Tuesday, December 30, 2014

naked nurse 2

SOOTHING OUR SOCIAL/SPIRITUAL/SEXUAL STRIFE

Dear naked nurse,
A colleague was defending the belief in god, and said that humans have always believed, so the urge to seek higher meaning must be human nature. Can she be right?
frustrated in fresno

Dear frustrated,
Well...she's partly right. But only technically! Her grasp on human nature is comparable to a gibbon's grasp on geometry. As best we can tell (which ain't yet all that well), ancient pre-agricultural societies (or 99% of human history) seem to have generally had some sort of supernatural belief system. But to equate those beliefs with modern conceptions of god is hellaciously misleading. Their gods were more distant than modern ones, who are in our back pockets, up in our grills, and all over our bedrooms (horny buggers!). Ancient gods were more benign - no roasting in hell, reward in heaven, or revelation. They were probably treated more as story than substance - like santa claus, or henry hudson making thunder by bowling ninepins in the sky. God is a concept by which we measure our pain, and humanity is in an epoch of horrifically perverse self-loathing, but to propose that we've always been caught up in existential angst or obsessed by a world other than the one around us, is to project post-agricultural mass misery where it doesn't belong - all data points to the likelihood that ancient humans were happier, healthier, peaceful, well-fed and well-loved (oh my my, were they well-loved).
So throw these perspectives into your ongoing debate...but don't get your hopes up. For do you know who creates an invisible rabbit?
Someone who needs an invisible rabbit.
perspicacious ponderings,
the naked nurse

Send queries to nakednursing@yahoo.com!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

naked nurse

SOOTHING OUR SOCIAL/SPIRITUAL/SEXUAL STRIFE

Dear naked nurse,
My friend says that the best sex is about spiritual connection. I say physical chemistry. Who's right??
horny in Harrisburg

Dear horny,
You're both wrong! Your friend is flirting with a heap of disappointment, hoping for great sex with a spiritual soul mate. If the physical chemistry isn't there, no amount of adoration or devotion will make us anything but sad in the sack.
But you're mistaken too.
Oh sure, the kind of instant attraction that makes hair stand on end can make for a delirious romp. There might even be an orgasm or two before you get your clothes off! Tallywacker-ho!
But.
Counter-intuitively...
If the game you're playing is "best sex of your life", start by finding someone with whom you're mildly/moderately attracted. Someone you can take or leave. Someone you'd give a tumble if they're not a blathering idiot, and you haven't had a shag since summer. Someone who makes you say, "Well, that was pretty nice", during the initial post-coital cuddle.
The reason moderately-exciting attraction can equal sex for the ages is this - it ain't over in the time it takes to read this sentence. Hair-on-end attraction is nature's way of saying "get to the baby-making NOW". If you want the healthiest baby, seek out someone who makes your knees knock (and inversely, if you want some immunologically-deficient half-wit, trying forcing a pregnancy when nature ain't interested). Yes, nature wants babies...but doesn't care about the quality of your lovemaking. Knee-knocking attraction can make both participants BOOM automatically. For a woman, there's nothing bad about that...except when she's suddenly holding a male who's ready for naptime. With moderate attraction, it's easier for the male to hold off that boom, and settle into some lovemaking that lasts ten minutes...twenty minutes...an hour or two. Then, if you happen to actually like this person, the formula of 90-minute penetrations + spiritual bonding =
Best sex ever.
The kind where space and time melt.
The kind where your mind disappears.
The happiest and healthiest thing this broken world has to offer.
merry mistletoeing,
the naked nurse

P.S. Another benefit of moderately-attracted canoodling is that you can sometimes get away with playing a little fast and loose with contraception. Which can also be a factor in the "best sex" game.

Send queries to nakednursing@yahoo.com!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Hitch-22"

HITCH-22
-by christopher hitchens
2010
It's not often i feel my opinion as reviewer or thinker is irrelevant. Yet i'm close to feeling that way over this memoir by the author of "god IS NOT GREAT" (one of the most towering books in the unfortunate history of humankind). Much of my ambivalence is over the prospect of criticizing or disagreeing with one who has won my ardent devotion. I don't want to be trite enough to say that "one can be bright in one area and dishwater dumb in others"...for while this is true, it does hitchens a disservice. I think that had any of us lived his life, we would have come to every opinion and choice he made. And he was nothing if not a person of intelligence and integrity. So at the very least, his views are an important part of humanity's discussion with itself.
Which is not to say that said views are the backbone of this book. One can enjoy it as a singular telling of a life earnestly lived. His vocabulary and command of language mark him as one of the few people who can make almost anyone (including myself) feel a bit dumb. His early life as an international socialist/communist agitator, his unknown jewish heritage, his hobnobbing with western society's intellectual and political elite, his non-partisan skewering of kissinger and clinton, all make for delightful diversion. And his maturation into "anti-totalitarian firebrand" is admirable. His divorce from the left hits home though, as i'm one of those "soft-minded" lefties he scorned for failing to support the military liberations of Kuwait and Iraq. Can wolfowitz be a good guy? With my absolutist pacifist stance, am i one of those whose devotion to principle would condemn billions to slavery and suffering? Is this world still so thoroughly barbaric that taking up the sword in the name of freedom is not only right, but required?
We also diverge in our feelings on America. A brit who realized his dream of american citizenship, he's unapologetically patriotic. Where i see genocide, nuclear aggression, and noxious imperialism, he sees humanity's best hope (this is admittedly one of those murky areas where the truth might be somewhere in the middle).
The greatest compliment i can offer is that our disagreements make me no less eager to read everything he ever produced.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"When Things Were Rotten"

1975
-created by mel brooks, john boni, and norman stiles

Imagine that mel brooks had created a television show at the peak of his popularity - just one year after the release of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and BLAZING SADDLES. Imagine that your family, friends, and the entertainment industry have conspired all your life to keep its existence a secret from you. How would you feel? Would there soon be a burn mark on the ground between you and the nearest [warning: anachronism!] video store?
Well, it exists, in this mid-70s send-up of the robin hood legend. It survived thirteen episodes before the Sherwood axe fell. Wait, the robin hood legend, you say? The same legend spoofed by mel eighteen years later in ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS? The same. Funny how i don't remember anyone mentioning that back in 1995. Well, like they say, only two things endure - success and herpes.
Was it deserving of its fate? Maybe. This is no POLICE SQUAD!, a masterpiece too brilliant to succeed. Strictly speaking, it was at most good - it lacked the hipness and edge of SADDLES, and the acting/writing lightning strike of FRANKENSTEIN. But it's also hard to believe it wasn't better than most of the shows that WEREN'T cancelled in '75. In any case, it motivated mel off the small screen for good, so it's worth a viewing for historical interest. Throw in guest-star richness and some well-earned chuckles, and you'll be glad to have known it.
THE CAST
FAMILIAR
-friar tuck: dick van patten (EIGHT IS ENOUGH, BEWARE! THE BLOB)
You keep thinking there must be a scene on the cutting room floor of MEN IN TIGHTS with the two casts accidentally bumping into each other in the forest. But alas, dick seems to be the only one mel called for his second HOOD spin, as the abbott.
-alan-a-dale: bernie kopell (THE LOVE BOAT, THAT GIRL)
Bernie, alas, gets more than his share of the forced lines.
VAGUELY-FAMILIAR
-robin hood: richard gautier (GET SMART, FUN WITH DICK AND JANE)
He held up his end, in a role that was originally offered to robert klein.
-maid marian: misty rowe (HAPPY DAYS, HEE HAW HONEYS)
After putting in her time as a piece of set design on the degrading HEE HAW, she shows true comic chops.
-prince john: ron rifkin (SOAP, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL)
The actor most often mistaken for bob balaban. And vice versa.
WHODAT?
-sheriff of nottingham: henry polic II (THE LAST REMAKE OF BEAU GESTE, WEBSTER)
As good as his material, plus some.
-little john: david sabin (KENNEDY, ARTHUR 2)
No weak link here.
-betram/renaldo: richard dimitri (JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY, RICHARD LEWIS: I'M DOOMED)
A really darling dual performance.
And the guest turns? Sid caesar, john byner, paul williams, ron glass, steve landesberg, and dudley moore (as a sheik in the only wincingly racist episode). Plus a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance by mel himself.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

amiss leftovers

(a follow-up to http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2014/11/amiss-conceptions.html)

