Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Out from Under

Amazon's Gold Box has been cycling through a number of HBO box sets over the past week or so. Picking this up for $15 was nice enough, but the real coups was nabbing the Six Feet Under gift set (SRP $249.99) on Sunday for $60.

Despite my current lack of real income (my $200 semi-weekly stipend might as well go straight into my tank), whether I'd buy it wasn't a question. I tried writing about the show soon after I'd finished it last spring, and have on countless occasions tried to recommend it to friends, but it's a very difficult thing to talk about - after all, how do you make a television show sound like a perception-altering experience without sounding like a bloviating turd?

The easiest thing to say, at the risk of serving up a Colonial Cafe Kitchen Sink's worth of hyperbole, would be, "Six Feet Under changed my life." That would also be very trite and lazy of me, so I'll try to clarify. I've been extremely fortunate in that I've never had to deal with the loss of someone especially close to me - the only two funerals I recall attending were for my grandparents' elderly neighbor and a high school acquaintance.
What this show did is something that no other experience in my 22 years to that point had done - it made me feel mortal. Painfully, imminently mortal. That's not to say that I had pipe dreams of omnipotence, but it made death a very present force in my life.

I'd like to say that I don't take life for granted anymore, that I've embarked on this daily quest for enlightenment, but it's sadly not true. I still spend too much time on the internet, exercise too little, and eat too much fast food, but now more than ever, it hurts like hell to do so. You don't come across a lot of television that has the ability to plant a big ugly grandfather clock in the back of your head, of whose tocking you become keenly aware when you spend an extra hour on Facebook instead of stopping for a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright house on the way to work.

I worked with this big teddy bear of a guy at the Big Ten Network that everyone calls Johnny Font. Not his real name, but he was dubbed as such presumably because A) his real last name was eastern European (read: virtually unpronounceable) and B) he built fonts for our shows. The prototypical uncle that no parent wants to see at Christmas, Johnny is as likely to talk hockey with you as he is to tell you which Asian massage parlor gives the best happy endings (truth).

Anyway, what I remember most about Johnny are the times he would turn to me or Wes, smile, shake his head, and say "I'd kill to be your age again." That wistful sincerity was something to which I wouldn't have been as acutely attuned before watching Six Feet Under.

I apologize if I've made watching this show seem like a profoundly depressing experience - far from it, it's one of the most enlightening, beautiful, well-written, heartbreaking, and inspiring television series you could ever hope to watch. Though some take a perverse joy in penning 500-word screeds on that which depresses them, I'm not one of those people. It's an amazing achievement in TV, but more than that, there's something to take away, something worth far more than any Amazon price tag.

Please watch this show.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

China's lovable lameness persists

So thanks to Google Reader, I stumbled across this article on an alternate design for Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center. I actually visited the Kennedy Center once (as did seemingly everyone who passed the 8th grade), but I have no recollection of what it looked like. One image search later, we find this.

Stately. Majestic. Opulent. Well-suited for honoring the memory of a beloved fallen leader. Almost too well-suited...

As we see here. The construction of the tomb of Mao Zedong, inconspicuously tucked away on the world's largest city square, was undertaken in 1976, five years after the completion of the Kennedy Center. I'm not naming names, but Nixon visited in '72. Just sayin'.

Speaking of which, go see Frost/Nixon. Two enthusiastic thumbs up.