The Year in TV (2013)

2013 was an… interesting year in TV. American networks continued to churn out complete crap by the truckload, but networks across the world put out a variety of fresh, innovative new shows… along with a bunch of crap, too. But there’s plenty of great stuff out there if you know where to look. And this year’s TV roundup contains a few surprises: two shows from New Zealand, and the first French language show to appear on my list!

First, you’ll first find the list of my favorite new shows. As always, remember that the list is only for new shows, so old favorites like Breaking Bad and Mad Men aren’t on the list. After that, there’s a list of “worth a watch” shows, a list of shows that tried but failed, a section about miniseries, a tribute to shows that have left the air, and various odds and ends.


#12: Wonderland (Network Ten Australia) – This is my guilty pleasure of the year. It’s a light, breezy primetime soap about a group of friends who live in an oceanview building in Sydney called “Wonderland”. One of the main characters, Tom (Michael Dorman), can’t seem to commit to anything, be it a career or a woman. The only thing he seems to truly love is his 1964 Ford. In the first episode, Tom and his friend Steve bet that Tom will not sleep with a female roommate for 12 months, else Tom will have to give Steve his beloved car. But then Steve’s sister Miranda shows up needing a place to live. Tom obliges. Can Tom keep his end of the bet? And what will Miranda say when she finds out about the bet? And what happens when control freak Grace meets the handsome, easygoing Carlos from Brazil? And how will Collete and Rob survive once she admits to having a one night stand? See? It’s all soap opera, but for some reason – attractive cast members playing generally decent human beings? – I was totally sucked in to this. And I make no apologies for it!


#11: Hannibal (NBC) – I put Hannibal on the list because it fascinates me. We know “harder” swear words and casual nudity are strictly forbidden by the FCC. But Hannibal proves that while you can’t show boobies on network TV, you can certainly show boobies being chopped in to pieces… and maybe even cooked and eaten, too. I’m also a fan of Bryan Fuller (creator of Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies). While Hugh Dancy is officially the “star” of the show – as Special Agent Will Graham, an FBI academy lecturer and expert on serial killers who re-creates crime scenes in his mind – we all know that Mads Mikkelsen is really the star as Hannibal Lecter. Mads underplays Lecter; at least compared to Anthony Hopkins’ version. In fact, if all we knew of Lector was Mad’s performance, we’d be in for a bit of a shock later on. But while the writing is pretty good (especially for a show on US network TV), it really is surprisingly graphic. I mean, I’m hardly a “prude” and have seen my share of horror films over the years.. but this show even shocked me!


#10: Sleepy Hollow (Fox) – This is possibly the silliest show to come on TV in ages, yet it somehow works. In the show’s universe, Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow doesn’t exist. Instead, a man named Ichabod Crane moves to New York from England in colonial times and switches his allegiance to the American patriots. He is killed on the battlefield by a mysterious Hessian fighter, who Crane manages to behead just before collapsing. Crane rises from the grave 220 years later, and has a friend in Westchester County police lieutenant Abbie Mills: on the same night Crane awakes, Mills sees her mentor. Sheriff August Corbin, killed by the same horseman that Crane had beheaded. And so begins a series which is a delightful mix of the National Treasure movies (Founding Fathers, Freemasonry, esoteric symbols) and The X-Files (mysterious, supernatural bad guys). Hey, it ain’t deep TV, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun!


Continue reading “The Year in TV (2013)”

RANDOM CUTIE: Lauren Mayberry

Lauren Mayberry is the lead singer of the Scottish synthpop band CHVRCHES. I personally don’t find her “stunning” or “sexy”, but she can be awfully cute, in a pixie sort of way:

(click to embiggen)

What’s even better than her looks is her mind. Mayberry wasn’t sure her music career would take off, so she got a bachelor of laws degree* and a masters in journalism. She even won a prestigious award from the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland in 2010 for an article she wrote about body piercing practices (read it in this PDF). More recently, Mayberry wrote this piece in The Guardian about the misogyny she has to deal with online with Twitter and Facebook (and no, she’s not being hyper-sensitive about “I think you’re pretty!” tweets; most of the example tweets she gives are pretty disgusting).

She’s also quite smart about the music business. For one thing, the band liked the name “Churches”, but thought it would be difficult to Google for, so Mayberry proposed the alternative spelling. And it took them forever and a day to get a record contract because the band held out for a label that would give them considerable creative freedom. Mayberry says:

“You see so many bands regress and become like children, getting told what to do. I’m not in the business of telling people ‘DIY or die’ but I do think it’s important to be as hands-on with what you’re doing as possible. Sometimes if you don’t take the easy option it’ll pay dividends in the long run…. One guy came to a show, and was like: ‘You’re going to be huge. I can see it in my mind’s eye, we could make you the next Pixie Lott.’ I did an internal scream and ran away…. I guess at the end of the day I want to be viewed as a musician. Maybe I am super-paranoid about it. But after this is all done, I want to be able to say that we did it in the way we wanted to do it.”

