Sep 15

‘Kate & Allie’ go to Paris

Kate-and-AllieMy travel buddy Yiannis and I are both TV junkies so it was pretty much imperative that we had something to watch while we were in Paris. Because we were outside the U.S., we were limited in terms of what we could watch on the interwebs. Netflix (to my joy) was available although with different content.

For some reason I mentioned Double Trouble, that ‘80s show about teenage twins. It was absolutely awful (we watched one episode; it doesn’t hold up) but we sixth grade girls were obsessed with it. A few in my class even put on a “play” that was just an abbreviated version of the dance contest episode (you know the one, don’t pretend you don’t).

Anyway, I was describing it to Yiannis, who had somehow never watched it: “It was about twins named Kate and Allison…not to be confused with Kate & Allie,” which inspired Yiannis to look for it on YouTube and set us up for several nights of binge-watching.

I loved the show when I was younger, and maybe it, along with Madeleine L’Engle’s Vicky Austin series, made me want to go to college in New York. As for how it holds up, it’s way cheesier than I remember (and soooo ‘80s) although still enjoyable.

Something we kept noticing, aside from Kate’s insane outfits, were all the pre-famous famous guest stars. Here are five of the most memorable.

  1. Kelsey Grammer

The very first episode! Kelsey Grammer plays someone Kate goes on a date with, only to find that she’s not into him. Turns out he’s not into her either and prefers former Connecticut housewife Allie.

  1. Ben Stiller

In the one with the sit-in, Stiller plays a rebellious college student.

  1. Stephen Baldwin

The youngest Baldwin brother is a high school student in The Trouble with Jason, which introduces later soap star Ricky Paull Goldin as a guy who has a (rather stalkerish) crush on Emma only later — spoiler alert! — to date Jenny.

  1. Ricki Lake

Lake and her pal think they have a problem with Emma in Send Me No Flowers, but it’s actually a different Emma they have a problem with. I hate it when that happens.

  1. William H. Macy

What do you know, Kate has hurt her back and is in the hospital (really, the actress, Susan Saint James, was pregnant, which the show was trying to hide). Allie also checks in — in her case, to have a mole removed — gets doped up and runs away. Hilarity ensues! Trying to catch her are two orderlies, one of whom is a pre-Oscar nom William H. Macy.

And those are just the episodes I watched. Who knows how many more there are?

This concludes my 2015 series on Paris. Got time to kill? Read them all!

Jun 13

My inner monologue during the ‘Red Wedding’ of Game of Thrones

Spoilers follow. (Duh.)

Okay, something bad is supposed to happen in this episode. Someone or someones die. Which important character will it be? Those Green People? Osha maybe? That would be sad. I like her.

Everything okay so far. Is it Jon? Maybe he loses an eye from the eagle? No, he’s okay. Oh, and he’s running away. Hmm, nice.

Is that the caretaker guy from Harry Potter? I think it is. Wow, what a dick. Maybe Robb will kill him? No. So which girl will Robb’s uncle have to marry?

Oh, he hasn’t even met her yet. Well, luckily she’s pretty. God forbid she were ugly.

That sucks they’re not letting in the Hound and Arya. Oh good, Arya ran inside.

Hmm, Catelyn seems nervous they’re closing the doors. I wonder why. And the music is more somber. Hmm, is something happening? Why is she staring down at that guy’s arm? Wait, is that chainmail?

Oh no. Oh no! OH NO!!!

[Silence. Hands over mouth.]

Oh no, Arya don’t go in there. Why does this keep happening to her?

Okay, Robb is still alive. His wife and baby are dead but at least Robb is still alive, and Catelyn. Jesus, that’s that guy’s wife? Cold-hearted.

Oh no!!! Holy shit!!! NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!



Dec 12

2012 in Retrospect: What I Watched

Another year, another 365 days of television. Let the idiot box recap begin!

Most Disappointing

Copper looked so promising. BBC America plus New York City in 1865 – how could it not be awesome? But it wasn’t. It wasn’t terrible but it was just blah. I felt nothing for most of the characters, and aside from a storyline involving a child prostitute, couldn’t get into any of the conflicts.

The If-I-Hear-That-Song-One-More-Time-I’m-Going-to-Break-the-TV Award

The show was Awake and the song was Bohemian Rhapsody, or rather one refrain of Bohemian Rhapsody sung over and over. WE GET IT. THAT’S THE TURNING POINT. OKAY. Thank goodness the show was canceled so I don’t have to hear it again.

