Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Here are 5 things you should be watching RIGHT NOW

Well, not RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW, but RIGHT NOW when you are in front of or near a TV.

1. 11.22.63, on Hulu Plus

Hulu, best known as a repository for mediocre network TV shows, got into the original content game with this miniseries based on the Stephen King book of the same name about the classic time travel question: Would you go back in time to try and stop the JFK assassination?  James Franco would.  IT'S GREAT.  Totally intriguing premise, of course, and Franco does a great job, along with Daniel Webber as a creepy, totally believable Lee Harvey Oswald, along with pretty much everybody.

Instead of just dumping all 8 episodes, Netflix-style, Hulu is dribbling them out once a week and it's making the experience simultaneously more fun and more excruciating.  It's the show we look forward to most every week.  So much fun.  Next week is the finale.  Get Hulu Plus so you can watch this.

Hopefully next they make 4.20.1889 about someone going back in time to kill baby Hitler.  Wait, Hitler was born on 4/20!!!!  How does somebody not mention this EVERY FUCKING DAY?!?!!!!

2. Girls, on HBO

Now that it's in the 4th season and everybody's pretty much moved on and it doesn't have to represent Something Important to everyone, Girls has settled in as a fun little slice of life show about a few insane people in New York and Japan.  Don't get me wrong, many of the characters are repellent monsters you wouldn't want to be stuck next to in coach, but watching them interact with the humans is a good way to pass a half hour.  The Marnie-centric episode last Sunday was particularly good but I'm not sure why.

3. Happy Valley (season 2), on Netflix

OH MY GOD TELL ME YOU WATCHED SEASON 1 OF HAPPY VALLEY.  You didn't?  The fuck is wrong with you?  Go watch it right now.  OK good.  Now you can watch season 2.

Are you sick of brooding dude antiheroes?  Yes, we all are.  Then enjoy the hell out of Sarah Lancashire's performance as Sgt. Catherine Cawood, an ordinary-looking middle-aged police sergeant in an uncool part of England.  She is so, so good but everything about this show is good, from the uniformly excellent performances to the tautly conceived plot.  Total bingewatch.

Also, poor Mr. Moseley.  He just can't catch a fucking break.

4. The People v. O.J. Simpson, on FX

If you're as old as me and you actually remember this happening in real time, your reaction might have been the same as mine: "No fucking way do I want to relive that."  WELL WE WERE ALL FUCKING WRONG because this show is like 1000x more fun than it has any right to be.  NOT ONLY does John Travolta stage like his 5th or 6th comeback as a literally oily Robert Shapiro, BUT ALSO you've got David Schwimmer doing a perpetually nervous Robert Kardashian and Courtney B. Vance KILLING IT as Johnnie Cochran.  The only miscasting is Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J. himself and that's just because he is physically too small to be O.J.  Plus, all the period details are just right.  Check out all those baggy as fuck suits!

5. Better Call Saul, on AMC

I know, I'm not really stirring up a hornet's nest of controversy by recommending a show that's gotten the critical acclaim of Citizen Kane crossed with the Beatles but it's still a damn good show.

BONUS CONTENT: Jonathan Banks - Mike Ehrmantraut on this show and Breaking Bad - was in "Airplane!".

Yep, he's the guy opening the microwave. Weird.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Here's what they don't tell you in parenting class

On the occasion of Beyonce's third birthday, here's what I've learned about having a kid, so far, in part.

1. They start out eating just one thing, then will pretty much eat anything, then go back down to one or two things.

They start off with milk (and formula too, which is totally fine despite what militant breastfeeding types will tell you).  Then she started eating pretty much everything we were eating.  Her first two words after "Mama" were "bus" and "tortilla," if that gives you any clue.  I think her first favorite food was pad thai, which she'll still eat on occasion.  I never even heard of pad thai until I was like 23.  Then as she got a little older she got pickier.  No more broccoli.  No more corn.  Mostly mac and cheese.  She loves mac and cheese like teenage girls love One Direction.  I'm exaggerating about only liking one or two things, but she definitely won't eat the rainbow any more. Luckily she still likes fruit.

2. "It goes by so fast" is bullshit.

