Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Because, quite simply, Glee is glorious.
So, if you haven't yet tuned in, I'll catch you up so you can watch tonight:
Glee is the story of a Spanish teacher, Will, who peaked in high school when his glee club won the nationals. In the first episode (which aired last May following American Idol), the glee club teacher (a.k.a. Buffy's original principal in the unaired pilot) was fired after touching a student inappropriately, and so Will jumps in as the new glee club teacher. His band of misfits that join are Rachel (think Reese Witherspoon in Election, only more sympathetic), Finn (Chris Klein in Election, only smarter), Jenna (a Chinese girl with a slight stuttering problem), Kurt (a flamboyant soprano who's trying unsuccessfully to hide his homosexuality from everyone), Artie (referred to as "the cripple," he's in a wheelchair and has a bit of trouble joining in during the dance routines), and Mercedes, who has a voice that could stop traffic. Rachel has developed a crush on Finn, but he's dating Quinn, the head cheerleader and president of the celibacy club. In last week's episode, she announced to Finn that he'd somehow impregnated her to cover up the fact that she'd actually had sex with Puck, the morally reprehensible jock who is Finn's best friend. Puck has figured out the truth, and is pretty ticked. Meanwhile, Rachel wants to have all the leads in the songs, and is upset whenever Will gives them to anyone else, and she's defected from Glee Club to the school production of Cabaret (which is masterminded by the villainous cheerleading coach).
The school's claim to fame is that the cheerleading squad is a Bring It On type that has gone to nationals and won several trophies, under the tutelage of drill sergeant Sue Sylvester (played by the inimitable Jane Lynch, who is never seen without a full Adidas track suit). She's threatened by the glee club, and needs to convince the rest of the school that it's made up of a bunch of Losers (capital L) and she'll do anything to bring it down. The guidance counsellor, Emma, is a germaphobe who is always wearing plastic gloves and cleaning off everything with Lysol wipes before sitting next to it (we found out why a couple of weeks ago) and the football coach, Ken, has designs on her. Will, Emma, and Ken sit together at lunch (and Sue usually shows up to brag about the interviews she's been doing and to deliver some overpriced snack for everyone before immediately leaving the room again) and Emma and Will are starting to notice a connection between them.
But Will is married to Terri, who works at "Sheets-N-Things" (Ha!) and is constantly complaining about her very difficult life, having to stand on her feet for three 4-hour shifts a week, which is KILLING her. She finds out she's pregnant, and just as Will is starting to gravitate to Emma, he realizes he really wants to be a father and embraces his new family. When Terri immediately finds out she's NOT, in fact, pregnant, and that her body made her believe it was, she doesn't tell Will, and is now wearing a belly pad and looking for a baby she can call her own to trick him.
It's an insane show, and much like "School of Rock," where the actors were hired for their singing ability over their acting, there are moments where the acting is a little wooden (Jenna, for example, usually stutters on the first word of a sentence and then never does it again in the scene, so for the first couple of episodes I always thought she was tripping over her lines, rather than portraying someone with a speech difficulty; Kurt can be a little wooden as well, even though I completely love him). Jane Lynch is the true star of the show for me -- last week when she got her own segment on the local news, the show moved from the glorious to the sublime. Everything out of her mouth makes me laugh. In one scene she's talking down to Will ("condescending" is the ONLY tone she takes with him) and tosses her iron pills at him for energy, telling him that it's great for menstruation. He says, "I don't menstruate." Without missing a beat, she replies, "Neither do I." The show is filled with awesome moments:
• The gang performing Journey's "Don't Stop Believin" at the end of the first episode in May
• The "Acafellas" performing "Poison," especially with Ken delivering the line, "Cause my crew used to do her" at the end, which had me in stitches
• Kurt trying to perfect Beyonce's choreography from her Single Ladies video by performing it in his basement, complete with a spangled glove and two backup girls wearing black leotards
• The football team performing the same moves (I think I've watched that scene 10 times now)
• Quinn telling Finn that he impregnated her when they were in a hot tub together
• The scene of the Celibacy club dancing with balloons between them
• Will's mother talking to Josh Groban, which is one of the funniest things I've seen all season.
• The scene in Emma's office after she catches Rachel trying to purge in the toilet. The brochures in the background have sayings like, "Why won't my Bipolar Mother Stop Yelling?" and Rachel tells Emma she's tried purging but she doesn't have an active gag reflex, to which Emma replies, "When you're older, you'll see that as a gift." HAHAHAHA!!
Last season I was devastated when Pushing Daisies was cancelled, and while I may never have that perfect blend of dark, funny, and fantasy in such a wonderful mix again, Glee definitely fills some of the void that show left behind. Even better, Kristen Chenoweth (Olive!) guest stars in tonight's episode as someone Will brings along to help everyone at glee club. I'm so excited I might just sing... sing... sing... [music swells] Oh. Wait. I can't sing. Sigh...
Tune in tonight and reward your inner gleek.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Seriously, did you ever notice there were so many TVs on the island?? I think this video is brilliant, just for the reaction shots of everyone. :) Enjoy!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Seasons 1 and 2 were brilliant, but so far season 3 is my favourite. I think 6 episodes have aired already, and every week I keep meaning to write up something on it, but I keep missing the boat. So I'm writing this on Friday (while Dollhouse is actually on, but my husband is currently commandeering the TV catching up on last night's Flashforward and I'm FREAKING that I'm not watching Dollhouse in real time here!!) to post it on Sunday.
This season finds all of the characters in transition. Don and Betty have just had a new baby, and for the first few episodes, Betty was still pregnant and dealing with her ailing and aging father, who suddenly died right before she gave birth. For me, this is one of the most fascinating and horrific storylines yet -- no, not the whole father dying bit, but what it was like being pregnant in the 1960s!!! ZOMG. First of all, the maternity clothes were HIDEOUS, making this gorgeous woman look like she's wearing a tent the entire time. She smokes, drinks, and does whatever she wants while pregnant. No one worries about her "condition," even if she mentions it every once in a while, and there's no judgement against her for doing things. While I don't smoke or drink, and therefore had to give up nothing for my pregnancies, I have friends who would go out to a restaurant and have a small glass of wine and the looks they endured from people at nearby tables made them wither and push the glass away, ordering a water instead. (But at least their maternity clothes were more fashionable!) And that doesn't even BEGIN to cover the actual birth scene. Yowzers. It's white, sterile, clinical, and they pump so many drugs into Betty's poor frame it's a wonder that kid didn't have to go on methodone as soon as he was born just to deal with the immense withdrawal. Don walks her into the hospital, where she's promptly put into a wheelchair, he's told "your work is done now" and he ends up having an excruciating wait for several hours in the waiting room while Betty deals with nurses who know better, doctors who just jab her with needles to knock her out constantly, and hallucinations that are both vibrant and terrifying. I, on the other hand, remember coming into the hospital through emergency where I had to walk the length of the hospital to the bank of elevators that would take me to triage, and I had to stop every minute to have another contraction against the wall. Where was MY wheelchair??!! Oh, I kid. I'd take that any day over the horrible way they depicted it here. And today's generation often says, "And imagine those fathers who just sat around doing nothing in the waiting rooms" like they were somehow layabouts. I can tell you my husband would have much rather been with me, knowing what was happening, than pacing a waiting room for 20 hours not knowing a thing. And then there's the Bety staying in the hospital for a week, and Don going back to work a couple of hours after the baby was born...