Awake also gets the Most Unbelievable Mom of a Dead Teenaged Son Award. First of all, the actress Laura Allen, who is 38, looks about 33, and was way too smiley and chipper for someone whose son just died in a car accident.

Best Soap Opera

Let’s face it: Downton Abbey is basically a soap opera, albeit a classy one, with British accents. But that’s why people love it so. Plus the clothes! and Dame Maggie “What is a week-end?” Smith! and the British idioms! How can you go wrong?

Best Show That Only My College Roommate and I Watched

Unlike Downton Abbey, people didn’t seem to give a tweet about Call the Midwife. But I didn’t care. It was my private Sunday night, old-fashioned girly indulgence.

Set in 1950s East London, the show focuses on a group of young women trained as midwives. Every episode we meet different mothers-to-be and their ordeals. When I saw my college roommate, SB, in November, we discovered that we both loved the show. “I don’t know anyone who watches it!” she said. Call the Midwife would have totally been that show we watched religiously in college on her tiny portable TV.

Also, the Actress Best Suited to Play a Young Julia Child Award goes to Miranda Hart, who plays the delightful Chummy.

Best Show to Re-watch from the Beginning with Your Boyfriend Who Has Never Seen It Before

Unbelievably, MB had never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it had been a few years since I last saw the show, so we thought we’d watch it from the start. It was a lot fun to relive the show and to bite my tongue when MB would ask questions, as well as to see how bad the special effects and makeup were in the beginning (“He’s more like a were-monkey,” MB said of Oz).

To avoid Buffy withdrawal, we’ve started watching Angel. I couldn’t get into it when it was on the air, but now I’m really enjoying it.

Best Show to Watch Before Going to Bed

I realized this year, also unbelievably, that I had never seen an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. I’ve seen almost every episode of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, but not TOS. I’m not going to critique it here except to say it’s totally fun and hokey, especially the overly dramatic, drawn out reaction shots. First this guy reacts! then this guy! then this guy! then this guy! And the men wear so much eyeliner and eyeshadow, and the women’s wigs are hilariously ridiculous.

But the reason I like to watch it before bed is because it’s very soothing. I don’t know what it is. Maybe the calm, leisurely pace, or the way everyone talks.

Another Show I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Watched Until Now

Last year I became a fan of Torchwood, but had somehow never watched Doctor Who. I tried watching an episode when I was in high school, mostly because my good friend SG was so into it, but I didn’t see the appeal. Now I’m a total fan. What I like best is how excited the Doctor and his various companions get whenever they travel. I would totally be the Doctor’s companion.

Most Reliable

I’ve been a fan of Fringe from the beginning. The show has been consistently good the whole time, never tying itself into gordian X-Files knots. And while I’m sad that this is its last season, I’m glad it’s going out on a high note.

Best Closing Scene

SPOILER ALERT! If I had to pick one word to describe this latest season of Breaking Bad, it would be inevitable. Everything that happened was bound to sooner or later. But inevitable isn’t the same as predictable. We didn’t want that bad shit to happen, but it did and in unexpected ways.

Which brings us to the last scene of the mid-season finale: Hank on the toilet, looking for something to read, finding the Walt Whitman book and the inscription from Gale, and all the pieces coming together in his head. Tingles! Reminds of that scene in Godfather 2 when Michael realizes (ANOTHER SPOILER for the two of you who haven’t seen the film) that Fredo was the one betrayed him.

Breaking Bad had some great words too.

Best Comeback

MORE SPOILERS. The first season of The Walking Dead gave me nightmares (a good thing). The second season nearly bored me to walking death. I was wary about this season. Would they spend the whole time talking? What they be safe (read: boring)? They are fairly safe from the zombies, but not from those who aren’t supposed to be a danger: other people.

Plus, the Governor is one fucked up motherfucker, and I love Michonne.

Want more TV stuff? I wrote about the best in TV words too.

Sep 12

Anachronism Watch: ‘Copper’

When I watch TV, I like to keep my ears peeled for interesting words. What do I listen for? Idioms, lingo, slang, technical words and jargon. Hell on Wheels does an excellent job, as far as I can tell, of having accurate language for its time. For instance, last night Bohannon called Reverand Cole “mad as a hatter,” and I wondered if the term would have been used at that time. The answer is yes: the show takes place in 1865 and the term originated around 1829. (I had always assumed mad as a hatter came from Alice in Wonderland, which by the way came out the same year that Hell on Wheels takes place, but there’s not even a character called the Mad Hatter. He’s just the Hatter and it’s a “mad tea party.”)

