Thursday, March 29, 2007

March 29th, 2007 (what? already?)

I'm farting deadly right now. Just thought I'd share.

So, last night was another Buffy Wednesday. Tyranist and I had less time than usual to perch in front of the (brand new High-Def) TV, so we only managed two episodes: "Passion" and "Killed By Death." Still, the streak continues, as we have yet to watch a bad Season 2 episode.

Tyr did mention afterwards that there are only four more episodes yet to go in the season, and that if we worked just a little harder, we could have them all watched by next (Buffy) Wednesday. But I'm thinking, if anything, we need to jam on the brakes a little. I want this season to last forever, especially if the quality dips as the series goes on.

But that's just who I am. As a little boy, I would ration out my Halloween candy, forcing myself to only eat one piece a day, then holding on to the last couple of pieces for as long as I could. By the time I was eleven or twelve, I could save my Halloween candy so I still had some when school ended in May. I've been that way with comic books too, preferring to stretch them out for up to a half hour, knowing there'd be a whole month until the next one.

Not everybody is like that. Back in L.A., I had a friend named Jeff, who would burn through a new Dark Tower or Harry Potter book in a single day or weekend. When we'd go to the comics shoppe, he'd often read his issue of "Ultimate Iron-Man" or "Archie Loves Jughead" all the way through, while waiting to pay for it. That's the way he was.

Okay, so these two episodes. Good stuff.

As I said last week (spoiler alert), I read online about something that was going to happen, and it happened in "Passion." Tyranist also read and found out, so neither of us were surprised when Ms. Calendar met her demise. At the hands of Bad Angel, no less.

That's really interesting. I've mentioned how I like Bad Angel more than Good Angel, and think he's much more effective as a villain than a love interest that can't really go anywhere due to the nature of the character, and to a lesser extent, the nature of television. I've been impressed with this change in the status quo,* and am surprised (in a good way) that it's lasted as long as it has.

So, while Bad Angel is terrorizing Buffy, Ms. Calender comes up with a plan to rehumanize him, and the race begins. Angel accomplishes a little wet-end sort of stuff, like sketching Buffy while she sleeps, and killing Willow's tropical fish, which are in an effort to torment and unhinge Buffy. It's one of those situations you see all the time in comic books, where the villain could easily have killed the hero (after all, he was in her room long enough to draw her in charcoal without being discovered), but didn't. You could say that he prefers the hunt to the actual kill, if you felt the need to defend it.

Buffy and Willow are upset about Angel being able to come into their houses, so Jenny Calendar comes up with a spell to revoke an invitation on a vampire. This turn of events has Giles and Ms. Calendar back together again, and she goes to the magic shop to prepare an intricate spell that will give Angel his soul again. Drusilla has a vision or feeling or premonition about it, and wants to stop their trio of vampires from becoming a duo again. Spike doesn't feel so strongly about that, as Bad Angel is a nasty, boastful sucker who flaunts his ability to walk around and bed around(?) if he wishes.

Buffy decides to warn her mother about Angel, simply saying that he has been stalking her and that they dated briefly but it's over, and that he's not to come in the house. Angel does attempt to do so, but because of the spell, he can't enter. It doesn't stop him from telling Buffy's mother that she slept with him, though.

Bad Angel does ramp up his offenses as the 'sode continues, culminating in the murder of Ms. Calendar. She has completed her translation of the old gypsy curse that gave Angel his soul, and saves it to a disk and prints it out (on her lovely antiquated dot-matrix printer with the row of tear-off roller paper on each side), but Angel shows up and expresses in no uncertain terms that he doesn't want his soul back. He destroys the computer, burns the printout, and snaps Ms. Calendar's neck (though why he doesn't suck her blood, or turn her into a vampire herself, I don't know).

Giles, who had a date with her that evening, comes home to find roses leading up to the bedroom and a handwritten note telling him to come upstairs. Instead of just about the most welcome sight a man could find, he gets the very unwelcome surprise of her dead body in his bed. The police come, and I thought he would be implicated in her murder, an even nastier trick by our boy Angelus.

But Giles is soon released, and lets the others know what has happened. The reaction Willow has to the news was unabashed and heart-wrenching. Giles goes out by himself to kick Bad Angel's bad ass, and I hoped he'd be able to at least get SOME killing done.

But Angel is more than a match for him, and Buffy appears in the nick of time to thrash Angel rather mightily. When she pauses to rescue Giles from the ensuing fire, Angel scampers away. Poor Giles finally weeps for his loss, telling Buffy that of all the people who've died since he became her Watcher, Jenny Calendar was the first one he loved.

