Category Archives: Blog

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Down and Nerdy Episode 033: That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

Here’s the documentary that we all tried to watch for this week’s discussion. I made it about 25 minutes, Rachel made it 45.

Then we (accidentally?) segue into a much more interesting discussion about whether it’s okay to laugh at things that we laughed at when we were younger. In this particular instance, Monty Python … very funny, but viewed with a 2014 lens, very racist in places. Is it okay to laugh at things the way you did when you were younger and the world was different?

We try not to be so heavy, I promise you. But it just happens. Download the MP3 here, or listen via the widget below.

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Down and Nerdy episode 31: One Small Step for Mad Men

We’re back from break, and let me tell you, if you watch Mad Men, you definitely want to download this episode – we’ve got a thorough analysis of the season 7 mid-season finale that you will not want to miss. We also mourn the death of Saturday morning TV, talk about the Space X program, and share our favorite binge-watches.

Listen via the player below, or download the MP3 directly for use at your leisure and discretion!

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There was frost in the ground when the tigers broke free

I spent today home with a very sick child – my oldest boy had a terrible allergic reaction last night while at his track meet, his eye swollen so badly that I was convinced he had taken a punch to the face. Must be something in the Fairdale air. But whatever it was, today’s prescription was a day of indoor rest and Benadryl every four hours, and that meant lots of couch time for both of us, which is its own kind of wonderful medicine.

My boy has always been a lover of classic rock. He knew the words to “Don’t Stop Believin’” around the same time he learned “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” His first CD was a Beatles best-of. He is currently emphatic about teaching his five-year-old brother the words (and proper inflection) of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”

So now, when he comes to me with a newfound interest in Pink Floyd, I find myself perplexed about how to handle this. Because Pink Floyd in general, and “The Wall” in particular, represents a place where my Young Self and my Future Self reluctantly gave a fond farewell. This was the 2-cassette set that I wore down to threads in my Mercury Zephyr while trying to make sense of the things that were happening around me. It was the lifeline that got me through high school, and although its positive effects were so very welcomed in my heart, I’m not sure I would want anyone I cared about to follow me through this particular path.

But anyway. Pink Floyd. My boy is fascinated by “The Wall,” and of course he’s far too young to watch the movie, because most of the movie’s sadness will make no sense to someone as young as him. You have to have a few years behind you to understand how much things can hurt, and thank god, he just isn’t there yet. But he’s seen that “we don’t need no education” scene where the kids are dropped into the meat grinder, and he wants to know more, and he’s insatiably curious about what the hell this movie is.

So we got to talking about Pink Floyd today, and I got to thinking about this scene and this song, which I think is one of the most perfect things ever committed to film, and we watched it together. He watched it from the perspective of the boy. I watched it from the perspective of both the boy and the father, but primarily the latter, and it still makes my Young Self’s heart hurt and my Future Self want to be a better person. Either way it hurts like hell.

This is one of the most vivid anti-war anthems ever. Lyrics are below the video. They are some of the most perfectly written lyrics you will ever read.

It was just before dawn
One miserable morning in black ’44
When the forward commander was told to sit tight
When he asked that his men be withdrawn

And the Generals gave thanks as the other ranks
Held back the enemy tanks for a while
And the Anzio Bridgehead was held for the price
Of a few hundred ordinary lives

And kind old King George sent Mother a note
When he heard that father was gone
It was, I recall in the form of a scroll
With gold leaf and all

And I found it one day
In a drawer of old photographs, hidden away
And my eyes still grow damp to remember
His Majesty signed with his own rubber stamp

It was dark all around
There was frost in the ground
When the tigers broke free
And no one survived from the Royal Fusiliers Company Z

They were all left behind
Most of them dead, the rest of them dying
And that’s how the High Command
Took my daddy from me

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DVD Review: “The Conspiracy”

I have an admitted soft spot for the type of film known as “found footage,” which was pioneered by “The Blair Witch Project.” The central conceit is that we’re not watching a movie but a home movie, footage actually shot by people in unusual circumstances and presented to us in film form for reasons that tell a larger story. The format has mostly been used for horror and/or thriller films, usually because it is so well-suited to low budgets, but I think there’s great potential for the style to be transported into almost every other genre.

To my knowledge and in my opinion, there has never been a truly great, five-star found footage movie … but “The Conspiracy” comes closer to that than any film since the original “Blair Witch.” If you think you might watch the movie, I encourage you to skip the rest of this post until you’ve watched it. If this is not your cup of tea but you’re interested in the narrative style, head on in. Herein lie some mild spoilers. Continue reading

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Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” and Doctor Who

For the past several weeks I’ve been slowly reading Italo Calvino’s lovely fever-dream of a novel “Invisible Cities.” I’ve been dipping into this book for three weeks now and I’m all the way up to page 30; it’s a very slender volume, but reading it quickly would make as much sense as gulping a fine wine, a waste in/to every sense.

The book imagines a conversation between an elderly Kublai Khan and a young Marco Polo, one of the people hired by the emperor to go forth and survey his empire. Most of the book consists of Polo’s dream-like descriptions of various cities, replete with extravagant imagery; the narrative is “structured around an interlocking pattern of numbered sections, while the length of each section’s title graphically outlines a continuously oscillating┬ásine wave, or perhaps a city┬áskyline.”

A sine wave. I like that. It’s like breathing. It is almost literally a waking dream in the shape and form of a book. You really have to sip from this and not gulp it.

So I hope this doesn’t feel trivial in the grand scheme of this grand book, but tonight, while engaging in my occasional evening “3B” (bath, book and bourbon) routine, I read this passage, which made me think of my beloved Doctor(s):

Marco enters a city: he sees someone in a square living a life or an instant that could be his; he could now be in that man’s place, if he had stopped in time, long ago; or if, long ago, at a crossroads, instead of taking one road he had taken the opposite one, and after long wandering he had come to be in the place of that man in the square. By now, from that real or hypothetical past of his, he is excluded; he cannot stop; he must go on to another city where another of his pasts await him, or something perhaps that had been a possible future of his and is now someone else’s present. Futures not achieved are only branches of the past: dead branches.

“Journeys to relive your past?” was the Khan’s question at this point, a question which could also have been formulated: “Journeys to recover your future?”

And Marco’s answer was: “Elsewhere is a negative mirror. The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has not had and will never have.”

…and with that I conjure an image of our Eleventh Doctor, realizing how much he has not had and will never have, and poor Clara as she darts among all eleven, watching the First steal the big blue box in the first place, and watching all of the unimagined possibilities that will never come true down all those timelines because every choice you make cements things in a very real way, every choice explicitly says that specific things will not happen. In the business world they call this “opportunity cost,” and my goodness, it is a cost that is extraordinarily high. Every single thing we do spells out a hundred things we will never be able to do.

Or, as Marco Polo puts it in one of his earlier reports,

… my eyes returned to contemplate the desert expanses and the caravan routes; but now I know this path is only one of the many that opened before me …