1.30.2017

Two University of Minnesota Disappointments Today

Two things happened today that irritated and disappointed me, and unfortunately, neither is unexpected. First, I went to the Bookstore in Coffman Union today in search of some Dance Team swag. I made a New Year's resolution that I was going to purchase non-football related UMN gear. I searched high and low and only found one Dance Team t-shirt (and it was a super generic design). When I asked, sure enough, that was all there was. Now if you want football or basketball gear, there are several designs and color combinations to choose from. And not only are there t-shirts, but sweatshirts, hats, caps, you name it.



Now I understand the whole idea of market economics and that some sports related gear is going to sell better than others. But the fact that there is only one t-shirt option is ridiculous. And not only for the Dance Team, but Swimming and Diving, Cross Country, Track, Golf, and several other University sponsored teams also only had a single t-shirt available in pretty much the same stupid generic design. How can a public university condone that?

The sad part is that this is completely not unexpected. And I have been a part of the problem...I bought football gear. I guess I will check with Goldy's Locker Room.

The second thing that was disappointing today was reading President Kaler's response to Trump's executive order. Sure, he said that the U would stand with its students and remain steadfast, but what a missed opportunity. Compare that to the language Macalester's president used, "these orders are cowardly and cruel. They make a mockery of the claim that we are a country of generosity and decency." Again, the sad part is that I have come to expect the lethargy and non-commital type of commitment that Kaler brings to governing the university. And it's not just Kaler. The Board of Regents and many other administrators give off the same kind of energy.

For all its talk about wanting to be a leader and a top 3 research university, the University of Minnesota sure doesn't act like a leader. They tend to move with the herd rather than picking up the reigns and leading the herd. We should change the motto from "Ski-U-Mah" to "Don't Rock the Boat". Maybe P.J. Fleck can adopt that as his new motto.

1.16.2017

Three TV Shows

Over winter break I watched several TV shows. Three of them are worthy of their own blog post, and all of them I am watching on Amazon Prime.

Vikings

This show is super good. This show originally aired on the History Channel and has currently been renewed for a fifth season. I am watching it on Prime, but it is also available on Hulu. Vikings tells the tale of Ragnar Lothbrok, a bad-ass Norseman who pillages England and battles like a hellcat. Vis-a-vis Game of Thrones, the fight scenes are bloody, and the costumes kick butt. Because it airs on the History Channel, the sex scenes are not nearly as graphic as GOT. The hair, beards, and tattoos seal the deal on this show. They are unreal. Total beard envy. Vulture has a slideshow of the epic beards and hair of the characters of Vikings.

Ragnar Lothbrok

Mozart in the Jungle

Another show I fell in love with over break was Mozart in the Jungle. Following fictional characters in the New York Philharmonic, this show is loosely based on Blair Tindall's memoir about being an oboist in that orchestra. The characters in this show are lovely. Eccentric, artistic, poetic.

Rodrigo De Souza
 
The two principal characters are Hailey Routledge, and aspiring oboist and Rodrigo De Souza, the passionate South American conductor the Philharmonic hires at the beginning of the series. But the complementary characters are just as delightful. Saffron Burrows portrays a cellist who was sleeping with the former conductor,  played by Malcom McDowell. Wallace Shawn and Jason Schwartzman also play wonderfully funny characters in the show. After watching even a coupe episodes, it is clear why this show has won a bevy of awards.

Red Oaks

This is a show I happened on that I can't believe I didn't know about before. The show is centered around the character David Myers, a college-aged guy who works summers as a tennis pro at Red Oaks Country Club, an exclusive club in New Jersey. The show is set during the 1980s, which, I think, is why I am attracted to it. The cast also includes Paul Reiser, Jennifer Grey, and Richard Kind, who I love. Several of the episodes were also directed by Amy Heckerling, who also directed Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless. This alone makes the show worth watching. Couple that with the 80s soundtrack and outfits plus really good dialogue and acting, and you have a winner. It also doesn't hurt that the epsisodes are around 25 or so minutes long.

Jennifer Grey and Richard Kind play the parents of David Myers (played by Craig Roberts) in Red Oaks.

 

10.03.2016

2016/2017: Year of TV

I am going to try and keep track of my television shows chronologically rather than by current, watched, etc. I will try to update this throughout the year. I will also give the medium for how I am watching the show. So, without further ado,