I so wish I hadn't known the character death was coming, but if wishes were horses, someone would be reviewing my own movies. About horses. Sorry, I never get the saying right.

This episode also addressed a bit of what I've been thinking about, that Buffy is seventeen and he's not only an adult, but a LOT adult. But they don't go into it nearly as much as they might have (or as much as a real parent probably would), leading me to believe that they knew about the concern, but didn't want to focus it, for fear of bringing it to the forefront of everybody's mind.

There are a couple of English broadcasters I listen to regularly, and they often mock America (and American entertainment) for being overly emotional and sappy, but at the same time rail against the American stereotype that Brits are all stuffy, proper, and unemotional.** So it was all the better when loquacious, ultra-composed Giles broke down at the end, even allowing Buffy to comfort HIM. God, that was so nice, I wish it had gone on another minute or so.

The ending, when it looks like we're going to find the means to transforming Angel back into Good Angel and then it is lost, was pretty darn priceless. I may even have clapped my hands Emperor Palpatine style.

I'm sure the events of this episode will resonate for a long time to come, and one of the things that's best about this show is its tendency to refer to other episodes for comic value. That's a little wink to the loyal viewers, rewarding them for their faithfulness. There's really been a shift from episodic every-week-is-the-same kind of TV to the serialized you-must-watch-in-order kind of show. I'm not sure which is better in the long run, but I sure prefer the latter.

The second episode we watched, "Killed By Death" looked like it was going to go one way (an interesting way, with Buffy going to the hospital and in a fever, ranting about vampires in front of incredulous doctors and nurses), but ended up going another way. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET way. The parallels were so numerous to ELM STREET that tyranist leaned over and said, "This is what we call a homage, right?"

You see, if it's done well or you like it, it's a homage. If not, it's a rip-off.

Buffy is stuck in a hospital for a while (courtesy of the tagteam of illness and Bad Angel), and discovers that children are dying there. But it ain't exactly natural causes, cuz. There's a creature roaming about, sucking out their lifeforce through its eyes. But can Buffy save the day, or is it all in her mind?

In all honesty, this was the weakest episode of the season so far, but it was still funny, scary, and had some nice clever moments. It's part of the brilliance of the show that any and every kind of monster can live in (or visit) Sunnydale, California. Being such a fan of Horror, and seeing it more effectively done on this show (both emotionally and scare-ily) than 95% of the horror movies I've been paying to see for the last decade, I not only wish I had been a fan when the show was new, but I wish I could've been a writer.

But if wishes were fishes . . .

Rish "The Beggars Would Ride" Outfield

*It reminds me of when I was a kid, watching "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and the absolutely best episode of the series aired to close out the third season. It was a cliffhanger called "The Best of Both Worlds," wherein Captain Picard was transformed into an enemy of the Federation at the end. In the days before the internet, my friends and I could only guess what would happen to the show when it started up again in the fall. Each of us had theories (being naive enough to believe the show would never be the same again), my favourite of which was that Commander Riker would become the Captain, Commander Shelby would become The Enterprise's new first officer, and Patrick Stewart had left the show but would be back from time to time as the villain Locutus. That sort of talk seems silly now, but if Ronald D. Moore had been running the show instead of just being a junior member of the writing staff, something like that very well could have happened. To bring it all back to "Buffy," seeing the show years later prevents me from wondering where it's all going to go, but it's refreshing that "status quo" seems to mean little on the programme.

**They're also ridiculously foul-mouthed, more so than anyone I know, including me after seeing the MESSENGERS with tyranist Wednesday night.

Friday, March 23, 2007

God Bless (Captain) America

I know that it's old news that Marvel Comics killed Captain America, but I didn't actually read the comic until yesterday.

It affected me. The comic book, written by Ed Brubaker, tells of the people closest to Steve Rogers (Captain America) and their reactions to his arrest and condemnation as a traitor by the U.S. government. As he is being led up the courthouse steps, a sniper, placed there by Red Skull and Doctor Faustus, fires at Steve. Sharon Carter, Cap's sometime girlfriend, rushes to his side, just in time for several more shots ringing out. Captain America is shot at point-blank range in the stomach and pandemonium ensues. He is rushed to the hospital, but is dead before he gets there. Falcon and Winter Soldier try to apprehend the sniper, but back at the hospital, the shocking truth is revealed to Sharon who the second shooter was. Fade to black.



