Since my move from 10th to 14th Street, I have been surprisingly reliant on the plasma to fulfill my evening entertainment. Instead of the usual late-night movie watching ritual that I had formerly found myself performing (a good murder mystery goes a long way for my sleeping schedule), I now find myself tuned into the digital cable that I had entirely neglected previously. I turn it on while reading emails. I watch/listen as I cook dinner. I set the volume to near-maximum when I am in the shower. It is truly getting to be my at-home obsession.

What are you watching, one may ask. Well, it is not a specific show (who has the time or the regularity that requires), but an entire network of vignettes perfectly programmed to match my irregular attention span needs. Yes, I have discovered CURRENT TV.

current TV

current TV

What is it, you ask. To be honest, I did not know myself for a time. Let me describe it as I encountered it before I tell you about the online research I did. In between the MTV channels (MTV original, MTV U., MTV 2, VH1) on my cable, I found channel 22 and this strange station called CURRENT. With miniature documentaries, seeming to range from about 3 to 7 minutes, and including every subject imaginable (submitted by viewers), this channel immediately had my attention. I was learning about different subjects (Catholic-Protestant battles in Belfast, DC Drag Race, South African fashion), but was never burdened by a full-length feature, which, if partially missed, was not worth the watching. I suppose that could be a con, too: if I really like something, I want it to last longer than 5 minutes! But if I am not interested in something, it’s over in 5 minutes anyway and a new one is presented. Watching CURRENT, I feel informed and trendy at the same time, which really motivates the I’m-20-and-my-generation-needs-to-save-the-world voice in my head.

Al Gore, creator of CURRENT

Al Gore, creator of CURRENT

A little internet research provides some intriguing nuggets about this channel. Apparently, CURRENT was launched in 2005 by former Vice President (and American posterboy for responsible energy) Al Gore. In these four years it has existed, CURRENT has the distinct title of being the fasting growing network of all time! Wow, that is quite impressive. With content that appeals to the highly-coveted 18-34 demographic that is both inter and proactive, the channel is meant to offer a imperfect combination of CNN and MTV, all the better for the imperfection of the combination. As Mr. Gore put it, the station is for young people “who want to learn about the world in a voice they recognize and a view they recognize as their own.”

Does that imply some liberal ideals? Obviously. AND IT SHOULD: after all, we know that each generation becomes a little more liberal than the last…THANK GOODNESS! And with a home state of California, this station had little chance of being provincial with its views. As someone who agrees with many of their viewpoints, it is hard to separate myself and say this is responsible journalism. It may not be, but it is never forcing anything upon you. I believe it encourages an open mind: no judgments, no hate, just a different side of things. I enjoy that. I may have not wanted to know about it, but it is great that I have that option.

Favorite Things to Watch:

Max, left, and Jason, right

Max and Jason

Max & Jason. They usually run an hour long series concerning a particular topic, which is always very enjoyable. With good commraderie between them and a stack of knowledge larger than the disk space of CURRENT’s lengthiest video, the show is a delight. And with their Style-specific edition, they show that documentaries can be sexy.

The Rotten Tomatoes Show

The Rotten Tomatoes Show

These two provide some of the most enjoyable commercials in the history of television. Well, mildly amusing at the very least. Ignoring that, this show (based on the movie-rating website) is great. Using viewer-created podcast reviews of movies, they intertwine relevant video feeds to the websites greater conclusions about a movie to create the final Rotten/Fresh rating.

InfoMania

InfoMania

An enjoyable look-alike of mock news programs, such as The Soup and The Daily Show. But the best part of this show are the lengthier segments where heavier topics are discussed in longer 3 minute pods. AND THEY ARE HYSTERICAL! I will attach a recent favorite of mine below [the GBF]. Thanks to Ilona for posting that on my wall!

Vanguard

Vanguard

After watching fifteen mini-docs at once and thinking my head is so full from forty-five minutes of varied factoids, Vanguard is what satisfies my craving for longer segments and real information. They tackle the harder subjects and give time to relfect on them. Think of a more active form of 60 minutes for the 18-34 demographic. With ebbs and flows like a real documentary, it is wonderful. Wikipedia says: “Current’s in-house journalism department, consisting of a team of young producers and correspondents who specialize in enterprising reporting on global issues. In addition to contributing original pods to Current’s daily shuffle, Vanguard airs a weekly half-hour program of longer and more in depth pieces.”

Need I say more?

