Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Since Nobody Asked

Where have I been lately? I'm glad I asked. It's been so long that I've forgotten what I've shared and what I haven't, but this is my second month of unemployment and I still don't like it. I swear I had more free time when I was working.

I spend at least thirty hours a week online looking for jobs (in case you've been gainfully employed for the past decade or so, all job hunting is now done on the internet). The few times I've ventured out asking for applications, they told me to go home and apply at their websites.

Applying for a job online takes about three hours, including the personality profile. After spending all that time filling in little boxes, you get a message that says "thank you for revealing all your personal information, now click here to fill out the application for the company you thought you were applying to." Another three hours of filling in boxes and answering psychologically tricky questions and you get a message that says "there are currently no jobs available in the category you applied for, but we like to have a pool of applications on file in case an opening does occur. Thank you for your interest." Then it's on to the next listing and the dance begins anew.

A big problem with online job searches, is that a lot of phishing scams pose as job openings. It's fortunate that I created a new email account specifically for my job search or I might have been had. When an email appeared in my regular inbox that said "you applied for this job and we need more information," I realized what was going on. Thank Goodness.

Anyway, what free time I have, I'm still working on the new novel, as well as a sequel to Eaters, fittingly titled Eaters II. I'll try to blog again soon. Until then, I hope you have nice weather and time to enjoy it.

--Stephen P.

The Season Wasn't that Good Anyway

I can't believe it's already that time of year when I go off on my rant about the television industry and all the great shows that have been cancelled. As I think I've pointed out before, it's kind of silly for the networks to refer to this as the end of the "season," when there are so many interruptions during what was supposed to be a continuous thirteen weeks. The networks show a couple of episodes, then take a couple of weeks off because it's near the end of the football season and they don't want their ratings affected by the loss of a few people in cheese hats. Then they show an episode or two and it's the beginning of the college basketball idiocy, so they take four weeks off. A season of primetime television looks a lot like really good Swiss cheese because it has so many holes in it. In the past year alone, my ten hours a week of television viewing has required that I start recording and watching half a dozen new shows and/or shows I never watched before, just to fill out the time. And then, I still have weeks with nothing to watch. It's gotten so bad that I started watching half a dozen reality shows!

Okay, before we go any further, if you need to lower your IQ, but you don't want to lose all brain function, these are the reality shows I recommend: Gold Rush: Alaska (it's like watching other people play the lottery, but not too much scripted drama); Storage Wars (it's like watching other people play the lottery and it has lots of scripted drama, but Barry, Brandy and Jarrod are pretty funny and real at times); American Pickers (it's kind of a positive spin on hoarders); River Monsters (it's like watching somebody else fish, oh it is watching somebody else fish); Dirty Money (I only caught a couple of these, but it's three guys taking trash off other people's curbs and turning it into something they can sell at the flea market). Everything else is overscripted, but still has that trainwreck charm that keeps you staring in horror. I should probably have mentioned that these are all cable shows. I would recommend that NOBODY watch any of the network reality shows.

My first category is network reality shows that have been renewed. This category is called Really? Why?

American Idol has been renewed.  Really? Why? While I don't think this show is doing the same amount of brain damage as the others in this category, I just don't see the point. Nothing good has ever come from this show. Stop wasting your time. Here's a good suggestion: instead of watching Idol, go out to a karaoke bar twice a week. You'll still be wasting your time, but at least there will be plenty of beer.

Survivor has been renewed. For God's sake,  Really? Why? Nobody really watches this piece of garbage, do they?

Amazing Race has been renewed. (See above)

The Bachelor/Bachelorette. Both have been renewed.  Really? Why? Get a freaking life!

Dancing with the Stars, renewed.  Really? Why? Wow, there's really nothing else in this time slot, is there?

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has been cancelled.  Really? Why? Because it was a feel-good show with redeeming qualities. Of course, I didn't watch it, but it would have been better for your brain than the shows they kept.

Undercover Boss, renewed. Sigh.  Really? Why?

The Biggest Loser, renewed. I'm just not even going to go there, but if you watch this, you know what you are.

Celebrity Apprentice, renewed. Oh, dear Lord don't you people have something better to do with your time? Go floss! Mop the kitchen! Pull weeds! Do something useful! Stop watching crap!

Fashion Star, renewed. I don't even know what this is. If you do: for shame!

The Voice, renewed. Who cares one way or the other?

America's Next Top Model, renewed.  Really? Why?

So there is your list of the things that will be destroying American next fall. I don't know if watching these shows leads to inbreeding or if it's inbreeding that leads to watching these shows, but STOP IT!

My next category is good drama shows that were cancelled because network executives are idiots who watch Celebrity Apprentice. I call this category Dear God, Why?

The Finder, cancelled. Dear God, Why? This was very possibly the best show ever! It was funny, charming, dramatic and suspenseful. It deserved to run for twenty-five years and we deserved to watch it. That leaves Bones as the only reason left to ever watch the Fox network and even Bones is getting kind of lame.

House, cancelled. I know why. House ran at least one season longer than it should have. Like any good disease, this show had run its course. I'll miss what it used to be, but, sorry, it was finished.

