Friday, April 27, 2012

Joe critiques various tv shows.

I've been watching Downton Abbey, and it's, um, not bad. I caught a middle episode in New Orleans long ago and it didn't impress me, but I think you can't really understand a show unless you begin watching from its first episode.

It is a lot like a soap opera, but with the drama level dialed way down, and the over-reactions, due to everyone being proper ladies and gentlemen, dialed up to compensate. Anyway, it too isn't super funny or dramatic, but it seems like my tv standards are lowered these days. I wonder if a regular soap opera would appeal to me if I only started watching it from the beginning. Perhaps I should stop looking down on those drone-like people who religiously watch their soap opera "stories."

I've also been watching The Thick of It, which is hilarious. It's a lot of British politicians bumbling around. I wasn't very familiar with the UK government before, but apparently the Prime Minister is elected, and then he appoints a bunch of sub-Ministers for the various departments. These ministers mostly just sit around and try to think up new law policies to announce. And they all get harassed by the Prime Minister's office, in the form of an angry, sailor-mouthed old "enforcer" guy, any time they have a public relations screw up. Which seems to happen daily.

Am I the only one who thought The Veep was a little disappointing? Online reviewers loved it. But it's by the same guy who did the Thick of It, and he wrote the movie In the Loop, which I also thought was hilarious (though I remember Kate W didn't appreciate it), and the Veep doesn't seem nearly as good. Both those British productions were great, but the Veep is slow-paced and inarticulate in comparison. When Julia Louis-Dreyfus asks her aid what she thinks of another congressional staffer. We know her aid hates this other guy, but all she can say when asked is that he's a s**** sandwich. She doesn't even look up from her blackberry to say it. Maybe cursing just seems more colorful with an English accent, or more exotic when it's made up of English phrases. Also I guess it's okay to verbally abuse your employees in the UK government, while we have to tip toe around a bit more in the US.

The other thing that's annoying is the blackberries. Everyone has their head stuck in a blackberry through the whole show. I know that it's real life. A lot of government employees in DC have their face glued to a blackberry by default (happens to some people with their iphones too) unless something more interesting is going on. But watching a tv scene where every character is looking down at their phone and each only looks up briefly to say his line, well it's not a very dynamic scene.

Maybe that show will get better. I've only seen one episode. But the first episode I'd give a 5/10, certainly not "hail to the veep" like every online review is proclaiming.

I've also been watching more of A Game of Thrones. Peter Dinklage is still doing a good job but the dialogue and story overall are just okay. The machinations of court are nothing compared to the political backstabbing of The Thick of It, the action is pretty non-existant, and the actors, with the exception of Peter Dinklage, the others on the small counsel, and the heavyset boy at the wall, all seem a bit stiff. There are way too many characters to actually get into it, but none of them seem like characters who are comfortable in their own skin. I'm thinking of all those characters from the North, the kid out by the sea, and the evil incest family in particular.  I take it as a sign of unexceptional acting that is unremedied by unexceptional writing.

Each episode likes to end with a cliffhanger that will then get glossed over by a time jump and re-cap dialogue in the begining of the next episode. It's the same annoying thing the books do. They build up to action, jump to another character on a different continent, and then jump back in time to reveal all the missed action through post-action dialogue. I think it's because George Martin is unable to write actual action scenes.

And I still don't care about that blonde girl walking around in the desert. I wish she and her brother had made a suicide pact in the first episode instead. Put us out of our misery early on that plodding story line.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I don't normally talk about work on here but I'm making an exception.  I'm writing two appeals today.  I believe the current backlog of BPAI appeals is 25,000 cases.  In 2006, with a 1500 case backlog, it took 2 years for my first appeal to get a panel response.  Now I have 3 appeals pending, am in the process of writing 2 more, and it's looking like they won't come back until after I'm retired.  It's a bummer because appeals get my best writing and most persuasive rhetoric (I like to picture myself storming up and down the courtroom while dramatically lecturing everyone about the differences between this and that), but nobody has time to fully appreciate them.

Also, this is entertaining:

I just read some other blog where the guy was upset about how short his recent response from the panel was. He thought they were lazy.  Well, I hope they're getting more efficient than they used to be.  We need to get through these cases.  Except mine, take the time to read through mine.  And double-except if they decide I'm wrong.  I want reasons!

Also I've been watching DS9.  I have a very large text file of how much I hate almost every episode, but I'm reconsidering posting it here.  Nerd anger isn't something that's new to the Internet.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I tried to watch Death of a Salesman today (the 1985 Dustin Hoffman and John Malcovich version). I think that movies have a more careful pacing that this play-turned-movie lacks. This play is just constant bickering and yelling and crying, followed by sad reminiscing and then more yelling. Highly emotional stuff, and I lasted about 45 minutes. If it had been written as a movie they'd insert scenes of light humor or sometime to give you a little breathing room. There's something to be said about dozens of people reviewing a movie script before it's made.

I also saw My Week with Marilyn and quite liked it. It's not especially dramatic or funny (though it has some funny parts when Laurence Olivier is frustrated); in fact it's not really strongly evocative in any way, which is one of my usual criticisms when I decide that a movie is mediocre. But it has the Love Actually angle where unspectacular guys somehow romance hot girls, and it has sort of a tragic fantasy aspect, like the 2003 Peter Pan, due to Marylin's perpetual unhappiness and the fact that Marylin is only in England briefly during the filming (and she's married). Anyway I enjoyed it. Hermoine Granger makes a small appearance as the girl who can't compete with even Marylin's friendship. She does alright.

I think the stars are sufficiently aligned tonight that I may go to the gym.

(on the phone with an inventor whose response is very overdue)
me: Did you intend to respond to the rejection sent in September?
Inventor (he's already borderline upset): I suppose you wanted me to read what you sent and then figure out some kind of response!?!
me: Um... yes?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I wrote a much longer post about how to change a text file into a vcard file but then deleted it. I spent about an hour doing this earlier this week and then more recently noticed that "do it yourself" blogs are much more appreciated. But the "how to" ended up being so long and indepth that if you've read about the vcard format and understand how to use Excel's concatenate, then it was 95% redundant. If you have a nack for scripting it was largely irrelevant. And if you don't like scripting or know what the vcard/concatenate are then it would likely be tedious and go over your head.

Other than putting together these basics, the reason it took me so long to make the vcard file is that apparently concatenate won't output line break formatting characters. So the only actual trick to the process is to use a special character string ($$$ works because not a lot of contact info includes dollar signs) for each line break, copy and paste (only the values) into MS Word, where Word's replace function can replace $$$ with ^p, which inserts the line breaks. Save as a txt file then rename to vcf. Done. These endless reformats of my cellphone will never leave me without contacts again!