Blog Archives

The Superbowl (and Things)

My last post was almost a week ago. I just haven’t found anything really interesting to post about. And I think I needed a bit of a break. Then I remembered what happens tomorrow. The Superbowl.

How  long has it been since I last wrote a sports related post? Too long, probably. Hell, I think I’ve only ever blogged about sports no more than five times (my former co-writer covered that). 

Anyway, I wanted to discuss the big game. I’m actually looking forward to this one, compared to last year’s. 

But, who am I rooting for? I like both teams on the field. So my choice will have to be off field. 

Normally, I’d go by city. So under that rubric, I’ve got San Francisco (as I’m less familiar with Baltimore- I did live in S.F. a few years back). 

But, I’m also upset with the 49ers for a number of issues. So that would argue the Ravens. 

Maybe I’ll support both teams. That way, my team “wins” regardless?

Now, enough football. What do I have planned for this coming week?

I want to do a review of Saga. Though I may have to reread the first volume. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think it is as good as Earth 2

I also want to explore my issues with musicals. I’ve tried watching a few that I’ve TiVOed. And I must say I still can’t stand them for long. 

What else? Oh, yeah, I wanted to rant (some more) on PBS. And rant (again some more) about the lack of interesting television programs (in my opinion). 

Finally, I want to throw out some free ideas. These are ideas that I’m never going to act on, but someone might want to. 

Until my next post. . . 

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A Worthy Successor to the Neighborhood

I’ve been sick with a cold this week, so I decided against posting anything until I started feeling better. Today is the first day I’ve really felt up to writing a post, though not a very long one.

My niece has recently fallen in love with the new PBS series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. The series is a successor to the iconic Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood created by Angela Santomero (the creator of the equally awesome Super Why!). Personally, I find Daniel Tiger to be a worthy successor.

Daniel Tiger is set in the Neighborhood of Makebelive and follows the adventures of Daniel Tiger, the son of the original Daniel Tiger from MRN. Many of his friends are equally legacy characters, the children of the residents appearing in the original series.

What strikes me most about this series is how the heart and feelings evoked by Fred Rogers is translated to fit more contemporary trends in children’s educational programming.

Each episode is composed of two standalone segments with a common theme. Between the two segments, there is a brief live action field trip that relates to one of the segments.

I’ve seen two episodes and have enjoyed both immensely. And my niece? She was completely enthralled for most of both episodes. Which is saying something for her.

So, if you having feelings of nostalgia for MRN or are looking for a delightful new children’s show, why not give Daniel Tiger a look?

 

 

Some of the Things that Tick Me Off: A Potpourri Rant

Sometimes, being a Texan is embarrassing. I mean seriously, there will be armed rebellion in Lubbock if Obama is reelected? Of course, given that Gov. Perry has oft talked about secession among other blathering, I really shouldn’t be surprised.

Why is it that the best place to go for news is either BBC World, Al Jazeera English, or the PBS Newshour? I am so sick and tired of all politics all the time. I am frustrated beyond belief by commentary. And do not get me started on the woeful lack of international coverage.

Speaking of PBS, why are there so few series aimed at kids 6-12. And none for teenagers? Seriously, I would love to see an educational teen oriented show. Of course, the ratings would likely tank. But for PBS, should the ratings really matter?

And staying on PBS, why can’t they be bold again. Take risks with their programming. So what if Congressperson X disapproves?

Moving over to PBS’s supposed cable competition, why the hell have practically all of edutainment become little more than crap? I want more education and less ghoulish reality tv. Or faked reality tv for that matter.

Okay, I’m done with TV for now. On to comics.

Curses DC, I want to finish the opening arc of Earth 2 not read an inserted 0 issue. Damn it, now I have to wait another whole month. Guess it was good I got Earth 2 #4 so late.

Sticking with comic books, I’m starting to get frustrated with the various comics related podcasts I listen to. I get that most readers could give two cents about how comic books are made, but I care. I want to listen (and read) about the process of making a comic.

