carose59: TV (but he doesn't know what he likes)
By Whom Do You Imagine Such A Sign Was Meant To Have Been Painted? The Municipal Signage Department Of Emerald City?*

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The pilot for The Andy Griffith Show was actually an episode of Make Room For Daddy, Danny Thomas's show. Danny Thomas and Sheldon Leonard had the idea for the show—about a town so small, the sheriff was also the judge, justice of the peace, and I'm not sure what all else, and in this episode Danny gets stopped in a speed trap. Andy wasn't terribly bright and Barney was his cousin. (Barney remained his cousin for a few episodes, then they dropped that.)

One thing they found out really fast was that Barney was a funnier character than Andy, so for the good of the show, Andy Griffith opted to play straight man.

The Andy Griffith Show, is purported to be a warm, wholesome, family show. People might behave badly, but at the end of the day, they learn a lesson and shape up. Strangers come to town and find that the slow, small town life is better than their big city bustle.

And that's not completely untrue, but there's such an underpinning of meanness, I found myself stressing out as I watched the episodes.

Barny Fife is one of those characters we're supposed to like in spite of his unlikeableness. He's officious, he's a bully, he's power hungry, and he's incompetent. (In 2017 he'd make a fine president.) I never liked Barney.

And yet when Andy is deliberately cruel to him, I get very upset. Because, as I used to tell Pat all the time, "I'm not his friend! I can't stand him and I wouldn't treat him like that, but here's his best friend constantly undercutting him, ridiculing him, treating him the way I wouldn't treat my worst enemy! What kind of friend is that?" Yes, in a pinch Andy would come through for Barney, but it has been my experience that in an emergency, even strangers will help you out. Friends are supposed to be nice to you on a daily basis! Otherwise, what's the point?

So the show constantly put me in the position of having to feel sorry for a character I disliked. This is the same problem I had with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, only at least with that one it was almost always Ted doing it to himself. I didn't like watching it, but I wasn't saddled with conflicted feelings about the other characters, except for wishing they'd stop putting up with his crap.

For Pat, the problem was Andy's fathering skills. She said he was a terrible father, and the way he treats Opie in a handful of episodes certainly testifies to this. Andy's response to Opie's behavior when he doesn't understand it is to assume he's doing something bad. The first—and I think worst—case of this is a very early episode where there is a charity drive going on. Opie gives three cents. (He's about six years old, and this is the early '60's; back then, you could actually buy something with three cents.) Andy finds out about this and is humiliated—because it's all about him. When he next sees Opie, he's obnoxious and sarcastic—to a six-year-old who doesn't even know what he's supposed to have done wrong.

When Opie explains he's saving his money to buy a present for his girlfriend, Andy continues this passive-aggressive behavior. He calls him Diamond Jim Brady and ridicules him in front of other people. In the end—when he finally asks Opie for some details instead of clinging to his nasty conclusions—he finds out the present Opie wants to buy is a coat. His friend's coat is worn out and her parents can't afford to buy her a new one.

Yes, he's embarrassed by this. He should be. The thing is, we never see Opie being a really bad kid, so why would his father jump to a conclusion like this? And not just once. There aren't a lot of episodes like this, but there's definitely a pattern.

In one of the last episodes—one I remember from when it was on originally—Opie, at his new job, breaks what he thinks is an expensive bottle of perfume. He pays to replace it without the store owner finding out, and when the man discovers it (because the broken bottle was only a display filled with colored water), Opie tells him that he couldn't confess because his father was so proud of him. And because he'd be nasty and sarcastic to him if he found out, I thought.

Things changed when Don Knotts left the show, and not for the better. The show became "why Andy Taylor is grumpy this week." They had done shows like that before, with Barney sending Andy off to get some rest only to bother him every fifteen seconds with trivialities. I understand that it's hard to shift a character from straight man to comic center, but this is another form of humor that simply annoys me, and while I can watch an episode of it, three seasons of it was intolerable.

And the worst part was what it did to Andy's character. His playfulness disappeared; he became tense, shrill, and sharp..They emphasized Andy's already strong "what will people think?" tendency, to the point where he gets mean about things like Aunt Bee wearing a blonde wig (people will look at them! He doesn't want people looking at them! She cannot wear a wig!) It gets ugly. A show about a man who is constantly exasperated and impatient isn't funny. At least, not to me.

