Friday, February 25, 2011

A

WOMEN 57
A was dating one of my actor friends at the Pirate Playhouse when we met. I liked her, and not just because she was one of the wounded ones. Yet it was often painful to be around the two of them. Their love was fueled by fights, cheating, breakups, and reconciliations, and lubricated with alcohol. She was twenty or so, and had had a colossally unstable childhood, with religious extremism and an insane mother who lived on the street and had children with many men. The fact that A was functional at all was a testament to her strength, but every romance she'd ever had was quite dysfunctional. From the start, i wanted to care for her and help her find peace, because it was obvious that she had amazing things to offer. I was attracted, but wasn't considering romance, at least not for a decade or so (or never, not if there were any chance of endangering her trust in me). I set about offering her gentle friendship and love. She and my friend eventually fizzled, and my affection for her may have contributed (a story went around that we'd had an affair). One night the three of us were watching BOOGIE NIGHTS, as they drank much wine. We were under a blanket, with her between us. I rubbed her feet, and her hand moved for my groin. She couldn't quite reach, and i smacked temptation's ass by not facilitating her. To this day, i'm not even sure she remembers that. Time went by, and she opened up to me once in awhile. One day we were getting ready for a Gulf swim. She left her bedroom door open as she undressed. I'm the king of "nudity is no big deal", but...as i watched her, the air slowly pulled out of my lungs (a sensation i'd never experienced before, or since). She entered another dysfunctional romance. I started a theater, and she got involved as an actress, somewhat to my surprise. In our second play together, SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO, we were cast as tempestuous lovers. It was one of the most stunningly wonderful productions i've ever done. One night we're rehearsing a love scene alone (i was the director), and as she's straddling me, i gradually get a monumental erection. I call for a break as i extricate myself without letting her know why (she had a good laugh a few years later). One night we're all at the bar after a show, she and her boyfriend are laughing…and i start to feel an intense hurt somewhere inside me. I put my head down, hoping no one notices. I didn't understand, i was feeling PAIN from two people being affectionate. I realized that i was in love, like nothing i'd ever known. I tried to fight it, but anything i ever had that felt like wisdom was gone, so...i finally tell her. And she halfway opens a door. But i hold back. Time goes by, and for the better part of a year all i can write about is drowning. I have one of the bizarrest experiences of my life that year, at a karaoke bar. Her boyfriend and i share an almost-open enmity by then (and i didn't like karaoke either), but i find myself dueting with him on ACDC's "Big Balls". So surreal. They finally break up. Once, i asked her who the people are in her life who don't let her get away with shit, and very quietly the only name she comes up with is mine. All along it's a very one-way relationship, me being there for her, with sometimes months going by when she doesn't return calls. It's okay, i knew what i was getting into. We get cast in a professional production on Sanibel together, and it's wonderful to see her growing faster than she has any right to, both in acting and as a human being. She starts dating a new guy, and i'm delighted. Being around them is a joy, and he and i develop a friendship independent of her. He treats her right, and more importantly, she allows him to treat her right. A year or so later, after eight years in Florida, i move on to New York...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Treasure Island!

