Monday, February 27, 2006

Two Boxes

I am back from vacation . I wish I'd gone on some amazing adventure, or even someplace I'd never been. Alas, financial restrictions kept me home half the time, and visiting the Parental Units for the other half.

The visit to the PU's house in Delaware proved to have many lasting benefits, though, so don't ever knock a few trips down memory lane. I saw an uncle that I hadn't seen in years (and if ever there was an Alan Alda lookalike out there, it's him). My grandfather told some stories about his childhood that I hadn't heard before, and had us both laughing so hard we cried.

I also found two very important boxes hiding in the old back bedroom. The first box contained Christmas ornaments and decorations that have been missing for the last three years. I had given up hope of ever locating that box, and I'm overjoyed to have it in my possession again. The second box contained about thirty paperback novels, most of them books that I adored in my childhood and preteen years. I gazed at their covers fondly, remembered reading most of them at least five times each, and longed for those magical days when a slim, hundred-page book was all of the adventure that I needed.

I'll comment on some of the specific books later. Not tonight. It's after 1am, and I have to work tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bullseye

Since its first season, "24" has been notorious for killing off its guest stars. Richard Burgi, Karina Arroyave, Michael O'Neill, Zeljko Ivanek, Lou Diamond Phillips, Dennis Hopper, Phillip Rhys, Tracy Middendorf, Michelle Forbes, Sara Gilbert, Jesse Borrego, Gina Torres, Paul Blackthorne, Shohreh Aghadashloo, Nestor Serrano, James Frain, Aisha Tyler, and Arnold Vosloo. Each of them bit the bullet (many of them quite literally, since gunshots are a popular way to die on this show) sometime during the show's first four seasons. And let's not forget all of the nameless extras and lesser-known actors who died to serve the plot.

The series has also never been shy about axing the main cast. Leslie Hope, Penny Johnson, Sarah Clarke, and Xander Berkeley each received a pink slip. Three bullets and an explosion, all used to great dramatic effect.

So how is Season Five different? Well two main characters (Reiko "Michelle" Aylesworth and Dennis "Palmer" Haysbert) died in the first ten minutes of the season premiere. I saw Palmer's death coming a mile away (new mid-season replacement series, anyone?), but was horrified by Michelle's explosive demise. Tony and Michelle are one of the few TV couples that I ADORE, and I am not a 'shipper by nature.

Nine episodes into the new season. How do our guest stars stack up? John Allen Nelson ("Sheena"), dead. Mark Sheppard ("Firefly"), dead. Patrick Bauchau ("The Pretender"), dead. Timothy Omundson ("Judging Amy"), dead. Geraint Wyn Davies ("Forever Knight"), dead.

Watch your step, Julian Sands. You're next on the list.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Warm Fuzzy Bliss

Dreams about Rob Lowe usually end with me waking in a state of warm fuzzy bliss, with only a vague memory of the actual events of the dream. Not so last night. All remembered all the salient details, including a conversation I had with someone in the dream, and wrote them down on a sheet of notebook paper.

The notes haunted me all day, as I ran errands, did the dishes, and watched some mindless television. I figured out who Rob represented (a man named Max), who I represented (a woman named Talia), and what was going on (investigation into an old, accidental death). Near future setting, neither character is quite who they seem. Started writing "The Bathtub" around six o'clock this evening. We'll see how it progresses.

The inspiring dialogue:

Talia: Ma'am, do you work here?
Lady: Used to.
Talia: Do you know a woman named __?
Lady: Yes.
Talia: Is she still around?
Lady: She passed away last year. Looking for the truth of her sister.
Talia: Her sister?
Lady: Yes, her sister was murdered many years ago. Just like yours.
Talia: No. No, my sister died in the bathtub.
Lady: Of course she did.

I just had to know what all that meant. And I think I have the answer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Musical Montage

I think I finally got my breath back. Watching Sunday night's episode of Grey's Anatomy was a lesson in holding my breath until it hurt.

Things I knew: Meredith, Burke, Yang, and McDreamy (stupid spellchecker just changed "McDreamy" to "Creamy," but that is a whole other, probably X-rated blog) were in no danger of actually dying from the explosive.

Things I didn't know: The fate of Bailey's baby, the fate of Bailey's husband, the fate of brilliant guest-star Jillian Armenente's husband, the fate of Kyle Chandler's bomb squad expert.

Okay, so everyone lived except Kyle Chandler (insert appropriate mourning sounds). I've adored the actor ever since Early Edition, and it's too bad we won't be seeing more of him on this series. As Meredith handed him the ammunition, I remember thinking "Wouldn't it be a kick in the head if, after all this, he still goes boom?" But I also didn't think they'd do it! I gasped out loud (as did my roomie, down the hall) when the corridor went bang!

