Thursday, June 30, 2011

Star Trek, season 2

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 6
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 3.0
-Amok Time ****
-written by theodore sturgeon
-directed by joseph pevney
A violently irrational spock is in the grip of pon farr - he must mate or die. Celia lovsky (SOYLENT GREEN, AIRPORT) and arlene martel (HOGAN'S HEROES, OF GODS AND MEN) as high priestess t'pau and spock's betrothed, are unforgettable. On the blistering sands of Vulcan, kirk is forced to fight spock to the death, when t'pring chooses the captain as her champion. Absolutely compelling. Iconic.
-Who Mourns for Adonais? **
A nuanced performance by michael forest (KING KONG LIVES, CAST AWAY) as apollo, a powerful being who demands adulation. In a tense moment, kirk refers "the one God" (my one pointed ear nearly fell off). And no, that's not the sole reason for this sub-good rating - there's also a regressive line about women inevitably not advancing in the service.
-The Changeling **
A lost deep space probe is heading back to Earth, with enhanced powers and a murderously twisted imperative. Another unfortunate moment for womankind, as a misogynist writer snarks them for being a "conflicting jumble of emotions". Why, it's so obvious a computer would be dismayed. Funny!
-Mirror, Mirror ****
-written by jerome bixby
-directed by marc daniels
The greatest TREK of all? Some four-star episodes write their own rules, achieving greatness in spite of flaws, but this one is a relentlessly perfect gem. Kirk, mccoy, scotty, and uhura are accidentally switched with their doubles in an alternate universe where the Federation is an empire of conquest. What affect will they have before escaping? BarBara luna (ZORRO, WINCHESTER 73) is hypnotizing as marlena, the captain's woman. Was there ever another TREK in which every regular was given such a chance to shine? I applauded when the credits rolled.
-The Apple ***
Enterprise disrupts the idyllic, immortal, asexual, stagnant life of a people who worship an all-providing god (which is actually a computer). A great prime directive debate. Celeste yarnall (BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE, BORN YESTERDAY) plays the first female TREK character who whups ass on some men. And that baby-faced, hunky alien? Why, bless my david soul (STARSKY & HUTCH, MAGNUM FORCE). Also, take special note of "formation alpha", a protocol no doubt created by the greatest team of security experts in all the Federation. Marvel at its magnificent efficiency! I've done my best to deconstruct its intricacies - the essence seems to be "run in a line that way!" Winner of TREKdom's coveted RDF (Redshirts Dropping like Flies) award.
-The Doomsday Machine ****
-written by norman spinrad
-directed by marc daniels
Enterprise finds the crippled U.S.S. Constellation, with lone survivor commodore matt decker (william windom - TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, UNCLE BUCK), the victim of a planet-killing machine. A shell-shocked decker takes command of Enterprise and orders a suicide mission. Watch this as a child, and the visuals will stay in your psyche forever.
-Catspaw ***
Black cats, dungeons, witches...plus the debut of ensign pavel chekov and his sentient hair! A generation later, the Berlin Wall came down. Raise your hand if you think that's a coincidence.
-I, Mudd ***
Harry mudd is back! And better! He's conned a race of androids into serving him, and has them kidnap Enterprise. Flawed, but the funniest TREK ever.
-Metamorphosis ***
Kirk, spock, mccoy, and a critically-ill ambassador (elinor donahue - FATHER KNOWS BEST, THE ODD COUPLE) are kidnapped by a sentient energy cloud, to provide companionship for the marooned...zefram cochrane (glenn corbett - SHENANDOAH, DALLAS), the inventor of warp drive! He was rescued alone in space, and restored to youth by a sentient energy cloud with which he has formed an intimate, non-verbal friendship. The cloud takes over the body of the dying ambassador, sacrificing its (and cochrane's) immortality. The ending is sentimentally contrived, but overall it's quite satisfyingly thoughtful.
-Journey to Babel ***
Spock's parents, sarek (mark lenard - PLANET OF THE APES, HANG 'EM HIGH) and amanda (jane wyatt - FATHER KNOWS BEST, STAR TREK IV), are part of a multi-species diplomatic mission being transported by Enterprise. An ambassador is killed, kirk is knifed, and sarek needs emergency surgery. Only a transfusion from spock can save him, but he cannot relinquish command. It's vulcantastic.
-Friday's Child ***
Mccoy, kirk, and spock are on the run with a pregnant woman, on a pre-gunpowder planet. A klingon, a baby for bones, and...julie newmar (BATMAN, THE MALTESE BIPPY)!
-The Deadly Years **
A landing party is exposed to radiation which rapidly ages them. One star lost for reducing 23rd-century women to looks-obsessed narcissists.
-Obsession ***
Kirk stalks a mysterious, lethal cloud he encountered as a young officer. A fine turn by stephen brooks (THE F.B.I., THE INTERNS) as an ensign who freezes when faced with death.
-Wolf in the Fold **
Kirk and company take on...jack the ripper!!! Yup - saucy jack's an alien. Some prime scotty, as he's put on trial for a murder he can't remember. A righteous refutation of monogamy, on an alien world where jealousy is the greatest social evil. Starring john fiedler (TWELVE ANGRY MEN, THE ODD COUPLE).
-The Trouble With Tribbles ****
-written by david gerrold
-directed by joseph pevney
Cuddly furry balls breed out of control on a space station. Flawed, and absolutely irresistible. The klingons (led by william campbell - BLACK GUNN, THE NAKED AND THE DEAD) are more foppish than ferocious - doesn't matter. The dialogue strays into cheese - doesn't matter. The acting and directing are a bit obvious - doesn't matter. William schallert (IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, TRUE BLOOD) is a delight as the over-officious nilz baris. Stanley adams (BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, LILIES OF THE FIELD) is smarmy goodness as trader cyrano jones. A silly, pure delight.
-The Gamesters of Triskellion ****
-written by margaret armen
-directed by gene nelson
Kirk, chekov, and uhura are kidnapped onto a gladiatorial slave planet run by disembodied brains. Joseph ruskin (INSURRECTION, INDECENT PROPOSAL) is creepy perfection as glass-eyed thrall master galt. A scene between uhura and, um, elvis, is the closest TREK ever came to showing rape. Fantastic cinematography. The greatest kirk fight ever, taking on three paint-hopping thralls. And the greatest single j. tiberius romancing, too. His passions overwhelm his training thrall, the stunning angelique pettyjohn (REPO MAN, TELL ME THAT YOU LOVE ME JUNIE MOON). Her confusion and awakening are understated perfection.
-A Piece of the Action ***
Enterprise visits a planet which has based its entire culture on 1920's gangster life. Spock tries to fit in, with predictably comic results. With vic tayback (ALICE, THE GAMBLER), plus a treat for MADTV fans.
-The Immunity Syndrome ***
Enterprise encounters an immense energy-draining organism (insert quip here). An otherwise fine episode...bookended by kirk's leers at a female subordinate. Is it possible that this episode is so far behind the curve, it's ahead of it? That by the 23rd century, the thought of any bona fide sexual harassment is so inconceivable, that any playfully sexual social behavior will be acceptable? Is it possible that i'm reaching?
-A Private Little War ***
A peaceful, pre-warp civilization becomes a pawn between galactic superpowers. Kirk is injured, then bewitched by a devious medicine woman (nancy kovack - BEWITCHED, MAROONED). A cynical parable about the Vietnam War, with one of the most memorable TREK creatures - the ape-like, horned mugato.
-Return to Tomorrow ***
Survivors of an ancient race who exist as pure energy "borrow" the bodies of kirk, spock, and lt. ann mulhall (diana muldaur - THE NEXT GENERATION, THE TONY RANDALL SHOW).
-Patterns of Force ***
A planet has been corrupted by a Federation envoy who has molded their culture after nazi Germany. Enterprise must avert an unfolding holocaust. A rousing adventure, with SS costumes!
-By Any Other Name ****
-written by d.c. fontana, jerome bixby
-directed by marc daniels
Enterprise is commandeered by kelvans, immense octopods from the Andromeda galaxy, who can take human form. They turn most of the crew into salt blocks, and plan an invasion. Robert fortier (POPEYE, INCUBUS) is charming as an alien scotty drinks under the table. Warren stevens (FORBIDDEN PLANET, STROKER ACE) is seamless as the alien commander. And barbara bouchet (GANGS OF NEW YORK, AGENT FOR H.A.R.M.) is touching and delightful as kelinda, whom kirk consternates with sex. Plus a bonus in-joke for LARRY SANDERS fans.
-The Omega Glory **
Enterprise finds a Starfleet captain murderously flouting the prime directive, in the hopes of uncovering a fountain of youth. A quease-inducing slice of nationalism in which another raging performance by morgan woodward (DALLAS, GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN) shines.
-The Ultimate Computer ***
In a wargame exercise, Enterprise is run by an experimental super-computer (stop me if you know where this is going). Nice dialogue, particularly between kirk and mccoy as they ponder obsolescence. Starring william marshall (THE BOSTON STRANGLER, PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE). Kirk vs. blacula!!
-Bread and Circuses *
Kirk, spock, and mccoy are trapped on a planet with a 20th-century roman civilization. Actually kind of delightful, with great gladiator action and kirk finding comfort in the arms of a slave, plus winning performances by logan ramsey (SCROOGED, HEAD), ian wolfe (THX 1138, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE), and rhodes reason (KING KONG ESCAPES, WHITE HUNTER). What sinks this one is a method of honoring the prime directive that would be nonsensical to a kindergartener, and a bizarre nod to christianity...perhaps gene was trying to honor the sermon on the mount, but it just feels bizarre and wrong in this universe.
-Assignment: Earth ***
A tight, fun delight. Enterprise is sent through time to observe 1968. They intercept a long-distance transporter beam containing agent gary seven (the excellent robert lansing - KUNG FU: THE LEGEND CONTINUES, BIONIC SHOWDOWN), who claims to be from 1000 years in the future and has come to prevent a nuclear holocaust by causing a near-accident. How can you not trust a man whose secretary is teri garr (YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, TOOTSIE)?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

