Monday, May 31, 2010

Betraying my roots

Growing up in the town of Amherst, NY—a suburb of Buffalo, which for those who don't know is in the western part of the state—means I said "pop." But then I went to Arizona for college and was surrounded by people who said "soda" and for some reason I quickly changed. I'm not sure why. I had promised that I wouldn't "change" despite going to a new part of the country, yet I didn't even resist this. I don't know why. I didn't adopt "freeway" (until moving to California) but "soda" just happened so easily.

Today, thanks to the magic of Twitter and the world's best Tweeter, Roger Ebert, I learned that someone is collecting data and plotting a map showing where "pop," "soda," "Coke" and other are most prevalent based on the region a person learned language. I answered "soda" because right now that's what I say and that's what the question asks (it's a very simple survey). But based on what the person is measuring should I have answered "pop"?

Friday, May 28, 2010

I love TV (too much?)

My favorite show ever, Lost, and one of my other all-timers, 24, just ended their runs. And Fringe has ended its season. Yet the tube still has its hooks in me. Thanks to its ridiculously long hiatus, Glee is still going for two more weeks, which means that it runs up against my first trip overseas. EVER.

The season finale airs the night I leave on a red eye from L.A. to NYC while on my way to Iceland. (btw, just booked my volcano tour to the unpronounceable volcano). And the Top Chef Season 7 premiere airs the night I get back from Iceland. We have a DVR, so I won't miss anything, but dammit I thought that after this week the idea of appointment TV would really be past tense.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost finale (Spoilers included)

I've thought about the episode tons since watching it last night, pretty much non stop this morning. I really liked it and the more and more that I think about it the more I like it. The best thing about the ending to me was that they ultimately answered most everything and did it in a way that is wide open to interpretations. I read it as "people and redemption are more important than anything and that the redemptive process can take lifetimes and that's OK." The meta view I interpreted is that the story we've been telling about deeply flawed people who are trying to redeem themselves and each other is more important than anything else we've been doing, just as we've said explicitly in interviews (in case some of you fans hadn't believed us).

Now granted, it wasn't perfect and they left one lingering question that I did want answered. Where were Michael/Walt in the Sideways purgatory? Also, loved the purgatory (maybe not intended as a wink but still for me functioned a bit as one, to season 1 purgatory theorists). It tracks with what we'd seen in Sideways, too, at least as best as I could remember. Using purgatory as they did allowed the accepting the entirety of their Island experiences to determine their redemption. Oddly, I didn't care about Walt's supernaturalness anymore, though.

Other great moments: Locke/Ben conversation outside the church. Jin/Sun ultrasound. Hurley telling Jack "I believe in you" and then Jack later reciprocating. Juliet/Sawyer waking up in the Sideways world. Ben being good. Hurley's knowing looks while on his mission to wake up Sayid and Shannon.

One seemingly big question that they never "answered" and that I didn't even think about until literally 20 seconds ago, what would have happened had MIB gotten off the Island and corollary to that why would that have happened? But I don't care now. The show was never about him and his mystery. Had it been, he would have been introduced long before the end of season 5 (which I know many, including me questioned why his intro was so late in the show's timeline). So as important as his character was, he was never one of THE characters.

When Lost started, as an action/adventure movie fan, I loved the story; it was filled with twisty mysteries and action. As a nerdy sci-fan fan, I loved the ideas and philosophical thought experiments. But what pushed this show (along with BSG) to the numbers 1 and 2 positions respectively on my list of favorite TV shows, were the characters. These were complicated, evolving, as-real-as-could-feel characters thrust into the most extraordinary of circumstances (which is truly what makes Sci-Fi such an intriguing genre). Here was a show on primetime network TV that openly introduced religion, science vs. faith, relativistic ethics, destiny vs. free will into its premise and conflicts. fuck yeah!

And as mind-bending as dealing with those concepts has been, of all the questions/ideas the show brought up, I think one of the least-discussed and perhaps even overlooked, is something that was emphasized in season 1: "How well do we know each other?" or re-framed "What do we not notice in our lives, particularly what don't we notice about the people in our lives?" Remember the fun in finding the hidden connections, like a lottery-winning Hurley on the Kwon's TV in Korea? In the final season with Sidways purgatory the show revived that, but this time we had a very different perspective from which to spot those connections, it wasn't simply a "fun mystery/game" anymore and we knew it was no longer mere coincidence. It was the last new puzzle to anticipate, wondering whether their seemingly idealized lives were real or how they connected to the trials each character had been through in the previous five seasons.

By forcing these characters into the most trying circumstances imaginable, we got to know them and they go to know each other with an intimacy far beyond what most people do.

As the final season started as as fans discussed what do I HAVE to know the answer to in the end, I started having my own conflict. Jeff Jensen and Dan Snierson at EW talked about this in their episode of Totally Lost previewing the final season. They mentioned how though they had checklists with unanswered questions, watching the final season with a checklist by their sides and literally marking things off every episode (something they had envisioned doing at one point and kinda been doing along the way even), would subsume the more important stuff and could ultimately be disappointing. I hadn't articulated it as such, but was feeling largely the same way. It would be like having a student ace a multiple choice test but not really learn the concepts you were trying to teach. I know that metaphor doesn't hold exactly, but I hope it's clear enough.

