Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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57 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I started reading City on Fire. Seems pretty good so far. Novel is about the much nostalgized, NYC during the 1970s. There is a lot of debate over whether this time and place should be remembered fondly.Report

  2. I saw The Martian last night, and really enjoyed it. It did that Guardians of the Galaxy thing where the plot gave them a reason to play a lot of old music, but disco instead of rock. Not my favorite, but the song played over the credits was perfect. In a small part Donald Glover was as much fun as, well, Donald Glover. But, honestly, not a single person connected with the movie knew that breathing uses up oxygen? Anyway, I hope the guy who wrote the book (on his blog!) got a nice payday out of it.Report

    • Oh, and none of the previews were for superhero movies or special-effects-laden shoot-em-ups. Did Hollywood grow up while I wasn’t looking?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        As I always tell my wife, Winter is the time for sad movies about heavy things. If you want angst over family drama, drug abuse, insufferable foreign films you feel obliged to see because they might get an Oscar nod…Winter is your time of year.

        There are a few bright spots though. Quentin Tarrantino’s Hateful Eight. In the Heart of the Sea. James Bond: Spectre. And of course, Star Wars.

        Next year, late spring, early summer is going to be insane for people that like explosions and superheros. Rest up now, because you’ll need the energy then.Report

        • If ignoring that stuffed burned calories, I’d weigh the same now as I did in college.

          Another unusual thing is that there were three previews that looked intriguing:

          The Big Short, from the Michael Lewis book.
          Trumbo, about the Hollywood blacklist, with Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo [1]
          Joy, which looked interesting mostly because it’s David O. Russell and his repertory company of Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert DeNiro.

          1. I have a slight personal connection to this. I used to play bridge with Alvah Bessie’s wife.Report

        • Avatar SaulDegraw says:

          They are movies that treat me like an adult that can handle complex things and can appreciate stuff without cgi. I am more impressed by doing a lot with less than having tens of millions dollars and all the resources in the world.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Indeed, they are very complex and require lots of deep thoughts. The older I get, the less I find I need to think those deep thoughts in a movie theater. There’s enough of that in real life. For me, CGI and a big budget are irrelevant. I usually just want to leave the theater happy for having been transported somewhere else for a bit.

            We saw The Intern recently. I doubt it’s budget was very large by Hollywood standards, but we laughed a lot, were touched emotionally, but it ended with smiles. That’s usually all I need.Report

          • Avatar James K says:


            Like @mike-dwyer I don’t see the value of movies for discussing complex topics:
            1) Movies are works fo fiction, which limits their applicability to the real world.
            2) Movie directors and writers will typically have little expertise in the topic the movie is discussing (unless the topic is movie-making itself)
            3) Movies are very short, a long is movie is little more than 2 hours long. This gives little time to really discuss an issue.

            Show Me a Hero worked very well as a 6-episode TV show, and it was based on actual events so its discussion of the relationship between housing, poverty and politics was much more useful than a fictional work could ever be. movies are probably best left as entertainment – that is something they can do well.Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


              1. I can’t tell you how much I dissent from this view.

              2. I am not even sure how to approach this issue. This seems to be the opposite of how I would see it. Filmmakers are expert story tellers and generally people prefer a narrative to a white paper.

              I just feel like piling on CGI and Special Effects is too easy. There is a joy in seeing someone make an emotionally compelling, riveting, and enjoyable film without having all the resources of the world at their disposable and I think it is a sign of great artistry and craft to be able to do so.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “There is a joy in seeing someone make an emotionally compelling, riveting, and enjoyable film without having all the resources of the world at their disposable and I think it is a sign of great artistry and craft to be able to do so.”

                What if I get the exact same level of joy from watching the “Fast and Furious” franchise?

                Why is it any less a sign of great artistry and craft to create that joy with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker (RIP)?Report

              • Avatar James K says:


                On point 1, can you articulate why? The problem I have with fiction as a source of insight is that is has no necessary correlation with truth. Just because you can write a compelling story about a thing doesn’t make it true, and just because you can’t write a compelling story about something doesn’t make it false. The human drive for narrative as a source of truth (as distinct from a source of pleasure) is a weakness – reality need not conform to our expectations, and some of the greatest insights of humanity have come from understanding that some aspects of reality are utterly alien to our preconceptions.

