Cultureguru's Weblog

Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy


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The Christmas after

For our Christmas travels I’d lost the argument about flying this year, so we drove off after work on December 22 and made it to Huntsville, then finished the journey the next day. Our unseasonably mild and snow-less winter made for a good drive, fog being the only challenge at times.

Timmins did have snow, albeit far less than usual, and it seemed almost freakishly warm (up to +3 C!).

My younger sister and family flew to Timmins without issues, but my older one had the unpleasant experience of her flight getting all the way to Timmins, then refusing to land due to fog! (Though other airlines were landing in the same conditions.) So she ended up spending Christmas in Toronto after all.

Celebrations began on the 23rd with a belated 80th birthday party for my Dad, held at my brother’s. Pretty well-attended, considering the busy time of year.

Gerry_McN_BDay2015_(14_of_43)_151223

The birthday boy (foreground)

December 24 brought very high winds, then widespread power outages to Timmins. But power was back most everywhere by mid-afternoon. We attended mass at my Dad’s church, then headed off to Réveillon celebrations, first at my cousin’s, then at Lefebvre’s.

Dad's gonna PieFace her! .. or he takes one for her :)

The “pie in face” game was delighting the kids this year. (I abstained from play.)

Always too much food! ... it' s Christmas

We didn’t lack for food

The “left / right” gift exchange theme this year was “computers,” and the price limit is pretty modest. That meant a lot of USB sticks going around.

and the Grrraand Prize goes to Come, he also get's the clown.

But some people were more creative (and no, Jean did not come up with this mouse pad himself)

Christmas morning was at McNair’s, where we tried a new approach of the “stealing” game.

Caleb showing enthousiasm ;)

This resulted in some kids getting items they were less-than-enthused about

Master Skyper John!

The Toronto folks participated via Skype

A round of trading afterward produced more satisfactory results, at least for some. (I took the mini-Cuisinart off my nephew’s hands and he got my cool gift pack of gourmet popcorn and DVDs.)

A few specific gifts were handed out as well.

S-S modeling her

You’ll never guess who gave my niece this Buffy T-shirt

Champagne instead of coffee in the morning ... That's how you know it's Christmas :)

And we enjoyed the morning Champagne

The afternoon was consumed with helping Dad prepare the Christmas turkey and fixings. We had 13 people over for dinner, and everything turned out great.

On Boxing Day we resisted the sales, but managed to get together with some Timmins friends at a local coffee shop, which was very nice.

We departed the following afternoon, and except for the car having a mysterious battery failure (solved with a boost), the two-part drive home was uneventful. We even found a very good restaurant in Hunstville for dinner (3 Guys and a Stove).


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2015 TV shows Part 1: iZombie and friends

Is there any more First World problem than “peak television”? “Wah! There’s too much stuff to watch!” But it’s kind of true. Between the various streaming services, HBO, and the networks, there have never been more hours of quality viewing available. There’s no keeping up with it all (and also having a life).

So, no one needs another list of TV shows to watch. Nevertheless, with apologies and with recognition that it most certainly leaves out many fine programs that I didn’t have the time or the inclination to watch, herewith is my best TV viewing of 2015.

Note: I was going to attempt to describe each listed series in this one post, but then I realized that could get really long. And who would have time to read all that, what with all this TV to watch? So let’s just make this a series. (Though like any series, one subject to cancellation at any time.) What could be more fitting for this medium?

Within each category, programs are listed in alphabetical order, as I can’t imagine ranking such vastly different series against each other.

Under the radar

Programs that, seems to me, aren’t that well-known.

  1. The Americans – Shomi / FX: I wrote about The Americans earlier in the year. Season 3 on Shomi later this month!
  2. Borgen – TVO (originally on Danish television)
  3. Catastrophe – Shomi / BBC: I wrote about Catastrophe as well. Season 2 available about now…

 

4. Today’s feature: iZombie – Shomi / CW

The premise: Based on a comic book, iZombie stars Rose McIver as Liv Moore, an over-achieving medical resident who, as shown in flashbacks, is zombified at a party a few months before the series starts. In this world, zombies retain their mental capacity as long as they regularly consume human brains. Liv manages her dietary needs by working at the coroner’s office, where her partner, Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti, clues into her condition in episode 1. Everyone else in her life is mystified by her new behavior and look.