to touch...2

I arrived early for the moving job in Jackson Heights, and read a Shere Hite book under a tree as i waited. My partner was coming with the client, driving the U-Haul for her.
They arrived, and my partner and i waited while the client (a man, not the woman...i surmised that she was the wife, and probably upstairs) drove off to find a parking spot. I walked up to scout the job. There was indeed a wifely woman, plus a young daughter and some grandparents. When she came into the room, i was already headed out the door with a load, so i didn't give as much of a greeting as i normally do. There was a businesslike energy in the air. Fifteen minutes later, the four of us gathered to wrap their mattress and box spring.
That's when it happened.
I hadn't spoken any but the bare minimum of business dialogue with her, if that. She was Asian, a heart-stopping passion of mine, but i genuinely hadn't taken much notice.
We were in a long hallway. My partner and the husband were at the other end of the mattress. There was a lull in activity while they fixed something. My hands were steadying the mattress. Suddenly, her hand was on mine. Not merely touching, but resting directly on me. At first i thought she didn't realize it, as her visual focus was on the other end of the mattress. I didn't say anything. I thought it might take her a few extra seconds for her to notice, as i was wearing a glove.
But no moment of notice came.
Our hands were out of the line of sight of the workers on the other end. We stayed like that at least sixty seconds...an enormously long time under the circumstances. It wasn't all cloth either, her skin was resting on a section of my bare thumb, for i had torn away that part of the glove to wear a splint.
Her focus never strayed from the other end.
A few hours later, we all parted ways without even the slightest hint of acknowledgment from her.
I tried to chalk it up to a cultural difference, that she had perhaps grown up in a society which was more relaxed about touch than my own? But my experience of Asian cultures told me they were as aware of such things, if not moreso, than my own. I couldn't come up with a single equation that equaled her not knowing exactly what she was doing.
The clients' energy was lovely. Happy. Some comments by the husband told us that he and his wife had a comfortable, loving relationship.
Her hand on mine.
A moment that i might dream of tonight. Or someday years from now...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

