An M and E Post

When my niece E was quite little, she was fascinated with a book at my mother’s
house on Louis Pasteur that Mom’s husband had from his days as a teacher. It referred to germs as “the invisible enemies” but E kept calling them “the invisible anemones” — not realizing, of course, either her mistake or the fact that there were actually such things as anemones.

E and her younger sister M are older now, eight and six respectively, yet still delighted by books and still coming out with terribly funny things.

“Let’s pretend we are in the olden days,” my sister J overheard E saying to M recently. “Pretend it is 1980!” (“And no,” J added, “she did not mean 1880; I asked.”)

Chuck Still Not Up

Last year at this time I praised NBC’s Chuck for its volley of satisfying finales, none
of which ultimately stood as a swan song.

Zachary Levi as Chuck facing Yvonne Strahovski as Sarah, holding a demi-tasse
Image from Chuck 3.14 “Chuck vs. the Honeymooners” © 2010 Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Season Two concluded by both wrapping up the current narrative satisfactorily and nodding towards the future. Chuck’s original 13-episode order for Season Three did the same. And the next episode a month later — the first of an additional 6 that rounded out the season — served as a lovely coda, with the actual Season Three finale making for a fine farewell too. I felt back then that while I’ve enjoyed Chuck it would have been all right with me had any one of those chapters served as its final bow.

Season Three’s ultimate finale did leave me wanting more than the previous possible finishes, because the Buy More burned down and I hoped that Season Four might free us from that place and its sophomoric subplots for good. Chuck’s admirable willingness to push the mythology and character arcs forward faltered in that regard, alas, returning us to the status quo at the store before long, but as if to atone for it the 13th episode of Season Four brought us the most fitting, loveliest last shot of the show to date.

The Missing Links

Photo of Jay Walker's Library: Andrew Moore for Wired © 2008.

This post is currently down for maintenance.

Ducks Uncovered

I’m about to call a moratorium on posts beyond what’s in the pipeline because there’s so. much. to write. The 11 o’clock edition of Action News tonight, however, ran a story that just screams to be blogged on, both for what it said and for what it left out.

Mama and baby ducklings in makeshift nest
Screencap © 2011 ABC/WPVI-TV Philadelphia.

The main thing that I was surprised anchor Jim Gardner didn’t mention during the story was that today was the birthday of John James Audubon — which I’ll admit I only knew thanks to the day’s Google logo.

And one reason why the omission is surprising is that the story was about some
ducks hatching outside a fast-food restaurant across the bridge from Philadelphia in Camden County. In case you didn’t know: Audubon, born Jean-Jacques Audubon in France, was a renowned ornithologist — Hello! — who became an American citizen right here in Philly during the War of 1812.

Good Morning, Good Morning

And the end of Fringe Season Three, including what may be the final showdown in
the series’ Two-Worlds War, begins.

I’m not sure how much there is to say about the events of...

Fringe 3.20 6:02 a.m. EST / photo of Walternate

... that won’t be rendered moot by next Friday. So while I can’t help but ask a few burning questions, I won’t really try to answer them, either, instead sticking to some random reactions and tangential tidbits. Here they are in the order of their prompts throughout the episode.

Mind Games

Yes, “Mind Games” it will be, since “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” felt both a little
too on the nose and not really descriptive of ...

Fringe 3.19 Lysergic Acid Diethylamide / animated still of Leonard Nimoy as William Bell at the wheel of a ship

I’m going to try to blog weekly on Fringe, quite possibly my favorite TV experience
of the moment, as I said the other day in recapping the past couple of seasons. My oft-cited online problems and innately unpredictable abilities mean no guarantees, although I suspect that having gotten a new overview of the show out of the way will help. Now, better late than never, I offer my thoughts on one of the most intriguing
and most disappointing installments of this excellent series to date.

Letter Men

This post is not about student athletes, nor a family reunion for the host of CBS’s
Late Show, nor even spinoffs of the animated good guy familiar to my generation
from PBS’s The Electric Company — but there we’re getting warmer.

Letters A, B, and C adorned to suggest Aquaman, Batman, and Cyclops

Artist Fabien Gonzalez has created a superhero alphabet, rendering letters from A
to Z in the costumes and colors of characters from the iconic to the obscure. I first came across it on EW’s PopWatch blog; you can purchase a print from Gonzalez’s Flickr stream.