THEATER 46
-winter 1999
The Pirate Playhouse next staged a new adaptation by Vernon Morris. Directing was B.H. Barry, one of the world's premier fight choreographers, and a very enthusiastic and fun fellow. His last project had been Disney's MULAN, and this was his first time directing. Vernon, also a Brit, came to play Blind Pew and Merry. He and i got on very well. I was cast as Allerdyse and O'Brien. In the flashback that opens the play, Allerdyse is the last underling to be killed, notable for his long, blonde hair (by curious coincidence, i was the only actor in the cast with long, blonde hair). O'Brien was one of the two chief pirate fighters. The set consisted of rolling platforms, which could be rapidly rearranged by the cast to become a dock, ship, or fort. These were complemented by a rope system, which became the ship's rigging. Actors would climb the ropes, and someone (me) climbed all the way into the flies. Barrels complemented the platforms. We had a working cannon, and authentic muskets and pistols that fired. We had spiders that dropped onto the audience, and a hidden water cannon to spray them…it was an astoundingly visceral production. Several actors from ANDROCLES were back. My buddy Jason played Dirk, the plucky pirate. Robert Schelhammer played Black Dog and another pirate. In one of the early scenes, he had to wear an ungodly cumbersome coat, and he received an award for "best use of an actor by a costume". Lou Talley was back, as a pirate. Charles was Long John Silver. His presence was still impressive, but there was some grumbling about how he should be as dedicated to his craft as he was to sexing up his local girlfriend. Steve Wise played the doctor, very neatly. Steve Smith played Tom and the shanty singer. Ten year-old Alex Doud, Dill in MOCKINGBIRD last year, played Jim. Newcomer Ford Austin played the Allerdyse-killing captain and Israel Hands, the other primary show fighter (he was also a child Sleestak actor, something i didn't learn until years later). We got along well, and our fight scene was one of the most amazing pieces of theater i've ever done, a drunken battle ranging over the entire ship. It starts out friendly, and ends in deadly rage. Swinging on ropes (me), kipping off the deck (him)...i eventually gut him and toss him over. I walk to the other end of the ship to drink, as he crawls back onboard. With a shout, he hurls a dagger at me (in the half-light, Ford dropped the dagger behind his back before "throwing"; i spin, bringing up another dagger i had palmed, which i plant in my chest). I die. It all happened so fast that no audience member ever figured out how we did it, even though they were less than ten feet away, on three sides. Alex comes out of hiding, and is chased by Ford. He escapes by zipline, and Ford finally dies. Alex ends up near me, and i suddenly grab his ankle with one last scream. It was all just stunning. With our semi-clad state, the tech girls described the scene as the show's sex appeal, and one of them even described a moist response she sometimes had. B.H. assured me that playing this part would get me laid. Our swords were fantastic. Made of a lightweight metal, we each had our own. In rehearsal, i cut the underside of Ford's foot when his timing was a hair off. We also found a bizarre connection, in that our favorite exercise was handstand pushups, an exercise i had "invented". We did them during rehearsal breaks. There were nine fights in all, including one big one that featured the whole cast. We rehearsed them for a month, and B.H. was brilliant. I had my hair in a topknot as O'Brien. Doc Watson played Captain Smollett (a part i had coveted). Using a Scottish brogue, he did a truly wonderful job, and we got along very well. He shared music with me, and told me i should get to New York to let some agent get ahold of me. Newcomer Rich played Squire Trelawney, with delightfully cheeky over-the-top elan. Newcomer Scott played castaway Ben Gunn and the despised first officer. I was the instrument of his death, flipping him overboard onto a sliding sled, a great bit of choreography. He was delightful as Ben. During the preview performance, his white wig got caught in the pulleys, stranding him fifteen feet up. Leslie Linford, an authentic Scot, was the only woman in the cast, playing Jim's mother and a pirate. She was wonderful fun to be around. She and Doc shared a house, which became my favorite place to visit. The show was incredible, and in the face of some horrible-sounding circumstances. A powerful sickness swept through the cast, with fever and nausea so widespread we had to cancel one performance...Charles had it so bad one night that we almost literally supported him on and off. Scott developed a liver infection. Vernon was deathly sick, with what turned out to be much more serious health problems. Ford pulled his rib muscles, and incredibly painful and slow-healing injury. I turned my ankle during a pre-show warmup so badly that i was on crutches for a week. Ford graciously stated that the accident was due to him; i wasn’t certain. We had to shorten our fight a few times. But in the face of all this, the show was just so incredible to perform. The effect on audiences was unprecedented, they were just stunned at the physicality. It was action they were used to in movies, but to have it live and only a few feet away…you could hear their gasps, and feel their amazement. B.H. warned us many times to indulge in NO "arrrh" acting. The most imitated line of the show was Charles' "I gives ya' me affy-davy" (affidavit). Goofy affy-davys were flying around everywhere. Ford and i were in newspaper photos, and in a recreation of our fight on local TV. We all had to learn many sea shanties, and Steve Smith received a bit of abuse for overacting. I also received abuse for one of my lines, "Alright mates, over the side with him!" I had the damndest time coming up with a good reading, and it became a running joke. I even passed the line off once or twice, and in one of our last performances, i opened my mouth to say it, and all my pirate castmates shouted it in unison (pig-fucking bastards). I had a shanty solo, "Hangin' Johnny", before my big fight. Ford improvised a new verse one night after i died, singing "The Squire and Dirk in the cabin…". He never got to sing the next line, and was smilingly warned not to by B.H. It was funny because of Rich's foppishly effete behavior and large stature, and Jason's tiny, cute stature. Ford and i found another connection - a few years before, we had both auditioned (without meeting) to be the Bucks County Coffee boy, which i ended up doing for a year. After the show, he returned to NY, and i sent him a Playmobile pirate that looked like him, but i never heard back. Even though there was talk of the show touring, we never did, partly because union rules forbade taping, which hampered selling the show. I fell in love with Ford's backstage smoking jacket, a gaudy samurai-jungle affair which he pulled out of the costume shop. After the show it became the only thing i've ever stolen in my adult life (i used my low wages to rationalize it). Even after all our grueling ordeals, i don't think anybody wanted it to end. I would have given a year to tour the show, and i can't think of any other relatively minor part i would do that for. It was the kind of amazing that some actors go a lifetime without experiencing.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Deep Space Nine, season 4

FOUR STAR EPISODES: 3
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.7
-The Way of the Warrior ****