Though I'm a fan, I know little about him and I've not got a lot of Captain America comics. Still, I've wanted them to make a quality, patriotic CAPTAIN AMERICA motion picture for many years now. I've bored my friends with my take on how it should be made and have probably set myself up for disappointment when and if it ever does see the light of day.

Cap represented what was best about America, especially in the 1940's. He was honest, strong, brave, loyal, enduring, and optimistic. In other words, all the things I'm not. But he's what we aspire to be. On our best day, we might act as Captain America would act, and stand up for the things we know to be true with our dying breath. Part of what I like about him is that he's so old fashioned. The kind of black and white man he is doesn't really fit in this shades of grey society, and if I did a CAP movie, I'd certainly encorporate that (as I would with a WONDER WOMAN film, though I'm sure I'd do it worse than Joss Whedon would have). Marvel Comics, perhaps aware of the changing world and the older readers, have shied away from the Captain America my father's and grandfather's generations* would have known, introducing an amoral Cap in the Ultimate Universe (though everyone 'cept Spider-man is pretty much a piece of crap in the Ultimate Universe) and turning Cap into a raging, hatefilled bully in some of the "Civil War" stories.

And that's too bad. I know Captain America is a symbol, an ideal most of us can't aspire to achieve (and it's sometimes hard to see any of myself in the man)**, but instead of always accepting shoddiness and/or corruption--or worse, championing mediocrity, as seems to occur so often today--wouldn't it be nice to aim for the heavens again, to long to do better, achieve more, and set the bar way up there, instead of so low that amputees trip over it?

Pick your old-fashioned hero, whether he's Superman, Abraham Lincoln, the Lone Ranger, Audie Murphy, or Lizzy Borden. Chances are, they were extraordinary people, well above-average, to whom we looked for an example, and next to whom, we paled in comparison. I've known real, teneble people who were just so great and so charismatic that I LONGED to be around them, longed to be like them, longed to be liked by them. We need more heroes like that in our society today . . . heroes who really are heroes.

Look, I'm not a complete idiot (how complete I am, however, is open to debate), I know Cap will be back again someday. I hope they come up with a clever and logical way of bringing him back than just "Oh, he only pretended to be dead to fool his enemies" or "Well, the Super Soldier serum brought him back"), but I thought the death issue was thoughtful, well-executed, and affecting. I haven't done a great job in putting my feelings into words, but sometimes that's the problem with feelings.

Or one of the problems.

Rish "Silver Age" Outfield

*I had a teacher at college who influenced my viewing habits more than any other. He was incendiary and curmudgeonly, alienating and Canadian, and I hated him on more than a few occasions. Yet he made me think, and made me re-evaluate my position and my beliefs. One of the things that he said to me was, "Why do you have to relate to the characters in a movie to enjoy it? Why use your own life and personal experience as a crutch? I mean, what kind of a vagina are you?"
Now, while many of the things he said opened my eyes to a larger world of thought, this is one of a handful of teachings that I haven't adopted.
For me to enjoy a film, TV show, or book, there has to be a character I can relate to, someone I can root for, someone who shows me a little of myself when they look in the mirror. While my teacher would say that was a flaw (and indeed, he did), I embrace this one. Call me the v-word, but if there's nobody I can connect with, I might as well be reading about animal life-cycles or non-fiction.

**I don't really get along with my father. He's a mean old man, and he's been one since 1983 or so. Though we have one or two things in common, the thousands of things we don't see eye to eye on help keep us apart. As I've gotten older, I occasionally try to get closer to him, like when I asked him if he read "The Lord of the Rings" when he was in college, only to be pushed away and not try again for a year or two. So, when I saw him on Friday, I thought that maybe, his growing up right after World War II, he'd have some kind of memory of Captain America and an interesting opinion on his death. But he disparaged the very mention of my four-colour heroes and referred to "funnybooks" as usual. It would've been nice if he had offered something I could mention here. Ah well.

Buffy Wednesday Continued

This may be a longer post than I expected.

So, last night, we watched four episodes of BTVS: "Surprise," "Innocence," "Phases," and "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered."

"Surprise" and "Innocence" was a two-parter, in which Buffy turns seventeen. Her friends throw her a party, a new villain known as The Judge shows up, and Buffy consummates her relationship with Angel, the Good Vampire. Due to his gypsy curse preventing him from ever achieving happiness, he loses his soul immediately afterward, and becomes Angel the Really Bad Vampire. With his soul gone, he is free to kill and snarl and saunter about, and be a villain that Buffy doesn't dare kill. I don't much care for the Angel character (which is going to make it hard when we have to choose whether or not to watch "Angel" in a couple months), but they really did something brilliant here.

