Thursday, June 26, 2008


Six Feet Under

Yet another HBO show on my list, from its golden era of programming. If they were churning out stuff this quality today, I'd still be dropping my $20 a month on that shit.

What occurs to me about this show, as well as others on HBO, is that I tried to watch it once during its first season because it was getting great reviews. I think I came into the middle of a season, about 15 minutes into the episode, and gave it 20 minutes. I couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about, and I chalked it up to being not my cup of tea.

Two years later, my friend Mandy happened to be over as I was flipping through channels. She saw Six Feet Under on the channel guide and insisted I watch it. She told me the backstory, made me watch a whole episode, and that was it. I never missed another one, and I went back and rented the first two seasons to catch up.

To be fair, the third season (where I came in) was the series' pinnacle, so it was easy to get hooked. Nate's wife goes missing, and he responds by screwing everything that moves, leaving his newborn son with his unhinged mother....

You know what? Trying to explain the plot of the show is the exact thing that made me wary of it in the first place. The great thing about the show is its tone, its characters, its nuance, and its fantastic cast of actors. The plots sound more than a tad melodramatic when you rehash them (particularly the disappointing season four). The basic premise of the show is a family who loses its father in the pilot ep (although he recurs frequently as a spirit) and now must run the funeral home without him. Oh yeah, and they also live in the upstairs part of the home, with the dead bodies either in the basement being prepped or on the main floor being memorialized.

But the self-destruction Peter Krause brought to the character of Nate, the prodigal son, is what sticks with you. As does the confusion of his brother, religious-but-gay David, played brilliantly by Michael C. Hall, now onto great things with Dexter on Showtime. As does the emotionally naked work of Lauren Ambrose as Clare, the little sister trying to figure out her role in the family.

I literally could write 500 words on these and all the other fantastic characters on Under, but it would bore anyone unfamiliar with the show. I will say if you're a fan of The Office, you owe it to yourself to see the character arc of Rainn Wilson as an extremely awkward intern mortician, aspiring to be mother Ruth's love interest- sort of. You can see the embryo of Dwight Schrute germinating before your very eyes.

The show's lasting legacy will be its treatment of death. There has never been a television show that has dealt with the loss of life and all the emotions it brings with it more head-on than Six Feet Under. It shows how death can be tragic, deserved, cathartic, unfair, absurd, and even hilarious. Each hour begins with someone kicking the bucket. My favorite was the Jehovah's Witness who saw a bunch of inflatable sex dolls flying in the air, assumed it was rapture, and let go of the steering wheel of her car, resulting in her doom. Or perhaps it was her salvation. Who's to know in the end?

Then there's the finale. OH...MY...GOD. I probably bumped this show up four or five spots because it had the single best ending of any show I've ever seen. If you asked me for the most compelling, thrilling, emotional five minutes of television I've had the priviledge to witness, it would be the last five minutes of Six Feet Under's series finale at the tail end of season five. There has never been a finale that wrapped up with such heartbreaking beauty, such sublime finality as Six Feet Under did.

Here's how great it is: I kept it on my Tivo for about a year, during which time I probably watched the ending 40 times. I used to come home tipsy from the bars and insist on watching it two or three times before I went to bed. It is the perfect wrap-up of an oustanding run, so great that it almost completely makes up for the weaknesses of its uneven last two seasons. I can distinctly remember watching it with Eileen on a Sunday evening, and both of us being nearly speechless for the next 20-30 minutes; such was the breathtaking intensity of how neatly the show culminated its run.

It's Over

No, not my awesome t.v. dramas list. Still working on that. It's the fight on gay marriage that has the fat lady warming up.

I knew I would see this in my lifetime, but I didn't think it would happen this soon. Just after hearing the Supreme Court's ruling a couple weeks ago, I was so elated I stalked the halls of my high school, interrupting five or six of my male colleagues' classes during my prep period to propose to them in front of their students. We boldly preclaimed that since gay marriage was now legal, there was no need for our wives. Part satire, part celebration.

Then came word: the backward, hateful, illogical, busybody religious conservatives were already mounting a petition to get an anti-gay marriage amendment to the constitution on the November ballot. I girded my now a little flitty loins and promised myself that I would actually get off my lazy ass and go to rallies, sign up voters- whatever it took in order to make sure the most significant civil rights gain of my generation did not go for naught.