But anyway, on to the rest of the show. There's an early scene where Roger and his ex-wife meet to discuss the impending wedding of their daughter, and the daughter tells the father that in no way does she want his new young wife to be there, because it'll embarrass her in front of everyone. He tells her that there's no way he's going to leave his wife at home, and looks at his ex, picks up the invite and says he'll be sure to tell his wife the date. (The kicker: the date on the invite was November 23, the day after JFK's assassination will be.) He later tells Don that he's not going to let his wife win this one, but clearly he's not considering his daughter at all. War among the exes at the expense of the children, sadly, is not something that had changed at all, even with 50 years under our belts.
Peggy is considering a change of her own, as she's not making nearly the money that the other copy writers are, and is being courted by another agency. Will she go? Meanwhile, Joan's husband was supposed to become the chief resident of the hospital, and she put in her notice to coincide with the day he was going. And then he doesn't get the position and tells her that she'll have to go back to work, which she can't imagine doing now that they've all had a party for her. Will Peggy leave, and Joan will go with her?
Sal has a brief flirtation with fabulousness as he not only gets caught with a busboy by Don in a hotel, but he performs a Broadway routine in the bedroom and his wife finally has that look in her eye like, "Oh. So THAT'S why you're not totally into this whole sex thing..." I wanted this to be the season of Sal, but that might have been it. Oh, and Pete Campbell and his wife perform a choreographed dance for the ages in the first episode that had me in stitches.
Meanwhile, the Brits have taken over the company, and in this past episode (my fave of the season so far), a young buck shows up from England, having gone to the London School of Economics, and he will be taking over as one of the heads, along with Don and Bertram (he forgot to add Roger's name to the flowchart). But Cosgrove, in the meantime, had just landed the John Deere account, and he brings one of their new riding mowers into the office. At the big good-bye party for Joan, everything is going swimmingly, and then Lois decides to hop on the lovely riding mower and ride it around the office. Unfortunately she forgot about the blades, and gets too close to the young Brit... and then this happens.
One of the craziest and funniest moments EVER on Mad Men (and that gif never gets old for me!) Only made funnier by Kinsey telling Roger that he might lose his foot, and Roger replying, "Just when he got it in the door" as a guy is squeegeeing the blood off the windows in the background. My husband and I were laughing our heads off, all the while horrified at the same time.
I wish Mad Men lasted the entire year. I can't believe it's almost done already. Why can't there be more episodes?? Right now, it's the best show on television (while Lost isn't running, of course!) and I think it's extraordinary.
And I'll mention once again that if you haven't already, pick up a copy of Jesse McLean's Kings of Madison Avenue, a book the establishes the socio-political context of the show, and which has made me watch this new season in a completely new and intriguing light.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Yeah. Not the one to recommend to the mother-in-law. (I've tried. You know I'm not kidding.)
For those of you who watch Dexter, though, you know what a fantastic show this is. Season 1 was about the Ice Truck Killer, who (spoiler for season 1!) turned out to be Dexter's brother, of all people. He and his brother had watched their mother get hatcheted to death by an axe during a drug deal gone awry, and the police officer who took them out of the situation carried Dexter out and adopted him, and left the brother behind. Big bro became a serial killer in his own right, and season 1 ended with poor Dex having to kill the only person who could ever understand what was happening in Dexter's head. In season 2, Dexter began searching for more clues about his adopted father and his real mother, while the police discovered all the bags of bodies he'd been dumping into the Harbour, and he realized that for the first time, he was in serious danger of being caught. His relationship with Rita -- which in the beginning had been one of convenience, because he had no need for sex, and Rita, having been raped, didn't want it either -- began heating up as she wanted to be more serious and finally wanted to have sex with him. (Spoiler for season 2 ahead!) Somehow he managed to convince the department that the real killer was Sergeant Doakes, who'd been on to Dex from the beginning, and who died a fiery death. Meanwhile, Dexter had hooked up with a pyromaniac crazy woman, to whom he'd admitted some of his darkest secrets, and with whom he had wild sex he actually enjoyed. But he did away with her, too. In season 3 he and Rita became friends with Jimmy Smits and his wife, and Smits, being the DA, was sick and tired of watching criminals walking away from crimes, and he commented to Dexter that the Bay Harbour Butcher was actually a good guy, since they'd linked all of the victims in bags to criminals who'd gotten away with their acts. When he catches Dexter in the middle of doing away with one of his victims, he wants in, and Dexter allows him to enter the dark world he lives in. (season 3 spoiler ahead!) But Smits' character had other plans, and he began killing people who he just didn't like, rather than killing by Dexter's code. Unhappy that this person knew too much, and that he was a dangerous loose cannon who could go off at any time, Dexter offed him at the end of the season. Just as Rita announced she was pregnant.
And now, in season 4, it's several months later, Rita's had the baby, and Dexter is dead tired and has been up night after night feeding this newborn baby and helping him go back to sleep. He's married to Rita now, he's falling asleep on the job, Aster (Rita's eldest daughter) is becoming a teenager and hates him, and Cody, the younger one, still loves to play with Dex, who is too tired to reciprocate half the time. And how does a serial killer sneak away at night to kill people when he's had a total of 10 hours of sleep in the past week and can barely stay awake during the day, much less at night? That's what season 4 is all about. Dexter wants to have it all: the wife, the kids, the new baby, the house, the job... and the freedom to kill bad people at night and maintain his sociopathic tendencies.
Ah, the American Dream.
Meanwhile, there's a new serial killer on the loose. John Lithgow joins the cast this year as the creepiest killer yet -- in an early scene, the calm way in which he kills his victim, and the look on his face, will haunt you for a very long time.
An old face from the show returns, and with his return one person in particular finds her world turned upside-down. As we watch Lithgow's methods -- and Dexter begins showing up at the scenes of his crimes, and, as he did with the Ice Truck Killer, tries to hide the fact that he's DEEPLY IMPRESSED by this guy -- what unfolds is one of the most dangerous people we've ever seen on the show. Who is he, why does he kill the way he does, and is it as random as we think?
I've seen the first four episodes, and they were bloody fantastic. You will see Dexter in a way you've never seen before; Lithgow's character oozes with a sadism that is SO creepy I can barely put it into words; the writing and acting are fantastic; and Deb's colourful language is in top form. DO NOT miss this show -- season 4 is shaping up to be the best one yet.... if Dexter can actually stay awake for all of it.
Dexter premieres on The Movie Network in Canada and Showtime in the U.S. at 10pm ET on Sunday, September 27.
