Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seaborn sightin'!

I saw Rob Lowe on the street today. Near Columbus Circle. I'm 90% sure, anyway. I didn't stare. He was with what appeared to be a family, sporting a salt n' pepper beard. I stepped into a pharmacy across the street to get some pads. Walking to the counter, my peripheral vision saw a magazine stand. I stopped, and scrunched my eyes. I took a step back, looked down, and started laughing at a shirtless Rob Lowe on the cover. If i were superstitious, i'd believe that i was meant to buy that magazine. As it is, i'll settle for...the WEST WING Seaborn-a-thon!
-pilot (season 1)
Smokin' up with your call girl (or not).
-Enemies (1)
A birthday message for the Assistant Transportation Secretary.
-100,000 Airplanes (3)
Lisa Sherbourn Seaborn.
-Night Five (3)
Hayes, you could make a good dog break his leash.
-Hartsfield's Landing (3)
You're going to run for President one day. Don't be scared.
-Dead Irish Writers (3)
A super-colliding super-conductor.
-Transition (7)
Our Sammy is back.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Twain's Gould

(Excerpted from 2010's "Autobiography of Mark Twain". Jay Gould, 1836-1892, was a railroad baron and speculator. He is credited with being the first American to manipulate the marketplace on a national level, for the sole purpose of profit. What would Twain think today about his "century to come" prophecy? Might he re-name this country the U.S.G, and emigrate as briskly as possible?)

Jay Gould had just then reversed the commercial morals of the United States. He had put a blight upon them from which they have never recovered, and from which they will not recover for as much as a century to come. Jay Gould was the mightiest disaster which has ever befallen this country. The people had desired money before his day, but he taught them to fall down and worship it. They had respected men of means before his day, but along with this respect was joined the respect due to the character and industry which had accumulated it. But Jay Gould taught the entire nation to make a god of the money and the man, no matter how the money might have been acquired. In my youth there was nothing resembling a worship of money or of its possessor, in our region. And in our region no well-to-do man was ever charged with having acquired his money by shady methods. The gospel left behind by Jay Gould is doing giant work in our days. Its message is "Get money. Get it quickly. Get it in abundance. Get it in prodigious abundance. Get it dishonestly if you can, honestly if you must."

wound 4

(a follow-up to http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2010/04/wound-3.html)

"Self-awareness is a paraplegic tackling a greased pig."
-dr. jane aloysius o'mccorkleschlatt

Another angle on my spirit-wound of the past few years lies in the confluence of two streams, my awareness and my ability to feel. Throughout my life i've chased two varieties of perspective: the differing one and the larger one. Inasmuch as i've been able to succeed, i've come to understand the isolation that underlies all present human activity on this planet. I see past the fear and possessiveness that define us, to the loneliness and pain underneath...a pain so profound that each of us must create monumental coping mechanisms, the foremost of which is denial. Layer upon layer of denial, obscuring our isolation.
The acquisition of perspectives has been an intellectual quest. Unfortunately, this state of awareness has coincided with a separate quest, that of awakening the feeling part of my my psyche. My youthful life of the mind prepared me for this in no way. Over the past few years, while my capacity to feel is at an unprecedented level, my sensitivity to the psycho-spiritual aggression that pervades our society has become so strong that anti-social tendencies have been the result. If i weren't so attuned to my desperate need to be held, i might have sought out a hermit's cave long since.
I've been trying to input the staggering levels of pain that are both within me and all around. Never mind the world, no one can fully integrate their own wounds, and remain quite sane.
Anyone have a suitable Mr. Rogers quote?
Choke it down, don't die.
Was that him?

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Biutiful"

2010, directed by Alejandro Inarritu

Possibly the most honest film you'll ever see. It's taken me almost a week to feel that i can begin to communicate anything about it in words. Several of my normal response parameters don't apply. You won't hear me mention a single actor by name, though they were perfect. You won't hear me compare it to anything else. I'm sorry that it got involved with the "movie awards" scene, it's undeserving of such trite nonsense. Inarritu also wrote the screenplay, along with Armando Bo and Nicolas Giacobone. There is a genre called theater of cruelty, in which the point is to try to make the audience feel uncomfortable or assaulted. This film is a thousand times crueler than any product of that genre, because it intends no cruelty at all. It is an unrelenting, stunningly painful portrayal of present-day human society on planet earth. Yet at the same time, it is profoundly gentle, almost muted. With almost none of the contrived drama of conventional cinema, it removes itself from the emotional manipulation inherent therein. There was only one scene that i saw coming (that's me...perhaps you'll see no scene coming, or seventeen). Although there is one "biutiful" actor in the cast, to remind us that such people exist, there is none of the artificial feel associated with watching actors who are more attractive than the real people they portray. That pretense is gone, leaving you with one less slice of bullshit in your psyche. Some of the film's uniqueness can be attributed to the fact that it's European...but only some. With conventional cinematic nonsense stripped away, you're left with people who are no more or less real than you and everyone you know. Watching the pain of their lives is chokingly, indelibly hard to endure. Welcome to your world.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

dear family

Dear family,
It's high time i stood up and acknowledged what has been deep in our hearts for many, many years.
I am the glue that holds together this family.
I'm normally self-effacing about this, but facts are indisputable. As just one piece of evidence, there is one person reading this whom i've not seen in over thirty years. If that ain't glue, i don't know what is.
Wait...for that to be true, i'd have to be at least three decades old. Someone double-check that, math isn't my strong suit.
Silliness aside, i'm not one of those "blood is thicker than water" folk. As far as i can tell, the human fascination with blood lineage only arose as a way for men to make sure that the property they'd hoarded went to their own sons when they died. I'm sure, though, that the human race will never heal until every child born is as dear to us as our own snot-nosed, poopie-bottomed progeny. I'm talking to you, aaron. Go wipe.
But you are all dear to me...a lifetime of shared memories is more precious than an inheritance, by far. And i want to thank you all, inasmuch as each of you is loveable. For you each are, in your own way. Being loveable is under-appreciated. There is not one among us who doesn't have to work at it. It struck me the other day that my own sister may be the greatest loveable success story i know. If you haven't spent time with her since she was the school bully, you're missing something.
Because of the different way boys and girls are raised, women acquire the loveable skill more readily. There are other family members i could single out, almost all women. Anyway, the loveability of each and every one of you is something that is not taken for granted on this day.
Also, in our family, you can't shake a stick without hitting a person of faith. I know, i've shaken a few sticks. If anyone can name the groucho marx line about family that i'm painfully restraining myself from quoting, our next fruity, frothy beverage is on me. Someone once said that the only wise person of faith is one who never, ever talks about it. Faith is far too personal to be translatable. And it occurs to me that there are such non-talkers in this family. It's hard to render appreciation to them in person, because doing so requires that we talk about it, which, well, defeats the point. But you know who you are, and i sprinkle love on your pointy heads.
This was fun. So much fun, that i think i'll do it again! At my current rate, you can look forward to the next installment in...2052 or so.
That may be off a bit, as i honestly can't recall what year this is.
I love you all very much.
your crazy glue,
wrobbie

Twain's myriad

(No small amount of anticipation accompanied the release this year of the "Autobiography of Mark Twain", in no small part because certain parts had never been published - a stipulation Clemens himself made before he died. How juicy! What could be so honest or scandalous that a century was required to make it "safe"? No small fan of Twain's, i was particularly excited. "War Prayer", one of his most powerful pieces, went similarly unpublished until Twain had died. The autobiography isn't as exciting as the buildup, much of it only of interest to Twain scholars...but there are gems. I offer one such.)

A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle for bread; they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; shames and humilations bring down their prides and their vanities; those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. The burden of pain, care, misery grows heavier year by year; at length ambition is dead; pride is dead; vanity is dead; longing for release is in their place. It comes at last - the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them - and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence; where they achieved nothing; where they were a mistake and a failure and a foolishness; where they have left no sign that they existed - a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever. Then another myriad takes their place, and copies all they did, and goes along the same profitless road, and vanishes as they vanished - to make room for another and another and a million other myriads to follow the same arid path through the same desert and accomplish what the first myriad, and all the myriads that came after it accomplished - nothing!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