But perhaps the BEST thing of all is that, despite being one of the tiniest singers I’ve ever seen, Mayberry is NOT a vegetarian. She even posted her recipe for beef and chorizo chili on a website after being asked for it. Sweet!

More pictures after the jump!

Continue reading “RANDOM CUTIE: Lauren Mayberry”


SimonHey, y’all! Well, it looks like the Footbal Feline righted the ship last week, going 11-5, or 119-72 for the season. Let’s see if I can do EVEN BETTER this week. ‘Cos The Simon has a good feelin’ about Sunday’s games! Enjoy the picks, y’all!




Houston at Jacksonville: Well, Simon knows where he’s NOT going to be this Thursday night! What a STINKER this game will be! BLECH! This game smells like my little sisters’ ass! I’m gonna go against the crowd and go with J-Ville, here. I think that Houston still hasn’t hit rock bottom yet, and the Jaguars, as I’m tired of saying, are better than people think they are!

Indianapolis at Cincinnati – Man, a three-way would be SO GOOD right now… What? No, ya damn perverts… I’m talking about a chili three-way, like this. Get your minds out of the gutter, girls! Anyway, The Simon is pretty sure the Bengals take this game. The Colts are just 3-2 over their last 5 games, while the Kitties are keepin’ in rollin’!

Atlanta at Green Bay – BWHAHAHAHAHA!! Really? The Durty Burds are at Lambeau this week? The Packers could put ME in at quarterback and we’d still win by two scores! Take the Packers, fool!

New England at Cleveland – BWHAHAHAHAHA!! Really? Two in a row? I wonder what the line on this game is… 35? 42? Take the Patriots!

Oakland at New York Jets – Which is the higher number: the number of Dark and Stormies Simon will drink at da club on Saturday night, or Geno Smith’s QB rating? If you chose the number of drinks I’ll have.. you’re right! Take the Raiders to steal one from the Jets, and they’ll make it look easy, too!

Detroit at Philadelphia – Speaking of Geno Smith… if Philly’s QB sensation (and TOTAL HOTTIE) Nick Foles were to throw 50 consecutive interceptions, he’d still have a higher QB rating than Geno Smith! For real, y’all! And I don’t see that handsome man cooling off this week, either. Take the Eagles to win at home and make it 5 in a row!

Continue reading “SIMON’S PICKS – Week 14”

Tip of the Day

This might sound completely obvious to some, but if you’re upgrading a perfectly functional electronic device, put all the electric adapters and cables in a gallon size Ziploc bag immediately after taking it apart.

For example, you might have a perfectly good 802.11n router that you’ve decided to replace with a brand-new 802.11ac router. Maybe you want faster wireless speeds from 802.11ac, or maybe 802.11ac will provide better range and speed with your home’s construction. Whatever the reason, you still have a router that works, you just want something better. So when you set up the new router, put the old router in a large Ziploc bag along with its power brick and any cable(s).

The reason I mention this is because I’m often amazed by how many people have a big box of adapters and cables, and in most cases have no idea which adapter goes with which device. I suppose they’re used to the “old days”, when companies actually went to the trouble to put their logos on things like power bricks. Nowadays, this is somewhat rare. Of the last two routers I owned, one had the name of the adapter’s manufacturer on it, while the other one had no manufacturer name at all, just the legally-required electrical info. And the power brick for my Dell netbook is actually branded by LiteOn.

There’s another benefit to doing this if you are your family’s “IT Guy”. Having a router or switch ready to go in a plastic bag means you can just “grab it and go” if there’s some kind of IT emergency that needs your help. More than once I’ve had to reach in my closet and get my trusty old Linksys WRT54GL to help a neighbor or family member diagnose a connectivity issue!

The Hottest Brainiacs

They say the largest sex organ is the brain. If you find brain power sexy, this post is for you! Here are some of the hottest brainiacs alive today:

Dr. Kathlyn M. Cooney

Kara Cooney
(click to enlarge)

Wikipedia says that Kara Cooney “is an Egyptologist and Assistant Professor of Egyptian Art and Architecture at UCLA. She was awarded a PhD in 2002 by Johns Hopkins University for Near Eastern Studies. She was part of an archaeological team excavating at the artisans’ village of Deir el Medina in Egypt, as well as Dahshur and various tombs at Thebes.” She has also appeared in the Discovery Channel series Out of Egypt and Egypt’s Lost Queen.

Suzannah Lipscomb

Suzannah Lipscomb
(click to enlarge)

Wikipedia says that Suzannah Lipscomb “is a British historian, academic and broadcaster specialising in the sixteenth century”.  She has done a lot of radio and TV work, including a series called Hidden Killers of the Victoria Home, which she wrote herself. She has written several books, and is a regular contributor to History Today, BBC History Magazine and The Daily Telegraph. I especially like her nose piercing, which makes her look slightly edgy.