Fall 2016 (September/October/November)
  • 30 for 30 Shorts (Hulu) — Started watching
  • Ballers (HBO) — Watched the second half of Season 2
  • Behind the Mask (Hulu) — Watching Season 1 
  • Brothers & Sisters (Hulu) — Started watching series.
  • Californication (Netflix) — Finished re-watching the series
  • Chance (Hulu) — Watching Season 1
  • Daredevil (Netflix) — Watched Season 2
  • Designated Survivor (ABC) — Watching Season 1
  • Divorce (HBO) — Watching Season 1
  • Gilmore Girls (Netflix) — Re-watching the series on Netflix to get ready for the new episodes that are due out in November
  • Longmire (Netflix) — Watched Season 5
  • Lovesick (Netflix) — Watched Season 1
  • Lucifer (Fox) — Watching Season 2
  • Madame Seceratary (CBS) — Watching Season 3
  • Manhattan (Hulu) — Finished both seasons.
  • New Girl (Netflix) — Watched Season 5
  • Pitch (Hulu) — Watching Season 1
  • This is Us (Hulu) — Watching Season 1 
Notes: Of the new shows I started watching (Chance, Designated Survivor, Divorce, Pitch, and This is Us), Pitch is by far the most entertaining. This is Us is good, albeit super-sappy. For some reason we are still watching Designated Survivor; why? I don't know. Chance and Divorce I watched a few episodes of each. They didn't grab me. I also really enjoyed Manhattan. It isn't, however, a new show, just new for me. The 30 for 30 Shorts are 10-15 minute episodes, so quick watching when you have just a small bit of time.


Winter 2016/2017 (December/January/February)
  • The Affair (Showtime) — Watching Season 3.
  • 30 for 30 Shorts (Hulu)Still watching. Only a couple episodes left.
  • Brothers & Sisters (Hulu) —Watched Season 2–4.
  • Chance (Hulu) – Finished Season 1.
  • Designated Survivor (ABC) — Still watching Season 1.
  • Lucifer (Fox) — Watching Season 2. One episode left until mid-season break.
  • Madame Seceratary (CBS) — Still watching Season 3.
  • Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon Prime) —Watched Season 1, 2, and 3.
  • Pitch (Hulu) — Still watching Season 1. 
  • Red Oaks (Amazon Prime) —Watched Season 1. Midway through Season 2.
  • This is Us (Hulu) — Still watching Season 1.
  • Vikings (Amazon Prime) —Watched Season 1 and 2. Midway through Season 3.

Spring 2017 (March/April/May)
  • The Affair (Showtime)Still working on Season 3.
  • Beginning of Everything (Amazon Prime) — Watched Season 1
  • Billions (HBO) — Watching Season 2
  • Designated Survivor (ABC) — Why am I still watching this???? 
  • Evolution of Hip-Hop (Netflix) — Four episode miniseries. Fantastic.
  • Halt and Catch Fire (Netflix) — Watching Season 3
  • Homeland (Showtime) — Watching Season 6
  • Madame Seceratary (CBS) — Watching second half of Season 3
  • Taken (NBC) — Started watching Season 1...same question as Designated Survivor...why??
  • This is Us (Hulu) — Still watching Season 1

9.26.2016

When Your Soul is Crushed by the Man

What do you do when the places you love lose their soul? I used to love Dinkytown, especially its bookstores and coffee shops. All of them just made me happy. Now, we are down to a single bookstore (which although it is smaller, still makes me happy) and only a couple independent coffee shops.

The coffee shops of Dinkytown have a special place in my heart. Expresso Royale, one of the first coffee shops I went to in Dinkytown, long before I even started at the University of Minnesota, is still one of my favorites. It has that independent coffee shop atmosphere; the aroma of freshly ground beans wafts throughout the shop, while the sounds of hipster lit majors mixes with those of the aspiring anti-establishment political science wonks. Over time their prices have risen, but given the rent in Dinkytown, I see that as a necessary evil.

The Purple Onion, on the other hand, has lost its way. Before it moved to its University Avenue location, it was a great place. Open. Loud. Full of thinkers and artists. It fit Dinkytown. The grungy artistic feel it once had has been replaced with a sterile downtown-loft like feel; more likely to be frequented by wall-streeters instead of 4th streeters. Its coffee prices, which have risen at a higher rate than any other coffee shop in Dinkytown (including Starbucks) are also more in line with wall-streeters.

The Purple Onion at its old location on the corner of 4th street and 14th Ave. This location, which was split after the move, now houses a Potbelly and a Qdoba.

Going to the PO (that's what the locals call it) just makes me feel sad; it has lost all the character it once had. It is crazy to say, and I cringe as I write it, but currently the Dinkytown Starbucks has more soul than the PO. So for now, PO, I bid you adieu. Perhaps I will see again one day. If you need to find me, I will be at Expresso Royale.

9.03.2016

ASCII Adams

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7.24.2016

Summer of Television

It is time to give an update about my current TV viewing habits.  Since last I wrote, we have adiosed DirectTV for Comcast. Long story, but the short version is that the DirectTV customer representative I was talking to made me so mad that I cancelled on the spot. Signing up with Communist-cast made me cringe but (1) it was ultimately cheaper since we already have internet through them, and (2) the X1 box gave me back DVR. I also finally junked my gen-1 Apple TV since Hulu was constantly re-setting. I picked up a Roku 3 which is a slick little machine that I primarily use for Hulu and Netflix.  So, the current itinerary of programs includes (August updates, September updates):