-written by ira steven behr, robert hewitt wolfe
-directed by james l. conway
This double-length season premiere starts with jadzia and kira engaging in bathing suit holopursuits. Klingons invade Cardassia, convinced that the Dominion has engineered a coup. Starfleet assigns worf to the station. He is considering resigning his commission. He and jadzia spar (with bat'leths, not words). The Defiant rescues the leaders of the cardassian government. Klingons pursue. The station is boarded, its weaponry brought to bear for the first time. One of the most breathtaking space battles in TREK history (pre-CGI, no less). Dukat and garak fight side by side. Worf accepts a promotion and permanent post.
-The Visitor ****
-written by michael taylor
-directed by david livingston
Literate, tender, and touching. An aged jake (tony todd - PLATOON, LEAN ON ME) tries to undo an accident that claimed sisko's life sixty years before. He's a writer who wrote one masterpiece, then disappeared. He tells his sad tale to an aspiring writer (rachel robinson - LOSER LOVE, CAN'T BE HEAVEN, and daughter of andrew) who has found him in his seclusion. It's also sweet (and a little redemptive) to see a timeline wherein jadzia lives to an old age.
-Hippocratic Oath ***
Phew...for a second, i was concerned this one was going to be called "The Nana". To o'brien's consternation, julian tries to help a group of renegade jem'hadar break their ketracel addiction. Worf thinks odo's security isn't worth a damn. A fine turn by scott macdonald (CARNIVALE, JACK FROST 1-2), and a shame they never availed themselves of the chance to bring back his character, as the only ketracel-free jem'hadar.
-Indiscretion **
Kira and a secretive dukat go after a lost prison ship. Will he kill his half-bajoran child?
-Rejoined ***
Boldly going where no TREK had gone before...a lesbian kiss! Jadzia goes on a Defiant mission with a group of trill scientists, one of whom is host to a symbiont who was a mate to one of dax's former hosts. Trill society forbids romantic reassociation, under penalty of exile (meaning death for the symbiont). Jadzia and lenara (susanna thompson - VOYAGER, GHOSTS OF MISSISSIPPI) are deeply drawn to one another, and jadzia is willing to pay the ultimate price. Some of the climaxes are underearned, as this one should have been a two-parter, but it's beautiful and touching.
-Starship Down **
A damaged Defiant plays cat and mouse with two jem'hadar ships inside a gas giant. Another TREK first, and unholy god, hopefully last - a regular prays over a fallen comrade. This one could have been four stars, but for that and some writing that samples the simplistic, "Up With People" vibe. Yet another dandy TREK turn by james cromwell (W., THE ARTIST), as a conniving alien.
-Little Green Men *
Ewwwwf. Quark, rom, and nog pilot a ship into a time accident, ending up in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. With game turns by megan gallagher (CHINA BEACH, 24) and classic veteran charles napier (B.J. AND THE BEAR, MEN IN BLACK: THE SERIES), it's so silly it almost works, but...worthy of consideration for worst TREK ever.
-The Sword of Kahless ***
Kor convinces jadzia and worf to join him on a quest to find the greatest icon in klingon history. Pursued by enemies, they find it in the Gamma quadrant. Worf and kor squabble, as self-serving goals clash amid dreams of empire reunification. The ending is striking, if a bit of a cop-out. Worf has a moment of genuine darkness, something never seen on that other series...but it feels forced. It feels like that rarest of all TREK flaws, a character misstep.
-Our Man Bashir ***
Sisko, kira, dax, o'brien, and worf are accidentally trapped in the transporter pattern buffer. Huge chunks of station computer memory must be wiped to make room for their neural patterns. They suddenly appear as non-sentient characters in a superspy holoprogram julian is running. Kira is eye-popping. The safeties go off, and he must keep them all alive until their patterns can be retrieved. Sweet and fun.
-Homefront (see following) ***
-Paradise Lost ***
These episodes were perhaps what the producers had in mind when they promised a darker TREK. After a changeling terrorist attack on Earth, sisko and odo take over planetary security. A plot to institute martial law is uncovered, amid fears that the President doesn't understand the severity of the situation. A promising premise is compromised by ham-handed writing. Admiral leyton is turned into a mustache-twirling, one-dimensional baddie, which is a shame...the storyline has genuine ethical merit. Susan gibney (TNG's dr. leah brahms) plays a Starfleet captain.
-Crossfire **
Shakaar visits, and falls in love with kira. Odo no happy. Quark and odo steal the show, with their attempt to move beyond antagonism...but despite lovely performances, some missing chemistry can't quite be overcome.
-Return to Grace ***
Dukat, stripped of his position and prestige, escorts kira to a conference. The klingons attack en route. Promising, but a deftness deficit in the writing holds this one down.
-Sons of Mogh ****
-written by ronald d. moore
-directed by david livingston
Kurn arrives, stripped of all honor and possessions because of worf's failure to support gowron. He asks to be ritually killed, allowing him to join their ancestors with honor. Worf knifes him in the chest, but he is saved. Worf gets him a job in security. A klingon battlecruiser mysteriously falls out of cloak, having suffered a tremendous explosion. A plan to mine the sector is uncovered. Rife with no-holds-barred reflections of klingon life, it's a tight, powerful ride. The first flirtations between jadzia and worf are intoxicating.
-Bar Association ***
Unfair conditions cause rom to organize a bar worker's union. Chafing from the non-Starfleet disorder all around, worf moves his quarters to the Defiant.
-Accession **
An episode that could only have been cooked up in a denobulan drum of depravity, with heaping dollops of religiosity and the o'brien/keiko home life - a level of quease not seen since "Menage a Troi". A stranger claims to be the real Emissary, and sisko gladly accedes.
-Rules of Engagement **
Worf destroys a klingon civilian shuttle during battle, and an extradition hearing is held. I'm not sure i buy the conceit that he made a mistake. It feels ridiculous to suggest that he should have waited to ascertain that the de-cloaking ship was anything other than the bird of prey again. His number one priority was protecting the lives in the convoy, and you can't protect anything when you're dead. Of course, it's also preposterous to suggest that "rules" can apply to anything as perverse as war.
-Hard Time ***
O'brien tries to re-integrate into station life after spending twenty virtual years imprisoned. Starkly dark. Sure, there are one or two pulled punches that keep it from four stars, and it will never join any best-of-TREK marathon, because it's not really a TREK episode, from a story standpoint. But...colm meaney's finest hour? Probably.
-Shattered Mirror **
Mirror jennifer kidnaps jake to lure sisko to the other universe. Wonderful chemistry. They should have left more of the focus on the main three characters - the other plots feel a bit forced. Can mirror jennifer be the anti-kasidy? Pretty pleeeease? Oops, she dies.
-The Muse ***
A pregnant lwaxana needs odo's help (and hand in marriage) - i know, this has Titanic written all over it, but it actually holds together. A vampiric woman takes great interest in jake's writing.
-For the Cause **
Commander eddington defects to the maquis, but the potential is diluted by weak writing. His farewell speech is too much polemical rhetoric and not enough humanity, and sisko's response is too vengeful for a 24th-century human. In a delightful subplot, garak meets ziyal...and they date. Awww. For sisko fans hoping to avert to the unfolding kasidastrophe, she's off to jail for smuggling! But just like herpes, she'll be back...
-To the Death ***
Renegade jem'hadar plunder the station. Sisko agrees to a joint retaliation with Dominion forces.
-The Quickening ***
Bashir tries to help a planet in the grips of a Dominion-engineered plague. The visuals are striking, and the ending realistically grim. Fine guest turns by ellen wheeler (DARK SHADOWS, TONYA AND NANCY: THE INSIDE STORY) and michael sarrazin (THE FLIM-FLAM MAN, THE SEDUCTION). Alexander siddig's finest hour?
-Body Parts **
Quark learns he's going to die. Should he profit from his auctioned body parts while he still can? Keiko is injured, and her fetus transferred to kira (sensible, given that nana is pregnant). Nerys gets melded into the o'brien home life. Oy.
-Broken Link **
A critically-ill odo is rushed to the founder homeworld. As punishment, he's turned into a solid...and discovers that gowron is a changeling.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

