ongoing jeopardy!

So, strangely enough, the question of who should host Jeopardy! has not been resolved. It’s been 8 months since I first posted on this topic and we are still treading water. Who knew that this would still be going on more than a year after Alex Trebek’s death.

Having watched Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings go head-to-head in hosting duties for many months, I have to say that I generally enjoy Ken’s hosting more than Mayim’s, though I think she has gotten better. Ken’s knowledge and experience makes the game seem smoothly run – the board is cleared in pretty much every round, he’s more comfortable with chatting up the players than he was before, and he seems to have settled in well. Of course, recently there was another twitter incident, where Ken commented on something he shouldn’t have. Why, Ken, why? You were doing so well.

My reaction to the twitter thing is less about commenting on other people’s comments and more about trying to understand why people feel the need to publicly comment on things. I had the same reaction earlier (why the jeopardy! chaos matters to me) about Mayim’s practice of commenting on various topics that may or may not be controversial. If that is your role/job – to be provocative or express your opinion – then by all means wade into the fray. If your job is to be the genial host, then rein it in and fight the urge to comment on whatever is the current buzz. Or just comment to your friends and loved ones rather than to … the world.

The criticism of Mayim has always focused on a few things: her hawking of a questionable brain supplement, her comments on various topics made via podcasts and other media over the years, her views on vaccines, her untimely laughing while hosting, her seeming astonished when contestants correctly respond on the show, and her wardrobe sense (or lack thereof). I’m there for all but the last one – her public, professional choices are ripe for comment, in my opinion. She decides which topics to publicly comment on and which products to endorse. Her on-show behavior has improved – the laughing and surprise at correct responses are less frequent than they were when she started. Good job, Mayim!

I admit that I’m annoyed at the criticism or compliments about her wardrobe, hair, etc. It’s one thing if people are universal with the running commentary, e.g., that’s what they do with everyone … and not just women. The lastest iteration I saw was that someone was criticizing Mayim for wearing a jacket for the second time. Really? Even Royalty are known to wear something more than once … and someone is knocking a game show host for this? Has Ken worn the same jacket more than once? I’m guessing yes and, if so, has the commenter scoffed that Ken rewore a jacket? I was disappointed that Mayim seemed to say that she wouldn’t wear it again – I hope she was kidding. I’d have been happier to hear her say that she would be rewearing the jacket every Tuesday until the jacket fell apart. The outdated notion that women need to be showplates – and judged for how they look – and men can wear the same thing every day with no comments is ridiculous. And then she was praised for straightening her hair. Aren’t we supposed to be moving toward acceptance of the way people look. I don’t know … maybe she wants to straighten her hair … if so, have at it. I guess I just always hope for better when it comes to Jeapordy! and am saddened when reality doesn’t meet my expectations.

I’m also a bit concerned about the recent run of long winning streaks. It’s not that I like to see people lose, but I like to have three contestants who are equally matched. Also, I’m sick of seeing whomever is hosting fawn all over these mega-champions – it’s not fair to the other players, who end up seeming like an afterthought. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that most of the long-winning champions this season have not had annoying traits or had a “personality” that is distracting. The exception for me is the current champion, Mattea Roach, who bugs me – the hand gestures, the random comments, the facial expressions, and so on. I know she is very impressive, particularly for one so young, but I find her exhausting and will do a happy dance when she is no longer on my TV screen. I also know that many people adore her – that’s fine, we don’t have to agree. And Ken, we know you like her, but STOP with the daily monologues to her greatness – it’s getting a little embarrassing and it seems rude to the other players, who are having their own once-in-a-lifetime moment.

While I like the idea of having defending champions, I am wondering whether there should be a limit. There used to be a five day limit, though that seems a bit short. I’m fine with them having long enough to win a fair amount of money but not become fixtures. While I enjoyed Matt and Amy from earlier this year, I’d have been fine if they had shorter runs. People on television are like guests in my home – they chat, we may play a game, we learn something new … and, like fish, they begin to smell after three days.* Just saying …. So, while three days or five days may be a little too brief, I’d like them gone by the end of the month.