M*A*S*H, season 2

FOUR STAR
-Five O'clock Charlie
An enemy prop plane hand-drops one small bomb each day, trying to hit the new ammo dump. The camp has a running pool on how wide the miss will be. Frank lobbies to get an anti-aircraft gun. The exchange between Hawk and Radar, as they count off for Trapper's MacArthur, features perhaps the funniest M*A*S*H exchange ever - "Are you 1?" "Yes, are you?" Madcap mayhem, with a dash of anarchy.
-The Trial of Henry Blake
A rollicking good time. Henry is court-martialed for aiding and abetting the enemy (giving supplies to a hill clinic that helps South and North Korean women). Gen. Mitchell (Robert Simon) is crustily perfect. McLean's sportscasting of the gurney race is one of the show's seminal moments.
-Dear Dad...Three
Hawk and Trap play a prank on a soldier (Mills Watson, LOBO) worried about getting the "wrong color" blood. Henry shows home movies.
-The Incubator
Hawk and Trap go on a quest to get an incubator. The meeting with Captain Sloan (Eldon Quick), that paragon of military gobbledygook, produces one of the series' most classic lines -
SLOAN: Inhalator, indicator, innoculator, infusilator...here it is, 437 stroke R2, incubator.
HENRY: Thar' she blows!!
-Deal Me Out
Frank antagonizes a shell-shocked soldier (John Ritter), Hawk and Trap defy regulations to save a CID man's life, and "Whiplash" Hwang blackmails Radar, all while the weekly poker game goes on. Pat Morita is puckishly acerbic wonderfulness, Sidney Freedman has found his first name, and Col. Flagg (Edward Winter) makes his debut...or his proto-character Halloran does, only one layer of paranoia off the mark. The poker dialogue would make Neil Simon proud. This cup runneth over.
-Hot Lips and Empty Arms
A letter from a happily-married friend causes Margaret to lament her life, and request a transfer. She gets rip-roaring drunk. A coming-out episode for Loretta; she gets to try a different style of comedy, and nails it. Also take note of the scene where Henry orders the boys to sober her up. The actors start laughing, and it's them, not the characters. Heart-warming.
-Officers Only
In gratitude for saving his son, a general (the lovely Robert Simon) builds an officer's club for the unit. Hawk and Trap plot to allow enlisted men. The bartender Kwang (Clyde Kusatsu) is every bit as dry as his martinis.
-Henry in Love
Henry falls for a perky ex-cheerleader (the winning Katherine Baumann) who is half his age. He ponders what to do about his marriage, until she makes a pass at Hawkeye. The mawkish attitude toward monogamy makes you wince, but otherwise... Look for the under-the-radar unerring performance of Wayne Rogers.
-As You Were
Iconic moments in gorilla suits, plus Trap and a nurse realizing that two ten-minute breaks equal twenty.
NOTEWORTHY
-Radar's Report ***
The darling, droll debut of Alan Arbus as Sidney (er, Milton) Freedman, a psychiatrist sent to classify Klinger. Hawkeye's romance of a willing nurse (Joan Van Ark) who wants nothing to do with his dreams of marriage, is also adorable.
-L.I.P. (Local Indigenous Personnel) ***
Burt Young (ROCKY) is a truculent lieutenant the Swamp rats bribe into okaying a marriage between an enlisted man and a local.
-The Sniper ***
The camp is pinned down. Hawk romances a silly nurse (the silly Terri Garr). The first male nudity in television history, compliments of Gary Burghoff's ass.
-Operation Noselift **
This must have been resonant for Alan, whose parents both came home with new noses when he was a child. Let's not talk about Loretta.
-George ***
A nuanced, unaffected performance by Richard Ely as a homosexual soldier beaten by his own comrades.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Voyager, season 5