99 spirit songs

After the "greatest pop songs" list, i thought it would be fitting to do a "subjectively greatest" list, which morphed into this - the songs that, more than any, have touched my spirit. In nearly random order...
1) Captain of a Shipwreck, Neil Diamond
2) Fade to Black, Dire Straits
3) None of the Above, Duran Duran
4) The Sad Cafe, Eagles
5) Peace is Just a Word, The Eurythmics
6) Gospel John, Maynard Ferguson
7) River of Dreams, Glenn Frey
8) Piece of Clay, Marvin Gaye
9) Sexual Healing, Marvin Gaye
10) What's Going On?, Marvin Gaye
11) Eyes of the World, Grateful Dead
12) Alice's Restaurant, Arlo Guthrie
13) I'll Be With You Tonight, Arlo Guthrie
14) Someplace Else, George Harrison
15) The Garden of Allah, Don Henley
16) Halcyon Days, Bruce Hornsby
17) Lost Soul, Bruce Hornsby
18) The Way It Is, Bruce Hornsby
19) Earth Song, Michael Jackson
20) Stiletto, Billy Joel
21) Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny), Elton John
22) Writing, Elton John
23) I Don't Want to be a Hero, Johnny Hates Jazz
24) I.G.Y., Howard Jones
25) Dust in the Wind, Kansas
26) Victims of Comfort, Keb' Mo'
27) Bein' Green, Kermit
28) The Rainbow Connection, Kermit
29) The Impossible Dream, Leigh/Darion
30) God, John Lennon
31) Imagine, John Lennon
32) Watching the Wheels, John Lennon
33) Woman is the Nigger of the World, John Lennon
34) Something About You, Level 42
35) Is It Me?, Huey Lewis & the News
36) I'm Not Supposed to Care, Gordon Lightfoot
37) Human Nature, Madonna
38) Feels So Good, Chuck Mangione
39) Can't Smile Without You, Barry Manilow
40) Mull of Kintyre, Paul McCartney
41) The Other Me, Paul McCartney
42) Vincent, Don McClean
43) Key West Intermezzo, John Mellencamp
44) The Longest Night, Men At Work
45) Spinning the Wheel, George Michael
46) Both Sides Now 2000, Joni Mitchell
47) Porpoise Song, The Monkees
48) Into the Mystic, Van Morrison
49) Shame, Randy Newman
50) Closer, Nine Inch Nails
51) Alone Again (Naturally), Gilbert O'Sullivan
52) High Hopes, Pink Floyd
53) Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Pink Floyd
54) Something to Believe In, Poison
55) Murder By Numbers, The Police
56) Everybody Hurts, R.E.M.
57) Can't Fight This Feeling, REO Speedwagon
58) I Can't Make You Love Me, Bonnie Raitt
59) Aeroplane, Red Hot Chili Peppers
60) Make You Feel My Love, Timothy B. Schmit
61) Waiting For You, Seal
62) The Water is Wide, Pete Seeger
63) Love, Paul Simon
64) Train in the Distance, Paul Simon
65) Stars, Simply Red
66) Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey, Sly and the Family Stone
67) Human Touch, Bruce Springsteen
68) One Step Up, Bruce Springsteen
69) Cousin Dupree, Steely Dan
70) Some Guys Have All the Luck, Rod Stewart
71) Saint Augustine in Hell, Sting
72) They Dance Alone, Sting
73) Lord Is It Mine, Supertramp
74) The Frozen Man, James Taylor
75) Secret o' Life, James Taylor
76) Woman in Chains, Tears for Fears
77) Help Me Through the Night, Joe Walsh
78) Three Wishes, Roger Waters
79) Break My Stride, Matthew Wilder
80) White & Nerdy, Weird Al Yankovic
81) Harvest Moon, Neil Young
82) Days are Numbers (The Traveller), The Alan Parsons Project
83) What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong
84) Everybody (Backstreet's Back), Backstreet Boys
85) One Week, Barenaked Ladies
86) Fool on the Hill, The Beatles
87) Free as a Bird, The Beatles
88) Islands in the Stream, The Bee Gees
89) No Diggity, Blackstreet
90) All Naturally, Wayne Brady
91) He Went to Paris, Jimmy Buffett
92) Sam Hall, Johnny Cash
93) Cat's in the Cradle, Harry Chapin
94) There Only Was One Choice, Harry Chapin
95) Let Time Go Lightly, Steve Chapin
96) Hard Habit to Break, Chicago
97) I Love You, Climax Blues Band
98) I Lie Awake (and dream of you), Clover
99) Hero, David Crosby

Thursday, February 17, 2011

coasters

There's a misconception about bicyclists, and it's time someone cleared it up.
Bikers are not in better shape than you.
There, it's been said.
Bikers will never admit this. Indeed, they will do everything to induce you into believing the opposite...that the speed with which they zip by pedestrians and drivers in midtown traffic, is a pure reflection of their physical essence...physiques speedy and sleek, while walkers are squishy, and the less said about drivers, the better.
Tain't so. Sure, drivers are doughy-derriered, but you'll never find a single walker who isn't in better shape than the average biker.
All bikers are complicit in maintaining this illusion. We feel we deserve it, because even if we're not in better shape, we're just, well, better. Bikers are the love children of Charlie Darwin and God.
And how do we go about fooling you?
Coasting.
We move by so fast, that you cannot begin to see our journey's bigger picture.
All bikers quickly learn how to maximize trip efficiency through skillful navigation of the native terrain, and adroit use of their zippy flyers.
You might see us pushing our pedals hard a couple times. Then we're gone, and you don't realize we're about to coast for the next quarter mile.
You think i'm joking? Even in a city as flat as Manhattan, nature's advantages are there for the taking. On a north-south round trip, we always go north on the west side. Going south, Herman Shimpster set the NYC minimal-pedaling record in October 1972, hitting every light perfectly and using the Murray Hill gradient to go 37 blocks on two pedal-turns. Again, pedestrians lose the bigger picture. For centuries walkers have scratched their heads, looking for "Murray Hill". They were standing on it.
The average biker pedals exactly one time for every 50 steps a walker takes. What, you think i could make that up?
I probably could.
Next time you're by a biker at an intersection stop, slide your hand under their shirt. You'll find that cars aren't the only things with a spare tire.
Tomorrow: CAFFEINE DRINKERS - ALERT OR JUST ANNOYING?