I talked with tyranist a bunch of times about the fact that Buffy is only sixteen years old and yet dating a man who is not only a legal adult, but around two hundred years older than her. While I don't personally have a problem with adults sleeping with teenagers, this country has become fixated on it this past year with the advent of "Dateline: To Catch A Predator," which people love to watch and make fun of, always pretending it's not just another reality show, capitalising on humanity's lust for deceit, shame, and humiliation. As far as Buffy and Angel go, though, I wonder if the age difference issue bothered people in 1997 (when these episodes first aired), and I wonder if it would bother people now. However, the show is so well-written (and acted), that it's not really an issue. But I do wonder.

As I was saying, in the two episodes I was recapping, after Buffy has slept with Angel, he turns all cold and heartless, and every bit of tenderness and love he showed her before the act are gone. This is a blatant (yet very effective, this is not a criticism) parallel to the way males will often completely change after sex (having gotten what they wanted), and the betrayal women must feel when it happens to them. And God, the acting was good in this episode. While I can't really buy David Boreanaz as Bad Angel, Sarah Michelle Gellar's performance was the best I've ever seen her. The scene where she goes to her bedroom and cries (as well as the eighteen other times she cries in those episodes) was just heartbreaking.

I wonder, is there a reason why men change after sex? That Buffy felt this profound connection and beautiful closeness, and Bad Angel smirks and basically calls her a slut, well, there's not much that needs to be said there. It's got to hurt. Got to, 'cause it hurts just to watch it unfolding on a television show full of fictional characters.

It's nice to have someone to talk about a show you love with, and tyranist and I have shared a few words about "Buffy."* In fact, he and I had lunch after I started writing this post and he told me to mention that we are the only people on the globe that hate Angel. Well, here's a revelation: I don't hate him anymore. Oh sure, I did to begin with (and he's still my least favourite of the bunch). I felt like the character was designed to be smooth, attractive, and mysterious, but I found him to be vapid, motive-less, and uninteresting . . . until now. Bad Angel is interesting because he USED to be good, and because he has a deeper connection to our hero(ine) than anyone else she's faced. He knows her strengths, but he also knows her weaknesses and soft spots.

I still have difficulty believing the actor's performance (it's like the rare occasion of seeing Scott Bakula, or Bill Shatner, or Harrison Ford play a bad guy . . . they seem to hold back, and you're always waiting for the revelation that they were just pretending), but the writing is spot-on, and Boreanaz's performance may even be intentional, knowing that Good Angel will be back before to long, so let's not alienate his many fans.

Whedon and Company know, and really all good dramatic writers know, that while audiences want the characters to be happy, we only watch when they are suffering. So suffer they do. Joss has set up these pairings on the show: Buffy and Angel, Xander and Cordelia, Giles and Ms. Calender, and now Willow and Oz. Every relationship suffered in the four episodes we watched last night, and I'll give you twenty dollars if ANY single one of those relationships still exists when the series ends.

TV shows thrive on sexual tension, much more so than movies. We desperately want the characters to get together, but the game is to keep them apart as much as possible (note that I didn't say "as long as possible," because audiences will grow restless if Clark and Lana, or Dave and Maddie, or Hitler and Zeitl stay apart for too long), bringing them close, then pushing them away, and doing it in a seemingly-reasonable, seemingly-organic way. We have to yearn for them to find happiness, but not so long that we give up hope that happiness is within reach.

And frankly, a happy couple in love is boring. If you didn't know that, then you've never watched television or had buddies who got married and drifted away from you.

Romance is really hard to write. Maybe that's why I avoid it, but I have tried ("He tried and failed?" "He tried and died."). In the screenplay I wrote that was mostly a love story, I put a lot of myself into it, putting in as much kissy-wissy schmaltz as I dared because I knew things would not work out in the end. I'm a good writer (this blog notwithstanding), but I winced all through the group read-thru. The dialogue, which I wanted to sound heartfelt and real, was so trite and childish when read aloud, that I didn't even bother changing any of it in a rewrite, figuring nothing could be done.

But now I figure, if you have someone committed to the material, the way SMG or Allyson Hannigan was in the same episode, well hey, it totally works. So, Buffy and Angel are now separated, and I call it brilliant. "Surprise" and "Innocence" are, when taken together, the best BTVS has ever gotten. Just between you and me, I've never had my boyfriend lose his soul and go all evil after I just gave him the preciousest gift imaginable, but it sure feels like I have. I guess that's the secret, isn't it, to put as much truth and genuine emotion into the fantastic and unbelievable as you can, and it feels real somehow.

