Tag Archives: The West Wing

When Can We Talk About Gun Control?

This year, more than any other I can recall, really feels like the year of the gun in America. So many people have died and been injured in high profile mass shootings, with things kicking up heavily in July. Tuscaloosa saw a mass shooting, and then there was about one every week for another month. Even The Onion tried to run a satirical article about how everyone was rejoicing that it had been a week since the nation’s last mass shooting, and mere hours after they posted it, there was a shooting in New York City. Their response? An update to say “Never Mind.”

Just recently, the gun issue was brought back up with a high profile murder-suicide of an NFL player’s girlfriend, committed by Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher. It picked up even more steam when NBC sports broadcaster Bob Costas read from a pro-gun control column about Belcher. And tonight, it’s likely to get another boost of conversation, thanks to a shooting in an Oregon mall, with two dead.

But every time these tragedies occur, we’re told that it’s rude and inconsiderate to talk about gun control. Fox News, for example, just went nuts on Costas. Of course, it’s perfectly alright to stump for lessening gun control soon after a tragedy, like they did on Fox News after the tragedy in Norway.

After all, people that support the Second Amendment to the nearly fanatical point never want to talk about gun control. Because they’re convinced that gun control equals a ban on all guns and the destruction of the Second Amendment. They have painted the opposition as so extreme, they think they know how every conversation will go. And since they don’t want to hear it, they try to play the “cheap” card, the “tragedy” card and keep the conversation muted. A free speech issue, might I add, and people that are fond of the First Amendment are more than happy to have conversations about regulation and why it may or may not be bad, generally speaking. As President Josiah Bartlet from “The West Wing” said on Twitter today, “If we cannot talk about gun control legislation in the aftermath of a tragedy, we will never be able to talk about gun control legislation. Maybe that’s the point.”

In pretty much every single argument I’ve gotten into about why we should try to limit guns or try to regulate them more in some way or another, a few topics always seem to be brought up: Knife deaths, “You can’t stop them all” and self-defense.

See, if I mention just how many gun deaths there are in America compared to somewhere like the United Kingdom where there are far stricter gun laws, they point out how many stabbings there are. If I talk about regulating guns or bullets to attempt to limit the number of homicides, the rebuttal of “Someone willing to kill’s going to find a way. You can kill with [fill in with a far more innocuous weapon here, like piano wire].” And inevitably the idea that we need guns to defend against criminals that have guns gets mentioned.

Well, here’s just a few little nuggets to ponder, not that any proponents of gun rights will listen, because they’ve spent so long trying to get people to stop talking, why bother listening at all? First, yeah, there are a higher number of stabbings in the U.K. than in the U.S. What’s your point, exactly? I’m pretty sure that the percentage doesn’t even come close to the percentage of gun-related homicides in the U.S., so if we could see the percentage drop and become all knife-related, then fine. Second, exactly how many knife-related mass killings are there? How many people can walk into a mall or a church or a school with a knife and slay multiple people before they’re stopped? Third, there was a very recent story about a 7-year-old boy being shot by his father outside of a gun store, accidentally. Exactly how many accidental knife deaths are there every year?

Will gun control eliminate gun violence? Certainly not. Not even close. Would it maybe, just maybe see the number of deaths per year drop, even slightly? It might. So, no, we’re not able to stop it all. People will find ways to kill. But isn’t seeing one less murder enough of a reason to try?

Isn’t the possibility of at least one less gun-related murder, one less death per year enough of a reason to talk about solutions?

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Big Screen Ballyhoo – “Lincoln”

Apparently, my post for a couple days ago disappeared into the aether. I’m not fond of that at all. I should have one up tomorrow.

Over Thanksgiving break, my parents and I got into a bit of a row about politics… frankly, it was to be expected. Partly because I’m right and they’re wrong. But, seriously. During our argument, it was said at some point, in a sort of rhetorical sense, “When has America ever been more divided?” This was an attempt by my mother, I believe, to say that President Barack Obama is tearing the nation apart, because it’s definitely his fault and not a bunch of people being hard-headed fools unable to differentiate between their own pomp and the good of the country. Even though it was rhetorical, I decided to answer anyway.

“Gee, I dunno. There was that whole Civil War thing we had, I’m pretty sure the country was kinda divided then.”

