Why Poetry?

Poets remember
the words we forget, keeping
their sounds neat and quick.

Of Comedy and Tragey

This morning I watched the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica, “A Disquiet Follows My Soul,” followed by an apertif of Psych and The Game. I like all 3 shows (though I’m not sure how much of cross-over there is between audiences*) though they are so different in tone. BSG is all tragedy, with no comic relief, whereas Psych is full of maniac energy and surprisingly small bits of seriousness, despite being a detective show. The Game, somehow, does manage to balance stereotypes and serious issues consistently and entertainingly.

Spoiler alert! Plot points revealed ahead.

After last week’s BSG episode, how could this week’s not disappoint? The reveals – Tyrol is not the father, Zarek is corrupt – weren’t on the same level as Ellen is the Fith Cylon. Instead, it felt like a scene from act two of a five act tragedy. Plans are in motion, hurlting towards a climax (act three) and resolution (act five). I’d call it Shakespearean if there moments — scenes — of humour in the show. But the tone is unrelentingly bleak. There’s not even much gallows humour. When I rewatch the show, I enjoy the intricate plotting more than its world. That saddens me.

psych3Psych, on the other hand, is a wacky procedural cop show with little character development. The same sorts of things happen every week: a murder or two, Shawn sees details that others miss, behaves manically, he hits on a girl and solves the case. The show is chock full of silliness. The characters don’t progress that much. Each time a new woman is introduced, Shawn hits on her because he can and/or to make Jules jealous. I live for the moment for Shawn and Jules get together. I am tired of being teased. In one episode, they hold hands; in the next, they have no spark. I understand that their sexual tension is part of the show; having them get together could kill the fun. After all, they’ve had an object lesson on set —  Cybil Shepherd of Moonlighting plays Shawn’s mom. I just wish that the showrunners would take a look at Ed or other shows where the couple did get it on without killing the chemistry.

In this week’s episode, Shawn hit on an arson investigator, Morgan Conrad. It seemed like he was doing it because that’s what he always does, not because he was interested in her or wanted to make Jules jealous. I wanted Lassiter to step up – he and Morgan has chemistry, plus they have matching hair color**! Alas, there were no movement forward or backward on the Shawn-Juliet hook-up.

The Game, though, is adept at having consistent plot and character development with moments of humour and gravity. Shocking, I know, especially for a weekly sitcom. The main couple, Melanie and Derwin, are going through infidelity issues; he’s fathered a child on a groupie, she’s sleeping with her boss. Though the show began focused on them, the other couples — married, but separated Kelly and Jason, and mother/son pair Tasha and Malik — are much more compelling characters. In fact the Kelly and Jason break-up has taken center stage in recent episodes. Yay! And the three women get together for booze and trash talk, the best scenes of women-liberating inebriation since Cybil. [Yep, another reference to La Shepherd. Now I need to find a link between her and BSG.]

The show does have its share of stereotypes – single-mom Tasha speaks “ghetto;” Malik is the playboy football star/aspiring rapper who dates celebrities and strippers while wearing lots of bling; Kelly is the boozy, ditzy, blonde gold-digging ex-cheerleader; and Derwin is a God-fearing Christian good boy. And yet the show manages to acknowledge and tweak  these stereotypes and grow them into compelling characters.  For instance, we’ve gathered that Tasha developed that hard shell to protect herself and her son. When Melanie imitated her speech in the episode, Tasha responded with “Do I really sound like that?” in disbelief. Kelly might have married her husband for money, but she really loves him despite his being a tightwad that could out-Scrooge Scrooge. Their break-up is heart-wrenching.

game-mallik1Best of all, this episode about the private lives of NFL football players finally had a gay subplot. Malik’s ex-wife intimates that their marriage failed because he was really gay. His team members ride him, complete with a musical interlude in the locker room: disco ball and high-kicking dancers in lycra football uniforms frolicking to the tune of “It’s Raining Men.” Ha-ha. The guys play up the fey stereotypes – lisping, preening, gold lame and short shorts. Later, alone at dinner, Clay, another team member, hits on Malik, thinking that he is actually gay. Surprised, Malik throws Clay out of his aparment. During the next game, Malik accidentally outs him to the rest of the team. The episode ends with the coach (played by Lee Majors) benching Clay for the rest of the game. Clay sits in the empty locker room angry, sad, betrayed.

