The Lost Wedding Ring

Many years ago, I made fun of a friend of mine when she recounted the panic she’d felt when she mistakenly thought that her wedding ring was lost. I admit now that it was terribly insensitive, and the only defense I can offer is that it was a product of the naive arrogance of youth, the supreme belief that you’ve figured out the inherent truths of the universe that most folks are too indoctrinated to see or otherwise don’t have the heart to confront. And so, cruelly, I laughed at her.

I laughed not simply to be mean, but because I was, and still am, an essentialist. I’ve struggled to define that term, but at base I think it means being the kind of person who is concerned with what’s at the heart of a an experience or a goal or an idea. It comes down to the root word — essence. What is the essential point underlying what I’m doing or what I believe? Why is it important? What about it really matters? These are the questions at the core of the way an essentialist looks at the world.

And so I laughed because there is nothing essential about a wedding ring. I may be paraphrasing the exact words I used, but my haughty mockery of my friend’s legitimate anxieties over her misplaced ring took roughly the form of “Gee, I sure hope I didn’t lose my eternal commitment to my husband.”

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The Simpsons: “Homer’s Enemy” – Where Do We Go From Here?


I was just a kid when I began watching The Simpsons religiously. That meant that, at the time, a good portion of the show went completely over my head: homages to classic movies, references to snuggling, jokes about Richard Nixon. It also made revisiting the show as an adult a wonderfully enriching experience. While the exquisite construction and sheer hilarity of the series enraptured me as a kid, I discovered deeper layers of storytelling, humor, and commentary in the show as an adult that I could never have fathomed in all my young fanaticism. But that naivete also meant that I completely missed how unremittingly dark the series could be in an episode like “Homer’s Enemy”.

Now The Simpsons is no stranger to dark comedy. It’s often employed in the tragicomic stylings of characters like Moe Szyslak or Hans Moleman, who suffer repeatedly for our amusement and turn up again no worse for wear. But there are few moments in the show’s canon that can match the pure black comedy of Frank Grimes’s descent into madness, or the conclusion of his debut episode, where the denizens of Springfield are laughing at Homer’s antics, while Grimes is lowered into his grave after an untimely death.

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Marvel’s Unshared Universe: Age of Ultron and Continuity in Broad Strokes


I had the faintest glimmer of hope at the climax of Avengers: Age of Ultron. In the midst of our intrepid heroes’ battle with the titular AI run amok, when the chances for a civilian evacuation seemed bleak, Nick Fury came blazing to the rescue with a helicarrier, and reassured Earth’s Mightiest Heroes that he had “pulled her out of mothballs with a couple of old friends”.

Here it was, the moment when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would have the slightest impact on the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, the TV show’s characters would be relegated to a quick cameo or even the background, but the devoted fans who had slogged through the show’s rougher patches would be rewarded with a brief glimpse of Fitz or Simmons or Mack or somebody from the ragtag remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D., there to help save the day. It only made sense. After all, if recent episodes of the show were any indication, Fury and Maria Hill had been working with Coulson’s team off-screen for some time, and there were more than a few capable agents suited to the task.

But no. Instead, the brief-if-pleasant bit of continuity came in the form of an appearance by the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent from Captain America: The Winter Soldier who had refused to launch Hydra’s helicarriers despite being held at gunpoint. It was a nice callback, but one that still left me feeling cold to a film that seemed to only make the broadest of gestures toward the rest of the MCU.

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Mad Men and The Greatest Trick Don Draper Ever Pulled

Salon’s Matthew Brandon Wolfson recently criticized Mad Men for its commercial appeal. He accused the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner, of “selling…an image of a glowing past — a prettier, simpler time when people knew their social roles and played them perfectly.” And he insinuated both that the show’s commercial-friendly nature sits uneasily with its art and that Weiner wants the viewer to “find [the show] twisted and layered and dark, but [he] also wants you to buy it.” But in describing Mad Men as an “exquisite empty shell,” Wolfson mistakes the packaging for the package, and misses the subtly brilliant way the series has its cake and eats it too.

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I’ve Been Thinking a lot about Chris Benoit Lately


I’ve been thinking a lot about Chris Benoit lately.

His name is a curse word in the WWE. His image has been expunged from its history by the company’s ministry of truth. And yet, his specter haunted professional wrestling’s grandest stage this time last year, and he’s lurked in the back of my mind ever since.

Though I have long since lapsed as a professional wrestling fan, I still pay yearly homage to the sporting spectacle of Wrestlemania, the Super Bowl of professional wrestling. Each annual supercard features clashes between the WWE’s biggest stars and the climax of its most significant storylines. Last year, the 30th edition of the once-ragtag-but-now-storied event featured Daniel Bryan, a lean, if scrappy wrestler, known for his technical prowess and enthusiastic affirmations, but who stands as far more diminutive than many of his larger-than-life colleagues, much as Benoit did. Bryan’s path to the main event embraced two of the most time-honored archetypes in professional wrestling: the underdog and the rebel.