And while Buffy and Angel's relationship reaches a lowpoint with her defeating him in battle with a superhuman kick to the mechanism, I think Buffy and Giles's relationship reaches a highpoint when, in the car, he tells her how the times ahead will be difficult, but she has his support and confidence that she will overcome it all. The next scene is her and her mother, sharing some alone time, but Giles is the parent-figure that she can truly confide in, which is both nice and terribly sad.

I wonder if fans a decade ago saw this episode and knew that a line had been drawn, that something enormously special had just happened. I was moved and impressed enough to start a blog about the show, so I don't doubt it.

The third episode we watched last night was when Oz turns into a werewolf. Werewolves are cool.**

And the last episode we watched was the most fun. In it, Xander gets dumped by Cordelia on Valentine's Day (she's such a snot it's actually become cute), and in retaliation, he has a witch cast a love spell on her. The spell backfires, and everyone BUT Cordelia falls in love with him. Man, it was funny; they really took that idea as far as they could. Even Buffy's mother, Drusilla the Creepy English Vampire, and a lunchlady wanted him, and I was delighted (yeah, when I hear myself say things like that, it's not so shocking that I'm single). Xander is usually the character I most relate to (though it may have to be Spike now that he's deformed and in a wheelchair), and I'll never forget the time I put a love spell on someone and it went totally wrong like that. Ahh, memories.

We had only intended--or I had only intended--on watching one or two last night (and the week before), but they're just impossible to stop. It's like they used to say about Lay's Potato Chips:*** No one can eat just one. Given the right circumstances, we could burn through an entire season boxed set in a single weekend. Television is designed to be addictive. They don't make their money if everybody watches one episode, then, totally satisfied, then never watch another one. So, if they're worth their salt, they reel you in, create all sorts of plotlines that need to be resolved in the future, and characters you want to check in on every seven days.

And "Buffy" has totally done that for me. I've gone from zero to fan in, well, probably a month. Luckily, I had the blessing of coming to "Buffy" practically a virgin. I knew it went seven seasons, that eventually she would get a sister, that Angel would spin off into his own show, and that, at some undefined point, there would be singing. But most everything else has been a complete surprise.

Unfortunately, last night, I made the mistake of looking up "Buffy" online, to find out what the titles were and a bit of trivia, and I found out major spoilers for later in the season. That's too bad, but what's done is done. I said I was blessed with knowing little, but that also puts me at a disadvantage, spoiler-wise, for the comics or message boards or books or spin-off show. I can either stay the hell away from the internet (and the Season 8 comic), or expect many more unpleasant surprises in the coming days.

Wow, I'm realising I have a great deal to say about the show and its characters; much more than I'm willing to write up now. I feel like I missed out when this show was on and I had many more hours of disposable time to watch and comment on it (unlike now when I have to type this during work hours, looking over my shoulder like an escaping prisoner). But no use crying about that now. There's a lot more things going on in my life to cry about.

Rish Outfield

*I just realized that I've implied that I love "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Strange, but I guess I do.

**I guess I should say more about this episode. Tyranist thinks that because I wrote almost nothing that I didn't like it very much, but I just had little to say. He really champions the (inevitable) love affair between the Oz and Willow characters, but I sort of shrink away from it. Partly because Willow seems to be a person that is defined by her pain (which I can totally relate to), and partly because their interplay is just a little too cutesy for me to excitedly pull for them.
But it's been told to me that eventually, Willow will drop Scott Evil's affection for what his Austin Powers mother embraced . . ie "the love that dare not speak its name." So if the sparks really fly between Willow and Oz, or I totally pine for them to join body and soul, then I'm in for a rude, sapphic awakening. And if she discovers she really hails from the vaunted Isle of Lesbos, then did she not genuinely love Xander and Oz? And if so, then what of the argument that people are born gay or straight (nature or nurture?), other than the fact that these are not real people, but fictional characters manipulated by a rotating band of writers?
I have no answers here, hence I said nothing. And should have left it that way.

***Or was it cannibalism?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

("Buffy" recap)

February 27, 2008 (yeah, that's the future, kids)

The first episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" I saw during its first season. I quite liked the 1992 film (I saw it twice in the theatre) and when they brought it out as a TV show, I remember being slightly curious. But I had school and friends and a job and writing aspirations in 1997, and didn't have time or opportunity for it. I saw one episode, though, "The Pack," when I was visiting my parents at home. I found it intriguing, but was really bothered by the death of the principal, and never, ever watched it again.