Copper is another period drama I thought might be good source for period idiom and slang. But five episodes into the series, I haven’t heard anything interesting yet. True, I’ve been watching sort of lazily (ie, playing Words with Friends at the same time) so last night I watched and listened actively. Still nothing – except for two anachronisms.


Eva: “You’re looking steamy, Corky.”

“La Tempete,” September 16, 2012

I think this is what she says. I’ll have to watch it again. But if Eva did say steamy meaning “erotic,” she has apparently traveled back in time from 1952.


Corcoran: “My leg’s been bugging me.”

“La Tempete,” September 16, 2012

Another time travel moment! Bug as a verb meaning “to annoy, irritate” didn’t come about until about 1949.

Of course I’ve got nothing on Ben Schmidt, anachronism king, but I’ll keep watching Copper, and if I happen to notice words that are out of place, I’ll be posting them here.

Dec 11

2011 in Retrospect: TV I’ve Loved

It’s time again for my year-end retrospects! Last year I wrote about all the TV that I loved. This year I still love TV, even more so, if that’s possible.

There are the old standbys that I still enjoy, like Dexter (which isn’t as good as it used to be but I still like it), Breaking Bad, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and all the shows on my 2010 list. There are shows I used to like but can’t stomach anymore, like Sanctuary, which while incredibly silly was at least entertaining. Now it’s unwatchable. (Unless you’re Buffy, Community, or even Scrubs, please don’t attempt a singing episode.)

There are shows I want to like but am on the fence about. I was into Hell on Wheels at first, but now I find it boring, and I can’t decide if Allan Gregory is really funny or just cruel. And there are shows I had just about given up on but seem to be reviving, like The Simpsons and The Office, resuscitated by the king of smarm, James “Robert California” (best name ever) Spader.

Then there are the shows I just plain loved. Last year I limited myself to 10, but this year I’m listing them all. Enjoy!

Bob’s Burgers. Bob’s Burgers made an appearance in my mid-year update, and I can’t wait for it to come back, which it looks like won’t be till March. GAAAAH!!! Till then I guess I’ll have to made do with clips like this:

Game of Thrones. Another mid-year mention. Since the first season ended, I’ve read the first book of the series and am more than halfway through the second, A Clash of Kings. The show did a really good show translating the books to the small screen, and in some cases, filled in character development a bit more, especially with Daenerys. We’ll have to wait till April for the second season. Here’s the trailer to tease the shit out of us:

Winter is coming.

Parks and Recreation. Yet another mid-year mention. I first tried watching this show a couple of seasons ago, and I didn’t find it funny at all. Now I think it’s freakin’ hilarious. Ron Swanson cookies, anyone?

The Killing. Dreary and disturbing, the show follows a detective as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding a teenager’s death. People liken it to Twin Peaks, but it has none of Lynch’s surrealism and camp. Instead it’s gritty reality (or rather, damp and chilly, set in wintery Seattle) as people struggle to keep their lives together.

Being Human. Because it’s on SyFy, I thought Being Human would be dumb, but it’s not. Smart, funny, and sexy, it’s about three roommates – a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost – trying to have normal lives. I remember seeing an episode of the original British version a while back, and till the American version came on, for the life of me couldn’t remember what the show was, and actually thought I had dreamed the whole thing. Weird!

Misfits. Speaking of British shows, Misfits is an awesome one. Imagine Heroes but not sucky, and with sometimes hard to understand British slang and accents. And nudity.

Torchwood. Another British SF show! I watched one episode a few years ago and enjoyed it, but didn’t watch it again. This year we watched the whole series, and really liked it. What’s not to love about an immortal gay time traveler and Welsh accents?

New Girl. I didn’t want to like New Girl. Everyone kept talking about how overly cute Zooey Deschanel was, and I really hate the whole manic pixie dream girl thing. But the show is really funny. Sure Deschanel is super cute but she’s also hilarious. Her delivery, her timing, her expressions. The secondary characters are funny as well, especially Schmidt, king of the douchebags.

Boardwalk Empire. This is a show that pulls no punches. Set during Prohibition times in Atlantic City, it centers on bootlegging gangsters of every type. In every episode something important happens, and these last few of the season have been FUCKED UP (in a good way), reminding me, very bloodily, that Martin Scorcese is an executive producer. Plus it has Steve Buscemi, Michael Kenneth “Omar” Williams, and this guy, who plays a very weird and repressed character but whom I’m starting to think is hot.

The League. This show is fucked up in other ways. Let’s just say there’s a lot of talk about male genitalia and the ripping open of bodily orifices. And it’s a comedy!

