Bad Television

I’ve been saving up the TV comments, so they’re all coming out in this entry. You will learn that I generally a) watch crap and b) am happy watching crap. OK, let’s begin.

American Idol

is now completely boring and lame. It was always boring once they got rid of all the bad people. Competent covers of pop tunes sung over a lethargic backing band just don’t excite me. I used to love all the bad people. But this year, it seems like they have completely overplayed their hand on the bad singers. Perhaps it’s in the wake of the success of William Hung, but it’s clear that they are just plain old trying too hard. Anyway, we watched the opener. Carrie might go back in a few weeks, but I’m out for the duration.

The Apprentice

is looking up. Sure, Donald Trump is an idiot windbag string of bankruptcies masquerading as a moneymaking businessman and sure the show is a series of product placements and lame scenarios which lead ambitious corporate climbers to bicker constantly and grovel at Trump’s feet, but there is still some appeal to it that I can’t quite place. I will, however, proudly announce myself as a class traitor. I started rooting against the “book smarts” team just as soon as the poseur Danny whipped out his acoustic guitar and they started doing their own mini-corporate pep rally. I realize that the end result of a “street smarts” blowout will be a bunch of unpalatable anti-intellectual crap, but I simply hate the educated people more. And they should know better than to allow cameras to film their pep rallies. The street smarts do.


is cool too. I have less to say about this show than to relate a story about it. At a dinner party Thursday night (and someday, I’ll write up a theory of dinner parties in this space) one of our hosts disparaged Lost along with its reality-TV cousins (for those not in the know, Lost is kind of inspired by Survivor but is fiction) in that classic high culture dismissal of low culture that happens sometimes among academics. Carrie then begins simply explaining why she likes it. She relates all the plots and subplots, and I’m involved in a different conversation at the other end of the table so I don’t really follow. But at one point I look up, and other than myself and like one or two others, the entire table is sitting there, riveted by Carrie’s account of the show. She actually made it sound good to people who don’t like television. I don’t know what she said, but the accomplishment is certainly worth noting. Me, I just cede the ground of edification to others. I’m all about debased cultural forms. Speaking of which . . .


I am so looking forward to this evening’s matchups. To use a Jewish metaphor, the Super Bowl is like the high holidays of football, but the championship weekend is more fun, like Purim (1). I know I have swooned over the Vikings all fall in this blog, but five years in Pittsburgh — a true football town — led to us adopting the Steelers as our second-favorite team. I’m not just saying this, either. We have been quietly enjoying them all year and their victory over New England (whose coach I have complained about in previous blog entries) was extremely sweet. I am hopeful to see a repeat performance. It was absolutely delightful when they got to the championship game in 2002 (at the end of the 2001 season) — the whole city of Pittsburgh was electric. I’m returning there for a dissertation defense in a week and a half, and I would love nothing more than to see what it’s like when the Steelers are in another Super Bowl. I wouldn’t expect another blowout, but I’d love to see one.

As for the Falcons and Eagles, I like both teams, and I will truly pity the Eagles if they lose again. But the AFC championship will determine my loyalties for the Super Bowl.

And a Lowbrow Movie to Boot

I forgot to mention we saw Elektra on movie nite and it was a decent combination of a superhero movie and a ninja movie. The plot and character development did not interfere with my enjoyment of the action scenes or special effects.

That is all for now.

1. Not like I’d know. I haven’t observed any of these holidays in years.


Yesterday, according to the weather channel’s website, it got down to -17F/-27C. According to my cabdriver, with windchill the “felt” temperature was -45C. If this was actually the case (cabbies have been known to exaggerate), that would be a new personal record for me. Last year, on this very weekend, I interviewed for the job I currently hold, and it got down to -40 degrees, where the two measurement scales meet.

The reason the Canadian government can’t populate “the north” is because “the south” of Canada is already far enough north.

For my non-local readers, I will state the obvious: cold of this magnitude is quite dangerous if you’re exposed to it for too long. There’s a certain sharpness on the first intake of breath upon leaving a building. Cold of this magnitude cuts and grabs at you. It has a bracing effect on me — quite the opposite of extreme heat and humidity, which I simply find heavy and pressing down upon my body. Last night, as we were leaving a bar, the lock on the inside of the door was actually frozen over. There was a group of us and we all marvelled at it in awe and slight horror. Earlier that evening, Carrie, Will and I had a 2-block or so walk up St. Laurent (the “main”) from dinner to the bar where we would hang out with a group of people celebrating our friend Jenny’s birthday, and that was two of the longest blocks of my life. Partly, it’s because I screwed up in the morning and did not put on thermal socks. I also should have grabbed my heavier duty gloves.

That said, I kind of liked it. I mean, like any rational person, I hated it and was desperate to get back inside (maybe that wasn’t rationality but the reptillian party of my brain kicking in). But somewhere in my mind — I don’t know if it’s some kind of sick tough guy thing or what — I liked the fact that it was so inhospitable out, and yet there I was with my friends having a good time at a bar. As was a great deal of Montreal, so far as I could tell. Plus, I got to wear my cashmere scarf all night, which is usually too warm to keep on once I’m inside. But it’s deliciously soft.

Deadly cold: a feast for my senses. Or something.

Languages are Cool

I was doing my usual search on in preparation for our Movie Nite. Just for kicks, I like to see what’s playing at the Star City Theater, which is closest to our apartment, though always in French. I love the translations of the titles. Spongebob Squarepants is, simply, “Bob the Sponge.”

