What Certain Shows Need to Do to Save Themselves!

There are several shows that I currently have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with:  I love what they used to be, and I hate what they have become over the years.  Here’s my (humble) opinion on what could make these once fabulous shows shine again.

trueblood<

1)      True Blood:  Guess what?  Every peripheral character in telepath Sookie Stackhouse’s (Anna Paquin) life does not need his or her own story line every episode of every season.  There are certain characters, like cousins Andy and Terry Bellfleuer (played by Todd Lowe and Chris Bauer), that I really only like In small doses.  Don’t get me wrong:  I heart me some Todd Lowe as Terry, but only when it’s a pleasant surprise to have a scene with him.  Any more than a short scene here and there does not really hold my interest.  Andy hooking up with a fairy last season?  Bleh.  Terry and Arlene (Carrie Preston) being bothered by a fire demon because of what Terry did during his time in the Gulf War?  Boring!  Switching storylines every few minutes?  Way too dizzying to keep up with. 

 

Focus on Sookie and the vampires, Bill (Stephan Moyer), Eric (Alexander Skarsgaard), Pam (Kristin Bauer Van Straten), and Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), and that will make the show more cohesive again.  Only have the other characters come in to play when they directly connect with Sookie’s story line.  That is how it is in the books, and that’s why the books (by Charlaine Harris) work better than the show in a lot of ways.

 

Glee_Season_4_cast_photo<

2)      Glee:  There are very few of the new cast members introduced in Season 4 who I feel have contributed much of anything to this past season.  I enjoyed the new characters of Marley Rose (Melissa Benoist ) and Jake Puckerman (Jacob Artist), but that’s about it.  When the rest of the newcomers have singing scenes with the older cast members, you can really see that the old-timers’ talent is simply on another level.  Only Benoist and Artist seem up to the challenge of living up to that standard.  I found myself more interested in what was happening with the characters who had graduated, and I felt in some of their cases (like Quinn and Mike), we did not get to see enough of that.  The thing is, when you spend 3 seasons getting people to fall in love with characters and then basically write many of them away, it’s going to tend to cause a negative shift in the show. 

 

Therefore, find a way to focus on Rachel (Lea Michele), Kurt (Chris Colfer), and Santana (Naya Rivera) in New York.  Have Quinn (Dianna Agron) visit from Yale on weekends or something, and Finn (Cory Monteith) visit from Iowa on a regular basis.  Artie (Kevin McHale) is going to be going to college in NY too, so that’s an easy one.  Have Mike (Harry Shum, Jr.) and Mercedes (Amber Riley) decide LA did not work, so they’ll give New York a try, too.  Oh, and find a way to work in more Darren Criss as Blaine, too. 

 

The-Simpsons-Season-24-Episode-16-Dark-Knight-Court-5<

3)      The Simpsons:  What can I say about this 24 year old animated comedy?  I am beginning to think the hilarity may have run its course.  Realistically, that was bound to happen when you have characters that don’t age, evolve, etc because they are, well, animated, after all.  The best thing may simply be that the show hangs up its hat at the end of season 25 (when they will have been on for a quarter century).   That way, it could go out on a relative high note before people really begin hating on it.  Personally, I have not watched either of the two episodes that made up the finale, and I don’t know if I ever will. 

 

If you decide to continue on, then PLEASE stop with the multiple Grandpa Simpson back stories (one of the 2 this season was just plain awful) because we’ve have had more than enough of them.  Also, don’t recycle older stories (Moe’s bar has become popular and then dropped back down to squalor at least 3 or 4 times by my count).  Perhaps consider re-watching and analyzing older episodes to remind yourselves of what used to work and what used to make the show utterly hysterical and popular.

The Great Gatsby Film Review

the-great-gatsby-movie-cover

Throughout my years as both a student and an English teacher, I have both studied and taught F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  Many had to read this tale of a man who created a vast empire of wealth simply to impress the woman he was never good enough for.  Much of the symbolism used, such as the green light Gatsby stared longingly at and the all-seeing eyes of DoctorT. J. Eckleburg’s billboard remains in our mind’s eye long after we finished analyzing the novel.  Recently, Baz Lurhmann (of Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliet fame) directed his own take on the tale.  I, along with some fellow English teachers, ventured out to give the film a shot. 