Strangely enough, a president can be liked enough to be voted in during a contentious election, and sometimes by an overwhelming majority… but once in, he can be truly reviled. We see that a lot with Obama, with Republicans in and out of Congress treating him almost like a second class citizen during his first term. The question is, how will he be remembered in 100, 150 years?

Abraham Lincoln is one of our most memorable, historically well-liked presidents. He saw the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery instituted. He led the country through one of our worst conflicts. He was an eloquent speaker, highly intelligent and, a very well-liked quality in presidents, he was brief. Ultimately, he was assassinated, which has often actually improved a leader’s view in history’s eyes.

Yet, for all we know about Lincoln, most never really learn anything beyond the basic facts: Civil War, tall, wore a top hat, Emancipation Proclamation, assassinated. What Steven Spielberg brings to life in “Lincoln” is perhaps the first truly immersive, in depth view of Lincoln’s final few months, creating a compelling story through directing, writing and acting that will surely snag some awards this coming awards season.

“Lincoln” focuses almost entirely on January 1965, not long after Lincoln’s reelection, after the war had gone on for nearly four years. Lincoln, disgusted with slavery, had hoped to abolish it entirely before the end of the war, hoping to sway popular opinion by painting it as a means to swiftly end the Southern will to fight. However, with everyone feeling the war will be coming to a rapid close, popular opinion threatens to escape his grasp. Therefore, Lincoln finds himself attempting to pass the amendment in less than a month. Lacking the necessary Republican votes before the new session of the House of Representatives, he and his colleagues are forced to attempt to sway the minds of the Democrats that vehemently oppose the amendment.

At times, it was reminiscent of “The West Wing,” watching the wheelings and dealings of how laws (or amendments) come to pass. When fighting against a stacked deck, there’s a lot of wheeling and dealing to be had. But the film went beyond that to show Lincoln as a man and president, husband and father. The movie shows his struggles with his depressed and chronically pained wife Mary Todd, his love for his son Tad and troubles with his son Robert, his passion and fire and remorse and intelligence and humor… his humanity.

Daniel Day-Lewis portrays Lincoln in the film, truly becoming the man entirely. Day-Lewis is always a force on screen, but it’s possible that this is his best performance yet. The empathy of Lincoln and his drive are made fully clear through Day-Lewis’ performance, which never falters for a moment. Yet, he is not the only powerful performance on the screen. Sally Field shows herself as a strong, spirited woman, though very flawed and perhaps too human, in Mary Todd Lincoln, both fighting against and encouraging her husband through his trials. Tommy Lee Jones as the strongest proponent for the Amendment, playing Representative Thaddeus Stevens, gives a nuanced, witty performance that lies atop of a man unsure of whether he should sacrifice his moral high ground for the legal victory.

There are so many talented people in this film. David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (unrecognizably, I think) as Robert Lincoln, even Jared Harris in his smaller role as Ulysses S. Grant. They and so many others (Hal Holbrook, Bruce McGill, Jackie Earl Haley, etc.) create a truly inspiring and awe-inducing environment that looks to the future and says, “You think you have it bad?” Seriously, I half expected a fist fight in the House at some point. The world of the war-torn nation is delivered beautifully, and the details in the historical representation, down to the almost unnoticeable details in speech (righteous being pronounced “rye-tee-us” for example), are astounding. This will surely be a contender for Best Picture, in that it has so many elements come together so strongly.

If you are a fan of history, this is a good film to watch. If you enjoy watching good performances on screen, watch this movie. If you like solid writing, drama not overwrought, comedy not overplayed, this movie will serve you well. If you enjoy good costuming, beautiful scoring, great camera work or nuanced directing, you should look into watching this movie. And, really, if you just want a movie that you can watch and enjoy for a couple hours… you could certainly do far worse than “Lincoln.”

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My Cat Ate My Internet

As always when I miss a post for a day, this is backposted, so ignore the timey-wimey references.

I was running late for a post on the day this says it was written and spending my time thinking hard about what to write. Or watching “The West Wing.” Pick your truth, but the second one is the only one that’s real. Anyway, I finished up with an episode, sat down at the computer and noticed my network cable stopped being plugged in.