dear Max 2

Dear Max,
Well, we're on the same wavelength at least. I've had those three words (defending the indefensible) in my mind ever since i sent them, wondering whether you'd be able to let them lie. (faint chuckle)
One interesting (and probably good) thing has come out of this exchange. At some point, i had a flash of a day in humanity's future when religious (imprecise word) musings would be a benign or positive thing. It was actually a sweet thought.
And i'm not saying that no religious impulse before now has ever been benign or positive.
I don't know whether this is a difference between you and i, but once upon a time i didn't really appreciate the profound state of barbarism that the human race is in. I mean, i understood it to a certain extent intellectually...certain numbers, like six million Jews, make an impression. But i couldn't really feel the scope of humanity's barbarism. Perhaps it was that i couldn't feel much at all. I was a thinker, not a feeler. These days, it sometimes feels like feelings are all i have (not true by a long shot, of course). But yes, that ash laughter i experienced was maybe 40% laughter at my own terribleness (and yes, even a sort of victory lap...fascinating that you understand that)...and 60% the road to insanity.
I don't think i'm missing the points you make about faith's benefits...though they certainly haven't had any place in my words, so your reminders may be a good thing.
It's just so hard for me to acknowledge these things you speak of...in this world, they seem so insignificant as to be almost non-existent. I too have cherished friends of profound faith, yet the good people we speak of are so easy to lose sight of, in the mass of those who attach to religion unthinkingly, or as a reaction to the most primal human fears - meaninglessness and death.
Meaninglessness and death. Not in that order.
Even for many thinking people of faith, those two fears drive them much more than they might ever admit (to the world or themselves).
And that's really the linchpin that drives my spiritual reaction to this world - fear. I will spend my life trying desperately to bang the fear out of myself and every other creeping banana slug in the world.
And there is no greater sanctuary for the fearful in this world than religion.
As for whether there exists even a minority of people whose feelings on faith came through freethinking...that sounds like a lovely fireside chat. Frankly, i'm not sure whether i'd try to convince you that those people exist and that i am one, or the opposite.
I find your own views on these topics enigmatic...well, not your views so much as feelings. My understanding of you in this regard is feeble.
We are in agreement on the matter of joy/sorrow. I try to discourage people who deny sorrow (as i actually did for much of my life). It just struck me now, that during my early adulthood i was a mirror image of the "happy young christian". That's just great, now i feel like Lady MacBeth.
Yes, i should have included in my schmutz post the sentiment, "Kids, do not try this at home". Perhaps i shall do just that. But there are times when my spirit just feels pain, and the pain obscures other considerations. At the same time, i don't feel bad for communicating to militant athiests that they're not crazy. In some ways, they're closer to sanity than most.
Finally, i tender my apologies to the banana slugs i just slurred.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Charlie's Angels, season 4

1) Love Boat Angels ****
It's possible that no series in TV history bounced back from the loss of beloved original characters as successfully as CHARLIE'S ANGELS...in the little picture, at least. Cheryl and Shelley Hack paled next to Farrah and Kate, but the premiere episodes of seasons 2 and 4 were barn-burners. In this case, that's admittedly with a stacked deck, with a two-parter on...the Love Boat! Plus Bert Convy as a Robin Hood bad guy, Dick Sargent as an antsy insurance investigator, and Judy Landers as a red herring replacement for Kate. Anyone care to guess how many LOVE BOAT appearances Bert and Judy had between them, not including this one? A candy cheroot to anyone who guessed FIFTEEN!! Yup (Mr. Sargent, lacking ambition, had only one). Anyway, Sabrina had a busy summer, marrying and getting pregnant (possibly with some guy named "Scarecrow"). Kate, we loved you. The LOVE BOAT crew is only around for the first fifteen minutes...but it's enough for howls aplenty. New Angel Tiffany Welles is kept in the background, but she's fine, particularly in an insecure scene with Bosley. Cheryl gets the lion's share, and responds with her fantasticalest performance ever. She becomes involved with Bert, who rises miles above game show host. He's a Vietnam vet who has taken to crime to finance the rescue of refugees. The mystery of chemistry can be easy or impossible to track, but Bert and Cheryl pop, with a huge "P". I don't know whether she was just at a lovely point in her life, or whether she and Bert were close, or perhaps the absence of Kate freed her energy...but she's simply luminous. This being the Love Boat, the feminine form is abundant, especially within Cheryl's white bikini. And three seasons after Farrah, nipples finally return, in an unforgettable underwater sequence.
2) Angels Go Truckin' ***
Kris and Tiffany go to trucking school, to go undercover in an all-female trucking company. Kris' twangy CB voice is too adorable. Shelley generally comes off as a icy fashion model, but she has an occasional smile that feels like a friendly child.
3) Avenging Angel ***
A heroin addict/dealer Kelly helped put away gets out of jail, determined to get revenge. He drugs her coffee at her favorite cafe, then follows her home and injects her with heroin. The dealer's source (Steve Kanaly, DALLAS) shadows him, determined to retrieve two missing kilos. The dealer and Kelly are abducted. This is as ugly as ANGELS gets, with Kelly strung out for much of the episode. But she doesn't fall apart, not our Kel.
4) Angels at the Altar ***
Deadly things have been happening to the fiance of an old high school friend of Kelly's (Kim Cattrall, STAR TREK 6, PORKY'S, SEX AND THE CITY). It's not often that a freelance TV writer's imprint outweighs the show and stars, but Larry Alexander's ham-handed, Cinderella fingerprints are everywhere. Will the Angels uncover the baddie before "I now pronounce you..."? Of course, but it's too much fun not to enjoy it.
5) Fallen Angel ****
Pinch me. Farrah's back, going toe to toe with James Bond. A howlingly rich time as the Angels take on Timothy Dalton (the most unappreciated 007), a jet-setting jewel thief described as "James Bondian", eight years before he played the part. Farrah is under cover so deep that the Angels don't know about it, and is forced to coldly denounce both Kris and Kelly. I was even fooled. Watch all three Angels try (and fail) to use their feminine allure on Dalton. The climactic rooftop fight between Farrah and Bond is too, too classic.
6) Caged Angel ***
A top-ten entry for the six remaining members of the ICLFC (International Cheryl Ladd Fan Club). Kris volunteers to go undercover in prison, to root out a crime ring. Sending the smallest Angel into the big house is a bizarre choice, but Cheryl is great. Tiffany volunteers first, but perhaps the writers were making fun of the fact that Shelley was firmly locked into supporting-character land. The local muscle, Big Aggie, wants to make Kris her "bitch". But Daddy, how could two women have sex?? Kris befriends another prison tough.
7) Angels on the Street ***
The shy music teacher daughter (who looks more like Naomi Watts than Naomi) of a man who runs a small conservatory is brutally and mysteriously assaulted. All the leads lead to local prostitutes, and one in particular who seems to hate the daughter, so Kelly and Tiffany "hit the streets". They only work together, for $1000 a pop...let your minds wander. Things get dicey, as the local pimp (uber-TV bad guy Richard Lynch, one of only two actors to ever pull off the TREK/GALACTICA/BUCK trifecta) sets them up to be killed.
8) The Prince and the Angel ***
Farrah returns for a perfectly sweet episode. She's just hanging out with Kelly shopping, which is nice. A dashing stranger picks her up (or confiscates her, as Kel says)...but the stranger is being stalked by an assassin, and we're off! Thankfully, it's the most inept assassin in telly history, as he tries to take the prince down (yes, he's a crown prince) from thirty feet away, then from ninety feet on a yacht, then from forty feet on a passing horse with...a handgun! Yes, campers, another mastermind who's not heard of a rifle. The interplay between Farrah and the prince is ultimately charming, and she finally looks as lovely as ever, no longer in guest star bad hair hell.
9) Angels on Skates ****
I tried to give this three stars, i really did. But my ceaseless chuckles after it was over wouldn't let me. The plot (Angels investigate kidnapping of a penniless Venice Beach skater who turns out to be an heiress) is one of their more painfully contrived offerings. At the end, after the girl has been freed, looking every bit as traumatized as she should after three days bound in a cellar with a violent goon, Kris tells her to go out and win that local championship she'd been preparing for...and if that's not enough, your partner (Ed Begley Jr.) was part of the kidnapping scheme! Go skate your ass off, honey! Ed, never mind those felony charges, you've got a contest to win! The hokeyness is unending, and with guest star richness, prepare yourself for howl after howl. Begley is honest-to-zeus friggin' fantastic on wheels! Joining him is bad guy Rene Auberjonois (M*A*S*H, BENSON, DEEP SPACE NINE) as sleazy promoter Freddie Fortune. If that's not enough, there's also a perspicacious plenitude of pulchritude, and over-the-top 70s roller skating.
10) Angels on Campus ***
So bad it's, well, good. Angels investigate kidnappings of college sorority girls. Shelley gets big screen time, as the ex-sorority president who returns as a "big sister" (sadly, she doesn't quite shine). Jo Ann Pflug (lt. Dish, M*A*S*H) doesn't shine either. Kris becomes a student, to lure lothario professor Gary Collins, who does shine. The plot meanders and lurches. YES, there's a sorority called the Pis (eat that, NERDS)...but despite the opportunities, nothing ever moves on the sexy-meter. The episode is redeemed only by its depiction of campus life a decade before "harrassment" became something we talked about.
11) Angel Hunt ***
For a while, this one is so good it feels like they gave it the time and money of a feature film. The Angels are lured to deserted Diablo Island, to be hunted by an old nemesis of Charlie's. The visuals are beautiful, the dialogue delightful, and the pulchritude eye-popping. We also see more of Charlie than ever, as an actor gives full body life to his voice (dorsal view, of course). Uber-"that guy" baddie Lloyd Bochner (DYNASTY, GALACTICA, NAKED GUN 2 1/2) plays his part with aplomb. It falls into hackneyed cheese at the end.
12) Cruising Angels ***
Charlie's new yacht is stolen, then returned. The Angels discover gold bullion onboard. Bosley romances the yacht's decorator, who's part of the smuggling ring. Nothing wrong with this'n, and nothing great.
13) Of Ghosts and Angels *
Look. Someone shit on the rug. Shelley gets her first (and last) crack at central character. She obviously didn't make any friends on the writing staff.
14) Angel's Child ***
Kelly intervenes when she discovers a cop's abused kid. An enormous issue they damn near did justice to. They should have ditched the action B plot.
15) One of Our Angels is Missing ***
Kris is sent to Arizona as the bait to lure a white-collar bail-jumper back to California. When the Angels realize he's also a rapist-murderer, Kris disobeys orders to abort. This edgy episode earns a spot on the "Cheryl's Greatest" list. Starring as a sleazy murder victim is Marc Alaimo (Gul Dukat, DS9).
16) Catch a Falling Angel ***
A sweet country girl, who can't read, moves to the big city to be a star. Her fiance shows up, and is bumped off by the girl's porn producer. A touching guest performance by Elissa Leeds. Plot holes and a dearth of sexiness keep it from greatness.
17) Home $weet Homes ***
Fun fun fun, including one scene they didn't try often enough...all the Angels (and Bosley) are under three different covers, simultaneously working the suspect from different angles, with bad accents to boot. Priceless. And another appearance by a large, curly black dog at Jaclyn's side...this time "Albert" even gets a credit. Classic "that guy" Dick Gautier plays a crooked real estate agent, setting up clients to be swindled.
18) Dancin' Angels *
The Angels investigate crimes and curiosities at a ballroom, where a retro dance marathon is in sway. There's much potential, but it feels like they could never find the "focus" button...or like they gave the writing and directing chores to strangers. Cesar Romero is wasted.
19) Harrigan's Angels ***
The Angels are forced to team up with an alcoholic, washed-up investigator named Harrigan. Kris keeps him out of everyone's hair and dries him out, because he reminds her of her father. She discovers he was a high-level operative during the war. Their scenes become very touching; another entry on the Top-10 Cheryl list. You'll be amused by a very obviously-placed billboard advertising a certain 1979 Steve Martin movie. Robert Englund (V, NIGHTMARISH ELMS) plays a baddie.
20) An Angel's Trail ****
Am i unjustly awarding a flawed product, bamboozled by sentimentality? Maybe, maybe not. But as the final scene came to a close, tears rolled. Farrah's final appearance is a tight, realistic ride. She gets kidnapped after witnessing a robbery/homicide. The fugitives are an escaped con father, and his two sons, one of them retarded. They confound the law by heading north for Canada, not south. For no credible reason, the other Angels go north. Lots of family drama comes up, as the father was in jail for killing Mom, and the retarded son becomes protective of Jill. There's a brilliant scene where she hangs over a rattler pit. The other son (Tracey Walter - BATMAN, CONAN THE DESTROYER) is suitably despicable and weak. John Dennis Johnston gives a great performance as the retarded son. Wrapped in huge shades of Lenny (George, not Squiggy), he's not flawless, but close enough. The final scene tears come as he tastes a cake baked by Jill, at his new caretaker's home. Bosley's there too, and no fan could ask for more...she's not on a pedestal, she just shines in a moment they all create.
21) Nips and Tucks ***
Angels go undercover at a plastic surgery spa. A complicated plot involves a doctor (Louis Jordan - GIGI, OCTOPUSSY, SWAMP THING) being manipulated by his evil ex-patient lover, for whom he has left his wife, maneuvering him to operate on a druglord (Tab Hunter) who wants to return to the country.
22) Three for the Money **
Not a particularly bad episode, and unique in ANGEL history for how many in-depth plotlines are juggled. It's almost exhausting to watch - midway through, you feel like you're in the middle of a feature film. Sadly, the overall effect never pops.
23) Toni's Boys *
Where do i start? This episode is the answer to an insidious trivia question - what was the only ANGELS episode designed to launch a spinoff? No, not the adventures of Bosley as a sex worker/standup comic in Hawaii. The spinoff was to feature exactly none of the show's established actors, and the network decided to not greenlight it (for once in your life, you'll praise a studio's good sense). Come watch a show that can't decide whether it's "so bad it's good", or just bad. An old friend of Charlie's (Barbara Stanwyck) starts an agency staffed by three comely male detectives. Yes, gay male community, you may weep at yet another landmark show the cruel fates denied you. One of the boys is an ex-Olympian who uses a fold-up, briefcase-sized pole to vault over fences (um, isn't that usually a bad idea when there's no LANDING CUSHION on the other side?). Another one is a cowboy who runs down a plane, and ropes it. Guest baddie Robert Loggia, normally a force of nature, is as listless and uninspired as the turd canoe he's paddling. In summation, i can only say...my idea for a Bosley spinoff is freakin' genius.
24&25) One Love...Two Angels ****
Are you ready to have your stables incinerated? The ANGEL episode you thought you'd never see, one that leaves Hollywood monogamy still standing, but with a distinct black eye. It percolates for a while at three stars, as Kelly heads off to San Diego with a lawyer (Patrick Duffy!) who believes she's a long-lost heiress. As they research together, they fall in love, tenderly and believeably. She's reunited with Daddy (the excellent Ray Milland), a hotel baron who shows Kel a picture of his familiar-looking dead wife. But! Ray has a scheming nephew played by...Robert Reed! (i think after BRADY, producers took perverse pleasure in casting him as a bad guy) Robert poisons Ray, and Kelly inherits all. Still suspicious, she sends Patrick to L.A. to re-check his findings, with Kris. They become close, then get caught in a rainstorm scene that will have you pinching yourself, as the sexual tension is palpable. Very soon, we have a love declaration between Kris and Patrick. Pardon my bluntness, but within the span of one week, his seed is in both of their vaginal canals, with mutual declarations of true love. Patrick Duffy, you are the ruler of the known universe. You are what Scott Baio wants to be when he grows up, Mr. Patrick Duffy. In the Kris consummation scene, he comes close several times to stopping it, which you're CERTAIN he will do - but he follows each pause with a further silent plunge. Some of the events afterward fall into rushed implausibility, but getting the network's greenlight for a three-parter was never gonna happen, so...they all go back to San Diego, and the proverbial hell breaks loose. As Patrick tries to explain to one, and then the other, you BELIEVE him...how he waited his whole life to feel something this strong for just one woman, and now he feels it for two. The girls quickly fall into "wounded betrayal" mode, and push him to make a choice. Sigh...you poor twentieth-century-bound idiots, can't you see the MUCH better solution staring you in the face?? You wanna talk about sweeps week? Anyway, part 2 chickens out, as one of the three dies (hm, i wonder which...). The stunner though, is not that they chicken out, it's that they keep it at bay for as long as they do. Scene after scene goes by where i was literally clapping and hooting at the audaciousness. Kris and Kel both give their resignations to Bosley, and in her final episode it's Tiffany who keeps digging and rallys the troops. She gets two pallets of cinder block dumped on her, and in retrospect, wouldn't it have been more powerful if she hadn't squeaked out in time? And made the Kellly/Kris reconciliation more poignant? But as with all previous ex-Angels, it's clear that no one heard the swan song playing.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