And don’t get me started on DCUO. . .

 

Okay, I think I’m done with my collection of mini rants. To be honest, I could probably expand each one out. But I don’t have the energy. And I’ve already got way too many rants in a row as it is. I want to write some positive posts, darn it!

Anyway, I’ll try to have a few more posts up over the course of the week. I need to go back over this one post about LGBT characters in SF so I can do a proper reaction post. And I do want to work through some of my thoughts on wanting to write comics and on writing comics.

 

 

Double Rant? Useful/ Useless Writing Advice and Art on TV (Besides Bob Ross)

I don’t know if what follows is really a rant or not. I’m not in the ranting mood, to be honest. But bear with me, because I do want to touch on these two issues that have been bugging me for a while now. First, I’ll start with my main annoyance with the plethora of writing advice on the net. In the second, I’ll shift gears and explore some of my issues with television and web based art instruction.

Advice and Time

It seems the internet, or at least the parts of it I occupy, is awash with various advice sites, blogs, posts, etc. intending to give the writer’s advice on how to write. Now, I do admit some of the advice is useful. But a lot of it is just trash. And the really frustrating thing is that it takes valuable time to sift through the crap to find the gems.

I, and I suspect most writers, don’t have the time to waste going through every blog, site, post, book, video, etc. that imparts someone’s wisdom and advice on the art of writing. Like too much research, seeking advice can prevent a writer from doing the one thing that is guaranteed to help improve their writing- actually writing.

But, advice can be highly useful, too. So what should be done? Find a balance that allows for artistic growth without becoming so bogged down that no progress is made.

The Ghost of Bob Ross

Here’s a secret: I love watching art and sewing instructional programming.  Every Sunday afternoon, I plop down to watch Knitting Daily and Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting among others. I also catch the repeats of Bob Ross’s seminal The Joy of Painting on Create.

My issue, and maybe this is one that should be taken up with my local PBS station, is that there is remarkably few art instructional programs. Rather, the majority of hobby and crafting shows aired on my local PBS (KNCT) are devoted to the needle arts and woodworking. And Create only airs Joy, Schewee Art Workshop, and The Donna Dewberry Show. KNCT itself only airs one art instructional program (which I don’t like). That’s it.

I want more. I want series like The Yarnell School of Fine Art which paints a single painting over the course of several episodes. One of the tragedies of losing KWBU (the now defunct Waco PBS station).

This is where the internet is such a useful thing. On Youtube, I’ve discovered the Artist’s Network channel, which has several interesting previews (if only they also showed the full videos). And I’m a long time subscriber of Mark Crilley’s excellent channel. Plus, Yarnell has a website that includes videos.

But, to be honest, I want more. I want to find more sites and sources for how to draw comics, how to paint with pastels, and more painting shows.

This is, obviously, where the internet can become a pain. Oftentimes, it is a trial to track some of this stuff down. I don’t know if Youtube has finally added a how to or crafting designation. And looking for other sites that feature how to videos is rather annoying. And of course there is always the question of quality.. .

Persistence is, I guess, all one can hope for in this search. Like most of the things I’m interested, the internet is a great resource. But, it can take so much valuable time to sift through the crap to find the gems.

And Finally,

Look for the review of The Dark Knight Rises either tomorrow or Sunday. I may also touch on my thoughts about the Nolan Batman films (as well as the earlier films).

And I’m still aiming at doing a comic book post. Maybe next week. I don’t know if I’ll focus on what I’m reading, DC vs. Marvel, or my general thoughts on comics, comics writing, and corporate vs. creator owned. Then again, next week could just be Comic Book Week One.

America Revealed and the Problem of PBS

I can’t say that I’m a fan of PBS’s four part series hosted by Yul Kwon called America Revealed. The production values and cinematography are gorgeous, almost like what you will see if you watch Planet Earth or any of its spin off programs. My problem with the series is that it provides an uncritical look at American infrastructure. That Dow Chemical is a primary underwriter is equally problematic (even if their funding came post production with no editorial input). However, corporate editorial input is not need for the program. The thesis does a nice job of emphasizing a business friendly message on its own. But, a review of America Revealed is not the topic of this post. The problem of PBS, and television in general, is.