So, today, after determining it wasn’t something wrong with the router, I took a closer look at the cable and found that my cat Tybalt had taken to chewing on it just a bit. Which is really just wonderful. A 100 foot ethernet cable is now useless. I was already running late for a post and was feeling exhausted, the elimination of my internet made my desire to try and write a post anyway on my laptop sort of vanished.

But now I have a totally related topic: How to get cats to not chew on things when you’re not around to catch them doing it and spray them in the face.

This is the second wire thing Tybalt’s eaten, actually. I’ve gone ahead and taped down everything as a precaution, and it seems to have worked on my replacement phone charger so far, actually. However, I still want to discourage him from finding anything new and expensive to replace to chew on. I spent $40 on this new ethernet cable. 50 footer. I could’ve bought it online at twice the length for almost half the price, but I didn’t want to wait for delivery.

Anyway, I’ve had diluted hot sauce suggested, but I don’t want my cat pooping diarrhea everywhere… and I don’t own any hot sauce dull enough to dilute to a point that wouldn’t destroy his world. I’ve heard quinine works with dogs if you don’t mind cleaning up their vomit the first couple times while they learn their lesson, but I have carpeted floors and very much mind vomit on them.

Any cat owners out there with any suggestions, I would appreciate it very much. Please help me prevent another trip to the massively misnamed Best Buy. I swear, the markups are almost criminal.

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Sing, Sang, Sung – “Raincoat Song” By The Decemberists

Hm… first, some random stuff to fill the space.

For a while, I thought about writing something about my confusion with state’s rights people, those that seem to want states to have more power than the federal government… but I got sleepy and decided not to, at least not today. I am, however, rewatching “The West Wing,” hoping to get past season 5 this go round, and it is thoroughly possible I’ll be writing more about politics as I watch that show, because it’s got some very neat stuff to say and tackles some very interesting issues, like hate crimes being thought legislation and whether it’s right to legislate mindsets.

I’m also almost finished with the second draft of my play. Thus far, 11 or 12 pages have been cut to the tune of some 6000-plus words. I still have eight pages sitting unedited, many of which thoroughly involve a character no longer appearing onstage during the play. I may end up slicing three or four more pages, depending on how the ending gets written. I’m not 100 percent certain how that’ll work, really, with the character changes I’ve made. But that’s something I’ll figure out. I want to have it done in two weeks, so I’d better.

Also, don’t tell my fellow intern/coworker this (which, if you know who I’m talking about, better mean you work where I work otherwise you’re kind of a stalker), but I did download Spotify, as it lets me indulge in my music weakness: Repeats. I tend to get on a “kick” when it comes to music, and I will end up listening to one genre, one band or even one song over and over again for a long time. Weeks, months… Haven’t gotten to years, but I’ve done a full month of a single song a few times with different songs… So… Point is, I’ve been on a Mumford and Sons kick. So don’t be surprised if you see me posting lots of random Mumford and Sons songs.

But the big news of the week is that Disney bought Star Wars. No, wait, that’s not it… Oh, right. It’s the massive storm battering the east coast, Hurricane Sandy. Politically speaking, I have no idea what will happen. There’s talk of delaying the election, there’s the possibility that some of the more strongly hit areas (New Jersey, Manhattan) could even potentially damage President Barack Obama’s numbers in those states (though not likely enough to cause a turnover), et cetera. Humanitarianly, it’s definitely not a good storm. There’s some pretty bad stuff going down. There haven’t been huge numbers of deaths, but there have been deaths, and even one is too many. And ignoring how George W. Bush’s FEMA director thinks Obama acted too quickly with relief efforts, the politics of Sandy aren’t really remotely important.

But Sandy is tangentially related to today’s musical choice. I have another source for new music that is neither Pandora nor Spotify. I follow “How I Met Your Mother” lead actor Josh Radnor on Twitter. He plays Ted in the show. On Twitter, he likes to post songs every so often. In remembrance of those in the path of Sandy that are perhaps experiencing wetter days, he recently tweeted a link to “Raincoat Song” by The Decemberists. And, in the same spirit, with thoughts and prayers to any and all affected by the hurricane, I give you this song. It’s a soft, sweet, playful melody that reminds me of childhood and happier times. For some reason.