Harry's Law, cancelled. Dear God, Why? The first season of this show was brilliant. It had lots of black actors and was set in a rundown neighborhood with gangs and street people. It was charming and funny and had great drama. It did very well, even opposite Castle. Then, the second season they decided to gentrify the show. They got rid of the black people, did an urban renewal on the neighborhood and turned Harry's little shoestore law firm into a slick partnership with lots of highpower attorneys and high profile cases. And it was still a great show! And it still had Kathy Bates! Now it's cancelled. Dear God, Why? Because they moved it to Sunday night, for one thing. Networks always do that when they want to kill something off (so why won't Celebrity Apprentice die?).

CSI: Miami, cancelled. Okay, this show has been up and down, but was mostly still watchable. They changed its timeslot a half dozen times, changed the night it was on half a dozen times and finally put it on Sunday nights, where our DVRs couldn't find it because some afternoon sporting event would mess up the schedule and cause it to start anywhere from a half hour to two hours late! And still it took two seasons to drive that last nail in the coffin. So, between CSI:Miami and Harry's Law, there is now no reason whatsoever to turn on your TV on Sunday nights. Except maybe The Simpsons, but who watches that anymore?

Prime Suspect, cancelled. Dear God, Why? This was a gritty, film noir kind of show with great acting and great dialogue. I guess it was just too intelligent for people who watch NBC.

I don't watch sitcoms, but if you do, one you should be watching is The New Girl. It's intelligent, funny and there's no laugh track.

My next category is shows I watch that I'm surprised have been renewed. I call this Really? Huh?

CSI: New York, renewed. Dear God, Why? Oops, I mean Really? Huh? This show has some good actors, but the scripts have been lame from the very beginning. It's even survived changes of night and timeslots. I watch it, but only because there is so little else, especially on Friday nights.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, renewed. Really? Huh? I still can't believe this show is still on and still good (most of the time). I didn't think it would survive the loss of William Petersen, but it did great with Laurence Fishburne and it's really good with Ted Danson.

Hawaii Five-O, renewed. Really? Huh? This show is so lame. The acting is terrible, the storylines are ridiculous and it's just plain silly. The characters spend all their time either solving crimes committed against themselves or covering up crimes that they committed in a well-meaning sort of way. I watch it because, God help me, there is so little else to watch and I really like the actors.

Bones, renewed. Really? Huh? I don't know. This show just got a little too cutesy and Brennen, the main character never seems to grow as a human being. If anything, she's regressed. I'll keep watching it, but they need to keep bringing in new interns to keep the show lively.

Now, shows I used to watch that became way to convoluted and should be replaced with the good shows that were cancelled (in most cases by other networks). I'll stick with Really? Huh?

Bluebloods, renewed. Really? Huh? It's one of those complicated dynastic things with way too much soap opera. I watched half a season before I just couldn't care anymore. I really like Tom Selleck, but I prefer his role on the Jesse Stone TV movies. Maybe they could do more of those.

Fringe, renewed. Really? Huh? This was kind of good for the first few episodes when it was sort of the new X Files, but then they brought in the whole parallel universe theme and all that and I just didn't care anymore.

Person of Interest, renewed. Really? Huh? This show would be good if it had a sense of humor, but it just doesn't. I keep looking at the lead characters and thinking how a little witty banter would make this show watchable, but they continue to take themselves way too seriously.

90210, renewed. Just kidding. Never watched it, never will. It's right up there with Gossip Girl and Glee on the list of shows that I will give up TV altogether before I'll watch.

Now, because I have friends who watch shows I don't (and I don't want them to end up watching any more reality television than they do now), here are some shows I don't and wouldn't watch, but I'm glad didn't get cancelled. I call this category Okay, sure.

Castle, renewed. Okay, sure. I might actually watch this someday. I have nothing against it, it just happened to be on opposite something I did watch. Or something.

Wow, that turned out to be a short list. Okay, sure. I probably should have included Grey's Anatomy on that list, but that might lead to watching Private Practice, and some slippery slopes are just too steep.

I'll be back on a television rant in a few weeks with my list of Summer Picks. I can tell you right now that Psych and White Collar will be programmed into my DVR, Royal Pains won't, and I'm not likely to be watching anything on FX until Justified returns next year.

So until next time, either read a book or get outside and enjoy the sunshine.

--Stephen P.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Spring in Hell

Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. Then again, maybe not.

Spring started out pleasant enough: I found myself unemployed against my will for the first time in more than 40 years in the work force; much of my neighborhood was terribly damaged in a tornado; and the weeds have overtaken my garden as never before.

The hellish part is my novel. It seems that when the creative juices flow and the novel is practically writing itself, every little detail of life gets in the way and prevents me from actually writing. When I have time to sit down and write, I struggle to find the right words, I write whole chapters that don't fit with the plot and have to be scrapped or my characters simply sit around chatting to no particular end. This may not sound like hell, but being that writer, in that moment, it begins to seem like The Twilight Zone. Perhaps you'd have to be there.

At the moment, I do have time to write, so I'd better get back to it before my phone begins to buzz with other distractions. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

--Stephen P.