Saturday, June 26, 2010

A TV Meme

I am once again using a prompt from the blog Ruminations to get some writing in. Ok, it's just cheap entertainment for me. So, here are the questions as provided with my replies.

Do you snack while watching TV? Sometimes.

What is your favorite TV show? This varies. These days I watch a lot of stuff on places like the Discovery Channel and History Channel. From those, I like Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, and Deadliest Catch (though not as much as I liked it the first season or so). I also watch Ice Road Truckers and Swamp Loggers when I see it is on and I remember.

What TV show makes you run to change channels? Most reality television makes me want to run for the hills. I will be blunt: I do not give a rodent's derriere for shows like Jersey Shore, the Real Housewives of Wherever the Hell (or whatever a bunch of prima donna overrated mostly over the hill trophy wives with vacuous lives call themselves), Survivor, the one on TruTv about the repo people, etc. I believe that eons from now, when whatever advanced race finds evidence we existed, they will be able to point to reality television as one of the major reasons for our societal decay and our intellectual fall. These shows pretty much just highlight the worse humanity has to offer. That they are popular says a lot about how low society has gone.

How do you view your TV guide: online, on-screen, newspaper, magazine, other? I rarely view a TV guide in any form. I just catch stuff as I see it. There are a couple of shows I remember when they are on, and I try to make it point of watching them. Otherwise, I don't worry about it too much.

Have you ever been surveyed for your TV-viewing habits or do you know anyone who has been? No on both counts.

Do you watch TV news and/or current affairs regularly? I watch current affairs fairly often, but at times I watch the stuff in short spurts and in the background. In other words, I may have CNN turned on, but I will be on the laptop reading online feeds or doing something else. As of late, I get most of my news online, so by the time I get home, if I watch TV, I want something escapist.

Do you watch any TV “soaps”? (Truth please, even if it is embarrassing.) No. Although I suppose a show like Deadliest Catch could be considered a "soap" of sorts. Even though it is supposed to be a show documenting the work the crab fishermen do, it does share a lot of in common with soap operas in terms of injecting drama.

What other series shows do you try not to miss? There are not too many if any that I worry about missing. There were shows I used to worry about missing, but they have ended, and no worthy replacement has appeared.

Any previous series or shows you really liked? Yes. Previous shows and series I liked include: The X-Files, Homicide: Life on the Streets, Millenium, Babylon 5, Farscape.

Do you have pay TV or are the digital channels enough? I am not sure what this means. But if it helps, yes, we have cable. And it is pretty basic.

Do you only watch certain TV shows online? My computer at home is not good enough to really watch whole shows online. Hey, I am a librarian. The salary is not good enough to upgrade every two or three years like some people do.

Do you regularly use services like ABC catch-up or other online replays? Nope.

Do you ever pay any attention to the adverts? Once in a while, if they are amusing.

Do you multi-task while watching TV & if so what else are you doing? Yes, I multi-task. At home, I am usually on the laptop reading feeds or doing some writing.

Is there a TV show that makes you laugh out loud? These days? Not really.

Have you ever said no to a social invitation to stay at home and watch TV? (Truth again please.) Mind telling us what the show was? Not that I recall.

Do you record TV shows & if so why and how (VCR, DVD recorder, TIVO, laptop, etc.)? I used to tape stuff on VHS back in the day (dating myself here). I don't record much, but the better half, who works odd hours, does like using the DV recorder quite a bit.

Least favourite TV personality/actor/character? Pretty much most political pundits, especially conservative ones like Beck, Limbaugh, etc., who do nothing more than bully, misinform, mislead, peddle fear and ignorance. As a librarian, people who do that sort of thing, and do it for no other reason that for personal gain at the expense of decency are scum of the earth. You can add in here vultures like Nancy Grace and celebrities (if you can call them that) like Paris Hilton, Justin Bieber, so on.

Most popular TV personalities/actors/character? Meh. No one worth typing in here really.

Have you ever seen anything really memorable on TV (not news/events - made for TV drama, etc.)? Not sure how to answer this, but the Babylon 5 episode where they do the religious festivals from the various worlds sticks with me, especially the ending. It's on the first season, and the title is "Parliament of Dreams." It gives such a simple message, and if nothing else, reminds me how much work our society has to do to learn mutual respect and decency. No, I am not giving you a synopsis. Go watch it.

Do you prefer TV series or stand-alone shows? Varies.