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 3
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 3.0
-Night ***
Crossing a starless expanse, morale plunges, especially for a guilt-ridden janeway. Fortunately, exploited aliens show up! This morality tale about pollution and the evils of capitalism is a sweet, swirled mix of almost all the tastes that made for good VOYAGER...plus the debut of chaotica, paris's holodeck homage to '50s sci fi (in small doses, a delight).
-Drone ***
The doctor's mobile emitter is infected with nanoprobes. They assimilate a lab, and gestate a 29th-century drone. Janeway allows the fetus to mature, and gives seven the task of instructing it in humanity. A borg sphere is soon in pursuit. The drone ultimately destroys itself, when it realizes the threat its existence poses to Voyager...and seven feels searing emotional loss for the first time. A lovely turn by TREK's favorite nazi, j. paul boehmer (THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, THE GOOD GERMAN).
-Extreme Risk ***
As the crew create a new shuttle, the Delta Flyer, b'elanna runs brutal holoprograms with the safeties off, treating her own unreported injuries...psychological fallout from the news of the slaughter of the maquis back home. A hard-hitting look at depression and self-annihilation, made more effective by diminishing tom's presence. The ending is too easy and feel-good, but if more of her episodes had delved in these waters, she could have been a four-star character.
-In the Flesh ****
-written by nick sagan
-directed by david livingston
Voyager discovers a species 8472 training ground - a replica of Starfleet HQ authentic right down to groundskeeper boothby (the inestimable ray walston - THE STING, PICKET FENCES). They're preparing for a preemptive attack on the Federation. Chakotay is captured while shmoozing one of them (kate vernon - GALACTICA, MALCOLM X). Janeway takes her finger off the trigger first, drops shields, and tentative peace talks ensue. Also among the aliens are the ever-enjoyable tucker smallwood (CONTACT, ENTERPRISE), and zach galligan (GREMLINS 1-2, PRINCE VALIANT). A captivating concoction of fear, menace, and curiosity.
-Once Upon a Time **
Scarlett pomers (ERIN BROCKOVICH, REBA) steps into the role of naomi wildman, in the first of seventeen episodes. With her mother part of a missing away mission, she wants to live inside a holoprogram. Godfather neelix hides the truth.Wallace langham (THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE) stars as flotter. Conceived and executed well, but oh that neelix factor...
-Timeless ***
Kim and chakotay make it back to the alpha quadrant in the Delta Flyer, survivors of a slipstream disaster that destroys Voyager. Fifteen years later, they return to find the wreck of Voyager on an ice planet, and use a stolen borg temporal nodule to try to erase the disaster from time. Assisted by the reactivated doctor and chakotay's lover (christine harnos - DAZED AND CONFUSED, ER), they spend half the episode holding part of seven's skull. One star lost for harry acting like a simpering pissninny at the moment of truth, requiring the doc to step in like a stalwart sam hauling frodo to the abyss. Director levar burton makes a delightful cameo as captain laforge, of the galaxy-class starship Challenger.
-Infinite Regress ***
Exposure to virally-infected borg technology causes seven to manifest the personalities of those she'd helped assimilate, including a playful child and a klingon warrior who initiates a mating ritual with b'elanna. An acting tour de force...which jeri ryan was very nearly ready for.
-Nothing Human ***
When a wounded bug-like alien inextricably attaches to b'elanna and merges their life signs, a holographic exobiologist is created to help save her life. The hologram's knowledge is based on a cardassian (david clennon - BEING THERE, MISSING), whose research was based on torture. Ethical dilemmas abound...and don't blink, there goes Halley's Comet - a very good paris scene.
-Thirty Days ***
Paris is demoted and sentenced to solitary confinement, for disobeying orders in a prime directive-breaking attempt to help an alien (willie garson - GROUNDHOG DAY, SEX AND THE CITY) save his species' water world. It would have been a better choice to have the role of insubordination-instigator switched, but if you can get past the unlikelihood of 24th-century humans employing prisons, the story is tight and the visuals beautiful. And at long last, we thought we'd never see it, but your optical circuits are not malfunctioning...it's the delaney twins! Yup. Actual, for-real delaney twins. Captain proton, we have liftoff.
-Counterpoint ***
Passing through a sector intolerant of telepaths, Voyager smuggles its vulcans and some friendly refugees (including randy oglesby - ENTERPRISE, PALE RIDER). Janeway and the sector inspector (mark harelik - JURASSIC PARK III, THE BIG BANG THEORY) have a touching connection amid mutual mistrust. The "boy back home" is no longer waiting - can janeway finally get her kirk on? Well...no. A double standard monkey we still can't fling from our back? Kate mulgrew's favorite episode.
-Latent Image ***
The doctor discovers that a section of his memory has been erased, to save him from a feedback loop that arose when he was forced to choose one crew member's life over another. Seven argues against wiping his memory again, and janeway decides to let him try to work through the loop. My throat got lumped. Robert picardo's favorite episode.
-Bride of Chaotica! ***
While running the captain proton holoprogram, the ship comes into contact with photonic aliens, who think they're under attack by real beings. Too much chaotica (the second of three episodes for martin rayner - VICTOR VICTORIA, TALK RADIO)? Perhaps...but if you give in, it's a fun ride.
-Gravity ***
Tuvok, paris, and the doctor are stranded on a barren planet inside a gravity well, where time passes much more swiftly than on the outside. Survivors of other crashes are hostile, except for a lone woman (a masterful, poignant turn by lori petty - POINT BREAK, A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN) who falls for tuvok. Flashbacks take you into his turbulent youth, before he embraced logic with the aide of a vulcan master played by joe ruskin (PRIZZI'S HONOR, ALIAS), whose TREK career began in the classic. One feels such a powerful combination of admiration and remorse for tuvok...and indeed all vulcans. Exquisite, almost stunningly so.
-Bliss ***
The discovery of a wormhole to the alpha quadrant causes excitement and hope. Seven is skeptical, and discovers that the "wormhole" is a creature that uses telepathy to lure starships to their gastronomic doom. Naomi wildman is the only other one seemingly immune to the dreams of home now running rampant. The creature manipulates the crew into shutting down the doctor and detaining seven. Once swallowed, everyone is rendered unconscious except the child and the ex-drone (plot hole?), who join forces with a lone alien (a mesmerizing turn by william morgan sheppard - MAX HEADROOM, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND) who has dedicated thirty-nine years to the creature's destruction. The intricate, unexpected plot forces you to question everything - i myself thoroughly expected the alien to turn out to be an illusion as well. Brilliant.
-Dark Frontier 1&2 ***
Voyager raids a damaged borg ship, but seven is kidnapped. The queen (an unimpeachable substitute performance by susanna thompson - GHOSTS OF MISSISSIPPI, ONCE AND AGAIN) plans to use seven to understand humanity, without reassimilation. She is allowed to roam, and given assignments...including some frightening new assimilations. Flashbacks show us her childhood aboard her parents' ship. Janeway mounts a taut, adrenalized (albeit semi-plausible) rescue. Disturbing and claustrophobic.
-The Disease ***
Voyager comes to the aid of a race of space-faring xenophobes (led by charles rocket - SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, MAX HEADROOM). Harry gets embroiled in forbidden romance with musetta vander (OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?, WILD WILD WEST), and flagrantly disobeys orders. If the director had better understood the body language of love, and the writer had better command of natural language, this one might have flirted with four stars.
-Course: Oblivion ***
A mysterious force is compromising the very fabric of Voyager. Except...it's not Voyager at all. The mystery is traced to the mimetic lifeforms from the demon planet, who fashioned a Voyager ship and crew copies who were unaware of their true nature. They set course for Earth, but nine months later are degrading. Perhaps the most heart-rending, horrific episode of the series, and in many ways a microcosm of the show itself - a group of travelers far from "home"...but the hope that pervades the parent show is leeched away until disaster envelops them. The show starts with a subtle giveaway - at the marriage of the fake tom and b'elanna, he hasn't received the demotion the real tom has. The ceremony is not for those with a weak stomach, but is redeemed by seven's deconstruction of the senselessness of monogamous marriage. Hard core sci fi. Watch with "Demon".
-The Fight *
There is one cinematic gem in this turd, a montage wherein the resident aliens "speak" using single words of dialogue from different characters, to make complex thoughts. But alas, ray walston's (POPEYE, PICKET FENCES) final TREK is wasted. As Voyager is trapped in a lethal, sensor-negating expanse, aliens tap into chakotay's subconscious. Boxing! Vision questing! The marriage of mumbo jumbo and brutality! Ah well, at least it's not "Turnabout Intruder"......or IS it?
-Think Tank ***
As relentless bounty hunters close in, Voyager is offered help from an advanced but morally dubious think tank (led by jason alexander[!] - SEINFELD, SHALLOW HAL). Their price? They want our goddamned seven! A rich offering greater than the sum of its parts, but still missing...something. Perhaps seven's searing smarts saving the day, instead of janeway? Wouldn't that better underscore the premise of the episode?
-Juggernaut ***
After tuvok gives b'elanna meditation lessons, she leads an away team with two disagreeable aliens, trying to halt a damaged freighter (with a resident boogeyman) which could irradiate an area five light years wide. B'elanna is rather brilliant, and not just because she's working her inner rambo...
-Someone to Watch Over Me ****
-written by michael taylor
-directed by robert duncan mcneill
The doctor gives seven romance lessons...and falls in love. Their fumblings are tender and charming. Brian macnamara (THE FLAMINGO KID, SHORT CIRCUIT) is utterly disarming as her first date. Scott thompson (KIDS IN THE HALL, THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW) and ian abercrombie (SEINFELD, ARMY OF DARKNESS) play uptight aliens looking to break loose. Robert picardo's brilliance is transcendent. He made a habit of being at the center of VOYAGER's best, and his effort here ranks as one of the greatest TREK performances ever. A hologram renders feelings of longing and alienation more sweetly and painfully human than any of the people around him.
-11:59 **
Janeway tells the story of an ancestor who was pivotal in space exploration...or was she? Perhaps the most loosey goosey, meandering VOYAGER ever. Almost (but not quite) surreal - either badly written or intentionally offbeat. Mulgrew playing janeway's ancestor works...the only thing that doesn't is the romantic chemistry between her and the always understatedly-delightful kevin tighe (EMERGENCY!, MUMFORD). A shame, as their non-romantic chemistry is lovely.
-Relativity ***
How often does a television program prompt actual applause? The action jumps back and forth between different eras of Voyager and the future timeship Relativity, under captain braxton (bruce mcgill - ANIMAL HOUSE, SHALLOW HAL)...the same braxton from "Future's End". He recruits seven to travel five years back to pre-launch dry dock, and then two years back during a kazon attack, in order to stop a saboteur...who turns out to be braxton himself, trying to negate the effect Voyager had on his health and career. His exec (jay karnes - THE SHIELD, V) has wonderful presence. Exciting, funny...brilliant.
-Warhead ***
An alien missile with AI links with the EMH, and the crew is SOL.
-Equinox, pt. 1 ****
-written by brannon braga, joe menosky
-directed by david livingston
A ripper! Voyager discovers a Starfleet vessel which was also pulled into the delta quadrant. The slower, smaller vessel, captained by the grim john savage (HAIR, THE DEER HUNTER) has had a darker, more desperate journey, and is almost destroyed by the aliens they've been murdering and exploiting. The writers deftly thread a needle, in making Equinox's tale credible. Olivia birkeland (FAR FROM HEAVEN, THE BONE COLLECTOR) shines as a traumatized crewmember. Titus welliver (NYPD BLUE, DEADWOOD) is rock-solid as b'elanna's old Academy mate. Rick worthy (ENTERPRISE, HEROES) is impeccable. A grateful reunion sours as the truth comes to light.

