superbowlCould this be the last Superbowl I’ll ever watch? Perhaps. I feel un-American just typing those words. I’ve been watching the BIG GAME since the third or fourth grade, nearly forty years of football. So why the change? I still like the game of football. In fact, it’s probably the only sport I enjoy watching on television. I even like the Superbowl commercials and the cheesy halftime shows. The games recently have been mostly exciting and well paced, not over by the end of the second quarter like they were so often in the late 80’s and 90’s. So what’s the deal?

1. We’re ditching cable television. There are so many channels and yet nothing is ever on. We only watch stuff on DVR or streaming through a service like Netflix or Hulu. On demand is fine, but they won’t let  you fast forward through many commercials there any longer. Plus, take away the cable and phone and leaving only the internet will save us about a grand a year. One side effect of this plan will be that we have no access to sports, unless they offer a streaming package online. But…

2. Once I accepted the fact that I no longer needed nor wanted cable and confronted the fact that I’d be no longer be able to watch football, I found I didn’t really care. It just didn’t bother me. Why did I lose interest? The game has certainly changed. The players are all over the league. Fantasy football has altered the conversation. Aside from a few players, it seems that “team” means little. Follow the check. It’s a business. The pay scales are beyond ridiculous. The injuries are constant. It’s only a matter of time before a player is hit so hard that they are killed. And…

3. I’ve been trying to focus my attention on important things. Being where I am. Not being tethered to devices. Appreciating the moments that are passing me by. And when I pondered the Superbowl, I found that it wasn’t important in any way to me. Football was not important. In fact, it felt like a trap–just another extravaganza to muddle my thinking and keep from pondering the larger verities. Maybe this isn’t just about football. Maybe it’s not about cable television itself. Maybe it’s just about me. Aren’t there things I want to do?

4. Yes. Be with my family. Practice yoga. Read more. Write more. Visit with friends more.  Be outside more. Build more. Search more. Connect. Only Connect! (thanks to E.M. Forster).

5. No, I’m not saying I won’t watch TV shows. I’m ready to start watching season 2 of Homeland and season three of Justified and a whole host of comedies (Parks and Rec, Modern Family, and Bob’s Burgers), but when I turn the television on, I want to be in charge of what’s on the screen. And football is one of the casualties.

6. So, yes, this might be the last Superbowl I watch. So, I have one request to the giant gladiator-like men that are about to collide with each other next Sunday: please make it a good one.

 

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Oh, Walking Dead #Plotholes, You Slay Me…

…let me count the ways…

I’m late to the Walking Dead Party on season two. A few days ago, I watched the season opener. Here are some thoughts:

1). Monologue on top of the building to start the show. Bye buddy. We’re leaving Atlanta. How’d you get away from the exploding CDC? Why’d you go back to the city? Why’d you climb to the top of the building? Where were the other people? Did they okay the return so that you could call your imaginary buddy and say goodbye? Stay safe, good buddy. Stay safe.

2). The Cars People! The Cars! They are still driving the same shitty cars! It drives me crazy that they drive around in that stupid ancient Winnebago. And that Jeep! At one point, they push a perfectly good Ford Explorer off the road into a ditch. SO THAT THEY CAN GET THEIR CRAPPY JEEP FURTHER DOWN THE ROAD! TAKE THE FORD, YOU IDIOTS!

3). Okay, so they come across a five hundred car pile up in the middle of nowhere. That could happen, I guess. I suppose people were all driving bumper to bumper and when the first car suddenly burst into “zombie,” all the other cars just rammed right into each other. Or, a few cars had a zombie “incidents” and all the other cars came blazing down the highway and slammed into the other wrecked cars. I suppose it could happen, that everyone could totally not be paying attention that way.

4). Worse still, they argue about whether or not they should take things from the cars. Then one guy finds a water truck and wastes an entire five gallon bucket of water for no good reason. The old guy climbs on top of his Winnebago to look for zombies. Good idea. Smart. As far as the eye can see: NO ZOMBIES. It’s a long straight road. He’s scanning North, South, East, West. WITH BINOCULARS. Big binoculars. He should be able to see forever! Suddenly, out of nowhere, a zombie. That’s understandable. It’s a zombie show, after all. But then there’s another. And then two hundred or so. OUT OF NOWHERE. Where’d they come from? Where are they going? Why don’t they smell the humans? The living characters hide beneath cars and no zombie smells them. One zombie (a pretty scary looking one… I should give props where they are due) walks into the Winnebago and finds the one person hiding inside. The rest of the folks stay under the cars. UNDER  CARS! The hungry, hungry zombies can’t find the people outside, but put one scairdy cat blonde inside an RV bathroom and a zombie will find her every time. I reckon.