Do i want to share deeper (or at least further) insights into the psychological underpinnings of "amiss conceptions"? Well, apparently. But i'm ambivalent, as i'm trying to evolve away from navel-gazing for its own sake. Not that there's no merit therein...naked self-revelation is an honorable art, and can trigger profound resonances (particularly in a culture where most people are seldom honest with themselves, never mind the world at large). More and more though, the standard for my writing is public-speaking potential. Nor is it simply a question of entertainment value - there's a part of me that finds prattling on about myself boring. Not that there isn't some level on which my favorite subject matter is "ME" (like everyone else, i'm too wounded and needy for it to be otherwise), but to a considerable extent, i'm one of those people who are generally eager to deflect attention away from themself. I don't need it like others (or at any rate, i don't need more of the crappy substitutes for real attention this society affords - unless it involves getting my recliner upholstered...but i don't want to make my point before i make my point...i don't want to expose my edifice before the groundwork gets laid...i don't want to suffer from premature articulation...).
Sorry, my mind wandered.
There are at least a couple additional levels to my recklessness. I would say "sexual recklessness", but there's also an element of simple self-destruction - a part of me that's tired of living. These impregnation fantasies are so pervasive, i'm currently having them about a woman i've not even met yet. I may be acting in a play, in the part of her older husband. The fact that we'll be a mixed-race couple feeds into my rainbow libido (and desire to have the world fuck away all skin differences). I dream of sweeping her up in such a mind-bending rush of sexuality (combined with the most emotionally naked intimacy she's known), that the first time we make love she'll want me to cum in her, and hold her on the day she dies.
Care to bet against me? I've got hormones and her crippled self-worth on my side.
I write that with a gentle smile around these haunted eyes...for it's hard to imagine my reservoir of nurturance ever being truly depleted.
But i do feel like i'm holding up the world with nine broken fingers.
Part of this is just about reclaiming my identity as a sexual being. Sex is an integral part of human nature, and we're only beginning to understand the ways in which we've tortured and denied that aspect of ourselves. What could be more natural, more primal, than the moment of conception between woman and man?
Rational? Of course not. Elemental, dear watson.
Is there something a touch predatory in this fantasy? Yes...and that's rather the point. Predation is the foundation upon which romance exists in this society. I've avoided this...and, rather than being rewarded, have found increased loneliness as the result. The notion of romantic predation is amply romanticized (ahem). All's fair in love and war...faint heart never won fair maiden...i resisted and resisted, but he won me over...THE BACHELOR, THE BACHELORETTE, THE BACHELORD OF THE RING...as children, we learn to perceive romance in terms of winning or losing. Women are just as corrupted. You set your sights on the one you want, and you "win" when they're yours! But mostly, i've refused to play this game - refused to treat another human being as a prize, or a commodity. And sometimes in the long lonely nights, that starts to feel like foolish naivete. The biggest romantic scars of my life are the two women with whom i've been in love - full, hormonal love (which is the only way to talk about romance honestly, as a function of hormones). There are other kinds of love, including companionate (yay!), but i've felt the sweeping grandeur of hormonal love with two women, and with each, there was a point (or multiple points) when they were ready to "give themselves". And i demurred. They were offering themselves for the wrong reasons, or weren't truly ready to love another. I knew how good it could be if we waited and came together in loving mutuality, but in each instance, the relationship ultimately crumbled (while all the while users and controllers held the keys to their carnal kingdoms). And that's typical of the rewards for being "nice". Many (women, especially) would protest that that's not so. But it is. Deep down, we're confused when a potential lover refuses to treat us as a prize to be won. Ultimately, we shun the non-predator.
So why should these two relationships torment me? Aren't i better off, having held out for healthy? It's hard to manifest that attitude when you look back and see the normal human sexuality you were supposed to live, that never came to be. Days, weeks, months, even years spent unheld. Or held, but almost always with the underlying tensions and fears that surround the "battle of the sexes". Humans weren't made to live like this. In ways science is only beginning to understand, this isn't the way our ancient (and recent) ancestors lived.
And thanks to our cultural penchant for post-romantic immolation, i don't even have the consolation of the memory of these two women thanking me for loving them more than they were capable of loving themselves. I never got to hear vanessa say "Thank you for not taking advantage when i just wanted to lash out at vlad". I never got to hear amanda say "Thank you for refusing to allow me to be less than the person i hope to someday be." I don't even have those tiny, healing gestures.
So a lifetime of being a non-predator starts to feel like the act of a quixotic fool. Never mind being a "player", had i simply taken what was offered, i'd have the memory of sharing the most intense human intimacy with the two women i've desired most. And who knows how many others? For really, in a world like ours based on selfishness, "healthy relationship" is a contradiction in terms...and more and more, it's getting harder to not think that bad sex is preferable to none.
It's thoughts like these that propel me toward recklessness.
And thoughts like...aging.
In an ageist society, aging is a degrading mindfuck. And this 46 year-old homo sapiens is showing (as they might say). When i lean a certain way, my stomach skin gets a little squidgy. It might be temporary, because of a shoulder injury that's forced me to abandon my push-up regimen. It might be that...
But i also got my first white hair this year! The fact that it returned to its original hue some months later is neither here nor there, for...
What's incontrovertible are the lines around my eyes. I call 'em laugh lines, which is embracing, healthy, and at least partly true. If all such attitudes were up to me, aging would be righteously venerated. But it's hard to maintain that serenity of mind, when the rest of the world is only too happy to remind you of your aging...and their reminders are more often than not tinged with either mournfulness or gloating.
Anyway...
Don't fret about me abandoning this kind of essay entirely. Even though it's got a smaller audience, that's almost balanced by the intensity of said audience's appreciation. Plus, i suspect that this kind of essay will be of far greater interest to historians of the 24th century.
And the future is ever on my mind...

Friday, November 7, 2014

amandacrackle

Okay kids, it's time to stop asking "Whatever happened with amanda?" I'll sum up.
After i arrived in FL, she described me to someone as her "oldest friend".
...
In that moment, i knew i was probably fucked.
I was also honored, but knew that she straddled a precipice, with one foot still in the vortex of demons that had made a happy meal of her life. I knew that anything she built up or put on a pedestal, she would be hard-pressed to not burn down.
Crackle crackle?
Of course, that image is a bit misleading, as it's too much about me. From day 1, i knew that any attempt at genuine friendship stood a very good chance of ending badly. Even if i did everything right.
And please don't take that to mean she's so much more fucked up than most. In the big picture, she's not. But in the small picture, her damage can be terrifying. Yet on a certain level, that actually puts her ahead in the game. With your damage out in the open, you're almost forced to deal with it. Whereas the people who are always "okay", are often the most lost. And somewhere inside, she knows where she wants to go, and is actually closer to self-love than most ever get.
It's been over a year since we've had any communication other than the occasional stilted e-mail. At this point, i'm mostly just looking to have my next note be my last, otherwise it feels like this relationship will officially end on the day i send a note that comes back "address no longer valid".
And may i tell you how pissed off i am that i've had to refer to amanda in this essay TWELVE times thus far with either "she" or "her"? This barbaric fucking language, with our moronic gender-specific personal pronouns! I'm reminded of this because a couple of you wonder whether some romantic or sexual element has been at the core of my devotion to her. No. Please don't measure my spirit by the limits of your own. From the first, i just knew that i was profoundly qualified to help her escape the broken, angry child inside her (and that i might use our other attractions as a tool in the service of that).
But twelve (oops, now seventeen) pronoun reminders that she's got a vagina, as opposed to just being a human?? You know, just a...person? Don't tell me it's not important. Don't tell me i've fallen out of my tree. We need to replace these words. The history of human language the past ten thousand years has been about concretizing "male" as the norm. There's not one single aspect of our culture which this idea doesn't pervade.
MALE is the norm.
Norm male.
Normal.
What, i'm reaching? Are you quite certain? Then you and i must meet for a wager after the essay. I'll be in the conservatory.
This pronoun nonsense makes me almost as sick to my stomach as her shitstorm of hurtfulness. It would be pointless to offer details - at the risk of an epic undersell, it's the same callous brutality we've all come to accept as normal. Nor am i saying that i haven't wanted to puke simply for my own sake...that anyone who offers selflessness and unconditional acceptance could be crucified like i have, but...i try to focus on the fact that how we treat others is a reflection of how we treat ourselves. By that measure, she is in a mind-warping world of hurt. She says she'll come back to our friendship...but she says things she doesn't mean. I suspect she burned us because she couldn't deal with being seen for who she is. The fact that i saw, and still offered nothing but love, is irrelevant. She's not ready to stop running from herself.
And none of that takes into account the unhealthy relationships in her life, ever pulling her in one direction or another. So i don't think she called me to Florida with the conscious intent of finishing us.
But don't be sad. What i'll remember most is that one single moment she truly opened herself up, very possibly for the first time in her life. For the briefest blink of an eye, she stood in her doorway looking out at me, and whispered that she'd never really let anyone in.
I know, i know...it's a touch obvious, but how maudlinly, hysterically revealing is it that she was standing in a doorway as she said those words?
We gallows humorists live for that kind of shit.
If i had that moment again, before she turned around and closed her door, i'd say "No kidding. Why do you think i've been standing here for fourteen years?"
I love you all.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

my shirts are so comfortably lovely

(Today, i take a break from my normal writing modus operandi - saving the world, or just helping humanity keep its sanity. Be warned, this piece may be the kind of navel-gazing of interest only to myself, and future historians or archaeologists.)

"Do you have a shirt that you really love? One that you feel so groovy in?"
-donovan