Adding to Liv’s challenges is that when she eat someone’s brain, she temporarily takes on some of their characteristics, be it passionate artist, warm country singer, reclusive computer genius, or psychopath killer. She also gets visions of what the deceased went through, and she uses these to work with police detective Babineaux (who thinks she’s a psychic) to solve murders.

iZombie official trailer

Notable participants: It’s produced by the same people responsible for Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero, and shares with that series the rapid-fire wit. As for the actors, though, I personally am not familiar with any of them. But Rose McIver is very good in what must be a challenging (but fun!) role. The casting, generally, is nicely diverse, and Robert Buckley, as Liv’s former finance Major, reminds me a lot of Scott Speedman.

What’s good about it: I like that that this series has self-contained, weekly murders to solve along with ongoing, season-long storylines. And that the characters have complexity and evolve and are generally likeable (even the villains). And that it’s mega-funny, yet delves into complex moral issues of what it means to be human. Happiness is complicated and rare for these characters (especially Liv and Major), but it’s not a depressing show.

It’s not quite at Buffy levels, but like that show, there’s more to it than its title and premise would suggest.

Any qualms? Whenever the characters apply actual science to zombie-ism (Liv and Ravi are doctors, after all), it doesn’t quite work for me. Zombie-ism just doesn’t seem scientifically possible.


 

  1. Mozart in the Jungle – Shomi / Amazon
  2. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Netflix

Critically acclaimed

We’ve all heard these ones are good. I generally agree—though some are likely overrated.

  1. Agent Carter – CTV / ABC
  2. The Jinx – HBO
  3. Transparent – Shomi / Amazon

(I’d add Netflix’ Jessica Jones here—or in some category—except that we haven’t finished the first season yet.)

Popular successes

A fair number of people watch these shows. The public isn’t always wrong.

  1. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – CTV / ABC
  2. Amazing Race Canada – CTV
  3. Grace and Frankie – Netflix
  4. Silicon Valley – HBO


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Chasing the original high

Just let me feel the rush like the first night
Wanna breathe it out cause I’m going out my mind
Gotta feel the touch like the first time
Cause I’m
Chasing the original high
….
I’m trying to buy a fix but there ain’t no price
I try to feed the hunger that keeps me up at night
We were on a trip trying to replicate
But the highs I hit just ain’t doin it for me

Remember back in Hollywood?
The medication flowing through my veins was you…

— “The Original High”

The Original High: Adam Lamber

The title track of Adam Lambert’s new album The Original High suggests that we spend much of our adult lives in a possibly fruitless quest: To rediscover the rush and excitement of the first time we experienced something great, whether that be drugs, sex, love, applause, success, or what have you.

It’s an interesting idea, particularly when considered in light my own Adam Lambert fandom. Why am I obsessing over this guy? What am I gaining from it? Am I chasing some original high here…?

”Remember back in Hollywood?”

Before there were actual boyfriends in my life, there were celebrity crushes. Those were much safer. You could have the thrill and excitement generated by reading about, listening to, or watching these famous strangers, without the risks of real conversations and physical contact with actual, unpredictable people.

Then of course, there were the boyfriends. And that could be very exciting, often in unexpected ways.

And then I found the one, who eventually transitioned from boyfriend to husband. The love and passion I feel for him hasn’t died with the passage of years, but it has changed. Improved, in many ways. But what hasn’t lasted is that initial, mind-blowing, almost insane obsession. That overwhelming high of falling in love.

Because you can’t live a whole life in that state. You wouldn’t want to. Remember that Pepsi commercial? “Is there anything else youthful you’d like to experience?” “Yeah, I’d like to make out like we used to” And then:

Make out like we used to Pepsi ad

“On second thought…” Exactly!

But you can certainly retreat to your harmless old pastime, the celebrity crush. For that safe, remote facsimile of the thrill of a new relationship.

“Just let me feel the rush like the first night”

Adam Lambert posing

The current style

Adam Lambert performing

Performing

In this limited capacity, Adam Lambert is fulfilling the chase fairly well. For all my recent defending of old rockers, it is nice to be into a young, healthy guy. I love his recent style, with less makeup, a more natural hair colour, the torn skinny jeans, the great shirts and jackets. The man always looks amazing, whether arriving an airport, doing a radio interview, performing, or all dressed up for the red carpet.

He is fun to look at.

