Thursday, December 22, 2011

black dream

My brother Jeff and i were back in the suburban home of our youth. It was a grey, cold day. I looked into the back yard, and there was a man in a black trenchcoat peering through the back wooden fence. It had been wedged open a foot or so. He was holding what might have been a sniper rifle. I told Jeff to go upstairs. I went into the yard to confront the man. He was black and incredibly tall, with icy demeanor. After i spoke a couple sentences, he calmly fired a couple of shots between my legs. I hastened back into the house. Jeff hadn't gone upstairs yet, and as i was urgently whispering to him to go up and call the police, we noticed that the sliding glass door was broken, and that a black bear was coming into the room. Jeff went up, and i went back onto the porch. I told the man i had no problem with him. I followed him into the house, and asked him whether he needed food for his bear. He looked at me icily, then said that would be fine. He handed me his lit cigarette, which was light blue. I searched for an ashtray, remembering Jeff was a smoker. I found one on top of the phone. I doubted i'd be able to find meat for this bear, but there were several packages of ground beef right on the top refrigerator shelf. I offered it to him, and he said "Heated?" I threw it into the microwave, then hurried the steaming, dripping meat to the bear.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"The Larry Sanders Show"

1992-1998
One of the seminal shows in television history, LARRY SANDERS showed the backstage workings of a network late night talk show perpetually destined for second-best. It was the first TV comedy with dialogue both scripted and improvised. In bringing the show to life, star and creator Garry Shandling called on his experience as a recurring guest host for Johnny Carson. Rip Torn (MEN IN BLACK, BEASTMASTER) plays the gruff, capable producer Artie. Jeffrey Tambor (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, THE ROPERS) is Hank, the no-talent sidekick. Every episode dared you to not realize this show was funny in a way you'd never seen.
ULTIMATE LARRYTHON (season)
-What Have You Done For Me Lately? (1)
How many more brilliant pilots have there ever been? The network forces Larry to do on-air product promos, an idea he loathes so much he sabotages the promo with snark. Hank saves the day. The Garden Weasel! And Robert Hays!
-Party (1)
Larry's wife invites Artie and his wife over to dinner, an idea Larry is none too thrilled with. One by one, the staff wheedles invitations. Artie drinks salty dogs, you pussies!
-Off Camera (2)
An entertainment writer (Joshua Malina - SPORTS NIGHT, THE WEST WING) takes notes backstage for a story. Pettiness and mayhem abound. Guests Gene Siskel, John Ritter, and Warren Zevon are beautiful.
-Hank's Wedding (2)
Hank proposes on-air to a young woman he's known for a couple weeks. They marry on-air. Everyone except Artie thinks it's a horrible idea. Alex Trebek officiates. The strip club bachelor party with Ed McMahon is too classic.
-Roseanne's Return (4)
Larry's ex Roseanne is scheduled to appear, sending him into a neurotic tizzy. The cast is watching the O.J. trial. Hank, who lives on O.J.'s street, defends his neighbor. An enraged Phil eggs Hank's Bentley, leaving yolk on his shoes and eggs in his office. As Hank is furious over Phil's obvious guilt, a point is made with hilarity and razor-sharp incisiveness. Larry's contentious banter with Roseanne is high-wire hysterical.
-Putting the 'Gay' Back in Litigation (6)
The odds against lightning striking on all fronts when a show divides into three plotlines are staggering. Brian, fed up with Phil's gay jokes, sues the show for harassment. Scott Thompson's greatest moment. Both Wallace Langham's jokes and the pressures he's under are perfectly rendered...with an audacious climax between the two that would have missed the mark 99 tries out of a hundred. Meanwhile, Larry worries that his new girlfriend Ileana Douglas isn't a good enough guest to date. He bumbles around, then has a humorless moment that makes you realize for the first time in six seasons that he understands how fucked up he is. Over on track C, Hank mines comic gold as he films celebrity friends doing farewell tributes to Larry. Bruno Kirby and Drew Barrymore are priceless.
-Flip (6)
The hour-long series finale. Even though a few of the segments are just a hair off razor sharp, it doesn't stop the whole from being perfect. The perfect ending to this show that gave us the flip side of TV...the dysfunctional mess that stars are offstage, and the ugly, embarrassing creative process that goes into probably every real show we've ever loved. It's a sign of how close to the bone this show went, in the unspooling of stars who showed up at the end. Warren Beatty is chased by Larry in a parking lot. Jim Carrey's on-air tribute is an eye-popping wonderment. David Duchovny's invoking of Sharon Stone's most iconic scene is comic perfection. Plus Jerry Seinfeld, Sean Penn, Carol Burnett, Tim Allen, Tom Petty, Ellen Degeneres, Greg Kinnear, and...someone i'm forgetting...oh yes, Bruno Kirby! And again how bizarre, in that it would all mirror reality so closely, the willingness of stars to appear on a highly-rated, beloved series finale. You can't help wondering where the fantasy stops, and where the reality begins. The show within the show was never more than semi-beloved, so it almost strains credibilty to have this many celebrities. But it doesn't quite cross that implausible line. Jeremy Piven and Linda Doucett return after long absences. And at the core, the big three knock out some of their most poignant scenes ever. Artie cries, alone in the costume room. Hank's kiss-off scene is towering (as is his tail-between-legs apology). Do NOT miss the deleted scenes. The last moment, as Larry looks back...you might just shed a tear yourself.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Starhunter"

2000-2001
I actually got through the entire series. I'd like to tell you that i did so out of a faint feeling of guilt for having dismissed so many sci fi series after less than a full season. Yeah, that's the reason i gutted it out.
Or perhaps it had to do with the fact that in the pilot, my eyes fell out when i saw some of the most beautiful boobies we'll ever see, entirely unaugmented by surgery (or the costume department). Hungrily, i stayed with this turkey through the rest of the 22 episodes, hoping that similar helpings of heaven would be regular stops along the way. If you are moved by similar delight...
Then stop the moment actress Helen Latham, um, shuffles off this mortal flesh in a pyrotechnic blaze. Turn off the disc, and run to the next contestant in the eternal quest for non-crappy sci fi.
And pardon me for being so moved by Miss Latham, but is it so much to ask that sci fi produce a series that acknowledges the importance of sex to human beings, and not in such a way that makes you think your shrewish Aunt Gladys isn't peering over the producers' shoulders, ready to swat them with a ruler should they fail to live up to the Hayes censorship code of 19-FREAKING-30!?
I'm just saying.
As for STARHUNTER, i'd like to tell you that it's second-rate. That, however, would be a lie. Workable performances, decent visuals, a concept with potential (hundreds of years in the future, warp travel is just a dream, Earth is a wasteland, and human spaceships clutter our solar system)...but you had the feeling that there weren't enough good writers, and too many memos from producers who didn't know spit about storytelling. It's nice to see star Michael Pare' again, but the only people i'd recommend this one to are those who call EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS the bestest flick ever.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mark, Luke, John

Mark 14:51-52
What a fascinating 29-word mention; who WAS this young man?
Luke 14:26
It stretches the boundaries of reason and logic to suggest that hatred of self and others is necessary for religious purity. The only way to justify this would be to believe that all humans possess innate evil. There are, indeed, many who hold such a view. But does it seem credible that the Lord could create (in It's own image?) innately evil beings? Wouldn't the Lord have to be evil to do so?
John 2:6-11
If the Christ were to come today, might It perform miracles of creating marijuana, or peyote, or heroin, or some other drug? If the Christ is willing to create alcohol, let's not quibble over the potency of any other mind-altering drug of your choice. While he never advocated drugs as a path to Heaven, he obviously endorsed their use. Many religions have more overtly paired drugs with spiritual experience. I have no point, merely a curious observation…

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Buried Child

THEATER 57
-spring 2001
I returned to the Orpheus. Why? A couple reasons. I believed in what we'd been trying to create, and had strong loyalty to Tony. In his besieged life, i wanted to energize his dream a bit longer. At the same time, i knew that an era had passed, and that my time at the Orpheus was ending. I knew i wouldn't be able to create the intense theater i was interested in, not there. But i wanted others to keep the Orpheus Theater going. These were the thoughts in my head as i decided to have Donna McDonald direct a show. She had co-run a theater on Lasqueti Island in Canada for a number of years. I thought i might step all the way back, and be just the producer. The show she chose was a Sam Shepard piece about a dysfunctional family (or am i being redundant?). Estrangement, incest, a baby buried in the backyard, fresh produce...this play had it all. For the role of Dodge, the patriarch, i got Joe Porter, a delightful life-long theater vet and semi-retired doctor. Joe had been in touch with me for a few months, and here was finally a great part for him. Donna found beach resident Carrie Hill to play Halie, the matriarch. Auditioner Tony Turiano was cast as the lost eldest son, Tilden. I got Michael Weeg for the part of Bradley, the crippled, angry son. Michael was the husband of Jennifer from sex, lies, and videotape. For Father Dewis, i called on my ODD COUPLE buddy, John Thomas. Amanda returned to play Shelly, girlfriend of the grandson, Vince. We had trouble casting Vince. Donna wanted me, and i said i'd do it if we didn't find someone else. For four or five days we searched, with Donna telling me to just do the part. But a part of me wanted to see how she operated before acting under her. Also, i didn't fancy playing Amanda's boyfriend, as my feelings for her had been pretty intense far too recently. Thankfully, Jim Hawley from SEXUAL PERVERSITY surfaced. I threw myself into producing, and only attended one or two rehearsals the first few weeks. It was an enjoyable break, wearing just the one hat. I attended most rehearsals the last two weeks, even running some that Donna couldn't make. I gave a fair bit of direction to a couple actors who wanted more than Donna was giving them. Tony Turiano called me the best producer he'd ever had. The cast chemistry was good, if not overly close. Tony was a recovering alcoholic, and came on a little strong for some. Amanda in particular felt that he was trying to get too close, a situation i did my best to defuse. Carrie was new to acting, but doing her best. She was good company. Joe and John were consummate pros, and Jim his usual puckish self. Michael and Amanda were very dedicated. Donna and i ran the show together, her out front, me backstage. Tony M. relayed to me how angry his family still was with me, and said that they wanted me to run the show from outside the restaurant, perhaps using a...get this...walkie-talkie. There was prop placement and cleanup to do backstage, plus set and actor dressing. It all came together well, and we played to good crowds. We finally were working on an actual stage, assembled by volunteer community member Peter. This meant several more heavy pieces to be lugged behind the restaurant after each show, which usually fell to Dwayne Ernst and myself. Dwayne was Donna's boyfriend, and for several shows that year, he did work that was well beyond the call of duty. He'd lived a hard life, and i was touched by how much he opened up to me. The prop i was most proud of was the baby skeleton. I'd tried to find one at schools and hospitals, but was told that there had been a ban on baby-skeleton construction. I found a doll, shaved her hair, cut eye, ear, nose, and jaw sections out, and painted it white. In the final scene, Tony carries the baby in, wrapped in cloth, and the effect was very disturbing to some. The most-imitated lines were Joe's, especially "Boo-koos!", "My rough rasp, my lathe…", and "Two bucks is two bucks. Don't sneer." Jim continued to ad-lib a bit in finding his particular brand of comedy (literally speaking out his ass at one point), but he did it well, so was given rein. He played a funny drunk, turning "Beasts from the deep!" into "Beans from the dip!" Michael's "Gimme back my leg!" was mimiced as well...his frustrated rage was both comic and frightening (and yes, we had an actual prosthetic leg, thanks to Dr. Joe). At one point, Amanda hurls a mug offstage, shattering it. I'm backstage to clean up, so the actors don't step on the pieces. I began to wonder what might happen if the cup didn't break, and i finally decided to wait closer to the crash point. The first night i did this (after weeks of successful crashes), the cup failed to break. I smashed it, but maybe not quickly enough, because Amanda felt there was a lag. I never waited that closely again, and it was never a problem again (i always wondered whether my mental energy had somehow created the failed crash). The most memorable moment came on closing night. Throughout the run, Jim had been leaning on a TV stand in one scene, and on the final night it collapsed. Joe and Jim proceeded to provide dead-on ad-libs. It was an incredibly dirty production, and not figuratively. Mud and shucked corn everywhere. The mayor came to see an Orpheus show for the first time, and had a great time, but i was so busy cleaning up that i barely met him, and got no credit for being the guy that started and ran this whole endeavor. Oh well. Donna favored a more choreographed curtain call than i, but i allowed myself to be called out on the final night. I enjoyed being just the producer more than i expected. In a way, it was like my first non-acting experience in college, and the unexpected pride i'd felt in acquiring that elusive diaphragm prop. Giving some control of expenses to Donna, the show became the most expensive we ever did, at $1200. I accepted a $300 investment from her, which i paid back by week two. It was a group and show to be proud of.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Galactica '03