                This is what I meant in part 2, directors are experts at telling compelling stories, but not experts as deciding what the truth is on any topic but storytelling itself. A story might help make an already-known truth more compelling, but you can only learn the truth by looking at reality itself.

                I mostly agree with you on 3 (I think modern movies rely too much on CGI-based special effects), and to the extent I disagree, I respect your preference. And certainly you have every right to enjoy whatever media you like. My argument is that the intellectual merits of your preferred media are probably much less than you suppose, though as you enjoy them you should feel free to consume them anyway.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Expecting ideas to correlate with truths in most fields is kinda stupid.

                Humans hate the idea of equality, for example — but you can shake a stick at the number of political agendas that start with that principle.

                Even the idea that we can treat everyone equally has little basis in reality.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                I don’t quite follow the premise that having a lot of resources is cheating somehow. There are plenty of big-budget films that fail miserably in evoking emotion. Why can’t we still celebrate the ones that succeed, even if they have lots of money at their disposal?

                I also suspect you and I value different emotions in films as well. For me, I’m always trying to get that same high that I remember having when we walked out of the theater after seeing The Goonies in 1985. For me, Guardians of the Galaxy delivered that last year. The special effects were cool, but they wouldn’t have mattered at all if the story-telling was bad.

                On the flip side, if a low-budget film does a poor job at storytelling, are we less critical on them because of their budget? Do we say, “They had a low budget. They were expected to fail.”

                Don’t get me wrong, Americans love an underdog, but I don’t know if that principle works when applied to film.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I’d give Spring a bit of license, for being an indie horrorlovestory. But mostly that’s saying, “okay, your special effects can be a little off.”

                Do you not like watching sad stories? Would you actively avoid something if you were told that half the audience walked out of the theater because they couldn’t take it?

                A movie can be thrilling, or it can be pathetic, or hilarious, or thoughtful. And all of these are fun to me. (well, except when they’re deliberately TRYING to be a trial. Here’s looking at The Trial of Viviane Amselem, one of last year’s oscar contenders. A fabulous piece of “how long is this movie” — where the length is part of the didactic point.)Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I’m not really a sad story kind of guy when it comes to movies. I will tolerate it on television because it’s usually part of a larger arc that will (hopefully) end well.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Movies are the best sad stories. Watch Bette Midler watch Barbara Hershey die, cry a little, go home.

                2 hours! You still have the rest of the day.

                A sad story on a television show? Even if they give you a happy ending somewhere around the last episode, that’s 20ish episodes of feeling sad.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I must admit, I finally quit watching Grey’s Anatomy because I just had enough of the sadness. They use unnecessary character deaths, cheating and just basic nastiness as a very lazy shorthand to keep things interesting. So even I have my limits there.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            I prefer paper mache to cgi.
            Call me a geek.Report

        • And of course, Star Wars.

          That situation will be interesting. I have no plans to see it, but that may change if I hear good things from someone who wasn’t predisposed to like it.

          Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight.

          Thank you for mentioning that; I’d somehow gotten the impression that The Hateful Eight was another Marvel superhero team. Now I’m looking forward to it too. That is one hell of a cast. (I would pay good money just to see Samuel Jackson face off with Walton Goggins.)Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Most foreign films aren’t insufferable, though…
          Even the really, really traumatizing ones.
          (I actually saw a really, really dark one last year.)Report

  3. I just finished Mother Night. I liked it a lot better than Slaughterhouse Five. Vonnegut’s writing reminds me a lot of what I’ve read of Ray Bradbury’s (Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine). However, at the same time it doesn’t. It’s hard to explain.