My co-workers and I who went to see Gatsby are quite familiar with the, well, liberties that Lurhman takes with his literary adaptations.  Who can forget guns (Sword Brand, of course) being included in his version of Romeo and Juliet, or the fact that Romeo drops acid on his way to the Capulet’s party?  You missed that?  Go back and watch it.  I promise it happens.  Therefore, we were prepared for the fact that The Great Gatsby might be similarly over the top.

gatsby

However, we found ourselves pleasantly surprised by how much we honestly enjoyed the film.  Obviously, it was visually stunning—that is, after all, what Lurhmann does best.  The costuming was also beautiful, especially Daisy’s dresses.  I also found Leonardo DiCaprio to be perfectly cast as the title character. In my opinion, he did a far better job than Robert Redford did years ago.  In terms of the overall plot itself, Lurhmann stayed pretty faithful to the original source material. The scenes that you were aching to see, such as when Gastby first sees Daisy after years of separation, are there, and they are carried out well. I personally was moved both by that scene and the scene where he throws the beautiful shirts downstairs to show Daisy that, well, he CAN because he has just that much money. There is an added touch at the end when Gatsby dies that works quite well. Oh, and if that’s a spoiler for you, you didn’t have a very good English teacher!

green

Yes, there was some anachronistic hip hop music included in the soundtrack where one would rather hear Jazz or Big Band music, but one can almost forgive that because Lurhman does such a solid job of bringing the novel to life.   You can also forgive the fact that the symbolism is very in your face and obvious, even though in the novel it is much more nuanced. 

In a world where I have often been disappointed at book to film adaptations (ahem, I am looking at YOU Twilight!), I think that The Great Gatsby does its job well.  I firmly believe it will encourage many people who have never read the novel to go pick it up, and any film that gets people to read classic literature is okay by me.

Traditional Books Vs. Ebooks: The Great Debate

Traditional paperback books versus technology age ebooks?  Perhaps not a debate for the ages, but definitely something that is hotly discussed now…well, hotly discussed among book lovers, anyway.  It seems to be you either love one or the other; there does not seem to be any middle ground in this argument.  My friend Sara blogged about it a week or so ago, and it got me thinking about my own stance on the issue.

books<

I will always and forever love the smell of new (or old) books.  I remember going to used bookstores growing up and just adoring the smell of the books when you opened them up.  I also remain fond of running my hands over the cover of books and feeling the embossing and other textiles involved in the cover art.  Those are things that you will never get with an ereader.  They are also things that I would sincerely miss if I completely shifted over to my ereader.  Therefore, those, and other sensory reasons, will always make me a collector of physical books. 

Another point in favor of physical books is the fact that water will not permanently destroy them.  Since I do a significant amount of my reading in the bath, which is a huge point in favor of traditional physical books.  There is no way in h-e-double hockey sticks I’m taking my $150 Nook Tablet in the bath.  I’ve dropped several books and a cell phone in the bath (side note:  the cell phone survived!).  I’ve learned my lesson.  This is, again, a reason why I will continue to purchase physical books.

ebook<

However, as I just mentioned, I do own a Nook Tablet, and I have grown awfully found of that, as well.  There are many reasons why it’s one of my favorite possessions.  For example, I am both very busy and very impatient.  If I have to wait to read a new book until I can go out and pick it up, it may be awhile before that can happen.  That is seriously annoying when you’ve been waiting a long time for the next installment in a series.  Also, there are few physical brick and mortar bookstores around anymore, which makes it even more difficult to obtain new books!  The closest bookstore to me is a good 15-20 minutes away!  However, on my Nook, I can wake up the morning a new book comes out and download it immediately!  No waiting! 

Another thing that I enjoy about the Nook is some of the features it has, like highlighting and the dictionary.  I don’t generally mark up my books, so it’s nice that I can do so without it being permanent.  Also, even though my vocabulary is vast, there are still many words I do not know.  I am far too lazy sometimes to get up and grab a real dictionary in the middle of reading, so it’s nice that I can click and expand my vocabulary!  I have taken to highlighting these new words for future reference.

In addition, many authors are releasing things only for ereaders because then they do not have to rely on publishing companies to make sure their amazing stories get out to readers.  It’s similar to how bands began being able to release music directly to fans via iTunes and other avenues.  That means that talented authors can still get their work out to loyal readers even if a publishing company has yet to realize their greatness.

Finally, ebooks are cheaper, which is a major plus.  Granted, sometimes not more than a few dollars cheaper, but still!  I am a PUBLIC SCHOOL teacher…every penny saved counts!  If I can get a brand new book for $14.99 instead of $19.99, that’s fantastic. 

As of now, I have plans to continue buying both traditional books and ebooks.  I figure that, in the end, both are wonderful as long as a talented author’s work is being supported, and I am being entertained.

List of High Interest Young Adult Books

img_3723

Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Society has been divided into 5 factions.  Each focuses on 1 virtue—to the exclusion of all others.

Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Love has been categorized as a disease that must be eradicated when one turns 18—often with sad results. 

Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.

North America has been divided into a Capitol and 12 Districts.  As the result of an uprising, every year the districts must send 1 boy and 1 girl between the ages of 12-17 to fight in a battle to the death—until only 1 child remains.