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
2003-2009
Creator ronald moore had a long history as a writer/producer for the TREK franchise, before taking center stage for this re-boot of the BSG franchise. Not everything was as ground-breaking as it felt (the hand-held camera shots hark back to HILL STREET BLUES). But the emotional/physical grittiness, moral ambiguity, and realistic space visuals were mostly new ground. All that, plus edward james olmos? Bloody brilliant. The classic had mystical mumbo jumbo too, so why is it so hard to stomach in the new incarnation? Because the classic was never so insistent on being taken seriously. The show's excellence declined precipitously in the final seasons...was moore trying to make the point that life itself hardly ever has a coherent narrative structure? Probably not, but ultimately the show suffered for not having a point. Chaos could have been the point, and could have been brilliantly encapsulated in the discovery that Earth turns out to be a nuclear wasteland. Had that been the show's finale, it might have been one of the greatest endings in television history. But the show just meandered on, settling for an exciting but obligatory finale. As for specifics, the teaser sequence was a time-wasting conceit that showed us things we didn't need to see. There are some lovely deleted scenes, but the moore commentaries are a bit boring (producer/writer/tech commentaries tend to be dry, and the fact that he's usually alone doesn't help). If i'm focusing on the negative, it's only a reflection of love...but ultimately, dehumanizing mysticism and writing flaws keep BSG from the greatness in its grasp. Debates about where it might have belonged in the pantheon of best shows ever are reduced to arguing over which is better, the new or the classic. Still in all, when it was great, it was like no sci fi ever.
SERIES EPISODE AVERAGE: 2.7
BY SEASON:
1) 3.0
2) 2.9
3) 2.4
4) 2.7
FOUR-STAR EPISODES (season)
-mini-series
-33 (1)
-You Can't Go Home Again (1)
-Scattered (2)
-Valley of Darkness (2)
-Pegasus [extended] (2)
-RAZOR
-Dirty Hands (3)
-The Ties that Bind (4)
-THE PLAN

Galactica, season 4

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 2
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.7
-He That Believeth in Me ***
Baltar's cult of nubile supplicants is a nice touch. The starbuck resurrection almost works, as does lee's resignation as a pilot...but "almost" is a bit painful in this context. She returns in a factory-showroom viper, looking pristine herself...am i the only one who thinks to check for her old surgery scars? Gripping action sequences. They dropped the ball in editing, taking out an athena/kara and kara/anders scene that would have restored some coherence.
-Six of One ***
Why is a naked boomer so much...fun? Roslin's aide tory (rekha sharma - DARK ANGEL, ALIEN VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM) cries when she has sex, and it's the first time i've been genuinely glad to have her around. Laura attempts to kill the starbuck-ghost...why is no one else acting so sanely? Lee's military send-off feels overdone, and his farewell to dee underdone. Boomer's breaking of the cylon council deadlock feels contrived; it might have been more realistic to go against the 8s in the other direction. The beginnings of a cylon civil war are fantastic.
-The Ties That Bind ****
Galactica is back! Galactica is BACK!!! Or that's what i was saying to myself, as cally walks her baby into the airlock. For most of season three, the show felt lost, but suddenly...i was shouting "No! No! NO! Yes! NO!!!". Cally had just found out that the father of her child is a cylon. Does she get sentimental and uncertain? Yup...then she clubs him insensate with a WRENCH! Thank you, cal. There are more off moments than one might expect from a four-star episode, but boomer snogging cavill plus base star fleets tearing into one another, put this one over the top. Starbuck-ghost's Demetrius mission is tedious, but it's been a long time since you had me on the edge of my seat, BSG. And can someone please order a cylon test on laura and cally, because their teeth look INHUMANLY WHITE this season?
-Escape Velocity ***
In a season in which the chief finds out he's not human, he gives the most rawly human speech of anyone, on how life is about not ending up with the people we most want to be with. Olmos and mcdonnell could make an ingredient list great goddamned drama.
-The Road Less Traveled **
The Demetrius mission still holds no water, and the mystical babble back at the fleet threatens to swallow the show (again). There's a deleted helo/athena scene that ought not have been.
-Faith **
A gripping, albeit convoluted mutiny on the Demetrius! Plus nana visitor (STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, TED 2)! A fine turn (the only BSG ever by a TREK regular) swallowed up by a tedious character in a mawkish, mumbo jumbo plot. They find the remains of the cylon renegade fleet, with the 6s, sharons, and leobens who want to form an alliance with the humans. Anders has an unprecedented great moment, when he tries to slide his hand into the cylon water data stream, his cylon identity unknown to all.
-Guess What's Coming to Dinner **
Gaeta loses a leg, apollo's elected to the Quorum, humans and cylons in a tenuous truce plot betrayal...zzzzzzzzzzz. Perhaps the most inoffensive two-star effort of the series, but are we to applaud a lack of anything patently wrong? The writers, time and again, put the characters in situations where their responses don't quite ring true. A nice 1.29-second appearance by dee. Oh yeah, athena kills a 6, but i'm giving up the ghost, because i'm not entirely sure which 6. If athena can kill one character per episode, by the finale we'll be left with a buddy comedy starring her and her trusty centurion, entitled "Naked Boomer and Sparky Ride a Tandem Bike"...which, frankly, would be fine.
-Sine Qua Non **
Adama abandons his post to wait for laura, and lee agonizes over whom to pick as the replacement President. Let's bring lawyer lampkin back. Why? Who knows. What's your poison, a plotline that's contrived, or foregone? When romo threatens to kill lee, we get both. Ah well, at least caprica 6, in the brig, is pregnant. And the father is...tigh?
-The Hub **
Aaaaaah! Elosha's back! Nooooooooooooo! She's faffing on a ferry of folderol. Adama and laura finally declare their love...zzzzzzzz. Baltar is shot...will laura save or kill him? Can she kill us instead? This one is so vapid, it's only by a miracle of high-octane action (in the form of a battle in which the cylon resurrection "hub" is destroyed) that one-star land is skirted.
-Revelations **
Gonna be a standoff! They find Earth! Four of the five final cylons are outed (tigh, tory, anders, and the chief), and the renegade cylons threaten a nuke strike unless they are handed over. Adama is incapacitated with grief (?). Lee plays hardball as president...but everybody makes nice, and they all go to Earth. The fleet-wide scenes of joy and relief are one whopper of a masturbatory montage. Why is this turd a floater, not a sinker? The revelation that Earth is a nuclear wasteland. Damn right, ronald moore. In a season of crap, you found the chewy golden center. If the entire series had built to this point, without the mumbo jumbo that doomed it, this could have been one of the most powerful series finales ever.
-Sometimes a Great Notion ***
Starbuck-ghost finds starbuck's remains in a cockpit on Earth...zzzzzz. The two-thousand year old remains of the earthlings turn out to be...cylon! Never mind that they weren't invented before the current century. It's time to cowboy up, so...adama gets weepy-wooey and suicidal. Roslin burns the scriptures ('bout fucking time!). What elevates this one is a huge helping of dee-light. She and apollo have a date. They kiss. She returns to her quarters, still glowing...as she kills herself. *&^%ing *&^%ity *&^%ers! There had better be some high-level justification coming, or someone's getting a *&^%ing letter. The fifth cylon is the long-dead ellen..zzzz.
-A Disquiet Follows My Soul (extended) ***
An appropriate title for season four. Roslin can't face her job, nor her cancer treatments. The fleet is offered advanced FTL technology from the renegade cylons, in exchange for citizenship. The chief finds out that cally's baby isn't his. An anti-cylon movement is founded by zarek and gaeta. An otherwise average episode is elevated by not even one hint of mumbo jumbo.
-The Oath ***
Early-season worthy...if the human touches had rung just a bit more true, four stars was reachable. With roslin in seclusion and adama telling the Quorum to stick their reservations about a cylon alliance up their collective ass, full-scale mutiny erupts, spearheaded by zarek and gaeta (as much as i love our heroes, i might find myself on the anti-cylon side). Ex-Pegasus chief laird is the first victim, and the body count is on. Gaeta takes over the CIC. Apollo and starbuck-ghost fight side by side. Adama and tigh are taken, then escape, then get grenaded. Nasty. The idea of a civil war fought over an uncomfortable alliance with a bitter enemy is another gem that gets lost in a failed season.
-Blood on the Scales ***
Adama is alive, and put through a kangaroo trial. Zarek massacres the Quorum. The mutiny fractures, as roslin stands firm aboard the base ship. Zarek and gaeta are killed by firing squad.
-No Exit **
A stirring recap of the entire series mythology gets this one going, and anders' brain death ends it (don't celebrate, it probably won't stick). There's mumbo jumbo, and a curious drama between cavil, boomer, and ellen. Adama reinstates the chief, who tells him that cylon organic metal is the only thing that can save Galactica's bulwarks. Adama says never. Then yes.
-Deadlock **
Sigh. Put the Galactica-is-back vuvuzelas away. Boomer brings ellen back to the fleet, who then gets into pissyfights with the other cylons. Caprica 6 miscarries sol's baby.
-Someone to Watch Over Me ***
This episode makes me almost care about starbuck-ghost. More compelling is the reuniting of boomer and the chief. She's never stopped living in the projection of their dream home, and he's never let go of the greatest love of his life. A wonderful episode falls apart when he frees her...but passes on a chance to go with her. In order to escape, she pretends to be athena. Helo interrupts her while she's dressing, offering a quickie. Not wanting to alarm him, she accepts. Athena, bound and gagged in a closet, views the fucking. It's upsetting, it's sexy, it's what BSG should be. Do NOT miss the deleted post-coital scene.
-Islanded in a Stream of Stars **
Baltar reveals that the original starbuck died. Boomer brings a kidnapped hera back to cavill. Adama gives the order to abandon the beyond-repair Galactica. It's not soporific, but praise doesn't get much feebler than that. I can't even muster much giddiness over getting to see starbuck crap.
-Daybreak (extended) ***
A weary franchise gamely brings it home. Considering the mumbo jumbo and contrivance of the last two seasons, that's no tiny feat. Pre-holocaust flashbacks meld with Galactica's final mission, a rescue of hera in the heart of the cylon empire - it's so grand and adrenalized (a defending force of classic centurions!), that it almost rises above. The chief kills tory when he discovers that she killed cally. Caprica 6 reconciles in love with baltar, when he finally makes a selfless gesture. The visuals are great, they don't give in entirely to sentimentality, and it very nearly works. At the end, they destroy their fleet, to disperse onto a planet with pre-industrial humans (a pristine "alter Earth"...just go with it). There's a great deleted kara/zack scene. They bring back cally too, but no dee?? Adama (dying laura) and lee (disappearing starbuck-ghost) are both going to be alone, but say sayonara to each other anyway? Really? Okay, i guess.
-THE PLAN ****
It took a post-series telemovie to crystallize how the mysticism of the final seasons crippled this series. This is NOT my anti-divine bias having a tantrum because someone might have a differing point of view. This movie, about the handful of cylons living within the fleet, ironically brings back what BSG had lost: its humanity. The cylons struggle with love, self-doubt, betrayal and a million other human conditions. When one of the series' main characters is a resurrected ghost, and everyone is a pawn in some divine hybrid revelation, you've dehumanized the affair. But here, humanity (in all its glory and stupidity) is restored. The poignance might make your chest tight. Not enough? It's also pulse-pounding, literally. The visuals are the most ambitious and awe-inspiring of any BSG, and the way the story interweaves with events and footage from the entire series, illuminating many of the more inscrutable moments, is meticulously stunning. And in one way, it even tops BSG's best: for all the previous grittiness, we never before saw literal human nakedness. It also benefits from a pounding, darker version of the theme music, which had long since become faintly annoying due to its resemblance to a rather unfortunate sting tune. The actions of the cylons, who never could have imagined they'd be trapped within a human fleet, are given depth and resonance. Cavil is megalomaniacally relentless...boomer's tortured conflict shines...a simon commits suicide over love for his human wife...and more. Worthy, helfer, stockwell, and lymari nadal (AMERICAN GANGSTER, AMERICA) shine. Edward james olmos directed, giving BSG the finale it richly deserved.