The Muppet Show, season 1

UNAIRED PILOT
Priceless. Band conductor Nigel is the host. Certain touches are a little more raw and subversive. "Beaneath the Return to the Planet of the Pigs"? Classic.
JULIET PROWSE **
Fozzy's eyes aren't quite right, and in her first appearance, Miss Piggy has a different voice. But we're off to the races, in a Statler/Waldorf-heavy episode. Juliet is lovely.
CONNIE STEVENS ****
Sha-bang! Only two tries to hit it out of the park. Connie is adorable, as she flirts with Kermit. The first appearance of The Swedish Chef, brought to life by both Jim and Frank, who kept each other on their toes, with the head not always knowing what the hands would do. Bert and Ernie guest star too, and the "Bert is gay" crowd doesn't want you to see this one.
JOEL GREY ***
Fozzie's eyes are finally right, but Piggy's voice is still wrong (half the time). Rowlf makes his solo piano debut, and Joel is charming doing "Cabaret", in which the Muppets continually steal his lines. Sondheim's "Comedy Tonight" also shines.
RUTH BUZZI ***
Ruth is a scream in "You're Just Too Good to be True", with Sweetums.
RITA MORENO ****
Rita sizzles and sparkles and is disturbingly sexy, for any milieu...particularly in a seedy bar scene where she arrives with skirt slit wayyyyyy up to here, and proceeds to dance/brawl with one of the locals. Her rendition of "Fever", with Animal getting carried away on drums, is classic. Rowlf is a howlf in the debut of Dr. Bob. Richard Hunt still hasn't given Piggy's voice full time to Frank. And it's a trivia gem, an unannounced appearance of Muppet versions of Jim and Frank (and Jerry Nelson), as a folk music trio.
JIM NABORS **
Jim is sweet and fun, in a middling episode notable for the debut solo number of Dr. Teeth, and for the first (sort of) appearance of guest-for-the-ages John Denver, when Mr. Nabors sings "Thank God I'm a Country Boy".
FLORENCE HENDERSON **
An episode that never quite takes off. The Kermit/Piggy dynamic is finally set (along with her voice).
PAUL WILLIAMS ***
If Paul doesn't move your excitement meter, look closer. For those of you whose lives have been touched by the worlds of Jim Henson, imagine THE MUPPET MOVIE without songs...every one written by Paul. Dr. Honeydew's debut, too.
CHARLES AZNEVOUR ***
For a bit, it seems that Charles is vying for the "most obscure" AND "most underused" guest awards. But his "Inchworm" number is very touching...and a touch peculiar, coming from one of the great stars of the land that gave us the, um, metric system.
HARVEY KORMAN ***
Dr. Teeth's debut with the Electric Mayhem!!! They do two atomic, jammin' numbers. Plus the gentle debut of Robin. Harvey is lovely.
LENA HORNE ***
Charming. The ragmop number is a gem.
PETER USTINOV ****
A middling episode is coming to a close, and with no warning, the final number flies away into the land where dreamers meet dreams, and no one is ever left behind. The tiny nuances in which this performance of "Bein' Green" differs from the album version probably won't be noticed by 99%.
BRUCE FORSYTH ***
British song and dance comedian Bruce is a deeelight. He teaches Fozzie how to deflect Statler and Waldorf's heckles. They do "Side By Side". The Snerts are beautiful.
SANDY DUNCAN ***
Even moreso than Rita Moreno, Sandy's sexual slink through "A Nice Girl Like Me" is a blind-siding, delightful surprise. She gets boozy, then some Muppets tear her skirt off. "Try to Remember" is also beautiful. Gonzo's first shining moment, as he sings "Nobody" with Rowlf.
CANDACE BERGEN ***
Candace is a smile, and part of one of the seminal moments in the history of feminism. Okay, maybe not that grandiose, but at least a moment that quietly affected a generation of children. She plays a put-upon wife for a hillbilly chauvinist Muppet, eventually stripping out of her LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE ensemble into a feminist T-shirt, before trashing his shack and walking out. Damn right, sister. The scene of her as an art class's model is also classic.
AVERY SCHREIBER ***
Funnyman Avery is charming, particularly singing the beautifully quirky "Make a Song". The Electric Mayhem perform a rip-roaring "Tenderly".
BEN VEREEN ***
Ben is sublime, especially in his two big numbers, "Mr. Cellophane" and "Pure Imagination". Rowlf play the chamber music "Fur Elise". The greatest Wayne & Wanda segment ever, with TOOTSIE lovers getting an extra giggle. The last time Richard Hunt voices Piggy.
PHYLLIS DILLER **
Spiller. Filler. Phone-biller. The first time Statler and Waldorf appear onstage.
VINCENT PRICE ***
A monstrous episode that ought be part of every Halloween tradition. A ghostly rendition of The Beatles "I'm Looking Through You" is the gem.
VALERIE HARPER ***
Sam and Rowlf perform "Tit Willow". Statler spends most of the episode backstage, trying to pick up Valerie. He asks her to a steak dinner. She's a vegetarian!
TWIGGY ***
A surprising delight. Thoroughly charming AND talented...her performance of "In My Life" is truly touching.
ETHEL MERMAN ***
Ethel gives an unforgettable performance. She does a sweet, slow arrangement of "No Business Like Show Business" for Fozzie, who's feeling down. You might cry.
KAYE BALLARD ***
Floyd and the band stage a walkout, because the theme song is too square. Over the end credits, Rowlf plays alone. Kaye is charming. The Jim, Frank, and Jerry Muppets are transcendant performing "In the Summertime".
MUMMENSCHANZ ***
Comic contortions, creatures, and clay faces. "When I'm Not Near the Fish I Love" strikes a blow for free love!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

wrob explains everything

(There's an unspoken conceit that any poem which needs explaining probably isn't good. Codswallop. Oh, in some cases perhaps, but with due respect to those who feel that poetry is essentially subjective...most of the time, i suspect poets know EXACTLY what they have in mind. I'm going to deconstruct one of my poems, something i've never done before. I do this because it might be a poem of incalculable importance, the most morally/spiritually advanced thing i'll ever set down. And it also might be a century or more before the average person understands what i'm talking about. That's too long.)

