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West Wing Wednesday: Mr. Willis of Ohio

West Wing Wednesdays are hosted by Lisa the Nerd and Laura of A Little Mole. For previous West Wing Wednesdays, click on the “West Wing Wednesday” label at the end of this post. For the details on what exactly West Wing Wednesdays are, check out the original post.

Mr. Willis of Ohio

-This episode opens with my favorite scene of the series thus far. The staff are playing poker with Prez Jed–who asks them all TRIVIA QUESTIONS in between hands! He’s my hero. First, he asks what is the only fruit with seeds on the outside (totally stumped me), CJ guesses the kumquat, but alas, it’s the strawberry. Toby’s predictably sick of trivia and asks the Prez what his move is. The Prez tells Toby that it depends on if the staff could come up with all 14 punctuation marks in the English language. The cool kids CJ, Sam, Leo and Josh manage to pull together 7 of them then old-man Toby saves the day by rattling off the last 7 in a gravelly monotone. Show off.
-CJ sheepishly approaches Sam to admit that she doesn’t understand anything about the census, and needs some tutoring from Sam. Sam gets sassy with CJ and thanks her for showing up to the party at all, late as her arrival may be. This scene makes me love CJ even more, its so cute and human (albeit totally unbelievable) that she’s been faking her way through census briefings for the past 4 weeks.
-A Secret Service man approaches Prez Jed to tell him that a mentally unstable 40 year old woman attempted to enter the White House in pursuit of his daughter Zoey. Yikes.
-Time for another meeting. Josh and Mandy are sitting down with a few congressman–Congressman Willis of Ohio being one of them. However, when Josh addresses him as Congressman, Willis corrects him, saying that his name is Joe, he’s an 8th grade social studies teacher, and that his position as a representative is only temporary. His wife was a Congressman Willis and when she died a month ago he stepped in in her place.
-Toby, tells the Congressmen, and Joe as he prefers to be called that they are going to have a tough fight in front of them to get their bill signed unless they drop an amendment that would make changes to the census process. Toby tells them he doesn’t feel guilty about exploiting the fact that they all have non-refundable plane tickets for the weekend. Then Joe Willis wins my heart forever by shutting Toby the hell down. “I’m staying in town for the weekend, so there’s no need to rush on my account”. Love you Willis, seriously.
-CJ tells Sam that she doesn’t like not knowing something, because it makes her feel submissive. This is the only good part of this scene, because then Sam proceeds to explain the census to CJ (but more the audience) in terms so simplified that a third grader would understand. We get it, Sorkin!
-The President asks Josh to take his assistant Charlie out for a drink, and tries to give Josh cash to pay for a few beers, which is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Zoey wants to go along so she can flirt with Charlie, and Mallory (Leo’s daughter) wants to have Sam come along so she can flirt with him. Girls.
-Mandy’s badgering the congressmen telling them that their amendment is constitutional even though they calim it isn’t, so she actually reads a passage of the constitution aloud to them, which seems really condescending, but it’s Mandy so there we are. THEN Toby says “She left out a line, didn’t she Mr. Willis” and quotes the bit of census law that says each person who isn’t free shall be counted as 2/3 of a person, and that their amendment would similarly limit the government’s ability to count the impoverished members of society. The two congressmen who aren’t Mr. Willis brush it off saying that they won’t be changing their votes, but Mr. Willis quietly says that he would. The congressmen try to badger him out of it, but Mr. Willis insists that it’s his choice and he won’t be bullied.
-Out at the bar Zoey volunteers to get the group another round, but takes her panic button out of her pocket lest it ruin the lines of her outfit. Some college guys swoop in on her at the bar, surrounding her and asking her for her name. Charlie rushes over to her defense and they start breaking out the weirdest racial slurs I’ve ever heard. They call Charlie superfly, Ice Tray, G-Funk and Doctor Huffy-Puffy-Dred-man, Doctor Doolittle-man. Seriously. Finally, they call him a faggot and Sam and Josh come over. Josh says “you guys don’t realize it, but you’re having a pretty bad night” so cooly, and then the Secret Service busts in and cuffs the guys.
-The Prez tells Zoey he’s going to up her security, which is fair, but Zoey’s pissed that she can’t have a normal life, also fair.
-The episode closes with Toby watching CSPAN, and we hear that Mr. Willis of Ohio has changed his vote to yea. There’s probably a freeze frame.

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West Wing Weekend(?): Five Votes Down

I want to start by apologizing that it’s not Wednesday! A variety of crap (internet outage, pink eye, travelling, who cares!) are responsible for delaying this post and I’m sorry! Won’t happen again guys!