And having listened to, read, and watched a ton of promotional interviews these past months, gotta say that Adam Lambert also seems to be one of the sweetest, most charming people on the planet. Many of the interviewers are great, but he also handles the uninformed or intrusive questions with a lot of grace, humour, and intelligence, And he’s a good sport about the many absurd little quizzes and activities he’s asked to participate in (Juggling! Dancing like Carlton! Giving the weather forecast! Drinking cheap tequila!)

Adam on Alan Carr Chatty Man. Not necessarily the best interview, but certainly one of the funniest

“But the highs I hit just ain’t doin’ it for me”

So have I achieved celebrity crush nirvana? Well, hmm. I just wish… I just wish… I loved his new album.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the new album. The songs are very catchy. The lyrics have some intelligence. He’s never sung better (on a studio album). The production—the sound quality—is great, crisp, well-mixed. There aren’t any songs I actually dislike.

It’s just that… I don’t really love too many of the songs, either. It all feels a bit… light to me. Lacking in angst, maybe. In emotional power, somehow.

And it’s very odd for me to have this disconnect between the artist and his artistic output. I like listening to The Who’s music every bit as much as I enjoy looking at Roger Daltrey’s pecs. I appreciate Spike’s cheekbones and snark in the context of one of my favourite TV shows of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sure, a song here, an episode there isn’t as great, but overall… Awesomeness.

Whereas a week of listening to Adam Lambert music and I’m like, wow. I need some Elvis Costello, or something.

“Cause I’m chasing the original high”

Now, I really want this album to be a success (though I don’t know what success is in this age of limited music sales), because if it is, he’ll tour. And I feel absolutely certain that I would love seeing him in concert, even if he doesn’t do a single cover song.

Because I do have considerable fondness for his second album, Trespassing. It’s true that the lesser songs on it are weaker than anything on The Original High. But the highs (there’s that word again)… “Trespassing” is probably my favourite song of his ever, an exuberant gay anthem with lyrics ambiguous enough for many other interpretations, and always a lovely ingredient in a remix. And I’m almost as fond of dance-oriented “Pop that Lock”, of angsty ballad, “Outlaws of Love”, of the beautiful, haunting Underneath, and of dark yet rousing bonus track Running.

But as for The Original High, it does contain “There I Said It”  the big ballad, and the one song in which he does seem kind of angry and defiant. (“I won’t apologize to you anymore!”) I do love that song. I’m also rather fond of the sexy, R&B infused “Underground” and I must say that if I’m not sick of single “Ghost Town”  after so many listens (and I’m not), there’s gotta be something to that dance track, also.

And I feel I should end with this blog-post inspiring song, “The Original High” which, yes, I do like very much. It’s an absolutely infectious pop song with smart lyrics.

This is a fan video—with bonus Hungarian subtitles!


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Of him I wish to muse aloud

Adam Lambert is releasing a new single called “Ghost Town” sometime this month, to be followed by a full album this summer. I know this, along with many other Lambert facts, because I’ve recently become very interested in all things Adam Lambert. He is my current celebrity crush.

I am a bit weirdly monogamish about these. At any time, I of course enjoy the work and attractiveness of any number of celebrities. However, there is generally just one that I prefer above all others. Currently, that’s Lambert.

Adam Lambert with fringe

He succeeds Roger Daltrey.

Roger Daltrey with fringe

Whom, I believe, succeeded Spike, as portrayed by James Marsters…

Spike in Fool for Love

So I may have a “type” when it comes to celebrity crushes.

A cool, steampunk, glitter-rock vampire with, like, tats and guyliner…

— Blaine’s description of Adam’s character (who is basically Adam) on Glee

Adam as glitter-rock vampire

Of course, for an actual relationship, this type is completely unrealistic—starting with the fact that I will never meet these people. And if I ever did, I would never be beautiful or charming or interesting enough for them. I’d just be another fan.

Although this kind goes both ways. I mean, who would actually want to date a celebrity? Your life suddenly made public? Your identity subordinated to someone’s else’s fame? And having to deal with an artistic temperament? With a partner who’s always off on tour or shooting on location? Who is constantly being tempted by adoring fans and groupies, or having to make out with his coworkers? No thanks!