Dear Earth (or beyond) denizen of an unknown future century,
If you're reading this deeply into the wrob archives, you perhaps know me well enough to wish you could travel through time to offer me the kind of friendship that's almost impossible to find in these barbaric times. Don't be too saddened that you cannot do so in actuality...my imagination is projecting the thought of you, and imagination is powerful enough that such thoughts are more than empty gestures. So thank you (and, um, thank me?).
This note is a testament to how rare real friendship is. There are two sharings i've longed to offer someone. The first is showing my e-mail address book, and telling someone a little about each person therein. This kind of sharing should be an almost everyday occurrence in human society, but it's not. Painfully not.
The second sharing is one i'll offer you today. I'm going to tell you about each and every one of my shirts. It might be surprising that i should long to share this, given my non-materialism and disgust with appearance-related shallowness. But what we wear (assuming we have a choice) tells an awful lot about us. Particularly T-shirts, most of which have some sort of writing or art. As such, they communicate reams of information about us: politics, philosophy, humor, sexuality...T-shirts are walking billboards.
Here are mine.
If you're disappointed that i have SO MANY, know that i've tried to be modest. When i moved to this island, i came with six shirts.* But with garage sales and thrift shops (i paid no more than a buck for any of these), it's hard to resist a perfect T.
GUIDE
G = given me as a gift
K = i plan on keeping when i move
N = never worn
T = as a tree trimmer, it's nice to have shirts of which i don't care whether they get stained or torn
STAR TREK GOLD (K)
A simple T version of the classic gold uniform, with the Starfleet insignia. I found three of these in a thrift shop, and bought them all. I've patiently waited to find a blue version, as i'm more spock than kirk (but if i found a red one, i'd snap that up too).
PB&Co BIKE RACING TEAM SHIRT (GK)
The team manager gave me this at a racing event in Minnesota. I worked as a field rep and monkey mascot for this gourmet peanut butter company. Yum.
DR. SEUSS (GT)
A white shirt with sam, the cat in the hat, grinch, and things 1&2. I love all things seuss, but without yertle or the lorax, i'd be content to lose this one.
PINK FLOYD
A Dark Side of the Moon shirt, with the band's faces a la Rushmore.
BAZINGA! (G)
From "The Big Bang Theory", a sitcom with which i have quibbles, but love. A gift from my mom and aunt, who adore the show too (and call me their sheldon). My quibbles are partly legitimate, and partly a reaction to loving something embraced by middle America.
HOMELAND SECURITY
A picture of armed native indians, with the slogan "fighting terrorism since 1492". A thrift shop find too spot-on to resist.
PB&Co DARK CHOCOLATE
A grey shirt i'd love more if it weren't one of the lamest flavors. But alas, there is no cinnamon raisin shirt.
GREEN CRAYOLA (G)
Not particularly exciting, but useful when i do storytelling for kids.
KAMA SUTRA RATS (G)
Illustrations of two anthropomorphic rats in a variety of sexual positions. I like this one because i like embarrassing sexually repressed people, and it reminds me of a similar shirt i only wore once or twice before a friend "borrowed" it for good.
ROSIE THE RIVETER (GT)
A pro-female shirt, of one of the WWII work force posters. It was given me as a thank you for MCing a sweet adelines show. I cut off the sleeves, to make feminism even more empowered.
HIGH-TECH BICYCLIST SHIRT (N)
A plain black ultra-advanced fabric i bought mostly because i liked the garage sale vendor selling it. But i've never been so heated on a bike or hike that i wished i had better shirt technology. And...black? For an anti-sweating shirt?
BAZINGA WITH FACE (G)
"Big Bang" shirt #2, from the same source. This one has Sheldon's face.
YELLOW SMILEY FACE (GT)
A gift trend that came back on me, it's the symbol of an unofficial fan club for the movie "Ishtar". I gave my mom smiley-face trinkets for years, until she started returning the favor. The image is playful, so i don't mind much. Yet there's something strange about this shirt - it has a tongue. More than once, a young adult has complimented me on it, implying that it has some hip and possibly subversive meaning. Anybody?
HARRY CHAPIN FOOD BANK (K)
A friend was tossing it out, but the fact that it has a chapin logo plus a drawing by john lennon, make it an idol combination impossible to resist.
I LOVE PUSSY
A garage sale find that has an eye, a heart, and a cat. Old people sometimes think it means "I love cats", and it amuses me to not correct them. I'm a tiny bit ambivalent about this one...sometimes i love it, sometimes it feels sophomoric.
HELM FAMILY CREST (G)
A gift from mom, with her maiden name (minus an "s"). I love the anti-patriarchal implication, but too i'm not big on ANY "family pride", which is just another manifestation of tribalism.
JOIN THE MARINES (K)
I love, love, love this one. The subtitle is "Travel to strange, exotic lands. Meet unique, interesting people. And kill them." I got it from an old hippie at a garage sale who was never comfortable wearing it in public in this conservative community. I assured him it would get no such lack of exposure with me.
ROCK-PAPER-SCISSORS-LIZARD-SPOCK (G)
"Big Bang" #3. This is the only one i might keep when i move, as it has spock on it.
BLACK WITH SMILEY FACE (GT)
Mom re-gifts unashamedly.
BLUE WITH SMILEY FACE (GT)
Yes, again. I cut the sleeves off, and now use it as my dvd cleaner.
BORAT (KN)
An illustration of borat, with the words "sexy time!"
PEACE SHIRT (GK)
It's got the logo, plus a beautiful saying about fireflies. It was made by a defunct at-home business run by one of my cousins.
JESUS CHRIST SALVATION
A shirt with the American Express logo modified for a christian message. The first time i saw it, i burst out loud laughing...and decided i needed to give that same opportunity to others. Occasionally, strangers compliment me on it, not having any idea i'm being ironic. I almost feel guilty, and don't have the heart to disillusion them.
AAA (K)
It shows the quote "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why i dismiss yours". I'm not even sure what AAA stands for (i avoid looking it up, because i like being able to say i don't know). This might be the only shirt i'd keep, if i could only keep one.
SHRODINGER'S CAT
On the front it says "Shrodinger's cat is dead". On the back, "Shrodinger's cat is not dead". A quantum physics joke, the most "Big Bang" a shirt could possibly be without actually being from the show. I got it to make mom and aunty laugh.
FIELD ROAST GRAIN MEAT CO. (KG)
A gift from the neighboring booth at a food show. Addicting, amazingly yummy non-animal "meats".

*Full disclosure - i left at least ten shirts stored in northern storage.

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Wonder Woman"