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It is no secret that I am ardent fan of British television, no more than it is a secret that I adore period dramas. And when these two lovely categories intersect…oh, that produces a little thing called LOVE. Well, at least temporary OBSESSION. The best possible example of this intersection is the BBC’s seminal 1995 mini-series of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Starring a fantastic (and perfectly cast) Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie and THE Darcy of them all (also perfectly cast), Colin Firth, this version is uniformly praised as the height of book to film adaptations. And, for me, it is 5 hours of absolute bliss. Besides flawless casting (well, very nearly), beautiful scenery and costumes, and a faithful screenplay, this series can truly pride itself on its well-balanced story-telling, producing chapter after chapter of delicately unfolded plot with enough drama and suspense to engender faithful viewship of the whole set.

Faults are so few in the BBC’s Pride (but not nonexistent…I’m talking about you, 80’s style semi-transparent Colin Firth head appearing in Lizzie’s carriage window) that it is so very difficult for viewers, such as I, to find any alternatives to it that provide such a satisfying historical-romantic-epic experience.

And yet, I have to admit, I have found a new obsession. Introduced to me nearly two months ago by Christina and Shyla, I am speaking of the BBC’s newest mini-series drama, North & South. [Newest is perhaps a relative term. Released in 2004, the production quality has upgraded since Pride.] I watched the series in one go with Christina while enjoying delicious snacks from Vanessa’s Dumpling House. Little did I understand that, four hours later, I would be absolutely in love with this production (and happily full from several orders of dumplings!).

Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton in "North & South"

Richard Armitage as Thornton in "North & South"

I understand this may appear as sacrilege to the masses of P&P fans out there. How can anything appear to replace Firth’s lake scene or the oddity of Mr. Collins? I do not claim that it can. They are independent of one another and fill separate niches in the  movie-adoration section of my mind. And yet, they are so very similar, both treading on the same terrain. Two young people meet, detest, and slowly fall in love with one another. Throw in an awkward (but incredibly fun to watch, learn, and recite with friends) proposal scene mid-series, a detached-acting (tall, dark, and handsome) would-be male lover, worries about money and reputation, and there you have it. Even the titles have a similar ring about them.

So why do I recommend it so? If it only copies Austen, what is the point?

Well, it is certainly hard to explain. To outline the plot shortly, I’ll use the help of IMDB:

“At the heart of the series is the tempestuous relationship between Margaret Hale, a young woman from the south who finds herself uprooted to the north, and John Thornton, a formerly poverty-stricken cotton mill owner terrified of losing the viability of his successful business. Around them are class struggles between the workers and mill owners and ideological struggles between the industrial North and the agrarian South. After moving North, Margaret’s father befriends his student, Mr. Thornton. Margaret has already formed her opinion of Mr. Thornton independently after seeing him treat his workers harshly. As the series progresses, she begins to learn that his strict treatment is due to an overarching concern for his mill and, by extension, his employees. John Thornton, on the other hand, is attracted to Margaret’s independence and position in society as a well-educated Southerner. As in “Pride and Prejudice” the marriage proposal comes in the middle of the series and is rejected by Margaret. Contrary to “Pride and Prejudice” it is mirrored in social upheaval as the entire town is brought to its knees by a strike. The latter half of the series is an unraveling of the former misunderstandings ending in a romantic reconciliation which is again mirrored by reconciliation between workers and mill owners.”

Things I love about this series are:

  • The score is absolutely beautiful…granted it becomes a little repetitive if you watch the series in its entirety in one instance. Still, closing chapters with that noxious melody is a wonderful choice and brings such amazing power to moments like Margaret’s “I’ve seen hell, and it is white. It is snow white.”
  • It was very skillfully adapted from Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel. While not entirely faithful to the original, it carefully finds the right moments to connect and cut. Now that I have read the novel, I adore it more than the series itself. But I believe that the screenwriters have been absolutely right in many of their cuts and additions. As has often been noted, Ms. Gaskell’s demanding boss, Charles Dickens, forced her to write her chapters very quickly. As such, the screen adapters hoped to fill in little gaps that they imagine she would have with more time. And I am actually ok with their fill-ins.

    Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret in North & South

    Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret in "North & South"

  • Richard Armitage aka Mr. Thornton. He fits the Mr. Darcy bill quite well. He easily acts the defiant, brooding master that finds trouble in conveying his true emotion to Margaret. And he effortlessly fills the typical romantic hero mold in terms of looks.
  • Margaret has some great lines in this series. Her refusals to proposals are quite hilarious.

While it is natural to have issues with a series of this scope, I feel as though the entire package outweighs any cons I could produce. I just love it, and I have watched it countless times already. Props to YouTube for its (presumably) illegal showing of the entire series.