So, a celebrity crush is all about fantasy. And its unrealistic nature goes beyond just the celebrity vs normal person thing. For example, with Roger Daltrey, I wasn’t really into the present tense him. I mean, dude’s 71 years old! He looks great for his age…

Daltrey in concert

But he’s still basically a grandpa.

No,it was the Daltrey of the 60s, 70s, and 80s that I was into. This was a “time travel” crush.

Daltrey at Woodstock

Daltrey at Live Aid

Now, actor James Marsters is only moderately older than me; his present tense self was just fine, age-wise. Thing is, though, I didn’t really have a crush on “actor James Marsters”. I was really more into his character, Spike. Who was really very different from Mr. Masters. So this was a “fiction” crush. “Double fiction” really, as this was not only a fictional character, but a fictional creature as well. A vampire!

Spike the vampire

The non-vamp face was admittedly much hotter, though…

And Adam Lambert? He’s only 33, and he’s not fictional, so that’s all good. But he is gay. And not in “I can just pretend he’s bisexual” kind of way, but gay gay. So this would be a “sexuality is just construct” crush (or something. I have to keep working on that label.)

At any rate, I’m hardly alone in this impractical attraction.

Lambert is handsome — six feet one and 185 pounds, with patrician features and sky-blue eyes — and he’s unrepentant about flirting with both sexes. Even when you know that he’s gay, it’s hard not to find him physically attractive. And that’s the way he likes it. “I loved it this season when girls went crazy for me,” he says. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s all hot.”
— Vanessa Grigordias, Rolling Stone Magazine:Adam Lambert: Wild Idol

It appears that even some straight men get caught up in it.

[On watching the Queen + Adam Lambert UK New Year’s concert]

At the first few notes of Don’t Stop me Now, husband looked up.

“Fucking hell,” he said, “he’s gorgeous”.  This is a guy who is normally fairly heterosexual.

From My Bad Ass Alter Ego (a truly terrific blog about Adam, Queen, and music performance in general)

But it’s not just his physical beauty, or his incredible level of fitness, though both are quite remarkable.

✨🌟✨ 300 HQ pictures of @adamlambert - iHeart Radio Music Awards 2015 via @adamlambert_pic http://www.imagebam.com/gallery/qbzx9rh2u55aqu4h9pj56bj8bxfzrgxh …

Mmm. Pretty. (Photo courtesy http://lilybop.smugmug.com)

(Particularly that his fashion and style sense have a come a long way since his Idol days.)

Because there are a lot of gorgeous, well-dressed celebrities. Not too many of them, however, sing as well as Adam Lambert does. His voice is often described as “angelic”.

Blast from the Past — Adam singing “Mad World” on Idol

Which again, might not be enough, if he didn’t also sing songs I really enjoy. I am truly grateful that he has revitalized Queen, my favorite band, breathing new life into their music and allowing me to see them in concert for the first time.

Adam Lambert’s beautiful interpretation of one of Queen’s best songs: “Who Wants to Live Forever”

He was also an incredible interpreter of many styles on American Idol, which I caught up with via a 2.25 hour YouTube clip! Besides “Mad World”, I also especially liked his take on Johnny’s Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. His own solo output is pretty small at this point—two studio albums, one live—but also quite enjoyable.

And he not only has the vocal chops; he is a performer. In concert, he is charismatic and fun. And quite the dancer.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

I also appreciate that in interviews and such, Adam comes across as a rather sweet person, with an endearingly goofy side. He never seems to take himself too seriously.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Both of these GIFs also from http://lilybop.smugmug.com

But he’s not all kittens and puppies. It’s good for a celebrity crush to have a bit of a dark side, for interest. Daltrey seems a very decent guy, but still had a temper (and more than few illegitimate children). Spike became one of the good guys on Buffy, but still and always—vampire! And Adam? Well, he’s the guy who nearly won American Idol, then scandalized middle America with his crotch-thrusting, tongue-kissing performance on the American Music Awards show. Remember?

Basically, the things he does with his hips, microphone stand, and tongue while performance are, well, not exactly “angelic”.

Adam Lambert and guitar

And what does my actual life partner thinks about my celebrity crushes? Well, he’s mostly confused by them. He doesn’t have his own, and doesn’t see the point of obsessions with the imaginary.

 But he’s come to accept it as something I enjoy that is no threat to him–except for his having to attend a few more rock concerts or watch a few more vampire shows than he might otherwise choose to.