EVERYTHING
When i think of friendships lost
we poisoned sex...
Friendships that should have been
we poisoned sex...
Joys betrayed by jealous greed
we poisoned sex...
The incarceration in carnal isolation
we poisoned sex...
Sex took our touching
Sex took our belonging
Sex took our healing
Sex took our sex
we poisoned sex, then sex poisoned everything
http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2011/01/sex.html

Think of every romance you ever had...every boyfriend/girlfriend, lover, or significant other. Put them all together in one room in your mind. Wait a second for everyone to catch up (some people are knocking down walls, and wondering if the corner bodega has enough salsa). Now, look around the room. At some point in your life, you felt an intense connection to each one of these people. An intense desire to care for and protect them. To fill them with joy. And for at least a moment in time, these people felt the same for you. Look at them...and tell me how many are still a part of your life? Eliminate those who are around in some obligatory, contentious way. How many? Twenty percent? Ten? Less? These are the people who were most intensely interested in you...moreso than almost all your non-romantic friends and family members. But they're not with you. They're gone, like they were never there. Now clear your mind...and imagine these people are still in your life. Whatever part of you they were able to love, they still do. Every single one of them.
Would you suddenly have more friendship and love than anyone you've ever known?
Now think about platonic relationships you've lost because of sex. That friend who was crazy about the same person you were crazy about, but only one of you had the nerve to go after. Or the friend who had a hidden fling with your sister/brother. Or the friend you thought was soooooo cool, until their unwelcome secret was revealed (they wanted to be "more" than friends). Or that family member who has never forgiven you for forgiving (blank) after he/she cheated on (blank).
Now...imagine a world in which you've been held and touched every single day of your life, and have sex whenever you want. A world where anyone you desire, is happily receptive. It goes the other way, too. If anyone desires you, nothing makes you happier than giving them that happiness.
Ridiculous? Inane?
Loneliness is far and away the most prominent, universal feature of this society. Even during our most intimate acts, or in the midst of a crowd, we all lead lives of crippling, encompassing isolation. One in which sex is never a gift, but always a bargaining chip. We poison sex with jealousy, competition, and the tyranny of searching for that one love who will cleave to us "forever". And when you think you've finally found it, the two of you isolate yourselves from the world, until you can't stand the sight of each other. You might have even brought a child into the world, to whom you gave your sickness.
But that other life, that ridiculous, inane dream, is the one you were born for. The one that's in your DNA, the one that five million years of human existence prepared you for.
Your birthright.
Look what we've done with it.
For five million years, humans lived in foraging societies. As recently as a few hundred years ago, most of the planet was still occupied by foragers. Foragers have no notion of private property. They share a sense of belonging that is incomprehensible to us. Try to imagine growing up in a world where every adult is your "parent", and no one would ever hurt you.
Ask yourself what we've traded that for.
And think, just think, of all the love that should have been a part of your life, that sex took away. This isn't abstract. For each of us, life is one long unspooling of lovers and friends who disappear, leaving us alone...
To move on...
To the next person we'll disappoint. And be disappointed by.
It's time to awaken, and arise.

(for further reading: http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2012/02/sex-at-dawn.html)

Friday, February 11, 2011

99 greatest pop songs

99 GREATEST POP SONGS OF THE ROCK ERA
1) Imagine, John Lennon
2) Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen
3) Hotel California, Eagles
4) American Pie, Don McClean
5) Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin
6) Black Water, The Doobie Brothers
7) What's Going On, Marvin Gaye
8) In the Air Tonight, Phil Collins
9) Dance to the Music, Sly and the Family Stone
10) Africa, Toto
11) Be-bop-a-lula, Gene Vincent
12) I.G.Y., Donald Fagen
13) Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix
14) Yesterday, The Beatles
15) Hound Dog, Elvis Presley
16) Me and Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin
17) Like a Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan
18) Virtual Insanity, Jamiroquai
19) Roxanne, The Police
20) I've Seen All Good People, Yes
21) Come On Eileen, Dexy's Midnight Runners
22) You're So Vain, Carly Simon
23) Tempted, Squeeze
24) All Night Long (All Night), Lionel Richie
25) Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd
26) Thriller, Michael Jackson
27) Love Me Do, The Beatles
28) Money for Nothing, Dire Straits
29) Leader of the Band, Dan Fogelberg
30) Copacabana (at the Copa), Barry Manilow
31) Once in a Lifetime, Talking Heads
32) Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry
33) Love Shack, The B-52s
34) What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong
35) Sexual Healing, Marvin Gaye
36) Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell
37) Respect, Aretha Franklin
38) Is She Really Going Out With Him?, Joe Jackson
39) Celebration, Kool & the Gang
40) Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel
41) Everybody's Talkin', Harry Nilsson
42) The Logical Song, Supertramp
43) Reminiscing, Little River Band
44) California Girls, The Beach Boys
45) Dust in the Wind, Kansas
46) You Can't Always Get What You Want, The Rolling Stones
47) Layla, Eric Clapton
48) Thank God I'm a Country Boy, John Denver
49) We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions, Queen
50) The Sound of Silence, Simon & Garfunkel
51) Stayin' Alive, The Bee Gees
52) The Way We Were, Barbra Streisand
53) Stand By Me, Ben E. King
54) Everybody Hurts, R.E.M.
55) Who's Cryin' Now, Journey
56) You Can Leave Your Hat On, Joe Cocker
57) The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot
58) Joy to the World, Three Dog Night
59) Down on the Corner, Creedence Clearwater Revival
60) Lola, The Kinks
61) Try a Little Tenderness, Otis Redding
62) Jailhouse Rock, Elvis Presley
63) Time in a Bottle, Jim Croce
64) I Want You Back, The Jackson 5
65) Band on the Run, Paul McCartney
66) (They Long to Be) Close to You, Carpenters
67) I Want You to Want Me, Cheap Trick
68) Luther Vandross, Superstar
69) La Bamba, Richie Valenz
70) Brown-eyed Girl, Van Morrison
71) Danny's Song, Loggins & Messina
72) Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana
73) Alison, Elvis Costello
74) Peace Train, Cat Stevens
75) It's the End of the World As We Know It, R.E.M.
76) Desperado, Eagles
77) I Write the Songs, Barry Manilow
78) My Way, Frank Sinatra
79) Love the One You're With, Stephen Stills
80) Baby Got Back, Sir Mix-a-Lot
81) Peggy Sue, Buddy Holly
82) Day-O, Harry Belafonte
83) On Broadway, George Benson
84) Great Balls of Fire, Jerry Lee Lewis
85) Closer, Nine Inch Nails
86) Show Me the Way, Peter Frampton
87) You've Got a Friend, James Taylor
88) Alone Again (Naturally), Gilbert O'Sullivan
89) The Gambler, Kenny Rogers
90) Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Eurythmics
91) Jack and Diane, John Mellencamp
92) Don't Worry, Be Happy, Bobby McFerrin
93) Black Magic Woman, Santana
94) Karma Chameleon, Culture Club
95) 1999, Prince
96) True, Spandau Ballet
97) Afternoon Delight, Starland Vocal Band
98) Midnight Rider, The Allman Brothers Band
99) I Love L.A., Randy Newman
QUALIFICATIONS FOR INCLUSION
-45% aural experience
-45% cultural resonance
-10% X-factor