West Wing Wednesdays are hosted by Lisa the Nerd and Laura of A Little Mole. For previous West Wing Wednesdays, click on the “West Wing Wednesday” label at the end of this post. For the details on what exactly West Wing Wednesdays are, check out the original post.

Five Votes Down

-The episode begins with Leo telling Josh that they “lost five votes”. We don’t know what they’re five votes down on, or why, but we’re thrown into the story without explanation. This keeps things exciting, which is great, because let’s face it, this is a show about administrative white house crap and talking fast in hallways.
-The President has just finished his rable-rousing speech, and Toby is complaining about how proud of his own writing he is, and how the Prez messed it up by improving. This is because Toby is THE WORST and the world’s biggest downer. Seriously, there’s no way cool people like CJ and Josh would actually be friends with this cold fish.
-The group walks out to the car and a couple of college aged girls yell “we love you Josh!” which makes sense because he is standing next to Sam, played by Rob Lowe, so obviously girls would look @ frizzy blonde JOSH as the sex symbol.
-Leo gets home late and his wife gives him an engraved watch that was an anniversary present, Leo forgot the date entirely. I don’t have anything snarky to say about this scene, it is just really sad and hard to watch.
-The next day Toby is being a downer as usual, but this time his sulking is kind of warranted. He’s under scrutiny because he “unknowingly” pulled some strings to make a stock he had $5,000 invested in much more valuable. Toby insists he’s an idiot and doesn’t know how to manipulate stocks and I kind of agree with him about the first part.
-There’s some charming Josh/Donna banter, seriously how cute are they. Every scene between them seems straight out of Ally McBeal and that is IN NO WAY a bad thing.
-Leo is trying to make things up to his wife and orders champange and dinner, but opts not to have a violinist because “after the initial thing wears off, there’s just a guy with a violin in my house.” That’s why Leo is awesome.
-Sam tells Toby off because he’s committed a felony and no one likes him because he looks like Sam the Eagle , but unfortunately, assures him that he will not be fired or imprisoned.
-There’s a lot of stuff about convincing a couple representatives to change their votes in this episode. Josh meets with Katzenmoyer who says that he can’t change his vote because of his relationship with the NRA, he meets with Wick who’s willing to trade his vote for a photo op w. the Prez and with Richardson, who refuses to vote on the bill on principle, because it’s been watered down. Sad thing is, the conversation with Richardson is the only one that didn’t ring true.
-OK, this scene is just heartbreaking. Leo’s wife Jenny packs her backs and tells Leo she can’t take anymore. Leo asks her to stick by him, and tells her this job is the most important thing he’ll ever do. Jenny says that it’s not more important than his marriage, but Leo insists that, for these four years, it is. I can’t believe how much I sympathize with both sides, neither party is cast as the villain, nor the victim it’s just a tragic parting of ways. Leo asks Jenny to call him before he goes to sleep and I may or may not tear up.
-Leo meets with VP Hoynes and even though Hoynes is a soulless jerk, he can tell something’s wrong with Leo. Leo opens up about Jenny and Hoynes invites Leo to a super secret federal employee AA meeting.
-The Prez comes up with a brilliant plan to save Toby from disgrace and people thinking he’s a money grubber. He will voluntarily accept a salary of $1 for the year! Toby is so mad! He says “I just got screwed with my pants on” and I could not love it more. Screw you Toby–with or without pants!
-VP Hoynes meets with Tillinghouse to try to lock down another vote, but in the course of the meeting reveals that he has presidential aspirations. I love the VP plot line! Are there people like this in real life, all the scheming and secrecy! Juicy stuff!
-The bill passes and Hoynes congratulates Josh, then exits cryptically saying “Welcome to the NFL”. Huh? I honestly have no idea what this means. Oh well! Decent episode you guys can’t wait for next week–which will be on time!

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West Wing Wednesdays

My friend Lisa and I have begun watching the first season of The West Wing and will share our thoughts at our blogs. Check out Lisa’s post about episode one and my thoughts on episode 2 below. Be sure to tune in each Wednesday for more!

also, do yourself a favor and check out lisa’s whole blog http://www.lisaisbusynerding.com/
Hey Nerds!

I’m Laura and I’m super excited to be talking about the awesome show West Wing. You should know before reading my segments that I am no Sorkin apologist, and I’m probably going to make fun of his over-earnestness and his descent into crack-addictry, so what im trying to say is, stick to Lisa’s posts Mrs. Sorkin!

Anyways, I’m here to talk about episode 2, “Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc” which is just about the most West-Wingy title in the world.