The biggest lie the baby-industrial complex has ever foisted on the American public is that "time just flies, you'll wake up one day and she's off to college."  Total crap,  She just turned 3 and it seems like it's been about 6 years.  I don't even remember her not being here.  DON'T GET ME WRONG I love her to death and wouldn't have it any other way but she gets up by 6:45 am at the latest every day and basically never stops talking.  It's kinda exhausting.  Time does not fly under those conditions.

3. Kids are kind of hilarious

Yesterday morning she wanted me to sing "Happy Birthday" to her so I did.  Then she had her sunglasses sing "Happy Birthday" to me in a funny voice even though it wasn't my birthday and her sunglasses are not sentient creatures as far as I know.  Shit like that cracks me up.  She also got "actually" from another kid at preschool and now says "actually" all the time like she's #notallmen on Twitter.  "Actually I would rather have cereal."  OK then.

4. Kids have the emotional response of Britney Spears that day she shaved her head

Sometimes they just lose their fucking shit for no reason.  We have literally asked her "Why are you crying right now?" and she's said "I don't know why I'm crying! AHHHHHHHHH!!!!"  One second she'll be happy and totally chill and then she gets the bad news that we're not having cupcakes for breakfast and WHAM total fucking meltdown.  I know it's all a totally normal developmental stage blah blah blah fine but just get a Livejournal already and let it out there.

5. TV is your secret weapon. Use it but don't abuse it.

There are parents who say "We don't allow our kids to watch TV." They are lying.  Sometimes you really just need 30 minutes to put some laundry in or stare blankly into middle distance and there is nothing wrong with letting Dora co-parent for a spell.  We keep a lid on it and don't just park her in front of the screen for hours on end but I firmly believe there is nothing wrong with catching some shows.

6. Overall, it's great

Big picture?  So far it's pretty great.  We're probably on the lucky end because apart from a few tantrums here and there, our kid is pretty chill and goes to bed without any trouble pretty much every night and is usually down for whatever, but on the whole, yeah, it's great.

Happy Birthday, kid.

Monday, March 14, 2016

You should take the train

Like my fellow blogger (and fellow user!) M. Strickland of Civic Center, who has often sung the praises of travel by Amtrak, we decided to take the train this weekend to visit my sister in Tahoe, where she's spending the winter with her bf, a couple of dogs, and metric shitloads of snow.  Seriously there is so much fucking snow.

Anyway, I have some advice: take the fucking train.  It is so much better than driving that you will wonder why you ever drove.  We took the California Zephyr from Emeryville to Truckee.  It continues on to Chicago.  Yes, it takes a lot longer than flying, but if you're in no particular hurry it would probably be great.  From here to Tahoe took about 6 hours, so not much more than driving. (It takes about 3 days to get to Chicago - if you leave on Friday morning, you get there Sunday afternoon.)

The regular coach seats are roughly equivalent to first class seats on an airplane.  They're big and wide and there's maybe more legroom than first class.  There's also an observation car (containing, for a time, my daughter, pictured above) and a dining car.  The food is not very good but whatever.

For our trip back Sunday, regular coach was sold out so we pretty much had to buy a private room.  It was kind of expensive but also it was really nice to have our own surprisingly large space.

And it was the only way we could have gotten out of Tahoe on Sunday, where it started blizzarding on Saturday and pretty much never let up.  In fact, we had to stop up on the summit while they plowed the tracks.

In a remarkable bit of bad timing, another long-haul Amtrak train, the Southwest Chief from LA to Chicago, derailed last night in Kansas, about 8 hours after we got off the (completely different and uninvolved) train.  A lot of people got hurt.  Still, it's probably safer than driving.  I'm sure there's numbers out there to back that up but I don't feel like doing the research right now.

I will say this: the whole experience is somewhat bumpier, for lack of a better word, than I expected.  We took the train from Boston to NYC to DC a few years ago but I don't remember it being as bumpy.  It kind of feels like low-grade turbulence on a plane a lot of the time.  And sometimes when it takes turns fast, you can definitely feel the whole thing leaning to one side, which is mildly disconcerting if you're not used to it.

Still, I would enthusiastically recommend.  Unlike air travel, everyone on the train seems pretty chill and relaxed and I didn't have that feeling like I wanted to kill everyone in sight like I do when I fly.  Try taking the train.