    I’ve started reading Alan Jacobs’s book on the cultural history of original sin. It’s one of those things I’ve started but might not finish.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I’m glad that you liked Mother Night. The moral of the story is etched upon my brain forever. Good stuff.Report

      • Thanks for recommending it. One thing that bothered me with the “moral” was that Vonnegut, at least in the edition I read, disclosed what he thought (one of) the moral(s) should be, you become what you pretend to be. It makes perfect sense, but I do wonder if I would’ve come up with it on my own.Report

      • Avatar Fish says:

        (Quietly goes and picks up Nook…buys yet another book.)Report

    • Is it that Vonnegut and Bradbury both write in deceptively simple sentences?Report

      • Possibly. In fact, I hadn’t thought about that aspect. But I also think is has something to do with the way their stories evolve. Very weird things happen and are related as if they’re perfectly normal. Maybe the “deceptively simple sentences” contribute to that?Report

        • I’d put them in very different categories. Bradbury cares about his characters. He puts them in weird situations to show us how they’ll respond. Vonnegut uses his characters as props, and puts them into weird situations for satirical purposes,Report

          • I think I agree @mike-schilling . Even though I kept thinking of Bradbury while reading Mother Night, I also kept thinking, “but this isn’t really like Bradbury, but it’s like someone else, but I can’t think of whom.”Report

  4. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Still not up to Terra Incognita, but can already guess that at least on of the characters you’re referring to is Control.

    One of the things the show has done a really great job of — at least to the point where I have gotten — is to show that there are no Big Bads that set out to be villains. Pretty much everyone starts out as a cardboard Super Villain and then, over time, it’s revealed how they were, in often bizarre ways, fighting for Good. Almost all the shows most evil doers are characters who convinced themselves that they were the ones fighting evil. It makes the show far more interesting, to my mind.

    I am (obviously) still catching up with POI season four. I also started watching Bob’s Burger on Netflix, which I find I like more than I thought I would. I doubt I’ll binge on it, or ever watch the whole series, but those times when I have 20 or 30 minutes and want some uncomplicated brain candy, it really hits the spot.

    Also, in honor of Halloween, I had myself a double feature Friday night: Room 237, immediately followed by The Shining. (I has already seen them both, though it has been maybe thirty years since I last saw Shining.) It was great to see them back to back like that, and I recommend seeing them each like this to everyone.

    I don’t know how many people here have seen Room 237, but it’s a fascinating look at that point where love of a work of art begins to brush up against obsession, and perhaps a wee bit of madness. Which, since it’s about The Shining, it’s fitting.

    And after decades, The Shining aged very well. In fact I like it more now than I did when I first saw it. I remember having found it scary, but rematching it now I found it isn’t really scary at all. It’s creepy. Really creepy. Like, really creepy in that way those Grudge-like Japanese horror movies are creepy, but more so due to there being far more ambiguity about whether there is in fact, anything supernatural going on.

    Most of my reading this past week has been dry, dry, DRY* reading for professional stuff. I’m looking forward to doing more pleasure reading this coming week.

    *DId I mention it was dry?Report

  5. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    Isn’t Person of Interest that show that’s basically “Minority Report, but if we accepted it as a good idea”? I’ve never been interested in watching it because the premise felt like a glorification (via treating-it-as-lesser-evil) of the worst aspects of the security state. Was that assessment incorrect?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      The first season is definitely like that.

      Part of the second.

      But those seasons are in service to the slippery slope argument where we start saying “hey, wait a second… this might not be that cool, if you think about what’s likely to happen…” and then, by the fourth season, we’re full on into “DID YOU SERIOUSLY THINK THAT SOMETHING LIKE THIS WOULD BE COOL??? SERIOUSLY???” territory.

      Maribou, over my shoulder, says that it’s more an exploration of “under what conditions would a morally unacceptable thing become acceptable and under what circumstances could a morally acceptable thing become unacceptable” and “how easily the same person could shift in their perspective”.

      It ain’t a straightforward show. The *PLOT* for any given episode is straightforward. The overarching assumptions are not particularly straightforward.

      You’ve heard of the iterated prisoner’s dilemma? This is the iterated trolley problem.

      (Much like Dredd, it’s possible to just sit back and enjoy it as entertainment qua entertainment. Or the Minority Report movie, for that matter. Maribou, over my shoulder again, says that she remembers the original Phillip K Dick Minority Report short story as being a lot more morally complicated than the film.)Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        With both 24 and NCIS, I watched them for a bit before realizing that they were basically preaching authoritarianism, and came to hate them. (With 24 it was Season 4 – aired in 2004, and a giant Bush/Cheney campaign ad with a thinly-veiled Rumsfeld expy as a major protagonist – where I hit the point of “I really just want to assassinate all the main characters.”) Didn’t want to get burned again.