1975-1979
-created by douglas s. cramer, stanley ralph ross
Feminism's greatest television triumph, lovingly wrapped in over-the-top camp without a hint of self-conscious irony. Lynda carter stars as the preeminent female hero, stronger, smarter, and nobler than any man (or ten men...with guns!). Melodramatic acting, dialogue that makes CHARLIE'S ANGELS sound like shaw...which is only fair, as WONDER WOMAN was aimed at kids. But it's so unaffected you may burst out loud laughing again and again. Nor is this the subtle feminism of XENA TYLER MOORE - this is in-your-face female empowerment. They even skip "equal" and go straight to "superior"! The premise is that if you remove women from masculine brutality, after a millenium or two they'll develop powers of mind and body that beggar description! Well, why not?? In all fairness, they let the overt feminism pretty much drop off the table after the first episode, but she still saves the day every time, and rescues the hapless male hero too! And she never once uses her sexuality as a weapon. Is she a wonder? How can you ask? It also seems worth mentioning that she's the only superhero with the power of super morality. There's an implied level of elevated morality with all heroes, but "hero" is defined by the culture which employs it. An athenian hero would fight for democracy...of wealthy males. A U.S. hero in 1858 would fight for slavery, and women being denied the vote. Wonder Woman is the only hero whose morality reflects a culture far in advance of any other...a society where crime and poverty no longer exist (superman comes from Krypton, where crime exists, therefore he's necessarily more corruptible than wonder woman - can there be any other conclusion?). I mention this because it calls into question diana's decision to fight for the U.S. Is the U.S. deserving of her loyalty, particularly in season 2, when we jump from nazis to the Vietnam decade? At what point in history would wonder woman fight AGAINST the U.S.? Iraq? The Little Bighorn? Realistically, the only stance she would make would be to shun the barbaric morality of ANY country not named Paradise Island. But then we wouldn't have much of a series. Or...would we? But i quibble. She's stronger and smarter than any man - and that's a show any little girl (and boy) should see.
NOTEWORTHY (boldface: MUST-SEE)
SEASON 1
-The New Original Wonder Woman
That...was a religious experience. In a WWII dogfight over the Devil's Triangle, Germany's top ace (eric braeden - THE RAT PATROL, TITANIC) and the heroic major steve trevor (lyle waggoner - THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, THE LOVE BOAT II) shoot each other down. Steve washes up on an island where he's the first man the locals have seen in two thousand years (they've eliminated the need for males by finding the secret of immortality). The only fly in their amazon ointment seems to be a touch of sexual repression, embodied by queen hippolyta (cloris leachman - YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, PHYLLIS). Steve stirs something in princess diana she's never felt before. She returns steve in her invisible jet, then walks the streets of the U.S. learning firsthand about barbarism (she's particularly shocked by capitalism). A sleazy promoter (red buttons - THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, ER) solves her money problems by booking her as an act! But the nazis are on to her, and damn near everyone turns out to be a german agent. The climactic fight is over-the-top classic as she goes womano-a-womano with an aryan judo champion (stella stevens - THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE). Taking a secret identity, diana fights axis tyranny by steve's side as his, er, secretary (showing how far feminism had to go anyplace not named Paradise Island). Other guest stars? How about kenneth mars (THE PRODUCERS, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN), henry gibson (LAUGH-IN, BOSTON LEGAL), fannie flagg (GREASE, HARPER VALLEY P.T.A.), and anne ramsey (THE GOONIES, THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN)? Just...brilliant.
-Fausta, the Nazi Wonder Woman
Two wonder women...one of them switching from traditional to nazi version! A german agent (lynda day george - MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, ROOTS) captures wonder woman and returns her to Germany, where she convinces her doppelganger that the fatherland has no love for women, so she should turn traitor! Of course. Who wouldn't?! The shots of wonder woman being overcome are almost disturbing, particularly for a child.
-Beauty on Parade
Okay, it wasn't all gloria steinem in satin power pants. The world's greatest feminist icon had one painstakingly chauvinistic episode, as she goes undercover in a beauty pageant, with leering objectification in full bloom. It's like every crass male notion wanted a "revenge" episode...and got it. Guest star Dick Van Patten (EIGHT IS ENOUGH, ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS) is repellant as the MC. Steve makes some demeaning comments that could be used in sexual harassment films. It's quease-inducing because the writers had no idea they were being loathsome.
-The Feminum Mystique
Not the sharpest episode in the tool shed, but too juicy to be ignored. The debut of debra winger (AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, TERMS OF ENDEARMENT) as diana's teenage sister...wonder girl! Cloris is replaced by carolyn jones (THE ADDAMS FAMILY, BATMAN), who sends princess drusilla to bring her sister home. Nazis mistake her for wonder woman, and get her to reveal the location of Paradise Island...which is soon invaded! No nazi frogmen, but close. The amazing amazons fold like a french fortress. Diana saves the day. Debra wandering the U.S. streets is pretty hysterical too.
-Wonder Woman vs. Gargantua
I'm sorry...did a gorilla just lift wonder woman into the air by her vagina? Ah no, i see! A gorilla just lifted a nazi agent posing as wonder woman into the air by her vagina. All right, then. Carry on. Okay, i suppose i should also mention...john hillerman (MAGNUM P.I., BLAZING SADDLES) and robert loggia (AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, LOST HIGHWAY)!
-The Pluto File
Robert reed (THE BRADY BUNCH, THE BRADY BUNCH VARIETY HOUR) as a plague-infected nazi superspy!
-Judgment from Outer Space
Given the sophomoric writing of some of season 1, you can be forgiven for fearing that an alien episode is a big ol' shark waiting to be jumped. But behold...a corker, an absolute corker! Not just visually, but the smartest episode yet (courtesy of writer stephen kandel, whom it will surprise no one to learn was a veteran of STAR TREK). A council of alien leaders, disturbed by Earth's pending entry into the space age, sends an envoy (Tim O'Connor - PEYTON PLACE, BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY) to decide our fate. He's sympathetic, but the evidence is damning. Wonder Woman argues for U.S. ideals, but he poo-poos that, saying our methods are just as corrupt (he even zings her with japanese-american internment camps). Part 2 loses a little steam and coherence, but ends beautifully.
-The Bushwhackers
If you're not sure you're actually watching a wonder woman western, the producers toss in roy rogers, just so there's no doubt. Cattle rustlers and global orphans in a lightweight script, only notable for her costume - the first time we see her in something approximating civvies. Is it possible roy wasn't comfortable around female flesh? Dale, is there something we should know? Or maybe he was against women being objectified...one of those points wherein feminism gets murky.
-Wonder Woman in Hollywood
Steve is summoned to L.A. to play himself in a war film. But the other military heroes (including robert hays - AIRPLANE!, AIRPLANE II: THE SEQUEL) keep disappearing! Debra winger's final appearance. The sisters' sprinting montage is too, too classic.
SEASON 2
-The Return of Wonder Woman
Can the magic continue? In a new network and new decade, a plane carrying CIA (er, IADC) agent steve trevor, jr. goes down in the Bermuda Triangle, setting off the same sequence of events as thirty-five years before. Diana, unaged, becomes steve's assistant, fighting...well, terrorists and such. Queen hippolyta #3 (beatrice straight - NETWORK, POLTERGEIST), come on down! The villains (including jessica walter - DINOSAURS, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) are an incoherent mess of cheese...but the scene in which a fake steve attempts to seduce diana is a welcome indulgence after the sexual repression of season 1.
-Anschluss '77
If you're going to have the cojones to do a moving picture about cloning hitler (barry dennen - JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE), show him hating and speechifying the minute he emerges from the vat, i say.
-The Bermuda Triangle Crisis
That...was...wild. How about a terrorist sub...that's a reuse of the Seaview from VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA? Plus the debut of the wonder woman aqua suit (an even more preposterously hip Halloween choice)! She spins into it just like her regular costume, which brings up the question of how many changes of attire she can materialize out of thin air. Wonder pajamas? Wonder lederhosen? A wonder biohazard suit? In her blue aqua suit (with stars, natch), she swims hundreds of miles carrying a limpet mine in the wink of an eye.
-Knockout
Just classic. With the help of a samaritan cabbie (ted shackelford - SPACE PRECINCT, KNOTS LANDING: BACK TO THE CUL-DE-SAC), wonder woman convinces a terrorist (jayne kennedy - THE MUTHERS, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN) of the error of her ways. The writing IQ shoots up, with the notion that anti-rich terrorists could have a legitimate beef. Plus a conversation between an assassin and a revolutionary, that's just too surreal. It's also fascinating to watch the show with the awareness that lynda has a latin heritage, of which we kids in the 70s had no clue. The moments when she speaks spanish (or chooses tacos over burgers) take on a new resonance. And she gets another mute child to speak! Annie sullivan got nothin' on ol' WW. This episode sets the template for much of the rest of the series, in which lynda and lyle rarely appear onscreen together...
-The Pied Piper
Been waiting for an episode so surreal it will leave your mouth agape in disbelief? Then go no further than this tale of flutist rock star hamlin rule (martin mull - CLUE, THE JERK TOO) who hypnotizes his fans into robbing his concerts. Not enough? How about eve plumb (THE BRADY BUNCH, I'M GONNA GET YOU SUCKA) as his head teenybopper? Hamlin makes david cassidy look like johnny rotten, and his crooks look like a muslim version of the robert palmer girls. You'll be speechless.
-The Queen and the Thief
Jersey girl turned european monarch faces treachery from a jewel thief (david hedison - VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, LIVE AND LET DIE) and her own ambassador (john colicos - BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, DEEP SPACE NINE).
-The Man Who Made Volcanoes
A weighty contender for "most incoherent WW episode"...and that's one of the more fiercely-contested titles in TV history. A rogue scientist (roddy mcdowall - PLANET OF THE APES, TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY) builds a ray that can trigger volcanoes anywhere on the globe, and holds the planet hostage until we agree to end war. Pacifist diana has less sympathy than you might hope. Chinese, russian, and american agents descend on Mexico.
-Mind Stealers from Outer Space
Interplanetary envoy andros...or uh, his son (dack rambo - DALLAS, PAPER DOLLS) returns to Earth to fight brain-stealing aliens. It seems obvious that tim o'connor was meant to reprise his role, but couldn't - or perhaps he read the script, and knew the magic wasn't there. The aliens look like fifty-cent gorts with garland around their heads, and their beast looks like a cross between darth vader, darth maul, and stephen stills. Plus a couple frizz-headed Doublemint twins and a flying saucer reuse from THIS ISLAND EARTH...but nothing clicks.
-The Deadly Toys
An almost understated frank gorshin (BATMAN, RUDOLF'S SHINY NEW YEAR) plays an aged toymaker who constructs a wonder woman android. Yes, boys and girls (okay, boys), it's time for some amazon on amazon action!
-Light-fingered Lady
Greg morris (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, VEGA$)! The screen debut of bubba smith (POLICE ACADEMY 1-6, STROKER ACE)!
-Screaming Javelins
Oh...my. Henry gibson (CHARLOTTE'S WEB, MAGNOLIA) gives a performance that's a wet dream for every drama teacher who ever told a student "bigger". Playing the monomaniacal leader of an island nation who kidnaps the world's best athletes to compete in the Olympics, he sports swishy hair, purple pajamas, and blonde twins constantly massaging him. Not enough? How about rick springfield (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, CALIFORNICATION) as a dopey boyfriend? And vaughn armstrong (ENTERPRISE, CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER) as a flunky, looking so young he may as well be five.
-Diana's Disappearing Act
Diana is kidnapped by a magician alchemist (dick gautier - GET SMART, WHEN THINGS WERE ROTTEN) who has a lead-to-gold scheme he's using to bilk OPEC. A goofy ed begley jr. (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, A MIGHTY WIND) is a senator's son trying to help. Even when WW fails to be excitingly cool, it's usually so silly you can't help giggling.
-Flight to Oblivion
That, boys and girls, is a bus...with a periscope.
-The Man Who Wouldn't Tell
Are you sitting? Gary burghoff (M*A*S*H, M*A*S*H) plays a womanizing janitor who accidentally finds the missing ingredient in an explosive. Corporate mercenary philip michael thomas (MIAMI VICE, ROOTS: THE NEXT GENERATIONS) captures him. So bad it's...not good, but funny funny funny.
-The Girl from Ilandia
Bizzarro hilarity. A girl from another dimension is discovered on a piece of driftwood, pursued by an evil genius (allan arbus - M*A*S*H, THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN). Mr. arbus should take megalomaniac lessons from mr. gibson, and a team of psychologists should take a close look at the news mogul who adopts the girl - it's doubtful they'd let him within a hundred miles of a female child today. The shots of wonder woman teaching her to use her powers are unforgettable.
-The Murderous Missile
Just so silly (with heart). A third wonder costume arrives...motocross togs! But take away the exclamation point...it's just a reuse of the wet suit, with gold helmet.
SEASON 3
-My Teenage Idol is Missing
Can this show GET any sillier? Take a seat, as...leif garrett (THE OUTSIDERS, BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE) plays identical twins, a rock star and an orphan. He's kidnapped, and replaced by himself. As his manager (michael lerner - EIGHT  MEN OUT, BARTON FINK) bumbles, fans won't accept a lip-synching star! Well no. Of course not. That would be silly.
-The Deadly Sting
How can you tell pre-80s TV from post-80s? In the latter, the bad guys sexually harass women; in the former, the good guys do it. Starring craig t. nelson (POLTERGEIST, COACH) and ron ely (TARZAN, DOC SAVAGE).
-The Fine Art of Crime
Roddy mcdowall (THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES) is back for his second spin on the wonder wheel, as a sculptor whose amazing statues are humans "frozen" so they can be re-animated to commit crimes! Naturally. Ed begley's back too, for an encore as milksop harold farnum. Gavin mcleod (MARY TYLER MOORE, THE LOVE BOAT) plays a victimized father.
-Disco Devil
Some WW episodes make you ponder the question, "Too silly, or not silly enough?" A disco is a front for a crime ring that uses a psychic to steal people's memories. Russell Johnson (GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, THIS ISLAND EARTH) plays an army colonel. Is Wolfman Jack along for the ride? How can you even wonder? But no - neither diana nor steve dance.
-Formicida
Can it finally be...a super-villain?? Wonder woman fights formicida, a scientist who takes bug hormones to gain ant power, and the ability to control them. She's a half-sympathetic ecological terrorist. The strange, scary manipulations she makes with her mouth will endure long in a child's memory...and her catsuit will do the same for an older demographic. But formicida may take first prize in the "worst villain name ever" contest - even after watching the episode, you'll be unable to pronounce it. Next to her, "disintegratrix" is easy peezy.
-Time Bomb
The WW sci fi train keeps on rolling! Ted shackelford (DALLAS, KNOTS LANDING) is back for his second go-round, playing a scientist from 2155 chasing a criminal (joan van ark - DALLAS, KNOTS LANDING) who longs for these barbaric, profit-based times. The best WW has a quality of lightness which floats the episode along. The visuals are candy, the acting spot-on, the flirtation between diana and adam tantalizing...and obviously this one's a wet dream for KNOTS LANDING buffs (Knotsers? Knotsies! Sorry.).
-Skateboard Wiz
She makes up for not discoing (a bit, anyway), as she grabs a board and chases down a car! Plus video games, an unforgettable attempt by two goons to drown her in the surf, the second WW go-round for eric braeden (ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES, HERBIE GOES TO MONTE CARLO), plus art metrano (POLICE ACADEMY 2-3, JOANIE LOVE CHACHI)!
-Stolen Faces
The awesomest transformation ever, as diana falls off a building and spins in mid-air. Plus another evil steve trevor!
-Pot of Gold
The words "understated" and "WONDER WOMAN" don't cross paths often, so let's give due honor, as WW deals with...a leprechaun. Yup. But instead of giving us cliched, actor dick o'neill (CAGNEY & LACEY, THE MOSQUITO COAST) offers disarming believability.
-Gault's Brain
Strap yourself in for the perfect WW episode for all ages - as frightening to young'ns as it's hysterical to adults. A billionaire (the immortal john carradine - THE GRAPES OF WRATH, STAGECOACH) dies, and has an evil scientist (peter mark richman - THE NAKED GUN 2 1/2, DYNASTY) put his brain (with one eye) into a fish tank, from where he displays telekinetic powers while waiting to be transferred to an athletic young body. Beefcake plus cheesecake, as a femme fatale (cathie shirriff - STAR TREK III, ALL THAT JAZZ) slinks around. You'll check the clock, wondering how they squeezed all this into one episode.
-Spaced Out
Sit right down for a tale of a cat burglar trying to recover stolen goods at a sci fi convention. The visuals are outlandishly hysterical, with costumes from LOGAN'S RUN, STAR WARS, THIS ISLAND EARTH, a woman with vulcan ears, and robbie the robot. Those alone would be worth the price of admission, but would you believe the burglar is played by...rene auberjonois (M*A*S*H, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE)? A man destined to attend more sci fi conventions than he might ever recall? And the name of the fictional sci fi show making a 1979 "comeback" (as STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE was being filmed across town)? No, not GALAXY QUEST...it's SPACE QUEST!
-The Starships are Coming
No, no wonder space suit yet...but the sci fi silliness keeps on rolling. A tycoon fakes an alien invasion, in order to have China nuked. Tim o'connor (THE NAKED GUN 2 1/2, DYNASTY) takes his second spin on the WW wheel, as a one-eyed colonel. David white (BEWITCHED, THE HAPPY HOOKER GOES TO WASHINGTON) tags along too. The all-time greatest wonder woman vs. goons fight - if you don't laugh out loud, you're dead inside.
-Amazon Hot Wax
Diana goes on a wild ride, as she poses as an aspiring singer to expose extortion in the music biz. You'll wonder whose amazing voice she's lip-synching to...and you'll be wrong. It's all lynda (yes, she released an album, too). The screen debut of judge rheinhold (FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, BEVERLY HILLS COP), plus the second WW spin for rick springfield (HARD TO HOLD, HIGH TIDE).
-A Date with Doomsday
Peace terrorists plan a lethal germ warfare strike against Washington. Unlike the wealth- and eco-terrorists, they get no sympathy, not even from an uber-pacifist amazon. With donnelly rhodes (SOAP, GALACTICA)!
-The Girl with a Gift for Disaster
A goof with grumpy goons...charles haid (HILL STREET BLUES, NIGHTBREED) and dick butkus (MY TWO DADS, JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY).
-The Boy Who Knew Her Secret
Aliens come body snatching...are they malevolent, or just chasing an evil fugitive? Why did it take this long for diana to face a villain who uncovers her secret identity? A teenager (clark brandon - MY TUTOR, THE FACTS OF LIFE) also finds out, and is forced to face the invasion alone when diana gets hypnotized into forgetting her identity. Her wipe of his memory at the end is tantalizingly incomplete. A double-length episode with too much to cram into one, but not enough for two.
-The Man Who Could Not Die
Or, the series about to die (and crap like this is why). WW is re-booted in L.A., with steve trevor gone. This has to have been the last episode shot. There's a chauvinist IADC boss, an ingratiatingly annoying child hustler hanging around the office...and it's just bad. Really, really bad.
-Phantom of the Roller Coaster
Wonder woman chases a disfigured vietnam vet haunting an amusement park! Another two-parter that gets a bit plodding, but has plenty of heart. Plus craig littler (JASON OF STAR COMMAND, BLAZING SADDLES) and marc alaimo (DEEP SPACE NINE, TANGO & CASH)!
SPECIAL BONUS
-WONDER WOMAN (TV movie, 1974)
NO connection to the series...a point so important to douglas kramer, that the full name of that series became THE NEW ORIGINAL WONDER WOMAN. But worth reviewing, because it's too bizarre to ignore. Substantially different in tone (more deliberate and understated) and look (a blonde star who barely has a supercostume...and not in the good way), it's the 70s at their bizarro best. The dialogue is at times so surreal that it dips into film noir. Starring kathy lee crosby (THAT'S INCREDIBLE!, COACH), and ricardo montalban (STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, THE NAKED GUN) as a villain so suave, urbane, and polite, he'd rather have a shavian discussion than take over the world. His super-villain escape plan involves him rowing away in a raft so small he must have stolen it from a child. An image so funny it will stay with you a long time...
WONDER WOMAN DRINKING GAME
Yes, yes...i don't drink and i'm bored by people who do. Yet i'm helpless to resist the goof of a perfectly conjured drinking game.
1 drink - she breaks a gun
1 drink - she uses her headband as a boomerang
1 drink - the office robot dog uses the road runner meep-meep sound
2 drinks - a non-standard wonder costume
3 drinks - she lays some personal accessory down before transforming, necessitating logistic complications when she transforms back, to say nothing of exposing her accessory to theft