I even mentioned to my students (overwhelming supporters of gay marriage- see my blog from a couple months ago) that even though they wouldn't be able to vote in November, if they really cared, there were things they could do to get involved. Bill O'Reilly's head would explode: I was encouraging students to break out of their apathetic malaise for a political cause they believed in, but it's one he abhors. I'm guessing he would call for my immediate "removal." I have two words for him: Tenure, bitch.

At any rate, it looks like neither I nor my students will be needing to get up off our lazy asses anytime soon, thank god. Yesterday's SF Chronicle showed a well-respected survey, the Field Poll, has the majority of registered California voters backing gay marriage for the first time ever, 51% to 42%, with 7% having no opinion. That's not even that close. With numbers like those, an anti-marriage proposal has virtually no chance of passing.

The poll showed all the demographics you'd expect: Democrats favor gay marriage much more than Republicans...Nor Cal and L.A. favor much more than Central Valley hayseeds (I'm lookin' at you, Fresno), non-religious folk favor much more than believers of all stripes (more on them later), and of course younger people favor it much more than old fogies. Check out these numbers: 65 and older in favor: 36%...50-64: 47%...40-49: 51%...30-39: 58%...18-29: 68%. See a pattern? No wonder the haters are so anxious to get that amendment passed NOW. They're literally losing ground every day. Yet they refuse to see the writing on the wall.

Yep, that last line was a very clever allusion. Dig it, y'all.

Alongside the story was the usual "two cents" feature, where regular Joes from the Bay Area give their opinions. Predictably, there were a few of the same ridiculous arguments against gay marriage that people who think homosexuality is wrong or dangerous throw out to disguise their true prejudice. The fallacies in these points have been covered ad nauseum, most recently by my fellow BlogStar Lance Johnson, but I just can't help eviscerating illogical nonsense. Indulge me:

The "activist judges" argument:
"I support the right of gays to marry, but only if they get the backing of a majority of people, which means I do not support the decision of a judge to overthrow the will of the people." -Nelson Hyde Chick, 45, San Francisco

Nelson, you are a goddamn moron. What if you had to get 50% of the people who know you to approve your marriage? I'd never have made it- no one on Eileen's side would've voted for me. Yeah, I'm being a bit extreme, but c'mon. I have no problem with the majority of Californians deciding the state color or bird or other such nonsense. But the reason the court ruled the way it did was because the law was discriminatory. And it's their job to rule if a law-say it with me now-discriminates against any of its citizens.

What if a proposal made the ballot that outlawed the practice of Scientology? Scientology is ridiculous. I firmly believe the world would be better off without it. I'll bet the majority of Californians feel the same. What if we got it on the ballot and banned it? Would Nelson use the same logic?

Or how about a real-life example: California used to have a law against interracial marriages. The people voted for it and everything. The court struck it down. How would Nelson feel about that? I'll bet he'd say the court was right in that instance. I'm not the first to point out that "activist judges" are judges who make rulings that the fucktards who use that phrase disagree with.

The "marriage is for having children" argument:

Not as stupid? Just as stupid? Stupider? I'll go with the latter. Listen to this dunderhead: "Marriage is about children, fostering the progeny. Most psychologists show that a mother and father play vital roles to a child's development. This is why societies throughout the world condone heterosexual marriage alone. Gay marriage mocks heterosexual marriage. The gay argument that many married couple who don't bear children should also be prohibited from marriage is without merit. They can adopt." -Adam Sparks, 57, San Francisco

First, let's take his assertion that children require both a "mother and father." I agree that two parents are the best situation for a child. But if he's in favor of a law that is based on not allowing kids to be reared in any other than that scenario, then he's an unrealistic fascist. In addition, he throws out there that this has always been the way it's been, implying that two people of the same sex can't effectively raise progeny. Did he ever see My Two Dads? The fact is that there is very little long-term evidence on same-sex parents raising kids together because it hasn't been societally acceptable for very long. As for the short-term evidence, it shows that there's not much difference between homo and hetero parents' kids' performance. Not that this numbskull would bother doing any kind of research like that.

I haven't even attacked the most ridiculous part of his opinion yet. What about people who just don't intend to have kids? Should they be given an asterisk on their marriage license if they don't reproduce? What about senior citizens who get married well past child-raising years? Adam, you're a fucking idiot. Gay people can adopt, too. And they'd have done a better job raising you than your biggoted asswipe excuses for guardians did.