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Running around Seattle, seeing stuff

While we did take some time to stop and eat, meet with friends, read, and relax while in Seattle, this post will focus on the activities we managed to pack in.

The initial weather forecast for Seattle wasn’t that great, but after we got there (in the rain), made it to our hotel, had a snack, and were ready to head to explore, it had become very nice and sunny. Our hotel was right by the famous Space Needle, so we decided to take the opportunity to go up that right away, while the weather was cooperative.

While at, we also bought a City Pass, which gave us access to four other sights along with Needle, saving you about half the cost in entry fees, if you visit them all.

You do get some nice views of Seattle from the Space Needle:

View of Seattle from the Space Needle

But overall, the experience is a bit underwhelming. They have some interactive displays of other Seattle sites up there, so we virtually checked out the Pike Street Market area, but overall there isn’t that much to do. I think the CN Tower and Empire State Building were somehow more impressive.

Though it must be said that the Space Needle involves much less rigmarole getting up there (at least in October)!

We had some time before dinner, so we also walked far enough to get an actual view of the Pike Street Market, and some of the waterfront. Seattle looked very pretty:

Seattle at dusk

Thursday was supposed to be cloudy, but Thursday didn’t get the memo, apparently, and instead was beautiful and sunny all day. So we focused on outdoor activities.

We started at the Olympic Sculpture Park. It wasn’t quite what we had pictured in our minds, which more of a traditional park, only with city art installed in it. It had more concrete barriers and paths than we were expecting, and wasn’t that large.

Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle

But it did contain some rather interesting art:

This guy's got a big head... 40 ft in fact!

And a very cool fountain:

Seattle fountain

Our City Pass included a one-hour Seattle Harbor cruise, so we walked to the waterfront next to get tickets for that. We had lunch in the Pike Street market area, and on the way to the restaurant we happened by the famous bubblegum wall (where that walls are full of designs in gum). It’s both interesting and gross.

The cruise was quite informative. We got a bit of a history of the pier and of some of the buildings viewed from shore, like the hotel where people could fish outside their window, and the office building that met the city height limits without losing any floors, by giving all tenants low ceilings. And we learned about some of the tourist sites, like Space Needle, built for a World’s Fair, and the ferris wheel, a more recent addition.

Setting Sail for Seattle

Seattle skyline

We got a closeup view of the boat loading operations, whose cranes look a bit mysterious from the shore:

Cranning to the see the stars in Seattle Harbour

We also got an excellent view of Mount Rainier—unlike when we were actually there!

Mount Rainier in the background

Mount Rainier in the background [This wouldn’t have been my photo selection for this, but Jean did the selecting…]

We also saw some sea lions. And the tour guide talked about the Seattle weather, noting that the annual amount of rain there is less than many other American cities—such as Honolulu! But it’s just that those cities tend to get heavy rainfalls during a short season, whereas Seattle has a very long season of light rain.

Once off the boat, we walked to the Pioneer District, which is the oldest part of Seattle. We noticed that it was more run down than the other parts of the city we’d been in, with more homeless and litter. It was fine during the day, but I wouldn’t want to be there at night!

While there, however, we did take the Underground Tour, which was fascinating! (Though low on pictures.) It was funny, because on the way there, I was asking Jean, “Which city was it that they raised the whole level of by adding dirt, or something?” And he looked at me like I had two heads, as he had never heard of such a thing.

Well, Seattle is that city! It’s still a pretty hilly place, but back in the day, it was even more hilly, and the lowlands had problems with flooding and issues with a lot of stuff—like raw sewage—flowing down and pooling where people were trying to live. So when the whole of downtown Seattle burnt down, they decided to tackle this problem by moving some earth down off the top of the hills, making those less steep, and raising the lowlands, actually pushing the water line back.

Sounds a bit crazy, but was actually a good idea that worked well. Only problem is that to complete the whole project was to take a good 10 years. And Seattle businessmen did not feel they could wait that long to rebuild.

So they didn’t. They rebuilt immediately, but with the intent that their second floor would eventually be the main floor, and that the first floor would be underground.

On the Underground tour, apart from learning about all this (and more), you tour the old sidewalks and lower levels of buildings, still located underneath the modern sidewalks and main doorways above.

It’s a very interesting tour, all day presented with a lot of humor—highly recommended if you ever visit Seattle.