“Raincoat Song” – The Decemberists

Caroline you’re angry
‘Cause you sleep like a spinster
And you’re twenty-eight
You been thinking late
You couldn’t catch a cold

Bend your head double
In the goose-down
Piling all the pillows high
Heave your fiercest sigh
And see if that’ll work

And the raincoat that you wore
When it rained today
And the raincoat that you wore
When it rained today
I think it only made it rain more
I think it only made it rain the more

If the water’s all wicking
Up your pant leg
Better wear your britches tight
I should teach you right
To be so down at heel

Going off half-cocked
Not shot full of arrows
From the cherubim
Oh the nerve of them
To not draw their bow

And the raincoat that you wore
When it rained today
And the raincoat that you wore
When it rained today
I think it only made it rain more
I think it only made it rain the more

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So, Why Kill Big Bird, Exactly?

And by “kill Big Bird,” I am of course referring to Mitt Romney’s comments in the presidential debate stating that he would cut federal funding to PBS.

Now, I’ve talked about this before. I’ve made a generally philosophical and cultural plea to continue funding the arts. I could make a plea to education, or a plea to emotions about education…

…but the more I think about trying to convince people to not take federal funds away from PBS and company, the more I realize that I have no idea WHY people want to take those funds away.

“The Daily Show” has a bit discussing the ridiculousness of it all and supplying some reasoning for why people might want to cut it: Propaganda. …which I honestly can’t recall ever seeing on any show on PBS. Seriously. It seems like, more and more lately, the right is wanting to condemn education and facts as propaganda and warp them to fit their own narrative. Intelligent design, make history exclude certain people, et cetera. Which, really, is a frightening prospect. It’s like a war against reality. Considering Mr. “Pack of Lies from Hell” from yesterday’s post, I feel that might be accurate, sadly.

There’s another argument to keep funding PBS going around lately, from the Twitter account of fictional “The West Wing” President Josiah Bartlet. The tweet read: “TLC was founded in 1972 by NASA and the Health Department as an educational channel. It was privatized. Now it shows Honey Boo Boo.#SavePBS”

And that’s a really disturbing thought. I have heard counter-arguments, saying if PBS were defunded, it would pay for thousands of Pell Grants… Which sounds great, until you remember that the guy that wants to defund PBS wants to cut Pell Grants, too.

So, why defund PBS? There are SO MANY OTHER items in the budget that could be dropped, items which would return SO MUCH MORE money. “The Daily Show” has clip after clip after clip of Republicans dismissing the president’s attempts to cut amounts from the budget that are “insignificant” and “too small to matter” before they turn around and support cutting PBS and company, which gets a far lesser amount.

Before I can really form an argument to defend PBS and NPR and the like, defend their spread of education and facts to everyone, people who might not be able to access other methods of education or somesuch, I need to know why this is Romney’s big slash to the budget. As far as I recall, it’s one of the only things he’s flat out said he’d cut from the budget. For everything else, apparently he’ll tell us after he’s elected? I dunno. But he has said, unequivocally, he will cut funding to PBS. I would just like to hear why, exactly.

So, conservatives: Your turn. Tell me why.

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Eleven Years Ago: We Will Survive

I decided to look back at my post from last year’s September 11 to see what I wrote. Last year, I wrote about the Electoral College and how much it sucks.

That tends to be how I deal with tragedies, be they personal and emotional or worldwide… I tend to ignore them. I try to keep living life, even if my insides are torn to shreds. Life goes on, after all.

Eleven years ago, my great aunt Liz Barnes died. The funeral was that weekend, I believe. On Sunday, maybe? Sunday or Monday, I think. Anyway, my family and I all traveled to Georgia for the funeral, staying with my aunt’s sister, my grandmother, while we were there. I was in the eighth grade at the time. My older sister was in high school at a boarding school and my little sister was in the fourth grade. That Tuesday morning, my dad drove my older sister back to school before we all left for home. They left early in the morning and were on the road, hearing about it on the radio.

I was in the living room while my grandmother was in the kitchen with my mom, her daughter. Grandma was cooking pancakes and she and mom were both chatting. I turned on the TV hoping to find some cartoons. When I turned it on, there were these tall buildings pictured, one of which had smoke coming from it. Confused, I kept flipping through the channels, but they all had the same buildings. The anchors were all saying something about the World Trade Center. I didn’t know what that was. I was just 13 years old. I’d heard of the Twin Towers, but no one was calling the buildings that. As I flipped through the channels, I watched the second plane strike the tower.