Galactica, season 3

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 1
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.4
-Occupation **
On New Caprica, starbuck and anders are married, and she's been in detention isolation since the cylons arrived. Leoben tries to get her to love him, and brings a baby he says is hers. Lt. gaeta (alessandro juliani - SMALLVILLE, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES) is baltar's aide, covertly funneling information to the resistance led by the chief, anders, and tigh. Cally and the chief are married with a baby. Ellen has sex with a cavil to get tigh out of prison, where he's lost an eye to torture. On Pegasus, apollo is married and fat. Adama plans a rescue, using sharon (now married to helo) to penetrate the cylon defenses. He frees her and reinstates her rank...which you may have a hard time buying. It's also irksome to be denied seeing the chief/cally and dee/apollo romances come to fruition.
-The Resistance **
Webisodes that nicely flesh out the story, centering on duck and jammer.
-Precipice **
Suicide bombings prompt the cylons to arrange a mass execution of political detainees, including zarek and roslin. Baltar signs the order, with a gun to his head. Ex-deckhand jammer (dominic zamprogna - THE L WORD, 2012) is now a member of the secret new caprican police, who carry out the cylons' grim orders, and are targeted as collaborators. He secretly frees cally.
-Exodus ***
A two-parter heavy on religious babble. The detainees are saved from the firing squad. Zarek and roslin have a fun moment of rapprochement. Apollo thinks the rescue mission is doomed, and urges adama to continue on to Earth. Adama orders apollo to continue on with the Pegasus and what's left of the fleet, as he mounts the rescue alone. Tigh kills ellen for collaborating. Galactica attacks four base stars, and is almost destroyed, when Pegasus jumps in, taking out two base stars before being destroyed itself. Galactica rescues the civilians. So ends lee's first command. Fantastic visuals.
-Collaborators ***
A secret tribunal (with tigh and the chief) executes accused collaborators. Baltar faces a similar trial with the cylons, but is spared. Anders quits the tribunal, and is replaced by starbuck. Gaeta is tried, and refuses to beg. Laura is re-elected. Any gaeta-heavy episode is neato-keen.
-Torn **
Great googily, a naked boomer doing tai chi. An adrift base star is found, victim of a virus - baltar volunteers to investigate for the cylons. Tigh and starbuck foment a rift between those who lived through the occupation and those who didn't. Adama disowns starbuck, and relieves tigh of duty. Sharon is given the call sign "athena".
-A Measure of Salvation **
Apollo devises a plan to download the fatal cylon virus into their entire race. The attack is sabotaged by helo. The emotional impact of humanity having a chance to eliminate the cylons, is glossed over. One of the deleted scenes gives that idea the weight it deserves. I have trouble with sharon's actions. Imagine helo joining her with the cylons...reverse the roles, then posit a storyline in which he's complicit in the extermination of humanity. It just doesn't sit right. Aren't her actions as heinous as baltar's? The original, no less?
-Hero ***
Great googily, a threesome between 6, baltar, and d'eanna! One of adama's pilots (carl lumbly - M.A.N.T.I.S., CAGNEY & LACEY) from the battlestar Valkyrie, captured by cylons three years ago, returns in a stolen raider. Flashbacks abound, and questions arise about adama's role in starting the war.
-Unfinished Business (extended) ***
Some of the tightest, brightest one-liners of the series. Grudge boxing matches are held aboard Galactica, to help the crew let off steam. Rank is dropped. Apollo fights helo, Adama fights the chief. Apollo and starbuck are both in unhappy marriages. Amid flashbacks to a fling they had on New Caprica, the tension between them ends up in the ring. Despite the bloodsport glorification and a dramatic thrust that teeters on the border of melodrama, this one actually knocks on that four-star door.
-The Passage ***
Continuing the show's unflinching habit of killing off beloved supporting characters, kat dies in a semi-intentional noble suicide, after starbuck discovers her hidden past. An adama/tigh scene has the best laughter of the series.
-The Eye of Jupiter **
Amid mystical mumbo jumbo, there's a standoff above a planet with a temple that points the way to Earth. The cylons offer baltar as a bargaining chip.
-Rapture **
The standoff continues, as ground forces kill each other in the quest for the temple's knowledge. Is baltar a cylon? Is the chief? Does anyone care?
-Taking a Break From All Your Worries **
Baltar is interrogated, and attempts suicide. Apollo and starbuck continue to moon over each other. Now she's the one willing to leave sam for him. Apollo, i'm not a violent person and i don't believe in marriage, but you make me imagine dee's family kicking the crapola out of you.
-The Woman King **
Despite a fine turn from guest bruce davison (V, SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION), this one's foregone and conventional, as a civilian doctor commits racially-profiled murders.
-A Day in the Life ***
Cally and the chief are trapped in a decompressing bay, without space suits. The rescue is edge-of-your-seat, as aiming them into a waiting raptor outside the bay is the only option.
-Dirty Hands ****
The chief is given the unenviable job of getting production going aboard the tylium refining ship. There's not one single thing flashy or sexy about this episode, which cannot be said about any other four-star entry. This is about people doing dirty, brutal jobs. It's about class struggle, and human rights. When people talked about this being not just the best sci fi on TV, but the best show, this is what they were talking about. You fret that the episode will take the cheap Hollywood ending - they don't avoid it entirely, but close enough.
-Maelstrom *
The plunge into religious twaddle is no longer a minor plot point, it's the entire masturbatory focus. Don't watch if you A) love this show, or B) have a weak stomach. It actually made me not care that starbuck dies.
-The Son Also Rises **
Baltar's trial begins, with lee on the defense team. Overall a lack of deftness in the writing, a recurring problem this season. The adama/lee conflict feels a bit contrived and overdone.
-Crossroads **
The trial continues. The usually brilliant rymer can't help this'n, even though the cliffhanger gets the heart pumping. The conclusion of baltar's trial is jamie bamber's greatest moment of the series.