Is there a specific show you find yourself recommending over and over? Right now? Not really. If anything, I just tell people to get some of the older things I like (see above) on DVD and watch those instead. Current tv is just not worth it much.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Impressions after seeing The Laramie Project here in Tyler

This is not going to be a formal review. I can leave that to the professional reviewers out there. This is more for me to share with my three readers some of my impressions and response to the play that I saw last night. If you want the nutshell, the answer is yes: you should go see this play. If you are in the area, you can still catch it tonight or tomorrow night. Get ticket information at the Tyler Civic Theater (link to their website). Finally, inf interested, you can read my thoughts prior to the performance and a small review of the play here. So, here we go.

Yes, the play was excellent. Yes, the performance was stellar and very moving. I could say that and more, but in the end I want to say that this play is about people in any town and their responses to anyone who is an "Other" or different in some way. It is a play that this town really needs to see and then discuss. Because this play is about compassion, or the lack thereof. It is about what we teach our children, or what more often than not many fail to teach their children. Being a parent, with my teen child in attendance, that last point resonated with me. As we were heading home after the play and talking about it, that was one of the things we told our daughter, "this is why we take you to see things like this, so you learn." She gets it, and she noticed that she likely was the youngest person in that audience last night. Maybe the label that the play is suggested for "mature audiences" kept some people from bringing their teens in. Yes, we do have to say this is not a play to bring your children to; they will likely not get it. But it is a play that young people in their teens, especially in high school, should see and talk about lest they fail to learn key lessons on humanity and compassion and tolerance and, well, I could go on and on. I have to thank the cast and crew not only for their great work, but for giving me something to share with my daughter.

If you pay attention and watch closely, odds are good you will recognize members or types from your town in the play. I know as I sat there that I could identify at least one person I know personally. Don't worry, I am not revealing who it is is here (but I did make a note of who it was in my personal journal, where I wrote a draft of what I am posting here. Yes, there are some things I write in my journal I do not put on the blog. My three readers already know that). I am sure others who watch will see either someone they know or maybe themselves.

As one of the actors, during the introduction before the play started, reminded us, theater has the power to show us the truth. This play with these excellent actors, who are members of our community, bring truth to life so the rest of us can learn, think, reflect, and then share and discuss with each other.

The small space in the civic theater is intimate; it is set up in a square with the stage in the center and the audience surrounds the stage. It is perfect for this fast paced play. The actors who become the people of Laramie bring to life the responses, feelings, hopes, and even the darker elements of that community. We are transported to Laramie, and yet, in such small intimate space, as we are immersed in the experience, we come to see our town, our people, ourselves. The actors bring us to life and make us look at ourselves proving the universality of the experiences and lives of those folks in Laramie. Therein lies the power of the play and the extraordinary ability of the cast, who play multiple roles per person, to make us feel that we are there but also to make us honestly ask if that could be us.

I know I have been moved, and I have been made to reflect. These are good things for we learn and grow from our experiences and reflections. This is a play that everyone needs to see, and we are fortunate that we have such a good cast and crew bring it to life in our community.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Booknote: The Laramie Project, and some thoughts

Below you will find the review I wrote over on my GoodReads page for The Laramie Project, which I finished reading last night. I am glad I managed to read it on time, so to speak. It took a bit to get it in. I borrowed a copy via our campus interlibrary loan service. I will note that I had to try twice. The first copy arrived with pages missing, and I had to return it. The second copy, from a different library, came with some water damage, but at least it was complete. The play is coming to town, and it is opening this evening. I plan on being there with my family because this is an important event. It is a play that this town needs to see and then talk about. Tyler needs a serious look at itself, and this play might be an instrument to begin that process. I will tell you one way I know that this is so. Earlier today in a meeting with the rest of our library staff, as we were talking about the play, and I mentioned I was going, at least one of my colleagues was extremely uncomfortable. I am sure if said colleague could have told me how I was going to burn in hell, said colleague would have said so.

The play has attracted attention and protests to the point where even I wrote to the theater when some of the civic theater's board members were trying to censor the production due to some minority but very vocal pressure. I even posted the letter I sent as an open letter here on this blog. I rarely if ever do things like write letters to editors or organization boards. It is part of what I feel I need to do as a librarian who wants to keep working; I self-censor some things. But this production is a crucial and important educational tool for this town. We need to have it here. We need to say that we are better than that. We need to make a stand and show others that we will not be afraid of ignorance and bigotry (overt or genteel, and sometimes it is the genteel type that can hurt the most and have the most pernicious effects). We need to say that we will not be silent and simply look the other way when something happens. Silence is not an option. We need to break down walls, and one way to do it is to start talking. Hopefully, this play will help towards that goal.