Oh, and just have to share this. I get strange promo kits all the time, but this one probably takes the cake (and I've never laughed like this after getting one). Just today, there was a knock at the door and the courier was there with a package for me. My husband got the door and signed for it, and it was a gift bag for a new baby. He handed it to me and the tag on it said, "To Nikki Stafford, Nik at Nite." For a brief moment I thought, "I mentioned it was my son's birthday this week on my blog... did one of my readers somehow find out where I lived?" But inside was a card that said, "It's a Boy!" and I thought, "What?!" and I opened it to find three milk chocolate cigars that had the Dexter logo on them and a reminder to watch this Sunday. Freakin' brilliant.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Er... hm. Is my life really boring??
Anyway, NOT SO with these characters, but that's the beauty of it. See, if your mind flashes forward 6 months from now, then presumably the next 6 months will be a complete rollercoaster as you deal with the strong emotions you had during the flash, try to figure out what it all meant, watch other people around you falling apart or lifting themselves up (depending on the nature of their visions), and wait for the inevitable to happen. It's a brilliant concept.
And, for my money, it was executed well in this opening episode. The cast is a great one. Joseph Fiennes is amazing as Mark, the FBI agent who belongs to AA, whose wife leaves him purposely nasty notes as an inside joke (rather than "I love you," she tells him that she hopes she never sees him again or that he's a crappy husband, and that's their own funny shorthand for "I love you"). His American accent is flawless; you'd never know this was the funny British guy from Shakespeare in Love and numerous rom-coms.
Sonya Walger (who we know as Penn-eh) doesn't handle her American accent very well (why not just make the actress a Brit and get on with it?) but otherwise she's great. I really enjoyed seeing her in a leading role, rather than playing second fiddle to the rest of the cast on Lost. The guy who plays Mark's AA sponsor, Aaron, has a terrible accent (I have no idea where he's from, but he sounded mostly Irish to me... watch, with my luck he's probably from Kansas). The actor looked somewhat familiar to me, but without the beard. I can't place him. But otherwise, he was great, and the scenes of him talking about his daughter were gut-wrenching. He was one of the more intriguing people for me.
The breadth of the visions is what will keep us going for the rest of the season. Mark saw a future where he is on the hunt of the person who caused the blackout, has fallen off the wagon, and his life is in danger. His wife saw herself with a different man who she was completely in love with and is devastated to think she'd cheat on her husband. Aaron, on the other hand, saw his dead daughter living again. While Olivia's colleague had a gun to his head the moment before the blackout, his vision of being alive and well in the future has given him a reason to live and realize this happier future.
And Demetri, Mark's partner, saw nothing. Which, to him, could only mean one thing.
Things I noticed:
• The directing in this was spectacular, from the long shot shown above where Mark jumps up on the bridge, to the shot behind Bryce's head as he stands on the pier and looks out over the water, to the closeups, to the whacked-out confusion of the flashes.
• One of the things Mark had written on his bulletin board was "Red Panda," and we saw it a lot, yet he doesn't recall it when he's going back over his memory.
• One might think, hey, the friendship bracelet from his daughter isn't the end of the world: just take it off and you thwart the future. But if your kid makes you a bracelet, YOU WEAR IT.
• Demetri's fiance wants their first dance to be "Islands in the Stream" (which made me laugh, because my mom was obsessed with Kenny and Dolly when I was growing up... every time I hear one of their Christmas songs, I CRINGE). One of the lines is "Sail away with me, to another world" which points to the otherworldliness of what is happening to everyone.
• Um... no Chah-lie?? :(
• Maybe we're supposed to think this, but the silhouette in the stadium at the end looked like Lloyd Simcoe. Or Neil Gaiman. OMG, Neil Gaiman is behind everything!!
Fun stuff for Losties:
• The very title of the series is reminiscent of Jack's flashforward from season 3, and the many ones we've seen since. This idea of showing us the future and then leading us up to it is definitely a Lost touch.
• I nearly jumped off the couch (OK, I TOTALLY jumped off the couch) when Mark was sitting in his car and in one shot you can see a billboard behind him for Oceanic Airlines!!! What an awesome homage to its predecessor. I couldn't see what was written on the side of the sign, but humanebean emailed me and I got his email just now, and he says it reads, "Perfect safety record." HAHAHA!! Maybe the time flash was caused by Jack dropping the bomb, which reset time and events and now Oceanic never crashed!! ZOMG!
• Not only is there time travelling (even if it's just consciousness-travelling, which is Desmond's specialty) but the overriding question of the season looks like it might be, once again, free will vs. fate. Are they all destined to live out what they saw? Can they change their futures through their own choices?
What did you think of the premiere episode?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
For me, the other highlights of the Emmys were:
-Jimmy Fallon singing through the auto-tuner: I generally can't stand the guy, but I was laughing so hard at the sound of his voice when he fell that I couldn't breathe
-the naming of the writing staff for the variety shows. HELLO?? That is usually the worst part of the night, as they say, "For The Colbert Report" and then list 17 people's names from the writing staff... but instead, the writing staff of each show came up with the way they'd present their names, from the Colbert Report writers standing in front of the Letterman marquee, to the Daily Show writers being represented by clunker cars, to Billy Crystal singing the writing staff names for Letterman, and, my personal favourite, Conan O'Brien clicking through the writer's names on his laptop, hitting Ignore for all their Facebook friend requests. HAHAHA!!
-Ricky Gervais. Isn't he always a highlight??
-NPH's reaction to being beaten out for the Supporting actor award by Jon Cryer (I'm sorry... that was just WRONG) and promising it wouldn't be awkward, then making it awkward
-the Big Bang Theory guys (and gal) presenting an award
-John Hodgman's fake colour commentary
-the writers talking about why writing is fun (and Matt Weiner telling one of his writing staff he doesn't care about them, while Carlton Cuse clocked Damon)
-pairing Angel and Bill as vampire presenters
Actually, MANY of the nominee lists were the best part of the evening! After the Oscars attempted a new way of listing nominees -- where former winners stood on stage and told them how awesome they were -- and it COMPLETELY fell flat and extended my already extended evening too long, this one got it right. Considering Neil Patrick Harris was a producer of the telecast, I'm thinking he came up with a lot of the bits.
This was probably the first award show where I really didn't care about the winners, and just watched the show for its own entertainment value. Who can say that about awards shows??
Monday, September 21, 2009
Congratulations to Michael Emerson for FINALLY winning the Best Supporting Actor Emmy last night. It's well deserved and long overdue. Just rewatching him as Benry in season 2 makes me realize what a wondrous actor he is, and what the show was missing without him. Congratulations, Ben!!