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

monogafesto

MY RELATIONSHIP TO, AND UNDERSTANDING OF, MONOGAMY
(and i may have no idea what i'm talking about)
Historically, monogamy arose soon after the idea of private property, not long after the agricultural revolution (about 10,000 years ago, less than 5% of human history...perhaps a good deal less). Males wanted their possessions to go to their sons, so they needed to know which sons were theirs. Presto...monogamy! In the great non-surprise of history, every single marriage-based society has had a distinctly more permissive attitude toward male extramarital sex. If monogamy were natural, WHY would there be punishments (up to and including death, and always harsher on women) for those who trangress? Why would a seventh commandment even exist?
Scientific studies ever-increasingly conclude that pre-agricultural humans had multiple sexual partners, men and women equally.
In my own sexual life, i've never fucked around.
I was once proud of that.
Even within my own youthful "life partner" dreams, i perceived the foolishness inherent in two ideas: the notion that there is only one "right one", and the notion of being "completed" by your beloved. Your spirit has to be whole BEFORE you can be good for someone else. As i grew, i was forced to accept the logic that if my love genuinely loves another, she will be MORE of a person, not less. She will be happier, and have more experience and wisdom to offer both me and the human race.
The stages of falling in love are a rush (if they weren't, we'd have no babies). But all those feelings, including the sustained bliss that follows the whirlwinds of attraction and infatuation, are dictated by hormones. In the grip of hormones, it can feel natural to desire no one but your shipoopi (or not). But in the big picture, our physiology is only equipped to sustain these rushes with one person for about the time it takes a child to be born. Years of monogamy will steadily lower a man's testosterone, making him more susceptible to depression, cancer, heart attack, and dementia. The effect on women is as yet undocumented.
I'm not anti-romantic. Far from it. My deep caring for all people makes me more capable of loving a woman intensely and profoundly. Put another way, i might be the man least able to use a woman as just some receptacle for my desires. Anonymous sex is more painful to me than no sex at all (but only barely, ever so barely). I'm open to love in any way it finds me, even something that looks traditional. In the early stages of mutual wooing, i find myself inclined to shut down other romantic potentialities. Whether that's leftover social conditioning or something less noxious, i'm not yet sure.
All of this, however, leaves my life in a bit of a sexual netherworld. I don't fit in at the altar or the orgy. On top of everything else, i don't want STDs, yet loathe condoms (i'm not just being whiny...people who use condoms are more prone to depression than people who don't). I'm generally content to offer monogamy to a new lover, but that's a ticking bomb set to go off when human nature (hers and mine) kicks in. Most women still want monogamy, because it's all they've been taught, and because men still control almost all the world's resources. Women are tied to the Cinderella paradigm because their economic survival depends on it, especially if they want to (or have to) raise a child. But if you were to set all women loose in a world free of poverty, where they knew that any child they birthed would always be cared for, they would lose interest in monogamy within a generation or so.
And in that world, men would get more sex.
So who's keeping monogamy alive?
Are they dead yet?

(for more on the science behind thishttp://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2012/02/sex-at-dawn.html)

Friday, February 4, 2011

sledge poetry

I suppose no two creators create in just the same way. No painters have the same stroke, and no guitarists twang quite identically. Perhaps there are poets who never edit at all, or some who do a first draft straight through then put it in a drawer for thirty-seven weeks. Or some who edit right away, but very...gently.
For something as "delicate" as poetry, my own editing doesn't feel gentle. It feels like i'm wielding a mini-sledge, striking away for hours, trying to sculpt the words into submission. I bang away with the sledge in my right hand...despite the bluntness of the instrument, my less dextrous left hand would yield apalling results. If i'm lucky, the finished product bears a resemblance to the first draft. If i'm not, it can be days or weeks of hacking and lunatic stanza-shuffling. Lines or words can be taken out, put back in, taken out, put back in...on rare occasions, i even take recourse to a thesaurus, trying and rejecting five, six, seven words...
Often a perfect strike, a perfectly-phrased line, will require a complete overhaul of the rest of the poem. Even the lines that were working.
Last week, i wrote a poem entitled "everything":
http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2011/01/sex.html
I whacked and banged for many hours, over several days. Sometimes after staring at the words for too long, your brain starts shutting down. You can fight off the bleariness, or lay your head down. Knowing when the poem's done is an inexact science...on at least half the poems i think are done, i scramble back hours or days later. Sometimes you just say, "Hey...that's the best i can do." "Everything" went through many title changes (even after posting, you can look above and see one): it was also called "Poisoned", and others i've since forgotten. There was a line that hung around for days..."Brother hate brother, lover hate lover". And "Sex took our friends" was another line that rests in (hopefully) peace. For the longest time, the entire last line was repeated throughout the poem.
Bang. Hack. Slice. Slide. Bang.
The end results are...usually middling. A good poet will write good poems (though not always, by any means). A great poet might never write a great poem, that perfect lightning strike of inspiration and craftsmanship. There are few rules, and no guarantees. A perfect title for most poetry books would be "Hey, I Wrote One Really Great Thing, Now You Wankers Get to Read All This Other Crap!"
Mommy, why is that sweaty man walking down the street with a mini-sledge wrapped to his hand?
That's just a poet, sweety.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"UFO"