So here is my small review of the book. I will post my impressions of the performance sometime after tonight. I have to admit I feel a bit of pressure. When I was in graduate school for my first graduate degree, I had one of the best drama studies professors any student could have. Dr. Papa taught us to not only enjoy theater but also to see it for all its potential to speak to us, to explore a variety of issues, to bring us humanity. He taught us how to look at the space and how it works with the play's text and the actors. To look for the subtle things as well as the very obvious. To reflect on what we saw and what we can and should be learning. And he took us to see a lot of plays, some controversial, and for me, he sparked a passion about theater that still lives on even if I went on to become a librarian. So, Dr. Papa, wherever you may be now, I can only hope I can take your lessons with me as I watch this performance. To continue learning, reflecting, and sharing it with others is what you taught me, and it is what I hope to do this evening.

And my final reason for going? To support the local LGBT community and its allies. That is also why I am attending, and why I am bringing my family, including my daughter. Because I do not want it to be said that my child did not learn good values, or worse, that she only learned the "values" that led to Shepard getting killed. In fact, I don't want her to learn the "values" that facilitated the death of Matt in Wyoming. I want her to learn that there are other, better ways to live with others, to get along, to be charitable and compassionate, and overall a decent human being. Knowing my daughter, she will probably have questions and observations afterward. She always does when it comes to things like books and events she sees on the news. I am looking forward to that conversation as well.

I will see those of you able to attend tonight. Keep in mind, if you can't make it tonight, there are two more performances. You can find ticket information at the Tyler Civic Theater website here.

* * * *

The Laramie Project The Laramie Project by Mois├ęs Kaufman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have to say that I have not read a play in a long time. I think it has been since I was in graduate school for my English studies graduate work. This play is coming to our town, and I wanted to read it before I went to see the performance. I am glad I did. The play covers the event of Matthew Shepard's murder in Laramie, Wyoming in 1999. But the play is not about the murder itself. It is more about the townspeople and how they responded to the play. It is about how bigotry and ignorance live in a town even when the town prides itself on a "live and let live" attitude. That attitude often boils down to "if you do not tell me you are gay, I will not have to beat the crap out of you." Not exactly very tolerant, charitable, or "live and let live." This play has great moments where you see the evils that people are capable of, but it also has great moments where you see the compassion that people can be capable of.

The play is set up as a series of interviews by the theater company at the town of Laramie. They basically went there and talked to the people. Some people were more willing to talk than others. It is a minimalist play in the sense that it is made for an intimate theater space, the kind of small theater where the audience can be close to the actors. There are little props, and the actors play multiple roles because in the end, it is about suggesting a scene, not recreating it. In the end, it is the words and the response that matter. The space not so much, and this is so because, when it comes down to it, this is not just a play about LGBT issues. It is a play about every town in the United States. It is a play about every community that says, "it could never happen here," only to find out that, not only it can and does happen, but the evils of ignorance and bigotry emerge with ease. It is a play that will make some think about the values they teach their children, and it is a play that will make people think and look at themselves, then look at their communities. It is about us.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, June 11, 2010

Some reading related book meme thing

I cannot resist blogging a book related meme, so when I saw this one over at Ruminations, I had to do it. Now Constance Wiebrands, the blogger at Ruminations, is doing some crazy do a post every day for 30 days challenge. I call it crazy only because I don't have time to blog every day. Constance is a lot braver than I am at this point. Heck, I am lucky these days if I can blog once a week. Work has just taken a big toll of blogging, but one has to work to make a living, so you get the idea. At any rate, I am going to do a little something for fun for a change.

The meme then:

Do you snack while reading? Not really. When I am on the computer, I will eat in front of it. I often take my lunch while working, and I am often catching up on news over lunch. However, I don't usually eat while reading books. The exception is when I travel. If I am in some strange place, usually by myself, and I have a good book, I will read while I eat.

What is your favorite drink while reading? A good cup of coffee. I can do tea too, or a small alcoholic drink, say Irish cream and milk. However, drinking alcohol while reading is extremely rare for me.