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What Agent Carter has that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Doesn’t and Why it Matters

While watching the first season of Agent Carter, I couldn’t help but wonder why I enjoyed it so much more than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., its much maligned and mildly resurgent Marvel television counterpart. Although the two shows have different teams behind them, they are, nevertheless, small screen cousins, with Peggy Carter making more than a few flashback cameos on AoS. The two series would seem to have too much shared DNA for anyone to have such different reactions to them. But in investigating this mystery, I kept coming back to one, overwhelming factor – Hayley Atwell.

Atwell soars as the protagonist of Agent Carter and commands nearly every scene she’s in. She portrays the titular character as a woman of quiet strength, with a steadiness in everything she does despite the tumult that surrounds her. But Atwell’s take on the character transcends the trope of the typical “action girl”, instead making Peggy a fully realized, three-dimensional character. Atwell acquits herself well when Peggy is exhibiting a steely resolve in a tense situation, and can just as convincingly show the character’s vulnerability and empathy in a private moment, with each emotional state feeling genuine and inhabited. She brings an undeniable presence to the character, and her rising tide lifts all boats in the series.

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In Defense of The West Wing’s Season 5


I started watching The West Wing as part of a trade. I agreed to watch the show, one of my wife’s favorites, as long as we would alternate with episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, one of mine. And while the pairing seems odd on the surface, the shows have a surprising amount in common. Both center around a clear leader, supported by a cadre of his most trusted advisors, each with their own relevant backgrounds and specialized roles. In both series, a typical episode features the team facing what amounts to a crisis of the week, buoyed by loose arcs and character development, using these stories to comment on politics and society.

I grew to truly enjoy The West Wing, but it also hit some of the same speed bumps that its space-bound counterpart did. While I suspect that I will always be more partial to Star Trek: The Next Generation, as it’s buoyed by the affection and nostalgia of youth, the show is not beyond criticism. One of the series’s most glaring flaws was mandated by the father of Star Trek himself, Gene Roddenberry. In Next Generation’s early years, Roddenberry forbid the show’s writers from having the main characters meaningfully disagree or genuinely argue with each other. Sure, there could be the occasional spirited debate, but it was all conducted with an undercurrent of collegiality and mutual respect. All real conflicts and threats were required to be external. That dictate was part of Roddenberry’s central vision for his “wagon train to the stars” universe. He wanted to present an optimistic view of the future, where mankind had evolved beyond such trivialities as money or prejudice or petty disagreements.

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The Truth About Bradley Cooper and The Oscars

The more I think about it, the more upset I am that Bradley Cooper was snubbed at The Oscars on Sunday.

Hear me out. I know Cooper did not portray the kind of character or take on the kind of role that the snobs in Hollywood typically care for–it didn’t fit the traditional “Best Actor” mold. There was lots of violence in the film; he spent most of the movie brandishing a gun, and yes, the character was portrayed as something of a superhero in a situation with much bigger political issues at play that the movie only grazed.

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The Merry Margin: Santa Claus in the Board Room


“Santa, I appreciate your position. Really, I do. But what you’re talking about is theft.”

Susan shifted uncomfortably in her new chair as she waited for Saint Nick to respond. Too many of Benton’s awards and photographs were still on the wall for her to feel comfortable doing business in this office. The near-empty mahogany desk stretched between her and the red-suited sprite on the other side of it like a still black sea. Santa looked back at her with a quizzical expression.

“Well I don’t know about that, Suzie. I don’t suppose we’re taking anything from you. You have just as many iPhones to sell as you did before.”

“Yes, but that’s not really the point.” Susan cleared her throat. “I know you’re not sneaking into our warehouses and filling up your sleigh with purloined phones.” She deliberately let the silence hang in the air for a moment. The company had done an extensive five-year study and could find no hiccups in their inventory beyond the usual shrinkage and minor employee infractions, but security had been increased nonetheless.

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A Christmas Carol (2009) | The Andrew Review


Every modern adaptation of A Christmas Carol starts out at a disadvantage. No matter the strengths of its take on the material, no matter what unique flourishes or embellishments it adds, no matter how novel its interpretation, the new version will inevitably be compared to its hallowed predecessor, so ingrained in the public consciousness that it has become a part of the cherished lore of the holiday season.

I am speaking, of course, of the classic 1992 film, The Muppet Christmas Carol, starring Michael Caine and Kermit the Frog, in the production that forever proved that Dickens’s work is best realized in shades of well-trained British grump and felt.

Despite working in the shadow of that seminal work, writer and director Robert Zemeckis, of Back to the Future fame, brought Dickens’s story to life anew in his motion-captured retelling of the classic tale. The film stars Jim Carrey as the curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge, Gary Oldman as his put-upon employee Bob Cratchit, and Colin Firth, Robin Wright, Bob Hoskins, and Cary Elwes who, alongside Carrey and Oldman, play multiple roles in filling out the film’s cast. While Zemeckis assuredly puts his own stamp on the source material, in the end, his interpretation is a muddled one.

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