So as this season went along and we had BIG ANSWER episodes like, "Ab Aeterno" and "Across The Sea" (each of which I found ultimately unsatisfying for myriad reasons) I had an epiphany and realized, similarly to Jensen that finding meaning in what happened to the characters outweighed learning about The Island. "Happily Ever After" (the return of Desmond episode) was far more enjoyable to me, because it was about what happened to our favorite characters. Once I had that epiphany, I was able to let go of most my angst about whether the show would "end right" and put more faith in the writers' ability to craft a satisfying ending. One can tell how much these guys love their show. How much it means to them and how much the actors and characters they've helped give life to matter to them. And I just knew, I guess, that they would honor that.

I am not surprised that my friend, Scott, had more confusion processing the Jack-Christian scene. It reminds me of when we watched The Prestige. His instinctive science mind refracts everything through the prism of looking for explanations and logical answers.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, one of my favorite shows particularly growing up and the show that managed to have its series finale be its best episode, had it so much easier than Lost or Battlestar Galactica. TNG was a show driven by story, not characters or even acting and ironically enough for a sci-fi show not its special effects. Years later, I don't feel like I ever learned anything about a character not named Data, Picard or Worf? And apart from Patrick Stewart or Brent Spiner or John DeLancie and sometimes Jonathan Frakes, who ever could really bring it as an actor? The biggest challenge they had was to incorporate everyone else enough in a story that would really give Picard, Q and Data the most screen time. Throw in a time-travel story (ultimately Trek's biggest crutch) and voila ... best episode ever. But there wasn't a single thread they NEEDED to resolve with the show's continuity or mythology.

One big question that I think was ultimately meant to be unanswered ... what did Juilet mean when she told Miles from the dead "It worked"? I still don't know about this one. OK, other less big question, what Island did we see underwater in the Season 6 premiere? I think it was just a chunk that had fallen off. It was an independent (not character-pov-specific) glimpse into the future. And, I think the only time we've ever gotten one of those. I don't think this holds anymore now that I think about it more, but rather it's more metaphorical, though still unknown to me.

Last thought, I welled up several times, though never went first season when they launched the raft or Desmond-calling-Penny-during-TheConstant.


In celebration of the final episode I went a little crazy buying Lost-related merchandise, but mainly because the merch has been sooooo good. In honor of the final season, 16 artists were commissioned to create posters related to the series. I sadly didn't find out about this until after the posters were shown at a gallery (of course near my office, dammit!). So I missed out on buying any of them at retail price and the silkscreen of the one I love most has been going for $500 on eBay. YIKES! that's before the price of custom-framing. Fortunately, this poster was also reproduced as a lithograph, which was given out at the poster show. So I purchased one of those on eBay for the bargain price of $217.50.

From the amazing Tyler Stout is the poster to the right ...

Then I bought another poster (this one a silk screen from series 2 and a t-shirt). But though I've told myself I need to rein in my spending, I can't feel bad at all about getting these posters and the shirt. I love this show. It's my favorite show of all time. I want to celebrate my love of the show as publicly as I can within the confines of my bedroom.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name ...

... or at least the employees know it enough to say "Hi, (your name here)" instead of just "Hi."

As noted several times in this blog, I was furniture at the Albany Pump Station and I must concede that I still miss my peeps there—especially the bartenders who let me put in orders just after the kitchen closed, who had the kitchen make me entrees that were no longer on the menu and who let me drink a free round when I helped pick up barstools after the place closed. I loved that bar as my Third Place, not home, not work, but that place that provided a respite from the other two.

Despite being in Los Angeles almost twice as long as I lived in Albany, I've failed to become a regular anywhere. They know my face more or less at an Indian restaurant near the office and I've been to a Cajun restaurant/bar plenty of times, but no place has captured my heart and wallet with regularity and ergo I have not found that Third Place.

But are things turning? Perhaps ...

Thanks to genuine heavenly deliciousness and the magic of Twitter, my fellow editors at L.A. Youth and I have fallen in love with Sprinkles cupcakes. The cakes are moist and not overly sweet which lets the frosting star but not overwhelm the cake, like a great ensemble cast in a movie with a great director. As the resident Westsider, I most often draw the "pick up Sprinkles on the way into work" role.

Going to Sprinkles, despite being in the heart of a particularly pretentious section of Beverly Hills near Rodeo Drive, is actually fun. The short line typically has friendly people sharing a mutual excitement for the best sweet treats ever. And then there are the employees who take "friendly" to a new level. They smile and are probably almost as sweet as the cupcakes. Not shockingly, all the front of the house employees are cute girls, while in the back is the only place I've seen men or older people.

This past Saturday with the debut of the salty caramel, I was on cupcake duty again. And when I ordered the girl who took my order said, "I'm sorry I have to ask your name again."

I know it's only cupcakes, but when a place you love gives you just a little love back it honestly preys upon the little kid in me who wants to be liked the popular kids.

Also, my goal is to become a regular at the Eagle Rock Brewery by the end of the month. I've been each of the last two Sundays and will be there every Sunday, even though it's across town. My love of the ERB is a clash of my values, though. I love supporting small, local business started by cool people who make beer! But it is lots of gas and pollution.