Galactica, season 2

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 4
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.9
-Scattered ****
Adama is dying, and Galactica loses the fleet (along with doc cottle). Apollo and roslin are in the brig for treason, while tigh (michael hogan - THE L WORD, RED RIDING HOOD) declares martial law. On Caprica, helo tells starbuck that he's in love with a cylon. Starbuck tries to kill her. Can gaeta save the day? Yes, but it requires facing a cylon fleet while vital information gets downloaded.
-Valley of Darkness ****
Galactica is plunged into darkness by a cylon virus and boarded by centurions, who decimate all opposition in their attempt to vent the oxygen from the ship. Can tigh hold it together? Can apollo get his team to aft damage control? Blistering. Nobody directs like michael rymer.
-Fragged ***
Tigh struggles with leadership of the fleet, and the doomed crashdown struggles as the leader of the downed survivors on Kobol.
-Resistance ***
Tigh loses his grip on the fleet. Cally kills boomer. Civilians are killed by security forces, and apollo plots a prison break for the president. A resistance movement is found on Caprica. Doc cottle gets the great lines.
-The Farm **
Starbuck is shot on Caprica, and wakes up in a resistance hospital...or is it, and why does she have a scar on her abdomen? We meet new cylon simon (rick worthy - ENTERPRISE, HEROES).
-Home ***
One third of the fleet defects with roslin, to go back to Kobol. Starbuck, helo, and boomer#2 return to the fleet. Petty officer dee (kandyse mcclure - SEVENTH SON, DA VINCI'S INQUEST) gives adama a piece of her mind. Elosha steps on a mine (yay!). The episode we've been waiting for, in the baltar/6 storyline, as she appears as a de-glamorized version of herself (looking more attractive than ever), and tells him his visions are a symptom of psychosis. Adama embraces forgiveness, and rushes to Kobol.
-Final Cut ***
A muckraking journalist gets permission to do an all-access documentary on Galactica. The journalist happens to be lucy lawless (ZENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, PARKS AND RECREATION), and she happens to be a self-aware cylon. An episode that teeters on the brink, but when the classic BSG theme plays over d'anna's summation, you're misty-eyed and satisfied.
-Flight of the Phoenix ***
Deck chief tyrol (aaron douglas - CATWOMAN, I ROBOT) combats malaise by building a stealth fighter. We love ya, chief.
-Pegasus (extended) ****
FANfanfanfan-tastic. Another surviving battlestar is discovered, led by the legendary admiral cain (michelle forbes - STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, TRUE BLOOD). The ultimate BSG marathon would be these three, and the classic "The Living Legend". Joy sours, as she outranks adama and begins mixing the crews, sending apollo and starbuck to Pegasus. Pegasus' interrogators get their hands on the boomer copy sharon. Helo and the chief (boomer's former lover) rush to her, as she is being raped. They accidentally kill the interrogator, and are sentenced to die on Pegasus. Adama orders an armed rescue.
-Resurrection Ship ***
Roslin negotiates a truce between the commanders. The discovery of a cylon resurrection ship, which allows dead cylons to download into new bodies, unites cain and adama around a strike plan. Cain makes starbuck the Pegasus CAG. It's discovered that cain murdered a disobedient X.O., and ordered civilian ships plundered and abandoned to die. Convinced that cain will kill adama, roslin urges him to kill her. Counter-assassinations are plotted. The strike is a success, and the assassinations are aborted. Baltar frees the Pegasus cylon prisoner, a 6 who had been brutalized into a catatonic state. She kills cain. Roslin promotes adama to admiral. Forbes, you were wonderful. This two-parter plus "Pegasus" are the high point of the series. If you want to remember BSG only at its best, this is the place to end your journey (plus "Razor" and "The Plan", of course).
-Epiphanies **
Dying of cancer, roslin orders the abortion of sharon's hybrid baby. Helo, the father, is defiantly in love. Spurred by his visions of 6, baltar discovers a way to keep the baby alive using the fetal blood to save the president.
-Black Market **
Apollo tracks down the black market traders who murdered the new Pegasus commander. He has an affair with a prostitute who has a child and reminds him of a woman he once loved but left, because she wanted to have his baby. This overly conventional episode is impactful because of lee's paying for sex and murdering a man in cold blood.
-Scar ***
The resurrection ship destroyed, the cylons resort to hit and run attacks. Colonial pilot losses mount. Starbuck and kat (luciana carro - CAPRICA, THE L WORD) vow to be the first to destroy the most deadly raider, called scar. Starbuck is off-balance at having left resistance fighter anders behind on Caprica. She plunges into drink, almost has reckless sex with apollo, and loses her top gun billing.
-Sacrifice **
Roslin's aide, billy (paul campbell - ALMOST HEROES, SPUN OUT), whom laura envisioned becoming president, has had an on-again, off-again romance with dee. He proposes to her, and she declines. He discovers her on a date with lee, when the bar they're in is taken by terrorists, whose leader (dana delaney - CHINA BEACH, TOMBSTONE) demands the execution of sharon. The rescue is bungled, with apollo shot by starbuck (thank you, producers, for showing what actually happens when you get emotionally involved with someone as damaged as starbuck). Billy, trying to impress dee, is killed. Not even apollo is worthy of dee, but we forgave you, billy, and didn't want you to die. It's the first death of a beloved character who's been around since the mini-series. There's a lot to love in this one, but it's a little flat and forced.
-The Captain's Hand ***
The Pegasus' new commander is garner (the excellent john heard - BIG, AWAKENINGS), promoted from the engine room. Two raptors are lost on a training mission, and he jumps the Pegasus to rescue them - against adama's orders. It's a trap, and he puts lee in command as he repairs the jump drive. He succeeds, but asphyxiates. Adama promotes apollo to commander. Roslin, a lifelong defender of abortion, is forced by depopulation to make it illegal. Might have been four stars, had the writing been less contrived.
-RAZOR (extended) ****
The tale of lee's first mission as Pegasus commander. What starts as a Pegasus origin story, gives way to four further flashback plots - it's amazing that it stays coherent. We see adama as a young pilot, and the darker aspects of cain's command. The impetus behind this two-hour special was no doubt to make more use of the wonderful forbes. It's told from the perspective of lt. kendra shaw (stephany jacobsen - PIZZA, TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES), former protege to cain, whom lee taps to be his exec. She and starbuck enjoy instant enmity, then must go on a mission inside a base star...as if all else weren't enough, there's an attack by classic raiders and centurions. Bloody fantastic.
-Downloaded ***
A curious detour into the cylon world, as boomer and caprica 6 are downloaded into new bodies, and meet on Caprica. Both have trouble re-assimilating into cylon society. In a brilliant twist, 6 has a vision of baltar in her head, talking to her! The first cylon-on-cylon homicide.
-Lay Down Your Burdens **
Baltar runs for president. Behind in the polls, he surges ahead when campaign manager zarek suggests he make his platform the settlement of the fleet on a newly-discovered planet hidden inside a nebula. Starbuck leads a resistance rescue operation to Caprica. The chief has nightmares, and maims cally when she tries to wake him. He gets counseling from an unconventional priest, cavil (dean stockwell - QUANTUM LEAP, THE TONY DANZA SHOW)...a cylon! Roslin fixes the election, but is talked out of it by adama. Baltar becomes president! Suddenly it's a year later, and New Caprica is occupied by the cylons. The fleet, with skeleton crews, has long since jumped away. The producers took a huge leap with this one, and a lot went right, but there's a flatness that will stay with the series for the rest of the run.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"The Time Tunnel"

1966
I tried to love this series, i really did.
The shortest-lived of Irwin Allen's shows (LOST IN SPACE, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA). Set in 1968, it stars Robert Colbert (AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON) and James Darren (T.J. HOOKER, DEEP SPACE NINE) as time-traveling scientists who have lost control over when or where they'll land. The performances are charming, and the show's a visual delight. The network wanted to cut the season 2 budget, so Irwin called it quits. Some have called Allen's work the triumph of style over substance, and that about nails it. No one on the writing staff was advanced enough to embrace the notion that TV situations and characters could or should be realistic. It's worth watching for hard-core sci fi fans, and an episode or two might be fun at one a' them rowdy geek parties. It's also fun for anyone who wants to see Robert Duvall or Ellen Burstyn or Carroll O'Connor or Tom Skeritt before they were stars. But that's about it. In the spirit of appreciation for at least trying, here's my review of the pilot.
-Rendezvous with Yesterday ***
Four decades on, this show's formula of unsophisticated earnestness with charming production values adds up to fun. The writing is less than sharp, and the vision goes little further than the spirit of adventure, but i laughed out loud and raised my fist several times in appreciation. Tony and Doug's first timeleap lands them on the Titanic. Michael Rennie (THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL) and John Winston (STAR TREK) lend resonance. Showing none of that nitpicky preserve-the-timeline consciousness, they try to stop the accident!

"Earth: Final Conflict"

1997-2002
No no no no no no no.
Sigh.
Roddenberry scribbled some notes on napkins, then years after his death, his widow (TREK veteran Majel Barrett) executive produces the scribbles into a series, playing a recurring character. Sounds promising, no?
No.
It's not good enough to like, not bad enough to hate. Aliens (who may have a hidden agenda) come to Earth bearing gifts. Great. Sure. It was overhauled in the second season, with the series star replaced by an ensemble vibe. Once i knew how middling it was, i thought i'd get through the first season, then watch the second just out of curiosity (if i came across it cheap).
I almost made it. With only an episode and a half left, i hit my breaking point.
When watching a show, the most significant question one can ask is, "What does this show have to say?" Were the EFC creators hoping that if they brought the other elements together well, nobody would mind the show's lack of a voice? Some shows can get away with that - LAW & ORDER being the most successful example. You don't even have to have a vision as distinct as TREK (or M*A*S*H, or CHAPELLE'S SHOW). But it becomes obvious fairly quickly when there's no active intelligence at work. Churning out an adventure that's a cookie cutter for the values and ideals of the time is an almost foolproof ticket for swift delivery to history's dustbin.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Farscape"