dear John

John,
I should be in advertising...i've envisioned a line of commercials starring a charismatic, well-sexed bonobo. The tag line would be...wait for it..."Bonobo Knows". We could get Sheen to play the bonobo (not Charlie, Martin). Or Rachel Weisz, someone like that.
I've heard that cold showers have the opposite effect. Doesn't sound right.
There is NO current interest in biblical de-bunking over here. If you were more obsessed with my writing (and for corn's sake, who wouldn't be?), you'd know that. The R.P.G.B entries are a book i wrote fifteen years ago. I'm editing and posting the good ones. The motivation is partly to have more stuff to post...feeding the cricket, as 'twere. Did you ask that question because something seemed "off" in them? Well-sniffed.
As for your NM friend, it reminds me of my perhaps more-desired blog title, which is probably too wordy - Irejectthepremise.com. That seems my response to an inordinate percentage of the things that pour out of people's mouths. Your rejected premise is the compulsion to "mate, pair off"...blah blah. Tyranny, sir!
But i find i can't entirely back that up...nor do i think your intention was anything so pedestrian as i just painted it. Bring hither fair maiden! She may sit on my lap whilst i plumb her spirit on matters of existential import! If that goes well, she can move on to string theory.
Joking aside, if you ever want to send some appropriate posts to a female within this particular context, try:
http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2008/02/whats-wildflower.html
http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2008/02/natural-woman.html
I'm free and footloose...i did go traipsing off to FL recently on less of a romantic pretext than the one you offer. Age difference...yes, i only date women who were born within five hours of 7:31AM, May 18 1968. Perhaps six hours, but only if she's an olympic athlete/comedian.
As for your romance self-calculus, i run similar numbers on myself...and even in a city of five million women, it still comes out pretty hellaciously grim. Perhaps you and i shall have adjoining huts on the Island of Misfit Toys. We'll grow plum tomatoes and play mancala.
I fasted once. Felt hungry.
It's tempting to leave it at that, for humor's sake, but...i'm very much a sensualist. Food is like sex to me. And since if you don't eat for eight days, you die, WHY would i offer up the first day free, to the Falwells and purple dinosaurs and unplanned 8.9 earthquakes that seek my demise???
In a less silly vein, i might give it a whirl again someday, if properly motivated.
Now sir, my Ladd sci fi is gathering dust here. Tut tut. What is this new work direction of yours (or is it more compelling in the abstract)?
-wrahb