Current Shows (in Progress)
  • Aquarius (NBC; Season 1) — One episode to go in Season 2
  • Ballers (HBO; Season 1, 2) — New episodes start Sept. 11
  • Gilmore Girls (CW and Netflix) — Re-watching the series on Netflix to get ready for the new episodes that are due out in November
  • Ray Donovan (Showtime; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — New episodes start Sept. 11

Caught Up
  • Animal Kingdom (TNT; Season 1) — Renewed for second season
  • Better Call Saul (AMC; Season 1, 2) — Renewed for third season
  • Billions (HBO; Season 1, 2) — Renewed for second season
  • Bloodline (Netflix; Season 1, 2) — Renewed for third season
  • Casual (Hulu, Season 1, 2) — Renewed for a third season in 2017
  • Elementary (Fox; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — Renewed for fifth season
  • Fargo (FX; Season 1, 2) — Renewed for third season
  • Game of Thrones (HBO; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) — Renewed for 7th season
  • Girls (HBO; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) — One season left
  • Halt and Catch Fire (AMC; Season 1) — Two seasons out, renewed for third season
  • Homeland (Showtime; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) — Renewed for sixth season
  • House of Cards (Netflix; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — Renewed for fifth season
  • Longmire (A&E and Netflix; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — Netflix renewed the show for a fifth season
  • Lucifer (Fox; Season 1) — Renewed for a second season
  • Roadies (Showtime; Season 1) — No word on whether it will be renewed.
  • Sherlock (BBC; Season 1, 2, 3) — Renewed for fourth season
  • Stranger Things (Netflix; Season 1) — Season 2 is in the works according to the Duffer brothers
  • The Americans (FX; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — Two seasons left
  • The Path (Hulu; Season 1) — Renewed for a second season
  • True Detective (HBO; Season 1, 2) — Maybe a third season??
  • Turn: Washington's Spies (AMC; Season 1, 2, 3)

Behind (but Still Watching)
  • Empire (Fox; Season 1, 2) — I am only a couple episodes into Season 2, which is on Hulu; Season 3 is coming soon
  • Madame Secretary (CBS; Season 1) — Waiting for Season 2 to hit Netflix; Renewed for Season 3
  • New Girl (Fox; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — Waiting for Season 5 on Netflix; Renewed for Season 6
  • You're the Worst (FX; Season 1, 2) — Waiting for third season to hit Hulu

Behind (but Not Really Watching...Maybe an Episode Once in a While)
  • Daredevil (Netflix; Season 1) — Although Season 2 is already out, I am still only 3/4 of the way through Season 1; Finally finished Season 1.
  • Gotham (Fox; Season 1, 2) — Season 2 is on Netflix, but I have only watched the first few episodes
  • Hannibal (NBC; Season 1) — Show was cancelled after three seasons
  • Person of Interest (CBS; Season 1, 2, 3) — I am about half way through Season 3 on Netflix; The show was cancelled after Season 5 
  • The Grinder (Fox; Season 1) — Show was cancelled after one season; I have watched the first 13 episodes

Finished
  • 11.22.63 (Hulu) — Eight episode mini-series
  • Hart of Dixie (CW; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — Show was cancelled after Season 4
  • House of Lies (Showtime; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) — Show was cancelled after Season 5
  • Last Chance U (Netflix; Season 1) — One season documentary mini-series
  • Lipstick Jungle (NBC; Season 1, 2) — Show cancelled after two seasons
  • Mad Men (AMC; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) — Show ended after 7 seasons
  • Making a Murderer (Netflix; Season 1) — One season mini-series
  • Nashville (ABC; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — Show cancelled after Season 4
  • Parenthood (NBC; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) — I watched all six seasons this spring on Netflix
  • The Bridge (FX; Season 1, 2) — Show cancelled after Season 2
  • The Good Wife (CBS; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) — Show ended after 7 seasons
  • The League (FX; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) — Show ended after 7 seasons
Quit Watching

  • Suits (USA; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) — Quit mid-way through Season 6. Mike in prison is a dumb premise.

3.23.2016

Some Good Advice on Writing

“Cut out all these exclamation points,” he said. “An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Photograph of F. Scott Fitzgerald c. 1921, appearing "The World's Work" (June 1921 issue). Photo in the public domain from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:F_Scott_Fitzgerald_1921.jpg



F. Scott Fitzgerald, near the end of his life, began a love affair with Sheilah Graham. In her memoir “Beloved Infidel”, she describes the advice Fitzgerald gave to her. after reading one of her radio scripts:

“You don’t mind if I reword it here and there?” he asked. And though tired from his own writing at the studio, he sat down with a stubby pencil and a pack of cigarettes and painstakingly—and completely—rewrote my copy. He worked with the utmost concentration and as he worked he twisted the hair above his forehead so that a tuft stood up, as on a kewpie doll. It gave him a strangely boyish appearance. “Cut out all these exclamation points,” he said. “An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” He underlined words I should emphasize, corrected my grammar. 
This is good advice for any writer. A well-structured sentence will emphasize all the content it needs to without shouting at people.