1970-1971
UFO was producer Gerry (THUNDERBIRDS, SPACE: 1999) Anderson's first non-puppet series. An adult sci fi show, there are elements of the childlike simplicity found in his previous shows, like the stock footage vehicle launches repeated in full. And whenever a UFO explodes, you might experience an unintended giggle. And you can sometimes see the strings on the ships. But generally, being pulled into the show's universe is easy. It aired the year after STAR TREK ended. It's set in the wild future (ten years, to be precise...you might chuckle as "1980" repeatedly flashes through the opening credits). UFO is pronounced "you-foe". The look is psychedelic...men in nehru jackets and women in minis. Earth is under attack, and the public is unaware. A secret military organization, S.H.A.D.O, defends the planet. There's a moonbase armed with interceptors, a submarine which launches an attack fighter, and earthside ATVs. The first episode aired fourteen months after Apollo 11 landed on the moon. The headquarters is under a film studio, and Commander Ed Straker (Ted Striker?) leads a double life as a studio chief. Straker, flintily played by Ed Bishop, is one of the earliest bona fide TV hardasses. George Sewell is lovely as Col. Alex Freeman, his cynical, womanizing right-hand man. When the producers began selling the show to America, George was cut because he wasn't handsome enough...you may now be ashamed of your species. Michael Billington (a contender for the role of James Bond) plays the suave Col. Foster, and he's as good as his material. There's a tendency to think of England as less cowboyishly moronic than the U.S., but the truth is not so simple. UFO is often flawed, with outdated morality and bad writing. Yet there's also an occasional burst of gratifying intelligence. The most egregious shortcoming is its treatment of women. They're glorified secretaries, mostly in the 18-23 range and wearing skin-tight costumes. There's more than one workplace scene of a woman walking away from a man whose eyes very obviously follow her ass, and he's in no way portrayed negatively (an attitude that comes from the top...the opening credits flash a walking woman's body twice, one posterior and one anterior, and in each flash, the head is out of shot). It's so noxious that this show should NOT be viewed by impressionable minds. Anderson may have received a studio memo about this, for three quarters of the way through the run Col. Virginia Lake becomes a regular. But the writers bungled her, having no idea how to write a strong female character. Scarier yet, Anderson considered the show progressively feminist. But even classic STAR TREK, with its embarrassing treatment of women, comes off as enlightened compared to UFO. And that said, i shamelessly aver that Lt. Ellis (Gabrielle Drake) is one of the most achingly beautiful sci fi characters ever. She moved on to other things midway through the run, and you never stop wishing she hadn't.
FOUR STAR EPISODES
-Survival
How many iterations of this episode exist in the sci fi universe? Foster and a lone alien are stranded in a life-threatening situation, and must work together to survive. This recycled idea always seems to yield a stellar product. And just so here, with a non-Hollywood ending wherein Foster is unable to keep his moonbase rescuers from killing the alien.
-Sub-Smash
All the best elements of the show, in one episode. A submerged UFO damages the sub Skydiver, stranding the crew on a ledge. Oxygen is running out, and they can only get out one at a time at ninety-minute intervals. It's finally down to Straker and Nina, facing death together. She starts to reveal her feelings for him. Later, in the hospital, she starts to apologize, and he responds with the greatest line of the series: "That's what life's all about, I guess...the things we never say."
-Mindbender
A surreal experience, as a UFO fragment induces paranoid hallucinations in all who come in contact with it. A moonbase lieutenant sees all his mates as menacing Mexican bandidos, and kills several. An earth captain thinks everyone around him is an alien. Straker imagines that his entire life is just a movie. The lush silliness of the bandidos plus the normally buttoned-down General (Grant Taylor) Henderson's sheep calls push this one over the top.
NOTEWORTHY
-A Question of Priorities **
Straker's son is injured in a car accident, and only experimental drugs from the U.S. can save him. He orders a S.H.A.D.O. jet to England with the drugs, but the jet must be diverted to combat an alien incursion. The son dies. What, no alternate U.S. happy ending?
-Ordeal **
It starts off with a bang, as Foster hits a wild earthside party. The images of futuristic ultra-hip 1980 are tooooo rich. And they got permission to play "Get Back" as the party music! How the heck? In 1970?? The episode spins into wretchedness.
-The Square Triangle ***
An adulterous couple kill an alien who falls into a murderous trap they'd set for the husband. S.H.A.D.O. wipes out twelve hours of their memory before uncovering their true intent, and must then address their moral obligation to the husband.
-Confetti Check A-OK ***
There's an unintentionally hysterical moment. A new father is passing out cigars. Three men gather around a woman, and light her cigar. She goes into a coughing fit, and they go into a laughing fit. You'd never see such a jovial attitude (or any attitude) about smoking on TV today, of course. But beyond that, it made me appreciate one facet of STAR TREK i'd never thought of before - the fact that no one smokes. Can you name another television product of the sixties that was smoke-free? In UFO, people smoke on virtually every episode. (they even designed wacky lighters that seem to double as TV remotes). Obviously, non-smoking was a conscious choice by Roddenberry. Mind you, i'm not one of those who approve of smoking being "edited out" of old shows. But imagine Kirk smoking. I suppose we'd still love TREK, but i'm eternally grateful we never had to find out.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

ex-officiant

The historical scholar who's traveled back in time to study me (for such i'm now convinced the cricket must be), has noticed that there is one less vocation in my profile.
Say hello to wrob, ex-wedding officiant.
I can no longer muster any kind of indulgence for the institution of marriage. I'll not participate in one ever again. Not even as guest.
Understand, my officiant career was a bit of a lark...including the "staged" wedding in which the congregation didn't know i wasn't legit, i've officiated exactly twice. In the past year or two, no prospective couple has been a match for my spirit. I've known most of my life that marriage was an outdated institution of barbaric origin, but i became an officiant in the spirit of fun, thinking that if people wanted to do it, nothing was going to stop them, so they might as well have my irreligious, irreverant energy. I also like embracing ludicrousness, and to tell someone that i was a wedding officiant, had a little touch of zaniness in it.
The change in my spirit comes from the realization that my sentiments against marriage, instead of being some idealistic fancy, are more likely a sensible attitude that science is finally catching up with. I don't believe in capitalism or slavery...and the roots of marriage are in the male ownership of women. I don't believe in monogamy...and what is marriage but the sanctioning of the most unrelenting, spirit-maiming monogamy conceiveable?
For a primer on the scientific basis for the unnaturalness of monogamy, look to this book:
http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2010/11/myth-of-monogamy.html
And this better book:
http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2012/02/sex-at-dawn.html
Okay, i suppose i might be convinced to come out of retirement for a couple embarking on an open marriage.
But only if the service is naked, and the reception downright orgiastic.
I love you all.