Tag: Parks and Rec

5 Jawesome Things for the week of April 27, 2012

Another week with bonus Jawesome to make up for missing last week’s column.

1. Parks and Rec

Recently, 30 Rock has gotten some flack for just being a joke machine with little thought for character or plot. I can’t really argue against that, though I still really like the show. Parks and Rec does not have that problem. At all. The characters are what drives the show and the debate episode (written and directed by Amy Pohler) is glorious proof. It’s full of these people acting as we would expect and still being extremely funny. And then the show ends with an amazing speech by Leslie Knope which isn’t so much funny as it is just a great moment of TV. But that moment only works because we know her and her friends so well. The show couldn’t have pulled off such a real moment in its first or second season because the groundwork wasn’t laid at that time. This is proof positive that arbitrary limits on tv show running times are silly. Yes, the Brits generally like to end their shows before they get bad, The Office‘s 12 episodes and a bonus being the prime example, but just think of how much we’d miss from Parks and Rec if it had ended after two seasons.

2. Babies and weddings

Well, just the one baby. I am, of course, talking about Game of Thrones. Last week we got to one of the most shocking scenes in the second book on the tv show and it was executed much better than I expected it to be. It was a genuinely creepy scene and it gave me even more confidence in the show’s ability to get the book right. Which is good, because I’m also about 100 pages away from the end of A Storm of Swords, the third book in the series. There are so many weddings! Each one plays out differently and they are all quite fascinating. It’s an interesting thematic chorus: after each wedding the world is shifted in some small or large way and the next chapters are about the aftermath until the next wedding comes along and changes everything again. I won’t spoil who is getting married to who, but it’s all very interesting and often shocking.

3. Gotye – Making Mirrors

I guess I’m pretty late to this album, but I hadn’t even heard the super popular “Somebody that I Used to Know” until his appearance on Saturday Night Live (along with the very funny digital short parodying the songs strange but wonderful video). The rest of the album is pretty darn good, too. He goes through a lot of different genres, my favorite being his take on old-school soul, “I Feel Better”. He tries a lot of things on the album and the amazing thing is that most of them work.

4. Python

I don’t know why I watched this. I know I have a weakness for giant animal movies, but this one is one of the worst that I have seen. It is, at least, bad in a good way. I think all the proof you need is in the trailer, which shows the two brave choices that make this movie so Jawesome. The first is Wil Wheaton’s Pink Hair and the second is Casper Van Dien’s Miserable Mustache. Never before have two truly ugly folicular mistakes occupied the same screen along with a horribly rendered CGI snake and Jenny McCarthy (who has her own horrible hair). Also, there’s a silly fight scene and a protracted Psycho reference.

5. Catsitting

I catsat(?) for my grandmother earlier this week and man, that cat is Jawesome. Unlike my own cat whose attitude towards me ranges from indifferent to uninterested, Sweetie couldn’t get enough of my attention. She’s a smallish Maine Coon and very playful and purr-y. Here, have a video.

6. Vampire books

I recently finished the second book of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire trilogy, The Fall. It treats vampirism as a virus and that’s a cool touch but the writing never elevates above being strictly entertaining into the artfulness that GDT is capable of. You can spot his influence, including lifting scenes and plot points from almost all of his films (the subway setting of Mimic, the old man who wants to become a vampire to fix his body from Cronos, the auction scene from Hellboy 2 and so on and so forth) but this series could have been so much better if he’d actually written it. It misses his storytelling touch. I then started The Passage by Justin Cronin. I couldn’t remember if this was supposed to be a vampire or a zombie book and it ends up being kind of a mix of the two. It, too, treats vampirism as a virus but it’s scope is much more epic than The Fall‘s. The vampire apoclaypse happens relatively early and the book turns into a survival horror story akin to The Walking Dead or The Stand. It feels a lot like the best of Stephen King’s work, sprawling and personal at the same time. I’m only about a third of the way through the book and I look forward to seeing where it’s going. It is the first in a trilogy as well, so we’ll see how such a long story works for the topic. Luckily the writing is very good and the characters are interesting, so it’s got a good start.

