Author Archives: cupofjuice

Adult Animated Comedies

I was very surprised, after seeing several clips from Duckman, how similar it is to Family Guy. The lead characters, Duckman and Peter Griffin, are extremely similar. They both work jobs which are rarely featured in the shows plot. They both say and do things that are the exact opposite of how anyone should act. Even the official name of the show, “Duckman: Private dick, family man” uses the same juxtaposition as Family Guy; a man who is completely incapable of actually being the head of the house, being the head of the house.

The shows also share several common elements, which the most striking me is the use of that one joke that goes on too long. Family Guy has one of these jokes in every single episode. The joke’s goal is to make the viewer giggle initially, then become frustrated that it’s still going on, then laugh out loud from the obscurity, then finally wrap up after it’s gone on long enough to annoy viewers again.

It also surprised me how Misch thought it was a bad idea to have animators inserting their own jokes (as his argument goes, this takes away from the jokes which the writers have written). But I feel like this has changed a little since then with the rise of DVD’s and digital viewership/rewatchablity. Now we can pause and appreciate these jokes, though they may have initially gone over our heads on first viewing. Arrested Development is famous for doing this in show, and I’ve only come to appreciate this after re-watching the series several times.

I hesitate to say Duckman was before its time, because I think that can be said about a lot of shows and doesn’t really mean anything, but I will say that Duckman used many aspects of adult animated comedies that are highly valued today.

Modern Warfare

Through several conversations with my father and friends, I’ve concluded that Evan Wright’s dismal views of modern warfare in Generation Kill are not necessarily unique, and that they may in fact be a continuing trend for future wars. (Of course, I have not proven that Wright’s portrayal of the war is “dismal”, but let’s give me the benefit of the doubt for the time being). For example, my father pointed me towards the newly released and highly anticipated game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2”. He had just finished the campaign mode when I called him after I finished Thanksgiving dinner in Seattle. He’s an old school World War II buff, and he likes to indulge in the Call of Duty series whenever my little brothers come home from college with fresh games.

The campaign follows the missions of an elite marine recon group fighting terrorism around the world, only to be used by their high command in an attempt to spark a war between Russia and the United States. The plot works, and the United States is laid to waste by Russian nukes. To cover their tracks, the high command kills all marines involved in the missions to spark the war. Of course, the soldiers did not know they were trying to start a war, they did not truly understand their vague missions to find and remove a terrorist leader. Fortunately (for the game play), several marines evade their assassination attempts and go rogue to find the high command and put them out of the picture. Sound familiar? Probably not, but if you subtract the nuclear bombs and assassination attempts, you might. At it’s very core Modern Warfare is about a group of elite Marines who participate in vague missions for which they are not equipped and are ultimately being used by their high command for a purpose for which they have no idea of.

It seems the idea of “necessary casualties” Wright focuses on in the Marine’s attack on the first city in Generation Kill is a staple of modern warfare stories. The assumption is that soldiers are being used by the institutions to which they belong and serve. The norm of modern warfare, even in the technological age we live in where all information flows exponentially faster than one hundred years before, is to expect to be misused by the institution to which you belong (at least in these two stories).

A quick thought on how video games as a medium can be interpreted by their players. In a recent conversation with my father, he told me, “You know, I’ve been watching [your little brothers] play this game all day. They play like gamers, they do what they have to do to get to the next level or the next achievement point. When I play, I take every scenario seriously. I value stealth over speed. If I die once, I redo the whole level.” When my dad refers to the captain who betrays your character in the game, he refers to him as “the bastard”. I just thought this was an interesting difference in interpreting the medium of video games, the same way one can be sucked into a novel like or simply read it for content.

Starting Generation Kill

The most striking similarity between reading the televisual works of David Simon’s The Wire and reading Even Wright’s Generation Kill is their emphasis on how institutions repeatedly fail those they are meant to serve. In The Wire we are presented with a plethora of institutions whose main focus is to ensure the longevity and continuity of the institution itself (or the individuals within them); institutions not necessarily existing because they succeed at fulfilling their purpose in society. In Generation Kill (the book, as I have not yet started the series), we are presented with an eerily similar situation, but within an institution I have always believed to be more cohesive than any other; the US Marine Corps. Of course, the problems presented within the Marine Corps may prove to be systemic through the course of the book, but for the time being, the main issues surround the ideological differences between the soldiers in the field and the upper command and the faulty professional administration of the high command. It’s not hard for me to believe ideological differences exist between soldiers and their commanders; just as they exist between most people who take commands and those who give them. But the administrative choices of the commanders in Generation Kill are presented as being so completely off target I have a hard time believing they were ever made. The decisions made by the command effect the soldiers in such a way that there really isn’t a way for the soldiers to comprehend or make sense of the world within they exist beyond to fight, or to face death with a youthful denial as they are meant to; they exist to serve the whim of a command whose primary focus is their personal longevity.