Matched, Crossed, and Reached by Ally Condle

Society analyzes every aspect of you to make your every decision—including who you will marry and what job you will have.  What do you do when freedom becomes virtually non-existant?

Legend and Prodigy by Marie Lu

In this society, when you reach a certain age, you are put through your “trials” to see whyat the rest of your life will hold.  If you’re score is low, your choices are few—and none of them are good.

Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Oxygen on Earth is controlled by the company Breathe because natural oxygen has been virtually used up.  Only the rich can afford to do anything involving extra oxygen, and everyone must live in the Pod.

Maze Runner, Scorch Trials, Kill Order, and Death Cure by James Dashner

The world has been destroyed by solar flares and plague.  Certain organizations (like W.I.C.K.E.D) will do and sacrifice anything to try to find a cure—even if it means risking and sacrificing innocent children for the cause.

City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass (The Mortal Instrument Series) by Cassandra Clare

Shadowhunters are the descendants of Angels.  They have been charged with protecting mortals (mundanes) from Downworlders (demons, rogue vampires, etc).

Angel Experiment, School’s Out—Forever, Saving the World, Max, Fang, Angel, Nevermore (The Maximum Ride series) by James Patterson

Genetically altered children (who are part human and part bird) must save themselves—and the rest of the world, too (of course).

Witch and Wizard, The Gift, The Fire, The Kiss by James Patterson

A brother and sister due (who are also a wizard and witch) must fight against a totalitarian government who has, among other things, outlawed entertainment and magic. 

Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief, Sea of Monsters, The Battle of the Labyrinth, The Last Olympian by Rick Riordon

Modern day descendants of the Greek Gods find themselves having to become heroes in order to work together to help protect the world from the likes of the Titan King Kronos.  When one of their own betrays them, the battle becomes even more serious.

When Food Companies and Restaraunts are Irresponsible!

I have been gluten free as a result of being diagnosed with Celiac disease over two years ago.  I am extremely careful about what I eat; I research every restaraunt I eat at before I patronize the establishment.  I do not ever cheat on my gluten free diet because the results are just not worth it.  I end up vomiting horribly, dealing with “brain fog,” and feeling overall exhausted for days.  Therefore, it maddens me when someone, namely a restaurants, violates my determination to stay healthy.

Dominos recently debuted a gluten free pizza.  Granted, it’s not recommended for people with Celiac disease, but I have never had any problems with it.  I am not quite as sensitive as some people with the disease are.  This past week though proved to be a major exception.  Why?  Because Dominos did not pay attention to my order.

Instead of using their gluten free dough, the person who made it utilized the regular dough.  Unfortunately, I did not realize this until I had eaten a couple pieces.  At that point, I noticed it tasted and looked different, so I called the store.  They immediately realized and admitted to their mistake.  Too bad it was much, much too late.

The fact of the matter is that getting someone’s order wrong is NEVER a good thing.  More that that though, people are becoming more allergen and health concious.  People are also going vegetarian or vegan for moral and ethical reasons. 

Therefore, what you accidently put on their meal can violate these health and ethical concerns.  This is a wholly irresponsibly business practice.  If you endanger someone’s health, that can lead to long term consequences.  Personally, I was violently ill for a few hours, and a week later I am still not 100%.  People with other food allergens can have even more life threatening reactions.  What if you accidently serve someone with a peanut allergy something with nuts inside?  They could potentially die before they get medical attention.

Even though it doesn’t cause health issues, serving a vegetarian something like veggies marinated in meat juice (but not telling them that this is the case)  is nearly as bad because you are basically forcing them to go against their belief system.  That is just not a restauraunt or food company’s choice to make

Thus far, Dominos has barely responded to me.  The store offered me a refund and a coupon (which I will never use for fear of getting sick).  Corperate sent me a form email promising to look into it and get back to me within 3 days, but they have not.  I do not hold much hope that they will do much better than what they’ve done thus far.

In this day and age of Facbeooking, Tweeting, blogging, etc, not be smart about your business practices is a great way to find yourself 1) sued because we live in litigious times or 2) going out of business (possibly as a result of #1).

Why Ticket Scalpers Deserve a Special Place in Hell

scalpers

verb (used with object)

6.

to cut or tear the scalp from.

7.

Informal.

a.

to resell (tickets, merchandise, etc.) at higher than the official rates.

b.

to buy and sell (stocks) so as to make small quick profits.

 

Scalpers. They’ve been around for far too long.  It used to be they’d place ads in newspapers or magazines, or they’d walk around before shows and try and get to people who hadn’t been able to get tickets to the event.  According to Wikipedia, in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, they ventured online and began the practice of “ticket brokering,” and they’ve been “hard at work” ever since. As soon as tickets became available online, they have tons of people ready to buy them up at face value.  They then turn to sites such as stubhub.com and ebay.com to sell them at a huge mark up. 

