Monday, February 21, 2011

What I'm Watching Now:

'Vampire Diaries,' Thursday 9 pm, CW. Yes, it's on the CW. Yes, the creator is Kevin Williamson of 'Dawson's Creek.' Yes, it's based on a YA horror novel series. Yes, it's another human-girl-falls-for-mysterious-and-pretty-stranger-who-turn-out-to-be-lacking-a-pulse in the vein (shut UP) of 'Twilight,' and was totally designed to bring in that crowd. (Shudder.) Yes, the first three episodes of the first season sucked BALLS. Like, MST3K levels of suck. There was a mysterious midday fog, guys. There was a creepy crow in a graveyard. It was painful.

So how the hell is this my favorite thing on TV right now? Let me count the ways:
  1. The female characters. Main character Elena, her witch friend Bonnie, ditzy-cheerleader-turned-badass-vampire-heroine Caroline, villainess Katherine, sherrif Liz...the list goes on. It's one of the only shows with a near-even gender balance, and each of these women are complex, interesting people who move the plot. I'm particularly fond of the friendship between Elena, Bonnie, and Caroline. Gail Simone recently bemoaned the lack of female friendships in media, and she's right. Girls are hardly ever shown just being friends with each other and when they are, they're usually talking about guys (which is why I do like the Bechdel Test, for all its flaws).
  2. The plotting. Shit goes DOWN. What other shows would spend a season developing, TVD whips through in the teaser of the season premiere. I haven't seen narrative development this tight since Aaron Sorkin gave up coke. (Or "gave up coke.")
  3. The cast. Nina Dobrev has to play two completely opposite characters--warm Elena and vicious Katherine, Paul Wesley somehow makes a vampire seem like a genuinely nice guy, Ian Somerhalder is deliciously psychotic as Damon, and their supporting cast includes David Anders, one of my Very Favorites. (Native Oregonian, represeeeeeeent!)
The show does have some color issues--except for Bonnie, every character of color has been killed off or turned out to be evil, or both; there's also this weird thing where every witch is a black person, and almost every black person is a witch, and that reeks of Magical Ethnic Person stereotyping--but for the strong female presence, I give this show a huge rec. Also, the creators say they're gonna be bringing on a gay character, which fixes my other complaint about the series.

'Southland,' Tuesday 10 pm, TNT. I'm not exactly sure how to explain how this show sets itself apart from the billion-and-one other police procedurals. Somehow it feels a lot more realistic, an impression that has been backed up by praise from current and ex-cops on message boards. It also has John Cooper. Oh, John Cooper, you fabulous gay ex-Marine badass supercop. How I love you so.

Bonus round: LYDIA ADAMS AND HER SHOTGUN OF GREAT MOTHERFUCKING JUSTICE. I love the fact that the two toughest cops on this show are a gay man and a short black woman.

'Justified,' Wednesday 10 pm, FX. I've already talked about this one, but I feel it deserves another mention because last episode had a) the return of Boyd Crowder, albeit briefly, and that always results in great scenes between he and Raylan, b) the return of sniper Tim (though they TOTALLY ripped off my favorite--and really, the only good--scene from the 2006 version of Miami vice) and c) Timothy Olyphant in a brown Henley. Hello, tall and lanky. A sad lack of Rachel, tho...and I do have to say, for all that it's set in the South this show is pretty damn white without my favorite marshal.

Shows that I'm missing while they're away:
'Sons of Anarchy.' Shakespeare on motorcycles, y'all. I'm just sayin'.
'Misfits.' Curse you, British television, and your horribly-short season lengths.
'Primeval.' Ditto.

Shows I'm watching and wish I weren't:
'Glee.' Ugh. Chris Colfer, why can't you be in something else?
'Hawaii 5-0.' IT WAS THE FANFIC, OKAY? Fandom tells me there's an emotionally-shut-down, guilt-ridden military man to be had, and I need something to tide me over until Primeval's Captain Becker comes back. Also, Grace Park in a bikini. I'm just saying, a girl has needs.

Shows I'm not watching and wish I'd picked up a long time ago because now I have no IDEA what the fuck is going on:
'Fringe,' because apparently there is nothing else sci-fi/fantasy/horror on TV right now. Except 'Supernatural,' and I am not diving into that one again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Drumming diary: Dazed & Confused, redux

Whoof, it's been a while. January was a lousy month from drum-playing--combination of personal loss and illness. I'm trying to get back up on the horse.

I did manage to figure out what was wrong with the "Dazed & Confused" tab that I found online: a measure in the first verse needed to be 9/8 instead of 12/8. It's gonna be hella interesting to count, as it switches from 12/8 and 52 bpm to 4/4 and 190 for the extended bridge.

Verse 1 = 16 measures
Chorus 2 = 2 measures
Verse 2 = 8 measures
Chorus 2 = 2 measures
Bridge 1 = 19 measures
Bridge 2 = 78 measures (this is the 190 bpm part, so it just FLIES)
Chorus 3 = 1 measure
Verse 3 = 8 measures
Chorus 4 = 2 measures
Outro = 7 measures

That second bridge is going to kick my ass. BUT IT'LL BE FUN.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Nestled in the warm embrace of cable, FX has become an unexpected source of gritty, high-quality dramas, a trend that began in 2002 with "The Shield." One of the most recent FX products is the series "Justified," which just started its second season on Wednesday nights.

Based on an Elmore Leonard story (and with Leonard on as executive producer), Justified follows the adventures of US Marshal Raylan Givens ("Deadwood" alum Timothy Olyphant, who was so great as Sherriff Bullock). In the first season Givens got shipped from the Miami office back to his native Kentucky following a shootout with a drug enforcer. Well, actually, it wasn't so much a shootout as an execution: Raylan walked up to the table, told the enforcer that he had thirty seconds to leave or Raylan would shoot him, then did just that when the dude tried to pull out his own gun.

Givens is a modern-day cowboy, with his steely eye, fast hand, and Stetson. Olyphant plays him with a deep well of barely-contained rage; in the first episode his ex-wife Winona (the great Natalie Zea) wryly and wearily tells him he's the angriest man she's ever known, and she ain't wrong. For her it's as exhausting as it is enticing, but for the viewer it's absolutely thrilling to sit there, waiting for this guy to go off again.

He's got ample opportunity for that, with the host of dangerous types waiting to welcome him back to the bosom of Kentucky. His father Arlo and former mining buddy Boyd Crowder are standouts; last season's arc dealt with the tangled web of meth that involved both those men. They've yet to make an appearance this season (besides a brief glimpse of Boyd) but we've already met the Big Bad for this year: Mags Bennett, a reefer-growing grocery store owner. When first we meet her she acts like a down-homesy little old lady (albeit with pot), but at the end of the episode she poisons a man in cold blood without dropping the aw-shucks veneer. The characters are always a strong point on this series, and I can't wait to see how the saga between Mz. Bennett and Raylan will play out.

The female characters are especially fun to watch, which is a delightful surprise given that it's essentially a modern-day cowboy story. The show's even managed to pass the Bechdel Test in more episodes than not. The premiere heavily featured Rachael Brooks (Erica Tazel), Raylan's fellow Marshal in the Kentucky office, who got a couple of great moments showing that she's just as much of a badass. I personally hope to see much more of Winona, Raylan's ex-wife: the two of them have crackling, rapid-fire chemistry.

If you've never caught the series, watch an episode and prepare to be sucked in by the sharp dialogue and interesting characters. And just because I'll use any excuse to post this clip, here's one of the greatest moments of Deadwood, or television, period.