Saturday, February 14, 2009


So, I just watched the first episode on Hulu. It was quite good. Bullet points!
  • The show seems to be set up for an overarching narrative, what with the leaking memories, and FBI agent on the agencies tail. Oh, and the naked dude at the end. This all seems to entail some kind of endpoint, like Lost or Prison Break, and that puts the show on shaky ground. Either the show reaches it's conclusion, and then can't end and sputters out, or the show continuously puts off it's conclusion, diluting the narrative. Does Whedon have a set number of years in mind. Does have an idea what cna happen after those years are done? Then again, maybe Whedon is just throwing in enough steps that he can pull the show towards a first-season conclusion, if it gets cancelled (a likely possibility). And he's good enough with U-turns that he can keep this thing going for longer than he originally planned. that FBI agent is as likely to get shot in the head as bust open the Dollhouse. Actually, probably more likely.
  • It's great to see Eliza Dushku in something again. And Amy Acker. In fact, the cast in general seems really strong. I really like Olivia Williams, who seems to have found her character the fastest.
  • The writing still seems a little off. Way to much vague ruminations concerning the show's themes. Let that stuff rise up naturally. Also, not enough quips. Although "Dude, it's like Five!" was pretty good.
  • I am glad they didn't have echo kill someone in the first episode. They need to milk that when it happens.
  • Long term questions: What is the deal with the scars on Acker's face, and does it have anything to do with the tech guy? What's the deal with the naked guy? Was that Echo's family? What did she join the Dollhouse to avoid? Will the FBI agent find them (yeah, probably)? How soon, and what happens when he does? Where will the flashes of memories come into play? Are they unique to Echo, or the result of a glitch in their system? If the FBI guy gets shot, will Echo be the one who does it?

Faces of Government

You know what's something that I find interesting? Over the last few years, I had next to no idea who was in the Bush Administration. I knew that Rice was at state, but I probably couldn't have told you who Robert Gates was, and I didn't know who Hank Paulson was until the crisis hit. I knew that Gonzales made a mockery of justice, but who was the guy after him? He fainted once, didn't he? Card was CoS, John Yoo was some evil Justice flunky. Bolton was briefly at the UN. Scooter Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, David Addington, Doug Feith. I remember the names but not the jobs. Ari, Scott, Tony (RIP), and Dana were the press secretaries. Scott fucking hated his job and the people he worked with. Oh! And Karl Rove! How could I forget Rove. Maybe I just wanted to.

That's a lot of names, now that I look at it, but most of them are vile flunkies, I have next to no idea who was running any of the agencies.

Now I know that Clinton, Gates, and Geithner are at the Big Three. Arne Duncan at HUD. Sen. Salazar at Interior. Peter Orzag at OMB. Eric Holder is finally Attorney General. Steven Chu is at Energy. Shinseki at Veteran affairs, with Tammy Duckworth as his deputy. Jim Jones is NSA. Leon Panetta is head of the CIA. Susan Rice is Ambassodor to the UN. HHS is empty, but it was going to be Daschle. Commerce was supposed to be Richardson, then Gregg (guess we'll never know if my theory was correct). Ray LaHood is at Transportation, and is Republican. Hilda Solis is finally on track to be Labor Secretary. Gibbs is our lone press secretary, though Bill Burton is his deputy. The advisors are Sam Power, Larry Summers, Axelrod, Valerie Jarret, Jared Bernstein at the VPs office. Melody Barnes coordinates domestic policy. Cass Sunnstein is working at some shadowy shit I can't remember. Volcker is overseeing the economic advisory board. Ray Lynch is or will be deputy to Gates. Rahmbo is CoS. Reggie Love is still the man's personal assistent. The hotspot envoys are George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke. That's off the top of my head.

Now, maybe I am just more involved in paying attention to who's running what, but I think that it might actually be due to the way Obama is running things. In two ways. First, we hear about these people because they have actual responsbilities. They are trying to accomplish things. With Bush it didn't matter; none of them were meant to do their jobs anyways. Government doesn't work; why try. Who cares who they are, if they are just seat warmers? Now, these people have jobs to do, and if they are doing things, we hear about them.

Second, this is also part of Obama's promise to make government more open to the people. In order for it to be open, the people have to know who is running things. We should know who is running our government, and so there are press conferences to announce people. They are sworn in in public, with a nice speech to be with it (Favreau is head speechwriter!). They talk to the press and let people know what they are doing. In order for the people to be engaged, they need to be engaged. There needs to be faces to match with what is happening, or else government just becomes cold and distant. Faces give you someone to talk to, someone to follow, someone to get angry at, to write letters to. Maybe it gives you a team to root for. However it works, you can't have an active citizenry with an shadowy government, and you can't have a shadowy government if you know everyone's. Maybe it's just a product of the media environment, or maybe this is what change looks like.

Update: Shit, how did I forget Napolitano at Homeland Security?

For Today

So, a little over a year ago, I was in Rome with my family, and as part of our sight-seeing, we were visiting a church*. It was a church mostly famous for the large, first-or-second century drain along the wall of the entranceway, carved into a slightly Celtic-influenced, stylized representation of a man's face. Imagine an image of the Green Man, but without the leaves. The opened mouth was the actual drain part of the face, and there was an old folk tale that if you stuck your hand in the drain, and you were being untruthful in your life, the mouth would bite it off. The drain's notoriety is due mostly to its appearance in Roman Holiday, though Only You did a riff on it.

After waiting in line and getting our pictures taken with our hands in the drain, suffering no injuries, we went inside the church, just to have a look around. It was a very pretty church, by American standards, although it paled beside some of the other churches; it didn't have the mind-boggling frescoes, or luminescent stained glass windows, or detailed statues, or magnificent architectural craftsmanship of other churches we had seen. It was mostly just small and dim. As my family stopped to looked at something I had no interest in, I wandered off the the left (as I am prone to do) and came upon a glassed-off alcove, with a velvet rope in front of it. Behind the glass, an ancient skull was sitting atop a large velvet cushion. Beside it was a sign noting that this was a sign in Italian, noting that this was a reliquary for "Santo Valentino."

"Hmm, Santo Valentino!" I thought. "I wonder who he was!" I walked over to my younger sister, who had recently spent a semester in Rome studying abroad, and had before that "converted" to Catholicism, and thus knew quite a bit about saints. "Hey, Anne," I said. "Have you ever heard of a Saint Valentino?"

Anne looked at me funny. "You mean Saint Valentine? As in Valentine's Day?"

"Ohhhh!" I said, and felt very silly. Then, recovering, I said with relish, "You want to see his skull?"

And we all went over and looked at St. Valentine's skull. There might have been a finger bone was well. Mom and Mary took pictures.

I just thought it interesting to note, on this February 14, on St. Valentine's Day, that the skull of the man whose feast day this is lies, at this very moment, upon a velvet cushion, in a church in Rome that owes it's fame to an entirely different and unrelated reason. A part of me is tickled pink, but another part of me finds it kind of sad.

*It was one among many.