5). I have to lump some of these together: one girl gets freaked out and chased. Now they zombies are running. Running zombies. Which are they people? Stumblers or runners? The two worlds cannot co-exist, right? The sheriff saves her by drawing off the zombies but dooms her by sending her off on her own to find her way back. Ultimately, he hacks open a dead-zombie stomach to see what it has eaten. Somehow, the zombie has swallowed a bone that is identifiable as a varmit, not a girl. Meanwhile, no one is worried that two men have dug around inside a zombie. I’m still not clear on why that won’t infect you. Is it the actual bite that is the issue? Do the teeth carry the virus? Is it something about zombie dental hygiene? Too many loose threads. Can’t the virus enter through a hangnail if you’re digging around in zombie guts? Later, they come upon a dead man in a tent. Apparently, he reeks pretty bad, but the nylon of the tent holds the stench away. Once they open the tent, however, they’re bowled over by the smell of the decomposing body. Then they hear church bells and dash over to a church in the middle of nowhere that has three zombies in wedding outfits sitting inside. Why? Why? Why? Why are the zombies sitting there? It’s not a plot-hole, necessarily, but it’s as if the writers said: “Okay, let’s drop wedding zombies in here. That’ll be cool.” It simply doesn’t do anything for the story. But once they dispatch those undead, the real boredom starts.

6). Prayer. In the last half hour of the show, there’s a whole lot of praying. Praying out loud, too. In front of an audience. BOR-ING. Hanging out in the church with the chunked up zombies all over the floor, just praying and praying to the gigantic Jesus. I kept hoping that Jesus would climb down off the cross and demand their brains. Finally, the sheriff–despite the dire urgency of the search (night is coming and the girl is out there….ALONE) decides he needs to go in and talk to Jesus too. His prayer is long and windy. He asks for a sign. Later, in the woods, he sees a deer. Everyone knows that deer are signs from baby Jesus himself. Pffftttt.

I’ve decided, for better or worse, that I can’t watch anymore of this show. The hype is unbelievable, and many people I know love it, but the characters all seem like idiots and the writing is simply too inconsistent for me to devote my time to it. I’m not a tv snob–not everything has to be The Wire–but life is too short to spend even a second more annoyed at what is happening on the screen.

#GameofThrones

I haven’t read fantasy (aside from a Terry Pratchet book or two) for over two decades… but I really enjoyed the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. I was so shocked by the penultimate episode… that I decided to read the series. I thoroughly enjoyed this first book and have moved onto the second. Excellent plotting and development of characters. Solid prose too. Loads of fun… although I do have to say that the lives of every single character completely suck. The entire universe of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic is in dire need of an age of enlightenment (as perhaps is our own dark era). The story leans toward the grim… but I tend to like grim, especially in fiction, where lack of conflict means death of story.

I’m going to spill story beans after this sentence. Stop reading if you don’t want to know what happens. The death of a major character is pretty shocking for a television show. I can’t think of many (or any) major character deaths that enhance televised stories. So, when Ned Stark was beheaded, I was shocked. Until the sword came down, I was saying, to myself, “Something will happen… this won’t happen…they can’t kill Ned…” and after the sword came down, my immediate reaction was negative. He was the cornerstone of the series; its solid, moral core. Without him, how could the show continue? It is perhaps the riskiest death of a television character that I’ve ever seen. I had such a negative reaction that I thought perhaps I’d skip the final episode. I voiced my concerns on twitter and the kind folks at the #Baelor hashtag talked me off the cliff.

In the book, Stark is but one of many major point of view characters. Not to diminish his importance, but while his death is shocking in the book, it is tempered by the ongoing narrative, by the other characters points of view and their reactions. The thrust of the story, in Martin’s capable and well-plotted execution, immediately shifts to other characters and the story moves forward.

Although it made for exciting television, the more powerful telling of the story remains in the prose. Never has the difference between the written story and the televised (or filmed) story been so apparent to me. Stark’s death, near the end of the HBO series, provided a punch to the gut. Stark’s death in the book was the a catalyst toward an even larger epic–the boundaries of the entire endeavor increased with Ned’s death, the epic’s canvas grew even larger.

Now I’ve moved into the second book, A Clash of Kings, and I’m impressed with Martin’s vast vision of this strange, dark, violent world. At least when season two of HBO’s adaptation rolls around, I’ll won’t be surprised by who Martin kills off next.