American Horror Story. Fucked up yet again! What’s scarier than deformed baby zombies, dissonant scratchy intro music, and a guy in a rubber suit? Not much, let me tell ya.

Revenge. My friend YP turned me onto Revenge during my NYC visit in October. A young woman returns to the chi-chi Hamptons to enact revenge on all the people who had a hand in wrongly convicting her father of a crime he didn’t commit. Revenge is a quality version of one of those 10 PM soap operas from the ’80s. The only thing I hate is that it’s on at the same time as American Horror Story so I have to wait till it comes on Hulu to watch it (the FX shows, like AHS, seem to take much longer to come to Hulu).

Grimm. Grimm is one of my new favorite shows. Set in modern-day Portland, a police detective discovers that he’s a Grimm, someone who can see fairy tale-like creatures for what they are, even in human form. Traditionally, Grimms hunt down such creatures, but instead this detective enlists the help of creatures like Monroe, a Blutbad, the big bad wolf in human form, to solve mysteries. Grimm also has excellent word play. Blutbad is German for “blood bath.” A mellifer – with meli meaning “honey” in Greek – is a bee-like creature; the queen bee is Melissa, which means “sweet like honey.” Roddy Geiger is a talented violinist, and Geiger in German means, you guessed it, “fiddler, violinist.” The only downside, it’s up against Fringe. Nooooooo!

The Layover. A new show from Anthony Bourdain. Where No Reservations is like a travel essay, giving you the whole experience of traveling, The Layover is the quick and dirty – You have 24 hours in Miami, where do you eat? – as well as hilarious and hunger-inducing. A bowl of assam laksa, stat!

Homeland. MB mentioned this show several times, but I thought it sounded boring. Boy was I wrong. Claire Danes plays a brilliant CIA agent hiding a mental illness, and Damian Lewis (Life) is a returning American POW who may or may not be a terrorist. Throughout the series, you’re never really sure who the enemy is.

Special shout-outs. Because all of this TV isn’t enough, right?

Somehow I was slow on jumping on the bandwagon that is Mad Men. It doesn’t fall into my usual favorite categories. It’s not a sitcom, animated, science fiction, fantasy, or a crime drama. Then MB and I thought we’d try an episode, and we were hooked. For a while we were watching an episode or even two a night (even more when we were hanging out at my parents’ in September) but recently we fell out of the habit. For me, the show became, “Well-dressed people doing bad things.” Not that I’m a prude, but I like to have some contrast. Anyway, I still think it’s a good show and will probably start watching it again.

Finally, when I heard that Community might be canceled, I was really bummed out and pissed. Sure, let’s keep dumb ass shows like Whitney and I Hate My Teenage Daughter, but throw out one of the funniest shows out there. Not just funny, some of its episodes are plain brilliant (the Dungeons & Dragons one especially, and the recent Christmas Glee send-up). Turns out it might not be canceled. I really hope not.

In case you think I haven’t written about TV enough, check out my bi-weekly series for Wordnik, Word Soup, which brings you strange, obscure, unbelievable (and sometimes NSFW) words from talk shows, sitcoms, dramas, and just about anything else on TV.

Next up in my 2011 retrospect series, What I Read.

May 11

What I’ve Been Watching: TV

Since I last posted about my television shows I love, I’ve found several more.  Yay, TV!

River Monsters. I’m not sure when or how I started to watch this show.  It must have been a night when there was nothing on, and MB and I were just flipping through the channels.  We both love most animal shows, though I’m not usually a fan of the “hyper guy who communes with wild animals” variety because, well, the guy is all hyper and annoying.

But Jeremy Wade isn’t hyper.  He’s very calm – as a fisherman, he has to be – and knowledgeable.  A biologist, he’s an expert angler who actually speaks some of the languages of the places he visits.  Plus most of the river “monsters” are the craziest ass fish I’ve ever seen.  They seem to either have deadly teeth, deadly scales, deadly random body parts that stick up every which way, and sometimes are GINORMOUS.

Parks and Recreation. Last year, I tried watching a couple of episodes but couldn’t get into it.  It was okay, but I didn’t think it was that funny, and simply didn’t understand the appeal.

Then I saw the episode about Li’l Sebastian.  I saw the episode about Li’l Sebastian’s funeral.  I saw Ron Swanson sitting in the donut hole of a ridiculous round desk, slowly turning away from people talking to him.  I was hooked.