The religious argument:

"This reminds me of the child that won't take no for an answer. The people of California made it clear on Proposition 22, for which I canvassed neighborhoods. Clearly, the word marriage signifies an agreement between a man and a woman and is ordained by God." -Olivetta Chavez, over 50, Concord

I actually respect Olivetta's view more than the other ones because at least she gets down to what this is really all about: religion. Religion, in nearly all its forms, has been an enemy (and a violent one, at that) of homosexuality for thousands of years. It is the reason for all these people's hangups. At least Olivetta comes out (no pun intended) and says it, unlike those lawyers who have to use smoke and mirrors in court involving "tradition" and "societal values." You see, they can't argue on strictly religious grounds because of that pesky First Amendment. That one's really a bitch. All that freedom really fucks with a very nice theocracy.

But I gotta disagree with you there, Oli. The problem is that this is a legal issue before the courts, not a religious one. So while it may be "clear" to your religion that queers don't get to marry, the State of California has to play by different rules. If it's any consolation, the same abominable legal system that guarantees gays the right to equal contributory benefits is the same one that can't force your church or your clergy to marry any of those sinners. So feel free to keep your prejudices handy.


I usually try to lay off the obscenity when I write, sprinkling it in like spice on food. As I re-read this lengthy diatribe, I see lots of cursing. I tend to swear when I'm angry, and that seems to apply to my writing as well as my oral arguments. I'm just tired of battling people's prejudices. I'm tired of ignorance. I'm tired of illogic. I'm tired of excusing intolerance toward a group of people by claiming it's prompted by a philosophy of love.

Mostly, I'm tired of people who refuse to learn from history. My in-laws are both conservative Republicans. I usually try to stay out of political discussions with them, but recently my wife and I got into with them on this topic. We made all the usual points, and my wife said to them, "It's going to happen eventually, you know."
Her dad responded, "Yes, I think you're right."
Eileen rejoindered, "Well, doesn't it bother you that in 50 years you're going to look bad, just like the segregationists in the South, like you were on the wrong side?"
Her mom: "No."


I guess it's time to get over being angry. History shows that where California leads, the rest of the states eventually follow. Hopefully, this is the last I'll post on this for a long time. Progress wins. Intolerance loses. Again.

I just wish it didn't always have to be this hard.


I’m back with 4!!!

Oh, how it's been so long,
We're so sorry we've been gone,
We were busy writing songs for you.

I've had a hectic time of things recently. We moved into a new house, bought a Prius because we're white, and just had in-laws in town for the entire weekend. Combine that with my addictions to alcohol, Rock Band, and largely mediocre (or worse) Bay Area sports teams, and it's been a busy time. One week I was only able to squeeze in two naps after work.

I doubt many of you missed me much, as I still managed to mock or tear down others' posts. But it really wasn't fair to start a list like that and leave all my loyal readers hanging. Let's see what pops up after a two hour date with dreamtime this afternoon.

4: The Wonder Years

The only half-hour show on my list, and I'm sure some would consider it a comedy. However, it had no laugh track, and it sure had its share of tender moments.

This one holds a special place in my heart because its main character, Kevin Arnold, was the exact same age as I was. The show started in the summer after Kevin's last year of elementary school, where everything made sense and the only girl that mattered was the one right across the street. During the first few episodes, Kevin was exposed to the horrors of junior high school and all the confusing and exclusionary politics of that toxic environment.

If you're getting the sense that junior high was an unpleasant time for me, that's not just the gin talking. I really hated it. Not wanna-kill-myself hate it, but I did come up with a mysterious stomach ailment that ultimately required an ultrasound (which showed nothing- I wasn't pregnant...nor was I within years of threatening a woman's womb) just to stay out of school for a couple weeks. One of the few things that made the fourth circle of hell known as Stanley Intermediate bearable was The Wonder Years on Wednesday nights. At least I saw that someone else was going through the same things.

Even though the story took place in the late 60s (the pilot focused on Winnie's brother being killed in Vietnam and Kevin's subsequent first kiss with his neighbor), I felt like Kevin and I were living parallel lives. I'm sure lots of other people did as well. I had dorky friends, I worshipped sports heroes, and I was obsessed with girls. He did much better than I did with them, although I could never figure out why he didn't go for the exoticly tempting Madeline from his French class over frowny sad sack Winnie. It probably didn't hurt that I thought Madeline looked like one of my high school crushes.