7. Looper and Prometheus trailers

Looper is the the third film by Rian Johnson and it is getting a big push which will hopefully vault him into the public’s interest. The trailer is fantastic at showing the plot (a man who kills people for the mob from the future by means of time travel gets shaken up when he is tasked with killing his future-self) and the style, which is quite different looking from his two previous films (Brick and The Brothers Bloom, both of which appear on my Top 100 List) which were quite different from each other. Prometheus’s newest video isn’t a trailer, necessarily, but it is an intriguing and very well made introduction to Michael Fassbender’s character. If you want to go into the film knowing nothing I’d suggest that you don’t watch it but it is a very interesting watch. I like this kind of advertising, since this won’t be anywhere in the film itself it isn’t spoiling the viewing experience like seeing that zero-gravity shot from Inception every other commercial did and it’s giving us more Fassbender which is always appreciated.

There you have it, two bonus Jawesome Things. What kind of Jawesome Things have you seen?

Book Review: Company by Max Barry

With Company, author Max Barry, writes a fine entry in contemporary satirical business writing. As silly a genre as that sounds like it is a well populated one, with The Office (both versions) and Parks and Recreation and even The Crimson Permanent Assurance (the short film in front of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life about a company in the middle of a takeover which suddenly turns into a pirate ship/building and assaults their new bosses with the weapons available to any average office worker) being both popular and well received by critics. It is a genre that stretches back to Bartleby, the Scrivener, that endless source of high school and college papers about disaffected cogs in the corporate machine that sometimes grind to a halt with only a small, quiet “I would prefer not to,” as a rallying cry. Everyone, it seems, from Mr. Martin of James Thurber’s The Catbird Seat to Company’s own Jones (he’s not given a first name because the nametag at his new job shows only his last) gets annoyed at the politics and demeaning nature of corporate life but only some are in a position to do anything about it.

Jones, the newest employee at Zephyr Holdings’ Training Sales division arrives at work only to find that Zephyr is nothing like other companies – or is it too much like other companies? There’s the inter-office romances, the way some departments fight with others over silly things like office supplies and meeting room schedules, and a missing donut can bring about a complete corporate restructuring. And then there’s the things about Zephyr that are a little strange: the fact that nobody can tell you what Zephyr actually does, the way that the company exists solely to make other parts of the company do things (Marketing, for example, only markets to other departments), the attractive receptionist who is never at the desk and parks her sports car in the front parking lot, the CEO that nobody has ever actually seen. Yes, something strange is happening at Zephyr Holdings and the only man who can get to the bottom is Jones.

Author Max Barry

The problem with the book, unfortunately, is Jones. He’s just kind of boring. He doesn’t seem to have any real distinguishing characteristics. It feels like Max Barry was going for the everyman idea so that we would go along on the journey with Jones but I became less and less invested in his part of the story as the book went on. In fact, he has only one or two real acts that make him seem like a real person and not just an archetype. The first leads him to the heart of Zephyr while the other involves what he finds there. They are actual things that happen and we begin to see him as a fully developed character, but only just. Thankfully, almost everybody else in the book is more fleshed out. Jones’ Training Sales co-workers are jealous, lustful, neurotic, sad, power-hungry in turn and they’re interactions are delightful. Then there’s the nice-car-driving receptionist, Eve Jantiss, who starts off an alluring, mysterious but likable character and morphs slowly into something very different. She’s probably the best creation here because she seem so real. Her desires are human desires amplified to their full, horrifying potential. I don’t doubt that people like Eve exist, it’s just unfortunate that they do.

Company is a satire at its heart and it does the satire well. There’s the corporate speak, leveraging market vectors and so forth, and the increasingly ridiculous things Zephyr does in the name of the bottom line. It is quite a funny book. The real comparison point for this book is the woefully underremembered 1998 film The Truman Show. No, Jones isn’t being recorded for a constantly airing reality tv show where he’s the only one that doesn’t know his world is a lie, but there is something bigger going on here. And, like The Truman Show, Company manages to find some degree of emotional truth by the end. Jones doesn’t figure much into this part of the book, other than as a catalyst, but his coworkers are able to overcome their petty politicking and corporate gamesmanship to realize that they are more than just people that work together. They are, effectively, people that live together. They spend so much of their time together that when they finally stop one-upping each other they find that they genuinely like one another. There’s a lesson to be learned here, and it’s given with enough sugar to make the medicine go down quickly and easily.