Do you tend to mark your books while you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? If they are college textbooks, I don't mind marking them and making notes since I would usually need those notes later, and more often than not, the books are not keepers; they are getting sold back. Otherwise, I do not mark my books. I do make notes in my personal journal if I find passages in a book that interest me or that I want to remember. Overall, I do not like writing in books. The textbook exception is mostly because I see them as disposable (and often, since I bought them used, some other person may have already marked it, thus I don't feel obligated).

How do you keep your place? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book open flat? Bookmarks. In fact, I have a small, but very nice collection of bookmarks. If anyone asks me for one of those "what is one thing people do not know about you," I can say that I collect bookmarks. They are not fancy, mind you. They are mostly from libraries I have visited (if they make custom ones), simple art ones, promotional bookmarks with good art, so on. I will dog-ear only if I lack a bookmark, but this is rare. If I have to toss in a receipt, a piece of scrap paper, or anything as a bookmark, I will do that first before dog-earing a book.

Fiction, non-fiction or both? Both. It depends on my mood. That is why I am usually reading more than one thing at the same time at any given moment. Sometimes I feel like fiction, sometimes I don't.

Do you tend to read to the end of a chapter or can you stop anywhere? I prefer to read to the end of a chapter. However, I am pretty able to stop anywhere. That is a bit easier to do with nonfiction, but I can do it pretty well no matter the book.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you? I have been tempted to throw a book across a room if it angered or irritated me. I have certainly cursed it and tossed it aside on the nightstand or table or the floor. Very few books have earned this dubious honor of irritating me to the extent I want to toss it. The Sparrow is one of the few I remember I really wanted to do more than toss. I actually wanted to burn it (yes, actually burn it, and I am a librarian, so you can figure out how much it irritated me) and then. . . .well, let's just say to this day I do not have nice thoughts about the author and leave it at that.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away? Yes. If I am at home, I usually read in my workstation, and I have a dictionary at hand.

What are you currently reading? I am currently reading the following: Nancy Folbre Saving State U: Why We Must Fix Public Higher Education; Sandy Mitchell, Death or Glory (Ciaphas Cain novel #4, Warhammer 40,000); Kazuo Koike, Samurai Executioner, vol.5: Ten Fingers, One Life; Alison Macore, Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids; Carl McColman, The Complete Idiot's Guide (R) to Paganism.

What is the last book you bought? Alan Moore, Wild Worlds; Alan Moore, DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore; Brian Wood,, Northlanders, Book One; Jonathan Hennessey, The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation. (I had a nice moment of serendipity last weekend when we found a Half Price Books along Highway 67 coming back from a family reunion. Good to know there is another location in the general vicinity of Arlington, which is the area where we usually go every four months or so when we want to go to good bookstores).

Do you have a favourite time/place to read? For books, in bed, in the evening. If in a library, in a nice armchair.

Do you prefer series books or stand-alones? I tend to prefer stand-alones. I do like some series, but I have to know they will end. In other words, I hate series that go on and on and on, especially the ones where it is clear that after a few volumes, the author is just telegraphing it. This is a big reason I stopped reading Harry Turtledove, for instance, whom I used to like for alternate history. The guy just kept on making series after series after series. He is just phoning them in by now. I will read parts of a series if those parts are stand alone, say the occasional Star Wars novel or the Warhammer 40K's I have been reading (part of a series, but they stand alone).

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?

Gabriel Garcia Marquez and One Hundred Years of Solitude are my perennial recommendation to anybody. These days, I would recommend the Ciaphas Cain novels to anyone who likes military scifi with a touch of humor.

How do you organize your books (by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.)? Mostly by genre (I have shelves for science fiction and fantasy, literary fiction, nonfiction, and Spanish works), then in alphabetical order by author for books. For comics and graphic novels, it goes by publisher, then by title for most, followed by the more literary graphic novels at the end, also by publisher, then author. So, basically Dark Horse, DC, Marvel, Vertigo, etc., then by title within those, then the literary ones like Fun Home and La Perdida at the end of the comics and graphic novel set. My mangas have a separate section, organized by title. I tried author, but title is easier for comics, graphic novels, and mangas given these works usually have various authors, and then you also account for illustrators and artists. Title is a lot easier in those cases.

Barbara’s additional question: background noise or silence? When reading in bed, usually silence. In fact, most of the time I do prefer silence, but I can read if I have soft noise in the background, and I am usually able to tune out any loud talkers nearby if need be. (And no, I do not know who Barbara is. Her question came with the meme).