Monday, June 13, 2011

quoth vonnegut

My favorite writer, by a whisker, is kurt vonnegut. I haven't read all his works, as i decided at some point to be relaxed in my pursuit thereof, with the idea that when i'm old there will be treasures yet to cherish. Much of the latter half of his canon awaits. SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE is considered his masterpiece, but i don't agree. Great, to be sure, but above it i would place BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS, GALAPAGOS, BLUEBEARD, and the introduction to MOTHER NIGHT. Here then, a collection of quotes from one of America's two greatest writers, a human whose words touched me during my early adulthood like no author before or since.

-"The public health authorities never mention the main reason many Americans have for smoking heavily, which is that smoking is a fairly sure, fairly honorable form of suicide."
-"Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before. He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way."
-"Everybody's shaking in his boots. So don't be bluffed."
-"One of the great American tragedies is to have participated in a just war."
-"The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart."
-"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."
-"Live by the foma (harmless untruths) that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy."
-"What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured."
-"In case you haven't noticed, we are now almost as feared and hated all over the world as the Nazis were."
-"The flaw in the Christ stories, said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ, who didn't look like much, was actually the Son of the Most Powerful Being in the Universe. Readers understood that, so when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought...Oh boy - they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch that time! And that thought had a brother: 'There are right people to lynch.' Who? People not well-connected. So it goes."
"[She] has been killed by a machine which should never have come into the hands of any human being. It is called a firearm. It makes the blackest of all human wishes come true at once, at a distance: that something die."
-"You realize, of course, that everything i say is horseshit."
-"We're here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."
-"I want to stay as close to the edge as i can without going over. Out on the edge you can see all kinds of things you can't see from the center."