And this is why I love this show. The flirting scene was taken seriously. Malik is somehwat metrosexual; his responses could credibly confuse Clay’s gaydar. Lee Majors surprised me with his acting: the coach’s decision to bench Clay was ambiguous. Did he put in a sub because he is homophobic, because he is afraid that the other players will hurt Clay on the field because they are homophobic, or because Malik was obviously so uncomfortable around Clay that he couldn’t quarterback effectively? It could any or all of these reasons. Whether or not the reason(s) are revealed in the next epsidoes, l’ll keep watching, enjoying its deepening blend of comedy and tragedy.

*And to make matters more bizarre, USA ran an ad for The Getty during the last few minutes of Psych. How much cross-over of Psych fans and museum-goers are there? I am one, may there be more because of this commercial. but the ad is surreal and the pairing of the two is bizarre.

**My friend Jason has a theory that all couples on TV shows have the same color of hair; blondes end up with other blondes, brunettes end up with other brunettes, etc. Though they may date outside their color, the hair of their true love’s hair will match their own. Oh no! Shawn is a brunette and Jules is a blonde! May this exception prove the rule.

Heroes Mini-Marathon

I got behind in watching Heroes. Tonight, I finally caught up on the latest 5 episodes. After all, no more new episodes until next year.

Spoiler alert – I will mention some significant plot points. Don’t read any further if you haven’t watched them eps. You have been warned. Continue reading

Happy Deathday, Allyosha

This morning, I had to put Al to sleep. He threw a blood clot, couldn’t move his back legs, and his heart was also damaged.

Al lived a long and happy life (almost 20 years!) in Chicago, Neenah, Portland, Boston, and Los Angeles. My brother got him from a pound and named him after the youngest of the brothers Karamazov. When Kevin moved to Japan in 1991, I became Al’s custodian. He was so shy that my dormies didn’t see him for the first month. Once Al and Calliope finished their turf war, he began venturing outside my room, then running back inside. He eventually conquered the landing, the stairs, and the first floor. By the end of the year, both cats would chase each other throughout German House.

I love him and miss him.

And here is the most boring video of Al drinking milk. After Calliope died, he became quite insistent that I keep feeding him milk too. It may not be healthy for cats, but it brought him pleasure in his old age.

Mii and Mirrors

Two weeks ago I bought a Wii. This is the first time I have ever purchased a game system. Even though I grew up in a family that played games – alphabet soup in the car, Risk, Trivial Pursuit, cards, Stratego, and later RPGs – we never became obsessed with computer games. My family had some antiquated console (not Atari!) that we got for free from a timeshare presentation. My sister had C-64 that had some adventure/strategy game; its codeword at the end was CONDOR, if my memory serves me well.

Back in the 1990s, my roommate had Myst. I was engrossed within its world. When I was out in the real world, I wanted to click on buildings (especially ones on BU’s campus) to see what would happen. This level of involvement/addiction scared me. I swore off computer games. It helped that I didn’t had an old computer that wouldn’t run most games.

Yet I broke my self-imposed bad an bought a gaming system. I love it! Best of all, I have not become addicted to it. Yet.

I am troubled, though, by my Mii. I had fun putting it together. I even added a mole to my face. The face did reflect my own. And then I realized it was a mirror reflection. The mole on my Wii is on my right cheek, but is on my left in real life. Same with the part on my hair. I had created myself as if I were looking in a mirror.

Is this normal? Do most people create avatars that are mirror reflections? Wouldn’t that be a cool research project – compare how people construct their avatars across different systems? I hope that someone has already done this, or is in the midst of it. As we said at Reed at that moment of epiphany, “Thesis!”

My Second Life avatar is fanciful. I never even tried to make it into a self-portrait. Yet with the Mii, it felt natural to make one look just like me. I’m going to make a new Mii that is not a mirror reflection. I wonder if it will disturb me at some level.

Screaming at the Scream Awards

Last Saturday, my friend Stacey and I attended Spike TV’s Scream 2008 Awards at the Greek Theater. It was my first awards show and the closest I’ve ever come to a live red carpet. I had won tickets to it at Comic-Con; I didn’t research the show much.

While waiting in line to get in, we marveled at how many people were dressed up in costume. A man in a yellow uniform from Old Trek was with a woman dressed in black & red as a cat. Lots of people were dressed up as Heath Ledger’s Joker. There was a large assortment of goths and punks as well as characters from various horror movies, and Gumby.