I am long past my MTV phase. The lure of oversexed and unrealisitc reality shows lost its appeal when I started having a social life of my own (the sex included). With the increased disbelief in the action I saw on the screen and my own fulfillment of an active life outside my living room, I gave up hope on shows like the Real World. In fact, the last season I had watched religiously was New Orleans, the cast of which I can still remember…BECAUSE THEY WERE REAL. That was season 9, and they are apparently beyond season 20 now. WTF? How did that happen?

Brooklyn

The cast of the Real World: Brooklyn

But this season of the Real World has received a significant amount of press, making me actually pay attention. Taking place in Brooklyn, my neighbor to the east via the 6 train, this season features an intriguingly diverse cast. Not the traditional diversity based on race, but sexual diversity at an above-average percentage. Supposedly, 10% of the population is gay. In New York that number climbs to 30%. This cast, comprised of a larger cast of 8 instead of the traditional 7, has one gay man, one bisexual woman, and one transwoman. This is among other closeted members of the cast (cough. cough. Chet. cough).

These are really thrilling numbers. I am so glad that greater America can have the opportunity to finally see what being transgender/sexual is all about on a regular basis. It is not something to be ashamed of nor hidden. The same is true with bisexuality: it is possible to love both genders, and I am glad to see that this person is so accepted in the house. Everyone is a little bisexual, they just might not know it.

The gay man has been a routine inclusion in Real World houses, but not always with the best results or reputations. While I do not think that people should change to fit in, I hate gay stereotypes and I have trouble accepting those gay men who meet and flaunt them. It makes me feel like we will never get beyond lingering perceptions of promiscous gay men having sex all the time and wearing rings on bent-wristed hands. I cannot explain it fully because I do not have enough time or space to. And maybe it is too irrational for me to understand fully.

Watching the show reminds me of the same old tawdry arguments and scripts they have always used. They say the same things and have the same problems. So why should I watch? I do not know. Perhaps I am hoping that America will change as a result of one episode (perhaps enough to revoke Prop 8). Maybe I will at least see some places I am familiar around the city.

And that thing I said about Chet…well, I try to accept every person for what they say they are. After all, who knows you better than you? And I applaud his attempt to change perceptions on Mormons by acting the way he chooses. And I love that he was open-minded enough to wear eyeliner and go to the gay clubs (possibly convincing that other boy, who is trouble). But I cannot help this vibe of GAYNESS that I get from Chet. But, hey, I am not judging him either way. I think he will be who he wants to be.

See you next week Brooklyn cast: you have me (temporarily) hooked!

Damn, I love The View. Today’s episode really confirmed that for me. The guest was Ann Coulter (lovingly-termed Cunt-er on many internet sites). The already-infamous visit will no doubt be replayed over and over again on sites like YouTube, with many comments to follow, I am sure.

I came into the episode late. Despite having gone to bed relatively early to catch up on many lost hours, I did not arise until nearly 11:15AM. Had I known that the bull-headed Coulter would be a guest on Monday’s show, I would have been sure to wake on time with a prepared breakfast in front of the couch to watch the impending battle. Nonetheless, I woke up and turned on the television and was pleased to see Barbara staring back at me. As you know, whenever Barbara is on the show, a high profile guest is likely to visiting the set. And I was excited to learn from her introduction that the prolific Coulter was about to enter.

Ann Coulter's appearance at NYU

Ann Coulter's appearance at NYU

I saw Ann Coulter as recently as last month when she spoke at NYU. Since I work within the building where her speech took place, I was able to see the entire event from a lofty position in the empty back balcony. After a lengthy introduction by the (I-cannot-believe-they-exist-at-NYU) College Republicans, Ms. Coulter appeared before the large audience hall, half-filled by those wishing to protest her entire presence on campus. I would probably count myself among that crowd. Yet, I must admit, she was more-or-less a delight to listen to. Her political humor is impeccible, and she appears very knowledgeable. When she went off script, she stumbled a bit, but always recovered well. And she is lovely to boot. If only her voice were more conifdent and less like fingernails on a chalkboard…at a decreased speed (to explain the deep register). The thing is, though, she did not say anything. Too many one-liners and an unclear/unfocused topic make her less of a political pundit and more of a political satirist. My conclusion from her visit to NYU: she is an entertainer and not a very bad one. [Here is a snippet of her NYU performance and a review less kind than my own.]

