Thursday, December 01, 2005


The Tuesday Top Five - Thursday edition

You might have seen the news today that NBC is moving two of my favorite sitcoms: MY NAME IS EARL and THE OFFICE - from their current haunt on Tuesday nights to Thursday, an evening that the network owned for most of my adolescence and young adulthood. In honor of that move, Our Man in LA presents the Tuesday Top Five in a special Thursday time slot. Never before has a day named for the Norse God of Thunder (that's Thor, by the way) had such reason for celebration.


Well, actually, I'm doing this because I didn't blog on Tuesday. But Huzzah anyway.

Additionally, in honor of the Top Five and Bottom One's big one-time-only move, I will also present a special bonus feature: the Our Father-in-Law Movie Pick. Scroll down, my children. Scroll down and you shall learn.

But onto the Top Five:

5) The Ancient Egypt exhibit at the Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio. Sure, it's not technically in SoCal at all, but this exhibit, which the wife and I attended with the official mom of Our Man in LA worked as a terrific complement to the recently completed King Tut exhibit at the LA County Museum of Art. Rather than focusing on one ancient monarch, this show gave an audience a more general view of the various dynasties, including a better explanation of the pantheon of Egyptian gods and goddesses from back when. Pieces were on loan from little out of the way places like The British Museum.

Most importantly, it allowed Our Man in LA to get his inner geek on. Only a couple of things make me geek out like ancient Egypt and the subject of archaeology - as noted in an earlier post. And this was particularly cool. The show culminates in a newly constructed tomb, built to the size and scale of the ones you might find in the Valley of the Kings, complete with the frescoes and hieroglyphs describing a dead ruler's trip to the Land of the Dead and the beginning of his relationship with the Sun God Ra.

Yeah. Pretty kickin' stuff.

It also represents the first time since Our Man in LA's misspent youth that he stepped inside the actually pretty amazing Dayton Art Institute. Situated on a hill just north of the Gem City's downtown, it's a pretty incredible museum for a town that size. As an urchin, the young Mr. Wieland used to get dragged there by parents who did all manner of volunteer work there (including being on the Board and whatnot). Usually, after a time, I would get bored and start racing around the catacombs of the place, past the priceless works of art, from neo-Classical to ancient North American to Italian Renaissance and so on.

I had the urge to take a run like that this time around, too. But the wife wouldn't let me.

4) WATCHMEN by Alan Moore. As promised, I need to comment on this one, part of the list of Time's Best Graphic Novels of all time. Earlier in the year, I re-read (or rather, I tried to re-read) Moore's other big deal comic of the era - V for Vendetta. And I was totally underwhelmed. Couldn't get through it to save my life. I just found it heavy-handed, overstated, and kind of dull. So I was fully cowed by the time I got around to re-reading this. WATCHMEN was one of the seminal books of my teen years. What if it turned out to be kind of dull?

Whew. Bullet dodged. WATCHMEN is anything but dull. It's amazing. Expansive, fascinating, with complex characters forced into decisions that border on the impossible.

When I read it as a kid, I focused on the fun, super-hero-y aspects of the book. The tough-as-nails, psychotic anti-criminal known as Rorschach (who, along with Frank Miller's grim and gritty Dark Knight Returns, ushered in an angry and violent era of super-hero comics that lasted 20 years); the "mask killer" plot that serves as the throughline; and the fun little details throughout (Moore imagines an America where in 1985 Richard Nixon is serving his sixth term in office).

Now, though, I realize all that stuff is just window dressing. It's actually as humanistic a story as I've seen in the super hero genre. It celebrates the imperfections, the crazy dreams of people, and even their surrender to things larger than themselves. Rorschach is more just an empty psychopath to me now, but I admire his "never surrender, never compromise" attitude - even if I could never live by it and don't think anyone should. Likewise, other heroes Nite Owl and Silk Spectre disappointed me the first time around because they gave in so easily. Now I rejoice at their humanity - how they find the things personally important to them and hang on, though the world falls apart.

So yeah. WATCHMEN. Maybe, as the guy from Slate suggested, it made comics grow up. Whatever. The most important thing is that it's a hell of an epic read.