The show lasted about 3 hours, only 2 of which were shown on television. Despite that, several awards were not mentioned or awarded at the show but did make it into the press release. That document’s funniest line was about a rousing performance by The Smashing Pumpkins. Admittedly, I am not a fan, but I was so bored during their song that I forgot that they were playing. So unmemorable. Kerli, on the other hand, was awesome. I tried to look more at the dancers and musicians that at her; I figured that she would get most of the facetime during the broadcast. I loved the performance. The dancers wore white masks and black bondage gear; they moved in fluid jerks, successfully generating an eerie scene. I missed seeing most of the climax of the song, Walking on Air, because the confetti and smoke obscured my view of the stage. Despite that, the performance was transcendent. Unfortunately, that energy and otherworldliness did not translate in the broadcast. I think it was the confetti in the air that the cameras could not adequately capture.

Gerard Way seemed to be the most sincerely geekiest happiest presenter. Others were comfortably in their element (Kevin Smith, Rosario Dawson) and others were at home in front of a crowd (Sharon Osbourne). Frank Miller seemed nervous; we couldn’t hear half of his banter. Somehow they edited his words together as a coherent bit for the broadcast.

There were other goofs by presenters. Marilyn Manson seemed to be too tall for the mike. A fan came up and held the mike stand closer to his mouth. It was hilarious even though the sound kept cutting out. Unfortunately, they make Marilyn redo his bit. Compared to the first version, he gave it in a monotone. I was cracking up at his f**k you to the show’s producers. Marilyn, though, is a smart and talented presenter because the low energy version broadcast on tv was surprisingly funny and bearable.

Julie Benz forgot that she was presenting a second award; the trophy girl, Julie, and Christopher Nolan were trying to find their way backstage when a producer came out and made them take their places again. I feared another complete do-over, as happened with Marilyn Manson. How did they not capture his speech? It flowed in an enjoyable manner. What torturers were these producers if they were making him give another version of his acceptance speech? Luckily, Christopher explained the situation, described it as a pick-up, and repeated the last line of his speech. Julie announced that Christopher and his brother had also won best screenplay; there were more speeches. That doubling-up of award winners was a common, and puzzling, occurrence. On a couple occasions they didn’t even bother to list the other nominees.

The producers ran into technical difficulties not related to speeches. Rosario Dawson had to repeat announcing the winner of the best film award because the Batman prop didn’t light up properly the first time. They also kept Tim Burton in the balloon for several minutes. He looked so uncomfortable. I do not know what caused them to stop his trip about one-third of the way across the audience. He was racing out of the basket once he landed.

We were told that there would be audience participation during the finale. When the green lasers went off, we were supposed to wave green glow sticks. When the sticks were passed out, though, a different set of instructions were taped on; now we were supposed to wave them when Samuel L. Jackson began talking. Right before the finale, the announcer came back on and asked us to break open the glow sticks but hide them until the appropriate time. Of course, he did not specify what that appropriate time was. My friend and I dithered – do we wave them when Sam Jackson starts speaking, or when the lasers go off? In the end, we followed the crowd and started waving when Sam walked on stage. From the broadcast version, I now know that we were wrong to be lemmings. The editors definitely had a hard time finding footage without the the glow sticks in motion. The audience was rowdy; several people threw their sticks onto the stages, at the Stormtroopers, and across different sections.

The producers did keep the crowd entertained during breaks. Before the Smashing Pumpkins went on, an aerialist entertained the crowd. During the regular commercial breaks, they showed the original trailers for Blacula, Terminator, and Escape from New York. They also showed trailers for obscure offerings, including The Sinful Dwarf and The Multinauts. I must watch the latter.

The Gardens of Adena

My friend and I were in the cheap seats above on the right side. Although there was free beer & wine available, no one seemed to be assigned to our section. We had to highjack another server. Direct views of our area by the cameras were obscured by the bank of lights on the railing. No matter. If you re-watch the awards, listen to the first woo in response to Frank Miller’s name-dropping of Jean Giraud, aka Moebius. That’s me. I cheered loudly, then stopped and realized that I was about the only in the entire audience woo-hoo-ing. I sat in my seat embarrassed yet happy, wishing that the volumes of Moebius were back in print.