Thoughts

-Josh’s ex-girlfriend Mandy (who is THE WORST) jumps out of her BMW convertible and yells at her client for not running for president anymore. Now she has no campaign to manage and she’s jobless! Wahhh! “I LEFT A JOB AT A FORBES 500 COMPANY, I HAD STOCK OPTIONS” she shrills. Then she threatens to hit her ex-client with a shoe.

-She’s clearly one of Sorkin’s trademark fully developed female characters, think Rashida Jones in “The Social Network” but with less depth. Seriously though, it’s frustrating to have one of the main female characters on this show be such a poorly drawn caricature of the gender, hopefully the later episodes will redeem her. (to be fair, Sorkin has responded to allegations of sexism by saying that he just happens to write about institutions in which sexism exists

-CJ and Toby are doing a concerned “walk ‘n talk”, a staple of the West Wing. Apparently Prez Jed has made an inappropriate joke and it’s a PR disaster, the Rider Cup team won’t even come to The White House for a photo op, which is apparently a huge deal.

-The joke, for the record, involved Prez Jed responding to an inquiry about not spending more time campaigning in Texas with “because I don’t look good in funny hats”. I found it interesting that this episode of WW aired 10 full years before the controversy over President Obama’s comment that he bowls like he’s in the Special Olympics. I’m in no way comparing the two comments, obviously fictional Jed’s hat comment is wholly benign, and Obama’s was probably in poor taste, it’s just an example of what makes WW great. You can absolutely imagine a flock of real CJ and Toby’s descending on Obama’s office the morning after the infamous Tonight Show appearance, and it feels like you’re witnessing something secret and exciting, it’s a backstage pass and I love it. PS is 129 really a bad bowling score?

-Next, Prez Jed drops some serious knowledge on CJ. He tells her “post hoc, ergo procter hoc” (after therefore because of) is gonna be on CJ’s tombstone because she so frequently erroneously attributes bad events (the Rider Team declining a photo op) with the most obvious cause (the Texas joke). Anyway, Jed rocks, he’s the wise grandpa we roll our eyes at, but secretly love and learn from.

-All this un-presidential joking is making everyone around the White House think they need a new media director to put a spin on Prez Jed’s bike accidents, hat jokes etc

-Press Secretary CJ is running a press briefing when one of the reporters drops a bomb on her. Apparently, the Vice President has been quoted saying “this is a time when the president needs our support”—which is a huge diss! Everyone on staff is so pissed and they’re ready to snap into action

-Everyone, that is, except Sam, who just wants to unload his heavy conscience on Josh, telling him that he accidently slept with a call girl. Josh almost does a spit take, then tells Sam that he’s an idiot (which he is) and warns him not to try to save the prostitute.

-CJ tries to approach VP Hoynes about his major diss, but he blows her off and says “CJ, I’ve got my own press secretary” Whoa! A villain within the administration, I love where this is going!

-The president is in a check up with a really friendly young doctor. They have a pretty great exchange about how Doc has a 10 month old child, and they joke around. This scene is going to be significant at the end of the episode, but WW is subtle enough to not highlight and triple underline it’s eventual importance. Prez Jed goes on to tell the Doc that “I know this country has enemies, but I don’t feel violent towards any of them”. Foreshadowing guys! The doc tells Jed that he’s a once in a generation man, and they go their separate ways.
-Sam admits his friend-of-hooker status to Toby, and Toby is pissed too. He asks if anyone saw Sam that night, and Sam is like “ummm only ole’ Billy from the New York Times, can’t see how that would be a problem” and everyone is YIKES. I know Sam is supposed to be naïve, but come on, he is really exhausting in his earnestness and in his stupidity.

-Plumbing the depths of his stupidity, Sam decides to stalk the hooker. To say a proper goodbye or something? Anyway he finds her at a restaurant—with a John—and says that if she won’t leave the table with him he’ll call his BFF, the Attorney General. Way to keep a discrete, low profile Sam! Anyway blah blah Sam tells the hooker he really likes her, and they have a drink together. Are we actually supposed to invest in this relationship and this plotline? Thank God Rob Lowe’s cute or I would snooze through all these segments.

-Leo, Chief of Staff and my fave character calls CJ in to ask if she’s told off the VP for being such a dingleberry. CJ covers for meanie VP and says he was responsive, and that the quote was truncated. Leo’s too perceptive for this BS, and sees right through it, he confronts the Veep directly. VP is defensive and asks how long he has to follow orders from “you and your pal”. Leo is filled with rage and says “Excuse me…but are you referring to the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES”. The VP shrinks in his chair under the awesome Leo, but Leo keeps at him saying he can continue to follow orders, or choose to host celebrity golf matches for the rest of his life. LEO ROCKS, you guys.