        If they’re deconstructing or dealing more complexly with the concept, then I might start with watching with Season 2 if I find it somewhere convenient. (Canadian Netflix doesn’t have nearly the selection of the American version.)Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Oh, this ain’t 24. Not by a long shot.

          Now, it does play with the whole thing of “wouldn’t it be nice if this really creepy thing was only in the hands of people we could totally trust?” question… but it asks it in such a way that it forces you to deal with the fact that that question is suspiciously precisely phrased.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          (And the first season is worth checking out from the library if it’s an option. If only to watch the pilot.)Report

    • Katherine,

      Until today, I’ve never given much thought to POI. (I just wikipedia’d it to find out what its premise was.) But I should say I have a similar impression of a lot of cop shows like Law & Order, Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, Homicide, and the Wire. It’s not really about the security state, but about the police state. And in my view, even the supposedly nuanced ones, like the Wire, end up glorifying it. However, maybe I’m just inclined to bring that reading to such shows.

      I might start watching POI given Jaybird’s explanation of it.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Oh, don’t get me wrong. This show is very, very pro-police.

        It’s just pro-police in the way that cop shows are. (Well, cop shows that have vigilantes fighting against corrupt cops, anyway.)

        If I were merely watching the first two seasons, I might be tempted to file it away under “Competence Porn That You’d Expect To See Advertised During Monday Night Football”. (Don’t get me wrong: though the first couple of seasons, it’s a fun show that explores some interesting concepts… but nothing worth writing home about. It’s 3rd season where I started telling all y’all that, seriously, you need to start watching this.)Report

        • If I haven’t seen the first two seasons, can I start watching the 3d, or will I have missed too much?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I think you’d have missed too much. There are a lot of fun little moments, I thought… it made for a fun show to watch with Maribou.

            That said, you won’t have missed *TOO* much. Just a handful of slow-played reveals. If you just want to jump to the meat, though, I’d suggest at least watching the pilot. That will tell you that if the first two seasons are “Person Of Interest Of The Week” that you will benefit from watching them.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              I haven’t gotten past the pilot myself, but someone on the AVClub comment boards provided this timsesaving list of what they thought were the best, and the 6 can’t-miss, eps of S1 (if I remembered who it was, I would credit them, but I unfortunately did not note that…sorry, anonymous-but-very-helpful person!).

              1-01 Pilot [ESSENTIAL]
              1-04 Cura Te Ipsum
              1-06 The Fix
              1-07 Witness [ESSENTIAL]
              1-10 Number Crunch [ESSENTIAL]
              1-13 Root Cause
              1-17 Baby Blue
              1-19 Flesh and Blood [ESSENTIAL]
              1-20 Matsya Nyaya
              1-21 Many Happy Returns
              1-22 No Good Deed [ESSENTIAL]
              1-23 Firewall [ESSENTIAL]

              I’ll probably be using this, because the pilot didn’t wow me, and I want to speed on to the good stuff.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        But I should say I have a similar impression of a lot of cop shows like Law & Order, Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, Homicide, and the Wire.

        I think it’s possible that you have a misconception here, although it’s possible I misunderstood that sentence.

        PoI is not a cop show. It is, at the start, a vigilante show, although it gets a good deal more complicated than that.

        Technically speaking, PoI is an ‘Unbelievable Source Plot’, where a group of civilians know bad things are going to happen before they happen, but really have no one to fix the problem except themselves.

        So they run around trying to fix things and stop violent crime. As is somewhat obvious, ‘stopping violent crime’ looks pretty close to ‘being involved in violent crime’, and the cops start actively working against the protagonists, trying to track them down for quite understandable reasons. (And then, of course, it gets more complicated.)

        Now, it’s a *procedural* vigilante show to some extent (Although I never quite know what exactly the word ‘procedural’ is trying to say there.), but it’s certainly not a cop show.

        That said, it’s pro-police, or at least pro-non-corrupt police, I guess? Rather a mixed message.

        It’s not really about the security state, but about the police state.

        PoI is really about the security state. Promise.

        And it actually starts out like it’s glorifying it, to some extent. But it’s really not.Report

  6. Avatar Maribou says:

    Watching POI with Jaybird obviously. And I have been rewatching the Muppet Show (on season 2 at the moment) which is an awful lot of fun. (George Burns: “What are you doing?” Gonzo: “Fiddling while George Burns.” George Burns: “I like that joke, it’s comforting to be around something that’s older than I am.”)