If I had any interest in later years, it was always quelled by a combination of fear of being lost and discomfort with the WB Network, not being in its demographic even when I was in its demographic (hell, I never even saw an episode of "Dawson's Creek" until it started to suck).

I worked at a video store in 2001 where I met and spoke with Joss Whedon quite often (it was within walking distance of Fox Studios--where I worked in 2000, oddly enough--so he may have had an office there), until I was summarily fired on Thanksgiving of that year. If "Buffy" (or any TV shows, really) had been available on DVD in those days, I might have given it a try then.

I finally saw the show in 2005, after I became a fan of "Firefly" and SERENITY was released. I rented the first disc from Netflix, starting with "Welcome to the Hellmouth" . . . and I didn't like it. Didn't rent any more.

It may be there's just something wrong with me, because I still don't like those first ten shows.

Buffy moved to Sunnydale and met Giles, her new Watcher, and befriended Willow and Xander. She also met the bitchy Cordelia, and the mysterious Angel, who turned out to be a vampire. She slew vampires by night and went to high school during the day, and never wanted for excitement because Sunnydale is located on a Hellmouth, and high school is hell altogether. Willow had a crush on Xander, who had a crush on Buffy, who had a crush on Angel. She defeated The Master (an aged, powerful vampire) at the end of Season One, and briefly died trying to stop the Hellmouth from opening up, spilling out monstrosities into our world. At least, that's what tyranist said happened, as I fell asleep and missed the end.

Season Two started with Buffy coming back from a summer with her father, and beginning a romance with Angel in earnest. Cordelia found herself more and more involved in the gang of heroes, and the computer teacher, Miss Calendar, became more of a regular character too, and a potential love interest for Giles. Two vampire lovers, Spike and Drusilla, had come to Sunnydale, and plotted against the Slayer, though thusfar without success.

That should, more or less, catch us up to where we were when I started blogging about "Buffy Wednesdays."

Rish "Previously On..." Outfield

Goodbye Larry Bud and Hello Buffy

March 21st, 2007

One brief thing, and one that might not be brief:

First, I heard this morning that Larry "Bud" Melman is no longer with us. He was not a real celebrity, I know, but neither is Paris Hilton.


He was actually Calvert DeForest, and he used to appear on "Late Night with David Letterman" back in the days where watching Uncle Dave was the highpoint of my day.* He was a tiny, bespectacled New Yorker who would interview people (badly), appear as a correspondent, and crack Dave up literally every time. He couldn't read cuecards and had a fake evil cackle they had him do that never got old.

I got my buddy Dennis a book ostensibly written by DeForest back in Christmas of '95. I could look up the title if it mattered at all. Melman/DeForest was an odd-looking and odd-voiced little man who never seemed to realise that Dave was making fun of him, and the fact that he was back, week after week, in more and more ridiculous capacities, made him lovable.


He was eighty-five. I was about to say, "And that's a pretty good life, kids." Then I read that he had no next of kin, no real family, and there would be no funeral.

And that's sad. I don't know anything about the man, really, but I could easily go out with much less fanfare.

AND SECOND...

Since "Studio 60" went off the air, and circumstances have put watching horror movies on hold lately, tyranist and I haven't really had an excuse to get together every week. But then, he came up with the twisted concept of "Buffy Wednesdays," in which I'd drive over to his house and watch a couple of episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."



I was never a fan of "Buffy," for some reason, though you'd have thought I'd eat it up, and had only seen one episode. But I love Joss Whedon's "Firefly" like Joanie loved Chachi, and that made me at least try the show. I rented the first disc of the first season, and never went back. But tyranist has the boxed sets, and we sat down to watch them one episode at a time.

DVD is definitely the best way to watch television, and there's something great about being able to just turn on another episode immediately if momentum or excitement strikes.

I feel the first season was pretty uneven, with a few memorable episodes, but none that made me stand up and cheer. But he kept up the weekly tradition, and we started on the second season.

To me, the quality was night and day from the first year. There's more depth, there's more emotion, there are more laughs, and the characters just keep getting better and better. The crazy thing is, we're more than halfway through the second year, and we haven't hit a bad episode yet. Jeez, even "Battlestar Galactica" had a couple of stinkers (as I am wont to repeat) in its second year.

I wonder if the fans or the critics noticed. Instead of just watching two episodes, we've been watching three, and sometimes four in a night.

I was tempted to talk about each of them, the way my friend blogs about each short story he reads. I could do that, I suppose, and I wish I had blogged about each and every episode we've watched. That would've been entertaining to me, at least. But at this point, I ought to just rave a bit about the four I saw last night. Then, if I find the energy, I can talk about every Buffy Wednesday.

