Tag: TV

To Arms, Citizens!

“You will still find more hours of in-depth news programming, investigative journalism and analysis on PBS than on any other outlet.”
– Gwen Ifill

Minions, I’m stepping away from my daily dose of snark, personal injury, and tales of life as an office gopher to incite you all to violence.  Or at least activism in the political process.  You know, whichever comes first.

Wait!  Come back!  This isn’t about abortion, gay marriage, immigration, or any of those screaming match inducing topics, all of which I myself have complex opinions about that – happily – I won’t inflict on you.  See?  It’s perfectly safe.

No, I want to talk about the upcoming debate in Congress on whether or not they are going to pull the plug on funding public broadcasting.  Which means NPR and PBS stations would not receive any federal funding whatsoever.  I’m sure we’ve all rolled our eyes at the inconvenience of having our programing interrupted by biannual membership drives, but let me tell you what, even those drives don’t fully fund public broadcasting stations.  My local PBS station is supported by federal funding by 25%, other stations need much more than that.  Without federal funding many of these stations will not be able to support themselves, and I don’t think losing them should be an option.

I can hear you asking why I’m jumping up on this particular soapbox.  Well, like I said, I’m not going to dump my political rantings on anyone (J. gets that delight), but I’m always going to fight tooth and nail for the humanities.  To say nothing of the other genres of fantastic programing that PBS and NPR offer.

President Obama recently bemoaned the lack of future scientists in the US (a report I listened to on NPR, incidentally).  I submit that more kids of my generation were inclined to the sciences thanks to Bill Nye the Science Guy than the average elementary school science teacher.  And what about programs like Nova and Nature for practical biology, geology, geography, and conservation – and photography and cinematography come to think of it!

My love for Masterpiece Classic, Mystery, and Contemporary are already well documented but just so we’re clear, Masterpiece has showcased the work of some of the greatest artists who ever lived, be they actors, playwrights, or novelists.  Often to viewers who would never have been exposed to these works otherwise.  I grew up in a house that loved the humanities and wasn’t short of opportunities to take advantage of them, but I saw my first opera, symphony performance, and ballet on PBS, and have many friends who have never seen these sorts of performances except on PBS due to lack of opportunity.

And as for children’s programing!  Hands up anyone who has never, in their entire life, seen an episode or even a video clip from Sesame Street?  Not many of you.  What about Mr. Rodgers NeighborhoodThe Magic SchoolbusReading Rainbow?  Programs that supplement early childhood education and engage developing cognitive skills and should not be thrown aside.

Now on to NPR which preserves the radio show tradition with A Prairie Home Companion and Selected Shorts, to say nothing of phenomenal journalism which provides a nice supplement to either CNN or FOX when you want to form a more thorough opinion.

I don’t think anyone denies that we need to find ways to trim the federal budget and that sacrifices will need to be made.  But I also believe there are dozens if not hundreds of other initiatives, earmarks, pet projects, and other all around badly spent monies that could be cut before funding to the National Endowment for the Arts!  Public broadcasting is not a great money maker, it doesn’t produce thousands of manufacturing jobs, it doesn’t impact our competition with China…

But it is important.

Please check your local PBS and NPR websites for contact information for your representatives in Congress, and make your voice heard.

Hello, Lover!

“Bestow thy flickering light forever.”
– Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes

You haven’t heard from me much, piglets.  Shall I tell you why?  And shall we agree that you won’t judge me about it – at least not very much?

Well, as you may recall, J. and I canceled our cable.  Our cable company, being the dirty rotten sort that they are, was going to hike our monthly fee to over a hundred dollars!  Outrageous!  If you haven’t noticed, you can watch most shows online these days (completely legally, even!), so paying $100 for something you can get for free is ludicrous even by cable companies’ skewed logic.  We gleefully turned in our modem and bade adieu over a lunch break.

We were sheepishly astonished at how much free time we had after severing all ties.  Embarrassed really.  J. missed his sports channels, but he has several friends in the area to watch sports with at their houses (his own loving wife having still not quite learned to love ESPN).  The real blow for me was giving up PBS (love of my life).  However, using our TV just for movies was a good choice in a lot of ways, and I still had the internet to indulge in this Masterpiece Mystery – speaking of which, have you seen Sherlock yet?  No?!  Find it and watch it at once.

But then.  Then.

