Saturday, January 30, 2010

Did I Fall Asleep? I'm afraid's really over.

Warning: This is fairly spoilery if you haven't seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly/Serenity or the series finale of Dollhouse. 
Dichen Lachman, Tahmoh Penikett, Fran Kranz, Olivia Williams, Harry Lennix, Enver Gjokaj
Eliza Dushku

It can definitely be argued that Joss Whedon tells pretty much the same stories with each of his projects, or at the very least, revisits the same themes while messing with the way he tells the story. This is not a complaint. I love how he does it.

For this blog I'm just going to focus on the main one;  Female empowerment out of victimization. Buffy is strong but only because the first slayer was violated by a group of male high priests with demon energy, Cordelia is also imbued with demon energy, and yes she does so willingly, but later we learn that she was tricked, in the same series Winifred Burkle becomes the embodiment of an ancient and long forgotten god only through being made a sacrifice to that very god, and River Tam is tampered with to the point that all that is done to her by the Alliance Government brings out her genius and super powers and perhaps ultimately the end.

And then of course there is Caroline who through the manipulations of the Rossum Corporation and the Dollhouse becomes Echo, a high powered Matrix like hero but embodying the opposite of Neo's cluelessness.

All of these women rise from the ashes of thinly veiled metaphors for rape.

In the early part of the first season of Dollhouse many women, including fans of Joss Whedon's work complained that the show seemed to glorify the exploitation of women. This was nonsense. If you know anything about Joss Whedon you know that he is more of a feminist than my mother, who was a vice president of a local chapter of NOW for several years.

When it comes to Joss, you have to stick around for the long view. I learned this in Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Joss had Buffy meet the infamous Dracula in the season premier. That episode ended with the sudden and seemingly shark jumping introduction of Buffy's younger sister. When I saw this I was furious, not only was the actor who played Dracula abysmally bad, but the introduction of a sister out of nowhere?!!!

What.The.Fuck. (a)

BUT, I learned quickly, there's always a longer story, and a few episodes later we learn that the sister's existence has a purpose and that while badly acted, the character of Dracula introduces aspects of Buffy's being that we do not fully understand until the Seventh Season and that echo the warnings that came to us in the finale of Season Four. Further, a few years later as I introduced my daughter through the series on DVD, I saw how the coming of Dawn was foretold in the end of the Third Season, by none other than Faith (played by the ever hot, Eliza Dushku) in a shared dream with Buffy.

I am being wordy here because it brings up how the Fox Network has now twice failed the fans by their nearly militant refusal to appreciate good storytelling. Even if it happens to be a similar story to the last time.

They did it with Firefly, and they did it again with Dollhouse. And in the same way that Warner Brothers screwed Angel at the last minute, Fox left the Dollhouse crew precious little time to wrap up their story in a completely emotionally satisfying way.

And yet, like the ending of Angel, the Whedon crew managed to pretty much pull a small rabbit out of their hat. A small one, but a rabbit nonetheless. A lesser crew would have had Sierra waking up, walking to the bathroom seemingly disoriented only to find her loving husband Victor in the was all just a bad dream....except Victor is a Replicant....and isn't that Bob Newhart's wife in the bed? (ok, that last one was an awesome finale actually).

I just finished watching the Dollhouse finale, "Epitaph Two" and I am indeed sad and a bit teary eyed. To be sure, the impact of E2 is best appreciated if you've seen "Epitaph One", and if Fox were worth half a dog turd they might have screened that episode last week before showing this one. But that's asking the impossible.

Earlier today I was chatting with @2MuchPerfection who had seen the Dollhouse finale already. She is also a fan of Buffy though never liked Angel (I still think she's cool though) Her words "Joss is so predictable. Someone sacrifices, someone you don't want to die is killed and the world is alright again....not that I didn't like it. I can just see it coming"

She was right, but because Fox gave Dollhouse 5 episodes to wrap things up, I find it easy to forgive that certain parts of Whedon's formula are repeated so blatantly. And the unwanted death happens so fast and so without closure, that it still has impact.

As I watched tonight's episode I mourned for the stories we will never see. Alpha's struggle and eventual redemption (not unlike Spike's at the end of Buffy. Topher's sacrifice as well had echoes of Spike and even a touch of Wesley), the continual attempts that Paul makes to reach Echo/Caroline. The adventures that Meg, the girl Caroline and Zone as they make their way from Los Angeles to "Neuropolis" (Tucson, where I was born, by the way, just for the fun of knowing it), what does Dominic do and what is his journey after he is set free from The Attic, how long does Echo suffer through headaches before she makes peace. So many journeys so many variations on the story that could have been explored if the Powers That Be just let Joss be Joss and just.let.him.tell.the.fucking.story.

