Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Vital Update on My TV Viewing Habits

I was cleaning out space on my DVR (the modern digital analog of the VCR, which as Douglas Adams so deftly noted is a labor-saving device that "watched tedious television for you"), so here's where I am with the summer TV lineup. (May contain nuts. And spoilers.)

"The Last Ship" (TNT) -- Silly as all hell, and enough plot holes to sink the USS Nathan James, but the close-combat fight scenes are very nicely done. Status: Still lasting, but only half-watching until the fight scenes.

"The Strain" (FX) -- Also pretty silly, but still watchable. I like how the show's New York City has gone from complete vampire-denial, to the stringing up of decapitated corpses on Staten Island. I was about to make a similar comment on how much son Zach has grown, even though only a few weeks have passed on the show, but I see he was replaced after season 1 with another actor. He seems older, more sullen, and irritating. Carl, is that you? Get in the house! Status: Still watching, but not straining. Goes good with meal prep.

"Tyrant" (FX) -- I like it, even though I'm still hoping that Barry wins power, then gradually turns heel and becomes a tyrant himself. (I mean, the parallels with Bashar al-Assad weren't exactly subtle. But maybe having an Americanized protagonist break bad like that doesn't work, even on basic cable.)

The latest episodes pretty suddenly introduces the show's version of Islamic State/Daesh, then turns Barry into an insurgent. We'll see how that goes. And when will Barry's daughter get some plot lines? She's like the female version of Bobby Draper from "Mad Men." Status: Still watching, usually while editing photos.

"Killjoys" (Syfy) -- I tried. Really, I tried. But I just couldn't care anymore, and if I wanted to watch "Firefly," I'd just watch "Firefly." Status: Killed joy.

"Dark Matter" (Syfy) -- I tried. Not as hard as with "Killjoys", but I still tried. Not even Agent Curtis could save my interest in the show. (He's still on "The Strain," though.) Status: Doesn't matter.

"Hannibal" (NBC) -- (Boy, not a lot of network TV shows here.) I'm not caught up, mostly because you actually have to watch the show when you watch the show. Status: Still watching. Still cancelled.

"Defiance" (Syfy) -- This is a show that I'm still watching, and I'm not sure why. (Also, see below.) A lot of turnover in the cast since last season. And while I like Lee Tergesen in his scenery-chewing turn as a marauding general, they're really dragging out this season's impending invasion of the town. Status: No wordplay, no idea why I'm still watching. But I am.

"Falling Skies" (TNT) -- This show has been on for five seasons. Five. I've been half-watching since almost the beginning (I still haven't seen the first episode, which annoys me), and I haven't stopped watching. I think it's because I just want to see how it ends, but I'm not sure if that's because of or in spite of the soapiness of the writing. (Blonde arch-nemesis! Brother love triangle! Pope's heel turn!) Oh, and Mira Sorvino seemed perpetually confused that she was on the show. Status: Watching for the fall. Or the fold. As in "while folding laundry."

"Humans" (AMC) -- I almost skipped this show. I'm glad I didn't, it's much better than I expected. Status: Still watching.

"Mr. Robot" (USA) -- Technically, I'm not watching "Mr. Robot" yet, because it's piling up on my DVR. But I'm hoping I'll get to it. Status: Planning on watching.

"Married" (FX) -- I think this is the only sitcom I watch right now. And it's not really a sitcom. I mean, it's more comedy than a dramedy. Maybe it's a "com-a." No, that won't work. Anyway, it's a pretty easy lift and low commitment, since it's only a 22-minute half-hour sitcom. (Fun fact: I think I'm older than everyone on the show except Paul Reiser. Actually, that's wrong -- John Hodgman has me by a year.) Status: Watching.

Anyway, after writing this, I see I could pretty much cut the cable cord if I could get FX, USA, AMC, Syfy, and TNT. (Add in Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, and FXX, and that would pretty much be it, outside of PBS, which I could get over the air.) I'll have to see how that might work.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Fringe Festival Saturday, 2015

Last weekend was the first weekend of the 2015 Fringe Festival at its new locations (Trinidad, near H Street; Brookland; and Gallaudet). Unfortunately, it was also a weekend of scheduled track work on the Red Line, which meant a lot more bus-hopping than usual.

I took the train in, switching to the free shuttle to get to NoMA, then walked to the Logan Fringe Arts Space (the new location of Fringe HQ) for the first show, War and Peas. Actually, I had to run the last few blocks (didn't want to miss a show, unlike last year).

The show itself was mostly dance and puppets; it was okay, but the show is really meant for kids, and there weren't that many of those at the 2:30pm show (even including the one kid who had to leave due to meltdown issues).

I also didn't have time to hang around on H Street (a short walk away), or even at the new Fringe Bar, since I had to catch the Fringe shuttle to get to the next show in the Brookland neighborhood.

I'd never been to Brookland -- its a very suburban-feeling neighborhood, one that's seeing a lot of new, hip construction around the Brookland Metro stop.

The second show was really good: Tammy Faye's Final Audition. The lead actress was great (also, as the play started, I was in the front row of her "studio audience" and she greeted me), but I was also impressed by her co-star, who portrayed four characters, including Jim Bakker and Jim J. Bullock.

Afterwards, I did have some time (though, as it turned out, not as I thought) to grab a beer and a catfish po' boy at the Brookland Pint, at the Brookland Arts Walk:

Brookland Arts Walk sign
My third show of the day was out-of-the-way, at the DC Arts Center in Adams-Morgan (not too far from Amsterdam Falafelshop... my original plan was to get a falafel there, but the po' boy put a stop to that). I got on Metro, but after the mandatory switch to the Metro shuttle, I knew I wasn't going to make it in time, so I got out at Metro Center and cabbed it the rest of the way. Wasteful, I know, but I wasn't going to miss out on another show due to mass transit delays.

As it turns out, I probably could have saved the cab fare (though we'll never know), since the showing of Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom started a little late. The show itself was creepy and I think I missed a twist or two, but it also had a nice use of bloody wound makeup.

So that was my first round of Fringe shows. I have three shows left on my current pass, but I think I'll spread them out a bit more, especially so I can spend some more time on H Street this weekend.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

I Held on to AOL Stock. Which Proves I'm an Idiot

I am stupid and I enjoy throwing away money. This is the only conclusion a reasonable person could make upon hearing what I'm about to post. (It's also the ultimate justification for the name of this blog).
Did you know that AOL was acquired by Verizon for $50 a share? I did. Did you know the deadline for accepting the share purchase offer was midnight Monday, June 22? I didn't. (Seriously, who would have thought? The deal closed in 42 days, making it the 11th-fastest acquisition deal over $1 billion this year.)

Apparently, I still owned some ESPP shares from way back that had been converted from AOL to TWX and back again. And by not responding to the letter in that funny-looking envelope, I missed out on the $50/share buyout offer.

That basically means that I now own shares in a company that no longer exists, and left a bunch of money on the table, because I didn't read my snail mail.

How much? In raw terms, it was... enough to cause flinching and moderate psychic pain. However, as they were ESPP shares, it means some of them were underwater, and the rest just represented years of blood, sweat, and tears. 

In the final accounting, I'll say it cost me more than a modern big-screen TV, and less than a moderately-priced used car. 

Call it a tangible reminder that stupid should hurt (or at least cost).