So long, 2020!

A cold December night

Someday, 2020 will make sense. As the year draws to a close, there are a few pre-pandemic “lasts” to remember.

  • Last movie at a movie theater: “1917” on Feb. 2 — Glad I saw it in a theater on a big screen. At the theater I often go to, there is rarely a big crowd for the movies I want to see (and by then “1917” had been out for a while).
  • Last meal in a restaurant: Le Colonne Restaurant at the Hilton Hotel at Leonardo da Vinci International Airport on March 11 — The food was fine — I can’t remember what we had, but tables had been spread apart for social distancing, and there were diners at only about four other tables. We were only there to be sure to get our morning flight out of Rome, leaving the country early as more and more flights were being canceled, including our flights out of Genoa.
  • Last workout at the gym: Feb. 29 — I did some warmups and cooldowns, with a 5K run on the indoor track in between at a time of 33 minutes and 22 seconds
  • Last day working in person at the office: Tuesday, March 3.
  • Last time I had a cold: Maybe sometime in 2019
Continue reading →

That’s me on the TV

That’s me being interviewed about the Tang Teaching Museum during a day when nonprofit museum and art spaces got to meet people spending the day at the Saratoga Race Course.

I use the word “awesome” in it, and I wonder about that word. My use refers to something that fills one with awe, is “awe inspiring” or is full of awe, or is “awe-full.” “Awful,” though, is a word that at one point meant what “awesome” now means. So how did “some” come to stand for “full”? Some blame overuse in the 18th century.

But I wonder: Are there other -ful words that have become -some words?

How about “dreadful” and “dreadsome,” or are those both used, and both mean about the same thing (though maybe dreadsome sounds a little more archaic). It isn’t like people once said “beautiful” and now we saw “beautisome”; or “painful” —> “painsome”; or “thoughtful” –> “thoughtsome.”

Then again, there’s the relationship between “handful” and “handsome,” which in the first means something that can fit in a hand OR something (or usually someone) who is hard to control, versus someone who is good looking. Though that interpretation may mean someone who is easy on the eyes, or whose looks are easy to handle, which then gets the word closer to first definition of handful.

Should I give up on ‘The Passage’ TV show?

Saniyya Sidney as Amy and Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Brad in “The Passage”

I enjoyed reading “The Passage” (as well as “The Twelve” and “The City of Mirrors,” which I wrote about here), and it has been long enough since I read those books that I could approach the new Fox drama with a fresh perspective.

But after three episodes, I’m not sure if I need to see any more. There’s both too much (too many characters, too far-fetched situations, too quick moving, especially in terms of Amy’s swift move through the foster system), and not enough — not enough character development, not enough at stake between Amy and Brad, actually not enough reason for me to understand or care that much about Brad at all.

One thing that struck me even before seeing the show is that I thought I would find it on FX, instead of Fox. FX is where the edgier shows are. Show that I watch, like the first season of “Legion” and “Fargo” and, yes, “The Strain” (which starts with a mystery — what happened to these people on that plane? what’s about to happen to everyone else?). Fox, meanwhile, is home to shows that I might try and quit, like “The Orville.”

Remember “Lost”? Remember how much time was spent, at least in that first season, with flashbacks that helped us get off the island and to get to know the characters. It is always a sign that This Character Is Important. So far it seems the longest extended flashback is of Babcock — one of the death-row inmates turned into a viral. Is she that important? Is she more important than Brad or Amy?

One thing I can’t tell yet is whether the TV is slow or if it just feels slow. Sure, lots of things are happening — chases and stuff — but if feels slow because I think I keep waiting to feel a connection with a character, especially with Amy.

Part of the problem might be Amy’s voice-over, which just raises the questions of where is Amy now and to whom is she talking?

Another issue might just be the cinematography. So much of the show looks too bright and clean to be dark, creepy, and scary.

Or maybe its because there isn’t much mystery to it. Everyone knows they’re made vampires, as one does to counter a bird flu epidemic. There are moral quandaries about it. What could be the central tension is showing the actions needed to exploit the virals for a health cure, while at the same time showing people doing things to mitigate their fearsome bloodsucking. Instead, it looks like the holding areas of the virals are well established and protocols are in place, and every now and then mucketymucks sit at a conference room table and confer. Worse yet, even as the scientists are slowly realizing that the virals have psychic abilities, they are doing nothing yet to see if that is true or to try to stop them.

There are long moments when Richards, who seems to be the head security guard for the bad-guy scientists, is utterly frozen in place and staring dumbly nowhere as the viral Babcock plays her melodramatic backstory in his mind. After three episodes, that seems to be a good analogy for “The Passage” as a whole, so much inaction in the face of melodrama.

Are you watching the show? Are you sticking with it?

Photos: A hidden narrative in “Person of Interest” featuring my spouse’s artwork

NOTE: If you are a fan of Person of Interest and haven’t seen Season 4 Episode 15 don’t read this because it is probably full of spoilers. It also contains wild speculation that probably has nothing whatsoever to do with the ongoing narrative of the show.

Here’s the IMDb description of “Person of Interest” Season 4 Episode 15, “Q&A”: “Reese tries to protect a software programmer with a mysterious second life, but it’s unclear which side of her life the threat is coming from. Meanwhile, Claire, a young hacker that Finch protected, reaches out to him for aid.”

Though “Person of Interest” has been praised as “powerful political science fiction” by i09, I was watching it to see artwork by my spouse, Deborah Zlotsky.

So in the show, her paintings were used as set decoration for a fictional software company in which much of the main plotline (about the programmer with a mysterious second life) is set. Though most viewers probably wouldn’t pay all that much attention to the artwork hanging in the background, it was what I was looking for — and the use of the work reveals a strange hidden narrative about one of the workers in the software company.