The look on Derek's face afterward. "Where is she?" Up runs Addison, all weepy and grateful her husband is alive. And then the Chief's wife's brilliant observation, "That's not the she that he meant." I also loved the re-enactment of George's shower dream at the end there, with Izzie and Cristina helping Meredith wash the "pink mist" off. George is my new hero.

Another brilliant decision with this episode was the use of the musical montage during our three simultaneous climaxes (put those dirty minds away!). Bailey giving birth with George's help ("Stop looking at my va-jay-jay!"), Derek almost losing Bailey's husband on the table, and Meredith removing the live ammunition from unconscious-guy's chest. Anna Nalick's "Breathe (2am)" was a perfect choice.

I have heard complaints recently about how TV shows overdo the use of musical montages in episodes, a trick that's been around for years. I agree that it has become more noticeable in recent television seasons (that, or I've only just now noticed it). Some shows save them for event episodes (I'm thinking E.R. and The West Wing). Other shows seem to use them every single week (Bones, Grey's Anatomy). Occasional users like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Third Watch try the trick every couple of episodes (and it is this fan's opinion that Third Watch deserves an award for Best Use of Nickelback Tracks to Enhance an Episode).

I honestly can't complain. A lot of the songs that these shows play are tracks I've never heard before. If the song strikes me, I will jot down a few of the lyrics to Google later. I have used this method to discover a myriad of artists I may have never stumbled across otherwise: Anna Nalick, Starsailor, Dire Straits, Soulfly, Simple Plan, Sarah Brightman, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and SHeDAISY, just to name a few.

There are still dozens, if not hundreds, left to sample. So bring on the musical montages!

On a Side Note

Quoted from TVGuide.com

"Serenity star Nathan Fillion has been cast in White Noise 2: The Light, a follow-up to the 2005 horror flick. Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff is in talks to costar."

Browncoats and Battlestars rejoice! It's the merging of two nations.

Also, if you haven't listened to Anna Nalick's CD "Wreck of the Day," run to your nearest music store (or online download program, whichever suits your needs best).

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Whole, White World

Based on the little Mini Pinscher trying to bound through the snow outside, I'm guessing we've got about six inches on the ground. Not too shabby for eighteen hours of snowfall. It took three hours before anything really stuck. The ground was too warm. Now the trees look like the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man exploded all over them, with blobs of white occasionally plopping to the ground.

A cluster of tall pines grow outside my second-story window. The weight of the snow made one of the long branches bend over. Last night I watched it move progressively closer to my window ledge. When I went to bed around 2 a.m., it was swaying in the wind, and resembled a brontosaurus peeping into my window. Drove my cat Hannah nuts. She tried to swat it through the glass multiple times. It is now adhered to the ledge, forming a queer tree bridge (the branch, not the cat).

The cats (did I mention that I have two?) are less amused now that the flakes have stopped falling. I have to wonder just what they think of snow. Millions of little white things falling from the sky.

I watched an odd movie today called Falling Down (1993), with Robert Duvall, Michael Douglas, and Barbara Hershey. It's an interesting character study about violent behavior, and the things that drive us to do the unimaginable. I recommend it for viewing, but it wasn't one I'd buy for keeps.

I need to get some work done. I have a store meeting to attend, before the resolution to last week's Grey's Anatomy episode. I can't wait!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Read the Fine Print

How come you never read the fine print until after the contract is signed? Or in our case, get the bad news verbally explained?

I rent a two-bedroom apartment with my best friend. We have lived here for almost three years (March 1, coincidentally my dad's birthday). We split rent and bills right down the middle. When we first signed our lease, utilities included trash pick-up, water, and gas. Last year, we started paying water and trash out-of-pocket. Okay, fine, it didn't cost too much, we just had to take shorter showers.

Two weeks ago we got a "second notice" about our lease renewal. We had the same WTF? expressions, because neither one of us remembered getting the first notice.

Cher: I don't remember getting a first notice.
Dad: Cher, the ticket is the first notice!


So we go down to the leasing office today to sign another six month lease (as single, working adults, who knows where we will be in six months, much less in a year?). We sign the papers, and then the lady in the office makes an of-the-cuff comment about the new gas billing. Say what?

Seems that with the price of heating oil these days, all of the other apartment leasers in our area were charging separately for gas (rather than including it in utilities), so Home Properties felt "pressured" to do the same thing. Uh huh, and I believe that, you got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell me?