Across the Universe

Olivia and her doppelganger next to one another, both with guns drawn, a small 'Fringe' logo oddly placed between then at waist level

I’d been planning to write up the last three Fringe episodes of this season, which reportedly form one continued story, to quell persistent requests made by friends and as practice for potential weekly reviews come autumn now that Fox has renewed the show. A few things conspired to convince me that it was a good idea to start early with last night’s episode. Here’s a bit of background to save us all from recap fatigue in future chapter-specific editions.

My initial essay on Fringe — an earlier post on its glyphs notwithstanding — came midway through Season Two. While I’ll run down some of the salient plot points that have taken center stage since then, it provides a good overview of my thoughts on the first half of the series to date. To folks reading this who are unfamiliar with the show: You’re going to be confused, for sure, and you’re missing an excellent television experience. I highly recommend catching up via downloads or DVD; both Fringe and Supernatural (which is nearing the conclusion of a welcome albeit weak-by-comparison season a year after many expected it to wrap entirely) are worthy successors to the very best of The X-Files and choice viewing not just for “genre” fans but for anyone who enjoys great character work played out through superbly inventive storytelling.

Gamma Chameleon

I came across the Hulk sketch below after the Update-a-Tron comics-weblog aggregator prompted me to peruse Evan Dorkin’s LiveJournal blog for the first time in a while.

Drawing of Hulk in colored pencil saying ''Hulk in no mood for your shit.''
Art © 2011 Evan Dorkin. The Hulk ® Marvel.

My curiosity was piqued over what Dorkin had to say about his sketch of Peeper, an extremely throwaway Jack Kirby creation. The stream-of-consciousness post reads like a less choreographed, non-fiction prose version of one of Dorkin’s Eltingville strips, mixing the mirthful delight of pure-id fantasy with the melancholy of reality. When it became clear that there was far more fun stuff than I had time to spend scrolling through — a perennial refrain — I grabbed the Hulk sketch to share and left. Yes, I mostly stick to a self-imposed ban on outright swearing here, but I can’t bowdlerize Dorkin’s art.

My Other Saturday Notes

I don’t expect brilliance from Saturday Night Live these days. But it’s not impossible, so I still hope for it. A genius moment and genuine belly laugh may come from the old standby of celebrity impersonations or from something utterly bizarre like that French dance sketch that first popped up in October — even from a rare recurring character who somehow stays hysterically funny, like Bill Hader’s Stefon.

'SNL' title card with Helen Mirren at a drum kit whaling away
Photo: Mary Ellen Matthews for NBCUniversal Media © 2011.

With few exceptions, in fact, the weirder SNL gets anymore the better.

E Mail

Here’s a story that my sister sent along last year about her daughter E, who is now
eight but was seven at the time.

E was having one of those days — woke up on the wrong side of the bed, just mad at
the world. At some point she went to her room only to come back downstairs with her hair tied in a low, tight ponytail, dressed all in black, and proclaim, “My new favorite color is black. My new favorite place to go is nowhere.”

Then E said that she wanted to call Mom-Mom, because her job is to help people
with their feelings, so all was not lost.

Related: What I Said An M and E Post I before Zzzzz

All Right for Typing

'Saturday Night Live' title card

I hadn’t planned on reviewing Saturday Night Live in brief or at length anytime soon. But as long as I was pausing my VCR — yes, really — to read the quick-scrolling text from this week’s Fox & Friends sketch, I figured I might as well transcribe it to share on the blog before heading to bed. (And of course that led to me typing up my thoughts on the show in general.)

Here’s what zipped along the screen under the guise of what the fact-checkers had to say, in case you’re interested, copyright 2011 NBC Studios.

President Barack Obama’s middle name is not “Danger”.

First Lady Michelle Obama was born in Illinois, to human parents.

“The first trimester” refers to a stage of pregnancy.
It is not a Tom Clancy novel.

What I Said

I’ve been remiss in sharing stories about the kids in my family, even though my sister
J has sent along a passel of awesome anecdotes with her permission to post them.

As visitors here may recall, I only refer to my nieces by the initials E and M for privacy’s sake — but I call my nephew Ishmael because his initial happens to be the same as a personal pronoun that I have now used three times in this sentence alone. Me talking about “I” could be confusing.

Zooming towards four years old, Ishmael’s likes include Buzz Lightyear, superheroes, his mommy’s lap, building things, and knocking things down. His dislikes include being told what to do.