The high command choses to use the incredibly valuable and highly trained First Recon Marines in a context which they are no way qualified or prepared for; either through training or the equipment they carry. They are sent into the field highly under-equipped, partially the fault of the supplies officer within the troop, but mostly the fault of the high command for supplying the the troop with ragtag Humvee’s with no roofs or doors. They are sent on a mission to use speed and maneuverability in vehicles which none of them are even licensed to operate, and which is completely outside their specialty (recon and stealth missions). The worst part of it all is that the Marine’s don’t even know what their mission is. Still, they continue to fight on in unbelievably challenging conditions. Many choose to accept the conditions they are in, trying their best to “get some” any way they can.

The middle command, the command instructed to stick with the battalion in Iraq who would usually be located at a base camp in any other war, are the middle men between the soldiers are the high command. These men deliver the intel and orders from high command to the soldiers, though they are often kept in the dark as to what their mission is as well. I suspect a useful comparison will be the cops in the Wire to the middle command in Generation Kill, but I will need to get further in the series to tell for sure. The cops in The Wire also enforce the laws and rules of those who make them without fully understanding their purpose. Those who step out and try to do something, like McNulty, are reprimanded and outcast. So far in Generation Kill, the only example that comes to mind is the commander of the attack on the first city in the book who is removed from duty because of his indecisiveness (an indecisiveness caused by the limited intel and resources supplied by the high command).

Into Season Two…

I was genuinely pleased with the first season of The Wire. Season one ended smoothly; the wiretap was out and everyone was more or less back to doing whatever they were before the detail (with several exceptions, namely McNulty’s forced move to the harbor police). I felt like the season had come full circle, and was excited to see what I knew from the reading was supposed to be a shift in narrative focus. I sat down yesterday to dive into the second season to find the show didn’t just take a narrative shift; it had taken a narrative leap. Though we still have the characters of the first season, they seem to be lost in multiplying tiny plot arcs. We’re suddenly introduced to an entire different cast of characters, locations, and slang. I had a tough time keeping up with what some of the new characters were saying, and, as always, trying to keep up with the plot Simon cleverly keeps hidden under what he doesn’t show us.

Marsha Kinder explores the interplay between systemic analysis and emotional engagement that occurs as The Wire shifts from its first to second season.We still have half a protagonist in McNulty, but I’m uncertain if the rest of the cast can be carried through the entire season after the Baltimore we knew in the first season has been busted wide open. I’m certainly interested in seeing how far this analysis can take us while still sustaining my emotional engagement, but I fear the show is already losing me emotionally. I’m tired of seeing every character I like die or stray further into the dark. If McNulty can’t make himself a protagonist worth staying mildly interested in, and if likable characters like Bubbles stay off the show for too long, I’d just as rather stop watching the show.

Just a side note: I think it’s interesting that Kinder quotes Simon on not mentioning systemic analysis when first proposing the series. I’m not sure if she means that Simon had not intended to include the message of policy reform into the series and it simply happened,or if Simon purposefully omitted the fact that the show wouldn’t only focus on the drug war from his proposal. Either way, I guess the show was bound to go “deeper” by the time the first season was being written. The detectives made several allusions to the wide reach of the capital tied up in the Avon Barksdale case.


Kompare briefly discusses digital piracy towards the end of his essay, but I believe the ease and convenience of digital piracy has evolved much faster and further than he anticipated. The average hard drive in 2003 held roughly 40 gigabytes of information, and external drives were a luxurious counterpart to the personal computer. Today, the prices of external hard drives have fallen greatly as the drives have become more widely manufactured, and internal drives have vastly increased capacity. Most laptops come standard with 80 gigabytes to 150 gigabytes of internal capacity, with available upgrades taking the total internal storage just short of half a terrabyte. External drives with a terrabyte worth of storage (that’s about 1000 gigabytes) run just around 200$ dollars, a small price to pay for such massive storage capabilities. Digital collections of films are easy to store at this rate, and even television shows enter the realm of possibility. It is already common practice on this campus to harbor multiple, whole series  on your personal computer, with scores of other digital media one connection and several clicks away. Of course, the film and television industries have begun to digitally release their respective products. South Park has even begun to immediately post new episodes online right after their premier airing date. How does digital collection and reproduction fit into our cultural dissection of a program? Does digital piracy undermine the values of collector that Kompare discusses?

Annotated Bibliography – Battlestar Galactica

Just a quick reminder of my thesis, mostly for my own sake. How Battlestar Galactica changed the science fiction genre with it’s emphasis on post 9/11 themes

Works Cited

Eberl, Jason T., ed. Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. Print.

