In the visual arts, I watched five DVDs this week:
I finished up the first season of The Big C this week. I haven't decided yet whether I'll be moving on to watch the subsequent seasons. I had determined I definitely wouldn't if it ended with Cathy still not having told her family about her cancer, but she largely did (I think Sean still doesn't know, but Paul and Adam knowing is close enough) so that's not really an issue. The issue is just that it's just not that funny (even allowing for the subject matter) or enjoyable.
Parks and Recreation, on the other hand, continues to be both funny and enjoyable. I flipped the second disc of the second season this week. I particularly liked the episode "Christmas Scandal,” because the bit about delivering beer to the sanitation department reminded me in a small way of my first government job, working for U.S. Senator Donald W. Riegle (D-Mich.). I worked under the supervision of the office manager, Bruce, and I remember him frequently bringing cases of Coke and other soft drinks to the various support offices, like the print shop and the recording studio. His first government jobs had been in Massachusetts, where knowing how to keep the skids greased was an important part of the job, and while I don't think that sort of thing was really necessary in the Senate – the support offices were apolitical and scrupulously professional – but Bruce's thought – and my dad, who was an elementary school principal for many years, and both my education professors in college said pretty much the same thing – was it never hurts to have the support staff on your side.
I finished the first season of Grimm. The surprise revelation in the season finale was … well, I don't want to say it wasn't a surprise to see that character show up, but on the other hand, it was perfectly obvious who it was the instant the character appeared on screen. As for the season as a whole, I liked it a lot! When it comes to fantasy, I find a contemporary setting – or, really, any setting other than the quasi-medieval setting found in Tolkien and his imitators – makes it far more tolerable, so Grimm being set in modern-day Portland is a plus, as is the procedural element. Anything that dilutes the supernatural hoo-hah is aces in my book. Unfortunately, there's no word on when season 2 will be available on DVD. Anyone want to loan me their Hulu Plus account info?
I'm continuing to move through Cougar Town. It's good, and funny, but at the same time it's failed to really engage me on a level beyond that. Plus it bugs me that the episodes aren't subtitled. But I do like the happy crocodile you can see in the (super brief) title sequence. He's so jolly! I'll keep going, because a lot of people whose taste in sitcoms I trust say it's worth watching, but so far I don't think it's all that special
The same is largely true of Happy Endings. There's no crocodile, and there are subtitles, but aside my reaction to both very similar at this point. I've only watched the first seven episodes at this point, but so far it's really, really generic. The character of Max hints that there are some interesting ideas lurking out of sight; he's so completely unstereotypical in his gayness that you have to believe that the other characters will eventually grow more interesting.
In the musical arts, I attended three concerts this week, all of which involved my friend Rachel in some way.
On Friday, Rachel was the featured artist for the First Unitarian Society's Noon Musicale. She and pianist Thomas Kasdorf presented a program of songs from opera and musical theater (plus one film) written for ingénue characters. I like programs that offer a wide variety of musical styles, and this one definitely qualified, featuring arias from classic operas like The Magic Flute alongside ones from contemporary ones and Broadway musicals. Plus Rachel has a lovely voice that lends itself equally well to a wide range of styles. My favorite works were a pair of arias from two English-language American operas, Aaron Copland's The Tender Land and Douglas Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe. Sue me, I prefer being able to understand the words.
Grace Episcopal Church's spring music series ended Saturday with a recital by Yana Groves, who is a master's student at UW-Madison but has already racked up an impressive array of awards and performance credits. I must admit that I am not a connoisseur of piano music, so all I can say is that she seems to be very talented, and that I appreciated that she didn't play any of the weird contemporary pieces that instrumentalists like to sneak into their recitals to show off how good their technique is. That's the good thing about public performance recitals versus academic ones; with the former, the performer's primary goal is to entertain the audience, not impress the professors. (Rachel's connection to this is that she was the program coordinator for this concert series.)
On Saturday night, I went to the inaugural performance by the Madison Choral Project, which I understand to be Madison's first professional chorus. That's something worth supporting just on the merits, but also I knew two of the performers, Rachel and Michael, both of whom are section leaders in my church choir. (I'm passingly acquainted with a couple of the other members as well.) The concert was entitled "Celestial Spring,” and featured sixteen – one for each member of the choir, I guess – works related in some way to springtime. The chorus was, of course, outstanding; the blending and the balance were impeccable. The program, though, was … much of a muchness, let's say. A lot of very fine works, to be sure, but I don't recall a lot of variety of style. Nevertheless, it was a very good performance, and I hope they're able to pull off the Christmas concert they hope to stage later this year.
In the literary arts, I finished one book and started another.
I finished Persuasion, which concludes my reread of the Jane Austen works I'd read before and leaves me poised to undertake the ones I haven't: the trunk novel Lady Susan, the uncompleted novelsSanditon and The Watsons, and the juvenilia. The plot is a little thin, perhaps, but it's interesting to see an older heroine for a change, though that result in her coming across as a less lively character than the typical Austen heroine. It's also interesting that the male lead who is a self-made man rather than part of the landed gentry, not to mention the general portrayal of the gentry as foolish and petty and the newly wealthy military men as sensible. Obviously, there have been no shortage of foolish aristocrats in her previous novels, but this is the only one where none of the characters from the traditional English upper-class come off very well.
Before moving on to Lady Susan, I took a look at a travel book I spotted in one of my Kindle Daily Deal emails, For 91 Days in Idaho. I hastate to call this a book; it's a compilation of blog posts from the travel blog For 91 Days. The premise is that these two guys travel around the world, staying for 91 days in one location before moving on to the next destination. This book, obviously, is about their recent travels through Idaho. It's as light a read as a light read can be, but I found it rather interesting, because I knew very little about Idaho, and the writing style is easy and fun.