Happy Independence Day 2018!

Happy Independence Day. It’s been a tumultuous year so far in politics and current events in America.

(Current events being the first draft of history, as I’ve heard it been said, I think, by the late journalist Gwen Ifill).

Take a moment to reflect on the meaning of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and don’t forget that the Constitution does say we’re “to form a more perfect union.”

I mentioned this last 4th of July on Facebook, crediting the idea to WNYC’s Brian Lehrer: on America’s birthday, like any birthday, acknowledge it, warts and all, and hope (and work) for better.

“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” – James Baldwin. Something to think about in these times.

See here for NPR’s traditional annual reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Yes, there’s “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” but as I get older, I’m more struck by the end of the document, when the Founding Fathers state: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

The Founding Fathers were about to do something dangerous, and they knew it. But, they went ahead together, in hopes of something good. Social contract theory meant something to them. The experiment continues, 242 years later.

NPR on Facebook shared a link to a feature from July 4, 2010, wherein NPR’s Guy Raz interviewed author and historian Ray Raphael on dispelling myths about Independence Day and the revolution.  The linked page notes: “America ended up with the 4th because that’s the day the Declaration of Independence was sent out to the states to be read. The document was dated July 4, so that’s the day they celebrated.”

As we lawyers say: just go by the effective date…

I’m sharing this on triscribe, as around here, every day is APA Heritage, but  I had this link laying around since May: Atlanta Braves player Kurt Suzuki, on being an Asian American in Major League Baseball. Baseball has long been America’s game, but it is odd that there aren’t a lot of APAs in major league baseball, for any number of reasons.

I’ve been terribly behind on blogging. We’ll see how the summer goes.

Some TV Highlights of 2017

Here it is. As usual, my personal TV Highlights of 2017 is not really a best/worst list and, as noted in previous years, it doesn’t help that I’ve really cut back on tv viewing (shocking, I know; I’ve gotten behind on everything). I still don’t have Showtime or HBO (so no to the return of “Twin Peaks” – and I was rather sorry to not get to see the weirdness of the return of “Twin Peaks” – and no to “Game of Thrones” ).  And I have not pursued streaming tv  (so, still no to any of Marvel’s streaming stuff, or “The Handmaid’s Tale”). But, I managed to catch “Star Trek: Discovery” via a friend.  So maybe I’m not totally hopeless? Anyway, consider the following, which is in no particular order. Extra long post ahead!

Elementary (CBS) / Sherlock (BBC/PBS) – Holmes and Watson, no matter their incarnation, continue to suck me in. CBS or the BBC/PBS versions remain perplexing (as in, what are you doing to these characters?), but watchable.

Legion (FX) – Weird but incredible. Fun watch and the season finale left me wanting more (especially because the cliffhanger was super weird). Sublimely ridiculous, visually astounding. Dan Stevens, the ex-Matthew of Downton Abbey, was compelling as David and how David’s conflict with mental illness, romance, and reality can be – well – mindblowing.

The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (PBS) – I still have to plow through all of it, but I was especially moved by the last episode.

Star Trek: Discovery (All-Access CBS)

I’m still taking the stand to not subscribe to All-Access CBS, and wound up watching ST: D with a friend, who did subscribe. Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays Michael Burnham, the alleged first Starfleet mutineer, has been a great actress to watch (I say “alleged” regarding Burnham’s status as the first mutineer because I still don’t believe that she could or should be the first – maybe she was the first one who was so baldly mutineering?).

But, as NPR’s critic Eric Deggans noted in NPR’s 2017 favorite television year in review, the enigma of ST:D is Jason Isaacs’s Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Deggans observed, “But the real wild card is Jason Isaacs’s Gabriel Lorca, Starfleet’s most ruthless captain, whose actions constantly raise the question: If you give up your values to win a war, is the victory worth it?”).

Really, Lorca is the weirdo Starfleet captain, in a show that was supposedly using a non-captain like Burnham to be the primary point of view character. Lorca’s fate is going to be curious; when you’re violating Starfleet’s ethics or going right at the edge of those standards of ethics, in the name of protecting the Federation, can you ever be redeemed or come back from the darkness? Hard to say, and it’s curious to ask if Lorca is the “good” captain (however we define it), as opposed to Captain Philippa Georgiou (played by Michelle Yeoh), who – by merit of her dialog and the sheer charisma of Yeoh, seemed to be the clearer good Starfleet captain.

The Klingons haven’t interested me (I’ve yet to find the portrayal of Klingons to be that compelling, beyond the characters of Worf, Keylehr, Martok, and B’elanna Torres). And, I would really hate it if a certain Starfleet character turns out to be a Klingon in disguise. Well, we’ll see how the rest of this season of ST:D will go.

Endeavour (PBS) – Under the Masterpiece Mystery umbrella, this series is what’s left of the universe of Inspector Morse, as the prequel to the Inspector Morse series and its spinoff, Inspector Lewis. This season, Endeavour continues – in a darker way – its exploration of Morse as a young man in 1960s England, solving crimes and pursuing a bitter path to becoming the inspector that he will one day become.