Though the book is huge and I won’t use most of it, the beginning of almost every article begins discussing the differences between the new and old BSG in some way. While the subject of the book is obviously philosophy, I’d like to use it for the questions it arouses about modern life. The book is very dense, so it will take me a while to see which articles are useful and which are not, but I can already tell that any moral questions BSG arouses will be answered by this book.

Ford, James E. “Battlestar Galactica and Mormon Theology.” Journal of Popular Culture 17.2 (1832): 83. Print.

This is a source discussing the Battlestar Galactica of the 70’s. I was looking for a source about the link between Mormonism and BSG after seeing it referenced in another source. I’m still looking for more sources on BSG in the 70’s, but this is a good start. It discusses the original BSG as being the first fictional television show to ground its theology in one religion; which happens to be mormonism. It gives a good history of religion in BSG, making clear much of the terminology in the show. It also sums up the plot of the old BSG, which has been great because I haven’t gotten a chance to watch it yet. The article also talks about how the personal views of the head writer influenced BSG’s mormon themes.

Franklin, Nancy. “The Critics: On Television: Across the Universe: A Battlestar is Reborn.” The New Yorker 23 Jan. 2006: 92-93. Print.

This article glosses over a brief history of science fiction writing in television, and then proceeds to cover how Battlestar is reshaping the genre by tying in modern themes with it’s wacky universe.

Gerrold, David. The World of Star Trek. New York: Bluejay Books, 1984. Print.

Another book I thought I might need for my comparison, but no longer. Not really of any use to me, I don’t think. But I have it.

Gilmore, Mikai. “‘Battlestar’ Apocolypse.” Rolling Stone 19 Mar. 2009: 36-38. Print.

This article discusses the blatant 9/11 themes present in BSG, along with many quotes from producers. Lots of great observations here, but little to no information about the adaptation of BSG.

Goldberg, Jonah. “How Politics Destroyed a Great TV Show.” Commentary 34-7 128.3 (2009). Print.

This article discusses BSG’s origins as a post 9-11 commentary. It discusses BSG’s origins in right wing theory, but also maintains it does not have a right wing agenda. Most importantly it discusses the duel approach to every issue which BSG takes. It presents BSG as trying to show both ends of an issue, without being decisive about the ends of the issue. I’m still digesting this piece as a whole, as I do not quiet understand why not taking stance is, in fact, taking a stance, as the writer concludes. This piece is also useful as it discuses the absolute rage many regular viewers had at the end of the series.

Harrison, Taylor, Sarah Projansky, Kent A. Ono, and Elyce Robert Helford, eds. Enterprise Zones: Critical Positions on Star Trek. Boulder: Westview, 1996. Print.

I originally got this book for the purpose of comparing BSG to Star Trek, or another show within the sci-fi genre. After settling on comparing the new BSG to the old BSG, I have little use for this book. It could possibly be useful for making generalizations about science fiction history. It could also be useful because the producer of the new BSG had a large role in much of the later Star Trek series.

Lehrer, Eli. “Battlestar Rules.” The Weekly Standard 6 Apr. 2009. Print.

This article is in sharp contrast to “Battlestar Galactica: The Beginning of the End”. This article talks about the campiness and failure of the old BSG, and talks about how the new BSG takes everyday themes to their extremes and the success the show has with doing so.

Peed, Mike. “Shuttle Diplomacy; Brave New World Dept.” The New Yorker 6 Apr. 2009. Print.

This article discusses the usefulness of the sci-fi genre in the modern world, and the UN forum about BSG that took place early this year, before the series finale aired. Limited usefulness besides its mention of conference taking place, a lowly news bulletin almost.

Potter, Tiffany, and C.W. Marshall, eds. Cylons in America. New York: THe Continuum International Group Inc., 2008. Print.

This book useful overall, as it covers much of the history of BSG and the various changes it has undergone over the years. It focuses extensively on BSG’s themes of modern American life. One essay in particular disccuses how BSG’s middle ground (BSG always presents both sides of an issue and never concludes on it) is a potentially dangerous weapon. My thesis that BSG’s use of modern themes changed science fiction television is heavily supported by the content of this book, though I have only been able to read a few of the chapters thus far. More to come on this one as I am able to read.

Tulloch, John, and Henry Jenkins. Science Fiction Audiences: Watching Doctor Who and Star Trek. London, New York: Routledge, 1995. Print.

This book discusses science fiction audiences as they pertain to Doctor Who and Star Trek. I might use this book to extrapolate how BSG changed the science fiction genre, especially in who wants to watch it. It actually discusses the changes they predict would happen with science fiction audiences, and I would like to see if they match up with what BSG has done. It also contains an entire chapter devote to authorship in science fiction and it’s role in telling stories in space.