Raising Hope. This was another show I thought was dumb at first, despite that fact that it has Martha Plimptom, who I’ve loved since The Goonies, Garrett Dillahunt, who I also love despite the fact that he totally confused me by playing two different characters on Deadwood, Cloris Leachman (who doesn’t love Cloris Leachman?), and not to mention that adorable baby.

I think at first I watched it just because it was after Glee, but then I saw the promo for the germ episode, and found myself waiting in anticipation to watch it again and again.  Just the promo, you understand.  I don’t think I even saw the actual episode.

What I love about this show is that the actors totally own it.  Not just the Martha, Garrett, and Cloris, but the main guy (whatever his name is), the girl who used to be on The Riches, the brown-tooth girl, and the other weirdos from the supermarket.  And Martha Plimpton’s and Garrett Dillahunt’s characters have been together since they were teenagers and still love each other.  Aww!  I’m a sucker.

Bob’s Burgers. I literally cheer whenever there’s a new Bob’s Burgers on. From the same guy who does Archer, it is so frigging hilarious, I don’t even care what the plots are.  All I want to hear is what’s gonna come out of the kids’ mouths next.  And the mom too.  Just imagining her (or his) voice makes me giggle.

And the show’s kinda wholesome!  If saving your daughter’s birthday party with tranny hookers is wholesome that is.

Game of Thrones. Oh. My. God.  I had to check this out after seeing some of my Twitter buddies tweeting about it so enthusiastically.  It has more than delivered.  It’s like a very fucked up Camelot (or Merlin, or Legend of the Seeker, or Lord of the Rings, or what have you).  How fucked up?  Like heads being only almost beheaded (think blood spurting, lots of it), and incest sex.  Correction: twin incest sex.

And it’s really fucking cool too.  Strong female characters.  Subtle touches of magic.  Great acting.

And if I’m not mistaken, there seems to be a new Bob’s Burgers AND Game of Thrones this weekend.  Sounds like a perfect Memorial Day to me.

Mar 11

My Plaid-Infested Life

When MB was away, I started watching My So-Called Life on streaming TV.

When the show first aired, I had already graduated from college, but I ate up the teen drama like I was 15 again.  High school was still close enough to feel like it had just happened, and I had more in common with the moody, awkward Angela (besides a name) than I cared to admit.

At the time, I was working as an editorial assistant in children’s publishing.  There was another assistant exactly my age, and we’d dish on MSCL every week.  Oh my God, Jordan Catalano is so hot.  Oh my God, Ricky’s such a good dancer!  Oh my God, can you believe what Rayanne did? We were both devastated when the show went off the air after just one season.

After its cancellation, MTV would occasionally rerun the whole series, and I’d watch it whenever it was on.  But it’s been at least 10 years since I’ve last seen it, and I’ve been surprised at how much I both remembered and had forgotten, and what resonates with me now.

All that plaid. I seriously don’t remember everyone wearing so much damned plaid flannel. Of couse it makes sense. It was the mid ’90s and the height of the grunge era. I had at least two plaid flannel shirts myself.

Also, I can hardly believe high-waisted, tapered jeans were the norm, and what the heck was Rayanne wearing half the time? She was like a Raggedy Ann bag lady with cornrows.

Claire Danes was amazing. Of course she still might be amazing, but I haven’t seen anything she’s been in since Romeo + Juliet. In MSCL, she’s totally believable, almost to an annoying level, as the melancholy, self-conscious Angela Chase. She’s such a good cryer, I’m a weepy mess whenever she starts up.

Now it looks like she’s in a bunch of movies I’ve never heard of, including a made-for-TV movie and a TV series. Hmmm, and her leaving to pursue filmwork was supposedly what caused MSCL’s demise.

Jordan Catalano was super-tasty. But he was also kind of a jerk, at least at first.  I think I never realized what a jerk he was.  Still, I love hearing him say “Angela!”

Now I identify more with the parents. It’s rather depressing that I am now the age of Angela’s parents – but without kids – and identify more with the stuff they were going through. Distance in marriage, a possible affair, wrinkles, aging parents.

The eerie future. In one episode, Angela says how her parents’ generation all remember where they were when JFK was shot, and how her generation doesn’t have anything like that.  I couldn’t help but think that in just a few years 9/11 will happen, and then they – or we – will have something like that.

I’ve only watched as far as episode six out of 19. Hopefully I’ll be able to sneak them even now that MB is back. Or maybe I can get MB to watch with me, although he doesn’t do angsty teen dramas too well.