Danica McKellar

Danica McKellar
(click to enlarge)

Sure, you know her as Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years. Unlike many child actors, however, McKellar didn’t disappear into a pile of coke and hookers. She went to UCLA and graduated summa cum laude in 1998 with a degree in mathematics. She co-authored an academic paper named “Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models on Z2“. I don’t even understand the title! She has gone on to write four books encouraging girls to take an interest in math: Math Doesn’t Suck, Kiss My Math, Hot X: Algebra Exposed and Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape.

Continue reading “The Hottest Brainiacs”

The Rarest of the Rare

In 1967, a perfectly ordinary apartment building in Chicago started undergoing perfectly ordinary renovations. One perfectly ordinary day, a perfectly ordinary plumber started tearing down a perfectly ordinary brick wall. And, behind the wall, he found a completely unusual motorcycle.

The building’s elderly owner sheepishly admitted that his son had stolen the bike before leaving for the Army in World War I. His son died in combat, and it’s not known if the old man hid the bike in the wall out of shame (that his son had stolen it) or out of depression (that his son had died). All that’s known for sure is that the bike had been trapped behind the wall for 50 years and had license plates from the year 1917 on it.

The motorcycle had the name “Traub” on it. There is no company named Traub known to have manufactured motorcycles in the United States (or anywhere else) at that time, And believe me, people have really researched it. But perhaps that’s all well and good, because almost all the parts of the motorcycle were made by hand.

The engine is a handmade 80 cubic-inch flathead engine made by sand casting. The pistons are also handmade. According to the bike’s current owner, the overall machining on the bike parts was “simply years ahead of their time”. The bike, which can easily reach 85 mph (137 km/h), has a three-speed transmission, perhaps the first of its kind. And despite having both German and American parts, the transmission’s design is completely unique. And the rear brakes use a system never seen before (or since) on American-built motorcycles. Some of the screws used on the bike are uncommon to motorcycles, while others that control things like oil level must be turned by hand, indicating that the person (or persons) who built the bike had to be an expert with engines and\or machining parts.

Traub Motorcycle

If none of that made any sense to you, then imagine this: the most popular car in the United States in 1916 was the Model T. Model Ts look like this:



Now, Imagine someone, somewhere building a car by hand in 1916  that looks like this:


Now you can see what a truly amazing piece of engineering the Traub motorcycle really is.

No one knows who built the Traub or why, It’s known that the bike was bought by a Chicago area bicycle shop owner named Torillo Tacchi shortly after it was discovered. Tacchi sold it to a Hollywood stuntman named Bud Ekins in the 1970s (Bud was in town working on the original Blues Brothers movie at the time). Ekins sold it to a motorcycle collector named Richard Morris, who in turn sold it on to Dale Walksler, owner and curator of the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC. The Traub has been on display there ever since.

If you’d like to read more about the Traub (especially if you like the technical side of things), check out this post or this post.


SimonHey, y’all! Simon here! Wow… Simon really dropped the ball last week, huh? 5-8? My first losing week in God knows how long? OMG! But WHO KNEW the Pats would come back from a 24-0 deficit to win in overtime? Let’s see if I can do better in Week 13! I’m still 108-67 for the season, which isn’t too bad. Not great, but not bad. Have a happy Turkey Day and enjoy the picks, folks! 


Green Bay at Detroit: Y’all know I think Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford is the best combo since peanut butter and jelly, right? And Simon would love to be in the middle of a Johnson-Stafford sandwich… but I think the Packers, even with their QB situation, will pull this one out. Barely. And I don’t like pulling out, either!

Oakland at Dallas: Yeah, I think the ‘Boys win this one. It’s Turkey Day, they’re at home, and millions of fans will be watching. Romo, Bryant, Witten, Murray, Ware… I think the Cowboys just have too much talent for the Raiders, especially with the Iggles on their tails!

Pittsburgh at Baltimore: Well, it’s always hard to win in Bawlmer.., but Simon’s gonna go full-blown homer and pick the Steelers in this one. The Steelers really seem to be coming together over the past few weeks, while the Ratbirds just seem to be treading water. Seriously… where has this Steeler defense been all season? Of course, given that the margin of victory in these games is usually 3 points or less, it’ll be close. Don’t be surprised if the Ratbirds win 21-20. But I think the Men of Steel keep their winning streak alive this week!

Jacksonville at Cleveland: Talk about Factory of Sadness! Simon feels well and truly sorry for anyone forced to watch this stinker! Take the Browns, but hold your nose when you do it!

Tennessee at Indianapolis: Yawn. Take the Colts, if you care.

Chicago at Minnesota: In the Battle of the Awful Accents, I say take da Bears to win. They’ve got too much game for the Vikings.

Continue reading “SIMON’S PICKS – WEEK 13”