1999-2003
This series is not a crashing disaster.
It just feels like one.
It starts promisingly, with beautiful production values, winning performances, and top-notch space visuals...but the derailment comes quickly. Filmed in Australia and produced by the Henson Company, with advanced puppets alongside human actors, it's the tale of an astronaut hurled to the other side of the galaxy, who falls in with a band of escaped prisoners on a living spaceship. Amid mistrust, they work together to survive...and save the galaxy.
As concepts go, it could work.
The problem is, the writers want it both ways. The mistrust is undercut by a touchy-feely vibe. The reality of the former is negated by the needs of the latter, in a way that feels forced. Get ugly, get raw, or put on a production of UP WITH PEOPLE. Yet it still might have worked, if the lead weren't such a whiny asshat. John crichton (ben browder - STARGATE SG-1, PARTY OF FIVE) too often says or does the wrong thing, making it hard to root for him. Part of the show's charm was supposed to be his pop-culture references (that only the audience would get), but he's too much of a macho pretty boy for it to work (that may be bad casting and bad writing - the americana references feel a bit forced). Zhaan (virginia hey - MAD MAX 2, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS) has great potential, but her nudism and seeker's wisdom peter out through writerly neglect...and despite her failings, the show never recovers from her departure. Chiana (gigi edgley - RESCUE SPECIAL OPS, TRICKY BUSINESS) should also be fascinating, as an alien whose non-possessive hypersexuality is a hallmark of her species, but the writers never dive deeply into the reality and ramifications. Dargo (anthony simcoe - THE CASTLE, NIM'S ISLAND), a hulking warrior with anger issues, has too much of his character arc eaten up by maudlin, regressive sexual possessiveness. The puppet character rygel (jonathan hardy - MAD MAX, MOULIN ROUGE!), an arrogant, selfish slug, is rendered little more than a prop. Kent mccord (ADAM-12, AIRPLANE 2) is charming as the father back on Earth. And dehumanized soldier-turned-fugitive aeryn (claudia black - PITCH BLACK, STARGATE SG-1) is the best of the batch. But the only fully-realized character is crichton, and it's just not a happy realization. Plus, something about the chemistry and tone just never locks in. The fact that the show is almost clever, almost innovative, and almost daring make it more frustrating than all those shows which are none of those things. Did the producers think a group of good writers could make greatness, without a visionary to guide them? Had jim henson been alive, could he have been that missing spark? There's one great episode in four seasons, the tight and dark "A Human Reaction", and another, "A Constellation of Doubt", that manages to be simultaneously brilliant and tedious (yep, that's a head-scratcher). The last season is the best, but also shows the signs of a series in crisis mode - like a string of new female characters who look like they were found not at the Melbourne Academy of Arts, but the Perth Hardbodies Yoga Center. With the female villain in particular, they should have embraced their costuming choices completely and just made her a pair of six-foot breasts with little feet. The reunion movie is actually fantastic for a while...filmmaking so tight it hums. But around the time of the childbirth, it becomes gratuitously violent and cringingly overwritten.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

vanessa

WOMEN 63
Hm. Putting her name in caps doesn't seem sufficient. Is there a caps-exponential option? In my first year in New York, my brothers set me up with a newer computer, and at their insistence i relented to finally joining this thing called the internet. Before long, i was glad i had. On Craigslist, a site i surfed for jobs, i came across a "platonic only" personals section. I'd always thought personals a touch pathetic, but this was a twist, so i explored, and answered some ads. Vanessa was very sad, just looking for honesty. We wrote back and forth for a couple months, much of it about the misery she was enduring with her boyfriend. He lied to her, cheated on her, accused her…she sounds like a sap, but she was no dummy. Born and raised in Chinatown, she was very Americanized (she had gone to college in the Midwest), but her parents were first-generation, and many if not most of her problems stemmed from old world guilt. She spoke Chinese in her parents’ home. A freelance web designer, she'd had one long-term romance in her college years, which ended in harsh betrayal. For the past few years she'd gone from one dysfunctional relationship to another. Asserting her own needs and self was where she always came up short. We finally met one early evening at a Virgin Music Store cafe. Before a word was spoken, there was a whooshing inside me, and three little words flashed in my mind, "i’m in trouble". We discovered that talking in person was as nice and comfy as our letters had been. If she were taller she'd have been called willowy. She wore lots of black. She was in good shape, with some muscle tone. In two obvious ways she wasn’t my type - she had died a section of her beautiful beyond-shoulder-length hair red, and had a navel piercing. I was no fan of jewelry in general, and navel rings in particular (so embarrassingly derivative...but an African lip disc wouldn’t have kept me from her). A month or two swirled by in which we phoned or wrote almost daily, and saw each other once a week or so. Walking along the Battery Park waterfront one evening, we stopped in a little courtyard. I was climbing a stone structure behind her. The wind was blowing off the water, and she spread her arms as it flowed by. I knew in that moment that her arms were the most beautiful i’d ever seen. I came down behind her, and raised my arms to match hers. We meandered on. Then as always, her demons were never far...and they usually summoned her through cell phone. Demons of parents or boyfriend. We ended up in a playground, two interlopers with a world to ourselves. We came to rest eight feet off the ground on a net, looking up at the sky. Finally our hands brushed, and a brush became contact that didn’t break. I broke the mood by suddenly tumbling away, making her smile. I said i wanted to hold her. She said that would be nice. We cuddled until we were rousted by a flatfoot. I dreamed of returning one future night, to make love with her on the net. I soon told her that wanting to hold her was becoming one of the driving forces of my life. She started visiting me in Jersey City. I picked her up at the Journal Square PATH station, and drove her two miles to my home (she was a night person, and the shuttle busses were usually done running by the time she crossed the Hudson). Her first visit was during a rainstorm, and we arrived at my home soaking. The rain became a minor motif in our relationship; it seemed the skies turned on the waterworks so often when we were together. That first night her demons found her almost as soon as she was in my door. She took the call, and argued tearfully in Chinese with her father for half an hour, looking out the back window. At one point i lightly hugged her from behind. I broke off after a minute, because i suddenly had the kind of erection that arrives fully stiff in the space of a breath, which was not the hug i'd intended. Finally she came into my room, where i waited in candlelit darkness. She lay down, put her wet head on me, and before long her tears flowed onto my neck. I wanted to stay in the moment forever. On another visit, there was a more torrential downpour, and i kept circling in my car, unable to spot her. I parked illegally, and ran through the storm, searching. Finally there she was. I grabbed her hand and we ran. With the car in sight, we came together in an embrace. The profound violence of the wind and rain was so beautiful, as i held her with a need i was only beginning to understand. In the tumble of those months, clothing dropped away from our nights together, and on that stormy night, her tears on my chest, i knew i was in love. She said she had never been unfaithful, and couldn’t be now. I said that was fine. On those many nights we shared my bed, i searched for ways to express the blinding feeling inside me. Embraces gave way to baby kisses over every square centimeter of her. The first time her bra came away…i'd known that her chest was small, but wasn't prepared for how small. I grew to desire her physically like nothing i had ever known. My closed-mouth kisses evolved into open-mouthed...timeless explorations with lips and tongue. I still held back from any fluid swapping, but every piece of exposed skin on her, i found. She said that no man had ever given her attention on that scale. My mind reeled as she spoke, knowing how much i was holding back. I wanted to ingest her, devour her, pour myself into her. The word "worship" had always seemed perverse when applied to human loving, but that word slammed into my existence as one of the few that began to capture what i was feeling. One night i took her big toe into my mouth and worked it over, not sure whether i was going too far or even if she would like it. It was the first toe i ever sucked. She liked it. I explored and caressed with hands, arms, fingers, nose, and face…i spent hours kissing her pelvis, front and back. I grew weak at the sight of her ass. I didn’t realize it the first time (as i had with her arms), but as time wore on i knew that every tushie i'd ever seen or touched just paled in comparison. I wanted to put a tent on her tush and live there forever…although in truth part of my relationship to her ass may have been about more than just her. I had never before related to the ass as an erogenous zone, and remember laughing at some of my drunken floormates in college who talked about rimming or wanting to rim. But through my taoist training, my anus view had been changing. Putting a finger in my own while pleasuring myself was interesting, and not unpleasant. One of my artist friends told me that a rim job done right was one of the most exquisite pleasures to be found. I suppose these factors placed me in a growingly receptive state of mind, and...one night, as i kissed and nuzzled her behind, i suddenly knew that i wanted to plunge my tongue into every orifice she had. How i restrained myself to the extent that i did during those months…it's partly a mystery, as i’d never tasted anyone so perfect and true. But i knew it was important to her that we wait. Because of that, resisting the purest desire i’d ever known was in a sense, easy. To love her, and love her right…i began having thoughts of changing my life, of sacrifices and such, to be with her. This wasn’t as mind-blowing as it should have been, considering that no woman had ever even vaguely affected me like that. With Vanessa, so many of the controls and walls i'd acquired in a lifetime felt irrelevant. Things like pregnancy or safe sex…if she had an STD, i wanted it. If there were an experience to be had, be she by my side, then bring it. I know, a lot of my reaction can only rationally be called…not rational. But there it is. Perhaps the single most brain-scrambling moment with her came in the apartment of her closest friend M, who was interning at a downtown hospital. M was great, tiny with big expressive eyes and an irrepressible personality (Vanessa called her an anime character). M hated Vanessa’s boyfriend. M liked me. One night, Vanessa invited me to stay with her at M’s, who had an all-night shift. Vanessa drew a candlelit bath, and sometime that night i broke one of our barriers a tiny bit. I was holding my head to hers, nuzzling her face for an eternity. As i held my closed lips against hers, my tongue came out and licked her upper lip. Then the lower. Then very slowly across them both. I stopped. Her lips had parted. My tongue crept inside her just a bit, and i lightly touched her teeth. I held my tongue still. From between her nearly-clenched teeth, her tongue came out and slowly rolled across mine. And my brain promptly flew...apart. One night, she took me to a nice restaurant and showered me with gifts, chiefly a beautiful journal that had her poetry on the cover. She hoped that i would fill it with words for her. I said that i suspected it would stay empty until the day when her love was as free as mine (i was writing poems about her, just not in the journal). I told her i imagined sitting with the journal on an ocean cliff someday, where computers and phones don't go. One night we strolled through the city hand in hand, with me wearing a four-foot wide Sponge Bob costume. We talked about moving to Alaska, or upstate to New Palz, or opening a little bookstore in the Rockies. Getting away from her parents would bring her nothing but good, i thought. I imagined how unbearably cute she would be in ten years, or fifty, when all that heavy weight was lifted from her head. All these bizarre life-partnering ideas, and thoughts of taking a regular job, i had never even begun to entertain them with any other woman. Would i have done them? It’s a tricky question, but one that took a backseat to doing what was right to get her healthy with herself. Living life on my own terms and chasing my dreams had long been so enormous a part of me that…i can’t say with certainty what would have happened had Vanessa been able to be with me. Nor can i say that her inability wasn't ultimately the best thing for me, in terms of living my life optimally. But what is certain is the paralyzing comfort i felt around her. Hormones? Of course. I couldn't know what our true togetherness would be like, but i kept getting windows into her that revealed how like-minded we could be when it came to day-to-day living and worldviews. That was perhaps the most mind-blowing thought of all, that after thirty-six years i knew what it was to desire another human without reservation, and maybe just maybe that same human was also startlingly compatible?? I’d never known any woman who was startlingly compatible. Of course, her depression was not startlingly compatible. Depression had been a part of her life for just about as long as she could remember. I forget how young she was when she first tried to take her life…she hadn’t tried in a long time, but the figurative and literal scars were there. One day she decided that we could never be compatible, as any man wanting to love her would have to have known clinical depression himself. Maybe i never did see her at her worst, but never once did i see any behavior that frightened me or made me think she needed anything other than the loving all humans need. If any of this sounds like it can’t have been fun for me, disabuse yourself of that idea. My time with her was never anything other than sweetly, joyously, profoundly humbling. I did grill myself from time to time over why i had such a strong reaction to her, and whether it were just another beautiful manifestation of the lifelong attraction i’ve had for the wounded ones. She said she had done little or nothing to earn my love. Even though i told her she would have plenty of opportunity to earn what had been given, and that i wasn’t the type to stay in an unbalanced relationship…i also said that maybe sometimes things come our way that are pure and unconditional, and don’t need to be earned. She said she feared that if she couldn’t be with me now, she might never get a chance again. She talked about the possibility of past lives when we had been lovers. She had a little eye twitch, and i joked with her about passing an unfortunate gene on to our children. I was being glib...but also not. I wanted to share every fragment of life with her, from the most profound to the most mundane. I wanted her to know what it feels like to hold my penis while i peed. I wanted her to pee on me (not regularly, understand). When our relationship ended, i needed to remove physical reminders of her, but i kept the journal. Sometime during those many months, i said two words to her that i'd never said to another woman. Understand, i am not a pusher. Not. A. Pusher. If there is a school of thought that says that each person must find their own path, i sit in the front row. But one night as i held her, my lips whispered the words, "Leave him". I never met him nor the parents. So many nights i would talk to her on the phone as she sat locked in her own bathroom (their arguments would often culminate in her running to the bathroom and locking him out). Sometimes she would strike at him, when he was forcing his presence on her. He would pin her to the ground. He'd been living with her for many many months, without paying rent. During this time, she wasn’t working a great deal, as she needed to go back to school to get on the cutting edge of web design. I told her to kick him out, and i'd move in to share her rent load. Not even as a boyfriend, i said, because she suspected that when she finished with him she might need to be away from romance altogether. I said i would be whatever she needed. The only profound moment of hurt i had with her was when she said that the time it took to travel to me was a burden she no longer wanted. She did finally get him out of her home. By that point, she had broken off our romance…over being unfair to me, or being "clean" when they broke up. Whatever she needed, i responded with love. On our last morning, we woke up kissing and cuddling, our heads at the foot of my bed. She had been wearing black panties. I’ve never been a fan of lingerie, but these panties had the cutest windows on the sides (in the months that followed, i so wished i had kidnapped them). I rolled her on top of me, and our naked genitals came together. Up to that moment, i had avoided all but the most incidental genital contact...but as i held her, it felt so blissfully perfect. The closest thing my life had ever known to sustained perfection. At that moment, and on earlier occasions, i was sure she would have let me inside her, choosing to deal with the unhappiness and guilt later. As her labia rested on my half-erection, i was a little surprised i wasn't more stiff. But maybe psychologically my penis was smarter than i, because i’m not sure we would have resisted penetration, had i been at full mast. On that final morning, there were signs that we were becoming closer. She was considering going to the shore with me that very day. But perhaps a part of me sensed that our growing closeness would push her to run away. Maybe that put a tiny seed of desperation in my spirit, and maybe that seed would have made me act rashly. This is all a lot of analysis for a single moment when there was NO such overt thought going on. Before that, the number of erections i'd had from much less intimate contact with her was pronounced. In any event, i felt just a touch limp and off-balance as we parted. As time went by i became glad (for her, and probably for me too) that my penis had chosen that moment to be at half-mast. After she broke with her boyfriend, we kept in touch, though only once a week or so. A month or two later, she talked about me visiting her home. But then the strange thing occurred. She told me that more and more she wasn’t thinking about me romantically, and was becoming sure that we were not going to be lovers. I accepted it peacefully, but realized that a world in which she and i weren't together was not a world i could make any sense of. I sent her all the love i had, left the door open for her to find me again, and said goodbye. Not trusting myself to be strong enough (me!) to not contact her some lonely year, i destroyed all records of her contact information. It took me the better part of a year to banish her e-mail address from my conscious thoughts. I still remember pieces of it...fragments. It's funny the places your mind can go, in the wake of something so profound. You search for blame, where blame isn't appropriate. Could the greatest love of my life have been foiled by bad breath? I had been dealing with it for a couple years, and hadn't yet acquired my current complex oral hygiene habits. A very silly thought, perhaps. I'm content to know she loved me as much as she could, and if turning from me was what she needed to start healing...that thought keeps any demons of regret at bay. The demons are caged, through the strength born of loving her.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Drinking in Fort Myers Beach