Other things Aunt Bee wasn't "allowed" to do included learning to drive and learning to fly a plane. In spite of Andy, she did both of these things.

Another problem was, the times, they were a changin' and there was nothing they could do about it. The show went into color. Music changed. Opie edged up on teenage. Outsiders with New York accents showed up, claiming to have lived there their whole lives. The town lost its charm and became as shrill and petty as Andy.

I believe my favorite episode was a later one where an old friend of Goober's had spent the whole episode making him feel small, with his bragging about how successful he was. Goober pretends to be more successful than he is and is humiliated. At the end they discover the old friend doesn't even own his own gas station the way Goober does, and Goober declines the opportunity to rub it in. He doesn't want make his friend feel the way he had. I thought that was sweet.


Being who I am

Monday, 20 February 2017 02:08 pm
carose59: the rose behind the fence (rose is a rose is a rose)
You Must Learn From The Mistakes Of Others. You Can't Possibly Live Long Enough To Make Them All Yourself.*

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I always got the message I was too emotional.

It was a mixed message because in my family crying was considered a legitimate hobby. My mother and I would listen to Puff, the Magic Dragon and cry. It was a thing you did.

But there were also times when I would be told if I didn't stop crying, I had to go to my room. The only way I could force myself to stop crying was to hold my breath—and sometimes that wasn't acceptable behavior either. Since these were times I was crying because my mother was angry at me, being sent to my room was even more upsetting; I just wanted her to like me again and her response was to send me away. (Did she know this? Did I tell her? I don't know.)

My father just withdrew when I cried because it made no sense to him. Our relationship didn't find firm footing until I was in my thirties and he yelled at me for something that was in no way my fault. It was where the cold air ducts are in my house. His father and brother built the house before I was even born. My response was to yell back that maybe he should have said something to them at the time, something I couldn't have done, what with not having been born yet! He was fine with being yelled at, whereas me crying panicked him. After that we yelled at each other.

Anyway, I got the message early from a lot of people that stoicism was the usually the best behavior. Never let anybody see how you really feel because if you do they will mock you, punish you, or withdraw from you. That's probably part of how I learned to be funny, because making people laugh is a pleasant distancing thing. Humor is one step removed.

I'm actually going somewhere with this. I want to write about The Andy Griffith Show, but so many people feel the need to tell me I'm too analytical, I wanted to explain first why I'm so analytical.

I think some of it is the kind of mind I have. Also, I like winning arguments, and if you stay reasonable, you have a better shot at it. And then there's the too-emotional thing. Fixing a problem requires understanding it, so I started early trying to understand why certain things upset me. And a lot of things upset me. I watched a lot of TV as a kid, and a lot of TV upset me. The Andy Griffith Show upset me. Eventually, I figured out why.

My constant analysis of things annoyed Pat—it seems to annoy everyone—but I think one of our deepest connections was that, while it annoyed her, she still agreed with my analyses of things. We had very much the same outlook on how people should treat their loved ones, for example, and while she instinctively knew that she hated All in the Family for the way Archie treated his family, I could put it into words, and she did like that, and the fact that we felt the same way about it mattered.

People tell me, "It's just a TV show, it's not important, why are you wasting your time?"

Well, first off, it is important. TV shapes how we think and that is not unimportant.

Second, I'm trying less to understand the show than to understand myself, and that is definitely not unimportant.

And third, I enjoy it. Yes, I get annoyed, but it's like working a puzzle. Anyone who has ever worked any kind of puzzle for pleasure has, at one time, been annoyed by it: a crossword clue they can't figure out, a piece that just doesn't fit anywhere—anything. Annoyance can be fun. When I express this to people, the usual response is to try and "fix" the "problem." Except there is no problem. (And I've only just realized this as I was writing this, which is one reason I write.)

Another thing about annoyance is, it's good for depressives. Depression seems to make me, at least, feel antagonistic towards the world. If I'm down and you tell me a joke, I might laugh politely but there will be a part of me resisting your attempt to "cheer me up." It won't lift my mood.

But annoyance, like anger, can raise my energy level, and when you're depressed, anything that does that is good.

Anyway, be prepared. Tomorrow, and possibly the next day, I'll be writing about The Andy Griffith Show.