Cheap. Ass. People.

Not only do we pay high rent for an apartment with two toilets that run after you flush them (unless you jiggle the handle), kitchen lights that flicker, a dishwasher with a detergent cap that doesn't work, and one bathroom light that doesn't go off unless you really push down on the switch; now there are no utilities included. At all. I'm paying for what now? Beige carpet and white walls? Breathing the air? The honor of having neighbors who blast music at all hours and don't speak enough English to understand you asking them to turn it down?

Did I mention we were two working adults, with student loans, credit card payments, and cars that tend to break every other month?

I mean, if they are going to gouge us for rent, and then take away all utilities (the most attractive thing about this place when we first went apartment hunting), they might as well be honest about it. Say, "We just want to make more money for ourselves, since it's not like we actually fix things when you put in repair requests, or have any other services to offer our residents." Except for the pool which is open for all of ten weeks over the summer (third week of June through Labor Day).

And now we're stuck here for six more months. Not that either of us have the money to move, but still….

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cliffhangers: A Primer

Taking a note from yesterday, it's time to discuss bad season finale cliffhangers. These come in four different forms: first, the cliffhanger that wasn't; second, the cliffhanger that has a terrible premiere; third, the cliffhanger that becomes the series finale; and fourth, a simply bad idea for a cliffhanger.

The Cliffhanger That Wasn't. The West Wing, season two finale was a major backfire. After the high point of the first season assassination episode, how can you top it? With an MS storyline that might put Vice-President John Hoynes in the hotseat for the next election? WTF?

Did we really think Bartlet would NOT run? If he didn't, the show would have lasted one, maybe two more seasons. Talk about false tension and lack of suspense. Don't get me wrong, the episode ("Two Cathedrals") was beautiful. The final sequence, undercut by Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms" was lovely, and quality television. Just no tension.

The Terrible Premiere. I picked the season two finale of seaQuest, DSV as an amazing season finale episode. The end of the episode saw the ship hit by a mine and holed, a dozen crewmembers being blown up inside of an alien mining facility, and only three survivors, floating in a lifeboat with nothing but miles of empty ocean around them. Great drama and a long summer of wondering.

Well, this is the first time I've ever seen a series change its concept between seasons. The premiere? Set ten years in the future, the missing ship and crew are mysteriously sent back, having been in hibernation under the alien ocean all this time. WTF? Two characters disappear, and are never mentioned again. One captain out, a new captain in. Everyone else looks the same, but somehow Lucas's hair has grown four inches? And now he has to enlist or Hudson will kick him off?

I loved the show, but I was glad when TPTB finally stuck a fork in this one….

The New Series Finale. This unfortunate occurrence happens more and more often. A series ends its season with a nail-biting finale, only to be cancelled over the summer (and sometimes the news breaks before the finale has aired, but with no time to change it). Space: Above and Beyond holds the prize for Most Notorious Example. The series ran ten years ago, for one season on FOX. Critically acclaimed, with above average ratings, FOX still canned the show. But not before leaving McQueen with his leg blown off, Wang gone kablooey, Vansen and Damphousse in a shuttle plummeting into atmo, and West and Hawkes commiserating in their bunks.

Equally annoying "finales" include: half-season replacement The Others, which concluded with most of the series regulars apparently dead from one thing or another; The Pretender, ending with a subway train explosion (thank God for TNT and movies-of-the-week); The Sentinel, which gets bonus points for an ingenious fan campaign that gave the show nine fourth-season episodes and an actual series finale (but the season three finale that almost became the series finale sucked eggs, since a beloved character lay dead). I'm sure that dozens of others exist, but these examples remain most fresh in my mind.

Last, but certainly not least…

The Simply Bad Idea. I refer to the season three finale of Enterprise. Aliens in Nazi uniforms. The shuttle pod shot at by WWII bombers. WTF? I blame Berman & Braga for that idiocy (since I blame them for everything else that ever went wrong with that series). I cannot fathom what went on inside of their brains as they hatched this little gem.

"Let's do something no one will expect! Let's really make the Nazi's aliens!"
"Great idea! We can send Enterprise and her crew back into an alternate past. Dude!"
"But how do we resolve it? That's sort of out there, isn't it?"
"Who cares, we've been taken off the show. Let Manny figure it out."
<insert evil snickering>

Season four show runner Manny Coto dug himself out of the mess with a two-part premiere that didn't suck, but wasn't memorable television. The mobsters were amusing, and he managed to resolve what seemed to be an un-resolvable problem. I loved the look on Trip's face when he realized that Archer was alive. Still, I prefer to think that the season actually started with the episode "Home."