This had made for a lot of walking in a day, so on the way back we took the light rail, then the monorail—an almost absurdly short ride, but it’s cool. (We later learned it was built for the World Fair, and just never expanded from that.) And on the way back to our hotel, we found a new path through Space Needle Park, featuring another neat fountain:

Seattle Fountain

Friday offered up some of that famous Seattle light rain we’d been hearing about, so we decided it would be museum day.

We started at the Pacific Science Centre (City Pass!), whose special exhibit was the science behind Ripley’s Believe or Not. We were surprised to see a Government of Ontario logo on the way in; turns out the exhibit was developed at Science North in Sudbury! It was a good exhibit—fun and interesting.

And we visited the butterfly room.

Butterfly, Pacific Science Center

One of these types of butterflies landed on me and refused to depart. It had to be shooed away by an attendant.

Our City Pass had included an Imax movie, so we saw Sharks 3D! It was very well done, really, presenting the efforts to better understand great white sharks and encourage their protection.

The next stop was the Chihuly Museum (where we also had lunch). He does incredibly beautiful work in glass. Some of it was featured in indoor galleries, other pieces outside in a garden.

Chihuly Glass Floats

Chihuly in Seattle
Our final museum du jour was the Seattle Aquarium. (This is a true research aquarium—no dolphins doing tricks here.) While not the most impressive aquarium we’ve ever visited—it was a bit small—we did enjoy seeing the tropical fish, their good collection of sea birds, and the various types of otters. You’ve got to love otters! It was also interesting to learn that animals here aren’t necessarily stuck for life; where possible, they get released and replaced with new ones (who are later released, too).

Here's Nemo

Nemo!

Rainy Saturday morning, we polished off our City Pass with a visit to the EMP (experimental music projects) museum. As predicted in advance, I found it much more interesting than Jean, so we have very few photos!

It had special exhibits on:

  • Horror movies
  • Icons of science fiction
  • Jimi Hendrix in London
  • Nirvana: Bringing punk to the masses
  • The art of the music video
This one is totally for Cathy !

Mr Pointy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer – part of the horror movie exhibit, and our only photo from the EMP

Unlike Jean, I found something of interest in each exhibit, though the music video one was probably my favorite, Interesting to see some of the more recent innovations in that art form (interactive, 3D, remixing, fan versions)—along with the more familiar history—as I really don’t keep up with music videos anymore! I also spent a bit of time in the room where you experiment with the keyboards (and many other instruments), learning how to play along with famous songs and such. Fun, though I didn’t much time.

The afternoon cleared up, so we visited the Capitol Hill neighborhood. It’s characterized by a lot of interesting shops—bookstore / cafe that specializes in technical and science books (from science fiction to heavy computer programming); music stores highlighting all types of music, not just the most popular—that sort of thing. There’s also a Jimi Hendrix statue there, and Broadway St, features some dance steps on the side walk.

(But I don’t have pictures to prove any of that…)

I think we got a lot in, including a lot of walking! Despite all that, we missed a few items on the list:

  • Doing a wine tasting and bringing some Washington or Oregon wine home (weren’t in the mood when we walked by the place)
  • Visiting the Museum of Flight (too far; closer to the airport)
  • Visiting the Seattle Museum of Art (ran out of time)
  • Taking a culinary tour (just going to restaurants won out)

I guess there’s always next time…


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So many screens and not much to watch

We did all our Boxing Day shopping online. We wanted a new big-screen TV for the downstairs TV room; many were on sale for Boxing Day; and you can get the same prices online as at the store. And you can often put in your order even before December 26. And they’ll bring it to you! Talking about this, though, I learned:

  1. A number of people remain nervous about purchasing big-ticket items online.
  2. Said nervousness is now completely foreign to me, as “online” has become my main “store” of choice for so many things.

There is a downside to it, though, in the lack of complete instant gratification. Delivery is fast, but not instantaneous. And with the TV, there was some confusion over the credit card to use, and it took a little longer than usual to arrive. Meantime, the other pieces we realized we needed to make the new TV “go” showed up: The new receiver with its six HDMI ports (versus the zero HDMI on the old one); the HDMI cables themselves; the TV mounting rack. All sitting around rather useless without a TV to pull it all together.