*Sam Levenson
carose59: TV (but he doesn't know what he likes)
"You Consider 'I Love You' A Punchline?"*

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So, I'm doing my semi-annual rewatch of The Dick Van Dyke Show, this time on Netflix. The last time it was on Hulu. Netflix is better because there are pieces included that have been cut for so long, some of them I wonder if I've ever seen before. It's comforting and exciting and it makes me sad. I want Pat to be here. I found the rented children!**

Last night I watched The Curse of the Petrie People. It's the one where Rob's parents give Laura a big, gaudy pin that's a Petrie family heirloom. Laura is less than thrilled by this and Rob's apologetic. And all I keep thinking is, "But you'd only have to wear it is when his parents come over, how terrible is that, really?" I do that all the time, with pretty much every fictional situation I encounter, try to come up with solutions to their problems.

This morning I watched The Bottom of Mel Cooley's Heart. In that one, Mel makes a mistake and Alan Brady screams at and humiliates him in front of everybody. They try to help the demoralized Mel, and part of that is getting Buddy to stop insulting Mel. Pat and I actually talked about that one, about Rob's rationalization of never tryint to stop Buddy, and we agreed that Rob was partly right. Buddy insulting Mel allowed Mel to be nasty to him, to take his hostilities out on him. He couldn't have done that if Buddy had been nice to him.

Although it was the kind of thing that happened on pretty much ever sitcom that lasted long enough, it was The Dick Van Dyke Show that brought about our arrangement regarding secrets. We agreed that if a friend told us a secret, neither of us would share it with the other without permission from the friend. That was not considered keeping a secret because it wasn't our secret. (We actually used this rule a couple of times. No hilarity ensued. No arguments, either.)

I think the tendency to try to solve the problems of fictional people is both the beginning of how a person starts writing fan fiction, and something that takes over your mind if you keep writing. Besides an internal editor that never shuts you, you also default to trying to work out inconsistencies. (Pat and I also discussed the whole is-Alan-married-to-Mel's-sister or vice versa question, but I can't remember what conclusion we came to.)

I also wonder about the real life stuff. There are a couple of episodes where Rob's brother is trying to resolve a "speak for yourself, John" problem he has. It's compounded by the friend he wrote the letters for having the name of James Garner. So every time he tells someone he's been signing the letters James Garner, he has to explan that no, James Garner is a drummer friend of his. This episode was written after Dick Van Dyke and Carl Reiner made The Art of Love with James Garner. I want to know whose idea it was to use his name. I want to know what he thought of it.

I know this all sounds stupid, but The Dick Van Dyke Show was part of our common language and it was important to us. If Pat was alive, I wouldn't be writing this because I'd have been talking about it with her while we watched.

But I would still be wondering about James Garner.

*Donald Hollinger
**There's an episode where Alan Brady is going to do an episode that's warm, so he's rented some children to sing with around a campfire. I could not for the life of me remember which episode it was and I didn't see that scene the last time I watched it all.
carose59: movies (the real tinsel)
"Great, We've All Got Names."*

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I just finished listening to The Garner Files, James Garner's autobiography. I really enjoyed it. (I was disappointed that the didn't read it, but not surprised. Disappointed because of course James Garner had a lovely voice, but more because I love listening to authors read their work. You'd have to be a stunningly bad reader for me not to prefer you to a pro—nothing against the pros. Actors who read lots of books are generally better at reading than the actors you've heard of. Apparently it's a different skill set.)

My favorite thing in the book was what he said about Victor/Victoria. It's always annoyed me that King tells Victoria that he doesn't care that she's a man right before he kisses her, because he knows she's not a man. When the scene was filmed, he didn't know—Blake Edwards chickened out and added the scene where King finds out Victoria's a woman. James Garner was disappointed by this; he liked it better that King thought he had fallen in love with a man.

I live in constant hope for things that I know won't happen, and listening to this book I was hoping he'd talk about The Dick Van Dyke Show.

James Garner was never on The Dick Van Dyke Show, but he made a movie called The Art of Love with Dick Van Dyke and Carl Reiner. And then there are the two episodes Stacy Petrie parts one and two.

