familiar face if you are a fan of Jericho, the aforementioned The Walking Dead or Hung. Of course, if you do know James from any of those shows, instead of from, say, Snatch, you assume from his accent (or lack thereof) he’s American. He’s not. He grew up in South London. In Line of Duty, he is fabulous as a somewhat (not very, but a little) crooked cop, who because of a couple bad decisions, ends up a very crooked cop. There are elements of The Shield present in Line of Duty, but it is a very original and interesting story. Well written and directed, it’s a thrilling 250 minutes of television.
I’m very happy Line of Duty is going to continue on to season two, and whether or not it stars Martin Compston and Vicki McClure, I’ll be watching.
Side note, also starring is the wonderful Neil Morrissey, known as the star of the British Men Behaving Badly, one of many shows American networks tried to translate from British TV but botched. The Brit MBH was awesome. He was also the British voice of Bob the Builder, and my personal choice as the actor most like to play Paul McCartney when Sir Paul’s definitive bio-pic is produced (at least that’s what I told Sir Paul when I had the honor of doing a one-on-one interview with him in 2001).
I’ve been a Hulu+ user since the beginning of their pay service, and at first, wasn’t a big fan. There didn’t really seem to be any benefit to paying for the content, since not everything was available, and you still had to endure commercials.
Except for the commercials, that’s all changed. There’s a lot of content, some of the best being The Straits, a bit of a melding of Breaking Bad, The Sopranos and even a little Sons of Anarchy thrown in. It’s dark, funny, and full of drug and gun-running crime. Oh, family stuff, too.
The story, an Australian ABC1 production, centers around Harry Montebello, played by Brian Cox. Harry’s London born, but came to Australia in his 20s. He has a Torrest Strait born wife whose mother was Maori. Kitty helped Harry create a thriving crime family with their four adopted children.
The writing is excellent, the characters sharply drawn, making it easy for the viewer to understand the setting and the conflicts from the first episode.
Like Line of Duty, Hulu+ is coming through with great content. Well worth the monthly fee.
It has been proposed that the Treasury mint and issue a trillion dollar coin.
Why? Is it the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard? I mean, really…I can’t get most vending machines to take a perfect dollar bill without barfing it back at me, and the Government wants to mint a trillion dollar coin?
Seriously, it’s being laughed at in Washington, but believe me, the whole story is a trial balloon, to see how the idea goes over, and I think it will be embraced, because it seems so simple. Here’s how it would work:
The mint stamps out a coin worth a trillion dollars. Maybe two. Or a hundred. Whatever. They deposit the coin in the bank, and say “hey, we’ve got money to pay our bills!”
Really though, how is that different than running the printing presses night and day to print up money, which because we have a fiat currency, they can do anyway? This is much cheaper.
There’s also the possibility that the government, after minting the big coin, will say to China “hey, Chinaman, call in all your Treasury Bills you hold (basically IOUs we print to get them to loan us money) and we’ll be happy to pay them off, with this shiny, new platinum $1 Trillion Dollar coin. There you go, Wo-Fat. Piss off.
Economically, we’re past the point of no return, and to be honest, I’m not sure it’s the dumbest idea in the world. It won’t do anything more than kick the can down the road a couple months, but hey…
(Republished from my radio show blog – October, 2012)
Recently, I rode to celebrate the birthday of Sonny Barger, famed outlaw biker, founder of Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club (the inspiration for the F/X hit show “Sons of Anarchy”) and Cave Creek area resident.
It was a blast. Those guys ride really, really fast, which brought to mind the opening scene from Season 5 of Sons of Anarchy.
From Sons of Anarchy, Season 5 Episode 1:
Jax (v/o): Something happens at around 92 miles an hour – thunder-headers drown out all sound, engine vibrations travels at a heart’s rate, field of vision funnels into the immediate and suddenly you’re not on the road, you’re in it. A part of it. Traffic, scenery, cops – just cardboard cutouts blowing over as you past. Sometimes I forget the rush of that. That’s why I love these long runs.
Sorry to disagree, Jax, but after the ride yesterday, I have to rewrite.
Kevin (v/o): Something happens at around 92 miles an hour – thunder-headers drown out all sound, engine vibrations travels at a heart’s rate, field of vision funnels to where you can only see the bike 8 feet away to your left/forward diagonal and the bike about 12 feet ahead of you. You watch that bouncing piece of white along the side of the interstate, wondering if it’s a discarded styrofoam cup or a rock that’s going to bounce up and smack you in the face (good choice going with the 3/4 helmet with clear faceguard today). You glance down at the big silver speedometer and see it pass 90, and then the mirror, hoping for a gap that will let you slow to something more civilized like…80…No luck, and just as you say to yourself “wow, this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever gotten myself involved in,” a road captain flies past you on the left, hanging on to his mini ape-hangers, feet on the highway pegs of his Harley, no-helmet, long white-grey hair almost touching the top rocker of his Hells Angels colors like you’re standing still.
All of a sudden you realize, you are John Travolta’s character in “Wild Hogs” and instead of accidentally burning down Ray Liotta’s MC’s clubhouse, you’re in the pack, riding with them and you decide not to wear the yellow and black Harley Davidson skull cap at the next stop, because it looks too clean, too new, like you just bought it the day before.
Which you did.