Saturday, March 19, 2011

dear Max

(the following is a response to a comment on: http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2011/03/schmutz.html)

I've got nothing but love for what you say, max. Nothing but love. And don't think i'm belittling your indignation. But i've come to realize that there is a difference between writer wrob and wrob. Writer wrob says things that (maybe) need to be said. Writer wrob writes for the world, from a place that is sometimes centuries from here (in which direction, is subject for debate, if not laughter). Wrob is full of shit, so of course writer wrob is too...but we do what we can.
I hope you can you at least understand what drives sensitive, thinking people to a place of militant athiesm. Religion's sins are of course just a mirror of humanity...but in the face of our incomprehensible barbarism, the choking horror of which would literally drive one insane if you were able to take it all in...feeling the taste of such horror, one searches for something to blame. Religion is the most obvious target. Nothing else comes anywhere close.
Except that purple dinosaur. But i digress.
My sister has a similar reaction to things i say about religion...she has trouble not taking them personally. I've tried (and succeeded, at least in some degree, i hope) to de-personalize her response.
Writer wrob sits in his wrolling chair in the year 2391. Then he wakes up and he's just wrob, here again, and the pain drops him to his knees.
Try to remember the laughter that followed my (very possibly unheard) swipe. I was laughing at my own frail smallness. Sometimes, especially in these past few raw years, i feel things so deeply that i taste insanity. I love you, my silly, wonderful brother.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Next Generation, season 3

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 4
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.9
-Evolution **
Taking an eminent scientist to a stellar explosion on which he's been waiting his whole life to run an experiment, Enterprise encounters mysterious malfunctions, which are ultimately traceable to a school project in which nanites accidentally achieve sentience. Beverly returns after a year away, and wonders whether wesley still needs her. An embarrassingly cliched ending.
-The Ensigns of Command ***
Data is left alone on a settlement which must be relocated before being exterminated by a race which has treaty rights to their planet, and view humans as semi-intelligent vermin. Why, in seven seasons of DS9, do we never see o'brien playing a cello? The colonists refuse data's counsel, and he is befriended by only one person (eileen seeley - BATMAN FOREVER, JACK FROST 2). When they part, she asks whether he has feelings for her. A beautiful, landmark episode in the evolution of data's character.
-The Survivors **
Responding to a distress call, Enterprise finds a ravaged planet with one untouched house, and a couple (john anderson - PSYCHO, MACGYVER, and anne haney - THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, PSYCHO) who don't want them there. Troi is driven to the brink of insanity by music in her head. They finally discover a pacifist alien who refused to kill, lost those he loved, and eradicated an entire species in retribution. With an ending worthy of cheap film noir, profound potential is wasted on a mundane script.
-Who Watches the Watchers ***
A lethal disaster at an archaeological outpost observing a bronze age vulcan society creates a prime directive disaster in which the non-superstitious locals come to believe picard is a god. He brings their leader (kathryn leigh scott - DARK SHADOWS, THE GREAT GATSBY) aboard Enterprise, to convince her of his mortality. On the surface, a camouflaged troi faces sacrifice. Starring ray wise (ROBOCOP, TWIN PEAKS). Exquisite.
-The Bonding **
A crew member dies on an away mission. Her young son sees an alien-created apparition claiming to be his mother, who wants to take him away so he's unhappy nevermore. Wesley brings up the emotions he felt losing his father, and worf wants to make the child a part of his family. A well-meaning slice of flaccidity with faults on every level, to say nothing of an isolated nuclear-family focus which will be inappropriate to the 24th century.
-Booby Trap ***
A battle cruiser from an extinct race is found in an asteroid field, much to the excitement of history buff (and model enthusiast) picard. The Enterprise begins to lose power, falling prey to a thousand year-old trap. The first episode to feature geordi as the central character, as he tries to keep the ship alive. He interfaces with a holographic simulation of ship designer leah brahms (susan gibney - THE WATERDANCE, CROSSING JORDAN), has a lovely guinan scene, and a failed holodeck date (julie warner - DOC HOLLYWOOD, MR. SATURDAY NIGHT). Levar is lovely, and the episode a gem.
-The Enemy ***
In Federation space, geordi is stranded on an uninhabited, hostile planet with a lone romulan (john snyder - CROCODILE DUNDEE, SID AND NANCY). Radiation makes him lose his sight, the romulan cannot walk, and they must work together to survive. Enterprise faces off against an incoming warbird. The first of four impeccable appearances by andreas katsulas (BLAME IT ON THE BELLBOY, HOT SHOTS! PART DEUX) as commander tomalak.
-The Price ***
A surprisingly sexual treatment of a relationship between troi and a negotiator (matt mccoy - L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, POLICE ACADEMY 5-6) who reveals betazoid lineage which he surreptitiously uses to his clients' advantage. When she questions his ethics, he says that his empathy never results in death, whereas her skills are often employed in military situations. It's a fair point, up to a point. When ral tries to use troi to get under riker's skin, will isn't rattled and shows that he cares about her in an evolved, non-possessive way. A nice VOYAGER episode is set up, as the negotiations are over an apparently stable wormhole, and a ferengi shuttle gets trapped in the delta quadrant.
-The Vengeance Factor **
Enterprise tries to mediate between a friendly race and an offshoot group of raiding wanderers. Riker romances the wrong woman, as ancient blood feuds refuse to die...
-The Defector ***
A romulan defector (james sloyan - THE STING, XANADU) warns of a coming invasion, and picard must gauge his credibility. After deceptions are revealed, another neutral zone standoff with tomalak ensues. Some friendly klingons save the day. Many nice touches, but it never quite pops. A lovely teaser in which data practices shakespearean acting (with a holo-character who rather resembles a former member of the RSC).
-The Hunted ***
Visiting a seemingly ideal Federation applicant, Enterprise cannot corral one of their escaped prisoners, a former super-soldier (jeff mccarthy - ROBOCOP 2, CLIFFHANGER) whose brainwashing and genetic manipulation has made him (and others like him) "unfit" for society. He's caught, then breaks out of ship's detention. James cromwell (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, FIRST CONTACT) is a prime minister trying to sweep his troubles under the table.
-The High Ground ***
Crusher is taken hostage by freedom fighters on a planet embroiled in civil war. Her captor (richard cox - CRUISING, A DOONESBURY SPECIAL), whose people are dying because of the unstable technology they use to gain military advantage, falls in love with her. A teeny bit overwrought, but the ethical dilemmas resonate. Gates mcfadden's finest episode.
-Deja Q ****
-written by richard danus
-directed by les landau
Q's powers are stripped by the continuum. He appears as a naked human on the Enterprise, seeking asylum from a vengeance-seeking species. Amid the crusty contentiousness caused by trying to convince everyone he's sincere, there's a touching subplot as he and data compare notes on humanity (with a biting zing on nudity taboos). Guinan stabs him with a fork. In a signature TREK cameo, corbin bernsen (MAJOR LEAGUE, L.A. LAW) plays another q! At the end, a restored q gives data the momentary ability to laugh.
-A Matter of Perspective **
A widow accuses riker of trying to seduce her, and killing her scientist husband (mark margolis - REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE), who was working aboard a space station which mysteriously exploded. Their planet has a guilty-until-proven-innocent policy, and holodeck hearings reconstruct the events that will determine will's freedom. The idea that a holo-simulation would reproduce ridiculously rare radioactive rays is a whopper of wondrous width...but the teaser in which data critiques picard's nude painting is hysterical.
-Yesterday's Enterprise ****
-written by ira steven behr, richard manning, hans beimler, ronald d. moore
-directed by david carson
The Enterprise C falls through a time rift from twenty-two years in the past, leaving a battle that might have prevented a war with the klingons. The D suddenly exists in a timeline where tasha never died, but forty billion casualties have. Guinan is the only one who perceives that something is wrong, and tries to convince picard he must send the C back. Tasha and lt. castillo (christopher mcdonald - REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, QUIZ SHOW) of the C fall in love, and when captain garrett (tricia o'neill - THE LEGEND OF NIGGER CHARLEY, PIRANHA PART TWO: THE SPAWNING) accidentally dies, tasha takes her place, as the C returns to certain death. The chemistry of any collective artistic endeavor is a fragile thing - it's easy to imagine this being a brilliant episode without guinan, or the return of denise crosby...but those two threads take a great premise and lift it to another orbit entirely. Whoopi and denise's finest TREKs - the guinan/picard and yar/castillo scenes are searing. I have no interest in debating which is the greatest STAR TREK episode ever...but if you think this one isn't top ten (and probably top five), we might need to step outside. No other episode of all five series screams to be included in so a wide variety of cross-TREK marathons.
-The Offspring ***
Returning from a cybernetics conference, data secretly creates a positronic child (notice how i didn't put child in quotes?). Picard is consternated. Lal (hallie todd - BROTHERS, LIZZIE MCGUIRE) chooses a feminine identity, and while struggling to integrate into her life, develops emotional awareness. An admiral arrives, to take her to be raised at a research facility. In a profoundly moving scene, picard is ready to sacrifice his career to prevent the separation. The standoff is interrupted by the news that lal's adaptive brain is breaking down, irreparably.
-Sins of the Father ****
-written by ronald d. moore, w. reed moran
-directed by les landau
Klingon commander kurn (tony todd - CANDYMAN, BEASTMASTER: THE EYE OF BRAXUS) takes over the first officer position, as part of the officer exchange program. He rides the crew and baits worf before revealing that they are brothers, and that their dead father stands accused of treason. They go to Kronos to challenge the ruling. Kurn is wounded, and picard replaces him at worf's side. A plot is uncovered to hide the real traitor. To keep the Empire from fracturing, worf accepts discommendation. In the first of two appearances, chancellor k'mpec (charles cooper - THE PRACTICE, STAR TREK V) is delightful.
-Allegiance ***
Picard is kidnapped and imprisoned with mistrustful inmates (one violent nihilist, one collaborating pacifist, and one loyal cadet), while an impostor runs Enterprise. He sings songs in ten forward, romances beverly...the real jean-luc eventually realizes that they're being studied, and that an impostor is among them.
-Captain's Holiday ***
Taking a forced vacation on the pleasure planet Risa, picard becomes embroiled in an archaeological caper with a flim flam woman named vash (jennifer hetrick - L.A. LAW, UNSUB). As an angry ferengi (DS9's max grodenchik - THE ROCKETEER, APOLLO 13) and two alleged security agents from the future lurk, a surprisingly unbuttoned romance blooms. About as sexy and playfully delightful as TREK gets.
-Tin Man ***
With the aid of a paranoid betazoid (harry groener - DEAR JOHN, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER), Enterprise tries to communicate with an immensely powerful and intelligent spacefaring being, before the romulans can exploit it.
-Hollow Pursuits ***
The debut of reg barclay (dwight schulz - THE A-TEAM, HART TO HART: TILL DEATH DO US HART, who turns a one-shot gig into eleven episodes in two series, plus a feature film). Reg is a shy, stuttering misfit who drives geordi and riker to distraction. They overplay will's macho insensitivity to make a point, but it's a good point - there is something perhaps unrealistically feel-good about the Enterprise, and it's admirable that the producers are willing to show some of the stars in a less-flattering light. Another fine moment for whoopi, as the one person who stands up for reg. Thoughtful and funny...plus a fine guest turn by charley lang (THE WEST WING, DARK SKIES).
-The Most Toys ***
Data is kidnapped by a murderous collector of intergalactic rarities. With no way out except homicide, can data circumvent his programming? Saul rubinek (UNFORGIVEN, FRASIER) gives one of the most delightful TREK guest turns ever.
-Sarek ***
A touching appearance by mark lenard, reprising his role as spock's father. Sarek is being escorted to a delicate negotiation, but a hidden disease is robbing him of self-control, and adversely affecting the emotions of others. Sarek mindmelds with picard (even though there's a far better candidate at hand), and one wonders whether seeing the mental images would have been a richer choice...but it's a lovely trip down memory lane.
-Menage a Troi **
Oh come on now...you're pullin' my leg! Lordisa help us, they did it, they actually did it. They pulled off the perfect storm...an episode that could only have been conceived in an evil laboratory of jaw-dropping perversity, combining the three most flaccid elements in TREK history: Lwaxana, the ferengi, and neelix. Breaking the laws of both time and decency, they got pre-neelix ethan philips (BENSON, THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE) to play a ferengi doctor torturing lwaxana. What, you think i could make this up?? In the midst of this shatnerean tragedy, there's a thread of beauty...wesley gives up his spot at the Academy to save the day. Required to stay aboard one more year, he's field-promoted to full ensign. I raised my hand in solidarity for a whole minute - you've come a long way from the rainbow suit, wes. And to be fair, the rest of the episode isn't entirely without charm, including a picnic on Betazed and a passionate kiss between riker and deanna before they're kidnapped. But this episode also elicits a bout of bad acting from...patrick stewart. Could i make that up?
-Transfigurations ***
Rescued from a shipwreck, a lone survivor with no memory (mark la mura - THE RUSSIA HOUSE, MATTIE FRESNO AND THE HOLOFLUX UNIVERSE) exhibits miraculous healing powers. Eventually, his people come looking for him, to kill him because he represents a fearful evolutionary leap. The second episode for julie warner (DOC HOLLYWOOD, THE DICEMAN COMETH) as kristy, the object of geordi's hapless desire...but this time, thanks to an alien infusion, it ends in a laforge liplock. La mura and gates shine.
-The Best of Both Worlds, part 1 ****
-written by michael piller
-directed by cliff bole
Tight. Scathing. A borg cube enters Federation space. The Enterprise plays mouse and cat, while a fleet assembles. An admiral (george murdock - THE FINAL FRONTIER, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) brings a borg expert aboard, and lt. cmdr. shelby (elizabeth dennehy - GATTACA, CHARMED) butts heads with riker, who has been offered another command. Picard is captured and assimilated, becoming the borg "voice" in this sector. Riker orders the cube fired upon...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Isaiah & Jeremiah