I was confused. I had no idea what was going on. I shouted into the kitchen. “Hey, mom? A plane just flew into some building called the World Trade Center.”

She ran out, ushered me into the kitchen. She and grandma watched the news while I ate my breakfast with my sister.

I don’t know when I really started understanding what had happened… I can’t pin it down to a moment. I remember the panic that happened afterward. Huntsville, Ala., is home to a nuclear power plant and a successful military base. People thought they might be next on the terrorists’ list. There were even people panicking, thinking the Madison Square Mall was going to be blown up. I may not have understood much at the time, but I scoffed at that. No one was going to bother blowing that up.

But at the time, calm was hard to find. Fear and terror gripped people fiercely. It was a scary time.

But something else gripped people, too. Pride. Patriotism. Bravery. Unity. For America, this wasn’t the end of the world. It was scary, sure. It was awful. But Americans unified, ignored differences and worked to make everything better.

Did it last? No. Xenophobia hit hard and the fissures and fallout from them can still be felt today. Maybe it’s getting better. Maybe not. There are people that revel and glory in the distrust, the hate, the division. There are people that instigate and promote the bigotry, claiming things like “humanity deserves what it gets” or suggesting life is easier that way.

And look at the nation now. In the midst of a political election, America is falling apart at the seams. Is this all the fault of 9/11? No. Did it shape some of the present? Yes.

But are we still alive? Yeah. America, this nation, is still standing.

Terrorists couldn’t kill America. They killed Americans, and we fought back. We hunted down those responsible and returned the favor. As said on “The West Wing,” terrorism has a 100 percent failure rate. In the long run, it fails. It usually makes the thing they’re fighting against stronger. Like the Japanese emperor said after Pearl Harbor, you just poked the bear. Or, well, the sleeping dragon. Either way, bad news.

If violent terrorism, the death of thousands, could not bring this country to its knees… Do you really think the next president is going to destroy the country?

I think my thoughts about Mitt Romney have been pretty clear. I think his presidency would harm the middle and lower classes and do massive damage to education and culture throughout our nation. Others think that President Barack Obama, if reelected, would personally come to their house and eat their children. Well, so it seems sometimes.

But no matter what happens, America will endure. America will stand. Unless we let it fall. Unless its people give up on it so completely that we, its support system, simply sit down and give up. Or we shrug off our burden for the sake of throwing a punch at the guy next to us.

If we fall to in-fighting, hyperbole, talk of doom and destruction and this being the “most important election in American history” (most important election would’ve been, in my opinion, 1864, Lincoln vs. McClellan), then we’ve let the terrorists win.

Let’s not do that.

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People (Especially Politicians) Need To Stop Saying Stupid Stuff

I napped most of the afternoon away… Unfortunate, because it means I’ll be awake all night… But I deserve some napping, I think. Probably do some more after this.

Anyway. Due to napping, it’s difficult for me to really think of anything deep or even remotely important to talk about. Especially since I’ve actually been spending a decent amount of my free time working on my play (both the one I’m writing and the one I’m acting in)… or watching “Psych.” But I love that show.

Anyway, there’s been this awkward trend for politicians this week. A trend of them saying really stupid things that, really, you would THINK they’d know better than to say.

Here’s some examples.

Here’s Michele Bachmann using the phrase “tar baby” to talk about President Barack Obama’s remarks on oil speculation. Now, maybe it’s because I’m from the South that I am more familiar with how terribly racist a phrase that is. But, even if that weren’t the case… why the hell did Bachmann use it? Seriously, what the hell does it mean in her mind if it’s not a racial thing? Who waves tar babies in the air? How is that a thing?

Here’s Mitt Romney deciding to heckle a beloved small business local bakery with some of his attempts at humor that, of course, always seem to come off as him just being a bit snobbish. Saying the cookies seem like they come from a local 7-11? How is that supposed to be funny? Not only does it seem snobbish, but it’s also kind of mean to say about a small business. You know, one of those things a presidential candidate should generally say he wants to protect. Jon Stewart may have originally given Romney the comedic edge over Obama before, but with this and his heckling NASCAR fans for their rain ponchos, I feel that’s something to be revisited. Romney’s humor seems to just be coming off as kind of mean. Not good in a presidential candidate.