Vary, Adam B. “Battlestar Galactica: The Beginning of the End.” Entertainment Weekly 20 Mar. 2009. Print.

This article discusses the differences between the old BSG and the new BSG through interviews with the shows producer, Ronal Moore, and various cast members. It discusses the selling of BSG through the miniseries, the negative reactions of fans to the miniseries, and the subsequent series start-up and what they changed to ensure it’s success.

Steiff, Josef, and Tamplin, Tristan D. “Battlestar Galactica and Philosphy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? Chicago. Open Court. 2008

This is a review of the book “Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy”. I thought it might be useful, it really wasn’t. It mostly talked about how the book wasn’t so much about philosophy as it was an eclectic collection of essays. Fortunately for me, that’s what I wanted anyway.

Rocco’s Changes

I was completely thrown by Harvey Keitel’s potrayal of Rocco in Clockers. Keitel’s Rocco came off as undefeatable, deeply insightful, and highly concerned with his investigations. This is partially because I see Keitel as a hard-ass straight-shooter because of his other films, and partially because much of the depth of Rocco’s character was lost in the translation from novel to film. While we could see how other characters in the novel could perceive Rocco the way Keitel portrays him, we are given much deeper insight into his character in the novel, knowing the amount of thought and irony Rocco puts into everything he says. I believe this is mostly due to the lack of players outside the “game” in this film, that is to say, those characters outside the main plot but still within the universe of Clockers. After removing the actor character, Rocco’s wife, and Rocco’s shaky relationship with his partner, we are left with little of Rocco’s inner conflict. Rocco is good at what he does, sure, but I believe he is much bitterer and more defeated in the book than in the film. He is no longer a detective ready to retire.

This loss of Rocco as a complex character also simplifies the plot of the movie. I feel like the film struggled to keep the two simultaneous narratives going as seamlessly and entertaining as the novel. The only character we were really left to follow was Strike. The film heavily relies on Strike as the main character, leaving out the vital information that Strike did not commit the murder until much later in the film. In the novel we know this information within thirty pages of the murder taking place. How does this narrative shift towards Strike and away from Rocco alter our reading of the film compared to the book?

Battlestar Galactica

I’d like to explore authorship in Battlestar Galactica. The writer’s use various, unique tools to make the Battlestar universe what it is. I’m most interested in the use of religious/historic references in the show and their impact on the viewer. In what ways does Battlestar fit into the Sci-Fi genre, and in what new directions does is take the genre? I could compare it to the style of the original Battlestar Galactica that aired decades ago, or to other popular sci-fi names such as Star Trek. The flow of Battlestar has always intrigued me, featuring some of the most intense beats before commercials I have ever seen. I’m not entirely sure which direction I’ll take yet.

Outrage Tonight on HBO

I mentioned this at the end of class, but I’m going to shamelessly advertise here as well.

The documentary Outrage is airing tonight at 9 PM on HBO. I was lucky enough to work on it as an assistant editor. Check out the trailer.


Booooooo, Art.

How do viewers adopt an aesthetic disposition towards commercial television? I find Anderson’s assertion that critics contribute to the value of HBO by producing viewers who recognize HBO as a work of art to be an intriguing approach. Anderson claims critics legitimize the programs of HBO, transforming the programs from luxury products, to products of popular cultural. Well this may be true, at least for those people who give a damn what critics think, or those people who are out there reading critics.

As Anderson points out, advances in technology over the last decade have drastically increased competition for television networks. I believe this has also increased the number of people striving to consecrate programs as having aesthetic value, especially via the internet.  The sheer amount of communication nowadays makes it possible for people to become attracted to networks and programs for exactly the same reasons, maybe not through the New York Times, but through John TV Lover’s Blog. For example, I thank piracy for my love and appreciation of television. Without being able to access information others are willing to share, I would never watch television. Some of this is because I do not have close access to television, and partially because I could never fit program times into my school schedule. While I could remedy this partially with iTunes, Netflix, or other digital means, I’m willing to spend exactly zero dollars a week to do so.  If it were not for various recommendations and comments made about certain shows on the various internet sources I trust to find good TV, I would not have found those programs.

HBO seems to attract people who think commercial television is only trying to sell them something. They aren’t buying lawn mowers or Girls Gone Wild DVD’s. They are buying art. Well I think lots of programs on television can be considered art if only you’re willing to sit through a “few” commercials, even though our frame of mind when watching television may not expect art. Even so, at the end of the day, I can hate or love any show or network I want, regardless of what a critic or source tells me. So… take that… art.