All in all, I had a grand time at the show. I’d like to go again next year, in better seats, and perhaps in costume

New Motto for a New Year

My father cited a phrase in my birthday card that I’ve decided will be my new motto. So, in bastardized Latin like Lorem ipsum, I say unto to you:

Illegitimi non carborundum

Don’t let the bastards grind you down

3rd presidential debate

Go Obama!

Random thoughts.

Joe the Plumber, you have become the lockbox of the 2008 debates.

McCain, you cannot claim to have bucked your party on the issue of torture. You folded (perhaps because you need their support to become President.)

McCain, you have taken money and photo ops with ACORN.

McCain, Obama did not kick off his campaign on Bill Ayre’s porch.

Obama, it took you a long time to get to Palin’s comments. Call them on it!

McCain, although I would love to have the government send me $$, I bet that the insurance companies and health care providers would figure out how to raise their rates to eat up that cash.

McCain, the government grew in the first 4 years of W’s administration, and the Republicans were in charge. You created an entire new department – Homeland Security!

Obama, partial birth abortion should not be banned. It gives the parents a whole body to bury. It is not done on a whim.

How does having a child with Down’s Syndrome make Sarah Palin an expert on autism? It would make her more aware of the issues related to special needs kids. It seems like McCain’s talking points suggest that Palin’s child has autism, just as Palin’s speeches suggest that Obama is a terrorist.

McCain, I am not your friend.

Having Fun with the Banks in Crisis

What is it about October that attracts crashes?

Rather than contemplate that question, I’m writing this post.

Yesterday morning while stopped at a red light, I watched a bus make a turn. I chuckled to myself because the bus was wrapped in an ad for Wachovia, about world savings accounts or something. When the bus turned toward me, though, I began guffawing. The bus’ destination? Not in Service.

I am now an account holder of JP Morgan Chase that swallowed Washington Mutual. Here is my response to that takeover:

JP Morgan Chase (Not Washington Mutual)

My bank is Chase was Washington Mutual
Now it’s Morgan Chase, not Washington Mutual
Been a short time gone, Washington Mutual
Now it’s a stockbroker’s fright on an autumn night

Every check from Washington Mutual
Belongs to Chase, not Washington Mutual
So if you’ve a debt with Washington Mutual
It’ll be paid to JP Morgan Chase

Even JP Morgan Chase was once two different banks
Why they changed it I can’t say
Maybe they made more money that way

So take my cash to Washington Mutual
No, you cannot bank with Washington Mutual
Been a short time gone, Washington Mutual

Why did Washington Mutual get the works
That’s nobody’s business but the Fed

JP Morgan Chase (Was WaMu)
JP Morgan Chase (Was WaMu)

Even JP Morgan Chase was once two different banks
Why they changed it I can’t say
Maybe they made more money that way
My bank is Chase, was Washington Mutual
Now it’s Morgan Chase, not Washington Mutual
Been a short time gone, Washington Mutual
Why did Washington Mutual get the works
That’s nobody’s business but the Fed

JP Morgan Chase (Was WaMu)

For information on the original song, see Wikipedia; for the original lyrics go here.

Spoo!

Or, Why I Love the Big Bang Theory

In tonight’s episode, the four geeks ooh and awe at a non-Newtonian fluid bouncing on cellophane on top of a stereo speaker. It was so cool. Why didn’t we ever think of that? I remember fondly afternoons filled with trying to juggle spoo…

This show is really all about geek and fan culture. The four main guys are nerds; the chick is used both as a draw (did I mention she’s cute?) and as an entry character into their (sub)cultures. The addition of Sara Gilbert as a female geek gladdens me immensely.

I love this show because they get the geek details right. The guys made spoo (corn starch and water), though they were not nearly as messy as me. If I had a speaker, I would be making spoo right now, though I’d add few drops of food coloring to see how the colors bleed together. The episode also included a short lesson in locksmithing; can lockpicking be far behind?

The major plot was on the addictions of online gaming. Penny, the cute girl, gets addicted to Age of Conan (a stand in for World of Warcraft). Some acronyms are explained within the plot in an organic, not explanatory, manner. Her appearance got more and more disheveled as time went by. Gaming was not presented as an evil trap for corrupting minors, no it was just another way of socializing. That the newbie character overdoes it causes concern, not the game itself. What a relief.

This post isn’t nearly as coherent as it sounded in my head, probably because one word keeps echoing through my brain:

SPOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!