    I’m in the middle of two fairly fluffy books, Small Town Heroes in the Wearing the Cape series, and whatever the title is of the Thomas Sniegoski book I just started reading – it’s in the Remy Chandler series which is noir angel fantasy, ie really it’s a lot like the Dresden Files except with a lot of complicated theology and biblical mythology thrown in, which, basically, is one of those things that I come across and say “Who has been spying on the inside of my head to decide to make things JUST FOR ME???”

    I read an interesting collection of essays from the 20s this week. Essays on Literature and Life by Arthur Clutton Brock, who was kind of a Morris follower and also deeply Christian but of a mystical, decidedly-not-conservative bent. I love digging up these guys that history has more or less forgotten, who were popular as heck in their time. Although it is a bit vexing when they are SO of their time (as they usually are) as to really not mention anyone who isn’t another classically educated white male for more than a breath or two. Although when I say “a bit vexing”, I really do mean only a bit. Excellent thoughts on Shelley and Wordsworth especially, and provocative thoughts on the big questions of morality and aesthetics.Report

  7. Avatar Glyph says:

    As a sort of Hannibal methadone, I am watching the BBC series The Fall.

    I already knew this fact from, coincidentally, Hannibal: but this show is even more confirmation that Gillian Anderson Has Still Got It.

    Aside from her (and she’s excellent), I’m not too sure about the show. It’s so far pretty aggressively icky and unrealistic, and not in the special “off-in-its-own-batsh*t-crazy-Gothic-horror-world” way that Hannibal was. Only two episodes in and a couple GoT actors (Ser Barristan and Roose Bolton) have shown up, which is fun.

    Will probably watch either that and/or Red Oaks tonight.Report

  8. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Since HBO has been a little boring as of late, we decided to switch to Showtime for a few months (awesome of DirecTV to be cool with that). So I finally got to binge-watch seasons 2 & 3 of The Borgias. I had forgotten how much I loved it several years ago when I watched Season 1. I think I have two episodes left and it will be sad to see it go. Very much like Game of Thrones in the intrigue department, but cool to see a historical backdrop (ignoring the inevitable inaccuracies of course).Report

  9. Avatar Glyph says:

    Does anybody have Starz, and watchedAsh vs. Evil Dead? I might see if I can get some sort of Starz promo deal from my cable company, because I don’t know if I can wait.Report

  10. Avatar aarondavid says:

    Well, the wife is watching Fargo, so I am kinda half watching it between trips out to the shop (I bought a ’70’s Pachinko machine I am working on getting going again.)

    Reading Malaparte’s Kaputt, which is fantastic even though it is starting to make Blood Meridian look like a romp in the southwest on the uplifting front. Also started rereading The Book Of The New Sun, so I can make sure Stillwater and I are on the same page.Report

  11. Avatar Zac says:

    On PoI: While admittedly it’s become much more complex over the past two seasons, the usual way I explain the show to neophytes is, “Imagine if Batman was two guys: one is the unstoppable badass who goes out of his way not to kill people, and the other is the rich reclusive tech genius. Oh, and they have an even more advanced version of that Orwellian spying machine from the end of The Dark Knight.” I actually think this was probably pretty close to the original pitch for the show, especially when you consider it was created by Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher Nolan), who co-wrote the screenplay for The Dark Knight with his brother. Interesting side note: Greer is played by their uncle, John Nolan.

    As for what else I’m reading/watching: still working my way through Use of Weapons, mainly because I’ve been savoring it a bit at a time instead of marathon-ing through like I do with a lot of books. Just got to the part where Zakalwe’s capsule gets shot down. Also, I watched Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation a couple nights ago. Not quite as good as the previous one, but still much better than the first three: if you liked Ghost Protocol, go check it out, it’s a fun movie.Report

  12. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I’m reading Jenny Lawson’s memoir “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.” It’s very funny. She has a particular writing style and goes to the well with it but, hey, it’s a memoir. Why the hell not do it?

    I finished Klosterman’s “Downtown Owl”. It had a depressingly cheap ending. Blah.Report