Late Night TV – Late Night with Stephen Colbert (CBS) and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central) are my main go-to’s for late night satire. I’d check in for John Oliver on YouTube/other outlets. Jimmy Kimmel on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC) has had some key 2017 moments.

The Oscars (ABC) – Jimmy Kimmel hosted the Oscars this year. That odd error of giving La La Land the Best Picture Award and then correcting it to give the award to Moonlight was the priceless live tv moment for me, as noted on this blog.

Adventure Time (Cartoon Network) – Finn the Human and Jake the Dog are still on a journey.

Duck Tales (Disney) – The series is back, but in a 21st century way. I watched maybe two episodes, the first one and something else. It was strange to hear actor David Tennant’s voice as Uncle Scrooge McDuck (the voice – while genuinely Scottish, didn’t quite have that gruff old man charm, and when I think of the old tv series voice actor, Alan Young, who did Scrooge McDuck for a real long time (I didn’t even realize that he was once Wilbur to Mr. Ed on tv).

Doctor Who (BBC / BBC America) – There’s going to have to be a separate post to address how the Doctor had a very good season in 2017. NPR’s review, by Eric Deggans, of the Christmas episode has spoilers. There will be time enough for Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor, the 1st woman as the Doctor (meanwhile, you can always watch her in that 1st season of “Broadchurch,” – in my mind, still the best season of that series, but that may be just me). But, I generally agreed that we can appreciate this final moment of actor Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor. Capaldi earned it, with his acting out the trajectory of the 12th Doctor and making the viewer feel, not just watch, the 12th Doctor’s journey. He made us appreciate what kindness really means. Thanks, Capaldi. Looking forward to seeing what you’ll do next!

The era of “#me too” involved seeing all kinds of people get their comeuppance for sexual harassment/sexual assault, and at the substantive level, we’ll see how this may be a cultural shift. But, considering how it affects television, this has created a different television landscape – at least, no Mark Halperin, no Charlie Rose, no Matt Lauer, and even no Tavis Smiley. At the very superficial level, this has felt really strange to me, since I used to watch a lot of Charlie Ross, and well, so that goes.

Seeing Washington Week (PBS) without Gwen Ifill on the series also made for an odd 2017 in tv for me. Her passing away left such a gap; I kept wondering what she would have thought or said about the craziness that was 2017.

Saturday Night Live (NBC) was uneven as ever in 2017 (this is a perennial complaint or issue with SNL), but the segments of Weekend Update have been fun for seeing whether Colin Jost and Michael Che would hit the ball out of the park with their lines and zingers.

The Great British Baking Show (BBC / PBS) – The show will have changes (or already has, since its latest season already aired in Britain), since it left BBC. But, what looked like its last BBC season aired on PBS, and it was entertaining and relaxing to me.

Dancing with the Stars (ABC) – The show is just fun. I’m not looking for much when I watch it. I will also never understand the show’s music selection for some dances, but I suppose that’s part of its charm? Oh well.

Honorable mentions: Victoria (under the Masterpiece umbrella on PBS); Blackish (ABC); Fresh off the Boat (ABC); and We Bare Bears (Cartoon Network).

October as the Odd Month

It’s been an unseasonably warm October. The headlines haven’t been great, and I keep wondering what’s the one bright spot out there.

Well, okay, the World Series is on – Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Houston Astros. It’s strange to even think of that, since I keep thinking of the Astros as a National League team, but oh, hey, maybe Astros can pull something off for their town (they beat the Yankees to get here, and who had the Yankees in the playoffs this year anyway?). Then again, the Dodgers have been great, so… we’ll see.

The other strange bright spot – Alma Mater football team beat Dartmouth at homecoming this past weekend. Alma Mater football team hasn’t lost so far at all – a record of 6-0, with the 3-0 in the Ivy League. Sole possession of first place in the league? We haven’t seen this kind of winning season since 1996? Wow. I usually don’t follow college football, except to see how Alma Mater pulls it off, and this is impressive.

Who would have imagined that the Alma Mater football team would be the winning in town, other than the Yankees? This past Sunday, in the dead tree newspaper, I came across how the NY Daily News even did a two-page article about the Columbia football team – and it’s not about how they’re perennial losers for once.

The passing of actor Robert Guillaume. I remembered watching the show “Benson” (watching when I was probably too young to watch – but wasn’t it arguably family viewing anyway?), and laughing over his great, witty acting.

Plus, Guillaume was a pioneer as a black actor who won Emmy awards, as well as Emmy and Tony nominations. His character Benson was more than wisecracks – he was the man who was smarter than everyone and had great arc – rising from a former butler to lieutenant governor – and that unforgettable series finale – the cliffhanger of who won that election for governor was left hanging, but for ABC’s ending the series (I like to think that Benson won, but we’ll never know!). I didn’t fully appreciate “Sports Night” (although that was a great Aaron Sorkin show, pre-West Wing), but Guillaume had quite a career. He’ll be missed.