But hey, now they’re one big happy family. And that HDMI thing really does simplify the connections: the receiver, TV, PVR, recordable DVD, international DVD, and computer, all linked to one another in pretty short order. Where the old way, it always seemed to turn into a full-day project. Now we just have to consolidate remotes, because we’re currently juggling six of them!

Our downstairs rooms is pretty big, so we went with a 55′ screen, and I think it looks gorgeous. I thought my old receiver was actually pretty good, lack of HDMI notwithstanding, but this new one is definitely bringing out the bass in a way I hadn’t heard before (from the exact same speakers). Both DVDs can now properly render DTS and other high-quality sound streams. (Neither is BluRay—we had to leave our BluRay upstairs, where it doubles as the receiver for that TV—but that’s minor.)

And finally, finally, it’s easy to project anything from the computer onto a TV screen.

So the only issue is—there just isn’t a lot of good stuff to watch, is there? Admittedly, on TV, there was the Christmas rerun break, and now things are starting again—Big Bang, Daily Show, The Mentalist, etc And I recently discovered I have FX Canada (when did Rogers give me that?), and Louis is a pretty good show. But I haven’t been passionate about a television program in quite some time. It seems like everything really good is on HBO, which I’m just not paying for. The only new network series we really got into, The Last Resort, has been cancelled (though does seem to have a new episode tonight, but not sure how many more).

And web viewing? It’s a bit of an exercise in frustration if you’re Canadian, isn’t it? The networks have stuff, but it’s pretty limited. The American and UK stuff is blocked in Canada, unless you do some VPN shenanigans. iTunes has stuff, but it’s kind of expensive. You can actually find a surprising amount of stuff on YouTube (whole movies and shows), but the picture quality is often not that great, and you get the period “freezing”. We will be trying Netflix, finally, but we all know the Canadian selection and picture quality is more limited.

And I also know I have some sort of data cap with Rogers. That hasn’t been issue up to now, but how much web content can I watch until it is?

I may just have to turn to my (if I do say so myself) excellent collection of personal DVDs. Buffy marathon, anyone?


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Update on Fall TV

A couple months in, thought it was time to report back on Fall TV prospects.

Best new show remains CBC’s Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays

Although I was also right that nobody is watching it; the ratings are dire. Even though they actually have moved it to Tuesdays, right after the very popular Rick Mercer and 22 Minutes. So I’m not counting on any more seasons, which is unfortunate. But at least CBC has indeed pledged to run all of this season’s episodes.

(By the way, this is no Lost; I don’t think it would be difficult to pick this series up even if you haven’t been watching from the start.)

Cast-drive new shows: Secret Circle and New Girl are in (for now); Ringers is out

One thing I can say about Secret Circle is, they aren’t afraid of casting women. The witches’ circle has four girls and two guys—one of whom (spoiler alert!) died. The adult characters feature quite a few women as well.

The show continues to be nothing more than a teenage witch show; most definitely not developing into Buffy. And sadly, the delicious Gale Harold is playing a “Dad” whose character is unable to get any (so far, only the teenagers get any). But still, it’s engaging enough, for what it is.

… Whereas the second episode of Ringers was so ridiculously awful, we had to drop it. Like, immediately.

But New Girl, we’re sticking with for now. It’s not Big Bang Theory funny yet, but amusing enough.

And I’m pleased that most sexist of the fall outings—Playboy Club and Charlie’s Angels—are already history.

Returning shows: One disappointment; two wins

The Mentalist followed up their completely awesome season finale with the lamest possible season opener: (Spoiler alert) Jayne was purely acquitted of the murder he clearly committed, then concluded that it wasn’t Red John he killed after.

So the finale that seemed to change everything, actually changed nothing. Bah.

But Big Bang Theory picked up nicely where it left off (good that they showed two episodes to start, though, as the first wasn’t quite as strong) and I continue to be really impressed by the mad figure skating skills of the hockey players on Battle of the Blades. Having a woman hockey player in the mix has been a great addition.

Returning shows on the bubble

My recorded episodes of Glee sat unwatched for so long the PVR decided to deleting some itself, along with my request to tape any future ones. (Seriously; it did.) But I did catch a few before they were permanently snatched.

And they actually weren’t terrible. I still don’t think the character of Sue is working, but others seem to have had some reparation, and the dropped characters… Haven’t really been missed. So I may try a few more episodes, PVR willing.

As for Bones, that starts tonight, and is set to record, but I’m still basically dreading it.