I’ve blogged about the problem of PBS before. PBS is a mixed bag when it comes to programming.It is key to remember, as Michael Gettler (PBS Ombudsman) has oft stated, that PBS is a distribution service. Each station that carries PBS programming is independent. Now, some stations do produce their own programming for local and national consumption. With this in mind, it is not difficult to see that PBS varies, sometimes wildly, when it comes to the quality of programming.

Has PBS declined in quality over the years? That is a question of taste, to be honest. And it raises the question of nostalgia. Am I nostalgic for the programs of the past? And do I hunger for those programs of the past that I’m too young to have seen? I don’t know, but some of that may play into my attitudes towards the current state of PBS.

I loathe much of contemporary television. My favorite programs are usually edutainment or infotainment (with the occasional scripted television series thrown in). My frustration is, partially, a recognition of the fact that PBS’s commercial competitors have declined even worse than PBS seems to have.

I mean, come on, how many hours of History’s programming is devoted to reruns of Pawn Stars? And hell, History International has become H2, the dumping ground for crap shows that History no longer airs. So, I guess the slim sliver of shows with an international focus is even more marginal. And Discovery? For all of the channels in the Discovery family, you have to be lucky to catch anything worth your time on Science or Planet Green.

And for arts programming? PBS is your only bet. Why? Because how many years has it been since A&E (Arts & Entertainment) and Bravo went into the pits of repeats and crap reality shows? I want foreign film. I want more avant garde cultural programming. And damn it all, I’m not getting it.

Okay, I get that PBS has a lot on its plate. There is an insurmountable amount of slack that needs to be picked up. I also get that my tastes as a viewer are in the minority. How many people actually watch the kinds of shows I enjoy? More than you think, but less than I’d like. Certainly not nearly enough to keep the good stuff on. Even the old exile of digital has given way. Now where do we find it?

People’s tastes have become more crass, more geared towards cheap reality. Is it possible for a counter programming movement to work? I don’t know. Is it possible that, with the improvement of online streaming, that the good stuff can find a niche on the web? I hope so.

 

PBS 2 and Reading Issues

This post is in response to two articles I read this morning. First is this week’s ombudsman column on PBS’s website looking at the effects of changing POV and Independent Lens‘s time slot from Tuesday to Thursday, and second, is an article on Huffington Post looking at concerns over high school reading level. Both raised interesting questions that I want to address.

First of all, I agree with Gettler’s comments that PBS has gutted its public affairs programming over the past several years after the last election (not that I think the election has anything to do with it). While Bill Moyers has returned in some capacity, his Journal along with Now and many other interesting and excellent public affairs programming have either been cancelled or truncated (as in the case of Need to Know). Why is this?

I don’t know. I suspect that politics does play a role in PBS’s decision to “revamp” their public affairs lineup. Public broadcasting has always been under threat, especially from a right wing that sees liberal bias throughout much of PBS’s programming. This perceived bias inspires Republican members of Congress to propose gutting government funding for public broadcasting. So, it is understandable that PBS shifts in order to protect itself.

I get the protection angle, and I sort of understand the programming block rationale, too. That said, I do think that two hours of Antiques Roadshow back to back might be a little much. The problem is that Thursdays (and also Fridays)  on many stations are reserved for local programming. With the two documentary shows now airing on Thursday, that knocks out an hour of possible local programming.

I won’t pretend to know what most PBS stations’ local programming look like. KWBU had none, KNCT has a few (of which I don’t watch), KLRU had an awesome lineup when I lived in Austin (especially Austin Now and Downtown), and KQED had an excellent assortment of local programming when I was there (hell, I still watch This Week in Northern California). I don’t know what other amazing local programs are out there, but it is a shame to think that some them will be canceled to make room for IL and POV.