These are the second two episodes Jerry Van Dyke guest starred in as Rob's brother, Stacy. In these episodes, he's been released from the army and is moving to New York and is engaged. Sort of. You see, he's been writing to this girl he never met. His friend asked him to ghost write his letters, then when the friend lost interest, Stacy began writing for himself. Now he's in love with the girl, but she doesn't know he's him.

One of the running gags is that the friend's name is James Garner. Every time Stacy says the girl thinks he's James Garner, there's a double take and again he has to explain, "Not the actor, he's this drummer friend of mine."

And the things I want to know are myriad. When did Carl Reiner come up with the idea of having the unseen friend be named James Garner? Did James Garner know about this before the episode aired? How did he feel about it? It seems like just a wonderful joke and I want all the details.

*Angel, Angel

The last of May

Tuesday, 31 May 2016 11:13 am
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
"Forget Enemies; The Guy Didn't Have Friends!"*

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I've written about this before, but now I have a TV show to use to illustrate my point!

Growing up, I watched The Andy Griffith Show. By the time I was a teenager, I'd developed an aversion to it, and when Pat and I got together, it was something we talked about. (We talked about a lot of TV shows, it was one of the things we had in common. She thought Andy was a terrible father, but that's not what I'm here to write about.)

My aversion to the show started with a dislike of Barney. I didn't find him funny. Like Ted Baxter, he was incompetent and arrogant, but he was presented in such a way that I understood I was expected to like him. It left me frustrated with the people who made the show.

But as I got older, I realized the one I really, really disliked was Andy.

Sure, Andy seems like a nice guy. He's the opposite of Barney: competent and self-effacing. While we're supposed to like Barney because he's funny, we're supposed to like Andy because he's a good guy.

Only he's not.

Andy uses his knowledge of Barney's flaws to ridicule him. I don't like Barney, so I don't want to spend time with him, but Barney is supposed to be Andy's best friend. I don't like Barney, but I wouldn't treat him the way Andy does.

The basic set-up of a "Barney acts like an idiot" episode is: Barney gets himself in trouble and Andy rides to the rescue. What we're supposed to take from this is what a great friend Andy is, helping out his good friend.

That is not the message I get. What I get is, this is a guy who will only be nice to you when you're in trouble.

Which is where we get to my weird philosophy.

It has been my experience that most people will be kind to you when things are going wrong. If I walked into the grocery crying, strangers would ask if I was all right, and some of them would listen while I rambled about my mother and how lost I feel.

What's hard to come by is a friend who will listen with interest when you talk about some obscure thing that you just love.

After Pat died, there was no shortage of people who were more than willing to sympathize, but finding someone who just wanted to be my friend and have fun with me was nearly impossible. I got sympathy cards and flowers from people who wouldn't talk to me for two minutes unless I was crying and going on about missing Pat. I actually got a card from someone who had told me that my bad housekeeping was killing Pat. (I was afraid to open it; I was expecting her to tell me I'd murdered Pat. But, no.)

What I craved was some way of getting out of my own head, someone to play with, but apparently that wasn't allowed. Or I wasn't fun enough. Or something.

And it'll happen again. My mother will die, and people who don't want me in their lives will kindly send me their condolences. What the fuck do I want with their condolences? Am I crazy, or is this just cruel?

*Phil Guardino
carose59: TV (but he doesn't know what he likes)
This is part of a 100 Things series I started elsewhere, where I write about particular outstanding features of various TV shows

I was once told that two people having a conversation about two different things without realizing they aren't talking about the same thing is called farce. (Think Abbott & Costello's famous Who's on First? routine [There is actually a WKRP episode called Who's On First?, which I haven't seen in years.]) Then I looked up the word farce and found that it's a style of humor based on the situation rather than the personality of the characters, so I don't think it really fits WKRP.

This has always been my favorite kind of humor, and WKRP did it better than anyone else I've ever seen. My favorite examples are where one person (usually Andy Travis) walks in at the end of a conversation, has no idea what's been discussed, and is confronted with some declaration that has no context. I'll tell you about a couple of my favorites.

The first happens when they all find out Mr. Carlson's wife is pregnant. There's a discussion of this in the bullpen with Johnny, Bailey, Les, Jennifer, and Herb talking (variously) about how nice or how unbelievable it is that the Carlsons are still having sex after so many years of marriage. As the conversation progresses, Herb—the only other married guy there—gets more and more agitated. Bailey tosses out a statistic that says married people have sex quite frequently, Herb contradicts her, and when Les says that Herb's not average, Herb snaps.