Isaiah 19:16
This verse's message is that it is woman's nature to be fearful and meek. Listen Isaiah, you twit of a scribe, put any human subgroup through eight millennia of profound subjugation, and of course you're going to observe "fearful and meek" behavior! Let's bludgeon, rape, and dehumanize you for the next decade, and see how your prancing and pontificating fares.
Isaiah 25
Throughout Isaiah, the Lord speaks of the coming "day of the Lord" as an occurrance that will, that inevitably must, happen. Many things will happen on that day: death, sadness, and the end of human free will. It seems very strange, just remarkably peculiar, that the Lord would create humankind, giving us laws to follow and spiritual goals to strive for, if It knew that inevitably we had no option but to fail. The Lord, knowing all, would see at the very moment of creation that It was creating failure, and that the end of humanity would be a godly "wiping clean" of the slate. It's just hard to conceive of God creating failure...but humanity, as understood in these verses, seems entirely pointless.
Jeremiah 30:17
It violates a reasonable standard of justness for the Lord to restore Israel merely because of the taunts of other nations. God is not susceptible to "nyaah naah na nyaaaah nah".
Jeremiah 36:3
An all-knowing being must necessarily have knowledge of past, present, and future. Indeed, the divine prophecies of Isaiah 25 and Jeremiah 25 require that the Lord of the Bible does indeed "know" the future. In this verse, the Lord claims ignorance of the future. There are at least three possible consequences of this claim: either the Lord is telling the truth (and therefore is not omniscient), or the Lord does know all, but is lying (and if this be true, then put your Bibles down and walk hurriedly away), or thirdly, that the Lord is insane. This last possibility, though the subject of much speculation, is something that this author ain't even a little bit interested in exploring.
Jeremiah 44:24
"All the people and all the women"? If women aren't people, what are they?? Some insidious creature which has wormed its way into mankind's confidence, with dark plans for a future day of conquest? If they're not people, then perhaps their millenia of subjugation have been justified. Perhaps, in supporting attempts to "liberate" them, foolish men are unknowingly bringing about their own doom. Once liberated, they'll destroy us all! And get the good parking spots! Perhaps we should be paying homage to those brave men who, at great risk to themselves, first subdued these vile creatures! I beg the reader's pardon for that possibly excessive use of sarcasm, but, and this is the sad part, compared to a religious text in which menstruation is offensive to God, my little fairy tale seems, well, comparably sane. And that's, well, nuts.
Jeremiah 51:48
Verse 35:17 refers to divine retribution as the bringing of evil. According to this verse, the heavens are joyful at the slaying of Babylon. Does that not imply, then, that the heavens are finding joy in evil? And doesn't that seem a bit, um, oisfjfsoeiufficientous? (pardon, a demon took my tongue)