It was the summation of the Xindi arc that the show deserved.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

To Be Continued...

I blame Dallas.

And I don't just mean for big hair, prime time soaps, or stupid "it was all a dream" shower sequences. I blame them for cliffhangers.

Granted, Sunday night's Grey's Anatomy cliffhanger wasn't exactly the same. It was a post-Super Bowl mid-season episode, rather than a season finale. We know that the ep will be resolved next week, rather than in three months. But seriously! I get enough heart palpitations watching 24, I don't need those sort of anxiety attacks during TV's best guilty pleasure. You know each episode of 24 will end with a mini-cliffhanger. The show is designed that way.

But to end an ep of GA with Meredith plugging a gaping chest wound with her hand, mere millimeters away from possibly-live ordinance is just….mean. We know she isn't going to get blown into "pink mist," but damn, the look on McDreamy's face will be worth the fake-suspense. Is it next week yet?

Episodic two-parters can sometimes bring out the very best in a series. Using them in a season finale can often solidify a viewing audience for next season (unless TPTB decide to cancel the series, and anxiety-inducing cliffhangers are never resolved, but that's a whole other rant).

I often think back to the first season of The West Wing. The finale ends on the frantic note of "Who got shot?" as bullets from an unseen assailant rain down on President Bartlet and his aides. I didn't watch the first season of the series. I had absolutely zero interest in politics, or a series based around a Democrat White House. But all August long I saw ads on TV and in print, touting the season premiere, promising to let us know "Who got shot?" I watched the premiere out of morbid curiosity.

The rest, as they say, is history. I have been an avid viewer ever since. Each successive season finale has tried to end on some suspenseful note (will he or won't he run, who stole Zoe?, will we bomb the bad country?), but none have ever come close to what Aaron Sorkin accomplished in the first season.

A second, more timely example comes from last spring. Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica ended its amazing first season with one of the most shocking scenes in recent memory: sleeper Cylon and Galactica pilot Boomer pulls out her gun and shoots Commander Adama twice in the chest. In the CEC, in front of everyone. Waiting all summer for the conclusion was beyond torture. A tiny chance existed that Adama might, indeed, die. Battlestar is notorious for not playing it safe, or copping out with storylines (okay, so up until Roslin's amazing breast cancer recovery, but that's a rant in and of itself).

Other noteworthy finale examples: seaQuest, DSV, season two; Grey's Anatomy, season one; The Pretender, season three; The Sentinel, season three; OZ, any season.

Cliffhangers can, of course, have the exact opposite effect. Some are amazingly bad. Sometimes even a good finale can have a truly awful premiere.

But that's tomorrow's rant….

Monday, February 06, 2006

There Is A Land Called Passive-Aggressiva...

I originally created this blog to give myself a public forum in which to rant and rave about an incident involving a message board-based Role Playing game. Another member (let's call her Mayhem) and I were kicked off the game without warning, without ever being told that a problem existed (figure that one out!), and without the Site Owner (I'll call her Deb) making any effort to address the problem and find a peaceful solution. I felt, and still feel, that I was treated unfairly (the sort of injustice that would make Johnny Cochrane slobber, RIP). However, I've put off posting on this blog for a while, and I have given myself several weeks to really put the incident in perspective.

Was I treated unfairly? Yes.

Was I told there was a problem and asked to take steps to correct the problem? No.

Do I hold a grudge against Deb for her decision? You betcha.

But last night I had an epiphany. I accidentally (no, seriously) stumbled across the LiveJournal belonging to the other player (I'd like to call her BrownNoser, but fear that's too mean, so how about Dusty) involved in the incident (no, this was not the epiphany, please read on). On this LJ, I found several entries where Dusty had openly complained about me and Mayhem. Being the masochistic type, I did the stupid thing and kept on reading (and getting exponentially pissed).

I skimmed the entries, searching for anything that involved me (I found three, I think). It dawned on me just how paranoid this girl really is. She copy/pasted off-topic posts made by Mayhem regarding plots and character actions, and totally blew them out of proportion. She took personal offense at innocuous comments, and made herself out to be some sort of victim. This particular entry stands out:

Hell I would settle for an apology from them and the realisation that the game is not just about their characters but I suspect they are too proud to even consider either of these things.

Okay, whatever. That's her point of view on the subject. All I can really do is shake my head and feel sorry for her.

Did she ever ask for an apology for these supposed affronts? No.

Would I have apologized? Yes, right after she apologized to me for calling me "uppity" on the Boards last year.