Sunday, August 17, 2014

"For the Love of Harry"

FOR THE LOVE OF HARRY: EVERYBODY SINGS NILSSON
1995
A contender for the title of "greatest tribute album ever". As that's almost a left-handed compliment, a truer compliment might be this - mixed in with harry's own stuff, this will be one of your most listened-to, beloved nilsson discs. Which is not to say you'll fall in love with every performance, or that there won't be a song or two you'll wish had been included instead...but for an artist who was as talented a singer as he was a writer, it's amazing that so many of these offerings don't make you long to hear the original. A few even surpass the original. Released a year after harry's death, the album is bursting. Twenty-three tracks by a diverse group of artists who all donated their work, so that more proceeds could go to The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a charity near to harry's heart since his friend john's slaying in 1980. The ever-quirky, merry musical puck who would have been more of a household name had he cared to play any concerts, inspired that kind of love among his peers.
1) "Remember", by randy newman
Harry covered newman copiously, and randy returns the favor with an effort indescribably perfect as the lead track.
2) "Turn On Your Radio", by marc cohn
Marc contributes an effort so good it's rather spooky (the insertion of lennon lyrics and a couple whispered lines by harry himself help).
3) "One", by aimee mann
A beautifully-done track with backup vocals by chris difford and neil innes, that later ended up on the MAGNOLIA soundtrack.
4) "Coconut", by fred schneider
A contribution that seems almost TOO obvious ("i said doctor!"), but fred nails it.
6) "Lay Down Your Arms", by ringo starr with stevie nicks
Kind of obligatory at first, but it feels just right after a few listenings.
7) "Without Her", by beckley/lamm/wilson
A solid, funky offering by this America/Chicago/Beach Boy supergroup.
9) "The Moonbeam Song", by steve forbert
Just a beautiful, indelible vocal. You'll play it again and again.
10) "You're Breakin' My Heart", by peter wolf and the houseparty 5
A raucous rendition of a song that will make you say, "Wait...WHAT do those lyrics say?" The third track from SON OF SCHMILSSON that outdoes the original.
12) "Salmon Falls", by al kooper
A righteous contribution of a beautiful, eerie, unfairly obscure song, by one of the album's two co-producers.
14) "Don't Forget Me", by marshall crenshaw
A delightful effort (though the signature recording belongs now to neither he nor harry, but neil diamond).
16) "Think About Your Troubles", by jellyfish
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this disc is in its offerings from THE POINT!...harry's most famous work, but one this writer never quite "got". Fan-fan-fantastic.
20) "I Guess the Lord Must be in New York City", by richard barone
Richard takes a good song and makes it soar higher than before...
23) "Lifeline", by jimmy webb
See # 16...a perfect ending to an amazing album. Rich, resonant, and unforgettable.

"Eating Animals"

-by jonathan saffran foer
2009
A lifelong omnivore facing parenthood for the first time decides to understand what being a meat-eater in the 21st century really means, before bestowing that cultural heritage upon his child. Jonathan, celebrated author of the novel "Everything is Illuminated", spent several years researching this quest, and the results are most impressive. Beautifully written and compellingly argued, the main focus revolves around the reality of factory farming on planet Earth, where the mandates of "cheap meat for all" have created a moral vacuum in which trillions of slave animals live horrifically and die excruciatingly, and an ecological apocalypse which the human race will not likely survive. The cultural roots and ritualistic importance of eating are studied. A sea of facts and stats roll before your eyes, many of which will not soon leave your consciousness. The false gap between our own nature and that of other animals is touched upon, in the growing body of awareness of how much more intelligent, emotional, and social other Earth creatures are than we ever wanted to believe. Jonathan gets "inside" the wall of secrecy behind factory farms and slaughterhouses as much as possible. The only aspects not looked at in-depth are the health concerns of a meat-based diet, and the historical perspective by which humans only 20,000 years ago began murdering and exploiting not only other animals, but each other as well. But what's here is much more impressive than what's not, and for a fair-handed meat-eater's look at "what are we doing?", you won't do better. For a deeper look, see: http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2014/08/tony-tofurkey.html.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

trekking our progress!

