The vote

This weekend I’m going to do something I’ve never done before: Vote in an election in the US. I became a citizen earlier this year, so it’s my first opportunity. It’s been a long time since I voted anywhere in person. I used an absentee ballot in Canada for a good many years, until they finally decided I was no longer eligible because of the length of time I’d been out of the country.

When I did absentee vote in Canada, the ballot was simple. It was a little slip of paper about the size of a movie ticket with a blank space where you had to write in your choice for M.P. (member of parliament). In Canada, you never vote directly for the Prime Minister. You vote for your local M.P. and the party with the most winning candidates is declared the winner. The Prime Minister is also an M.P. and must win the local race in his own riding; otherwise, he can’t sit in the house of commons.

It may well be that the ballot when you vote in person is more complicated, but nothing like an American ballot. A couple of days ago, I downloaded a sample copy of the one I’ll use in early voting on Saturday. There are over 30 races in which votes may be cast, although in half of those a single candidate is running unopposed. I have no trouble deciding where my presidential vote will go, and I have a pretty good idea in a couple of the other major races (state senator and representative, for example), but what about the Railroad Commissioner. Or the County Commissioner. What does it even mean to be a republican or a democrat if you want to be a judge?

So I spent some time investigating the candidates. I had a few exclusionary criteria. If you claim to be a member of, or are substantially supported by, the Tea Party, you’re not getting my vote. If you are running for an education position and you want creationism to be taught alongside evolution in science classes, you won’t get my vote—even if you are running unopposed. I wonder. Can I give Charles Darwin a write-in vote in those cases?

Among my choices, there is an odd combination of Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Green Party candidates. No straight ticket here. But, again, I’m not quite sure what it means to be a judge running on the Democratic ticket versus the Republican ticket. How does party affiliation enter into being a Sheriff? Maybe I’ll figure those things out one of these days.

On a different subject: I’m not above saying I’m wrong about something. I ignored the first episode of Elementary when it aired, based on skepticism inspired by the preview ads I saw. I was bored one night, so I watched the two episodes that have aired already and I have to say it doesn’t suck. At least not as bad as I thought it might. I don’t think the show depends on the strength or weakness of Jonny Lee Miller’s performance. Jeremy Brett will always be the classic Holmes to me, and there have been enough reboots to the character of late that he could be played by just about anyone. For me, it’s Lucy Liu who makes the show interesting. Not that they decided to make Watson female. That’s almost irrelevant. It’s like having a different companion for Doctor Who. She’s feisty and fascinating. Stronger and smarter than the Conan Doyle version by a country mile. The show takes modernization in smaller measure than Sherlock does. This Holmes isn’t a Twitter fiend, for example, but he is a thoroughly 21st century man. When something can’t be deduced, he’s not above Googling it. I’m going to stick with the series and see where it goes.

A show that’s had a surprisingly strong season is the lone surviving Law & Order franchise: SVU. It’s been mercifully short on preachiness this year. Last night was the 300th episode, and it was a well constructed story. The “obvious” suspect turned out to be just a nutcase, the sort-of-obvious suspects weren’t involved either, the old crimes were solved, but didn’t have happy endings, theories were proved and disproved, and it all came down to good cop work and some fancy dancing in the box. Plus there was more Munch than usual of late. All good.

This week’s Survivor could have gone down as the longest episode ever if not for the deal brokered in the mud next to a giant ball of string. Those guys could have been out there forever. Was it a good deal? I think it depends on whether there’s a merge next week, which the preview suggests. Either that or an invasion force. In general, when a small team gets absorbed into a bigger one, the new members are prime picking for eviction, but in this case, the remaining members of the purple tribe were the distilled essence of the tribe and both have been strong contributors to their new tribes. No one is going to get rid of Malcolm when he’s been so instrumental in winning challenges for the yellow team. Of course, that will all change when it becomes an individual game.

So what, exactly, is Jeanne Tripplehorn doing on Criminal Minds? Has she done anything significant in the few episodes she’s appeared in so far? I like the idea that Spencer has a secret phone-a-friend, but why are they hiding her from us like that?

I think I’ve said this before, but I consider Covert Affairs to be an underappreciated show. Unlike a lot of basic cable series, it plays the spy game with a straight face. There’s no joking around, the spycraft is solid, the stakes are high and credible, and the characters are well drawn and human.

This week’s Sons of Anarchy was sort of blah, up until the last, oh, 55 seconds. Then all hell broke loose. When in doubt, bring in a man with a gun, they say. Or throw people over an embankment.

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