Sunday, September 20, 2009
As you know from my other posts on True Blood, there was a lot to love about this season. I didn't feel that it went out in the blaze of glory that it could have (the episode with Godric's death had more of a season finale feeling than this one did) and I was a tad disappointed with how things played out. But that could have been because there wasn't enough Eric in the episode. ;)
I also felt like Bill was rather neutered this season. At home he mopes around unable to deal with his the teenage virgin he'd turned into a vampire in season 1. When they went away to the vamp hotel he was held hostage by his maker while Sookie was trapped in the Fellowship church and was unable to help her. As Sookie is discovering that things are pretty grisly in Bon Temps, he's stuck with the Vamp Queen of Louisiana playing Yahtzee. He just seemed sort of useless as the writers came up with one thing after another to keep him away from Sookie so either Eric could use his influence or Sookie could deal with things on her own. It was an unfortunate use of that character.
And that Vamp Queen... I don't know what it is about her, but I didn't like her. I didn't actually recognize her at first (I kept saying to my husband, "I know that actress from somewhere") and didn't realize it was Rachel Leigh Cook, but all I could see were the pimples on her chin that someone had heavily covered in makeup. I think using an unknown actress would have worked better in that scene, and not someone who looks so familiar (and young... if you're a vamp and can heal yourself, can't you heal a zit?) She just didn't do it for me. Her purpose was to keep Bill away from Sookie, and then Eric away from Sookie. Though watching Bill and Eric playing Yahtzee endlessly was pretty funny.
These are small quibbles in an otherwise grand season. I'm glad Tara's back to normal, but next season will see her trying to come to terms with Eggs' death and her mother once again. Bill's disappeared, and it's not clear who's taken him (ooh, the big season 3 mystery!) and Eric is a part of both Sookie and Lafayette, which will probably take on greater significance next season. I'm excited to see it, and overall I was content with the way things finished up. I loved Michelle Forbes, even though Maryann was hot and cold for me at times. What show will she show up on next??
What did you think of the finale?
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Yes, I watch Chuck.
Well... confession time. I watched Chuck. (Please don't hate me.) I watched it and LOVED it through season 1. I watched the first half of season 2. Then, once again, while I was working on the books I let it pile up on my PVR and figured I'd catch up on it in the summer.
But despite laughing out loud at least twice in every episode, and loving Chuck completely, every episode started to feel the same: Casey and Sarah would vow that Chuck would stay behind-the-scenes on the next mission, then they'd find some dude (or woman) who inevitably was connected to Fulcrum, and then Chuck would flash on them, and then they'd have to let him be a bigger part of it, and then he would be thinking about how much he loves Sarah and you can tell she really loves him, but he breaks up with her (again) and then she decides to hurt him for his own good but then they have to pretend to be together for the mission and then his sister is standing there asking what is going on with his relationship. Meanwhile, back at the Buy More, Morgan and the rest of the Nerd Herd are staging some gladiator tournament of some kind in the backroom that will either enrage the boss or bring them new kudos from the others or just be the second storyline.
And then everything would end happy (with a little bit of sad thrown in) and off we'd go to the next episode, which would be exactly the same. I love Chuck, and was THRILLED it was renewed (and will continue to be thrilled, because it will always hold a special place in my heart) but to make room for the other shows, I had to let it go. I might tune in every once in a while just to see what he's up to.
Castle is another show that's actually on my PVR. Somehow I managed to miss the very first episode (ARGH!) and keep asking my husband to download it for me so I could just watch it and then watch the rest of the series, but I don't know when it starts up again or if I have all of the eps on my PVR, so this might be a catch-up one later.
Same with Better Off Ted. I eventually gave up on waiting for him to download the first and started watching the rest, and they were HILARIOUS (why isn't anyone talking about this show??) and I think I'm missing a bunch here and there and so I'm probably not getting the full effect.
Man. Just when I thought I was overloaded with shows, I actually forget to mention THREE that are on my PVR. Sheesh. I also didn't mention that I watched all of HBO's Hung (and really liked it, even though I don't think it ranks anywhere near the top of HBO shows) and I assume y'all know I watch True Blood so I didn't mention that.
AND I didn't even begin to mention the reality shows I watch. (Yes. I watch reality TV. But only the BEST Reality TV.) Project Runway just started in Canada this week (don't give me any US spoilers please!!); So You Think You Can Dance is doing a fall season just when the summer season finished in fabulous fashion... they've lowered the commitment to one hour a week from four, however... I wonder how long that will last?? I just finished "Make Me a Supermodel" and if you're a fan of Tyra's show (or, like me, you USED to be until Tyra went bananas), WATCH THIS SHOW. It's SOOO freakin' good. LOVE it.
Oh. And I still watch EastEnders. I need SOME trash in my life. But we're still 2 years behind the Brits. Sigh.
There's no way I'm gonna have enough time for this much TV...
If you loved it, then you've probably followed more of what Jason Schwartzman -- the lead in that movie -- did after Rushmore. He's been in other movies, he's played in a band, he's still a Coppola... and now he's starring in HBO's new comedy series, "Bored to Death."
Do you like Damages? Just when you thought Ted Danson had done his best work on Cheers, and no amount of Beckers or guest spots were ever going to revive that career (with the exception of the awesome stuff he did on Curb Your Enthusiasm), he shows up as the slimy yet difficult-to-read Arthur Frobisher on Damages, and I, for one, went, "Sam who??" He is BRILLIANT on that show... and now he's starring in "Bored to Death."
Did you see The Hangover? Some people went to see it because of that poster with the guys and the baby. Ed Helms is hilarious (and very Ed Helmsy). Bradley Cooper FINALLY leads a movie, something Alias fans have known for years that he was quite capable of doing. But the real standout was Zach Galifianakis. You may have seen his sardonic standup over the years (it's pretty much like the character in the movie) but for a lot of people, he just came from out of nowhere and stole that film. And now he's co-starring in... well, I think you get the picture.
Bored to Death will appeal to fans of any of the above. It's is the story of Jonathan Ames, a writer who's made a name for himself with his first novel, and now is having that horrible second-book writer's block. His girlfriend has just left him, and as he commiserates with his best friend Ray (Galifianakis), a comic book artist, about women who love you for being an artiste and then leave you when reality sets in, he tries to figure out how he's going to start writing again. Meanwhile, his neurotic boss, George (Danson), the editor of a high-profile New York magazine that Ames writes for, is on his back about writing material for the magazine and supplying his re-emerging need for pot. After reading a Raymond Chandler novel for inspiration, Jonathan decides on a whim to drop an ad onto Craigslist saying he's an unlicensed private detective with reasonable rates, specializing in missing persons. Within hours, he gets his first assignment.
The result is messed-up, complicated, and hilarious. By following through on the job, Ames reveals himself as a lousy detective, and an even lousier human being, so caught up in his own problems he's not really equipped to be dealing with anyone else's. In between hunting down missing persons, he confides in Ray, who provides some of the biggest laughs and will make anyone who loved "The Hangover" want to watch this show (yes, he's pretty much the same character). I think I'll be laughing about the phrase "falcon hat" for weeks to come.