I remember one episode in particular about Kevin's monster pimple, and the way he cleansed, ointmented, buffed, and polished it, only to end up with...a shinier, cleaner pimple. I can't begin to count the hours spent in front of the mirror obsessing over the latest blemish.

Then there was the music. I'm still woefully uninformed on lots of that era's tunes, but most of what I know came from watching The Wonder Years. From that outstanding Joe Cocker opener to the songs that seemed to match every situation perfectly, whoever was picking songs for that show knew their shit. Unfortunately, this is the aspect of the show that prevents it from coming out on dvd. It wouldn't be the same without the music, and the rights to six seasons of gold don't come cheap. If you're of the younger generation and have never seen the show, it did run in syndication for awhile, so search your network (do they still have Nic at Nite?).

The Wonder Years lost a bit of momentum toward the end of its run, which is too bad because the last episode was fantastic. Kevin finally seals the deal with Winnie (in a barn!), but it's actually goodbye sex. I can't remember exactly why, but they are headed in different directions. The kicker was the narration, as usual delivered with gentle, sincere grace by Daniel Stern. Kevin informs us that his dad dies a few years later, and big bro Wayne takes over the family company.

I remember watching that as a junior in high school, alone in my bedroom, and fighting back the tears. There was something very sad about leaving this family I'd come of age with. But there was also something fitting about Kevin and Wayne growing up and moving on, just as I would do a year later.

To this day, I can't hear "With a Little Help From My Friends" without getting a tad nostalgic for that opening home movie montage where Kevin waves at the camera at the end. There's a beautiful simplicity to it, like coming home.

The Hills Drinking Game

The Hills Drinking Game

I promise to finish my top ten tv dramas list for those of you pining away to see the top four. Actually, I think it's just Rob at this point, bless his heart. I'm in the process of moving and don't have a lot of spare time at the moment.

So here's a quick one tonight about a show that I used to loathe, and now I just loathe myself for watching. I'd feel bad, but I know I'm not alone. Yeah, most of the other people I know who watch it have vaginas, but as any of you reading my tv list have noticed, I'm comfortable with my femininity in tv viewing.

Before I go into the drinking game my wife, sister and I co-invented, how about what should be an unnecessary disclaimer: Even in the most cynical sense, The Hills is not a "reality" show. EVERY SINGLE THING THAT HAPPENS IS ORCHESTRATED OR RE-CREATED. THERE IS NOT ONE SPONTANEOUS MOMENT ON THE SHOW. Furthermore, most of it is just downright made up- these people don't actually have jobs, take classes, or live in those apartments. It's one of the worst-kept secrets in Hollywood.

Again, I shouldn't even have to point this out, but I deal every day with gullible teens who think that "news" items planted in US Weekly are "totally true." It tends to make you think that everyone's an unthinking zombie. I have started thinking of the show as a sitcom with really bad acting. None of this justifies me watching it, I realize.

Alright, on to the game. If you've never watched the show, you've probably already stopped reading. You really don't want to go on if you've never seen it.

Take a drink when:
1. They pretend to "work" at their fake jobs. This also includes pretending to take classes while text messaging.
2. Spencer gives a sarcastic thumbs up or that serial killer stare.
3. Heidi says, "I don't know," pouts her fake lips, shows off her surgically-enhanced cleavage, or basically admits she has no friends.
4. Anyone says "you're a really good friend," "you're a really good person," or "be careful of (fill in name of potential enemy here)."
5. Lauren claims to be "stabbed in the back" or says, "Ok, but just be careful of (perceived enemy)."
6. Audrina says "I mean" or talks to an object six inches above the person's head she's supposedly having a conversation with.
7. Any guy on the show tries to convince one of the girls that hooking up with her without a commitment (or "label" in the case of Justin-Bobby) is allowable and will only make their relationship stronger.
8. These supposedly low-level employees are shown enjoying bottle service on a weeknight at a trendy L.A. night club.
9. When they show up the next day for "work" or "school" with no hangover, looking like they just stepped out of a fashion shoot.
10. Whenever cast members just "happen" to run into each other at clubs/restaurants/dmvs.
11. A female watching the show says, "See, she's the only one I actually like. She seems real" about LC's sole non-stick figure friend Lo.
12. Brody checks his phone.
13. Brody and Spencer have a homoerotic conversation.
14. Whitney ends an "ing" word with a "k" sound instead, or ends a sentence that is not a question with a lilt at the end indicating that it is, in fact, a question.