Rish "The Braincell Slayer" Outfield

*As opposed to now, when I'm too busy to watch Dave and there is rarely a highpoint to my day.

Monday, March 12, 2007

March 12, 2007

So, Richard Jeni took his life over the weekend.

I really liked him, even the overplayed, overexposed old lobster bit. He was both more talented and more successful than I am. Why am I still here?

Comedian Jeni Dies In Apparent Suicide
By ANA BEATRIZ CHOLO (AP)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, California (March 11) - Richard Jeni, a standup comedian who played to sold-out crowds, was a regular on the "Tonight Show" and appeared in movies, died of a gunshot wound in an apparent suicide, police said Sunday.
Jeni regularly toured the country with a standup act and had starred in several HBO comedy specials, most recently "A Big Steaming Pile of Me" during the 2005-06 season. Another HBO special, "Platypus Man," won a Cable ACE award for best standup comedy special, and formed the basis for his UPN sitcom of the same name, which ran for one season.
Jeni's movie credits included "The Mask," in which he played Jim Carrey's best friend, "The Aristocrats," "National Lampoon's Dad's Week Off," and "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn." He had guest appearances in the TV shows "Everybody Hates Chris," "Married: With Children" and updated versions of the game shows "Hollywood Squares" and "Match Game."
The comic first received national attention in 1990 with the Showtime special
"Richard Jeni: Boy From New York City." Two years later, his "Crazy From the Heat" special attracted the highest ratings in Showtime's history. Jeni became a frequent guest on "The Tonight Show" during Johnny Carson's reign and continued to appear after Jay Leno took over as host. He also wrote comic material for the 2005 Academy Awards, which was hosted by his friend Chris Rock.


Not a hell of a lot in there about his family, about friends' or police comments,
motives or where and when it happened. Hmmm. Maybe I should find a better article (I did find out later today that the man was making breakfast with his girlfriend Saturday morning, then went into the bathroom to take a shower, where he put a gun to his head. Does the fact that he picked the shower--an easily-cleanable locale--mean anything?).

In other news, on Friday, literally half of the people in my department at work were laid off.* It was kind of shocking, but even more so, is that I kept my job. Again, I ask, why am I still here?
I'm not sure I should go into that.

In semi-related news, Boston's lead singer Brad Delp (cool last name, really) also died over the weekend. He was only fifty-five. Not to attack Anna Nicole Smith or more of America's sick obsession with people who deserve no mention, I am really surprised that this was not bigger news. Sure, Boston's musical success was a long time ago, but this band was HUGE. Their self-titled first record remains to this day one of the biggest-selling albums of all time, and tracks like "Peace of Mind," "Rock & Roll Band," "Amanda," "Long Time," and "More Than A Feeling**" get airplay every single day on Classic Rock stations across the globe. And if they don't, well, they should.

Regardless, this guy was a real celebrity, who reached more people than the majority of today's bubble-gummers, one-trick-ponies, flavours-of-the-week, cover or sample artists, and "American Idol" rejects put together. Boston was monster huge in 1976, and and Delp WAS Boston. Or am I wrong?

Rish


*What's the difference between fired and laid off? Well, laid off is what happens to other people. Fired is what happens to me.
**While typing this, I put on Boston to remind me of how excellent a band they are/were. And I was reminded that one of my first scripts written in college was entitled "More Than A Feeling." That really means nothing, but hey, if it did, I wouldn't have mentioned it in a footnote.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Pseudopost

March 5, 2007

A week ago, tyranist came to my work and took me to lunch (as the man does from time to time), where we talked about our leisure time activities. Despite his repeated attempts to destroy me, tyr remains my best mate, and it continually amazes me how much this guy reads. Despite a job, a commute, a family, and one swollen, ineffectual testicle, he manages to read at least one short story a day and a book a week.

Me, I have trouble reading a full comic book through without falling asleep. Ain't old age fun?

But knowing my interest in podcasts and Horror, he told me about this podcast called Pseudopod, which is basically a weekly reading of a professional-level horror story. They present one by a different author every episode, and they're usually quite good.

I immediately check it out. Listening, I've been entertained, and have gotten an internal push to write some short stories of my own. Any writing teacher worth his salt will tell you that to be a writer you must also be a reader, and hearing these short (usually about 30 minutes) stories has fueled my imagination to the point where I'm writing pretty much every day again.

