Liveblogging the Emmys

8:10 — OK so I missed the beginning, but Oprah looked good. Amy Poehler is HUGE.

8:12 — Looks like it’s going to be another night of “all the awards go to shows I haven’t seen.”

8:13 — Oops, gotta get the chicken out of the oven.

8:14 — Is this broadcast sponsored by… Macys, perhaps?

8:17 — Why is there a segment about Seinfeld? I’m pretty sure that show’s not up for an Emmy this year.

8:18 — How awesome is it that the GIRL is the only cast member to really have a post-Seinfeld career? Sure, Jerry’s doing quite fine, but he hasn’t exactly moved on.

8:28 — I still haven’t seen a single episode of Desparate Housewives. Go Michael Emerson! Or Zelkjo Ivanek, whom I saw in The Pillowman.

8:29 — Aww, yay!

8:34 — LOVE the “exchange” between Steve Carrell and Ricky Gervais.

8:41 — Aw, I wish the Simpson’s set had been 3-D.

8:47 — Dr. Phil & David Letterman… that was brilliant.

9:02 — Oh this is still going on. With a frantic tribute to cheesy T.V. theme songs. The X-Files thing was cute.

9:10 — I’m a PC and I sell fish. LOLWUT?

9:21 — Aw! Old lady that died in a car crash on West Wing!

9:24 — Tina Fey: marry me?

10:03 — Officially bored and no longer paying attention, except Kathy Griffin is always funny.

10:52 — Betty White is still alive? She’s adorable!

10:56 — Never seen it. Sigh.

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Review: Critical

America's Healthcare Mess and Its Possible Solution

This is a broad overview of the state of American healthcare that is perfectly accessible to someone like myself that doesn’t have much background in the area.

Daschle starts off by rattling off statistic after tragedy after heartbreaking story of how American healthcare is unreliable, not comprehensive, and hugely over priced. He really drives home how many people are left out, and how “the best health care in the world” only applies to the richest among us and even middle class Americans are at risk of being stuck with fairly awful coverage.

He moves on to describe efforts to reform the healthcare system stretching back almost a century, focusing the most attention on the Clinton administration’s attempt in the 1990’s. He details what went wrong with these efforts and why they failed.

Finally, he lays out a possible solution to the problem. He suggests expanding the FEHBP (Federal Employees Health Benefits Program) to allow non-governmental employers and individuals to participate, as well as installing the healthcare equivalent of the Federal Reserve Board to oversee it.

(Side note: I am told by DC INSIDERS that this is Daschle’s bid for HHS secretary, as he is apparently BFFs with Obama.)

If you have any interest at all in American healthcare, this is a great, quick overview.

America’s Next Top Model, Episode 1

Americas Next Top Model?

America's Next Top Model?

I’m telling myself that I’m only watching ANTM this cycle as a show of solidarity for trans models. Not because it’s hilarious, trashy, campy fun. Definitely not. It’s all about the social consciousness.

Hands down, my favorite is Sheena. She’s everything I’ve ever wanted to be, but wasn’t — confident but not arrogant, ebullient but not bubbly, and she seems to know exactly how to make people feel at ease. She even managed not to slap the girl who told her she was “not a typical Oriental woman.” She was so kind and cool with Isis in front of the other girls — classy!

Isis is the hometown (PG County) girl. Transgirl. She seems pretty smart and never lost her cool on the show even when some of the others were being incredibly ugly. She handled the obligatory Q&A session with grace. I’m sure she’s seen it all (and much worse) before, but this has got to be the first time on national television, right? She done good.

[Tangent: I will never cease to be amazed at the stupid things that teenage girls are willing to say on national tv. I was surprised at how many girls said horrible, freaked out things about Isis, and actually seemed proud of it. Like it’s something to brag about — being a sheltered bigot. Ah well, they’re young, hopefully most of them will get over it after some exposure to the world.]

Marjorie is so nervous that it makes me nervous to just watch her, but she seems sweet. She was homeschooled after she moved to the U.S. from France, so hopefully once she learns that she’s just as smart and talented and pretty as the other gals she’ll lose the skittishness. Been there, done that. (Except for the modelling part.)

After Sheena, I think Analeigh is the cutest. She reminds me a little of Billie Piper — maybe that’s why. She seems nice enough.

I should like Elina (the animal rights activist) more than I do. She seems to exude a little bit of self-righteous smugness, but maybe that’s just editing.

I’m glad Sharaun is gone. She was ugly on the inside.

Nikeysha is slightly insane! But so chipper and fun. I don’t think she’s going all the way, but I hope she sticks around a long time.

Review: A Whole New Mind

Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind makes many excellent points. Unfortunately, it suffers from an awkward and unconvincing metaphorical framework.

Chapter 1: Right Brain Rising

Pink starts out explaining about the brain’s left and right hemispheres, and how each side is responsible for different cognitive activities – the left hemisphere tends to be responsible for sequential logic, analysis, and language; the right hemisphere for holistic reasoning, pattern recognition, emotions and body language. So far, so good. Pink is careful to point out, over and over again, that the terms “left-brained” and “right-brained” are misnomers; that you need both hemispheres to be completely functional, and that they certainly don’t work independently of each other. He emphasizes (again and again) that “left-brained” and “right-brained” are “powerful metaphor[s] for how individuals and organizations navigate their lives.” That’s all well and good, but in the rest of the book the “left-brained” functions or “L-Directed thinking” end up left in the dust. It says right on the cover “Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future” — a claim made nowhere in the book. That just screams “GIMMICK!” to me. Will people with “whole minds” rule the future, or people who are right-brained? If the title can’t get it’s story straight, I don’t have much faith in the entire book.