Oh, here’s a favorite. West Virginia Republican Senatorial candidate John Raese decided to compare a cigarette ban to the Holocaust. Does no one seriously understand the whole stigma behind Adolf Hitler? At all? Remember how Bosephus got his Monday Night Football song canned? Hank Williams Jr. was just trying to point out how starkly opposite Obama and John Boehner are, politically speaking, but the mere mention of Hitler causes people to go slightly apoplectic. You just don’t compare people to Hitler, even if you’re not trying to call them evil. You don’t compare ANYTHING to Hitler in a public forum, ESPECIALLY if you’re a public figure. Everyone will tear you apart for it. Leave the Godwin’s Law stuff to the Internet comment sections and forums. Likely, you’ll get compared to Hitler for comparing other things to Hitler. It’s just stupid.

Of course, not all the people on this list are conservatives. We have Vice President Joe Biden recently making a really awkward analogy. This one isn’t quite in the same flavor as the others, and Biden is well known for being a gaffe machine. But, as opposed to Romney’s “I’m rich, suck it” gaffes, Biden’s come off more like a slightly tipsy uncle’s word vomit. This one, comparing controversial legislature passed by Obama to “legalizing rattlesnakes in the lobbies of hotels in Arizona” is… well, really confusing. It’s not a stupid thing to say the same way these others have been. It’s just… weird. What does it even mean? I mean, really?

There is, of course, the unfortunate phrasing of Hilary Rosen I could bring back up… Because I’ve been having trouble finding liberals saying silly things recently. Not that liberals don’t. They’re just as capable of foot-in-mouth as anyone. Just this week has been very conservative heavy.

Which reminds me of our good friend Geraldo Rivera. You’d think that, after his Trayvon Martin hoodie comments, he’d not, y’know, talk about hoodies and stereotypes again… but, of course, he did. And it’s pretty unfortunate, too, because if people do get upset at Rivera for this, they’ll likely ignore the first 99% of his conversation, which was surprisingly insightful and well thought out. But that’s what saying that one stupid thing tends to do: swallow anything important you had to say in a mucky mire of gunk.

Don’t politicians have people that are supposed to talk to them about avoiding these things? That’s what “The West Wing” seemed to teach me.

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The Wide Screen – My TV Awards

I’m really finding it difficult to think of anything poignant to say tonight. Shocking, right? But sometimes, when trying to write at least one blog post a day and the majority of politics being a series of repetitive broken bollocks in its current state, you find yourself without inspiration or trying to say the same things you’ve said 15 times before in a new way that still remains written in the language of your aptitude.

So, instead, I’m starting ANOTHER NEW SEGMENT. That’s, like, two new segments in nearly as many days, right? I am CRAZY exciting on this blog, aren’t I?

Anyway, this segment, “The Wide Screen,” is all about television, if you can’t guess. I doubt I’ll use it too terribly often, as TV isn’t something I get to watch too terribly often. However, I have been trying to catch up on some of my favored shows via the power that is the Internet. And I was thinking earlier how I’d categorize them. So, here goes, a brief look at my TV schedule and why I watch them.

Best Ensemble Comedy – “Community”
If you haven’t watched “Community” before, good GOD are you missing out. It is unabashedly nerdy at times, hugely ridiculous, amazingly funny, wickedly enticing, rarely predictable and has characters that are all pretty cool to be interested in. Joel McHale does an amazing job as the “main” character, but the rest of the cast are no slouches either. And it’s always fun to see Chevy Chase work. If there’s an episode to watch to get you into the show, it’d either have to be “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” or “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” from season 2. Or, hell, “Pilot.”

Best Comedy Duo – James Roday as Shawn Spencer and Dulé Hill as Burton “Gus” Guster from “Psych”
After watching some of “The West Wing,” I definitely grew to appreciate Dulé Hill’s muscles as a dramatic actor. But I was introduced to him through this show, and his chemistry with James Roday in “Psych” is amazingly hilarious. A show that is essentially a funny “The Mentalist,” with some slight reminiscence of the Sherlock Holmes stories, the two main characters are more absurd, over the top, and knee-slappingly hilarious than and other two people I can think of now. They remind me of the random absurdity of Monty Python, but with the familiarity of repetitive gags and characterizations all wrapped in a fun little crime “drama.” But the show has its serious moments, many of which have been spectacularly done. Particularly, “Mr. Yin Presents…”. Can’t really suggest a favorite episode. Just start watching. Grow to love it.

