In the visual arts, I watched five DVDs this week:
I wrapped up the second season of Happy Endings, which ended like it began: significantly better than anyone who watched the first season might have imagined. I'm impressed with the way the show isn't afraid to mix up the pairings. Certain pairings predominate, of course — Brad and Jane, Penny and Max — but the writers are good about mixing it up with a Brad and Alex episode here and a Jane and Max episode there. Unfortunately, the third season is less available online than I'd like —only the five most recent episodes are available freely and legally — and the DVDs aren't out yet. Curse you, ABC and Sony Home Entertainment!
Speaking of things that aren't out on DVD yet and aren't available freely and legally online, I also finished the first half of the second season of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. Curse you, Cartoon Network and Warner Home Video! The second half of the first half of the season was much like the first: considerably darker than the first season, including the apparent death of a major recurring character, and sloppy integration of the computer-rendered animation with the hand-drawn. I'm spoiled in this regard by being such a big fan of Futurama, which blends hand-drawn and computer animation better than any TV series I've ever seen.
After leaving it unwatched on my dresser long enough to need to renew it twice, I finally watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which one the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar in 1976. Obviously my subconscious was trying to tell me something, because I really didn't care for this movie. In no small part, it was a pacing issue; at 133 minutes, it was just too long. The whole fishing scene should have been cut, if you ask me. Besides, Nicholson is best in small doses when he's playing a part like this.
Not do I have much to say about The Wire other than that it's really excellent. The second season is perhaps an even better example of the "filmed novel" storytelling technique than the first; it's really quite remarkable how the episodes refuse to conform to traditional television narrative structure or rhythms.
In the literary arts, I finished three books.
All Roads Lead to Austen is a travel memoir by Amy Elizabeth Smith, an English professor at University of the Pacific who spent a year travelling through Central and South America reading and discussing Jane Austen novels with locals. Not bad, but I don't feel it expanded my understanding or appreciation of Austen any.
I picked up Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl months ago but never got around to reading it until this week. I was somewhat taken aback by the fantasy elements; I had no idea it was that kind of story. I appreciated that Colfer had a new take on fairies, and the story held my attention, but I don't like Artemis so I don't think I'll bother moving on with the series.
I was finally able to finish Scott Miller's The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century, which you may recall I started a few weeks ago but failed to finish it in the week I had it available. The part I read first was more interesting to me than what I read this week; those earlier chapters were discussing the McKinley era and the history of anarchism in the U.S., neither of which I knew much about, while the last few were specifically about the assassination, which I already knew about. Still, all in all it was a solid work of history and well worth reading.