New Year's Hairpin

Since I lack anything of depth to say at the moment, I figured I’d take some time to tell you what I’ve been up to the past week.

Sick

I visited the folks for Christmas and Santa made sure I didn’t leave without a sinus infection. Of course this is really nothing compared to what my wife’s been going through the past couple of weeks. She recently underwent minor eye surgery. They shot holes in her eyes with lasers in order to relieve ocular hypertension (a precursor to glaucoma). How’s that for sci-fi? Anyway, the doctor neglected to mention a few important details that would optimize her recovery, an unfortunate misstep which has given her an extended bout of vertigo. She can’t look at her laptop, Nook or cellphone for more than 10 minutes a day without inducing nausea. It’s getting better, but it didn’t have to be so difficult for her.

Dead Laptop

My video card gave up the ghost and I spent the better part of my New Year’s break trying to beat the thing into submission. I initially assumed it was a Windows 7 or driver problem, going so far as to wipe the hard drive clean and re-install, but it looks like it was a hardware problem all along. The signs were there. I tried to hold out as long as I could and believe the problem lied in something that wouldn’t cost me $$$. I’m going to make a last ditch attempt to resuscitate the patient and stick him in the oven tonight. It all feels very Frankenstein, but I’ll be happy if it works. I should probably play “Scary Weather 3” from one of my old Sound FX CDs; make it a BYOML (Bring Your Own Maniacal Laugh) party.

Hell on Wheels

What does a married couple do when they’re confined to the couch, unable to check their email every five seconds? Why, they turn on Netflix and binge on TV shows they’ve been meaning to see. For my wife and me, that’s Hell on Wheels. For those that haven’t heard of it, the setting is post-Civil War America, specifically during the building of the transcontinental railroad. The story focuses on the men and women who worked and lived on the dangerous frontier.

As you guys probably know, I’m a sucker for historical fiction, so seeing the previews for this air after The Walking Dead really wet my whistle. I’ll tell you right now that my wife made a dutiful sacrifice to watch this show because she’s not big on period pieces. Lucky for me, she got hooked enough after the first few episodes to want to see the rest.

If you’re already watching this show, you know it wrapped up it’s second season last October and you’re probably wondering what took me so long. Well, I don’t know about you, but I hate getting invested in a show only to see it cancelled after the first season. Upon hearing this one was picked up for a third, I figured it was as good a time as any to dig in. Better to watch it now than be intimidated by the time suck that six seasons of The Sopranos would be. I know, I know. Tie me to the stake for never having seen an episode.

But here I am, not just watching this TV show as a couch potato but taking up my role as a student of storytelling. I’m trying my best to follow the details of the characters and plot without overdoing it. I still want to evoke a gut reaction so I can analyze later why I felt a certain way. Fifteen of twenty episodes in the bucket and certain things are jumping out at me.

The characters are captivating for the most part. They match archetypes, but they’re flawed. They seem real. My biggest complaint?

I’m sorry, but this character could have been played amazingly and Common was not the right guy for the job. He’s got the look but the man cannot act the part. I feel a lot of depth is missing from the show due to this miscast. The right actor could have made him sympathetic, but instead he’s just pathetic.

But out of the darkness comes a blinding light:

One character to rule them all. Christopher Heyerdahl brings “The Swede” (who’s really Norwegian), a minor character, into the forefront. The dude is amazing in this role. He ably pulls off a character that you hate one minute and feel a powerful sense of sorrow for the next. The show would still be watchable without him, but not nearly as enjoyable.

What about the plot? It has its stumbling blocks, but is otherwise decent. The writers appeared to drag a few things out that didn’t need dragging and carelessly condensed important information that could have been handled more gracefully. There were a few paths I wished they would explore further, but that’s likely down to tastes.

Now let me tell you about the real star of the show. The presentation. The sets, the costumes, the makeup… all those things are unbelievably well done. Detail is not lacking and you really get a good idea of physical conditions back then. To highlight, there’s a great ironic scene of Cheyenne Indians riding into the small Iowa railroad settlement and seeing what the civilized man had to offer.

And so there you have it. My last week in a medium-sized nutshell.

I miss you guys and am looking forward to get back in the swing of things this year. Hopefully you will excuse my absence these past couple of months and accept me back into the fold.

-Phillip

0 thoughts on “New Year's Hairpin

  1. Triple whammy! Sucko. So… if your laptop is out, how are you blogging this post? Heh.

    My laptop video card went out about three months ago. It was complete sucko (sucko is the word of the day, btw). Luckily, the ten year old desk top was revived and will do until I get the money to buy a new one.

    I’m a sucker for historical shows too. “Hell on Wheels” sounds just up mine and my wife’s alley. I’ll check it out. Another one we enjoyed- “Pillars of the Earth” and “Rome.”

    Happy New Year!

    1. It’s a wonder what you can sneak in by coming to work early and taking lunch breaks at your desk. 🙂

      I’ve been wanting to check out Pillars of the Earth. The book sits unread on my bookshelf but I keep hearing how good it is. Have you read the book? Just curious how well it translated to TV.

      Rome was another show that I got my wife into during the 1st season. Loved it, but we never managed to finish the 2nd season. It just seemed to lack something that I can’t quite put my finger on.

      1. My wife read the book and said it was different. I think she liked the book better. Admittedly, the show’s finale left me wanting, but up to that point, I was pretty mesmerized.

  2. You’re winter sounds a problematic as mine has been.

    How’s your writing coming? Getting anything done? Mine really suffered there for a bit, but getting back on track now.

    1. Hey Brent! I read your blog post and am excited to see you’re back in action. I also received your email, just haven’t had a chance to reread your story. I’ll try to get to it soon.

      My writing has definitely suffered after I gave NaNoWriMo a shot. I’m trying to get back on track now though. Doing some planning and brainstorming for the next novel. Just trying to keep on!

      1. Hey, let me know when you’re ready to take a look and I’ll send you the latest revision.

        I did NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago and while I think it’s a good experience to try once, I came away with as many negatives as positives, enough to that I don’t think I’d try it again. Writing without thinking leads to, at least for me, a lot of junk that you end up throwing out and a bit of a confidence hit and writing paralysis. The act of writing is good, but I just came to the conclusion that that approach wasn’t the most productive use of my writing time. Some people love it though. Whatever works!

  3. Nice update! I think in the coming year, I’m going to try to do more updates like this to try to build more of a following.

    1. Thanks Stan! It felt great just to finally write something, so whatever gets you going.

  4. @fossilist I couldn’t have said it better about my NaNoWriMo experience. There’ll be a post about it next week on a friend’s blog. I’ll link to it from my own post.

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