J. bought me a digital antenna for Christmas.  I now have not one but five PBS channels plus several others this magical little box sitting on our TV stand plucked out of the ether.  I like that guy so much.

And thus, I am as good as dead to the word.

Sigh. I have missed thee.

Dangerous Curves Ahead

“When in doubt, wear red.”
– Bill Blass

I’m getting a little ahead of myself, because I’m already plotting my Halloween costume.  But as you may recall, I love Halloween!  Each year our office dresses up.  Witches and ghosts are occasionally seen, but we prefer to get a bit more creative.  Sav dressed all in pink and a name tag that read “Floyd.”  One of the student officers directs traffic in Mickey Mouse gloves.

And this year I’m going as Joan from Mad Men and it’s probably going to be the easiest costume I’ve ever had (although after that papier mache Anubis head, anything would be a piece of cake).  Because that paragon of cuteness, Shabby Apple, has made in their new Yosemite line, the Joanest of all Joan Halloway dresses.  However even the desire for a fab Halloween costume wasn’t going to induce me to spend $92 on it!  Then, low and behold, Groupon did a deal and I got $100 of in store credit, for a much, much, MUCH lower price.  My dress plus shipping was a third of what it would have been otherwise.  This number is going to double as all go-to outfit for holiday parties this year.

And finally, I had to find that iconic pen necklace.  I scoured Etsy and Ebay and Google, but everything that came up was so ludicrously priced as to laughable.   Finally I found a long gold chain ($4) and a small gold pencil on a pendant ring ($6), and put it together myself.  Et voila!

Now I’ll just have to get red hair dye.  Should be fun!  Or I can always chicken out and go as the new receptionist Megan, she of the French extraction and perfect skin.

I don’t read Janssen’s frugality blog for entertainment!

For My Future Spawn: Austen

“How quick come the reasons for approving what we like!”
– Jane Austen

However, I will agree, some Austen fans take it WAY too far.

J. and I were talking about Jane Austen a while back (he hates her) and he voiced a common male complaint about Pride and Prejudice, “Women like it just because they want to end up with Mr. Darcy.”
“I don’t think so,” was my response.   “I think smart women like it because they want to be like Elizabeth.”

And I stand by that.   Literary-ily speaking, she was one of the first admirable heroines in the relatively new form known as the novel.  Previously, women generally were getting carried off by brigands/lecherous squires, fainting at every available opportunity, and dealing with ghosts, vampires, and monks who sell themselves to the Devil.  Alternatively, she is intelligent, lively, has a sense of humor, has a strained relationship with her mother but is fiercely loyal to her family, has personality quirks, won’t marry a repulsive man just because he’ll inherit her house someday, and makes mistakes.  In other words, a fairly normal woman.

Suddenly, shoveling through the supernatural and sentimentality, along came Jane Austen who decided to write about the sphere she moved in, the concerns she and her peers dealt with from day to day, and to make the everyday interesting.  Austen is one of my favorite writers, not because of the romance, but because she is historically important.  And because of this skill in skewering the foibles of society and people with wit and sarcasm.

Now, not all Austen adaptations are created equal, and I should know.  Mum, Snickers, and I have spent many a Sunday afternoon enjoying them:

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice (A&E, 1996) is the definitive P&P version.  It’s basically the book in film form, which can hardly be said of most novel adaptations.  It’s certainly the top Austen film, in my opinion.  Lovely score, good costuming, and excellent acting.  J., when his protests against me watching it have been overcome, will grudgingly hunker down with his laptop on the sofa ignoring it, but will invariably make some kind of commentary, “Darcy’s awkward,” or more likely, “Wow.  Her mother needs a sock stuffed in her mouth.”  My only real complaint with this version is that Jane is not attractive in the slightest.  Rosamund Pike of the Keira Knightley Pride & Prejudice is a better beauty, although the only really good thing about that version is the music.  “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”


I already know I’m going to catch it from Marie for this but Emma (A&E, 1997) with Kate Beckinsale is my favorite version.  She loves the Emma with Gwyenth Paltrwo, which I don’t at all.  And the latest Emma with Ramola Garai, though it got mixed reviews from the crazed Austenites (with whom I do not see eye to eye), I quite liked too.  In fact, this novel seems to be the most debated because main character is a bit spoiled, a busybody, and stupidly manipulative in only the way young girls who think they are more clever than they actually are can be.  But I like the character of Emma quite a lot.  All of Austen’s characters grow, but this is an instance of one of them growing up.  “Silly things do not cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.”