Star Trek.
A beacon of progressive values? A shining example of a bright future, when humanity "gets its shit together"?
Well...yeah.
But does that proposition stand up to intense scrutiny? Beneath the humanist/pacifist veneer, are there any lurking hotbeds of cultural barbarism? Are the prejudices of our violent, exploitative, dysfunctional world really sidestepped? For that matter, is anyone born into this world capable of even answering such a question?
Five series, ten films. Let's take a look.
RACISM/TRIBALISM
The groundwork was laid in the classic, with a bridge crew that had white, black, yellow, american, and russian all working together...in 1967! Subsequent series added indian (or latindio), hispanic, and arabian (though not every viewer necessarily picked up on those last two...but that in itself speaks volumes about how well the TREK vision was clicking). Of course, there was a "token" element to the mostly white male classic...and every cast had a plurality of whites (even if only barely). But on a more overt level, every series has had episodes dealing with the evils of tribalism/racism - it's at the core of the the vision. And only once in the canon does a future human reveal self-consciousness about skin color (sisko's refusal to enter vic's holoprogram...not the only time DS9 got it wrong). For a while TREK flirted with associating blacks with "savage" klingons...but there were exceptions to blunt that, and before long even the klingons were "humanized". And the fact that racial (or even specieal) considerations were almost never a factor in the show's expressions of sexual desire, had enormous subconscious resonance. Yellow, green, black, spotted...sex us up, scotty!
SEXISM
Okay, don't fixate on the miniskirts. The big numbers for TREK's women? Captains - one of five. First officers - two of five. Senior staff members - fourteen of forty (35%). As a vision of the future? Not so great. As an entertainment product of a barbarically male-dominated society? Not so bad. And it was a credit to how well the show's vision was working, that by the time janeway arrived, many didn't even think of her in terms of gender. That said, her character could have been a disaster in the wrong hands. Mulgrew was steel, without being unfeeling or a caricature. If she'd come off as a bad captain in any way, the entire TREK venture would have been diminished. In that light, after spock, picard, and kirk, she was the most vital casting choice in franchise history. You might also add majel barrett's number one from the original pilot to the big numbers, but let's debunk the notion that a sexist network forbade a female first officer. Aside from gene, there's no documentation or testimony to support that, so let's assume he was lying to his lover to avoid telling her she wasn't a very good actor. And it's fascinating to think of how that changed the course of the show. If he hadn't had to maintain his lie publicly, mightn't he have replaced majel with another actress? Think of the ramifications. It might have been a beautiful moment for feminism...but without spock as first officer, would we be talking about any of this today? With spock in a sulu-sized role, would the show have lasted even three seasons? Anyway...social impact is about more than numbers. In the show's general attitude toward women, the reality is much more affirmative. Yes, you could argue that TREK perpetuated the notion that a woman's worth is in her looks and that women are disposable commodities, especially in TOS (call it the kirk factor...which wasn't all bad, however - see SEX & INTIMACY). With james t.'s revolving/sliding door (no one ugly or over thirty, please), 70s feminism was probably a bit chilly to TREK. Which is quite sad. Perhaps if a few feminists had opened up to gene, he might have become better at knocking down double standards. But the charge of "trexism" isn't so clear-cut, as all five casts were largely comprised of young and pretty actors, male and female alike. Beautyism, then? A bit. But almost all the female characters were intelligent and capable - indeed, in dax, seven, and t'pol, three of the series' most intelligent character was...a woman. TREK clearly paints a future where women are anything but kitchen/bedroom slaves. Even in TOS, they're motivated and dynamic, their self-worth not defined by some man. The handful of times that's painfully not the case are the exceptions that prove the rule. Overall, women either appear or are referred to as Starfleet captains at least fourteen times - often quite capably (garrett, hernandez). While none of those were in TOS, even there the notion wasn't alien, except literally with the formidable romulan commander of "The Enterprise Incident". There were also several female admirals eventually. Of course, i'm pretty sure that every single time a woman piloted the ship in TNG, it crashed. When all is said and done, if you want to banish all TREK for sexist crimes, i won't argue the point. Then again, if you pay attention to TNG season 1, you'll spot several males wearing those damned miniskirts too. And that ain't nothin'.
VIOLENCE
By the time a television-viewing child turns eighteen, he or she will have seen 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence. If that doesn't chill you to the bone, something in you died a long time ago. If children watched only STAR TREK and THE GOLDEN GIRLS however, those numbers would be significantly altered (And every Halloween, there'd be bea arthurs and ardras everywhere! Rue mcclanahans and ru'afos!). Surprisingly, given the level of fandom, no one seems to have tallied the total murders and violent acts in the 724 TREK episodes...but how many have neither? Thirty percent? How many have no murders? Sixty percent? Let's think about how amazing that is, especially in a genre soaked in violent death (care to crunch the bloody numbers on the other biggest sci fi franchise of the past fifty years?). A big part of the reason is that the show isn't based on the struggle between "good and evil", but between knowledge and ignorance. And if you take DS9 out of the mix, TREK's violence/murder rate might drop by as much as 50% - making another case for DS9 as the idiot stepchild of the franchise. Much of that hangs on the decision to make their final few seasons be about intergalactic war...which makes me a bit embarrassed, as i prefer the last few seasons (i'd like to hope that's the worf factor). Yet too, the most violent TREK movie, WRATH OF KHAN, is arguably also the best. And for all the Federation's peaceful intent, their starships were undeniably big weapons, of incalculable destructive force. So perhaps if the franchise isn't to fade away into the land of re-boots that are TREK in name only, it's time for a series that propels the vision further. It's time for STAR TREK: DOVE (http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2009/09/star-trek-dove.html).
AGEISM
The ultimate expression of ageism is to make older people invisible - a trick that television can pull off a thousand times more neatly than real life. If someone is invisible, you don't even have to ASK whether they have any worth. Did TREK make older people invisible? Of the forty-three regulars, just thirteen were beyond their thirties when their time on the show began (though there were more thirty-nine year-olds than you might guess). But let's eliminate auberjonois, shimerman, dorn, philips, and billingsley, as they could have been any age under that makeup. Which leaves eight of forty-three, or 19%. Curiously, forty-six is a big TREK age, especially for captains - patrick stewart, avery brooks, scott bakula, de kelley, and james doohan were all that age when they stepped into the final frontier. Of the rest, roberts picardo and beltran were closer to forty. Diana muldaur, she of one season, joins rene as the only TREK regulars past fifty. But in looking at these forty-somethings, one effect of cultural ageism rears its ugly head. How many of you are surprised to learn that some of these actors were over forty? In an ageist society, we subconsciously tend to imbue everything with youth (especially when we're young). I myself was surprised at just about every one of these actors' ages, except for diana, scott, and the bald guy. And of course we shouldn't be too hard on TREK, as the life of a frontier explorer will naturally attract young'ns. But the ageism that TREK would have been guilty of is sidestepped by one happy accident - the show's success. Many of our most enduring images will always be of characters past (or even well past) their prime. By the time UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY came around, it was decades after the show's original run. NEMESIS hit the screen fifteen years after TNG's debut. Picard was joking about his age, while the rest of the cast were obviously not kids, either. Yet there they all were, both casts prospering...and living long.
SHARING
Earth of the 23rd century has no money, greed, or poverty. Some of TREK's details thereof are spot-on, almost startlingly - who was the brilliant writer who thought to name the most fundamental book of vulcan philosophy, "Let Me Help"? In the first half of the first season no less, identifying selfishness as the primary sickness at the heart of humanity. TREK also properly identified the causal relationship between selfishness and capitalism. Making that point absolutely clear was so important to gene, that the only substantive difference between TOS and the first season of TNG was a new arch-villain - the ferengi (greedy, amoral trolls - that obvious enough for you?). This is all the more amazing when you consider that TREK's writers couldn't have known what we currently know about humanity's natural state, pre-agriculture - a paradigm of radical sharing, wherein the notion of "mine" didn't even exist as we know it. The only quibble one can make is to question whether the show accurately portrays humans who have grown up in a world of sharing. The answer? Probably not even close. In a million ways, TREK's humans have so many of the quirks and failings of people who have grown up in THIS world. Maybe the writers didn't have the foggiest notion of how to accurately portray sharing-centered people, or maybe they knew such accuracy would compromise the ability of the audience to relate to the show. Probably, they just did the best they could.
SUPERSTITION
When you believe in things that you don't understand, then you suffer...and the most sweepingly affirmative TREK denial of barbaric superstition is the removal of religion from humanity's future. Once again, the exceptions to this in TOS tend to prove the rule...not as airtightly as with sexism, but still strongly, a reality cemented with the even more complete non-religiosity of all the subsequent series (except for DS9, cementing their status as the franchise short shuttle). Beyond that, every series has numerous episodes showcasing the disasters inherent in blind faith of any kind.
CLASSISM
Classism - the notion that humans ought be divided into a hierarchy of worth. There are usually middle layers (merchants, mechanics, teachers, artists...) before one comes to the bottom - the people who do the hardest work for the least reward. On the surface, TREK is an anti-classist titan - every series has numerous episodes about its evils. There was, however, classism lurking in the classic. It was probably unintended, but look beneath the humor of the joke about kirk, spock, and that guy in red - he rarely had lines or a personality, often died, and was never in on the decision-making. Subsequent series distanced themselves from that as much as they could, even making red the color of command (what, you thought they switched to red because it brought out jean-luc's eyes?). Security were ever after portrayed as singular people who were looked to for their input. On another level though, the social structure of every TREK incarnation embodied the hierarchy of military rank. A meritocracy, in which all have equal chance to rise or fall. Will future generations laugh at the barbarism of a system of compulsion and punishment/reward? Might not humanity soon figure out how to organize ourselves in a more democratic, egalitarian way?
IDIC
Infinite diversity in infinite combinations - "the glory of creation in its infinite diversity". A tenet central to vulcan philosophy, it speaks not merely to tolerance, but the embrace of differing understandings. I think it's reasonable to extend that to an expression of deference and humility before all life. How does TREK hold up on that score? They do well with morality plays about not judging based on appearance (such as when a dangerous, "subhuman" life form turns out to be a mother protecting her eggs), but the substance of those episodes is the search for life "like us". What about life which seems unlike us, in prejudicial ways the show just accepts at face value? Current human biases are disappointingly revealed in this aspect of TREK. We're told to be indignant over the races the son'a enslaved in INSURRECTION, yet what of the equestrian race humans are shown having enslaved in GENERATIONS? What of the canine race humans are shown having enslaved in STE? Nothing but a happy face for those. The notion that these beings don't have self-awareness is barbaric (and that's not just me talking...the first domino has fallen, as France declared dogs legally sentient as of this calendar year). Would you be surprised to find that science still doesn't know whether we're the smartest creature on this planet, and that there is biological evidence which points to the opposite conclusion, in certain species of dolphin most notably? Then there's the matter of food. TOS writers had enough foresight to make vulcans vegetarian, and the prop makers made ship food that looks nothing like "meat"...but as late as STV, there were occasional intimations that humans are still eating other animals. Never mind the health concerns or growing tide of ethical objection - simply on the basis of ecological sustainability, the proposition that humans will still be omnivores in the 23rd century is silly. Does your unquestioning acceptance of the fact that "universal translators" don't translate data's cat reveal your knowledge...or your depths of prejudice?
SEX & INTIMACY
Arguably the greatest blind spot in the TREK universe. Not merely overtly - one has to assume that many (if not most) of the writers were genuinely blind to how out of synch TREK is with healthy sexuality. The sciences of biology and psychology have barely stepped into that ocean of knowledge, which future generations will use to restore our species to balance. The only reason the show isn't a COMPLETE failure on this level is, well, accidental (again!). Remember the kirk factor? It started as nothing more than the semi-sexist fantasizing of the male creators - let's give kirk a babe of the week! And hire a costume designer who will ever strive to outdo himself in revealing the ass(ets) of said babe! Lost in that is the fact that there is nothing unhealthy about kirk's libidinal fondness for variety...quite the opposite (and in fact, kirk's "womanizing" has been grossly distorted by cultural revisionism - see http://strangehorizons.com/non-fiction/columns/freshly-rememberd-kirk-drift/). But let's back up - it's not just about sex. In fact, it's not even primarily about sex. It's about intimacy. Future humans will understand why everyone who lived in our times was so broken and fearful and violent, because for millenia humans have been cut off from the physical intimacy which is our birthright. Future humans will look at TREK and say, "They all look sad...and i would too. WHY IS NO ONE TOUCHING EACH OTHER?" Ninety percent of the intimate physical contact on TREK is either sexual or violent - an accurate mirror of the society that created it. For the most part, our only sanctioned arena for intimate touch is sex, so sex becomes horribly burdened and warped (sorry). Abundant touch is essential to health, in ways we're only beginning to understand. I'm not saying that a healthy TREK would have picard and riker hugging as they order shields up (though i wouldn't mind watching that episode), but in the show's less-stressful moments, future humans will be baffled by the lack of touch. Think about all the touch a baby receives, then how that touch is gradually (and sometimes not so gradually) yanked away. Babyhood is a fair starting point for understanding how much touch a healthy adult needs. Picture senior staff meetings ending in hugs. Picture o'brien and bashir relaxing in a meadow, with julian's head casually reclining against miles' leg. Okay, now - the sex. No, not in the meadow! In TREK. Plenty of it going on, bless em'. And it's here where the kirk factor has a healthy side. Every relevant scientist will tell you that humanity's natural state is non-monogamous. Humans are constructed to have multiple concurrent partners - the evidence is beyond dispute. Now, guess where TREK phasered themselves in the foot? Giving janeway a "lover at home" to pine for, cunt-blocked her. This was sexist, conservative, patriarchal bullshit, kowtowing to the notion that audiences wouldn't accept a woman having serial affairs. Throughout the TREK canon, with a few semi-exceptions (DS9, notably...hurrah, they did something right!), this is the pattern. Most TREK women haven't even reached mary tyler moore's level of liberation! Which brings us to...the marriages. Or, as i call them, TREK's most embarrassing moments. Jadzia/worf, miles/keiko, deanna/will, paris/torres...not recommended for weak stomachs. Is it possible that some version of marriage will survive into the 23rd century? Perhaps...but only in a form so altered that it will be barely recognizable. Informal group marriages for the purpose of child-rearing? Sure. A little life partnering here and there? Possibly, but only in a non-exclusive sense. This is one area where we might have hoped for a better example from the vulcans, but sexually, they're even more repressed than we. Which is not to say there weren't occasional moments of nose-thumbing at monogamy. There were (see http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2011/10/star-treks-flaws.html). The most sexually healthy race? The polygamous denobulans. Phlox's three wives each had three husbands (and an eagerness for further dalliances). The only truly regretful thing about STE's cancellation was that we never got to see any episodes on Denobula. And the funniest part of TREK's attitudes on sex, to future eyes? The scrupulous way TREK characters avoid being naked, will be as funny to them as anatomically incorrect ken dolls are to us.
STAR TREK. A progressive beacon? Absolutely. And one which left room for the reallllllllly progressive show to come, which will be an even bigger cultural phenomenon. But future generations will still have a place in their heart for TREK. Within a century or two, humans will see TREK as the cutely barbaric creation it is...which is no small compliment, as every other show you've ever watched will be considered horrifyingly barbaric.
Including, alas, GOLDEN GIRLS.
Live long and progress.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"The Buddha: In His Own Words"