When I first read a brief synopsis, I thought, "That's strange they named him after a real novelist," having been a fan of Jonathan Ames' work (he writes absurd fiction, like "Wake Up, Sir," a novel about a layabout who suddenly comes into money, so he decides he'll hire a personal valet named Jeeves to just follow him around everywhere) and it turns out... the show is created by Jonathan Ames, who thought it would be funny to give his main loser the same name as himself. The show is a lot like Ames' fiction -- surreal, strange, filled with annoying people who all work against the main character in the same way people are always keeping Larry David down on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Danson is insane, Schwartzman is really funny, and Galifianikis is hilarious. The writing is crisp, the acting is great, and the way the other characters are eventually intertwined into Jonathan's schemes is brilliant.
Bored to Death premieres Sunday, September 20 at 9:30p.m. on HBO in the US and HBO Canada in Canada.
Friday, September 18, 2009
3.8 Flashes Before Your Eyes
Desmond goes back in time. Or imagines it. Or something.
Highlight: His underwear blows off in the blast.
I promise I'll try to prevent that from happening.
But I still haven't updated you on what I'm watching, and what went by the wayside last year. First, the tragic losses:
Ugly Betty: I loved this show. It was full of snark, and Betty, and Mark, and Wilhemina. And then Mark's snipes weren't so snipey and he was kinda nice to Betty (boring!) And then Wilhemina fell in love and actually became happy (UGH). And Betty didn't hook up with Gio (whatever!) And then Dad started getting it on with LaGuerta from Dexter, and Hilda was ragging on about how he wasn't waiting long enough (12 years or something) after their mom died. I'm sorry, Hilda... how long did you wait after your husband died before you were in bed with your son's gym coach? A week? An hour? I just couldn't take it anymore, and I deleted it from the PVR.
Heroes: Oh, this one was hard. In season 1 it rivalled my affections for Lost. It's the only series besides Lost where I did a weekly long post about it immediately after the ep aired. I suffered through that horrid finale, I came back in season 2 and desperately tried to find something I liked about it still, but there was enough there that I couldn't get rid of it, and then in season 3 the love just died. When Hiro became 12 years old again, I deleted the rest of it from my PVR, and stopped recording it. It was the most painful deletion of a timer I've had. But it's gone. No more.
And in between, and NOT one of the casualties despite what it might look like, is Fringe. Many have asked me what happened between me and that show. I got up to the 6th or 7th episode and I was working on the Finding Lost Season 4 book in the fall, and then in the spring I was working on Finding Lost Season 5. I wasn't finding enough time to devote to watching Fringe (or much else, for that matter) and to be honest, it just wasn't grabbing me. But there was enough that I DID like that I wanted to soldier on. So, I decided I'd wait for the DVDs to come out in the summer and catch up. I deleted the rest of them and waited. And then... they came out last week, ONE WEEK before the new season. Awesome work, there, Fox. I'm only about a third of the way through the season, so the rest will have to be on my PVR (I'll have to find a way to get last night's premiere... we had someone watching the kids while we were out and they stopped the recording on the show).
What I am still watching:
The Office (it also premiered last night, but I haven't had a chance to watch it)
Mad Men: I will post a longer post on this soon, but this season is freakin' fantastic. I LOVE THIS SHOW.
Dexter (new season starts September 27... longer post on that one soon, too)
Gossip Girl: The new season started this week and it's already off to a rockin' start. I thought I was going to KILL Chuck Bass in the first 5 minutes, and then realized no, no... but how much do I love that the writers are very aware that once you get a couple together, the audience loses the fun of the sexual tension? They know not to do that with Chuck and Blair, and I think they'll be as interesting as a couple as they were when they were just trying to be one. And if you haven't yet, don't forget to pick up a copy of Spotted, the new episode guide to Gossip Girl. The launch was this past Monday, and it was awesome.
Being Erica: It begins September 22 on CBC. If you're not watching Being Erica and you live in Canada... WHY?! It's one of the best things on television, an excellent show, with great writing, acting, and a perfect lead. Tune in!!
Dollhouse: It begins next Friday, September 25 (I'll try to get a longer post up on that soon, before it begins). This season promises a bunch of genre favourite actors, including Alexis Denisof, one of my favourite actors in the universe, Summer Glau, and Jamie Bamber.
30 Rock: It doesn't start until October 15, and I cannot WAIT.
Friday Night Lights: OBVS. It premieres October 28 on DirecTV and I'll be watching that feed. NBC has decided it doesn't have the ratings to run in its regular TV season, so it's pushed its second run of the episodes to next summer.
My new favourite show:
Glee: Also a longer post coming on this one soon (sheesh, seriously, get your act together, Nik), but I LOOOOVE this show. Love it. I was in love with the characters in the first episode, and while we're only on the third, I feel like I've known these people forever. And if an episode featured no one but Jane Lynch, I'd still be happy. That woman is a comedy goddess.
New shows I can't wait to see:
Vampire Diaries: Probably soapy, but I don't care, I love soapy. Especially when it involves vampires. I have the first couple of eps on the PVR and I'm hoping to catch up on the weekend.
Flashforward: It stars Charlie Pace, Harold without Kumar, Shakespeare, and Penny Widmore. What's not to love??? It begins next Thursday, September 24.
V: This doesn't start until November, but it's got Juliet and the trailer looked fantastic, so I'm there.
Bored to Death: It's got Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson, and Zach Galifianakis, and it's created by writer Jonathan Ames (whose books I LOVE). It premieres this Sunday on HBO and HBO Canada, and my longer write-up on it appears tomorrow.
Shows I'm kinda catching up on:
The Big Bang Theory: When this show first showed up in lists of new fall TV shows for 2007, I read the synopsis and basically said, "Well, THAT is my kinda show." And then an onslaught of my readers posted here and said it completely sucked, don't watch it, it's awful. THEY LIED. I've watched a few eps and thought it was hilarious, and so now I have a mish-mash of eps on my PVR from various seasons, in various orders, and I'm just watching them. And loving it.
Other shows I know I should be watching...
How I Met Your Mother: Watched the first episode, hated it, and now everyone is telling me I should have given it more of a chance. I don't have much time now, but here's hoping I can catch up somehow. The Alyson Hannigan factor is huge, of course. As is the Jason Segel one. And the Neil Patrick Harris one. Dammit, why am I not watching this show?
So, am I missing anything? (It's not like I can add anything.) And if someone could send me a schedule of how I could actually handle this while also doing the Lost rewatch and writing the book in the spring, that would be awesome. I have a feeling some other shows are going to drop off my schedule, to be picked up at a future time when... Lost isn't on the air. :( Oh no. I just imagined that future when Lost isn't around. I've gone to my dark place again....
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Among his travels, he's become friends with a guy who is one of the heads of LiveNation, the concert promoter who puts on all the gigantic shows. And U2 is one of their bands. One phone call to his buddy, and he had my birthday gift all ready.