“Smartest” Comedy – “The Big Bang Theory”
Yes, it’s really nothing smashingly new in the sitcom world. It still has a laugh track, vague character development and some obvious pun set-ups from time to time. But it makes many a joke relating to some upper levels of science, much of which I, as a nerd, find myself able to understand. And I like that. Not to mention, they make it seem kind of fun in a dorky way. This is a show that appeals strongly to my smarter, dorkier side. It’s not a smart comedy the way “Frasier” was or the way Molliere and Shakespeare can be considered as such. It just touches on intelligent areas and makes them funny. And Sheldon Cooper is a hoot and a half. Can’t really suggest any episodes for this one, either.

Most Faithful Comedy – “How I Met Your Mother”
Okay. It’s been how many years since this show started, and all we’ve seen is an ankle. We’re pretty sure the mother isn’t blond, we know the umbrella and Barney’s wedding are important, we know that Barney’s getting married. Though, what with the duck tie bet, I’m pretty sure that won’t happen until mid-season or the end of this season. Which is frustrating. But, despite all of this, the characters continue to be humorous and the show continues to make them slightly more interesting and slightly more adorable and funny to watch each time. It has been a long journey, but it will all be over in a few more seasons… and unless they screw the pooch big on this one, I’ll be there through it all. My favorite episode may just be “Slapsgiving” from season 3.

Most Anticipated Comedy – “30 Rock”
Man oh man oh man. There aren’t too many shows I’m more excited about returning. I really want this show to return. It is somehow the most intelligent and most moronic comedy I’ve ever watched. Which makes sense, being that it’s written and produced by “Saturday Night Live” veteran Tina Fey and is essentially a show about the background workings of a show like “SNL.” It has some of the same random ridiculousness you can find in “Psych,” but in a more controlled, yet often far more absurd and fourth-wall shattering, manner. Throw in Alec Baldwin playing a high-powered Republican executive, and this is a pitch perfect comedy. One of my favorite gags is in the episode “Apollo, Apollo” from season 3.

Best Crime Drama – “White Collar”
That’s two USA Network shows! And my first non-comedy. Crazy, right? But I do watch a FEW shows that aren’t all about the laughs. Anyway, this show is simply delightful to watch. It has great drama, a VERY charismatic main character, and a CRAP load of intrigue. If you like puzzles and mysteries and “what’s next”s, this show will likely tickle your fancy. It’s not quite on the BBC’s “Sherlock” level, but the benefit “White Collar” has is in its new characters and having more than 3 episodes a season. This is one you might want to start on with the pilot just to keep up with the plot.

Potentially Biggest Disappointment – “House, M.D.”
You didn’t think all of these were going to be positive, did you? “House” has been one of my all time favorite shows ever since “Distractions” caught my eye, “Euphoria, Part 1” grabbed me and “Euphoria, Part 2” sealed the deal. It is an absolutely amazing show. The medicine is intriguing and all, but the characters are just phenomenal. Sure, it had weak points, like Season 3. But it has been a consistently great show through its time. Season 4’s two-part season finale episodes “House’s Head” and “Wilson’s Heart” are two of the best episodes of television I’ve ever seen in my life. That said, it should have ended last season. The ONLY plot still dangling is a character having knocked up two girls. A character that, frankly, I don’t care too much about. And now that Lisa Edelstein has left the show, the balance is all off. The few episodes I’ve seen of the season thus far have been… odd. The first episode, where House was essentially by himself, was fine. But the next one, back at the hospital? It felt awkward a lot. Especially with the new Asian girl. The only comfortable thing in the episode was House’s and Wilson’s interactions, strained and slightly repeated though they may have been. Still, I’m sticking with it through to the end. Especially since the end is likely this season. But I have a feeling I’m going to miss the wonders that were available in Seasons 1, 2 and 4. And other seasons that aren’t 3.