In the “isn’t Canada weird?” department: today in my lecture I showed my students this picture, one of those “earth at night things.” A great deal of murmuring ensued, and so I asked what was up. One student says “there are no lights in most of Canada — they’re all concentrated down near the border” and then another says, “yeah, of course, that’s where everybody lives.” On the way back to the office after class, Julian (one of my TAs) informs me that there’s a scheme afoot in the federal government to try and better populate the north. Good luck!


is what you, dear reader, must be suffering from. I’m suffering from not writing in it, so we’re even.

I wrote a good entry last Friday about lunch at the Office of Technology Transfer and my original business idea (no I didn’t disclose it) that they seemed to like. I must have accidentlally deleted it or something. Ah well. Suffice it to say that as a humanities scholar, I never thought I’d get to talk to the people in the Office of Technology Transfer, but that it turns out they’re pretty cool.

This weekend we got to see Kinsey, which turned out to be another one of those Hollywood “great man” movies. It had its moments but was overall underwhelming. It does make me want to read a biography of him to get the real dirt. Interesting note: if I’m not mistaken, my parents had original copies of the two major Kinsey studies on their bookshelf. But I might be mixing that up with all the original Modern Library volumes they have. Anyway, despite the mediocre movie, the company was good — our friend Hajime, whom we hadn’t seen in ages — and we discovered a very Montreal wine bar called Pullman. We even had good wine there, which seems like a trick in this town what with the SAQ strike and all.

Another “I know I’m in Canada” moment. Today, I’m talking with Susana, one of the departmental secretaries. Susana is pregnant and due to go on maternity leave soon. So I was asking her about it and they get 1-2 YEARS of maternity leave in Quebec. Granted, it’s not all at 100% pay, but compared with friends’ maternity leaves that are measured in days or weeks, I was amazed. She could tell too because my jaw had obviously hit the floor of the copy room and she said something understated like “oh, right, it’s not like that in American.” Add another cool point for Canada.

Right now, I am listening to Codeine, which is slow and epic, much like the work I must get done tomorrow. In the meantime, the PVR calls with 24.

Techno on the Metro

I think I’ve mentioned my childlike fascination with the metro here before. The trains are blue, the wheels are round, the orange line plays a major chord on the way out of the station, etc.

Anyway, the other day on the way to school, I listened to Quebec Connection’s Bonjour Expo (thanks Will!) on the way in and was struck by just how perfect the music was for the Metro. There’s a certain optimism to their music — which is only fitting for a concept album about Expo ’67. But I also really liked the anachronism of the moment.

–Ingredient One: a very quotidian transport technology that most Montrealer probably find unremarkable, which once held some kind of high modern futuristic promise

–Ingredient Two: A musical celebration of the moment in which the technology was seen as utopian.

–Ingredient Three: “Vintage” 1980s synthesizer sounds, themselves now examples of a decayed, dusty old futurism, used to celebrate a futurism that had itself fallen into disrepair by the 1980s.

Clear? Good. Time to watch CSI on the PVR.

Closer, but not close enough to Movie Nite

Although there are a number of films we both want to see, times were off last night given when we got to dinner, Carrie and I decided we’d do a little quid-pro-quo on movie night and go see something she wanted to see (and then something I wanted to see another time). For some reason, we wound up going to Closer, which she’d wanted to see, as opposed to several others that she was hot to see that I was lukewarm on. I think this may have been my fault for thinking that Closer would be arty while that boxing movie would be another “characters grow while they triumph over inbcredible odds” flick like Sea Biscuit. All I can say is if Closer is about art, then to hell with art.

What a terrible mistake. What a terrible movie — full of terrible characters involved in a terrible story. And the soundtrack was so whiny to boot.

Really, I cannot possibly encapsulate how terrible this movie was in the space of a blog entry. I think it’s supposed to be an exploration of relationships or something, but it combined incredible predictability with almost sanctimonious self-satisfaction that it is revealing some inner “truth” of human nature.

Carrie didn’t like it much either. I asked her whether, if she met a version of herself on the street who had not yet seen the movie, she would advise herself to go see it. She said she would warn herself that it was totally brutal.

The real bummer of it all was that Wednesday is a new institution in our domicile: MOVIE NITE (best to leave out the “gh”). We both finish teaching on Wednesdays, so we catch dinner and get a movie. This was in part because we got tired of complaining all fall about how we never got to see any movies that we wanted to see. We’re still way behind, but at least we’re trying to catch up.

Note to Montreal readers: feel free to inquire about joining us on MOVIE NITE. It is not a couple thing.


Like there’s any point to having “category” in front of my posts here. It’ll be gone when the fabled last days of the site revision come.

Four hours over two nights was very intense, and we’re talking about the most intense show on television. Once again, we learn that

a) torture is okay except (maybe) when it’s the child of a US government official
b) conservatives are tough guys (like the secretary of defense — clearly a republican)
c) liberals are wimps, especially the secretary’s son, whose “Michael Moore” politics are largely youthful rebellion
d) intelligent African American women might be dangerous
e) it’s okay to hold up a convenience store if you’re tracking the guy inside and need to wait until they can get a satellite feed up on him

..and so on. Okay, so the politics stink and the show is utterly unbelievable (especially in its 4th season) and yet it is by far the most effective hour of television in the prime time schedule. It is the only show that makes me physically tense. And for that, I am strangely grateful.