DRINKING IN AMERICA
THEATER 56
-spring 2001
At Tony's prompting, i had started reading the playwright Eric Bogosian. A modern writer part Shaw and part Lenny Bruce. I fell in love. He was famous for one-man shows in which he plays a series of extreme characters. I held auditions, and the chief talent to emerge was Michael Steen. He was very sorry about how he had dropped out of SEXUAL PERVERSITY. I'm a sucker for redemption, so decided to take one more chance on him. The flip side of the risk was his talent and passion. He called me his brother, and i felt the same. Had there been other actors cast, i wouldn't have exposed them to the risk, but Michael and i had been the only clear Bogosian talent. We turned it into a two-man show, distributing the monologues. I fiddled with the lineup, dropping two pieces and adding one unproduced "orphan", as Bogosian calls them. I asked Michael to choose his own pieces, and our selections balanced, except for a piece we both wanted called "Our Gang", wherein an Italian punk recounts "amusing" anecdotes of drug-induced violence. I decided we should audition it for each other. I went first, and when i was done, he said he'd been convinced (i was very happy, as it was probably the part i'd wanted most). My other pieces were "Journal", in which a middle-aged man finds a college-era journal filled with long-forgotten ideals, "Wired", in which a coked-out Hollywood agent wheels and deals, "Confession", in which a drunk confesses his sins to God, and "Melting Pot", in which an old Greek cook abuses the restaurant staff (i had only to look to the kitchen ten feet away for inspiration, and hoped Tony's brother Jimmy would be flattered). Rehearsals went wonderfully, because of the delight in working with someone who is at your level and very simpatico with you. We often rehearsed at Michael's place, as his transportation was unreliable. We directed each other. He told me i always had a place to crash, should i ever need one. He looked into other venues where we could tour. As opening approached, trouble began brewing with the Mallous's. The edgy content of our plays again had some of them upset. Family discord was S.O.P., so i didn't get overly concerned. Earlier that year, one of the wives had even calmly threatened me with mafia-style bodily harm. And then...on the eve of our opening, we were kicked out. It wasn't the show per se, because earlier pieces had been just as edgy. I think it was just a matter of the family being tired of Tony getting his way. At a time when he was weakened from dealing with a divorce, they banded together and insisted "no" to this show. With posters and press releases out, we suddenly had no space. I accepted that Tony could no longer be our protector and that we would have no show that week, and went to find a new space. In my postering activity, i had developed relationships with many of the businesses on the beach. Paul Longua, owner of the Scope Shack, a photo shop/art gallery, had always told me that his place was there should we ever need a space. I went to him and asked him how much he had meant it. He said how soon, i said next week, and he said "cool". I issued new press releases and put up new posters. Charles Runnells, the county's top reviewer, ran a piece about our ousting, entitled "Orpheus Descending". He interviewed both Tony and i. Tony lied, claiming that the decision had been his. I spoke openly, and family anger at me was increased when i aired their dissension. Over at the Scope Shack, we walked into heaven. Not having to fight restaurant noise, being able to schedule whatever whenever...at the Orpheus, we had never had our own key, storage space was at a minimum, and we had to break down the set every night. Opening night (with a bonus week of rehearsal) was very solid. The Scope Shack was off the main drag, so we had less walk-in traffic. We played the first weekend to small (10-15) but very happy crowds. Shane had passed on stage-managing this one, so we did it by committee. Paul's friend Kalli did it the second and fourth weeks, another friend Jenn did it the third week, and Melissa from sex, lies, and videotape did it the first. She and Michael, both veterans of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, made a nice connection. She was fun backstage, and i incorporated her doodling on my "journal" into my character history. Paul arranged for wine to be offered to the patrons, and was there for every performance. And then...as we came into our second weekend, Michael hadn't returned a couple of my calls. 7:30 on show night came, and he wasn't there. I called his phone machine again, and continued to set up. At 8:20, there could be no more waiting. I told the audience that we were one actor short, that i would perform my half of the show, and half-refunds would be available afterwards. I performed, the audience had a wonderful time, and no one asked for money back. Michael called later that night, saying that his motorcycle had broken down and that he was having personal problems. He said he wouldn't be back for the rest of the run, and was going to move in with a friend where he couldn't be reached. Charles Runnells, the county's top reviewer, was in the audience that night. He hadn't been able to fully review all of our shows thus far. He had been prepped for a full review, but didn't feel he could do so for only half a show. In his column, he did write about Michael's being missing in action, and spoke well of the show. I prepared for the rest of the run alone. I pressed Paul into service to do the intro with me, in which we come out in robes and boxing gloves, spar a moment, then shadow box with liquor bottles. Paul was a great guy, fun and intelligent, and a painter. I took over one of Michael's pieces, "The Law". It was a minister's rant advocating the shooting of muggers, bombing of abortion clinics, and nuking of terrorists (this was pre-9/11, too). It was an easy piece to add, for i could tape the script into a Bible. I had a great time with the rest of the run. One of my favorite rewrites was in "Confession", wherein i fantasized about the pubescent Olsen twins naked and making love to one another. I also added a great rewrite in "Wired", about how Hasselhoff wasn't available because he had been eaten by a shark. Audiences remained small and very appreciative. Amanda never made it to the show, which made me sad. Derek came, and thought it was wonderful. His being there meant so much to me, particularly with how disappointed in me he had been during SPEED-THE-PLOW. I had chosen as a show song "Pray", by M.C. Hammer, partly in honor of his Hammer moves. We also used many tracks from the inexpressibly brilliant Tom Waits album SMALL CHANGE. During our original opening week, we received news that Leela, our Joan from SEXUAL PERVERSITY, had been killed by a drunk driver at a Jimmy Buffett concert. It was a profound blow to all of us, particularly Amanda. The week before she died, Leela and i had been discussing doing another project. Hers was the first corpse i ever kissed. At the funeral, the whole SPIC crew was there (except for Shane, who didn't deal with death). I'd had thoughts of getting up and doing a tribute to her. I had one worked out in my head that was in keeping with her quirky spirit...i had planned to sit on the casket to talk. But i figured it wasn't my place, as Amanda had been closer to her and Will had been her lover. When the moment came, none of us stood, and Amanda gestured to me to stand up. Caught off-balance, i didn't. I wish i had. Her death put an end to talk of a reunion run of SEXUAL PERVERSITY, or of doing the show with the same cast but reversing genders. One of the funniest moments of DRINKING IN AMERICA came when a jaunty patron didn't realize the front gallery wall was a glass plate, and plowed right into it, falling to the ground. He may have had a little nip or two, which resonated beautifully with the show title. Also, we had fairies one performance. Dozens of little spots of light, dancing on the wall, for which we could find no source. They are very visible in the videotape of the show.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