Parts of this finale were disappointing, but only because so much had to be covered in so little time. For me it was emotional and sad and the very last moment broke my heart. How even more heartbreaking if we had had time to learn more about Caroline/Echo's loneliness and isolation (again, themes embodied by Buffy, Angel and Malcolm Reynolds before her).

I loved this show from the start. I didn't need time to warm up. There were dips here and there, but I knew Joss was leading us somewhere somewhat new. (I will blog in detail soon, episode by episode.)

But his messages are the same. We can be stronger for our suffering, we should stop tampering with ourselves unnaturally to make ourselves better, and saving the world always, ALWAYS requires sacrifice.

Also...we like love adore lust after hot chicks with super powers.

(a) just a side not in the form of a footnote, Garry Marshall, producer of the show Happy Days, from whence the phrase "jumped the shark" was created, likes to boast about how high the ratings were for the episode where Fonzie, in a bathing suit and leather jacket, does the water ski jump over the shark, earned that show the highest ratings ever. But what he fails to understand, and I admire Mr. Marshall, is that even though it got high ratings, it was still the beginning of that show's spiral into utter stupidity

Friday, January 29, 2010

Me and the Glass Family

Like most of my generation in the United States, I was introduced to Catcher in the Rye in high school, and like most of us I felt a certain kinship with Holden Caulfield.

But it was Franny and Zooey that really hit me where I lived and live still. Now it wasn't that I had a family like the Glasses, a home filled with angsty geniuses. Not at all. But they were fascinating and beautiful and just as angsty as I felt in my late teens.

I fell in love with Franny, the sister who was in withdrawal after ages of spiritual exploration, huddled up in her room, isolated. Still trying to figure it out.

And I felt I WAS Zooey, in so many ways just as lost but somehow having a peace with it. Knowing something of the answer but still searching for it.

He has this great speech early in the book where he criticizes himself and his family and how they are too damned smart for their own good and seem to have lost the ability to really relate to people one to one.

I made that section of the book into a monologue, and in college I worked on it in my acting class. I felt such a kinship with Zooey that I wanted to continue to explore his character. In some ways I was pretty obsessed. But there was something about working on it that made me feel I was understanding something about myself.  Or something like that.

After I left college at the end of sophomore year I muddled around a little trying to find and create my own threatrical projects and groups. I was fortunate enough to find my way to studying with the great Geraldine Page, through her (also very talented) sons. Among other pieces, I continued to bring my work on Zooey into class for Geri to look at. We worked on it...and she was a wonderful teacher about whom I will write more on another time. But when she took a couple of weeks off to go to the Oscars (for "Trip To Bountiful", I think) class was taken over by F. Murray Abraham.

The first day that Murray came in I was scheduled to bring in Zooey. By now I had been working on Zooey's talk with Franny over the phone. Franny is holed up in her room and the only way Zooey can seem to reach out to his sister is by calling her as she sat in the next room. He goes on to describe all the ways we try to find ourselves and the truth in the world...what it all means. How bullshit some of it is, and how simple the truth is. It's been a long time and much of it escapes me now and sadly my copy of the book is in storage at the moment. It's very hard to describe the esoteric truth that Zooey tryes to convey to Franny, that the essence of life, (as their oldest brother had told him before his suicide)  is in everything, that the homeless guy that he saw every day was "Christ himself, Franny...he's Christ himself" in the sense of the truth of it being within everyone and everything. And that in the end, it's just not that complicated.

Franny comes out of her isolation, and Zooey himself somehow has managed to guide himself to a sense of understanding too.

When I did the piece for Murray and finished he was silent and a bit misty eyed. It turned out that this was one of his favorite books of all time and that he too wished he could play Zooey. He gave me a simple note...that I had everything I needed to portray Zooey completely, it was clear that I understood him and all the levels of his thoughts and feelings...but there was one thing I had forgotten in all the time I'd been working on it.

"John, the one thing you have to remember...he is saving his sister's life. You don't have to think of anything other than that because you know Zooey I think maybe better than *I* do...and I know him pretty damned well. He's saving his sister's life."

Of course he was right on the money and his note to me was parallel to Zooey's message to Franny. It's simpler than you think it is. And it almost always is like that.

I realized then and now that I was drawn to Zooey because in my head I'm constantly having that talk with myself. My Zooey half is trying to save my Franny half's life.