For example:  I bought tickets to see Fun. at the Greek Theater.  I was able to get presale tickets, and I got 2 tickets for just under $122.00.  2 tickets in roughly the same area are now on ebay.com for $324.  That is almost a 200% markup!  I also have tickets to go see New Kids on the Block.  I paid about $113 per ticket, and sold 1 to the friend going with me at face value.  Someone now has tickets in the same area on sale on ebay.com for $216 EACH. Again, almost a 200% markup. Finally, I also got Darren Criss tickets on presale this week at $36 each. On stubhub.com, they are starting at $104! That is about 3 times more than I paid.

The frustrating thing is that places who sell the tickets in the first place, like Ticketmaster and Live Nation, are not really doing anything to try to prevent large numbers of tickets from being bought up by these “ticket brokers.”  Even though they may set a ticket limit, which is ridiculously easy to get around.  Regular folks, who just want to buy 1, 2, or maybe 3 tickets, find themselves unable to get them at face value and unable to afford to buy them anywhere else. 

Another thing that works against the average concert goer is that tickets often go on sale at 10am.  This is sometimes done during the week, when many people are at work and not free to conduct personal affairs.  They find themselves quickly and figuratively screwed in terms of getting tickets to see their favorite performer(s).

It’s a sad situation, and honestly, as long as there is supply and demand, and the loopholes exist, scalpers will continue to make their astronomical profits.

My Non Adventures in Wonderland….or how it was impossible to get Darren Criss “Meet and Greet” tickets

darren

This week, Glee’s Darren Criss announced he was going to be going on tour this summer.  Amazing?  You bet!  I saw him a few years ago, but I had not started watching Glee yet, so I did not fully appreciate his talent.  This time, however, I WILL!

I was apparently lucky enough to get presale tickets on Wednesday by downloading the Live Nation app.  I secured 2 tickets for myself and my friend, Sara!  It was when I tried to get meet and greet tickets through www.adventuresinwonderland.com that my misery began.

I tried to get them when they first went on sale, but to know the details on when and how, you had to be on a special mailing list.  I was not.  I was out of luck…or so I thought.  Then, I found out that they’d be putting more on sale this morning when the public ticket sales began. Perfect. This time, I would be prepared. 

Last night, I set my alarm for a little before 10, which is when they posted it would be.

When I got up, Adventures in Wonderland had tweeted the tickets would be on sale at 2EST or 11PST.  Okay, no problem.  I would have some breakfast first, and then I’d be good to go!  Or, so I thought.

With a few minutes to go before 11am, I logged back on both on my computer and cell phone  The site had already begun having issues, which was not a good sign.  I kept refreshing the main page, with only some success.  Half the time, I get an error message.  It also was still saying that the meet and greet tickets were “Coming Soon.”  A few minutes after 11am, they tweeted a link to get the tickets. Okay….I went to the link, and they all said “Sold Out.”…seconds after the link was posted.  WHAT?!  I refreshed…again getting error messages.  Finally, it said “buy now.”  Cool.  I click.  I get kicked off some more, right before putting it in the shopping cart.  Grrr. Right then, they tweeted that all were now sold out. 

It is not a good business practice to take on something like selling popular tickets if your website cannot handle the traffic. The server being used needs to be able to handle heavy traffic without crapping out.  Darren Criss has been popular since before Glee, thanks to his collaboration with Starkids on the Harry Potter musical spoofs.  Obviously, there was going to be a huge demand for his first major tour since starting Glee.

Thus far, I have not heard of a single person on Twitter and Facebook who were able to get meet and greet tickets today.  Everyone has been posting the same issues as I experienced. Some even got to put the meet and greet tickets in their shopping carts, only to get kicked off the site. When they got back on, it was sold out.

Hopefully, either Adventures in Wonderland or Darren Criss’s management will do something so that the fans who made every effort to get the meet and greet tickets will have the opportunity to meet Darren.  I saw stories of people who are planning on traveling some distance for the shows, and it’d be nice if they could purchase this extra experience.

Update: I spoke with Karen from Adventures in Wonderland this morning. They do seem to be making a honest effort to speak with people who had problems yesterday. She explained that no one, including Darren Criss, expected the demand to be this high. If you look at his Twitter feed, you CAN see that he seemed genuinely surprised that things were selling out so fast. She also said that they had approximately 6,500 clicks a second (which is about 390,000 per minute), and that this did cause difficultly on the site. They aren’t Ticketmaster, and don’t necessarily have the capability of handling that traffic. She also informed me that each show had under 100 meet and greet packages available so that each person could have time with Darren Criss. She said that the waitlist was legitimate, and that if anything opened up, people would be contacted. All in all, it does seem as though they are trying to handle things the best way that they can. Hopefully, the company will learn and grow from this experience!