M*A*S*H, season 5

FOUR STAR
-Bug Out
The camp must relocate in the face of a Chinese advance. Hawkeye, Margaret, and Radar stay behind with a spinal patient. Potter and B.J. move the unit to an (almost) ex-brothel. Klinger gives up his dresses in exchange for the new building, a writing choice that almost turns prostitution into a disrespectful joke.
-Margaret's Engagement
Margaret returns from a wild weekend in Tokyo, with an engagement ring. Her crassly insensitive treatment of Frank is a human twist on their relationship, which was never ideal for her. Frank's phone conversation with his mother, talking about how Dad never liked him, is brilliantly executed...for just a second, you cry for this noxious fool. Alda's observation that the greatest performance of the series belonged to Mr. Linville, is a thought worth pondering. At the end, all the Swamprats enjoy their first shared laugh ever.
-The Nurses
One of Margaret's most enduring moments, as tensions mount between her and her staff. She tightens discipline, and they hiss back. Lt. Baker gets confined to quarters, as her new husband arrives for a 24-hour honeymoon. The Swamprats conspire to get them alone. Margaret bursts into tears when she confronts the nurses, saying that all she ever wanted was to be included in their fun.
-The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan
Margaret goes off in the night to help deliver a Korean baby. Klinger, the only one who knows she's gone, goes to sleep. Frank goes into hysterics, and Radar goes into the women's shower. Col. Flagg shows up, and he's never better (as Italian officer or Vegas showgirl). They took an idea and went the perfect way with it...the episode would have been abysmal had Margaret been actually abducted.
-Dear Sigmund
Sidney drops in for an extended stay, burnt out from work. He writes a letter to Freud about the lunatic 4077th, which is currently under siege by a phantom practical joker (who turns out to be, of all people, BJ). Beautiful little moments of anarchy, and Allan Arbus is priceless as always. Plus a lovely appearance by Sal Viscuso (Father Tim, SOAP).
-Hawk's Nightmare
Hawkeye starts sleepwalking and having nightmares of childhood friends dying. Brilliantly rendered work by Alan (and Gary), and another irrepressible appearance by Sidney.
-Hanky Panky
B.J. falls off the fidelity wagon, while comforting a nurse whose husband is divorcing her. As a child, this episode hit me indelibly...it was just inconceivable that B.J. could stray. The performances by Mike Farrell and guest Ann Sweeny are tender and nuanced. On another level, this episode is a testimony to the debilitating effects of culturally-enforced monogamy, and a maudlin endorsement thereof...but at least it's a fantastically-made maudlin testimony.
-The General's Practitioner
A near-seamless slice of perfection. A hard-nosed general (Edward Binns, TWELVE ANGRY MEN) sets his eyes on Hawkeye as his personal physician. Hawkeye resists, making the general want him more. The B plot is towering. A G.I. returning home asks Radar to look after his Korean girlfriend...and child. Gary's sensitive, touching performance belongs on any Radar top-ten list. The G.I.? Only Larry Wilcox (Jon! Of CHiPS!).
-Movie Tonight
Potter tries to raise camp morale with a viewing of MY DARLING CLEMENTINE. The clips of the movie are a delight. Everyone entertains themselves during the (literal) breaks. If you think about it too closely, this episode is just a vehicle for a bunch of actors to show off performance skills that are more polished than their characters would be capable of. But somehow, it all comes together in priceless delight. The roundtable impersonations of Mulcahy? Iconic.
NOTEWORTHY
-Hawkeye Get Your Gun ***
Potter and Hawkeye help out a frontline aid station, and on the trip back come under heavy fire. Hawkeye comes up with an alternate solution to shooting back. The driving and drinking scene is too classic, in no small part because it would never make it onto the air today.
-Exorcism ***
Potter allows a Korean spirit exorcism after a rash of bad incidents. It's always fun to see guest actors re-used. A double-dip in this case, with Philip Ahn (the father in Hawkeye's concussion episode) as a superstitious grandfather, and Virginia Ann Lee (Yung Hi, the most adorable moose ever) as the sweet, sensible granddaughter.
-The Most Unforgettable Characters **
Radar takes a writer's correspondence course. It's unfair to come down too hard on a single episode for not clicking, but...if there is any legitimacy to the charge that M*A*S*H (particularly the later seasons) occasionally descended into saccharine sentimentality, this might be the first place to look.
-End Run **
A star college football player loses a leg. See the previous entry's note, and wrap it in a Hallmark card.
-Souvenirs ***
Michael Bell (Groppler Zorn! Sabrina's ex on CHARLIE'S ANGELS!)! And...Brian Dennehy! Woo woo!
-Post Op ***
As breezy and fun as three stars gets. A parade of interactions with recovering soldiers in post op, including another helping of Sal Viscuso (SOAP), a standup routine of a come-on to Margaret by Andy Romano, and a shot-in-the-butt Jack Baker (KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE).

Monday, November 21, 2011

dear almeria 2

Dear Almeria,
I'm not saying it's inconceivable that you and your family are in some heightened state of grace, free of all untruth. I'm just saying i don't think i've ever met any family or group who had ascended to that level.
It's not about truth. It's about manipulation.
People use lies to manipulate. People also use truth to manipulate.
Sometimes a considerable level of non-manipulation is possible. This happens because we all gravitate to people who affirm some part of ourselves (and generally avoid people who don't). But there may be moments in your life when you have a flash of insight over the subtle ways we all manipulate. You may observe a friend interacting with someone else, in a moment when they don't know you're watching. It may strike you that your friend is behaving in a way you don't recognize. It doesn't mean that they aren't truthful when they're with you, just that they like certain parts of themselves that your company affirms, so those are the parts they constantly re-affirm with you. With other people, they seek different affirmations (or similar affirmations differently-flavored).
Is this dishonesty?
Or you may have a flash of insight into yourself...you may meet someone you want very much to like you, and you may realize that how you present yourself is flexible. In your choice of word and action, your mind is capable of incredible subtlety in how you present yourself, in order to be treated the way you wish. The way you present your truth, or the aspect of your truth you choose to present, has an enormous manipulative effect on the world around you. We're all too broken and scared to not take complete advantage of that (even when we don't realize we're doing it).
An example...when i gave my description of why i'm anti-religious, it was entirely truthful. But i could also have talked about invisible rabbits. If someone says there is an invisible rabbit who speaks to them, just about everyone would agree that there are no such rabbits. But if someone says they have an invisible father figure who is going to make them immortal, far fewer people in this society would call them a lunatic. Strictly speaking, both people are equally lunatic. Did i give you my anti-intolerant religious views instead of the invisible rabbit story, because i suspected the rabbit story would make you defensive and lessen the chance i had of ever hugging you? Probably. Were both equally truthful depictions of my thoughts on a certain topic? Yes.
Here's a more subtle example. Did i just go back four sentences, and change the word "holding" to "hugging"? Yes. Why? Because "holding" is just a little more intimate, and even though my naked revelations to you have perhaps dashed any chance i had of holding you...i still can't quite let go of that dream. So i changed holding to hugging, because it's more innocent and less likely to make you defensive.
Was "hugging" a dishonest choice? How can it be, when i do desire to hug you?
I realize, however, that the word "hugging" makes it imply that we've never hugged. Sigh. A flawed sentence not easily fixable. That's what happens when people use words to manipulate (which is virtually all the time).
So if you think your family operates free of lies or manipulation, you're perhaps underestimating how complex each of them are...and how deeply-ingrained lying is in this society. The average person commits dozens of lies each day, and hundreds of selectively-honest manipulations. And what of truths that are unspoken? Can you be so sure there isn't some hidden aspect of just one member of your family that might alter the way that person was perceived?
There's a part of me that hopes you will be made immortal, so that one day in another life you may realize that no one was ever truer for you than me.
love,
wrob

Monday, November 14, 2011

monmatpar

Think of the best friend you ever had. Now imagine that for the rest of your life, you will cleave to that friend. Living together, eating together, sleeping together. You will forsake all other friendships, for the sake of this one. How many years would pass before you felt unendurably lonely and horrifically smothered?
That's all i got to say 'bout monogamous matrimony.
Think of the most likeable person you ever knew. Now imagine that you are responsible for their life for the next eighteen years. Responsible for their food, shelter, and every conceiveable need. You will be held accountable for every action they take. For two years, they will be bedridden and incapacitated, unable to handle the most basic bodily functions. Caring for them will dominate your days and nights. It will be many years before they are able to function on their own. You will get one helper in this undertaking, who will leave after 8.5 years, in the most painful parting of your life. This person you are responsible for may be nothing like the person i asked you to think of. This person may love the things you hate and find you the most loathsome human ever.
That's all i got to say 'bout monogamous parenthood.
That's all i got to say 'bout that.