Sense and Sensibility

Up until recently, I liked the 1995 Sense & Sensibility with the divine Emma Thompson, but the BBC recently did a version (which aired on my beloved PBS stateside) which I think a lot better.  The ages of the actresses were more appropriate and much of the novel which had been left out of the first adaptation was put back in, making the story a bit more as rich as it should have been.  And as much as I love Alan Rickman’s broodiness (in everything he’s ever done), I thought Col. Brandon seemed much more noble and likable, which he ought to be, instead of lurking in corners and sighing dramatically.  I don’t go much for the Byronic types.  They’re aggravating.  “She was stronger alone; and her own good sense so well supported her, that her firmness was as unshaken, her appearance of cheerfulness as invariable, as, with regrets so poignant and so fresh, it was possible for them to be.”


Masterpiece Theatre’s version of Northanger Abbey is really fun.  It’s Austen’s lone almost purely satirical novel, mercilessly lampooning those Gothic monks and ghosts previously mentioned. Both this and this version of Persuasion are really very good so it’s a coin toss there.  And if I had to choose between this verision and this version of Mansfield park, I lean toward the latter, even though neither are very good.  Mostly because Fanny Price is the dullest of dull heroines and does next to nothing throughout the course of the book and the second film tried to make her likable.

And because, as with Shakespeare, the most annoying sorts of people are those who take things too seriously, I’m flat out ordering all of you to hop on over to the bookstore and buy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! Partly because it is uproariously funny, partly because even J. liked it.  Spoiler alert.  Darcy, on the occasion of his first, pompous proposal is rewarded for his pains with a roundhouse kick to the face.  Alas, Mrs. Bennett is little changed: her husband is trying to keep his daughters from the clutches of the undead…but she’s still trying to get them married.

And lest we forget…there is that hilarious “post-modern moment” in Lost in in Austen.

For My Future Spawn: Cartoons

“Born of necessity, the little fellow [Mickey Mouse] literally freed us of immediate worry.”
– Walt Disney

I have briefly touched on this before, but let’s expound a bit because, to quote Vodka, “My children will not be watching Nickelodeon crap!”

In my humble opinion, you cannot beat the classics when it comes to cartoons. The Chuck Jones and Tex Avery cartoons represent the best of Looney Tunes, and some of my favorites: What’s Opera, Doc?, Duck Amuck, Rabbit of SevilleDuck Dodgers and the 24 1/2 Century, Rabbit Seasoning, etc.

No, I’m not a collector, obsessive, specialist, or creepy fan.  Just a girl who really loved her morning cartoons.  I loved watching the Coyote come up with increasingly improbably schemes to catch that cheeky Road Runner and Pepe LePew try to seduce unwilling and unfortunately painted house cats in “Franglais.”  The animation was impeccable and music specially composed (or blatantly taken from classical favorites – which I also love).  However, there are other cartoons that I think kids need to see.

Perhaps it may be my Small Dog Syndrome, but global domination appeals to me. Which I assume will probably be one of my many genetic gifts.

Pinky and The Brain.

This is required viewing.  Two lab mice who want to take over the world.  How could that not be great?  The levels of humor are what give this 90’s cartoon its edge: I enjoyed Pinky’s blithe, optimistic idiocy and Brain’s retentive obsession, while I’m sure my parents (who actually watched it with me) loved the social and cultural humor and commentary.  Most of the latter would probably go over my future spawn’s heads, I don’t think the enjoyment would be any less for them.  Along these same lines, my friend Hilarious is working on her own collection of the Animaniacs cartoons.

Any suggestions to add to the list?

Pinky and the Brain, Vol. 1-3
Animaniacs, Vol. 1-3
Looney Tunes – Golden Collection
Looney Tunes – Golden Collection, Volume Two
Looney Tunes – Golden Collection, Volume Three
Looney Tunes – Golden Collection, Volume Four
Looney Tunes – Golden Collection, Volume Five
Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Vol. 6

Liberal. Education

“A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”
– George Santayana

We here at Small Dog Syndrome got some fun  emails from a previous post (the post about things one’s kids ought to know.  Not the post about beating one’s kids.  Very different).  And so, because it’s summer and I need something to do on my lunch breaks and weekends, I think I’ll start up a bit of a series on the subject (again, about what’s one’s children out to be exposed to, not domestic violence.  Just so we’re clear).  Nothing formal, and certainly not organized; that’s just not the way we do things around here.  Let’s think of it as an ongoing project that will intermittently interject into our regularly scheduled reading.