*Thanks for the quote, Ben Franklin!

thoughts on books: one day in the life of ivan denisovich

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn is an amazing book that profiles one day in the life of a prisoner in a Soviet gulag. The story is short and focuses on the daily routine – the little details that come to mean everything in a life that is diminished by imprisonment. Ivan is a poor, uneducated man who is in prison because … well, it’s not really clear. Some other Russian novels use extraordinary characters to describe the dramatic and terrible circumstances of imprisonment, which then inform the prisoner’s struggles. Others tell of people whose special skills or knowledge are exploited, hidden, or contained by an authoritarian government. Ivan’s story is quieter. He represents “the poor” or “the lower class” person who ended up in the gulag for some minor crime or for breaking the rules at the wrong place and time – in the eyes of many, he is a nobody. In reality, he is in a Stalin-era work camp to do menial labor (under horrible conditions) that needs doing – fixing up buildings, repairing things, and anything else that the powers that be deem appropriate.

Ivan is having a bad day in that he doesn’t feel well but a good day in other respects. In the morning, he has a little extra bread that he hides for later. At work repairing a wall, he has a good trowel and is able to move along quickly through his work. He finds a piece of metal that he could make into a knife or other tool … and the guard doesn’t find it when he searches Ivan. He is able to gain more food by helping another inmate who receives a package. He avoids the small infractions of the rules that will bring him punishment that is far beyond the size of the “crime”. This is life for Ivan – navigating the relationships with the guards, steering clear of infractions, and negotiating with other prisoners. He tries to get along with everyone and to maintain some level of humanity when the guards, policies, and conditions are dehumanizing. Even his “good day” is characterized by filth, hunger, cold, and lack of basic necessities.

The gulag where Ivan is held is presumably in Siberia. The descriptions are so real that it makes one cold just to read about it. The prisoners wear rags, sleep on mattresses with little covering, and work in the cold. It is below zero and frigid. There is one scene in which their work supervisor allows paper – paper! – to cover the broken windows of the building in which they work. Using paper to try to shield them from the wind is against the rules – they are told to take down the paper, but the supervisor ignores the order. The knowledge that so many people died in the gulags is just gut-wrenching. These forced labor camps were brutal and unconcerned with individuals. It is a difficult story to read but is so wonderfully written that the reader empathizes with Ivan as he moves through his day.

One of the saddest things is that Ivan is stuck where he is, with little hope of getting out anytime soon. If there was a book called The Next Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, it would essentially be the same as this book. There is no one advocating for him. The powers that be are happy with him where he is – he’s a good worker – and have no desire to help him move on to something better. He has no privacy, no sense of safety, no dreams of better things to come. He and his fellow prisoners form friendships and try to help each other when they can, as many are (after a time) forgotten by families and friends and are alone. They exist, day after day, with little control over anything in their lives. This is a powerful little book.

the human-cat compromise

My mother is not really a “pet” person. That’s not to say that she doesn’t like dogs and cats – she does – but she’s not used to being around pets. She doesn’t really understand that cats get into stuff, want to explore every nook and cranny in the house, and jump on furniture. She doesn’t understand that cats think everything is a toy or something to kill. And she doesn’t understand that it is generally ok that they explore and get into and play with stuff … so long as they are safe from anything that can do them real harm. She likes my cat Toby and is entertained by him, but also is startled by him tearing around the apartment and jumping on the furniture. I’d hear her “No, no, no” multiple times a day.

Continue reading

renovations: finishing touches to the kitchen

So, we are here. It is done … well, almost.

It took a while to get to the home stretch but it was worth it – the kitchen looks great! There are a few small pieces to finish – bits of trim, a little paint, reorganizing storage. But, overall, it was worth the effort and it’s really come together nicely. The process was long, but the end result is really lovely.

Continue reading