Dec 10

2010 in Retrospect: TV I’ve Loved

I’ve watched a lot of TV this year.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised (Gwyneth Paltrow, funny? no way!) and disappointed (Lie to Me, I’m looking at you). I’ve been shocked by cancellations (no, not Stargate Universe!) as well as by renewals (really? Human Target? and please put The Office out of its misery).  But mostly I’ve loved.  Here are just 10 TV shows I particularly enjoyed this year.

Glee. Okay, so the Britney episode was kinda disappointing (all dream sequences? lame), but then the show surprised me with an unexpectedly funny turn from Gwyneth Paltrow (whom I was more than ready to hate), the whole Kurt plotline (I don’t care what other people say, I like it), and that GORGEOUS song Rachel sang to Finn (and made me cry buckets). As long they keep surprising me, I’ll keep watching.

Justified. Timothy Olyphant in a cowboy hat. And shirtless. ‘Nuff said.

Fringe. What started as an X-Files rip-off has turned into so much more. Unlike the X-Files, Fringe’s conspiracy theory actually makes sense (within the realm of the show of course). An alternative universe bent on our universe’s destruction is the cause for much of the weirdness – and it’s an alternate universe we actually get to see (and seems to be Vancouver), unlike X-Files‘ murky alien explantation that never really got explained. Plus the whole two Olivias plot line is genius. I’m so disappointed in you, Joshua Jackson! Couldn’t you tell the difference?

But now that Fringe has been moved to the Friday night “death spot” (see the now-gone Dollhouse and the recently axed Good Guys), I’m not sure what’ll become of my beloved show.

Modern Family. Baby cheesus. That is all.

The Walking Dead. I know a show is good if it gives me nightmares.  Also, I’ve learned that I would not survive two seconds in a zombie-infested post-apocalypse. Unless I start martial arts and archery training right now.

Sherlock. A really good modern retelling with excellent acting.  A small thing I love is how they show text messages. Instead of showing a phone with a overly huge screen and a message with overly huge letters that only your grandma would need, they show they text as a sort of thought cloud.  The same with Sherlock’s actual thoughts as he’s doing his deductive reasoning thingie.  Looking forward to more episodes.

Castle. Okay, I know the plotlines are really freaking stupid and convoluted, and I could definitely live without the smarmy father-daughter-family scenes they feel the need to insert into every episode, but I love a) Nathan Fillion, b) that he’s a writer, and c) that they have real-life mystery writers guest on the show as his poker buddies.  Plus I learned something!  That people murder for only three reasons: love, money, or to cover up another crime.

Hoarders. Along with Intervention, My Strange Addiction, and Celebrity Rehab, Hoarders is one of my guilty pleasures.  So what if every episode is basically the same?  Or that the hoarding “experts” always seem annoyed and surprised when the hoarder starts to slow down the un-hoarding process? Or that they don’t seem to have any techniques for the hoarders to deal with their anxiety? (Like instead of talking at them, telling them what they should be doing, maybe at least tell them to take a few deep breaths. Count to ten. Something.) This show never fails to shock me with the amount of stuff people can collect, and to make me very very glad that I’ve no trouble throwing things away.

Next train wreck show I can’t wait to watch: Animal Hoarders.  Meooowwwrrrr!

The Wire. A late discovery on my part, The Wire makes every other cop show look sucky. Detroit 187? Lame. CSI? Can you be any more ridiculous? Unless you have someone like Nathan Fillion or are hilarious like Good Guys, don’t even bother. There’s no way you can live up to The Wire.

Set in post-9/11 Baltimore, the show follows a ragtag group of detectives (or POE-leece, as they say) as they try to take down drug gangs that have infiltrated the inner city as well as deal with their own messy lives. But we get to know a lot more than just the detectives.  There are the drug lords, lieutenants, and muscle, who have awesome names like Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell, Slim Charles, and Proposition Joe.  There are a group of school age boys who begin as innocent kids and end up very different.  There are the dock workers, and the newspaper women and men.  There’s Omar Little, a shotgun toting Robin Hood, and Bubbles, the homeless addict with a shopping cart full of wares.

We watched all five seasons this year, and so didn’t want it to end, we dragged out the last few episodes. But now it’s over! Boohoo.

Gunslinger Girl. Another late discovery.  This Japanese anime series set in, of all places, Italy, focuses on a group of “cyborg schoolgirls,” pubescent females brought back from the brink of death to be made into, literally, killing machines.  But while they expertly wield machine guns and machetes, they’re still young girls inside.  They’re insecure and want their handlers’ approval.  They get crushes and even get their periods.

By the way, if you think Gunslinger Girl sounds a lot like Dollhouse, you’re not alone. Just to set the record straight, the anime came out several years before Joss Whedon’s ill-fated show, and quite a few Gunslinger fans accused Whedon of ripping off the manga entirely.

