Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Event

Let me begin by saying that I loathed Lost. I never got into that show, which was a huge time commitment. Miss one episode and you could forget ever catching up. I wanted to give NBC’s The Event two tries before writing a review. The pilot was edgy, yet it dragged through a little too much to be, well, interesting. It had some good moments, but it was very much like Lost. By the end of the episode, I was a little lost myself.

On the plus side, however, is the setting of the show. Rather than flashbacks to reality from a deserted tropical island on which the Lost cast was marooned, the reality of whatever is going in The Event is in a very believable Miami. (Less plausible, however, was the premise that a non-human species dwells among us and which species possesses the power to cause an aircraft to vanish into a midair ‘forcefield.’ Best of all, the political and government conspiracy angle make this show infinitely more appealing than was Lost.

Accolades aside, I realize that The Event will be a time commitment a la Lost. But it may be a commitment I am willing to make.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Colossus by Michael Hiltzik

I have really enjoyed my NOOK and I truly have found more time to read since I purchased it. It is easy to carry and read. What is not as easy to carry? At 512 pages, how about Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century by Michael Hiltzik? The subject matter seemed interesting but potentially dry. With the NOOK, I was able to download the first chapter or so for free. I found Hiltzik's style to be engaging and the rest of the book was a great and surprisingly quick read.

This tome examined the social, political, geological and labor aspects of the planning and construction of the Hoover Dam. The lives of the men lost, the strikes which were crushed and a whites-only hiring policy were among the many social wrongs which occurred during the Boulder Canyon Project (despite being erected in the Black Canyon).

As a law student, my property professor spent nearly three days teaching his passion: water rights. Hiltzik covered much of the same material in an understandable and succinct few pages. The distinction between prior appropriation and riparian rights was a major issue for the seven states who take their water from the Colorado River basin; the debate itself nearly prevented the dam's construction.

Anyway, Collosus is an excellent and easy read. I'd highly recommend it!

Detroit 1-8-7

It is just another cop show, but the premiere was well-done. Set in Detroit, the locale is unique (do we need another NYC cop show??) and makes the show immediately interesting. Plus, the epicenter of today's financial mess seems to be Detroit so the location couldn't be more appropriate.

The show focuses on a homicide unit. Character development for a premiere was decent enough, especially with lead character Detective Fitch (to some extent, the writers seem to push his mysterious character a little overboard, but at least Imperioli doesn't overdo it). The show's most annoying tick (a Baby Love ringtone) ends up having a poignant finish (making it clear that the writers of this show will go too far to make a poignant finish; nothing is worth an annoying tick).

Tick aside, the show is pretty good. I don't know how long the show will last, but I hope to see some more character development in future episodes. If we do, there may be some staying power.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Outlaw should be outlawed

I tried Jimmy Smits' new show Outlaw last week. Smits plays the role of Cyrus Garza - a young, womanizer, gambler, and Supreme Court justice who leaves the Court to fight for justice and the disadvantages/unrepresented.

In other words, the plot was right up my alley. Kind of like a judicial version of The West Wing. I love The West Wing. And Jimmy Smits is a good actor.

But this show was Awful. The feel-good plot was too predictable. The fictional Justice Garza was to the right of Justices Thomas, Scalia and Alito, rendering his liberal rebirth remarkably unbelievable (particularly in our current political climate). I might give it another episode, but I probably won't. This show will be cancelled by mid-season unless it has a break-out Episode 2.

UPDATE: I decided to give Episode 2 a chance. They should have led with this one. Arizona's new immigration law and Garza represents a cop accused of enforcing that law (in so doing, the cop shot an American citizen). Politics aside, the episode was much improved over the weak premiere. The show probably still won't make it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

King Coal by Upton Sinclair

I am a huge fan of Upton Sinclair. The muckraker of the early twentieth century wrote a number of books causing great change in our country. Among these, none was greater than his unveiling the truths of Chicago's meat packing industry through The Jungle. I have since devoured other Sinclair books like Oil! (the excellent book behind the not-so-great movie There Will Be Blood).

The format of King Coal is very similar to the plot of Oil!. It's protagonist, Hal, leaves behind his wealthy family to understand the labors of working men while sympathizing greatly with the laborers who otherwise have no voice. Hal leads the effort to unionize the work force while an underground explosion results in a great mine tragedy.

As a reader, I was drawn to the plight of the workers as I recognized how they are exploited by the companies. There was no concern for the workers' safety ("Damn the man! Save the mules!"). Sinclair goes on to note that neither elected officials nor the unions provided the protections necessary for the men's safety and well-being.

Based on the Colorado mine strikes of 1914-1915, the situation for American miners had not much improved by the mid-1970s. While reading this book, I also watched the excellent documentary Harlan County USA. After all of this, my thoughts are with today's coal miners who continue to suffer tragedy.