So far I think I'm succeeding.

Thank you Geri, Thank you Murray.

Thank you, Mr. Salinger. Funny how the wisdom of your books drew you to isolation,  I so hate that you are no longer in the world with us, even within that isolation.. It's a lesser world for your absence, but I am a richer man for your words.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rest In Peace Old Friend

7 years ago I replaced the local made piece of shit computer that I'd had for about 2 years with a Dell Dimension 2400. It was sleek, dark grey and dark blue. 80 gig HD, decent integrated graphics and could do up to 2 gig of SD Ram. She was sweet. I named her Gort after one of my favorite movies.

She's been moved, bumped around, upgraded, downgraded, sidegraded...For the last 3 years she's been on almost constantly. And she has always performed gracefully.

In the last 6 months, Gort's age began to show. She just couldn't handle some streaming video...I had to upgrade with a video card that she could barely handle just to get Second Life to run relatively well. And she needed to be rebooted often.

Then a couple of weeks ago she contracted a small virus. Odd in that it came from a site that was deemed safe, and commonly visited by many, nonetheless. There it was. It was handled well enough after a couple of days...But the next day, clicking on a charity link posted by my twitter friend @nandoism she got another one...and this one was big.

Now before I continue, this was a legitimate site apparently. @nandoism put it out there as a way to help gay teenagers who are on the verge of suicide. Many have visited it, so I'm not suggesting that @nandoism put a bad link out there. Clearly, Gort was just too susceptible and something along the way hit her...the link just...I don't know...brought it out?

At any rate, the decline was fast. The virus targeted the only anti virus and anti malware software I have, disabling its .exe file quickly.

I downloaded AVG and it only made matters worse. AVG did nothing to prevent further infection and did nothing against the current one. In fact I got more malware than ever in 24 hours than I had in 7 years after installing the piece of shit.

Further, AVG ran so hard in the background that booting up took 30 minutes and opening any application took about 15.

After two days of continual working on her, Gort finally seemed to be getting better. But when I came home from work at 1:45 am, the HD was back to spinning wildly, malware pop ups were all over the screen and I couldn't get anything done.

So I shut Gor down, waiting for the replacement OS disk to revive her after a reformat. But I have to face facts. She's very old for her kind. She's worked very hard for me. I may just have to let her go.

I've done a lot through Gort. I've role played many stories. Made very good and meaningful friends through her. I started this blog with her.

It's silly I know. But 7 years is a long time. And I will miss her.

She's been powered down for 10 hours now...the longest she's gone being down in a long time. It feels weird.

I have a of slightly less power and ability that I got through a friend's client for free a couple of years ago, so my ability is fine enough. And soon I hope to have a new laptop.

It's not like I didn't know this day would come. Still, it feels weird. Funny how one can get attached to things, even when approaching half a century in age.

Goodnight Gort, sleep well. Maybe I can get you back up and running or maybe I'll just let you rest in peace.

Either way, thanks for your hard work.

Friday, January 22, 2010's time to see if I can make the internet work for me in a new way

So as the few of you who read me know, I'm a mix of many things on this stuff, politics stuff, pop culture stuff, rant stuff.

But I'm going to focus on the popculture geeky thing about me.

My dad raised me to be a movie buff. Not on purpose, but he was a buff and so he passed it on pretty easily. It worked so well that when I met my ex wife I got very excited about who her father was even as I knew I was very attracted to her. You see her father was a famous film historian/preservationist/professor in NY and I had grown up reading several of his books. That's a side point, but it gives you an idea of what it's like being around me sometimes. Anyway, my enthusiasm for movies became an enthusiasm for things pop culture, etc....

So here's the thing...I have this blog, and I have this fetish for pop culture and I have this need to express what I'm thinking to people who may or may not give a flying rat's genetically engineered human ear about. AND I need to make some extra money.

So I've been pondering the idea of doing reviews of various TV shows, movies, books, etc that I have experienced and offering said items, when applicable, for sale through my association. The way it works is I have a product linked here and you click on that link and buy that product. When you do that, Amazon sends me a percentage of the profit. A little here, a little there, and Blog Her becomes easier to manage, as does my Shakespeare Retreat in Vermont, as does my daughter's text books.

Part of me thinks this is great, part of me wonders if it isn't an ethical thin line. The thing is, I KNOW I'm not going to say something I don't mean in order to sell something. It's just not in me to do it. That's why as an actor I have a lousy damned commercial career. Indeed, I can see myself offering something up for sale even though I hate it.