There are many similarities: the gunslinger girls are docile and doll-like when not killing, they have handlers, they’re run by a secret agency. But there are just as many differences – the Dollhouse “dolls” are adult males and females, are prostitutes as well as assassins, and aren’t cyborgs – but it’s obvious Dollhouse was heavily inspired by Gunslinger, if not a complete ripoff.

Of course those aren’t all the shows.  I’m also looking forward to the return of House, Community, Archer, The League, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, and more guilty pleasures, Ghost Hunters, Sanctuary, V, and Merlin.

Hmm, maybe a New Year resolution should be to watch less TV.


Aug 10

A hodgepodge, mishmash, melange, medley, jumble, gallimaufry, farrago of a blog post

Working with words all day, of course I have to say more than just “hodgepodge.”

Earlier this week, San Francisco had a mini heat wave. Three days of temps in the upper 80s and low to mid 90s.  Of course here it’s not too humid, but the sun is much stronger, and walking around on Tuesday was killer.  MB and I had lunch in Union Square, and there was absolutely no one sunning himself.  Everyone was hiding in the shade – aside from one drunk homeless guy – and all the birds were breathing with their beaks wide open, a definite sign of hotness.

It was tough to sleep even with both ceiling fans going and MB’s ghetto A/C (the bathtub filled with cold water).  Thank goodness yesterday it started to cool down.  By the time I got home, it was foggy and chilly, and last night was prefectly cool and comfortable.

Carolina Baker over at GirlHabits interviewed me, and the write-up is now up. It was a lot of fun, and some of my own answers surprised me.  When I thought about what I wanted to be known for, I realized I didn’t really want to be known for anything.  It’s funny how others’ perception of me isn’t that big of a concern anymore.  I mean, in individual situations, sure.  Are people interested in something I’ve written?  Am I saying something different?  Am I being putting myself out there enough before calling out other people?  But I’m not too concerned with how I come off, or how I’m known, apart from my writing.

The superpower question was fun too.  At first I thought, Of course I’d fly or be invisible, but then I realized more than anything, I want to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Echo from Dollhouse.  I want to be essentially normal except that I’m very strong and fast and can kick anyone’s butt.

We just started watching The Wire. I know: two years too late.  I’d always heard it mentioned and thought it was about a newspaper for some reason.  But it’s not.  It’s about police in Baltimore and it’s a damned good show.  At first I thought it was a little boring, but now I’m completely obsessed by it.  We’re finishing up season 1 tonight.  No spoilers please!

My boss lent me Kathleen Norris’ Saturday’s Child, a novel written back around 1915 and set at that time in San Francisco.  It’s kind of fluffy but I’m enjoying it all the same.  It’s basically a romance between a young working woman and a rich flighty dude.  I love all the mentions of SF, as well as what everyone is wearing and what they’re eating.

Well that’s enough of this farrago.  Off to the gym and yoga!

Sep 09

Little girls lost

The other night I caught an old episode of National Geographic Explorer, China’s Lost Girls.

I’ve only known one person who was adopted (at least that I was aware of). Jennifer Harris was one of my best friends from the first through the third grade. She had long brown braids, like Laura Ingalls, and told me right off that she was Jewish. I was 6 and had never heard of such a thing.

“Say something in Jewish,” I said to her. I was Chinese and spoke Chinese at home, so this made perfect sense.

“Hey how ya doin!” Jennifer replied.

No one would have been able to tell that Jennifer was adopted. She and her parents were all white. Her mom had brown hair like hers, and her dad had similar freckles.

College was the first place I encountered Asians who had been adopted by white families. I was president of the Asian Women’s Coalition, and one girl came to a meeting and talked about how she felt she didn’t fit in anywhere. She had a scratchy voice and serious nature, and I felt bad for her. I wanted to help her feel she fit in somewhere, but she never came to another meeting.

Since then of course I’ve seen lots of white couples with Asian babies. In Boston, in New York, at the mall in New Jersey. When I was living in China more than 10 years ago, white couples with Chinese girls swarmed the American embassy area. I’d look at these couples and think, I’m your daughter grown up. Well, sort of.

Lisa Ling, a Chinese American, hosted the show, and said of one of the adopted girls, “Quite frankly [she] looks more like me than her parents.” While in China, Ling speaks a little Chinese – setting off a group of countryside kids giggling – sprinkled with a healthy dose of Chinglish. “Ni hao, wo shi Lisa,” she introduces herself. Direct translation, “Hi, I’m Lisa,” which in Chinese should actually be, “Wo jiao Lisa,” or I’m called Lisa.