Monday, June 6, 2011

Star Trek, season 1

(It was hard adhering to the rating system set up for the other TREK series'. So many of these episodes are SO resonant, it seemed criminal to give less than four stars. Harry mudd...evil kirk? Come on! The price of being iconic. I sucked it up and was exceedingly strict.)
FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 9
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 3.2
-The Cage ****
-written by gene roddenberry
-directed by robert butler
I kept checking myself to make sure it isn't just historical fascination that makes this one so entrancing. STAR TREK's original pilot - exciting, layered, imaginative...and rejected by the network. Jeffrey hunter (THE SEARCHERS, KING OF KINGS) plays captain christoper pike, in events set thirteen years before the original. The only classic character is leonard nimoy as spock, a more emotional vulcanian junior officer. Majel barrett (later nurse chapel, lwaxana troi, and the voice of the computer) is first officer. John hoyt (SPARTACUS, GIMME A BREAK!) is the crusty, lovable doc. Enterprise finds a group of marooned scientists who have a young woman (susan oliver - PEYTON PLACE, BUTTERFIELD 8) among them. But it's an illusory trap to lure pike into an alien menagerie, where they hope he'll mate with vina, the only actual survivor. The huge-brained aliens are classic sci fi perfection. Pike is forced to live out images from his mind. When he resists, number one and a yeoman (laurel goodwin - GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!, PAPA'S DELICATE CONDITION) are captured, to give him more mating choices. Some of the fighting is classically underchoreographed...quick, um, throw something! Which, come to think of it, is preferable to the overchoreographed crap we're currently blighted with. Plus an orion slave!
-Where No Man Has Gone Before ****
-written by samuel l. peeples
-directed by james goldstone
An outrageously good (second) pilot. There's a new cap'n in town, by name of james r. kirk...plus an engineer named scotty, a science department head named sulu, and a doctor named, uh, piper. The Enterprise breaks the energy barrier at the edge of the galaxy. Kirk's Academy friend, gary mitchell (gary lockwood - 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, THE LIEUTENANT) acquires shining eyes and expanding psionic/intellectual powers. Psychotherapist elizabeth dehner (sally kellerman - M*A*S*H, BACK TO SCHOOL) argues against those who see gary as a threat...but she's on her way to glowing eyes too. Can kirk kill his friend? Will he lose his shirt trying?
-The Corbomite Maneuver ****
-written by jerry sohl
-directed by joseph sargent
The first regular-season episode sees sulu move to helm, plus the debuts of mccoy, uhura, and yeoman rand (grace lee whitney - SOME LIKE IT HOT, IRMA LA DOUCE). Enterprise encounters...a cube!!! No, really. They're captured by superior aliens, and only a bluff saves them. The aliens turn out to be the delightful young clint howard (COCOON, AUSTIN POWERS 1-3). Plus ted cassidy (THE ADDAMS FAMILY) as the voice of balok.
-Mudd's Women ***
One of the most deliciously outsized antagonists in the TREK universe - harry mudd! Played by roger c. carmel (BREEZY, MYRA BRECKINRIDGE), he's a shady smuggler transporting women to an isolated mining settlement, who falls into Enterprise's custody. With burnt-out lithium crystals, Enterprise needs what the miners have. The miners? They wants the women. But are they what they seem? The ending is perhaps the most pro-feminist moment in classic TREK.
-The Enemy Within **
Good kirk vs. evil kirk!! Plus evil space dog and good space dog! A transporter accident splits kirk, while sulu and the boys freeze on the planet below. Rand is nearly raped...and the faintly smirking comments to her at the end are fascinating, in the light of evolving attitudes (and the fact that some women persist in being partial to the "rough stuff"). Unfortunately, one of those smirks comes from spock, which is just so, so wrong. This episode proposes a paradigm in which our "evil" side is needed in order to be an assertive human whole. The problem with that is...what if it's a bunch of hooey? What if there is no innate "evil", and the horrors of the past ten millenia are just a reflection of a species cut off from its natural intimacy, sharing, and sexuality?
-The Man Trap **
Enterprise makes a routine check on two isolated scientists, one of whom is mccoy's old flame. Crew members start dying of salt depletion. In kirk's first scene of this first episode ever aired, he lays a smile on mccoy so smarmy that gandhi would punch him in the nose. One of uhura's best scenes ever, talking to a swahili-speaking impostor. One of the things that made classic TREK so brilliant (a touch that was rather lost on subsequent series), was how they incorporated mundanity into the midst of the extraordinary...like nibbling snacks on the bridge. The ending, however, undermines a brilliant effort - rather than trying to understand and coexist with a hostile alien, our heroes can't laser-zap it quickly enough. Die, evil thing!
-The Naked Time ***
The crew is exposed to a virus that causes inebriation. Half-naked sulu swashbuckles! Chapel loves spock! Spock cries. Lt. riley (bruce hyde - DR. KILDARE, THE CONFESSION OF LEE HARVEY OSWALD) hysterically takes over the engine room, and sends the ship into an unpowered decaying orbit. The slapping scene between kirk and spock is classic.
-Charlie X **
Enterprise transports a teen with unsuspected powers (robert walker jr. - EASY RIDER, ENSIGN PULVER) who grew up cut off from human society. Uhura sings, a beautiful song. Spock oh spock, he plays along...
-Balance of Terror ****
-written by paul schneider
-directed by vincent mceveety
The tight, claustrophobic introduction of the romulans. Enterprise plays cat and mouse with a cloaked vessel raiding Federation outposts. A wrong move will start a war. The brilliance of this episode lies in making the romulan commander (mark lenard - STAR TREK I,III,IV,VI, ANNIE HALL) jaded and war-weary.
-What Are Little Girls Made Of? ****
-written by robert bloch
-directed by james goldstone
Kirk and chapel beam down to a planet where a scientist, her former fiance, has been lost for years. He takes them prisoner, and tries to explain the benefits of replacement android bodies for all humans. Serving him are ruk (ted cassidy - BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, GENESIS II), one of the most ominous TREK villains, and andrea (sherry jackson - MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY, GUNN), one of the most beautiful TREK women. Can kirk confuse her circuitry? Is there an android kirk running around? The first TREK red-shirt death?
-Dagger of the Mind ***
A deranged escapee from a penal colony (a roaring performance by morgan woodward - COOL HAND LUKE, HILL STREET BLUES) is caught on Enterprise. Mccoy discovers he's a doctor, and begins to doubt the colony's story. Kirk beams down, and is caught in the neural neutralizer of famed humanitarian dr. adams (james gregory - BARNEY MILLER, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES). The first-ever mind meld. Dr. helen noel (marianna hill - HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, THE GODFATHER PART II) is kirk's love interest, a part originally intended for the departed yeoman rand.
-Miri ***
Too dark to air in England. Enterprise finds a planet identical to Earth, down to the architecture and language (which ceases to fascinate them after about two minutes). Only children have survived a plague that gives them an incalculably long lifespan, until they die horribly upon reaching puberty. The away team contracts the disease, and must race time to win the trust of the children and find an antidote. Containing perhaps the most hysterical TREK line ever - kirk's "NO BLAH BLAH BLAH!!!". There's also a sexual tension between kirk and an adolescent (a nuanced performance by kim darby - TRUE GRIT, BETTER OFF DEAD...) that never would have passed the soulless FCC in the decades since.
-The Conscience of the King ***
That...was fucking bizarre. A mass murderer may be in hiding as a shakespearean actor. Making sense of the psychological moves and non-moves is head-scratching, and that's without tossing in a bat-shit crazy daughter. The first debate between kirk, spock, and mccoy, plus a swinging big band version of the the theme that is off-the-scale wild. And the origins of double secret probation are finally understood, as kirk orders the ship to...DOUBLE RED ALERT!!
-The Galileo Seven ***
Spock is in command of a shuttle that crashes on an inhospitable planetoid. Natives attack, and his logical responses clash with the emotional needs of the crew (mostly, they act like whiny asshats).
-Court Martial ***
Computer records show that kirk is culpable in the negligent death of an officer. He is defended in court by the crusty samuel t. cogley (elisha cook jr. - THE MALTESE FALCON, BLACULA), who uses real books(!). Is commander finney really dead? The hidden flaw in this one is the notion that 23rd-century humans might be barbaric enough to employ an adversarial judicial system, where winning is more important than truth.
-The Menagerie 1&2 ****
-written by gene roddenberry
-directed by marc daniels, robert butler
Crisp. Smart. Spock commandeers the ship, setting it on an unchangeable course for Talos, the only planet in the galaxy off-limits - under punishment of death. He takes Enterprise's recently maimed former captain, chris pike. Commodore mendez convenes an onboard court martial, during which testimony is shown of the only contact with Talos (footage from the unaired pilot), thirteen years before. Enjoy majel in her moments of command...and why didn't they have her in the courtroom as chapel, tending pike and watching "herself"?
-Shore Leave ***
A weary crew finds an idyllic planet where their daydreams come to life. Kirk facing up to the Academy cadet who bullied him (bruce mars - STAGECOACH, MARYJANE), is unforgettable. There are also talking rabbits, a knight, a tiger, and strafing zeroes. The manifestations are an entertainment relic of a lost civilization. WHY did no other live series return to this planet? Some fascinating touches...like kirk enthusiastically assuming spock is massaging his back.
-The Squire of Gothos ****
-written by paul schneider
-directed by don mcdougall
Enterprise crewmembers are abducted by a foppish alien able to manipulate matter, who has a fascination for 18th-century Earth. He forces them to entertain him. William campbell's (LOVE ME TENDER, PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW) outsized performance as trelane is one of the signature guest TREK turns of all time.
-Arena ***
Kirk vs. gorn!! James (that's "t." now) and an alien captain whose ship has massacred an Earth colony are both abducted by a superior race, and forced to go mano a lizard. It's actually intelligent sci fi, but the primitive rubber suit is classic, just classic. Also notable for an opening scene featuring howlingly awful writing and acting, reminiscent of the forced laughter that early TREK ended an episode with once or twice.
-The Alternative Factor **
A mysterious alien who seems to have two personalities appears, in conjunction with a rupture in space and time. Can SOMEONE institute some security protocols on this ship? Anyone? Bonus comedic points for redshirts watching their captain get his ass kicked.
-Tomorrow is Yesterday ***
Enterprise is accidentally hurled back to 1967 Earth. A jet fighter intercepts them, and they beam aboard its pilot (roger perry - THE THING WITH TWO HEADS, THE FEMINIST AND THE FUZZ). How to realign the timeline, and return home? No problem, you sonsabitches, we've got spock. A rich ride full of tension and humor. The overwhelmed security sergeant (hal lynch - STAGECOACH, THE WAY WEST) who gets accidentally beamed aboard, is priceless.
-The Return of the Archons ***
Investigating a lost ship, Enterprise finds a planet ruled by a 6000 year-old computer who represses its subjects with mind control for 23.9 hours a day, and lets them run feral the other six minutes. Sulu gets mellow.
-A Taste of Armageddon ***
The Enterprise is declared destroyed in a planet's simulated war, in which the "casualties" must die. Winner of TREKdom's coveted KWKYA (Kirk Will Kick Your Ass) Award.
-Space Seed ****
-written by gene coon, carey wilber
-directed by marc daniels
Khan. Noonian. Singh. Nuff' said? Okay, i suppose i ought give credit(s) where due - the immortal ricardo montalban (FANTASY ISLAND, THE NAKED GUN) as the genetically-engineered 21st-century superhuman with ambition to match, plus madlyn rhue (OPERATION PETTICOAT, IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD) as the libidinously treasonous lt. marla mcgivers. Awakened from cryosleep on an ancient ship, will khan and his followers take over the Enterprise...and the galaxy?
-This Side of Paradise ***
A tour de force for mr. nimoy. Enterprise investigates a colony being subjected to deadly bertolt rays. The colonists are unexpectedly alive, subject to spores that make people peaceful, loving, and uninterested in technology or exploration. Spock and leila (jill ireland - SHANE, THE VALACHI PAPERS) tenderly fall for each other. The conceit that kirk is the only one who can withstand the spores' effects is a bit of a whopper, but watching spock experience joy and love, then deal with their loss, is a wonder to behold.
-The Devil in the Dark ****
-written by gene coon
-directed by joseph pevney
Enterprise arrives at Janus 6, where miners have been dying. They discover a silicon-based creature who is simply protecting her eggs. A fantastic meditation on diversity, and understanding over violence.
-Errand of Mercy ***
On the brink of war, the Federation and klingons vie for control of Organia, whose peaceful, simplistic denizens are unfazed. Both sides posture and threaten, until the organians intercede. Far from being pacifist simpletons, they are superior spirit-beings who finally impose peace. Intelligent sci fi about colonialism and the limits of imagination. The first klingon? John colicos (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, DEEP SPACE NINE)!
-The City on the Edge of Forever ****
-written by harlan ellison
-directed by joseph pevney
On a planet with an ancient time portal, mccoy is accidentally injected with a madness-inducing drug. He is flung into Earth's past, and suddenly the Enterprise no longer exists. Kirk and spock follow, to rectify what happened. They meet edith keeler (joan collins - DYNASTY, THE BITCH), a social worker in 1930 who was never meant to live to prevent America's entry into the second world war. Kirk falls in love, and they realize mccoy must be prevented from saving her life. A searing, beautiful achievement, taken from a story by harlan ellison.
-Operation - Annihilate! ***
Kirk's brother is found dead, and Enterprise must stop a plague of oversized amoebas from possessing human hosts and spreading insanity and death throughout the galaxy. Spock becomes infected.