So I'm here now to tell you all about my U2 experience. First, I'd been to Chicago just the weekend before to my stepbrother's wedding (pleas to the family to switch it to the second weekend so I could combine it with my U2 excursion went unheeded, dammit) so I'd gotten to the know the lay of the land pretty well. I'd been to Chicago many times, but not recently, so it was nice to get myself oriented the following weekend.
So this past Saturday, I stepped off the plane at Midway Airport with my friend F, and we passed through the security gates after clearing customs (I had the same guy I'd had the week before)... to be faced with about 60 blue-suited security folks all lined up in the foyer. It actually stopped me in my tracks for a second, and you could tell they were rather amused by our faces. Then I leaned over to F and said, "Oh no, they've found you out!" and then thought immediately, "Uh oh... I probably shouldn't have said that in an airport..." but then one of them winked at us and said, "Don't be alarmed." We passed through their midst quickly and as we got out and onto the shuttle bus, I joked, "Maybe U2 were on the next flight... this is, after all, the airport where private jets land." F went nuts, thinking maybe this could be true, and then to add to it the shuttle bus driver made a comment about how U2 had landed at Midway Airport. As we got off the bus, F made a beeline to the driver to find out if it had, in fact, been at the same time as our plane, but it turns out they'd arrived on Thursday.
So now it was off to the Park Hyatt to pick up the tix, where my husband's friend was staying with the band (eeee!) and where he was leaving the tickets at the concierge's desk for me. I knew where it was, because it was about a block away from the hotel I'd stayed at the weekend before. We came up the same street, turned the corner, and this is what I saw:
People were EVERYWHERE. For half a second I thought, "Ooh, was there an accident?" before realizing no, they knew where the band was staying, and knew they'd have to come out of there at some point! Cops everywhere, security lining the building... and I had a legitimate reason to actually go in. What to do? I went in. We walked over to the front desk, I gave my name, then tried my husband's name, then tried spelling my name... turns out the last name had been misspelled (according to them... when I saw the envelope, it was spelled correctly, I just think they weren't reading the handwriting correctly or something). The funny thing is, there were a bunch of people staying at the Park Hyatt who were loitering in the lobby with digital cameras, sort of looking around in a "Doo doo dooo... hm... I wonder what I should do today. I could... go out? Or I could stand here? Hm. I just don't know... maybe I'll stand here. I'll turn my camera on, too. You never know when I might see a vase with a pretty flower in it." Har.
So F and I tried to make conversation and wander away from the desk while they looked for the envelope, thinking the longer it takes them to find it, the better our chances of actually seeing the guys up close. No such luck... they found it (dammit!) and then they wanted my ID, which I'd left at the hotel near the airport (double dammit!) but I explained I didn't have it, and spelled the name of the guy who'd left it for me (it's a tough name and difficult to spell, but I'm an EDITOR, for god's sakes... I don't get these things wrong) and luckily, she handed it off. :)
(By the way, that wasn't the only time I was asked for my ID! I stopped at a Walgreen's because my ragweed allergies were acting up a bit and I'd left my Reactine at home, so I went in and they had a pkg with only 5 Claritin in it, which is what I wanted, but you had to go up to the counter to get them, so I did, handed them the slip of paper and they asked for my ID. F had hers, so she handed it over and they said no, sorry, they needed a PASSPORT. WHAT?! It's frickin' ALLERGY medication, and it's over-the-counter. No can do, they said... this is a Canadian license (oh well, excuse me) and they needed the prime minister to verify she was actually who she said she was or something... eventually she was able to show a passport card she also had on her, and they handed it over. I politely asked, "Why all the fuss for allergy medication?" as the female pharmacist rang up the order, and she said, "There's an ingredient in there that you can use to make crystal meth." Uhhh... WHAT???!!... I think those were actually my exact words. She pointed out the ingredient, again apologized for the hassle, and said, "It's too bad that some people want to fry their brains, and then innocent people like yourself who sincerely need some cold medication have to go through all of this just to get it." We thanked her, I left... and the pills are still sitting in my purse. I was deathly afraid to take them, thinking there's no way I wanted anything in my body that you put in crystal frickin' meth. And then my husband later told me it's just a stimulant that's in allergy medication that makes it non-drowsy... Sigh.)
So back to my story... now we couldn't really loiter around the Park Hyatt, so we left. We went up the street, came back, the people were still there, we grabbed something to eat, came back, people were still there. Amused, I called my husband and asked if he'd heard from his friend, wondering if maybe they were already at the stadium and maybe these fans were waiting for nothing. My husband said no, he'd actually JUST gotten off the phone with him talking about something else, and the guy was there in the hotel with the band, so they were definitely still there. But honestly, at that point F and I figured the band would make a beeline from the hotel to their car and wouldn't hang about, so we didn't, either. I hope the fans actually got to see the guys, because it would suck they'd waited that long for nothing.
So I mapped out how we'd take the transit to Soldier's Field, and we started heading along the Mile looking at the shops (all of which I'd hit the weekend before, my poor credit card knows all too well) and then hit some landmarks, and kept walking, and walking, and before we knew it we were at Millennium Park with the Bean (if you haven't seen it, it's a lot of fun... it's a mirrored sculpture where you walk up and take a picture of yourself all distorted and looking squat and fat, but you end up with the skyline of Chicago behind you). Unfortunately all of the skyline pics I took had F in them, and she probably wouldn't want me to post them here, so all I have is this one shot of me close up with bad hair that the Chicago humidity made all crazy. ;)
Anyway, I'm being long-winded (what else is new? my readers say to themselves...) We eventually decided we were over halfway to Soldier's Field, we might as well walk the entire way. By the time we got to the stadium we joined massive crowds of people all coming at the same time. Snow Patrol were already into their set, but I'm not a huge fan, so I wasn't sad that I was missing anything.
Soldier's Field, if you haven't been there, is MASSIVE. Absolutely huge. And yet it was dwarfed in the presence of the gigantic stage set-up that U2 had with them. My husband's friend had emailed him months before it was released to the public, telling him his mind will be blown when he sees it. And my mind... was blown. Now, typically I'm not one to be awed by stage sets (I will admit that I joked at one point before the set that it reminded me of Bowie's Glass Spider, but while that one didn't actually serve much purpose on the tour, this set-up did). I'd rather just watch the band. But it's the functionality of this thing that has to be seen to be believed. (Or believed to be seen, I should say... U2 reference, yay!) This pic is Snow Patrol performing under it. Bono referred to it as the spaceship throughout the set, and it has a 360-degree screen and is surrounded by audience, rather than being at one end with the audience in front of the stage. And unlike another U2 tour (I think it was All That You Can't Leave Behind) where they had fans seated behind them but NEVER PLAYED TO THEM (said one of the fans seated behind them... yes, that was me brooding through the entire show in Toronto), this time the band used the entire setup. You can see the screens, and four giant arms holding it up (inside of which were the spotlight operators) and then there was an outer ring where audience members in the Red Zone were between the stage and it, and the band would walk along that outer ring, and two moving bridges would constantly swing around connecting the front part of the stage to the outer ring. I'm probably not describing it very well, but it was pretty cool, and functional. Unlike some godawful bombastic sets I've seen that are all show, no use, this one was pretty awesome.