Take a look if you want. Your call.

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The Sound Byte GOP “Debates”

Quick: Tell me what each of the GOP candidates’ stances on education are.

Can’t do education? Huh. Well, then, how about jobs?

…no? Let’s try immigration, can you give me that one? No?

Don’t worry. It’s not you (and it’s not me either). The GOP “debates” have been about as informational as the occasional “Did You Know…”s you find on cereal boxes.

With a total of nine candidates now being invited to the GOP debates, it’s darn near impossible for any sort of meaningful discourse to actually occur within the time slot of two hours. And that’s a huge problem.

What does anyone actually know about any of these candidates? When have any of them been truly challenged? The debate format basically asks each candidate to say the right combination of buzz words that will get the crowd in a tizzy. “I will repeal Obamacare!” “We need to build a fence!” “Bring the troops home!” “We need to win the war against terror!” (Yeah, I don’t quite get how those last two work together, but whatever.)

Further, candidates are encouraged to dogpile the biggest threat currently standing with them. For the past several debates, it’s been Rick Perry. It’ll probably shift back to Mitt Romney soon, but who knows? Herman Cain just won the Florida Straw Poll, and popularity in this race-to-get-to-the-race seems to be more wishy washy than Charlie Brown in a laundromat. (See what I did there?)

Candidates aren’t really given much time to respond fully and accurately to questions, nor to respond to allegations made by other candidates. This tends to lead to a lot of misleads, or even flat out lies (*coughBachmanncough*), because what’s the likelihood that Americans will actually fact check things? The power of media is that people believe it more often than they are willing to check it and be sure.

What this means is that issues go undefined, undiscussed and unresolved. And it just perpetuates the ignorance viewers have about the issues and the candidates. Heck, the candidates that are asked certain questions seems to be random, too. Last debate, only Rick Santorum was asked about the DADT repeal. Why not ask all the candidates? Heck, why not have debates solely about specific issues. One debate on jobs. One debate on government programs (Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare). One debate of social issues (war, DADT). One debate on the budget. Whatever. You get the gist.

That way, instead of having several 2 hour segments where candidates have interesting new ways to say the same exact brief things and sound as eloquent and buzz wordy as possible, you would have 2 hour segments where and issue was legitimately deliberated and discussed and defined. Moderators could guide discussion or do on the spot fact checks to keep the discussion accurate.

But, of course, that wouldn’t make good TV, right?

No, as the Romans and the NFL taught us, bloodbaths and competition are what makes TV exciting. That’s why debates have “winners” and “losers”. Things that are, frankly, decided rather arbitrarily by a bunch of pundits that want to throw their weight behind a specific candidate. Whoever the media calls a winner gets a boost and a target for the next debate, while the loser gets to hear 24 hour news networks say their name all day accompanied with “loser, loser, losing loser that loses.”

Now, perhaps having all the different candidates up on the stage tossing out differing ideas is a good thing. But, to be honest, you could kick out at least 3 of the candidates and still pretty much get all the variety you need in ideas.

But the preliminaries aren’t my biggest concern for this issue. No, I’m worried that the news networks will pull this crap during the debates that matter, the actual Presidential debates.

I had been watching quite a bit of “The West Wing” back when my internet connection wasn’t slower than constipated snail poop. I’d never watched it when it was actually on, but I’d heard enough good things from people I trust that I wanted to look into it.

In one episode, the episode that basically gave President Bartlett his second term in office, the single presidential debate was to be held. Only one debate. People were being trained on how to spin things as briefly and buzz wordy as possible, coming up with “ten-word responses” and the like. Fortune cookie politics. Bartlett, who knew what he believed and had no qualms with slapping around a guy that only knew how to speak in PR terms for his lack of knowledge, destroyed him during the debate.

We need to have a set up that allows people to address the issue by defining what the issue even is before proposing solutions for it. A set up that educates Americans on the candidates and the problems the nation is facing. We need honest, real debates, with constant fact checking and detailed answers.

We don’t need catchy slogans winning the race, on EITHER side. We need someone who knows what he or she believes and knows what he or she is going to do in office.

But along with that, WE need to know, too. Otherwise, this nation will be held hostage to an ignorance that will consume us and lead to our merrily accepted downfall.

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