-The episode’s last scene begins with a timecard telling us it’s 3:35am at the White House. We learn that the friendly doc’s plane has been shot down by Syrians. The prez is upset and says “I am not frightened. I am going to blow them off the face of the earth with God’s own thunder”. Whoa.
Can’t wait to see what happens next Wednesday in Lisa’s post.

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Shows You Should Be Watching (or should have been before they got cancelled): Clone High

The first in a series of diatribes about under-watched shows in which I try to convince you that you should be watching!

Show: Clone High

Why You Didn’t Watch: It aired for about 8 weeks on MTV in 2002, it followed ‘Say What? Karaoke’ in the MTV schedule.

* Editorial Note Say What Karaoke fucking rocked and this was in no way to be a slight against the show, just to point out it was also under-appreciated.

What You Missed: Clone High is set in a high school  that is secretly being run as an elaborate military experiment orchestrated by a government office called the Secret Board of Shadowy Figures. The school is entirely populated by clones of famous historical figures that have been created and raised with the intent of having their various strengths and abilities harnessed by the military. Clone High features teenage versions of Abe Lincoln, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, JFK and Ghandhi. Plus a really cool robot named Butlertron.

Why You Should Watch: Clone High is one of the most quotable shows of all time. The joke range is amazing, each episode hosts both poop jokes and historical references you practically need a degree to pick up on. If that doesn’t convince you, some sample plot lines; Ghandi has ADD, JFK struggles with being raised by two gay foster parents, the principal wages war against John Stamos and there’s a musical episode that parodies Pink Floyd’s the wall, complete with subliminal messages throughout.

Prove It: 

Gandhi and George Washington Carver star in the action picture “Black ‘n Tan”

A snippet showing why Principal Scudworth is one of the best TV characters ever.

In Summation: Seriously, watch it, there’s only 12 episodes and they are so funny. Unfortunately, it’s not available on Netflix, but most of the episodes can be found on YouTube if you’re interested in giving it a try.

Episode 1, Part 1 (even though it says part 2): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJqfa3_rJ6w

Episode 1, Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-sDIDlka80&feature=related

PS this episode is called “Escape to Beer Mountain; A Rope of Sand. Classic.

http://clonehigh.net/

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Reflections on a Mega Church or, How I Rode an Airport Shuttle to Easter Service

Today I attended Easter Service at the Lutheran Church of Hope in Des Moines Iowa. Without being snarky, calling it a church is a generous stretch of the word. We pulled up to a traffic sign (like fancier than they use for actual detours) with lit bulbs spelling “HOPE CHURCH OVERFLOW PARK AND RIDE”. I don’t know what I expected when I read park and ride, but it’s exactly what you think. We walked up to the group of well dressed white people standing on the curb of a Wells Fargo parking lot and waited to be picked up by a small bus. On the bus I overheard a high school blonde say to a friend on the phone “Yeah, well I need a smoothie, so can I meet you at the cafe?”. I figured she was planning a brunch for after church, but again, I was mistaken. The church has a cafe, complete with “Hope” brand coffee cups right inside the entrance. This isn’t a few donuts and black coffee, there’s macchiatos, frappucinos, chai tea etc. The coffee shop is positioned next to the fully stocked gift store which houses Christian trinkets and “Hope” branded gear. Most jarring about the entrance though, is the information kiosk.


The actual information booth

This shit is crazy. Seriously. And if you think it was cute middle aged moms volunteering to man the info booth you are so wrong. Girls who looked like they stepped out of the supporting role in a romantic comedy stomped around the booth with sky high heels, matching uniforms and headsets. During the service we were all told that representatives would available to help us set up Twitter and Facebook on our smartphones to receive updates from the church. Seriously. This wasn’t even the most absurd thing about the whole experience though. We arrived at 10:40 for an 11:00 service and the sanctuary was full. If this isn’t totally and completely shocking, look at the picture of the church below.

NOT where we sat...

Lucky for us, Hope anticipated this situation and set up three remote viewing rooms. So we sat in a huge conference room with several hundred other people to watch a live feed of the service going on in the same building that we were in. To clarify, I drove 40 minutes, took a shuttle, wore heels and curled my hair to watch church on TV.

The sermon was a response to the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” theory. If you’re not familiar with the theory, it’s Atheists way of poking fun at Christians by comparing the plausibility of  God, Jesus etc to the plausibility of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. His opening argument was “If we ‘made up’ Christianity, don’t you think we would have done a better job of it”. Obviously, it wasn’t as crass as that, but it was pretty close. His point, I guess, was that Christianity demands a lot of sacrifice from it’s followers  so it must be for a good reason, but it was  far from the celebratory experience I was looking for on Easter Sunday.