THEATER 79
-fall & winter 2007
I met evan brenner through a Craigslist ad. He was looking for a theater person to run lines with for a one-person show he’d written about the life of the buddha. He’d already had a few performances in Boston. We met in the space where he’d be doing his first NY performance, and did some read-throughs. I gave him feedback, and stayed for the show. I thought it was lovely, and evan delightful. I’d always had a much greater connection with eastern philosophy than western (taoism was my favorite, with buddhism a close second). We met one or two more times, then he asked me to run lights and sound when he moved to his own performance space, a black box theater he and some friends were creating in an ex-lumber store on 25th St., by 8th Ave. Soon i was pitching in, and come opening night i was on the boards (light and sound boards, that is). They could barely be called boards, but visually (and in every other way), the show was very moving. Evan had culled the script from the Pali canon, the most authentic available. The first draft had been over six hours long. His wonderful parents, marcia and buzz, were providing much of the funding. Our cast and crew numbered three, with a delightful fellow named andhi jeannot running the lobby. He left, to be replaced by heather massie, an eager actress who also brought nice energy (later, due to budget cuts, i filled both crew roles). I liked heather, and there was even an attraction between us (though her use of makeup offset that). The play had had a director for its earlier incarnations, but i began to fill that role by sharing performance notes with evan, at his urging. He and i continued shaping the show, and at some point he officially named me director. He also introduced me to the only corporate weakness of my life - the Whole Foods buffet bar. To this day, my salivary glands perk up at the mere thought. The original lighting designer took exception to some of our changes, but ev smoothed that over. The most resonant song we used was jeff buckley’s “Hallelujah”…in the darkness, evan used jeff’s barely-audible pre-song breath intake as a stage cue. We did several shows a week, and ran for some months. Audiences ranged from teen-sized to around a hundred. They were some of the most lovely crowds i’d ever been around. A high sense of peace and curiosity permeated the affairs, as many of the attendees were buddhist practitioners. Evan did a lovely Q&A most nights. In all those months, i can’t recall a single overt personality conflict between the four of us, and i’m hard-pressed to recall even a sublimated one. The closest i can recollect is the night i felt a strong energy connection with an audience member who sat near me (my work station wasn’t hidden). There was a sexual element - before we’d even spoken a word, her nearness left me a bit intoxicated. She wasn’t as svelte as my usual tastes, but i knew with certainty that this was going to be the first romance of my life in which that didn’t matter one bit. During the Q&A, she did yoga stretches on the floor nearby. Finally, i was preparing to acknowledge these feelings, and i’m positive she was waiting for me to do so. Just then, heather started talking to me about that very person, and how her yoga activity was “weird”. By the time i extracted myself, she was gone. Years later, this still stands as one of the most profound romantic disappointments of my life. Anyway, the show continued on its beautiful way, and eventually evan invited me to produce one of my own shows in the space. I held auditions for ROHTI SEX and was in rehearsal when the news came – the Lumber Theater was closing. There was a fire code renovation needed which was prohibitively expensive, and evan knew there would be invite performances for the buddha show elsewhere. I joined him for one or two of these – particularly memorable is a performance at a Connecticut college. Evan and i stayed friends. I even lived with him for a week once, when i was between homes. I was able to give him one of the more beautiful gifts of my life – a thirty-pound wooden buddha created by an asian artist, brought to north america by a friend of mine.

Friday, July 4, 2014

"Six Feet Under"

2001-2005
-created by alan ball
Superbly acted. Very well written. One of the more realistic shows you'll ever watch - which is perhaps its flaw. It's so unrelentingly realistic, it can be depressing. So chock full of the day-in, day-out depressing things which happen to us all, that even happy things carry the anticipation of the inevitable depressing thing to come. You might not mind that with other shows, but the hyper-realism here makes it more oppressive. It's admirable...but at a certain point one is tempted to say, "I have real life, i don't need this!" Entertainment needs to take us out of our lives - which is not to say that the show needed mermaids or three sexy warlock brothers (or maybe it does mean that just a little, as creator ball added naked vampires and faeries to his subsequent [and superior] show).
But SIX FEET UNDER is an achievement worth noting, for perhaps more than any show ever, it showed us how stupid smart people are. I don't mean the bunglings of brainiacs, a la BIG BANG, but average, everyday "intelligent" people. "Dumb" is not a word anyone would think to apply to any of these characters were you to meet them in real life, yet watched objectively, you can see how pathetically stupid we are. In family life and above all romance, everyone makes selfish, possessive, hurtful choices OVER AND OVER AND OVER. Indeed, that's the only time the show ever feels contrived, in very occasional moments when you might be tempted to say, "Come on - NOBODY is that pig-headed!" But i think we really are. There's not even that one character who embodies the "voice of reason", so to speak...the hippie sister tries to be that, the gay couple try to be more evolved...but really, no. SIX FEET UNDER is a compelling portrait of how truly dysfunctional humans are at this point in history - trapped by barbaric notions of monogamy and selfishness, forever seeking to use others to fill these horrible, gaping holes inside us. It ain't pretty.
I offer no "best-of" list, as there is an almost inevitable uniformity to the episodes. Never great, never just okay, the show plowed happily along (although in the spirit of full disclosure, i must mention that i watched it on a library set, and scratches kept me from viewing maybe 25% of the episodes).
For all you TV history buffs, series regular Peter Krause is starting to make a career out of starring on the show BEFORE the creator got it right. For both alan ball and aaron sorkin, he was in a product that gained some acclaim or a cult following, but was never nearly as good as the subsequent series (TRUE BLOOD and sorkin's THE WEST WING).

Monday, June 30, 2014

sanityized lyrics 5

2099
(re-write of "1999", by prince)

I was dreamin' when i wrote this
Forgive me if it goes astray
But when i woke up this mornin'
I'd slept the century away

The sky was perfect blue
No ozone problem anywhere
And everybody's naked
Ain't nobody seems to care

'Cause they say twenty one zero zero
Party startin', no one watchin' time
So tonight i'm gonna party like it's 2099

I was dreamin' when i wrote this
No god or money anywhere
Everybody watchin' the kids
Yeah everyone knows how to share
Peace is all around us
Drums are thumpin' on the left and right
And no one's gettin' drunk
Only hypnotized by bonfirelight

They say twenty one zero zero
Party startin', no one watchin' time
So tonight we're gonna party like it's 2099

If you ain't here to get naked
Don't bother knockin' on my door
Kangaroo got a pocket
But people don't need one no more
Everybody huggin' and humpin'
We could all die any day
So if that's gonna happen
Let's dance this life away

They say twenty one zero zero
Party startin', no one watchin' time
So tonight we're gonna party like it's 2099
Twenty one zero zero
Party startin', no one watchin' time
So tonight we're gonna party like it's 2099
2099
Don't ya want to go
2099
Don't ya want to go
2099

Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Taxi"