Friday, June 3, 2011

cierra

WOMEN 60
An actress i met at a statewide cattle-call in Tampa. She was of Mediterranean descent, in her mid-twenties. I told her that i couldn’t get a read on her energy when we met. She revealed that she had been bugged out, because she had dreamt about me. In her dream i'd been wearing blue. When she first saw me i was wearing a cow costume, but within moments i had stripped down to a blue shirt. She said prophetic dreams were common for her. Early on, i read her a poem of mine, about my fantasy woman. She became quiet, and said that a friend of hers would call, and that i was to read the poem to the friend. I did so, then called Cierra back. She said that she'd been once again bugged out, because of how my words had so eerily described her. It was also disconcerting to her how quickly she shared with me her deepest secrets. She was very talented and purposeful, and i discovered that she had lived through rape and incestual molestation as a child. This gave me pause, as i wanted to stop falling for the wounded ones. But i began visiting her (a three-hour drive). We proceeded very quickly to cuddling. She marveled at my ability to spend the night with her without trying to have sex. It was so peaceful and amazing, how soundly she slept (and awoke) with my arms around her. The sexual pull was strong. We disrobed more and more, kissing and caressing. She was the first girl i ever knew who was into pain/pleasure, and she soon had me biting her. She taught me how to bite without leaving a hickey. I loved how it made her feel, but wasn’t sure i wanted her to reply in kind. She said that she wasn’t normally partial to kissing and tongue work, but that she liked it with me. She said that it had been a long time since anyone, man or woman, had affected her like me. I was a little perplexed at how quickly she was moving to thoughts of setting up a life together. I shared with her some of my romantic memoirs, and her reaction was profound. She was shocked that i would even write them for myself, much less share them with anyone. She felt horrified for the girls, that information like this might get out into the public. She said i could be sued. For all our similarities, we had discovered one very profound difference; she was an intensely private person, and i was intensely not. For the next six weeks she beat on me emotionally, semi-consciously trying to drive me away because she was afraid of her feelings...that despite everything she still wanted me. In a strange way, my unprivate side also attracted her. She was inclined to break her relationship rules with me. I accepted her emotional batterings with patience; for me, we were still just getting to know each other. She thought my protests along those lines were bullshit, and that my hesitancy was a signal that i didn't feel as strongly. I’d like to think that premise was shaky, but i can’t say for sure. Our romance fell apart under the pressures, though. We tried to stay friends, but even that fell apart when she met and married someone that same year. One of our sweetest memories was a night at her house. I hadn’t intended to come, as i had work to do for an audition, but she implored me so ardently i relented. A condition of my coming was that she give me an hour to work when i arrived. I sat down on her couch with my papers. She sat nearby. After a few minutes, she began to undress me. I didn’t acknowledge or assist her in any way, so she really had to work to achieve her goal. We were soon holding each other. One of the nicest moments of my life.