The other thought I've had is to maybe make a different blog, that's specifically devoted to reviews. But that sort of takes away from the mixed bag that Gifts of Thought is supposed to be. Or maybe both. Do the review here but have a blog set up as a kind of archive/shop of past Opinionated Gift reviews.

So...I ask you, my friends and fellow tweeter/blogger/follower/reader friends. What do you think? Use the poll I've set up at the top and to the right, and if you want to add a comment, please do. Thank you thank you and ever thank you.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

One Step Closer...

One of my goals for 2010 is to reduce my expenses even further. My conscious plan involved getting rid of most of the things I have in storage through selling items, getting rid of stuff and moving other things to the basement of where I'm living now, the other is to get that second roommate here. Both attempts are going along slower than I'd like..but coming along.

This week I got a boost I wasn't expecting. Turns out, that my mobile phone carrier offers discounts to people who work where I work. 20% discount. Awesome. It was as simple as giving my work email and verifying a few minutes later.

$150 a year saved.

That doesn't seem like much on face value, but considering that just one of my daughter's text books for this semester, cost that much used, I'm pretty happy.

I have already achieved one goal with further improvements coming. And it's still January.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

This makes me feel better.

I've blogged a few times in the past about my beliefs and feelings regarding love, marriage and thus such things.

I think one of the things that I've found the most hurtful, depressing and discouraging of late is the continual defeat of Gay Marriage in this country.

Now I've said before that in terms of that, I think no one should have a governmental right to marry. As far as the state is concerned adults should be granted (without contest) civil unions. And civil unions can include any number of consenting adults. It means you have made a commitment to a person, or personS and they to you and eachother and that the state recognizes it for legal and tax purposes and that's that. PERIOD. Beyond that it's no one's mother fracking business.

Marriage, is ceremonial...and while I also believe that any and all consenting adults should be free to marry whom they choose, it belongs more within the purview of  spritual institutions.

But we have been overhauled by branches of "Conservatives", Catholics, Mormons, Scientologists and other self righteous, moralistic fucktards that when law is enacted or a legal statement is made that recognizes that "gay marriage" is indeed constitutional...we actually go out and have a vote...and in THIS country, in  The United States of America, in the twenteyfuckingfirst century, we actually allow people to vote away a "right" from other people.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. My pastey white ass.

But then...a glimmer of hope. Which I will let Rachel Maddow explain in more detail. But finally, a prominent and truly bipartisan, NONpartisan approach to this repressive trend. What is in this video is not only hope to be free to "love as thou wilt" but even a glimmer of hope about the possible future of politics in this country. When wise men (and women) of good will, truly good will, stand together for something that is right, and good, and toss away whatever wing of politics they fly under because it doesn't matter. Watch this. I hope that it will make you, as it did me, proud to be an American.

Bear with the advertisement in the beginning. You can click on the X in the circle fairly quickly and watch the real thing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'm not in the mood

I haven't blogged since New Years. I haven't felt like it.

No, that's not it. I've felt too much like it. Sort of.

I hate every idea that pops in my head, every opinion that circles my psyche.

I'm sick of myself.

Alright...that's kind of harsh. But its the clearest way of expressing it I can come up with...and its in my nature to be hard on myself.

Something comes up and I think...yeah I'll blog on that...then I think...oh who gives a shit.

I don't really know where this is coming from. But it is what it is.

I'm not in the mood. the end, I write about not being in the mood to write. So there.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Twentyten, Twothousandandten....whatever

Like a growing number of us, I don't do resolutions. I do set down goals.

I don't adhere any attachment to accomplishing them. They are things are strive for and do what I can to achieve, but I don't invest my entire identity on something that might change at any time.

Having said that, here are goals I intend to achieve one way or the other by the end of the year.

Continue to grow closer and more understanding with my daughter.

Significantly reduce if not eliminate entirely my debt, medical, consumer and tax.

Get to the Shakespeare Retreat this year at the end of August. It's our 10th one and I don't want to miss 4 in a row. It is my plug in.

Attend Blog Her and meet so many of the neat folks that I've met online.

More sex.

Liesure time. Enough left over from my financial obligations to go out with friends without stressing about bills.

Be more regular with the blog...At least 3 times a week. Give myself permission to let my entries be lame if need be. Just to get up and do something.

Meditate daily.

Continue to adjust my frame of mind to more positive thinking and less self sabotaging defeatist attitudes.

Visit my mother and stepfather more often.

At least two well paid acting jobs this year.

There you go...alright 2010, don't blow it.