That was at NYU. I know that the national spotlight provides less of a stage, where one can explain themselves and have redeeming qualities, than a storefront, forcing one to sell aphorisms and live with labels. So my prior conception of Coulter was reliant upon her storefront persona: the rude, politically incorrect conservative, who said that global warming was useful because she could have a tan longer. With no television contract or movies in the works, Coulter relies on her book sales and appearances to keep the money rolling in. And, boy, does she knows how to sell books: the bigger the controversy, the bigger her checking account. Critiquing 9-11 widows, pledging to fight for Hillary Clinton if McCain wins the primary for the Republicans, etc have all worked in the past for the wealthy Coulter.

Now what? Well, with a new book called Guilty, she thought she would stir up the daytime television pot with an appearance on the widely seen show The View. Take a look at the results.

I love how each View panelist brought a card full of questions they had for Ms. Coulter. I think they may have formally addressed one of those questions. Two if they were extremely lucky.

But who won? Let us add up the totals…

  • +1 Sherri putting Ann in her place to defend Barbara
  • -1 Barbara caving into Ann and reading it like Winnie the Pooh
  • +1 Ann using studies to support her argument
  • +1 The View ladies for not letting Ann finish her thoughts
  • -1 Ann criticizing single moms, +.5 for excluding Whoopi
  • +1 Joy refused to take Coulter’s shit

With 3 points to Ann’s 1.5 points, the ladies of The View win this interview/battle. But I think both win: The View in ratings; Ms. Coulter in book sales.

Why I love Ricky Gervais…

January 11, 2009

Ricky Gervais has taken a lot of flack recently. The star of (the british, original edition of) The Office and the critically-adored 2008 movie, Ghost Town, recently criticized overweight members of society that participate in elective surgeries to promote weight loss, including gastric bypass and liposuction. In his new audiobook, The Ricky Gervais Guide to Medicine, Gervais states:

I really don’t know why a doctor under a hippocratic oath takes the risk of something going badly wrong, sometimes with general anaesthetic, because someone can’t be bothered to go for a f—ing run. They have bits sliced off and tied up and sucked out. I want to say to them, “You lazy f—ing fat pig. Just go for a run and stop eating burgers. You might f—ing die.” Some things are not worth the risk. When someone’s facial surgery goes wrong because they wanted plumper lips or a little nose, I think they’re a f—ing idiot. If your arse is too f—ing fat, stop eating and go for a run.

Newspapers and online news organizations are all over this story now, claiming that he is being offensive and attacking obese people unfairly. Gervais, who describes himself as a “fatty”, is now being asked to offer a public apology for his words by several organizations.

Ricky Gervais in an ad for "Extras"

Ricky Gervais in an ad for "Extras"

You know what, though? He is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT in this situation! What did he say that was wrong? If we all acknowledge that obesity is a real issue in modern society, I think he is right to suggest that we encourage overweight people to exercise rather than be cut open by surgeons. There should at least be an in-depth counseling period which should precede any surgical action and attempt to promote healthier eating and exercise habits.

His suggestions, though made incredibly blunt, ring terribly true. These people do not need more alternatives to a healthy lifestyle. Rather, they need to be educated on how to live a healthy lifestyle. With the “stigma” gone (as he puts it) of being fat, there is no motivation to become fit and care about one’s health. We need to kick start this awareness of health with extreme steps. Insurance costs should be decreased for healthy patients. Yes, New York, additional taxes should be imposed on non-diet, sugary sodas. And surgery should never be a first option, and insurance coverage for these operations must be placed in check.

The critiques Gervais has received have not changed his point of view. He took to his blog recently to reply to respond to one particular criticism he received, which associated being overweight with being gay as concerning comic material. Gervais writes:

I heard someone on the radio once say that they were tired of the prejudice aimed at the overweight. They said something like “you’re not allowed to make fun of gay people, so why are you allowed to make fun of fat people? It’s the same thing.”

It’s not the same thing though, is it? Gay people are born that way. They didn’t work at becoming gay. Fat people became fat because they would rather be that way than stop eating so much. They had to eat and eat to get fat. Then, when they were fat they had to keep up the eating to stay fat. For gayness to be the same as fatness, gay people would have to start off straight but then ween themselves onto cock. Soon they’re noshing all day getting gayer and gayer. They’ve had more than enough cock… they’re full… they’re just sucking for the sake of it. Now they’re overgay, and frowned upon by people who can have the occasional cock but not over indulge.

When a doctor tells me that that’s how you become gay, I’ll stop making jokes about fat people.

He is an absolute laugh, and I cannot think of a better response for the stupidity expressed by the radio show host Gervais references.