Do you have something to share with the class?

I’m opening this up for discussion as well, be free with your comments, accolades, scathing rebukes towards my taste, etc.  And by all means, add your own suggestions!  I’m looking for books, movies, TV shows, vacation spots, and the like, all I ask is that you keep it culturally-minded.  Meaning while Spongebob Squarepants may have been your favorite drivel growing up, I’m looking for the quality things that you’d truly want your future spawn to know of.  More importantly, why.

Life (…the Universe and Everything! Except Oprah)

“The BBC produced wonderful programmes; it also produces a load of old rubbish.”
– Jonathan Dimbleby

Today is the release of BBC Earth’s Life (narrated by David Attenborough) [Blu-ray]!

J. and I love this series (Planet Earth and The Blue Planet: Seas of Life)  and many a-Sunday is spent oohing and ahhing over schools of fish swirling in the depths or squeals (on my part) of, “Look at the monkeys!”  I especially love the deep seas episodes with vampire squids and creepy glowing fish!

So, as you may imagine, when the Discovery Channel announced that they would be airing the new series, I scheduled my Sunday nights around it for weeks…

…only to be dreadfully disappointed when, instead of the soothing, BBC broadcaster-type voice of David Attenborough, I was greeted by the commanding tones of Oprah Winfrey.  As if she doesn’t already tell enough people what to buy, love, eat, wear, and watch.  After a few episodes, I couldn’t take it anymore and resolved to wait until David and I could be reunited.

Hands up if you agree Attenborough is the only person who should be able to narrate these sorts of things from now on.

Dressing Up/Dressing Down

“Fashion is like the id.  It makes you desire things you shouldn’t.”
– Bob Morris

Well well, it was the night of Marchesa, Armani Prive,  and Elie Saab!  There were some good, some bad, and some ugly.  Metallics, ruffles blush/nude/pale colors, thigh-high slits, and jeweled shoulder accents gave a good showing and though perhaps not as daring as last year, I was still impressed.  Heck, even Kristen Stewart cleaned up!

The Good

Vera Farmiga  and Sandra Bullock in Marchesa.  Bullock gets top marks for classy hair and the pop of red lips.

Elizabeth Banks and Demi Moore in Versace.  Banks is better here though both are on point with the ruffles, gray is an undervauled color in my opinion.

The fabulous Meryl Streep in Chris March and Kristen Stewart (surprisingly washed and coiffed) in Monique Lhullier.

Anna Kendrick and Rachel McAdams in Elie Saab.  Kendrick’s isn’t the best of the best, but she’s on point and the blush goes good with the dark hair.  McAdams was my favorite dress of the night.  Way to rock a print at the Oscars, only you and Maggie did it and both pulled it off.  Ah, Elie Saab, my love affair with you continues…

Queen Latifa in Mischka Badgley, showing how you’re supposed to dress luscious curves: right color, right accents.  Carey Mulligan in Prada, doing another cut-away-in-the-front dress.  Works!

The Bad

Amanda Seyfried and Jennifer Lopez’s stylists obviously aren’t BFFs, otherwise they might have warned one another that their clients would both be rocking Armani Prive in basically the same material.  This is purely fabric dislike on my part.  And though Lopez gets points for daring, I’m still not loving the bunch on her hip.  In Seyfried’s case, the color washes her out.

In Gabourey Sidibe’s case, I wanted to like her gown, after all it’s another Marchesa and a fantastic color but I really dislike the applique florals.  They bring down the dress for me, to a crazy nursing home belle.  If she had stuck with just this gorgeous draped blue fabric with just the sparkles on her wrist and ears it would have been classed up.  Charlize Theron, in Dior, was bad.  No one should have a perverted Miss America sash groping you.  Period.

Anika Noni Rose in (didn’t catch the designer) and Zoe Saldana in Givenchy.  Both these girls had the same problem: their bejeweled bustiers made an appearance.  The bottom of Saldana’s gown is interesting, but I’m going to have to give both of these a thumbs down.