The hour long show touches on a variety of issues. The long and arduous adoption process for one. Some couples wait years for a baby, and adoption costs upwards of $18,000 (and this was back in 2004). Once the couples – who were all white, except for one white man-Asian woman couple – got to China, they had to wait around in Beijing for a few days before being transported to some top secret area, where they finally picked up their babies. In a room decked out with festive red lanterns and other good luck symbols, each couple waited with bated breath for their names to be called and to be handed over their new child.

While I couldn’t help but think the whole process was like shopping for the latest Louis Vuitton bag or Apple gadget (“I want one now!” Ling cries at one point), as I watched each little girl, bawling in terror, being handed over to their overjoyed new parents, I cried too.

So why are there so many girls up for adoption in China? The “one-child policy” was instated in 1979 “to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems in China.” One unintended result is the huge population gap between girls and boys. Because Chinese culture favors boys, who carry on the family name and are seen as caretakers and providers for their parents while girls marry out and leave their families, as of this year, there are “32 million more boys under the age of 20 than girls.” Although a doctor on the show said it was illegal for her to tell the mother the sex of the baby before it’s born, obviously women have been able to find out.

So what does a man do when he wants a wife but can’t find one in his village? Kidnap one from elsewhere of course. Ling interviewed one woman who had been kidnapped and sold to someone as a wife in inner Mongolia. With help she managed to escape but not before enduring years of rape and bearing a son she was forced to leave behind.

I remember in China on a road trip, the bus stopped in a small dusty village. Huang Lei’s friend’s 12-year old daughter had joined us, and as she ran off to play, my cousin warned her to stay in sight.

“They kidnap girls here,” she told me.

I thought she was being paranoid. Guess not.

Ling visited an orphanage in the countryside, full of not just girls, but some boys and special needs children. Some of these children are raised by foster parents till they’re adopted. On the show one American mother brought her five-year old adopted daughter (complete with southern accent) to see her foster mother again.

It was pretty emotional. The foster mother was disappointed that the girl knew no Chinese, aside from ni hao, and hugged and kissed her and wanted to bring her home. Another foster couple thought one of the adoptive mothers was going to bring the baby she had just met, but for whatever reason she hadn’t. The foster mother cried and cried while the father stood off to the side, looking distraught. I felt so bad for them, but how hard would that have been for the baby girl – here are the people you thought of as parents again! Tricked ya, now they’re going away!

Another effect of the one-child policy has been the advent of an entire generation of little emperors. I experienced this myself: the freshman and other younger students at the school where I taught were far less self-sufficient than the older students. Of course you might be less independent when you’re younger, but one girl didn’t even know how to do her laundry. Her mom schelpped in to do it for her. And once at a holiday dinner honoring us English teachers, the younger students hogged all the food before we could get to it, normally a HUGE breach in politeness in Chinese culture. Elders and respected figures always get served first.

Which leads to another problem: the increase in obesity in China. Wikipedia cites “[e]conomic expansion and the increase in living standards” as a possible cause, resulting in increased food intake while “the growth of automization and transport has seen less physical labor.” But another cause, one could argue, is that these recent generations are only children getting spoiled rotten with food. As I’ve written, Chinese people like to show they care through food and forced feeding. Imagine you’re the only child – and a boy on top of that – in an extended Chinese family. Not only do you have your parents filling your plate every two seconds, you have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins doing the same.

Of course another result is the point of this post and the point of the whole episode: the multitude of adopted Chinese girls in America. Interspersed throughout the show were interviews with adopted Chinese girls. They were all 8 or 9, and most seemed happy, telling the story of how they were born in China, given up by mothers who couldn’t care for them, then basically rescued by their adoptive families. “If I wasn’t adopted,” one girl said, “I’d still be living in an orphnage.”

Only one girl had mixed feelings. “Sometimes being adopted is annoying,” she said. “Sometimes you don’t feel like you fit in. You’re not like anyone else.”

I wonder if Chinese girls adopted by Chinese American or mixed race couples would have an easier time, if those babies would have been less terrified by a Chinese face (though I’m sure the terror stemmed from being suddenly handed over to strangers). But as the girls – and now, increasingly, boys too – grow up, would having at least one Chinese parent alleviate at least some issues about fitting in?

But I doubt the new parents were thinking about any of these things as they gathered up their new daughters in their arms. I wasn’t thinking about them either. All I thought was now I want one too.