dear almeria

Dear Ameliara
Armelia
Almeria,
Forgive my fuzzy brain. The excuse i might offer is that on days i spend in that costume, the exhaustion and heat make for a fuzzy feeling...but it's probably just as accurate to say that being with you makes me a bit inebriated.
Do you want to know how much you affect me? Physically affect me? After we parted and i returned to my lentil soup, i almost couldn't eat. My mouth felt...i don't know the word, but "dry" is the closest. Holding you was such a profound experience, i almost literally couldn't eat.
There's a physiological reason, of course...holding you produced a spike in some chemical in my body, a chemical which dampened my hunger so i wouldn't be distracted from what i was doing with you. Clearly my body has an agenda.
I'm sure you still don't appreciate how much our hug last year touched me. At certain times in my life, i've been a touchstone for human contact and love. As the monkey, i've had uncountable thousands of hugs...and a significant number of them (with children and occasionally women) have gone beyond simple delight to a very heightened realm. Your hug was beyond any of those...it's the only time i've ever actually been jealous of the monkey. I achingly wanted it to be me whose hug was making you feel what you were feeling. It was so beautiful that even now i'm speechless. I wanted holding you to be my job in life. Not only was it the best monkey hug i ever had, it was nearly my best hug ever period. There's only been one in my life that was more special, and that one had the benefit of lasting twenty minutes (without twenty pounds of monkey costume). It humbles me to even think of being able to hold you as just me...in stillness, without the swirl of humanity only inches away.
And then today, for a few minutes in the center of a whirlwind, we held each other for real...my chest feels funny thinking about it. I felt myself getting weak from the beauty of it. Much longer, and i wouldn't have found the strength to let go. I want to hold you as time and space fade away. I want to discover a million ways to hold you. Then i want to find a million more.
Now that we've figured out that you're literally a drug to me, i hope we have fun with it. Laugh at being human, and all that. Of course humans are constantly driven by chemical reactions, in ways that we don't realize...steering us to like certain things and feel certain ways. But i honestly can't remember ever being so concretely, obviously aware that someone was a drug to me. Have you?
I can laugh at it though, and also be aware that something else is going on. A chemical reaction could explain what happened yesterday, but not last year. Last year, the connection i felt the moment you were in my arms was electric and instantaneous. Especially under that suit, there's no way it was chemical. It must have been what you were talking about...the energy connections between people. Our auras must have been in some sort of amazing synchronization.
Whatever else, know that i will be "twitching" (that is the street term, yes?) until i feel you again.
wrob

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

untoned

My lover is unhappy that i called her "untoned". I'm not sure whether she's unhappy with me or unhappy with herself, or unhappy with..?
She's a beautiful woman. I want to cradle her spirit and hump her leg.
That said, i'm pretty sure she doesn't have to deal with the burden of coming up with witty or thoughtful responses to the question, "So...you work out?"
Yet isn't it arguable that my attitude puts her in an ideal situation? Wouldn't any sensible person be thrilled with being desired when they're in less than tip-top shape? Can't they then assume that they're being desired for who they are, not some shallow conquest? If they should subsequently fall into even less great shape, or have their looks altered by industrial accident, wouldn't they have some peace of mind about not being abandoned? Isn't the more common female complaint being loved only for their bodies?? There's no way to win with these blithering ovary-machines!
I'm kidding. If women are contradictory, it's because men have systematically assassinated their self-worth for ten thousand years.
The saying about men learning to love the woman they're attracted to and women learning to be attracted to the man they love...that's just a sexist, noxious relic of a time when women were property and men were encouraged to fuck as many as they could. In the world of truth, men need emotional connection as much as women, and women want eye candy just as much as men.
Is it possible that this is a case of her wanting it both ways? Is it possible she wants me to desire her for the person she is beneath the skin, yet also have a flaming hard-on from just a glimpse of that skin? There's a slippery slope in that, as the only constant in life is change, so any relationship based on visual desire is going to be severely stressed when we no longer look like we did last decade (to say nothing of the aforementioned industrial accidents).
It's hard to imagine this scenario in reverse, of course. Try to picture some man in less than great shape being in ANY way unhappy if an athletic woman offers to get naked for him.
So again, i gotta say...isn't she in the catbird seat here, yet finding a way to be unhappy about it?? Furthering her sweet deal, i myself am in great shape. The kind that gets comments from strangers and gets her engines revving a bit (if you know what i mean, and i think you do). If my love chose to be in better shape, i wouldn't offer a peep of complaint, but...my desire for her isn't about that. Is this just a symptom of body dysmorphic disorder? Sarah Michelle Gellar recently opined that no woman alive isn't thus damaged. Or...is this all part of the unnatural desire to be all things to one person? Or just ego-driven nonsense? Has this competition-based society created a world of people who all secretly yearn to be the most beautiful, intelligent creature that ever breathed?
Let's get this comment box buzzing. At the risk of birfurcation, i'll pose the question of the day. Do you want to be loved for your looks, or for...you?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Revenge of Khan

It's interesting to ponder whether the STAR TREK franchise would have ended had KHAN not been a monster. Certainly the movies would have ended, and NEXT GENERATION mightn't have been born, or at least not in the incarnation we know (which also might have ended the party). Would the swelling of TREKdom have slowly faded, or would the franchise have been given another shot (on big screen or small) sometime in the 90s, perhaps?
The fact that KHAN saved the franchise cannot be doubted. Nimoy only agreed to do the film on the condition that it be his last (a fantastic death scene didn't hurt, either). It was a curious enterprise from the start. Not many people realize that after the over-budget, under-brilliant STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, roddenberry was in essence fired by the studio. He was given a consultant position, and the producer's reigns were handed to harve bennett, a man whose importance to the franchise has never been properly celebrated. Several decades of producing TV movies and shows prepared him for KHAN. The role of producer is one that is generally dismissed and misunderstood by the public. Many have minimal creative input, but all of them have complete control once the shooting stops (a fact that has caused no small number of outraged directors to have their name removed from the finished product). Harve was hands-on all the way, including the writing (a dual role he would continue through STAR TREK V). It was harve and nimoy who set up spock's resurrection at the end of KHAN, a choice that director nick meyer had no part of, and would have fought.
And mr. meyer? So many top-tier directors were banging down Paramount's door to do this one (ahem), that the position was given to this man with one directing credit (he had also written the novel THE SEVEN PER-CENT SOLUTION). But it would be hard to overstate how much this dedicated storyteller meant to the most crucial and compelling TREK movie. He would also return to helm the excellent UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY. I'll quibble over a couple of his choices (would i be a trekkie if i didn't?)...his belief that STAR TREK was about gunboat diplomacy was wrong on any number of levels. He made KHAN more militaristic, an effect that unfortunately rippled. And his desire to have a "no-smoking" sign on the bridge was fortunately shot down by roddenberry. But in the big picture, meyer took a pittance of a budget and turned in a blazingly sharp film that set the TREK standard. He steered both montalban and shatner past bad acting choices. The budget went from 43 million for TMP, to 11 million for KHAN...which then grossed 97 million. It remains the smallest TREK film budget, and the biggest success.
Curiously, the title was changed so as to not copy a space fantasy that was being filmed at the same time, REVENGE OF THE JEDI. Another unplanned consequence that now feels so much better than than the original idea.
Khaaaaaaaaannn!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

dear N 2

Dear N,
One thing this is not going to turn into is some e-mail romance-in-waiting. For selfless reasons, i did a couple of those in recent years, and they absolutely shattered me, one tiny wound at a time, because all i've needed for much longer than i care to remember is someone to hold. I've been deprived of that healing for so long, i'm literally starting to go insane. Just about everyone you'll ever meet is similarly a bit insane.
One of the fundamental things about this world is that basically, no one gets what they deserve. Good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, and no one ever gets the love they need. There may be times in your life when a person or people choose to love you. If that happens, N, i promise...IT WASN'T BECAUSE YOU EARNED IT. We all do what we do for reasons that are our own, and if someone else benefits, it's mostly dumb luck. The opposite is most certainly true...the times in our life when we are alone, missing the loving we need, it's NOT because we deserved it. It's just how this broken world works.
So if you question why i want to love you, there will be a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with you. That's going to be the case any time someone offers to love you. Most people are too scared or dumb to understand that.
In my life right now, it's a challenge to not lie to someone (even just a little) to chase them into my arms. For whatever reason that neither of us will ever fully understand, N, i feel HAPPY when i'm holding you. A part of me wishes i could feel that with just anyone. I want to love the hell out of you, you sweet fool. If that terrifies you, then run away. But if you do that, it may haunt you. In the million and three lonely moments that are likely ahead of you, you may someday want to slit your wrists for your cowardliness at this moment.
I want to hold you and listen to you...learn about every step you've taken in your life, understand the child you were, understand why you cry and laugh when you do...is it even vaguely possible that that's not something you need?
There's a part of me that's rooting for you to self-destruct yourself away from me. The imbalance in what we're each ready for is pretty staggering. But i'm willing to carry you for a while, while you catch up. It may happen sooner than you think.
And even if the romance part of our love proves too imbalanced to work, all i ask is that we try to not fall prey to the most insidious dysfunction of this dysfunctional world, the tendency for lovers whose time has ended to throw their entire relationship away. Of all the people we will ever know, the ones who will know us most deeply are our lovers...and those are the people we lose forever, once hormones and societal expectations have had their way. You already tried to throw us away once. All i ask is that you never try to do that again. It is the bonds of friendship, not romance, which are most true.
At times, your fears paralyze you. There are few people i've ever met who have confronted and hounded their fears as much as i. It's the most crippling, destructive force in the world. However much you are able to overcome your fears, just so much will you find your own healing. If you are able to lie nakedly with me ten more times, your ability to love yourself will always be just a little better. If you are able to lie nakedly with me 100 more times, your ability to love another human may begin to stand out from those around you. If you are able to lie nakedly with me 1000 more times, you might be on your way to being what you were born to be...one of the most beautiful people any of us will ever know.
All of these words stupidly complicate a very simple idea. I want to hold you, then hold you some more, and when it's all over, come back and hold you again.
love,
wrob