The Ugly

Diane Kruger and Sara Jessica Parker both bombed in Chanel (impossible, you say?  This is Chanel after all.  Yes).  There were good elements in both gowns, but neither translated on the wearers, I thought.  The first is Eliza Doolittle Goes to the Races, and the second is a sack. 

Congratulations, Mariah Carey, you managed to make Valentino look bad.  The proportions here are just all wrong.  And, Miley sweetie, better than last year but you join Saldana with underwear as outerwear for a top.  And you’re tiny but you looked so cinched in you might as well have been wearing Spanx.  Keep trying, you’re getting there.

And the dress I wanted to take home for myself (I don’t think I could pull off the McAdams dress, unfortunately, but this one would more than compensate): Penelope Cruz’s Donna Karan.

Thoughts?  Compare to last year, what do you think?  


And the Award Goes To…

“That’s a bingo!  …Is that the way you say it?  ‘That’s a bingo?'”
“You just say bingo.”
“Ah!  Bingo!  How fun!  But I digress.  Where were we?”
– Inglorious Basterds

Today has been a lovely Sunday, it’s sunny and gorgeous outside, you can smell Spring in the air in spite of the snow on the mountains, J. and I made a to-die-for mac and cheese recipe that had pretentious enough ingredients to make it seem much more difficult than it actually was, and I’m whipping up cookies (plus snacking on kettlecorn as I dash back and forth between the kitchen and the red-carpet interviews, my dedication is being tested…).

I’ll be doing my annual Oscar dress review tomorrow, but let me just say this now:

If Christoph Waltz doesn’t win best supporting actor, I shall be extremely vexed.  And if Avatar wins Best Picture I will lose all faith in Hollywood.  J. wants The Cove to win best documentary.  I want the fabulous Carey Mulligan or divine Sandra Bullock to win best actress but Helen Miren (aka The Queen), the precious Gabourey Sidibe, and the goddess that is Meryl Streep will give them stiff competition.  I think Mo’nique will win best supporting actress (indeed that seems to be the real story of this Oscar Award Season).  I pick Up for best animated feature, The Young Victoria for costume design (might be wistful thinking, I wouldn’t mind Coco Avant Chanel either again based on personal prejudice for Chanel and Audrey Tautou), I pick Katheryn Bigelow for best director for The Hurt Locker (go women!).  The Hurt Locker seems to be the frontrunner for Best Picture.  And I can’t pick a best actor, I’d love to see Morgan Freeman win in this category after a career of famous supporting rolls, and who doesn’t have a soft spot for Mr. Darcy…er…Colin Firth.  And again, not to harp, but GO CHRISTOPH WALTZ!

Any last minute pics out there?  Raging debate?  Big bets?  Do share!

Remember this scene? Better than that whole "plot" of Avatar's.

Viewers Like You. Thank You.

“So Amanda stays with Darcy and Elizabeth stays in the modern world?  Why does she want to do that?”
“Birth control, indoor plumbing, and women’s rights?”
– J. and C.

Whether against his will or not, J. is slowly getting dragged into my PBS obsession, and it’s been fun to watch.

Pictured: a post-modernist moment. You may close your mouth now.

For someone who dislikes Jane Austen pretty strongly, he liked Lost In Austen quite a bit (granted, we both loved Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).  He laughed just as loud as me when the main character asked Mr. Darcy to take a dip in his pond so she could enjoy a Colin Firth-esque “post-modernist moment.”  He found the fact that Caroline Bingley was a lesbian hilarious, liked that Wickham was a good guy after all, and that Jane and Charles run off to America together.  One Sunday night he called back to where I was in the office and reminded me that Masterpiece was on in a half hour and asked if there would be another LIA installment.

She heard you, J.. Beware.

And when Dorcas Lane (of Lark Rise to Candleford fame) stated she doesn’t like to judge people, to the face of the man she’s refused to marry for having a scandalous, mistress-mongering past, and said man snaps back, “You’ve never had a problem with sitting in judgement before.  Good-day,” … it was incredibly satisfying to hear my red-blooded, football/basketball loving, hamburger devouring, man’s man, all-American husband cry, “Oh no he didn’t!  Burn!”

I’m sure he’d like me to reciprocate by learning to love basketball and Sports Center, but I’m not quite there yet.  I’ll work on it.