Especially if you were standing where I was. How close was I? THIS CLOSE:
WOOOHOOOOOOO!!!!! Oh yeah, baby!! I took that pic, along with many, many others. Oh, you want to see more? OK! Here's Edge being cool:
Here's Bono looking like God:
And then doing it again, as he crossed the bridge toward me:
He came over to my side of the stage, reached down, was met with a sea of hands, moved his hand toward mine... and grabbed it. Oh my GOD I was the woman he was about to pull onto the stage during "With or Without You"!! My legs almost gave out as I was being pulled up, and my friend F was screaming and jumping up and down as I yelled, "Get some good pictures!!" And then he looked into my eyes, and then... Well, then the fantasy was over as the first encore started and my mind snapped back into reality, and they went into With or Without You, the song Bono USUALLY pulls someone up onto the stage for, but instead he was too busy playing with his fancy microphone that dropped from the sky like those old-fashioned ones in boxing rings... though this one looked more like the Target symbol.
As I mentioned earlier, the screens were really amazing. The screen was at the top, as you could see in the picture above, but throughout the set they began to break apart, and the screen at the top became a giant column that looked like it was about to consume the band, and allowed you to still see video footage of them on it while acting as a secondary light show. It was wicked:
Eventually the column collapsed down upon itself and the pieces came together, but it lowered, rather than raised itself, and now the screens were just above the heads of the band. It expanded again later in the set and eventually folded itself back up at the top. I was in awe. I remember discussing with F how difficult it must be to break this thing down after a show and rebuild it (as I said to her, "Sheesh, I hate packing my house to move... how the hell do you mark the boxes when you're packing THAT thing??") Turns out one set was built for the European tour, and two were built for the North American one and they criss-cross shows. So while U2 are playing two nights in Chicago on one set, the second set is already in Toronto being built. Then the set in Chicago is dismantled and taken to Boston, the band plays Toronto and leaves for Boston, and the Toronto one is dismantled, etc. It's a massive, massive undertaking, but it worked for me.
Are U2 the Rolling Stones of today, as one paper suggested the morning after the show, suggesting that fans don't care about new music from them and only want the greatest hits? Perhaps. When they perform "Pride" or "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," you can barely hear the band over the crowd belting it out. When they play the songs from the latest album, you can see a few people singing along, while the rest of them are wondering when they're going to get to "Where the Streets Have No Name." But I think U2 are still a very relevant band. The new material was actually really great stuff live, and while I'm STILL working on that album growing on me, I preferred the songs live.
And then there's the "message" portion of the show. There was a moment where Bishop Tutu addressed the audience from the screens and he began talking about children in Africa who would have died without the help of so many charitable people, but now they'll grow up to be doctors and teachers or whatever they want to be. These little faces flashed across the screens and I know it's meant to manipulate, but there was just something about this gigantic stadium filled to the rafters with fans who were completely silent to listen to this man talk that really choked me up. The children's faces flashed across the screens and I could feel my eyes welling up and I was desperately wiping them away hoping F wasn't noticing what a blubberer I was being. I've seen Bono pontificate from stage before and it's elicited little more than an eyeroll from me (oh really? You want us to urge our government to drop the debt and take it over ourselves through extra taxes, etc.? Well how about you lower that $250 price tag on your damn ticket and THEN I'll have extra money to give to them??) Ahem. But this time it was something different. During "Walk On" Bono talked about Aung San Suu Kyi, whom they wrote the song about, who is Burma's democracy leader but has been under house arrest since 1990, and the ruling militia refuses to give over any power to her or the people. They handed out masks with her face on them to everyone in the Red Zone and we were supposed to wear them during the song (I guess it's meant to be a "put yourself in her place for a minute" sort of thing -- here's a pic of a guy who kept his on the back of his head throughout the show, and was standing right beside me so I felt like someone was staring at me the entire time, which was a little unnerving) and instead most people held the masks above their heads, which I thought was a little more effective. Unfortunately, the floors were littered with her face after, which sort of killed the point for me -- did anyone really get the message if they just chucked the mask away the moment the show was over and allowed everyone to walk on her face rather than think about her plight? But for a few moments, Bono was able to let people know about her, and that was important.
The show was amazing, and yes, I have tickets to the Thursday show in Toronto and I cannot WAIT. Getting out of the Soldier's Field, on the other hand... what a horror show. There was one door -- ONE DOOR -- on the west side of the place and they funneled as many people through that as they could, where there was an iron fence waiting outside of it and we had to slowly shuffle along the fence, through a garden area, around a corner, and meet the traffic coming out of the other side, where they'd then barricaded the otherwise wide exit so it was this tiny thing, and then rather than let people use the sidewalks, they again shuffled us all over to the other side of the street toward the Field Museum so even THAT took forever. No word of a lie: the show was over at 11 (there was a curfew) and we got out of the place and onto the main street that was about 100 feet away at 12:40. It took less time for me to FLY FROM TORONTO than it did to get out of that stadium. What a nightmare.
But otherwise, it was a hell of a birthday gift. Thank you, hubby. :)
So... tell me about your U2 stories. Are you going to this tour?
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The TIFF marks the beginning of the fall movie season for me, and what better time to post about another guidebook I think y'all should be buying for yourselves and for other people at Christmas. The book is Lord of the Films: The Unofficial Guide to Tolkien's Middle-earth on the Big Screen, and it's written by J.W. Braun. If you've been involved in the Lost rewatch at all, you'll know him as JW, a frequent poster there. Again, full disclosure: I was the editor on this book. I didn't acquire it for the press (I was on maternity leave when it came in) but the moment I sat down and read through the raw manuscript for the first time, I was in love with it instantly.
Lord of the Films is a guide to all of the movie adaptations of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy, with the main focus, of course, being on the Peter Jackson films. There are sidebars and background stories on the animated versions (and what worked and what didn't in those) but for the most part, this book is a behind-the-scenes and fan-filled look at the Peter Jackson adaptations and how the Tolkien fans responded.
Braun breaks down each film into its major parts (mainly how the film is broken down on the DVD scene menus), and then for each of those parts he includes four different subsections: what some fans said out loud in theatres during the films (these range from the bizarre to the laugh-out-loud hilarious, like when one fan, shortly after the first film begins, shouts out, "Hey, you missed page 33!"); little details and important symbolism you may not have noticed in the films; nitpicks and bloopers; and behind-the-scenes stories of what was happening during filming and production. It's a brilliant book, and fans will love it. Complete with Q&As of some of the crew members who were in NZ for the three years it took to complete the trilogy, sidebars of some of the fandom-generated activities or merchandising or other fun bits, awesome photos of the landscapes, actors, and other fun LOTR-related Kodak moments, and early information about Jackson's much-anticipated Hobbit films, this book is the perfect compendium for fans.