1978-1983
Deserving of its place in the pantheon of television's sitcoms? Well...yes. And no. Bursting with potential its first season, it had a chemistry and balance not one sitcom in two hundred comes near. A put-upon everyman, a struggling actor, an abysmal boxer, a hopeful single parent, a dippy foreign mechanic, a drug-addled ex-hippie, and an acerbic dispatcher - perhaps the most across-the-board resonant cast of characters ever. But the show treads water for a few seasons, always just a few IQ points away from brilliant, or one cojone away from bold. Then creators james burrows, glen charles, and les charles leave, and the show becomes a shadow of its former almost-glory. The addition of the wonderful carol kane can't pull them out of the doldrums, and late season appearances by ted danson, tom hanks, penny marshall, and wallace shawn are wasted....but a "best of" marathon might delight.
GREATEST EPISODES (season)
-Like Father, Like Daughter (1)
A polish and effortlessness that belie a pilot episode. As elaine joins the cab company, alex reveals he has a daughter (talia balsam - HAPPY DAYS, MAD MEN) he hasn't seen in fifteen years, who is about to leave the states for school in Portugal. The gang convinces him they should all take a cab to say farewell in Miami. The meeting at the airport is poignant and unforced.
-Blind Date (1)
Alex arranges a blind date with the sweet-voiced woman (suzanne kent - PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE, HISTORY OF THE WORLD: PART 1) on bobby's answering service. In person, she's obese and spitefully defensive. Can a sitcom make you both laugh and think deeply about an issue, perhaps subconsciously but for years to come? Yes.
-High School Reunion (1)
Louie dreads his approaching high school reunion, and wants revenge on his tormentors. Bobby convinces louie to let him go in his place, made up as a taller, more successful de palma. Louie agrees, but can't resist coming too. Jeff conaway is eye-poppingly brilliant.
-Memories of Cab 804 (1)
One of the most seamless pieces of ensemble work ever, on this show or any. The oldest company cab gets wrecked (by outgoing castmate randall carver, fittingly), and all the others tell their cab 804 stories. Guest starring tom selleck and mandy patinkin. Pinch me.
-Louie and the Nice Girl (2)
The vending machine woman (rhea perlman - CHEERS, KIRSTIE) falls for louie. He brags about all the sex they're having...except they're not. Wonderful chemistry. Brilliant and touching.
-Fantasy Borough, pt. 2 (2)
Sparked by an herve villachaize appearance in the middling pt. 1, the crew share their fantasies. You'll be smiling and chuckling non-stop, as louie dreams of being the only rich person in the world (and firing lassie), elaine & co. perform "The Lullaby of Broadway", and even alex's romantic fantasies go very wrong. Guest starring a sizzling priscilla barnes (THREE'S COMPANY, MALLRATS).
-Tony's Sister and Jim (3)
Jim romances tony's sister (julie kavner - RHODA, THE SIMPSONS). Tony is appalled. It sounds groaningly cliched - and it is. Yet the comedic talents of lloyd, kavner, and yes danza, make this one a non-stop laugher.
-On the Job, pt. 2 (3)
The Sunshine Cab Co. goes out of business. Again part 1 is middling, but 2 sparkles. Bobby works children's parties as a six-foot bunny, and alex is woeful as a night watchman. With a charming guest turn by al lewis (THE MUNSTERS, CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?).
-I Wanna Be Around (4)
Louie creates an armageddon shelter, and invites elaine, jeff, and tony to be his fellow survivors. Their two-day drill survives only eleven minutes. One of the few episodes to humanize louie, and give a substantive role to j. alan thomas, the actor always behind louie in the cage (and a fine fellow to be featured, as his name has the proper syllabalization to join "marilu henner" and "danny devito" in the lyricized version of the theme music).
-The Wedding of Latka and Simka (4)
Not as funny as other greatest entries, but charming and delightful for giving perhaps the most honest, progressive wedding (if you'll pardon the contradiction in terms) in sitcom history. Its quirks are explained by its being from latka's "backward" country...but don't let that fool you. The bride is given a REALISTIC admonition of what to expect, the couple wear each other's clothes for the ceremony, and defiance of authority is the test they must pass to be wed. Plus a lil' Dr. joyce brothers.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Rebirth! Of a blog!

(a semi-sequel to http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2008/02/birth-of-blog.html)
I sit here on a beautiful 90-degree day, in my thoreau-sized home on this little Gulf of Mexico island. I'm not in a meadow, but i'm plenty naked. My door is open. In a nod to the detail-richness with which the previous incarnation of this site was based, the only sounds i hear are the peepings and rustlings of the birds and breeze, a neighbor's air conditioner some thirty feet away, and "Wrapped Around Your Finger" coming from cottages across the canal. The only garment within reach is boxer shorts, which i use to dab post-masturbation drippy-dick. Do post-sex cocks drip more when you don't ejaculate? I'm not positive, but i think so.
I say "nod" to such details, because i've evolved away from personal revelation in my writing. I'm still dedicated to being naked as ever, but there's more focus on enlightenment and entertainment. Let's assume that the person most fascinated by "me" in this world is me. If it's possible for ME to be occasionally bored by me (which it is), i'll assume that humanity isn't holding its breath waiting for details of my toenail infection.
Second nail from the right. In case you were wondering.
Anyway.
Here we are...in the naked meadow!
Why are we here?
To find our freedom, and lose our fear.
Why did we leave "unboughtsoul"? It's a happy parting - there's no love lost with the name and spirit into which i poured my life for half a decade. This change has been coming for a while, though. There's an inescapably negative quality to the prefix "un". Negativity, even righteous negativity, is burdensome. Pure positivity, more liberating.
The black background of the former site? Also heavy. This new one is the color of kermit, and my favorite hue, sky blue.
And as poetic as "unboughtsoul" was, it didn't trip off the tongue. It's a strange construction, and just a little cumbersome. I also never liked the religious association of "soul".
And that aforementioned ME focus...unboughtsoul was about drawing a line in the sand, and while i wish such line-drawing for everyone, the language inevitably drew attention to my own life. In the less-me spirit, i'm also removing some of my photos. Do i lack the courage of my convictions, in not removing ALL such, so as to eliminate any possibility of someone liking (or disliking) this site just because of my looks? Possibly...but there are some things you just don't do, and not sharing a picture of oneself with shatner is at the top of that list.
My first choice for the new site was "nakedfreedom". A clarion call! "Naked" was a given...metaphorically or literally, there's no more beautiful word in the English language. But that site name? Taken! "Nakedfree" was available...but i quickly realized there were some undesirable connotations there. I tossed around other options, including "freedomnaked", but the beauty of "naked meadow" won me over. The words are almost musical. I heard a soft bell inside my head, pondering them for the first time. In the confluence of language and culture at this moment in history, naked meadow resonates. It sounds like a place you've never been, but have been looking for all your life. Everything that was ever happy, everything that was ever free...
Plus, it's ever so faintly sexy. Not so much that the forces of puritanism will ban me "site" unseen, but...gently and quietly, naked meadow is a place where all dreams, carnal and otherwise, become real.
On top of all that, there was a possible "truth in advertising" conflict coming down the road. Unboughtsoul was a promise of purity, a vow to be untainted by money. No advertisers monitoring content, no editors pressuring me to "tone it down". I even tried to avoid knowledge of my "hits" numbers, so as to escape being encouraged or discouraged by anything other than my naked truth. However, i may be fast approaching a time when i'll be offered money for my words. If not the words themselves, then for public speaking. Without automatically compromising my integrity, i'm preparing myself to accept such rewards. Perhaps it's a coward's way out, but we live in a world of unchecked brutality. I've lived too close to the edge (and seen how unfeeling we are to those who fall off) to be thrilled having no buffer between myself and the destitution that spares so few. Even if that buffer is little more than a fool's illusion. If my vision and creativity can bring me some amount of creature comfort, while still maintaining integrity...
I'll probably do it.
I know how obvious a choice that seems to most. But think deeply, and your mind might take a different turn.
My eyes are open to the possible corruptions. And mere world-weariness wouldn't be quite enough to make me sell myself - there also has to be a potentially stunning upside. The dark tone of the previous paragraphs notwithstanding, i've now taken my first baby steps into the world of original material public speaking.
And?
Flashes of brilliance and absolute beauty. Out of the thousand-some unboughtsoul posts, are there a few dozen capable of making strangers laugh, get misty-eyed, or think about things they never thunk before?
The early answer seems to be yes, in ways both expected and not.
Can i avoid the pitfalls of "Like me, please like me??", or "give 'em what they like"? Can anyone, other than a pure hermit? Probably not. But i'll bust my ass trying.
So we step into a naked meadow! And "nakedfreedom" becomes the road untraveled. It would have been a more overtly revolutionary road, but it also would have carried more burden of challenge for the reader - "Am i being free enough? Oh lawsy, am i being NAKED enough??" Naked meadow is more peaceful and accepting. Which invokes the question, what's my focus - lighting a fire under the world's ass, or making people feel understood and comforted? That split is probably as fifty-fifty as it gets. Healer. Revolutionary. Perhaps there's some providence in "nakedfreedom" being unavailable. As much as i want every human to achieve my level of uninhibited self-awareness, i know we're at least a century or two away. So in the meantime, perhaps the greater part of my gift should be making people feel hopeful. Or failing that, maybe just offering permission to laugh in the face of a world that's not one tiny bit funny.
So come.
Walk through the woods.
Just when the forest seems most deep and dark...guess what you'll find.
Leave those clothes behind.
You don't need them. You never did.

Monday, May 26, 2014

"Occidental Mythology"

The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology
-by Joseph Campbell
1964
The intellectual fare swirling around george lucas' mind when he penned STAR WARS.
In scholarly terms, admittedly a dubious distinction. But campbell is a towering thinker, in the best sense. There being no dearth of critical review available, i'll make this brief.
If you wish to adhere to the notion that abraham, jesus, mohammed, or joe smith were the agents of allah, jahweh, god, or the stay-puft marshmallow man, THIS IS THE BOOK you should assiduously avoid. Instead of presenting a psychological refutation of the religious impulse, or diagram of the disasters such thought leads to (a la russell or hitchens), campbell simply takes the robes off world religions, to show where their ideas came from and what they actually have under there, substance-wise. He also shows how all religions, even those from East and West, have fed each other in global streams of shabby derivation. You're ready to get into the guts of understanding an immanent god compared to a transcendent one, and what you can expect from cultures founded on either? You're ready to understand why your own birthplace is exclusivist and intolerant, or syncretic and welcoming? Then you're ready for campbell.
And - are all those people with crucifixes on their neck showing their allegiance to jesus...or THOR?
This and more.