After reading the LJ, I stewed for a little while, and then I did something really stupid (don't worry, the epiphany is coming). I went back and checked the Comments posted to the threads involving me and Mayhem. Guess what I found? Comments from Deb, the Site Owner.

I quote:

AND you're the better player for your willingness to work as such a team player - and the way you never hog the attention and then bitch about someone stepping on your toes.

Was this posted the day I was kicked out? No. It was posted October 14, 2005.

I can take a lot of things. I can take criticism, and I can take constructive comments. I can also take other players complaining about me behind my back. But what I DO NOT stand for is the Group Owner and Moderator joining the chorus. If she had a problem with me, or with Mayhem, the proper thing for her to do was to contact US and discuss it. Voice it, give the problem a name. Not to go to a LJ and publicly add to the rant. It is two-faced and childish. She might as well have been saying these things on the Forum boards.

Oh yes, y'all have been waiting for the epiphany. Here it is: They were absolutely not worth the tears, or the hours of sleep lost as I lay awake trying to freakin' understand. Not. Worth. It.
The decision Deb came to suits her, because she is Passive Aggressive.

From Dictionary.com:

Main Entry: 1passive–aggressiveFunction: adjective: being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive way (as through procrastination, stubbornness, and unwillingness to communicate)

Unwillingness to communicate.

Deb never attempted to correct the solution, she merely complained in private until she felt backed into a corner. She solved the problem in the most unconstructive, personally offensive method possible. She lashed out, kicked us off, and then apologized for it. Honey, if you really felt like there was no other solution, you wouldn't be apologizing. You wouldn't feel as though you had anything to make up to me (her words in a YIM window, not mine).

In my real life, I work in a retail store. An assistant manager there could not count the cash drawers properly, nor keep the safe funds in order. She never did the paperwork right. She had several customer complaints against her (two of which were reported to me by those customers). Most of the staff did not get along with her. She broke dress code, and several times, gave away damaged merchandise (tantamount to stealing).

She was finally fired. But this came after nearly a solid month of conference calls with the Store Manager, Regional Manager, and head of Human Resources. She was counseled, given additional training in the aspects of her job, allowed to defend her actions and take responsibility for the things she had done. She was given second, third, fourth, and fifth chances. She blew it. Buh-bye.

I was not so lucky. And participating in an RP isn't on the same level as your job, but the sentiment is the same. I love interactive storytelling, and email-based RP's. I own several and participate in a few others. Never in my life have I experienced such horrific treatment by a Group Owner. She may be able to justify it to herself, but I will never understand. Nor will I waste anymore time or webspace on the subject.

Wow. So much for not using my inaugural blog to complain about this incident. Now that I have had my say, on to more important matters.

I suppose every blog out there should have a purpose. A Manifesto, if you will. Otherwise, it's just one blog among several million, with no real substance or depth (I could insert a snarky comment about Dusty's LJ lacking both, and simply being her own personal "woe is me" soapbox…oh wait…damn).

So here is what I promise in my Cannon Manifesto: I will be honest.

Can you ask for anything more? Oh, right….What will I be talking honestly about?

I work full time as an Assistant Manager for "Major Retail Home D├ęcor Chain Store," (know heretofore as MRS), so I see the rainbow of human behavior on a daily basis. I am a writer by trade, an observer by nature, and sarcastic by sheer stroke of luck. Bad behavior and stupid questions are fodder for the Cannon.

I love to participate in online Role-Playing Games (betcha didn't know that by now). Specifically, the play-by-email variety that abound on Yahoo!Groups and various other mailing list sites. The problem is that the majority of these games are run by people who lack basic grammar and spelling skills, can't develop an original character, can't correctly play an existing canon character, and have no clue how to run a plot. Same goes for the players. Amazing stories and games do exist, but they are hard to find. All of these things, also fodder for the Cannon (see above).

I love television and movies. I am addicted to The West Wing, Grey's Anatomy, 24, Medium, Bones, Lost, and Battlestar Galactica. I adore various other cancelled series (just take a look at my DVD and video tape collections). I like to know what's coming, what my favorite actors are up to, and which movies to anticipate. All fodder for the Cannon.

I am a writer. Unpublished, but give me time. I have two cats who usually love each other, but occasionally start to hiss and spit. I am seeing someone (no, not a shrink, sheesh!). I'm not political, but I have strong viewpoints on certain issues. Cannon fodder.

Oh yeah…. Congrats, Pittsburgh Steelers!!!


"There is a land called Passive-Aggressiva, and you are its queen." --Derek Sheperd, Grey's Anatomy