Chapter 2: Abundance, Asia, and Automation

I suppose alliteration is an R-Directed thing. This chapter talks about the many choices and options that American consumers are faced with, overseas outsourcing, and technology, and how these three things have either eliminated a lot of jobs and significantly raised the bar on others. The “abundance” and “automation” sections are quite good, but he drops the ball on Asia. He doesn’t discuss global economics at all, and one almost gets the sense that India is some sort of economic enemy to battle against. I don’t think he meant it that way, but it was irritating. Pink doesn’t address why what he thinks of as R-Directed jobs are going to be safe against India while L-Directed jobs are threatened. I heard a story on NPR not long ago about how localized, creative advertising campaigns are starting to be outsourced — complete with local culture training. Unless global inequities are addressed, jobs are going to continue to trickle downward to the cheapest labor.

Chapter 3: High Concept, High Touch

 This chapter talks about the demand for “knowledge workers” diminishing and the demand for “creators and empathizers” growing, and about how MFA programs are harder to get into than MBA programs. I think this is more reflective of a glut of MBA programs and applicants than anything else — something called supply and demand, perhaps, or is that too L-Directed?

Part Two

Part Two discusses what Pink calls “The Six Senses” which … whatever. They’re more “sensibilities” than “senses,” but I’ll go along with the clumsy neuroscience metaphor. Getting past that, Pink actually makes a great case for “design,” “story,” “symphony,” “empathy,” and “play” that I wish Slightly Evil, LLP would be receptive to. (It won’t.) Each chapter comes with a “Portfolio” section that includes lots of resources and exercises for improving your skills in each area. None of these “senses” seem to be things that people in India can’t handle, though.

Chapter Nine, the final “sense,” is meaning. As an atheist and an empiricist, I consider “meaning” exceptionally important to my life since I believe we must create it for ourselves, and not rely on some One else to bestow it upon us. Pink’s “meaning” seems to be a vague, feel-good mix between “happiness” and “spirituality” and dizziness. It was a bad way to end a book that had just started to pick up a little.

Overall…

First of all, this book is aimed exclusively at middle-class white collar workers. It is certainly not a comprehensive look at the “new” American economy.

Secondly, I didn’t learn anything new from this book. Pink relies heavily on anecdotes and less on L-Directed… facts. The book doesn’t say anything that my father didn’t tell me when he sat down with me and gave me the “what you should be when you grow up” speech. He told me that “The people who make the most money are not the people who know how to do stuff. They are the ones who know how to tell those people what to do.” (I was ten, he had to dumb it down a little.) I think that’s how I ended up in this L/R crossover career called information design.

In summation, what Pink calls having “a whole mind” is what I learned was called “being intelligent.” And I really wish that Steven Johnson had written this book instead.

Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Any kid born in the 80’s grew up knowing that Indiana Jones was the epitome of cool. I was a little too young to catch the first few when they came out (heck, I’m only 10 weeks older than the franchise), but long before my mom deemed me “old enough” to watch them, I knew Indiana Jones was as awesome as they come.

It’s not surprising then that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, released 27 years after Raiders of the Lost Ark, makes me and the rest of my generation feel a little nostalgic, a little wistful, and irreversibly grown-up. Very few of us actually did grow up to be archaeologists, the way we swore we would be when we thrilled to Indy’s adventures. (And I suspect those of my generation who did become archaeologists find they have a somewhat less exciting career than depicted on-screen.) I for one am not digging up tombs in Egypt — I’m… I’m working on knowledge management at Slightly Evil, LLP — and there’s no way to avoid being reminded of that when watching this film.

Not only has my generation grown up and changed, the world around us has too — not just our perceptions and understandings of it, it’s really changed since the 80’s, when AIDS was a mysterious illness you could avoid by simply not being gay, terrorism only happened “over there,” airplanes had a smoking section, people could beat computers at chess, and we were all still holding out hope for flying cars and personal jet packs by the end of the millennium.

(Minor league spoilers ahead.) Continue reading

Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

Prince Caspian is not the strongest book of the Narnia series, so it’s not surprising that this installment didn’t quite live up to the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. (Don’t worry, the next book — the Dawn Treader — should make the best movie of all.)

The central question of the movie is “Why is God — I mean, Aslan — so completely apathetic to human — I mean, talking animal suffering?” The answer is apparently along the lines of “Because Lucy didn’t come to visit him.” Unfortunately, Peter spends most of the film thinking that the answer is something along the lines of “Aslan helps those who help themselves,” which he most emphatically does not, and many talking animals suffer as a result.

Directed by Andrew Adamson. Starring some British kids, the wonderful and slightly wasted Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin, Warwick Davis (who was also in the 1989 “Prince Caspian” as Reepicheep but who plays Nickabrick this time around), Ben Barnes, and Ben Barnes’ magnificent hair.

Review: 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

I somehow missed this movie when it first came out, which is a shame. It is a great teen movie, from that strangely short but strangely brilliant era of great teen movies like Rushmore and Election. The premise, which could have gone so wrong, somehow went right — it’s a fairly faithful interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. (I was relieved that the wife-beating was replaced with paint-filled balloons.)  Along with a mostly-decent script that falters at first but strengthens up in the end, the film benefits from a stellar young cast — Academy Award nominated Heath Ledger, along with Julia Stiles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Um, and that guy that’s on Numb3rs.

Directed by Gil Junger.