an odd switch

THE ODD COUPLE
THEATER 50
-fall 1999
At the end of BAREFOOT, Michelle told me she had stretched herself too thin trying to produce and direct, and would i be interested in taking over the directing? Assured that i would have my choice of projects, i agreed. I immediately started work on THE NORMAN CONQUESTS, a trilogy of plays by Alan Ayckbourn. One of the most funny and brilliantly-written pieces i know, playing Norman had been one of my sweetest dreams. Needing to memorize three plays, we started on two months of rehearsal. The other men were Shane and Carey Coffey from ANDROCLES. The women were Charmaine Yeats, a college student, and Drew Shaffer, one of my ex-students from Cape Coral High, where i'd been a substitute teacher. Our third actress dropped out as we started rehearsals. Her replacement quit a week later, and the replacement's replacement quit a couple weeks after that. In the meantime, the five of us put together some incredible comedic chemistry. Brilliant, aligned-planet stuff. But our missing element ultimately sunk us. After a month of fighting, i abandoned the project. All of us felt that a part of our hearts had been ripped out (Carey, the picture of reliability, started work on the replacement project, but stopped coming to rehearsals, still feeling the disillusionment). We began THE ODD COUPLE. It was a full circle fulfillment of another dream. The one missing piece of the ODD COUPLE i had been in years earlier was that, as Felix, i was the only actor who didn't get to be in the poker scenes. I promised myself that i'd someday rectify that. I cast Shane as Felix, and myself as Oscar. Charmaine and Drew became the Pigeon sisters, who then became the Cardinal sisters when the English accent wasn't working. With a British Felix, it also worked better to have the girls be something else. I eschewed the traditional middle-aged male poker players. Felix and i were young, white-haired John Thomas from ANDROCLES played Speed, and middle-aged Sal Pedone became Roy. I turned Vinnie into Ronnie, and cast Sal's middle-aged friend Becky. When Carey dropped out, Charmaine doubled up as Mary the cop. She did beautiful work in both parts, and a lot of the audience didn't get that it was the same actress. The reviewers and audiences loved the non-traditional casting (well, you work with what you got). Poker, cigars, comedy…rehearsals were light-hearted and laughter-filled. It was my first set design ever, and creating Oscar's mess was great fun. The one piece i kept is an "autographed" photo of Brandi Chastain, her shirt ripped off and arms raised, with the inscription "To Oscar, thanks for making me feel like this…again!" One of the funniest moments was in rehearsal, when Speed says "You look at your watch one more time, you're gonna get the peanuts in your face!" With his rapid-fire delivery to Becky, it sounded like the "t" was missing from "peanuts". Shane was a bit shy; while rehearsing the scene wherein the girls comfort him, they sometimes overdid the "comforting", eliciting laughter all around (and requests from Shane to practice it "just one more time"). Trying to balance Shane's low-key Felix, i upped Oscar's energy, and we ended up with the polar opposite of the traditional Felix/Oscar energy dynamic. We had more than a little concern over Becky, who came to several rehearsals alcohol-impaired. Sal had a talk with her, and she pulled through. I went to extra expense to have cashews every performance, as one of Drew's lines was "Mm, cashews, lovely"...but i think she only remembered to say that damned line once. Shane occasionally got lost. One of his lines was "What am I gonna do, Oscar? Tell me." Whenever he got lost, he would throw that line at me, and look at me with expectant eyes. He sometimes said it two or three times a night. I loved the dope dearly, so i looked at it as advanced acting training for me. Michelle was our producer in little more than name, so i assumed most of those duties as well. I didn't mind. Being in charge of nearly everything was fun, and felt natural. It was also wonderful to know that i was now among the tiny handful of actors who had played both Oscar and Felix (i've still never met another). The production was a wonderful time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

huey

Today i broke concrete.
Long slabs planted in our backyard, bordering the lawn. Each slab is 18" wide, 15' long, and 8" deep. My housemate thought renting a jackhammer was the way to go, but i've always preferred manual tools. I originally went to hardware stores looking for some kind of reinforced iron pickaxe. A clerk suggested a large sledgehammer.
I got a large sledgehammer.
How large?
So large that Home Depot doesn't carry one this big.
Twenty pounds.
It is a curious coincidence that the film THOR is in theaters.
Most people will never see, much less use, a twenty-pound sledge. It amuses me that most people would not be excited at the prospect of doing so.
I took out the first slab in a few hours the day i brought huey home (i named it just this minute). I'm no excess-testosteroned fool (well...); the trick of course is not the application of brute force, but letting the tool do the work for you.
Still, it's a bit of a rush.
When i took my first swing, i wasn't even sure the tool was up to the job. Eight inches of concrete is an awful lot. Had i wasted $40? Should i put a towel down for the first whack, so that i could try to return the sledge as unused?
Huey is the right tool.
Usually two or three well-placed whacks will cause a split.
The first slab was made tough by thin metal poles inside the concrete, each the width of a very large nail. Persistent bending and twisting breaks them.
Today, i started around noon. It was 89 degrees at 2:00. I'm not impressed with people who are impressed with humidity, but it was pretty sauna-like. I like heat, and i love work like this. Why, i'm not exactly sure. Something about the mindless simplicity of it, the pure physicality. Did you ever read "Shane"? The impression that the tree-stump section made on my adolescent mind, very few pieces of writing have ever touched me as deeply. I felt a deep recognition and exhilaration...
The second two slabs presented a harder challenge, snugged as they are side by side, making an "L". My first discovery was a happy one. The horizontal slab had no metal poles. The vertical slab, however, did.
In the heat, i was going inside for water every fifteen minutes or so. I can be zealous, but i've had heat exhaustion once in my life, and don't need to flirt with it again. I was two thirds finished with the horizontal slab, and had made the proper splits in one third of the vertical slab, when i stopped. I did so because of a pole i unearthed running along the concrete. Gas? Water? I didn't think it was an operational pipe, as there was a little hole in the end, and it seemed hollow. One of our house tenants was concerned though, and i agreed it might be wise to ask Yogeesh about the pipe before proceeding.
When i was younger, it might have bothered me to not finish in one day. Something to do with beastial pride. To push oneself because one can, in a world where taking the easy choice is a way of life, is a big part of who i am. But wisdom teaches one that the concrete will still be there tomorrow. Going down the road of beastial pride can make for accomplishment, but it's also rife with spiritual pitfalls...humans cannot control the forces of nature by sheer will, a lesson we ignore at our peril.
Of course, how long would i have labored away in that sauna, had i not been interrupted by that pipe? Ah heck, never mind the pipe. I would have kept going, if the tenant hadn't spoken up. Stopping when i did was sensible, though. I was plenty baked, including sunburn on head and arms (and my knees, strangely, because of holes in my pants).
Come back, huey...

P.S. The following day, i broke concrete again. It was ten degrees cooler, and i was forced to face the possibility that i'm not impervious to extremes of heat (or even, gasp, "humidity"). The previous day, i was constantly aware of the heat and the need to keep hydrating. This day, i had to remember to drink water and felt like i could go on forever.