3) College sports. I mean, really, is there anything much better than this time of year, when the two greatest of all intercollegiate athletics - football and men's basketball co-exist in the hearts, minds, and TIVOs of young men like myself? Seriously, I can't get enough. Two weeks ago, there was Rivalry Week Part One. Ohio State beating Michigan. Auburn beating Alabama. Then Rivalry Week Part Two. Texas beating A&M. And now finally, there's this weekend - basically the last straw before bowl season gets set. Texas plays Colorado for the Big 12 championship. Georgia-LSU in the SEC. Virginia Tech-Florida State in the ACC. Army-Navy. And the battle for the City of Angels - USC-UCLA.

And that's just football, dude. Basketball's just getting started. Texas is off to a boffo start. Even Northwestern isn't licked yet. A night doesn't go by when there isn't something for me to watch on ESPN. Add in the pro stuff for a little bit of spice, and you have arguably the best time of the year.

Which isn't to say that I don't have some quibbles about college sports in 2005. I have two.

Whoa, Our Man in LA, you might be shouting. Quibbles are for the Bottom One!

I know, I know, but I have to be true to myself. So here they are – the only things that keep college sports from being mind-blowingly amazing as 2005 draws to a close:

A) The Big East is part of the BCS. Look, I’m not even going to get involved in the whole argument about the college football national championship. I don’t think the BCS is perfect, I know someone would whine about a playoff, and I frankly liked the old system where the Big Ten played the Pac Ten in the Rose Bowl every year in what I liked to call the "Wieland National Championship".

But the BCS is here for now, and I'm usually OK with it. Back during the old system, there were always a couple of major bowl games I didn't watch, and there are some now. But I respect the idea of automatic bids to the big games for leaders in all the major conferences – Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC, and Pac 10.

Notice I didn't say the Big Least. That's because the Conference is indiscernible from the mid-major conferences all over the country – groups like the MAC, the WAC, and the Mountain West. The Big Least used to have Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College – all respectable teams. But they’re gone now. And now West Virginia, a team no more worthy than the winner of tonight's MAC championship (Akron v. Northern Illinois, for those playing at home) will play in one of the big games, while some better team will play for less money, less glory, fewer ratings, and possibly in some place ridiculous like Shreveport.

In the Wieland BCS, there’d be none of that. If the Big Least doesn’t feature a Top 10 team, it loses its automatic bid. That’s all. And I’d make it easier. I’d add the venerable Cotton Bowl to the bowl games.

So the Wieland BCS would look like this in 2005. Of course, these are projections:

USC v. Texas in the Rose Bowl (BCS #1 v. BCS #2)
Penn State v. Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl (Big Ten #1 v. at-large)
Virginia Tech v. LSU in the Sugar Bowl (ACC #1 v. SEC #1)
Ohio State v. Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl (at-large v. at-large)
Auburn v. Miami in the Cotton Bowl (at-large v. at-large)

Of course, it’s too cool to happen. Guess I won’t be tuning into the real Sugar Bowl (LSU v. West Virginia). My God, how will that turn out?

B) The Big Ten plays the ACC in a pre-season tournament every college basketball season. Love it. Love the idea of it. Wish we had more conference tourneys in b’ball and football.

But this Big Ten-ACC thing should stop.

We've proven the point. We all get it. The ACC is better. This year is one of the closer in memory, and the ACC still won it 7-4 or whatever. Other years have been worse.

Basically it breaks down like this. The ACC has some teams at the top – like, say, Duke, who are always better than whatever the Big Ten has to offer. The big difference is at the bottom, where Big Ten cellar dwellers like Michigan are better than the squads driving the ACC caboose (like Miami)

The exception is Northwestern. Call my alma mater North-worst-ern. A double digit loss to Virginia? Really?

But this is what I’m talking about. The Big Ten is a middle of the pack b’ball conference, but it’s not the tops. Maybe it can swim with the Pac 10 or the Big 12 or the SEC. Not the ACC. Not the Big East. Let those two play.

Sigh. See you next year, ACC.

It would be soooo much easier and cooler for me if I ran things.

2) MARCH OF THE PENGUINS. This is another example of me coming really late to a party. I know the movie’s been out since practically the beginning of the year. I know that everyone already knows that it’s magical and beautiful. But the wife and I got a chance to take the movie in while in Dayton. It’s still playing in the birthplace of aviation, you see (at the Danberry Dollar Saver Theater – which means it cost $5 for both of us to see it.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s amazing. First, consider the crew that went to Antarctica, froze their asses off, and witnessed this amazing piece of nature. Then consider the fact that these cute little birds – who don’t fly and who are vulnerable to attacks by seals – tough it out like practically no other creature in nature. Then consider the fact that baby penguins are really cute, and it’s fun to see them pop out of those eggs, tough it out, and make their way in the world.