Eccentricities of a Nightingale


THEATER 47
-spring 1999
Bob asked me back for a third show that Pirate Playhouse season, a Tennessee Williams piece he'd directed many times before, in Russia among other places. He wanted me to play the traveling salesman who is seduced by the title character. It was a small but sweet part, and i was having such a wonderful time there that i had to say yes. It almost became a no when they told Jason and i that they needed to lower our pay to $150 a week. He was to play one of the literary club eccentrics. We had been companions for two shows, and were doing other projects too (he got us a gig playing Keystone Cops in front of a new housing development, and a gig for Dunkin Donuts as a farmer and Egg Man...i spent two days in an eight-foot inflatable egg). We agreed that we would get $200, or walk. We got our money. Leanne Braman from ANDROCLES was back, playing one of the eccentrics. Billy Green returned to play the doctor. I had been unsure of Billy during ANDROCLES, in part because i'd wondered whether i might have been able to bring more to his part. But his sweetness won me over during this show when he opened up to Jason and i, revealing that he wore a hairpiece at the age of thirty. The other returning player was Robert Schelhammer, also playing an eccentric. He turned in another fun performance, and his oft-caustic companionship was a delight. In the lead role was the wonderfully-talented Trish Matthews. My Youth Club buddy Jim Prosser had worked with her at the Florida Studio Theater in Sarasota. Classy and talented New Yorker Larry Swansen played the father, and he and i hit it off very well. Newcomer Joan played the brittle, neurotic mother delightfully. Bob's passion for the piece was evident from the start, and he was able to devote more attention to me than in ANDROCLES. My character was lonely and virginal. The play is about unfulfilled dreams and desires, and we put together a good production. It was actually fun playing a character who only appears in the final scene. I could socialize more. Leanne had taken care of me when i'd turned my ankle in TREASURE ISLAND, taking me to her home and making poultices. Now, we sat in the audience during rehearsals, swapping neck rubs. I had a fling with Christina, a visiting light tech from Miami. Around the end of the run, i lost the friendship of lighting tech Todd, a really nice guy, because i'd been able to chat up a woman he was too nervous to approach. The best moment of the run was when Jim came. I had told him of Trish's involvement, concealing the fact that i was in the show, too. I made up a false program, deleting my name. We sat together for Act 1. At intermission, i told him that some emergency required my help backstage. His surprise was total when i walked onstage. One night, we learned that the board had ousted Bob as artistic director. We were flabbergasted. They had panicked because he had used most of the year's budget already, but that had been his plan, to start with two big shows to get the community's attention. My devotion to Bob was so great that when the incoming artistic director asked for my headshot, i didn't get around to it for a long time. Bob had set very high production standards, and also created the feeling of family, which is the longing of myself and so many artists.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Muppet Show, season 2

DON KNOTTS ***
The Gingerbread number is almost disturbingly un-Muppety. One of the most heart-stoppingly adorable numbers in Muppet history, as Rowlf sings "What a Wonderful World" to a real puppy. Don is Don...and that's a good thing.
ZERO MOSTEL ***
Zero is enchanting, particularly in a chilling, hypnotic recital of the poem "Fears of Zero". He stands as the only Muppet guest who died before his episode aired. And...Beaker!!! The debut of the world's bestest-ever lab assistant (oh nerts, what about Marty...).
MILTON BERLE ****
Uncle Miltie shows how it's done. Touching your heart as much as your funny bone, he can do no wrong, with an amazing rendition of "The Entertainer". Statler and Waldorf's heckles of his standup is burst-out-loud funny. Plus, the debut of "Pigs in Space"! Finally, Fozzie and Miltie leave 'em laughing with "Top Banana".
RICH LITTLE ***
Rich is a charm, a treasure, especially performing "I Remember It Well", with Miss Piggy.
JUDI COLLINS **
Judi centers a middling episode, notable only for Kermit's interview of a morphing Koozbanian.
NANCY WALKER ***
Kermit gets sick and leaves Fozzie in charge (a plot necessitated by Jim's temporary absence). "Veterinarian's Hospital" and "At the Dance" get jumbled together. Nancy is solid.
EDGAR BERGEN ***
Charming. Amusingly, the most celebrated ventriloquist of all time is, um, not a very good ventriloquist. Did people know this when he was famous, and just not care? Fozzie hysterically tries his own ventriloquist act, not realizing that the dummy doesn't actually talk. A Muppet scientist performs Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle".
STEVE MARTIN ***
A loosey goosey trip. Due to a scheduling error, Kermit cancels the show to audition new acts. Steve is miffed, then entertains the cast. Statler and Waldorf perform "The Varsity Drag", with heckles by Fozzie. Steve and the Jugband play "Dueling Banjos"...sublime.
MADELINE KAHN ***
Gonzo falls in love with Madeline, with a beautiful performance of "Wishing Song". Kermit taps "Happy Feet". Floyd sings "New York State of Mind".
GEORGE BURNS ***
Tabloid reporter Fleet Scribbler hassles everyone backstage (he even knows how to speak swedishchefese). George is simply charming. A treasure.
DOM DELUISE ***
A middling episode is lifted by the comic gifts of Dom, particularly in his turn as caretaker for an institute of Muppet monsters.
BERNADETTE PETERS ***
An episode made middling by uninspired use of the brilliant Bernadette, is lifted by a whooshingly wonderful run of Veterinarian's Hospital, The Swedish Chef, and Dr. Honeydew. And the Sheikh's wife is almost disturbing in her moneymaker-shaking. Robin feels underappreciated, and almost runs away.
RUDOLF NUREYEV ****
A bizarre, ill-advised gamble. No, not booking Rudolf - fashioning him as a song and dance man. Despite his heavy accent, he has decent comic timing, but the singing should never have worked. Yet it does...it's somehow so silly that it's wonderful. He dances with a balletic pig in "Swine Lake", and shows more skin than any guest to date (including Rita Moreno) in his reverse-gender Miss Piggy duet "Baby, It's Cold Outside".
ELTON JOHN ***
Commoner Elton rolls out a hits-you-love episode, none more weird and wonderful than one in which he gets eaten by crocs.
LOU RAWLS ***
Lou is a towering talent, and he absolutely owns the place in a scat version of "Bye Bye Blackbird" with the Electric Mayhem. Link Hogthrob sings to a real piglet.
CLEO LAINE ***
Who? You'll be glad you asked. Cleo, a stunningly wonderful jazz/scat singer, scorches in "It Don't Mean a Thing", and nails the melancholy "If". Plus a sweet duet with The Swedish Chef.
JULIE ANDREWS ***
A solid, all-around effort.
JAYE P. MORGAN **
Inoffensive.
PETER SELLERS ****
Peter centers an effort that strolls along in three-star land, until the last two numbers fly through the roof. In the midst of a show that's falling apart more than usual, Kermit suddenly sings "Bein' Green"...an encore of the season 1 performance that is in all ways unexpected. The vocals match the more well-known version, and the forest flats that descend around him are a lovely touch. Meanwhile, Dr. Honeydew's teleportation device keeps making people disappear. Peter tops off the show with an uproarious performance of "Cigareets and Whiskey".
PETULA CLARK **
Petula sings well, in an episode constantly interrupted by a John Wayne-talking moose.
BOB HOPE ***
Animal tries some hobbies to calm him down...overhand bowling, alligator wrestling, and hunting. Bob is lovely. The woodland creatures performance of "For What It's Worth", with idiot gun-toting humans running around and two verses re-written into an anti-hunting anthem, is captivating. Unraveling a part of one's life, in my case the fact that i forever rejected hunting as a teen despite coming from a hunting family...it can be fascinating to think that this number touched me as a child. Of course, i have no memory of even seeing it back then, so who knows?
TERESA BREWER ***
Who-er? Teresa centers an episode that has no right being as good as it is...there's nothing on paper to merit it. But all these should-be middling numbers roll out so tightly, it's just a lovely ride (particularly Animal's "Wild Thing", and Sweetums pushing Teresa on a swing as she tries to sing "Spinning Wheel"). Fat jokes abound, as Piggy goes on a diet. The PC sensitivity of coming decades renders this one fascinating, as Kermit's anti-fat zings would never go over today.
JOHN CLEESE ***
How hard is it for me to not give a Cleese episode four stars? Very. But it's still a delightful, wacky time. The highlight is Robin and Sweetums doing "Two Lost Souls".
CLORIS LEACHMAN ****
An episode that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, goes all the way in the other direction. The pigs take over the show, kidnapping all the other stars and replacing them with piggy imitations. Sound flaccid? It's non-stop wonderful. Cloris is a delight, and i'd be her castaway companion any day.
VALENTINE SHOW WITH MIA FARROW ***
One of two Muppet pilots, it's actually quite charming despite the lamest-of-all-holidays subject matter. Wally the Hollywood agent is the host, and a preggers Mia the guest. Her scenes with Thog ("A Real Live Girl") and Rufus are touching. Kermit's "Froggy Went a-Courtin'" is pretty classic, too.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"Quark"

-created by buck henry
1977
What a bizarre little slice of TV history. QUARK lasted only eight episodes, and understandably so. It wasn't great, particularly the first four episodes. Much of the humor was flat and groan-inducing. Yet there was lovely potential. With winks to STAR WARS and STAR TREK (they used the same audio library), it was obviously a labor of love. The hero is quark (a well-cast richard benjamin - WESTWORLD, CATCH-22), the long-suffering commander of an interstellar garbage ship. His first mates are betty and her clone betty (cyb and patricia barnstable, the Doublemint twins), both in love with him. He's in love with her too, but can never consummate because he can't figure out which one is the original (another beautiful moment lost to monogamy's insidious grasp, or just the ugly face of anti-clone prejudice?). Crewmember gene/jean (tim thomerson - TRANCERS 1-5, CAR WASH) is a transmute, whose personality shifts unpredictably between macho male and fey female. The snarky HQ supervisor palindrome is well-played by conrad janis (MORK & MINDY, FRASIER). There's a homemade robot who is (gee, surprise) annoying. The greatest character is vegeton crewmember ficus (richard kelton - THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR, LOGAN'S RUN), a plant-creature who looks human. His dry debates with quark (no slouch at dry himself) are beautiful, and he takes his place admirably in the emotionless humanoid continuum. Guest stars include henry silva in "May the Source be with You", and joan van ark in "All the Emperor's Quasi-Norms", the high point of a too-brief run.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

farewell, goofy prince 2 1/2

I haven't seen the Oscars since 1980, so i'll just assume that they butchered this year's tribute to Leslie Nielsen as badly as they bungled Farrah. Here then, the lyrics to the best Star-Spangled Banner ever, by Enrico Pallazzo:

Oh say can you see
By the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hail
In the twilight's last gleaming

Whose bright stripes and broad stars
In the perilous night
O'er the ramparts we watched
Huh da da daa da da da da

And the rockets red glare
Lots of bombs in the air
Gave proof through the night
That we still had our flag

Oh say does that flag banner wave
Over all that is free
Where the home of the land
And the land of the
Freeeeeeee

schmutz

As i was walking the dog today, i passed a man in a business suit. I noticed he had a big, dirty mark on his forehead. After three split seconds of processing and realizing it was religious ash (by which time he was seven or eight steps behind me going in the other direction), i said "Hey! Ya got some schmutz on yer' head there!" I hadn't broken stride, and my voice was raised, but not so loud that he definitely knew i was talking to him, or even definitely heard what i said. I walked on chuckling, enormously amused at myself. In the midst of my cackles, i said to myself "Yes, you are a bad person...a very bad person". Mocking a poor soul of simple faith. And i do mean poor, and i do mean simple. I know, i know, i said to myself, i should have just smiled beatifically instead, and manifested the right thought and right action. Infinite patience and indulgence, and all that. But my tolerance for intolerance suddenly smacked into a horrible wall. Maybe my brain is just three steps closer to insanity than in years past.
I don't believe in evil, but i do believe in barbaric ignorance. And that man was the walking poster child for barbaric ignorance. It's not innocent. Religion is not benign. You're telling me, sir with the schmutz, just so i have your story straight, that GOD humped a 12 year-old who then gave birth to a grrrreat wizard who makes you IMMORTAL if you're "good"? That's your story? Really? The list of religion's victims is incomprehensibly horrific and bloody, from the dead to the tortured to the raped, and if you manage to avoid all that, none escape spiritual maiming. The soul of the human race is at stake. So yes, i reacted like a knight errant, swiping at a horrid dragon.
And proceeded to laugh, as the madcap laughs.
What's the statute of limitations on prosecuting god for statutory rape?
I love you all.
P.S. I should add that my laughter was literally a step on the road to insanity. I'm in no way advocating the belittlement or baiting of another human being.
P.P.S. Unless they can handle it.
P.P.P.S. As for losing one's sanity, i'm not prepared to recommend it at this time.

"THE LOSING HAND"

2012
-by Greg Smith & The Broken English
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter/neurohormone. The release of dopamine in our brains feels great...just a rush of happy, warm feeling. Dopamine rushes can be triggered by food, sex, and drugs. You knew that, you say? Okay smartypants, science has also just established that music can trigger the same dopaminic reaction as the aforementioned experiences. Hm. Sex, drugs, rock n' roll. It's all dopamine to me, ma! The mildly disturbing thing in this revelation is that people who have a deep passion for music may only be compensating for a lack of dopaminic activity in other parts of their life. Hm. Well, i don't do drugs, and the less said about my sex life, the better. Christ, i've been outed. Can't i just enjoy my music in peace??
What does any of this have to do with the EP this article purports to be reviewing? Just this. If you sit down with THE LOSING HAND, prepare yourself for one lovely dopamine bath. The EP belies the notion that music needs a chamber orchestra and seven synthesizers to be lush and layered. It's at times sparsh and lush simultaneously, which makes no sense at all, but there it is. Greg's voice is rough and warm, and the instrumentation is superb...finding this kind of balance eludes so many artists. This NY band is a current IMA award nominee, in the story song category. I haven't heard them live, something i plan to rectify.
"Spare Me Eliza"
A tale of growth and loss. Eliza (vocals by Dayna Gross) answers Greg's Johnny, from the ruins of love gone dry. But the music is too powerful to be reduced to sadness. It transports you to a place where your eyes close and you can feel it resonate, long after the song is done.
"Losing Hand"
A strolling, boozy lament. I have trouble keeping my percussive hands still when i'm enjoying a song (which is fine at home, but borders on being distracting at a live venue). If you have that problem too, stay away from this one. The hooks are irresistable.
"Hey What's the Use" - A track that's almost too real to be enjoyable, a poetic conversation between a lonely singer in a big city and his mom back on the farm. If you like a little starkness and desperation, this one's for you. The music appropriately takes a back seat to the lyric for a while, but in the final section of the song you can feel the musician's passion go from words to the music that sustains his soul - and it's beautiful, with powerful mother harmonies from Dayna.
"Livin' Like a Joker"
Layered, marching, hypnotic, a perfect song to go mindless to. A much-extended version at a bonfire drum circle would be so nice.
"Ain't That Bad, Just Bein' Sad"
A wistful song with a strange message.
"Wanderin' Soul"
An existentially nihilistic song that even makes ME want to drink. I think Greg wrote this so that the bar owners he plays for would be happy, as patrons call for another round to dull the pain. Very sneaky.
http://www.thebrokenenglish.com/

Monday, March 7, 2011

city bike moves

GLOSSARY OF CITY BIKING MANEUVERS
The first three terms are self-contained, and style points are lost for any application of brakes. The last three terms are used in conjunction with either pedestrians or cars.
Duck - The lowering of one's head to get under the rear-view mirror of a commercial vehicle.
Suck - Pulling your shoulders toward the center of your chest, to get through a handlebar-sized passage.
Gluck - Leaning your body and possibly bike to the right or left, to avoid an obstacle (most often a rear-view mirror).
Scissors - Passing through a space that is closing, at the intersection of a cross street. Either two cars or two groups of people are coming at each other from your right and left, as you squirt through a gap that is disappearing. Timing is critical. Example: "I hope i didn't alarm those muggles i scissored through."
Norelco - Passing through a gap between two obstacles moving in the same direction across your path. Example: "Jesus holy mother of shit, did you see me norelco those black cargo vans...why the hell didn't they slow down at the intersection??"
Reverse scissors - To pass through a gap made by two or more obstacles moving across your path in opposite directions, after they pass each other. The scissors pertains to a disappearing gap, the reverse scissors pertains to a potential gap. The most flashy, risky, and rare city biking maneuver, entirely reliant on drivers or pedestrians maintaining speed and direction.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Deep Space Nine, season 5

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 5
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.6
-Apocalypse Rising ****