A scene from "Person of Interest" Season 4 Episode 15 "Q&A"

A scene from “Person of Interest” Season 4 Episode 15 “Q&A”

Here’s Finch (Michael Emerson) and Reese (Jim Caviezel) in an early scene of the episode. Up there in back, in what looks like a conference room, are two paintings. The one the left is one called Everything Must Go; the one on the right is called Not so happy, yet happier. Yes, my wife’s paintings are abstract, colorful, and with geometric and biomorphic forms. If you compare what you can see of the paintings in this screengrab from the show, though, with how they are presented here on my wife’s website and here on my wife’s gallery’s website, you’ll see the paintings aren’t hung as intended.

A scene from "Person of Interest" Season 4 Episode 15 "Q&A"

A scene from “Person of Interest” Season 4 Episode 15 “Q&A”

This painting, shown during the beginning of the show as the credits are still coming onscreen, is called Situational, three, and can be seen better here. The clear view of this painting was a surprise, because I imagined that the paintings would’ve been used as they are in the first image (way in the background), or how they are used in the one below (just behind a closeup of a character so as to be unrecognizable). Keep Situational, three in mind: It will appear again. Plot bit: The guy (played by Nick Westrate) is the founder of the software company; the woman (played by Heléne Yorke) is the CEO.

A scene from "Person of Interest" Season 4 Episode 15 "Q&A"

A scene from “Person of Interest” Season 4 Episode 15 “Q&A”

OK, not much to see here by way of paintings. I show this because this is how I imagined the paintings would’ve been used. Some story plot here: This image shows the programmer with a secret life (played by Bella Dayne) being scolded by her boss (the CEO) for looking into something a co-worker told her to forget about.

A scene from "Person of Interest" Season 4 Episode 15 "Q&A"

A scene from “Person of Interest” Season 4 Episode 15 “Q&A”

Another plot point: This is the new office of the co-worker who told the programmer to forget about something. He’s gotten a promotion. That means he’s moved out of the open office area (which was presided over by Situational, three) and into his own office. Note, moving into his own office space means he gets two of my wife’s paintings: The one hanging on the wall is called Situational, one, and a closer look at it is available here; the one one the floor is, yes, the previously seen Situational, three. The show doesn’t explain why that painting, which was previously looking over the open-office area, gets to be used by one employee in his own office. I can think of two reasons: The set directors wanted to imply a hidden narrative that this worker in addition to getting his own office also gets to have this cool work of art in his office, not only as decoration but also as a reminder of where he had come from. OR, maybe, the set directors didn’t think anyone would notice.

A scene from "Person of Interest" Season 4 Episode 15 "Q&A"

A scene from “Person of Interest” Season 4 Episode 15 “Q&A”

Here’s a closer look at Situational, one and the actor Omar Maskati, in the role of the guy who got the promotion. This painting, too, will show up again later.

A scene from "Person of Interest" Season 4 Episode 15 "Q&A"

A scene from “Person of Interest” Season 4 Episode 15 “Q&A”

This is my favorite screenshot. Here’s the programmer with the secret life (she’s an underground mixed-martial-arts fighter in her spare time to help pay for her sister’s chemotherapy, of course) in a fight with some bad guys in her CEO’s office. Yes, those are the paintings that were only visible as small rectangles of color in the earlier close-up photo of Bella Dayne. The painting on the left is Situational, two, and the painting on the right is Situational, four. Why is this fight happening? It has something to do with the software company’s founder being a bad guy with henchmen, unbeknownst to the programmer or even the CEO. But did the guy who got the promotion know about it?

A scene from "Person of Interest" Season 4 Episode 15 "Q&A"

A scene from “Person of Interest” Season 4 Episode 15 “Q&A”

This image is from the final scene of the episode. Gone, now, is the founder (for being a bad guy), so the CEO is in the boardroom in charge of everything. Absent from the room is the guy who got the promotion. On the wall at right, however, is the painting Situational, one that had been in that guy’s new office. What’s happening here now? It seemed like the whole guy getting the promotion was just a red herring, and that the real bad guy was the founder. So what happened to the character that he’d lose the painting in his office? Even more so, this is a conference room, and yet in one of the first scenes there was a conference room that had two different paintings. If you look at this photo here and the first photo above, you’ll see that both conference rooms feature the same kind of red chairs. Could this be the SAME conference room?

If it is the same conference room, then I think I’ve uncovered a hidden narrative about this episode having to do with the company and my wife’s paintings. In this software company, it isn’t just people that get promotions, but paintings get promotions, too. As one moved from the open office into a private office, another moved from a private office into the more visible conference room (and replacing one painting). So the question I’m left with is: What happened to the painting Everything Must Go, which was visible in the first photo but has been replaced by Situational, one in this photo? Is this another mystery for “Person of Interest?” Perhaps its the opening for a spinoff show: “Painting of Interest?” (Or, maybe, I’m reading too much into it, and the makers of the show didn’t think anyone would notice.)

GoT Episode 4.8 “The Mountain And The Viper” pre-reaction


Oh! Sh*t! No effing way!

(Next week: Ep. 4.9 pre-reaction)

Review: Downton Abbey Season 3

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The more things change … well, that’s it, isn’t it? Things do change, no matter how fervently Lord Grantham and fans of “Downton Abbey” may wish otherwise.

The third season of the justifiably popular British import, created and written by Julian Fellowes, comes to PBS on Sunday with the first of seven new episodes set in 1920.

It is the dawn of a new age, not only for the residents of Downton Abbey, upstairs as well as downstairs, but for England as well. The Great War is over, and society is changing. Women are getting their hair bobbed and wearing their dresses shorter — well, the younger ones anyway: Certainly not the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith). Continue reading →