This is one of those cases where the back-cover bumpf is actually true -- after reading this book, you'll go back and watch the trilogy again with a fresh pair of eyes, as if it's the first time you're watching it. The book is available now, and you can buy it here. Get your copy and then come back here and tell us what you thought. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Friday, September 04, 2009
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Here's my feel-good story of the week (we need these a lot more these days, I think). Every once in a while I need to share something that isn’t television-oriented, and may be considered a little more personal than a lot of the stuff I write about on here. But this is something I wanted to talk about because of how much it inspired me. My inspiration? My daughter, Sydney, who turned five years old a week ago.
I’ve mentioned on here before that Syd is obsessed with Monarch caterpillars and butterflies. A little over a year ago, a wonderful caregiver of hers taught her about raising the caterpillars into butterflies, and we spent the summer finding these creatures on milkweed leaves, feeding them and keeping them safe throughout the next few weeks, watching over the chrysalises as they formed into butterflies, and releasing them a day or two after they opened. Some of them had crazy names, and one of them died (it didn’t come out of the chrysalis properly, and I ended up on the phone to a butterfly conservatory talking to a scientist and attempting surgery with a pin and a pair of tweezers on this poor little thing, whose antennae had mysteriously become attached to the inside of the chrysalis and it couldn’t get out). I was told by a lepidopterist that in the wild, caterpillars have a 10% chance of surviving into butterflies. Captured and raised properly, they have an 80% chance. So we knew we were doing a good thing.
When the last butterfly was released in October, we began reading books about them. We learned that there are two main cycles in summer: in June, Monarch butterflies appear and lay their eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. These eggs hatch and become caterpillars, and by July they’re butterflies. They then mate and lay their eggs on milkweed again, creating the second summer cycle of butterflies. Then they die. These June caterpillars have a life cycle of about 6 weeks – their children, on the other hand, will live up to NINE MONTHS. No one knows why this is, but this second, hardier group, will hatch in late summer and will migrate all the way to Mexico, where they cover trees in the most beautiful way as they wait out the winter and then make the long journey back to North America to lay their eggs the following May/June, and the cycle begins again. It’s truly amazing.
In late fall last year, my daughter and I watched a documentary about Monarchs (there’s the TV connection!), and it said they’re becoming endangered. Now, if you live in North America I’m sure you’ve seen them fluttering everywhere in the past few weeks, and may find that hard to believe. But to migrate to Mexico, they follow certain airstreams, and in recent years large skyscrapers have been built that hinder their travel; roadways have gone up where Monarchs are hit by cars; landscapes have utterly changed, and the Monarchs aren’t making it to Mexico, which means they can’t make it back, and their numbers are becoming fewer and fewer. Those who ARE getting to Mexico are finding it difficult to find their way to the safe trees that maintain their body temperatures, because the very forests housing the Monarchs are being cut down (this picture shows you how they completely cover a tree and make it look like it’s made out of Monarchs). My daughter was devastated to hear this (as was I) and she said we had to do something, because she wanted to keep raising them every summer for the rest of her life.
Back in March, I was driving her to gymnastics and we heard a story on the radio of a 12-year-old girl who’d eschewed presents at her party and instead asked for donations to a charity. Syd immediately piped up that she wanted to do that for her birthday. I encouraged it, even though I thought she might change her mind when the day came (anyone out there with a five-year-old will know what I mean). Closer to her birthday she told me she still wanted to do it, and that when we sent out the invitations we had to let parents know that she wanted donations to save the monarchs and not presents. I explained to her that that meant when they all left, she wouldn’t have any gifts, and was she OK with that? She thought about it for a second and said yes, adding that she knows her grandparents and aunts and uncles would get her things still. (haha!)
So now I had to find a charitable organization devoted to the conservation of Monarchs. I found one in Mexico, and a few in the southern U.S., but they didn’t seem very big and were a little shady, so I wasn’t sure what to do. I suggested to Sydney that maybe there wasn’t a place that just did that, and maybe she’d have to get presents after all! In response, her bottom lip started to quiver and she said, eyes welling with tears, “But if I can’t help save the butterflies, then what will happen if I want to collect Monarchs with MY daughter and they don’t exist anymore?”
Seriously. She said that.
I now knew she was serious, and I was going to do whatever it took to make this happen for her. I kept hunting and found that the World Wildlife Fund has a section of their research devoted to conserving the Monarch butterfly by preserving the forests in Mexico and working with the local government to keep deforestation at a minimum, and far away from where the Monarchs nest. I called up their Toronto office and talked to a woman who was at first surprised at her age, “How old is she?!” she said, and then said we could collect the money, and if I wanted to bring my daughter down to the office she’d arrange for their community fundraising coordinator to present her with something for her efforts.
At the party, the first child arrived with money and a card, and my daughter thanked her, handed the money to me and said, “This is our first money for the butterflies!” and then grabbed the girl’s hand to take her outside. She was like that for the entire party and then at the end of the party I gave her a small gift along with the ones I’d gotten for her guests, and she was thrilled with it. She was so happy when I counted up the donations for her, and I was incredibly proud of her. We had a separate party for family members, and we collected more money there.
In the end, she had raised $220 for the Monarchs!
Last week we headed down to the WWF-Canada head offices, and I said to her as we were walking up to the building that she might not realize that this is a very rare and special thing for a five-year-old to do, and I was so proud that she would rather do this than have toys. She just said matter-of-factly, “But I still got LOTS of toys for my birthday, Mommy.” She really didn’t see this as anything out of the ordinary. We went up the elevator to the offices, and a woman came out of the office to see us. She presented Sydney with a certificate saying that she had symbolically adopted a Monarch, and then gave her a little silk stuffed Monarch. My daughter was over the moon, and when she got the certificate ran toward me saying, “Look, Mommy, it has my NAME on it!!” and she was beaming from ear to ear.
I’d love to say, “Am I not an awesome parent for raising such a socially aware and giving child?” but I can’t. My kids are spoiled rotten by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and me. They have tons of toys. I have 12 bookshelves in our house covered in books. I have two huge cabinets of DVDs (mostly TV box sets). We’re not a family who doesn’t acquire things, who lives sparsely. I give money to charity, but I’ve never given up gifts to do so.
What I have taught her is to sympathize with other creatures. She handles her butterflies so delicately, never touching their wings, and cries like it’s the end of the world if anything happens to one (and often when she has to let them go). And that immense sensitivity that she possesses has now extended to this. Here's a photo of her showing her two-year-old brother how to hold a butterfly properly:
I am so, so proud of her. I’ve been inspired to follow her lead and do the same in years to come, and here’s hoping her story will inspire some other people. And that you’ve learned a little bit about the Monarch butterflies, who are as dear to my heart as they are to my daughter’s.
It’s pretty amazing when you realize you suddenly have a five-year-old, and she’s even more extraordinary now than she was the day you first met her. :)
If you would like to symbolically adopt a Monarch from the WWF, you can go here if you're in Canada, and here in the U.S.