It went on like this for about an hour culminating in the pastor animatedly refuting the theory that wild dogs had taken Jesus’ corpse by pointing out that dogs couldn’t fold pillowcases. It should be noted that he dropped the mic at this point to demonstrate dog paws folding a sheet, or something like that. The low (high?) point of the sermon came when the pastor listed intellectual Atheists who had turned to Christianity. “CS LEWIS ANYONE? HE WAS NOT AN INTELLECTUAL LIGHTWEIGHT, ALSO THE FOUNDER OF A LITTLE STRUGGLING LAW SCHOOL CALLED HARVARD, MAYBE YOU’VE HEARD OF IT?” I swear this is verbatim. I guess I don’t have an inherent problem with supporting Christianity with leading members of the faith, but “Not All Christians are Dummies” is not the EASTER SUNDAY message I was looking for. Later in the service they played a video (produced and by a local news anchor) where they interviewed professors at Luther Seminary about why Christianity wasn’t dumb. The Phd under all of their names was at least size 72.

The pastor’s final point of the day was that the story of Christ’s rebirth is within all of us, and it feels right (finally, a more uplifting track). Unfortunately, he proved this point by saying that three of the most popular movies of recent times were allegorical and he picked, wait for it; ET, Spiderman 2 and The Matrix. I guess because ET ascends to the heavens, Spiderman saves people on the train posed as he would be on a cross, and because Neo means The One.

SpiderChrist?

I’m all for bringing Christ into people’s everyday lives, but these were a stretch. For better or worse, much of the “audience” never heard this part of the sermon because they left early to miss the traffic. Like church on Easter was a 6-1 baseball game or something. To their credit though, turns out He is Risen, so point 1 to the early exits. Plus they didn’t have to see this actual clip of The Matrix that was actually played in church.

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Summer Movie Preview: Part 1, in which i profile 5 films i’m actually excited about

Super 8 (June 10)

Briefly: A late 70s thriller of derailed government train that may have release secret and dangerous cargo on a small town

Why I’m Excited: Mixing the creative spirit of a kid who loves movies with a big mystery/action plot seems like a recipe for well done whimsy. Plus JJ Abrams has proven to me that he can do mystery well as I’ve liked almost everything he’s ever done.

But I’m Nervous About: The story of the kid being lost in all the mystery. Abrams is trying another Cloverfield style viral marketing campaign with this movie and it seems like theres a lot of potential for this movie to lose its emotional core in all the buzz.

Prom (April 29)

Briefly: It’s Disney, it’s Prom.

Why I’m Excited: Why would I not be excited. The trailer says “It’s not about a dance, it’s about who you are” and it’s being kind of earnest. As someone who couldn’t even handle the schmaltz of real prom with a straight face I can’t wait to indulge in this light, silly fun with a bunch of girlfriends.

But I’m Nervous About: Not enough musical numbers? If anything I’m nervous that this movie will be too good and it will be less easy to revel in its cheese.

Crazy Stupid Love (July 29)

Briefly: A father’s life unravels while he deals with a marital crisis and tries to manage his relationship with his children.

Why I’m Excited: Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. These guys are experts at balancing believability and comedy.

But I’m Nervous About: Steve Carell. His attempts at emotional resonance thus far have been more laughable than his attempts at comedy.

Tree of Life (May 27)

Briefly: From Terrence Malick, the acclaimed director of such classic films as “Badlands”, “Days of Heaven” and “The Thin Red Line”, “The Tree of Life” is the impressionistic story of a Midwestern family in the 1950’s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith. Through Malick’s signature imagery, we see how both brute nature and spiritual grace shape not only our lives as individuals and families, but all life.

Why I’m Excited: Just watch the trailer. I’m so excited about the tone for this movie, the trailer embodies all the darkness and turmoil of a film like Revolutionary Road, and the beauty and emotional punch that a Pixar movie holds. Plus it’s Terrence Malick. Plus they consulted NASA to get the best footage of the cosmos they could.

But I’m Nervous About: Sean Penn. His performances are often too big and showy for my taste, and it would be a shame for his spastic acting to take away from the small beauty of this film.

Friends With Benefits (July 22)

Briefly: A relationship between two friends gets complicated when they decide to get romantic.

Why I’m Excited: No Strings Attached rocked, so I’m totally down for this kind of movie. Plus, even if the writing sucks we get to see Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake naked and they are both so hot.

But I’m Nervous About: Them trying too hard to embrace clever Apatow style humor. There’s a place for dumb non-jokes and this is it!

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