In addition to politics, I think it also ties into keeping viewership. Why do you watch PBS? Why did you stop watching it? How can PBS win back its viewers and attract new ones? I don’t know, maybe in a future post I can explore some of my opinions on that.

Moving on to reading, according to the Huffington Post article, most high school students who read typically read texts rated at being barely above 5th grade level. Okay, this raises a lot of questions for me.

For one thing, how do they ascribe reading levels? Does that apply to the complexity of the text or to just the sentences? What about the complexity of a work? How is that rated? What about analysis?

Now then, the article plays a trick on the reader. The books that are read are rated at around 5th grade level (nor what works are at what level). That says nothing about what the readers themselves are capable of.

Some of the comments tend towards the idea that the poll is, perhaps, part of a  larger maneuver to sell products. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it would not surprise me.

Part of the issue with teaching reading is, I think, how it is taught. Teach critical thinking and analytic skill far earlier than it is done today. And focus on making reading a fun and enjoyable experience rather than a chore.

But, the educational system is not alone at being at fault for the decline in reading. The kids themselves have the choice to read or not to read outside of school. And their parents can be an example and read to their children. The children of readers are readers themselves. The teacher, the educational system is not a substitute parent. They are not nannies, governesses, and tutors.

I did not intend for this post to get this long. One of my core issues as a voter is education. So often I am disappointed by the various solutions raised. Largely, I think, because I question whether we, as a society, are raising equal citizens or just workers.

Two Days of Rant, Day One: PBS +

Today is a departure from my typical posts, but I wanted to rant about PBS for a bit. For those who do not know, PBS is the American version of public broadcasting. The thing is, PBS relies on viewer contributions in addition to a limited amount of government, corporate, and philanthropic funding. Now, my feelings about PBS are mixed. I still believe that PBS’s children’s programming is still the best out there (hell, Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood is still excellent). But, I think in some areas, PBS is falling severely behind in some of its mission.

My big beef is increasingly PBS’s public affairs programming. PBS lost out when it canceled Now and Bill Moyers’s Journal. Both programs were amazing in their indepth reporting (Now) and interesting and surprising conversation (Bill Moyers, of course when is any conversation with Bill Moyers not interesting?) I cannot say much about Need to Know, except to say that it is a pale successor to both shows. And do not get me started on The Newshour. It lost me during its “coverage” of the health care reform debate and the Honduran Coup. The only leg up it has on its competition is the occasional arts coverage.

Speaking of the arts, this is where PBS does still maintain some relevance. Earlier in this century and in the 1990s, I may not have said that. I mean Bravo had some decent arts coverage when it was actually a good channel. When it aired indie and foreign film, had documentaries on the arts, etc. And the same is true of A&E. I freaking miss Breakfast with the Arts and all of the lost cultural programming that A&E had. You know, when it was Arts and Entertainment?

Art 21 is an excellent show. It should be on far more often than its biannual seasons. And to be honest, PBS really should focus far more on the arts.

Is PBS still relevant in history and science programming? Much like with the arts, it is a difficult question. When Discovery, National Geographic, and History are actually doing what they should, PBS does come up short. Each of those three channels could devote a massive amount of time on subjects that PBS simply does not have the time to cover. But, right now, all three cable channels are devoted to crap. And good luck trying to find anything decent on digital. History International has basically become, like Bravo, a dumping ground of shows no longer rotated on History.

I like Swamp People, but I would also like stuff like Engineering an EmpireBattles BC, and television like that.

Is PBS still relevant? I think its relationship is inverse to what its cable competitors are doing. The children’s programming, as stated earlier, still excellent (although it could target older kids). And its art/history/ science programming is still very much needed as the cable competition chases the all important reality dollar. My frustration is not that PBS is irrelevant, but that it can do so much more and does not. It needs to be bold to succeed, but given the current climate, boldness is seriously lacking.