Loved it. Really I did. Loved it enough to get pissed off at the different interpretations and criticisms I hear about it. Yes, future film auteurs, it’s not as gritty as MURDERBALL. It’s not supposed to be. Sometimes a movie can be sweet and still not be treacly. It doesn’t kill us to not blame art for being what it is.

And no, right wingers, it’s not proof that God sees monogamy as the proper way of the world. These penguins are serial monogamists, after all. Didn’t you hear that part about how penguin couples don’t get back together each year?

Doesn’t matter. Quiet those folks down. A good movie, a fun time. It’s one of those movies that you can see with all ages and not be embarrassed.

But you knew that already, because you saw it in June.

1) Last night’s episode of LOST. Your eyes do not deceive you. Our Man in LA has come to praise LOST, not to bitch about it.

That’s because last night’s episode was one of the few that didn’t fit into the ever-expanding category of “Worst Episode Ever”. Actually, it was pretty good. You got some questions answered (Just what was it that Kate did to have all them there federal marshalls after her?), you got some sweet reunions (cool to see Jin and Sun back together again, cool to see Rose and her husband together for once).

You even got to see more of the film, courtesy of the show’s new shaman, Eko, who I like better than the original shaman, Locke. Why do I like Eko better? Simple, really. If Eko is thinking, “The Island called us” or some other metaphysical bullshit that Locke spouts on a regular basis without someone popping him in the jaw (which may be the only proof that something really mystical is going on, since I would have tried to smother Locke to death with palm fronds by now), well, then Eko keeps it to himself.

He’s quiet. Interesting and quiet. Seen and not heard. We can only guess what’s going through the guy’s mind. And that’s just fine. Additionally, the guy who plays Eko might well be the second best actor on the show, after the dude who plays Michael. Oh yeah, we got some interesting news for him, too.

So a good episode of LOST. Wonders never cease. Of course, there won’t be another one until January.

I know we’re going a little long in this posting, so I’ll get to our final items on tonight’s list:

The Bottom One:

Our Woman in LA’s obsession with MTV. Seriously, I’m thinking of calling my cable company and asking them if they can take MTV off my basic cable. She’s watching MADE right now as we speak. I have to give her an hour of quiet tonight because MAKING THE BAND is on.

Earlier this evening, she asked me why I thought it was called MAKING THE BAND now, when originally it was MAKING DA BAND.

I couldn’t think of an answer, other than, “I’m in my thirties.”

Look, I watched some MTV in my time, too. Like when I was 12. And when there were videos. And even when there were videos and shows like REAL WORLD. But now it’s like all goofy reality shows all the time. And she’s watching them. And she’s liking it.

I must be losing it. I realize that I’m old beyond my years. But I don’t care about the ever-expanding list of teenie-bopper pseudo celebs that include Britney and Kevin, Diddy or whatever his name is, Jennifer Lopez, or the folks from Punk’d.

To quote the late, great Rodney Dangerfield, when I see some of this stuff, “I know why tigers eat their young.”

Please, folks, help Our Woman in LA break the habit!

Finally, we’re closing out tonight with our bonus feature – the Our Father-in-Law movie pick. What does this entail? I’ll let the Father-in-Law explain:

“For me to sit down and watch a movie or any type of entertainment, it’s got to have one of three things. You understand what I mean? I don’t mean it can have just anything. It’s got to have one of these three things. OK? OK.

“It’s got to have T and A. Some sort of T and A.

“It’s got to have someone getting whacked. Someone’s got to die to get me to tune in.

“Or it’s got to have a referee.

“If it’s got T and A and someone getting whacked, you are guaranteed of me sitting down and watching the whole thing. I like the Carolina Panthers, so you can get me for T and A and a referee. If you can get all three, you let me know.”

This week, Our Father-in-Law recommends: BAD BOYS II.

So I checked it out. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to follow it, since I didn’t see Bad Boys I. But Our Father-in-Law is right on the money. It really is one of the most extravagant, over-the-top, can’t look away, popcorn flicks of all time. Or as the man himself would say:

“It’s got T and A, it’s got every kind of explosion and car chase, you got bullets going through everything, you got corpses falling out of buildings and getting shot. And those two guys are pretty funny, too.”

Amen. See you tomorrow.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?