Right now, I have a boring little desk job, where they pay me to sit at a computer, enter customer information, and think about killing myself. Listening to audiobooks and podcasts has really helped the hours go by, and I can't recommend more this Pseudopod story collection. Check it out: Pseudopod.org.

Reading a short story a day shouldn't be impossible to do (I grabbed a story anthology yesterday and read three or four tales in it), and it's a helpful exercise. Beautiful, interesting, or even bad prose can inspire you to write some of your own. Even if you don't like a particular tale, it might spark something in your mind, give you the idea for another story that would go in a different direction, one based on a similar experience in your life, or a character that you liked that you might like to write about (whether specifically them or someone like them). A lot of times for me, though, it just reminds me of an idea for a story I had one time that I never wrote down or if I did, never went anywhere.

I don't really know why I'm writing this. If you like Horror and short fiction, give Pseudopod a try. It's not like it costs anything.

Except maybe a tiny slice of your soul.

Rish "The Professor" Outfield

Podcast Good! (a pun so bad, you win a dollar if you get it)

I'm way into podcasts right now. If you're at all like me (and frankly, if you are, make sure you buy a gun whose barrel fits in your mouth), and are a little slow at adopting new technologies, a podcast is an audio recording made available for download (usually as an mp3) on the internet. You can download them to listen on your computer, can save them onto an mp3 player to listen while jogging or burglaring, or you can even burn them onto a CD to listen in the car. They're usually just recordings of people talking about subjects of interest, and in the past year, I've seen thousands of them spring up all over the internet, in the way that thousands of message boards sprung up in the late Nineties. Some are pretty great, some quite professionally produced, and some are literally unlistenable.


I mightily enjoy them here at work (I've even tried to get tyranist to collaborate on a podcast for the Horror Film Compendium), and thought I'd mention it in my blog.* A couple of podcasts I have become a regular listener of include:


BSG Episode Podcasts
Ronald D. Moore, writer and executive producer of the new "Battlestar Galactica," tells all. Every week, he describes how and where things were shot, deleted and discarded scenes, and the creation of storylines, characters, motivations, and plotlines throughout the show. It's totally fascinating, if you're a huge Ron Moore fan like I am.


Make It So
A couple of British blokes talking about Star Trek. They are really funny, pretty passionate, and those accents make everything more palatable anyway.


Spider-man Crawlspace Podcast
A group of guys from around the U.S. (including a Southerner who seems physically incapable of pronouncing people's names right), talking about your friendly neighborhood Spider-man, both the comics and the movies. They disagree often, which can be entertaining, but mostly it's just great to hear anybody who knows what they're tlaking about rave about Spidey.


Firefly Talk
A much more professionally done podcast, with standard features like News, a Question of the Week, Message Board coverage, Fan Fiction review, and an essay about "Firefly" and SERENITY.


Smodcast
Which is just Kevin Smith (the director) and his friend Scott Mosier (the producer of Smith's films) talking about whatever they feel like talking about, with Kevin never failing to say something revoltingly offensive practically every five minutes.


Being James Bond
Where a couple of dudes, one super into James Bond novels, and one just into the films, talk about Bond-related subjects, such as how to play cards, race cars, ski, fly planes, shoot guns, and how to shag awesome international babes. Oh, and they talk about the Bond series too.


Tales of Horror
Where they play old Suspense and Horror-related radio dramas, ranging from the Forties to the Nineties. The quality is all over the place on these, but every once in a while, there's a great one, and even when they're bad, radio dramas are nice nostalgic glimpses at the past that gets farther away with each passing day.


I've listened to many other podcasts, whose subjects MAY range from Harry Potter, the ViewAskewniverse, people picking scabs, downloaded radio shows, drunken European "Firefly" ruminations, tales of people from New Hampshire, tales of people who have been to New Hampshire, tales of people who know people who have been to New Hampshire, horror films, something called vagina dentata, movie review shows, singing serial killer call-in programmes, urethras, interview shows, in-depth critical discussion about the works of Right Said Fred, advice columns, shows on the paranormal, shows about fat people and those who wish they were fat but aren't, Stephen King book reviews, a weekly radio hour about DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE, fanmade erotica involving Ronald McDonald and Grimace, fanmade erotica involving the Fry Guys, cat lover digest, cat lover digest (safe sex version), celebrity urethras, NPR, homemade Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Star Trek adventures, dwarf, scat, and spider fetish discussion groups, and comic book news podcasts.

More on that tomorrow.

Rish "Easy Listening" Outfield

*Though now that I've typed this, I don't know why I thought it was a good idea.