-written by ira steven behr, robert hewitt wolfe
-directed by james l. conway
Sisko, worf, o'brien, and odo pose as klingons, to infiltrate the Empire and expose gowron as a changeling. They are transported aboard dukat's bird of prey. There ain't much funnier than colm as a klingon; avery was born to be one. A gripper.
-The Ship ***
An away team takes refuge in a crashed jem'hadar ship, as their runabout is destroyed in orbit. They fend off attacks as they attempt to discover why their Dominion foes don't simply destroy them. Great character work as worf and o'brien come to blows over a dying comrade. Trying to make an upside-down ship fly again is a visual feast - has no show thought of this before? A ripper.
-Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places **
Worf helps quark pursue his klingon former wife, until jadzia attacks him for lusting after another woman. (um, attacks worf, that is). O'brien and kira become uncomfortably comfortable. Rough klingon sex is rampant! Um, for everyone except kira and o'brien, sadly.
-...Nor the Battle to the Strong ***
Bashir and jake respond to a distress call from a besieged outpost. At a front line hospital, they come under fire. Jake abandons the people he's trying to help, and tries to come to grips with his fear. The writers seem to be selling the notion of the "nobility" of sacrifice under fire, but then a funny thing happens - just when you think he'll redeem himself, he saves the day through...another act of cowardice! Story-wise, this is one of the franchise's most ambitious moments. TREK is occasionally guilty of ennobling war and heroic sacrifice, but this one goes to a darker, more conflicted (and realistic) place.
-The Assignment **
A malevolent alien entity possesses keiko! Hmm...motherhood allegory department, cleanup in aisle 3!
-Trials and Tribble-ations ****
-written by ronald d. moore, rene echevarria
-directed by jonathan west
The crew follow a history saboteur (classic klingon charlie brill - ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN, SILK STALKINGS) back in time. Classic footage from "The Trouble with Tribbles" is spliced into a new story. What puts this one over the top are, as in the original, the deft touches of humor.
-Let He Who is Without Sin **
A vacation on Risa, as fundamentalist protesters blah blah blah...some sharp character work for worf, as he opens up to jadzia about a life-changing trauma in his youth. But the villains are too one-dimensional. Bajoran romantic breakups are shown as being non-possessive, mutually-supportive, even joyous transitions - the most spiritually-retarded Federation planet's one saving grace. And oh yes, leeta gets a massage. My mouth gets dry just thinking about it.
-Things Past **
Sisko, garak, odo, and dax find themselves mysteriously transported to the station's cardassian past, where everyone treats them as though they're bajoran inmates. A fascinating odo-heavy opportunity is bogged down by less-than-deft story choices and a script that needed one more pass. Where is the scene where sisko tells odo to stop crucifying himself...that no one is born fully realized, and growth usually only comes through mistakes?
-The Ascent ***
Odo and quark crash land, and must work together to survive. Their relationship's greatest moment. Jake and nog find out they make terrible roommates.
-Rapture *
Nooooooooo! Sorry, dipsy wipsy spirituality brings out the shatner in me. Plus, the return of...kasidy!!! With episodes like this, one feels that sometimes TREK intentionally tossed all their rotten apples in one perverse basket. Lwaxana & ferengi...ferengi neelix...beverly and ghosts...alexander & lwaxana...perhaps berman had a streak of "damn the torpedoes" gallows humor? Sisko has visions that may save Bajor, but at the cost of his life. This one would go well with seasons 3-4 of GALACTICA. That's not a compliment.
-The Darkness and the Light **
An assassin targets members of the Shakaar resistance cell. It's interesting to ponder the difference between gates mcfadden's season 2 TNG maternity absence, and the decision to write nana's pregnancy into kira's storyline. Imagine those decisions being uniform, or even reversed...i'm not taking the cheap shot, just pondering.
-The Begotten ***
The discovery of an infant changeling gives odo a chance to avoid the cruelties of his own infancy...but he gets in over his head, necessitating help from the bajoran scientist (james sloyan - OH MADELINE, DR. QUINN MEDICINE WOMAN) who discovered him. This episode shines a light on what was perhaps the missing element in odo's development. He had the potential to be DS9's spock or data...yet unlike them, he almost never burst free of his starched demeanor. A shame, for his moments of bliss here are priceless. Thank you, rene.
-For the Uniform *
Traitorous maquis eddington returns, and sisko becomes obsessed. Brisk, sharp, and dangerous, with plenty of Defiant dandiness, and a fine guest captain turn by eric pierpoint (ALIEN NATION, ENTERPRISE). But giving more than one star here would be like dating someone just for their looks. The idea of any 24th-century human consumed by vengeance is just wrong. The last time we saw a Starfleet officer this disturbed, was in the classic "Doomsday Machine". Commodore decker had shell shock - what's your excuse, ben?
-In Purgatory's Shadow ****
(see following)
-By Inferno's Light ****
-written by robert hewitt wolfe, ira steven behr
-directed by gabrielle beaumont, les landau
It's rare that such flawed products get highest ratings, but this two-parter is an adrenal burst across the bow. A message from tain sends garak into the gamma quadrant. Sisko orders worf along. An uncloaked scout ship effecting a rescue from the Dominion is ridiculously implausible (at least they get captured promptly, showing that the writers have more military sense than ben). Ziyal promises to wait for garak, which infuriates dukat. Worf and garak are thrown into gladiator prison, where bashir has been for a month, and martok for two years. A changeling has replaced julian, and sabotages an attempt to close the wormhole. A jem'hadar fleet comes through and heads to Cardassia, where dukat heads a new puppet government. At the station, a Federation task force joins the klingons...and romulans!. An incoming fleet turns out to be a sensor phantom, as the saboteur changeling nearly explodes the system's sun. As tain dies, we learn he is garak's father. Gladiator worf bests seven jem'hadar, despite broken ribs. Garak overcomes claustrophobia to facilitate a mass prison break. It's rushed, but too rich to be denied.
-Dr. Bashir, I Presume? ***
A thoughtful episode...starring VOYAGER's robert picardo as dr. lewis zimmerman! Starfleet has chosen julian as the template for a long-term medical hologram, and lewis arrives to upload julian's specs. His estranged parents arrive, and a dark secret comes to light - julian was a dumb child made brilliant by genetic engineering. He accepts that his Starfleet career is over, until his father (brian george - SEINFELD, THE BIG BANG THEORY) makes a sacrifice. Dr. z falls for leeta, who is falling out of her towel. He wants to set her up at his own station, prompting rom to finally declare his love. This one flirts with greatness...but beyond minor faults in the writing, the big revelation scene with julian and miles doesn't quite nail the pathos.
-A Simple Investigation **
Odo becomes romantically involved with a woman working for the Orion Syndicate. Plot holes and writing lapses mar an episode bursting with potential.
-Business as Usual **
Quark deals with arms merchants, and his conscience.
-Ties of Blood and Water **
When a dying cardassian legate who thinks of kira as his daughter offers to reveal vital intelligence, ugly memories are dredged up. The whipping-post treatment nana generally earns from me notwithstanding, she absolutely nails it in the post-mortem scene.
-Ferengi Love Songs **
Quark doesn't know whether to be aghast or overjoyed upon learning that his mother is the grand nagus' new love. You've gotta admire the producers' willingness to keep playing a losing hand. The failed villains of NEXT GEN keep getting DS9 love. This one is a suspicious cornucopia of damn near every ferengi character ever. Maybe ferengi tales are so far ahead of the curve, that centuries from now they'll be hailed as TREK's greatest moment. Or not.
-Soldiers of the Empire ***
Dax and worf accompany martok on his first command since escaping Dominion prison, but morale is mutinously low. Great character work, including a fine turn from rick worthy (ENTERPRISE, GALACTICA). Set on a bird of prey, there's scant little to not love...
-Children of Time ****
-written by rene echevarria
-directed by allan kroeker
A compelling, impressively dark moral meditation. In a time accident, the Defiant crew discover a thriving culture who are descendants of their own crashed ship. They can now avoid the accident, but doing so will eliminate thousands of people from history. In the end, the castaway odo (a better shifter, and 200 years wiser) sabotages their attempt to re-create the accident, because it will kill kira. The deftest touch of greatness in the writing, is how worf gently redirects those of his descendants who took his klingon teachings too literally...perhaps he's finally willing to admit that the central ethos of klingon society is flawed. Rene auberjonois' greatest episode.
-Blaze of Glory **
Have desperate maquis launched a bio-weapon assault on Cardassia? Sisko must trust eddington, whose character arc is almost redeemed, but for the clumsy writing.
-Empok Nor ***
While salvaging components from DS9's abandoned sister station, the crew unwittingly release demented cardassian soldiers from stasis. Garak is exposed to the virus infecting them. Nasty.
-In the Cards **
To cheer up sisko, jake and nog go to unexpectedly fraught lengths to get a baseball relic. A harmless soporific.
-Call to Arms ***
Sweepingly adrenalized, but (like the franchise re-boot movie) all visual and no story. The war is on! A jem'hadar/cardassian fleet attacks, while the Defiant mines the wormhole. Starfleet abandons the station, leaving kira, odo, and quark to welcome the Dominion and dukat. Garak joins the retreat, while jake stays behind to cover the occupation as a reporter. Sisko gives a stirring goodbye speech...um, while the station is being assaulted by an armada? What, he couldn't pre-record it? The final image, of martok's bird of prey and the Defiant joining a task force, is stunning.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

hotels

I set foot inside most of Manhattan's fanciest hotels this past week, for the first time ever. I was distributing flyers for an art event sponsored by the PB company i mascot for. If you're in NY this weekend, it's the first time i can recall that you can see me as the monkey at a free-admission event:
http://ilovepeanutbutter.com/nutropolitan
I did about one hundred hotels, from the Comfort Inn to the Plaza. The experience was alternately fun and frightening. I had some sweet, genuine interactions with desk clerks and concierges. There was one girl who was almost inexplicably excited by my visit, and it gave us both much pleasure when i gave her some gifts...coupons, a pin, a plastic monkey.
I set foot inside a Trump building for the first (and Persephone willing, last) time. You know how your imagination can create an idea of an environment, but you know that the real thing would never be that good (or awful)? I had imagined Trump's buildings to be as soulless as the man. I walked up to the desk with a happy smile though, laughing at my own prejudice.
The clerk i interacted with overshot ANY voyage-of-the-damned cliche you might care to conjure.
I was almost relieved that he wanted no part of my flyers. I can't recall a single human i've ever met who seemed so profoundly constipated. His smile was so artificial, i thought his face might shatter if tapped.
Another ultra-swank hotel had a candlelit lobby with lounge chairs five feet wide and six feet high. I looked at the fifteen patrons therein. The air of satisfaction was unmistakeable. There was one non-white person. She was cleaning up.
I wanted to walk to her, open my wallet, and say in a clear voice, "Ma'am, i'm going to give you all the money i have. I'm not rich, it won't be much. I strongly recommend that every other human in this room do the same, and then please sit back down and think about your lives, because somewhere, something went horribly wrong."
I thought about saying it.
I didn't.
That woman i gave the monkey to was a pip, though.