"You bet I'm average!" he shouts just as Andy walks in. "I'm about as average as it gets!"

And Andy says, "I think that's right."

My second favorite is after Les and Herb have a meeting with Mr. Carlson about doing more provocative stories to get more listeners. One of the topics Herb has suggested is prostitution.

Andy is coming into Mr. Carlson's office as Herb and Les are leaving, and Les says, "Andy, tell Herb I don't want to do the prostitution thing." There's a moment when Andy's going to say something, then, nope, not getting involved.

As I say, I can't call this farce because it's so based on their characters. So I just call it misunderstanding humor. WKRP did a lot of things great, but this they did it better than anyone.
carose59: TV (but he doesn't know what he likes)
It's Like Doing A CGI Version Of Animal Farm Without Any Of The Bothersome Fascist Symbolism, Just Because The Animals Are So Cute.*

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I kept trying to compare Oscar North to Ted Baxter, but it was very hard. There are similarities, but they're superficial: they're both cheapskate egoists with TV shows, and neither of them is very bright. There's just not that much to say about that, so I kept coming back to the ways in which they were different. So, let's break this down.

He & She was on the air for one season, 1967-68. The Mary Tyler Moore Show started in 1970. When they went to create the character of Ted Baxter, they based him on Oscar North, and they wanted Jack Cassidy to play him. Unfortunately, he turned down the part and this is what happened.

Ted Knight was cast in the role, and my hypothesis is that the writers altered the character to fit his talents. I'm basing this on what I've seen of Ted Knight's other work, and the fact that the character was altered so drastically. And it happened fast. In the ninth episode of the second season, something very important happened, something that easily delineates the difference between the two characters.

Ted is forced to take a vacation. The reason he has to be forced is that he's afraid that his temporary replacement will become permanent. This could never happen to Oscar. Not that he couldn't be replaced, but he wouldn't believe he could be. If Oscar were a news anchor and he went on vacation, he would just assume there wouldn't be any news while he was gone, or if there was, no-one would care if he weren't there to tell them about it. The idea that someone would replace him at all would never occur to him.

This might not sound like a recommendation, but it is. What I always loathed about Ted was how pathetic he was, and how we were supposed to simultaneously find him funny and feel sorry for him—even though he was unkind and thoughtless, only able to be happy by putting someone else down. It was all supposed to stem from his insecurity which made him pitiful.

But Oscar had no insecurity. He danced and twirled into rooms, he burst into song when he felt threatened. He wasn't generous—he was cheap as hell—but he was never unkind. When Dick and Paula aren't invited to a big party, he says he won't go either. (He does go, of course; he's shallow and self-centered. But he won't enjoy himself! That'll show them! And when he finds out why they weren't invited, he goes to tell them.) Oscar is silly, he's light-hearted. Oscar doesn't want you to feel sorry for him—why would you? He's Oscar North! He's Jetman!

I think what it boils down to is, if Oscar North is the Pirate King, Ted Baxter is Frank Burns; while Oscar North is larger than life, Ted Baxter is actually smaller than life.

*Liz Penn, On Frank Oz's apparent motives in remaking The Stepford Wives
carose59: TV (but he doesn't know what he likes)
[Posted elsewhere two years ago December]

So, I've been sick for over a week. Biblical-plague type sickness, "some shall die by pestulence, and some by plague, and then there's one poor shnook who's going to get it from a hole in the roof" sick. (That wasn't a biblical quote, it was from Barefoot in the Park. I say it a lot.)

In an effort to occupy my mind, I've been mainlining The Good Wife. I love legal shows because the machinations fascinate me, I love the ins and outs working around the laws. (And then I get depressed because this crap really happens, it's not just a big puzzle, and no wonder our world is so fucked.)

There are things I like, things I don't, characters I like and don't and sometimes both at once. It keeps dancing on the edge of Boston Legal absurdity, but with the redeeming quality of the characters looking at the absurdity, saying, "How is this my life??" and moving on with it. (At one point Cary is moved into Alicia's office, which she doesn't mind, but it's not a great arrangement for either of them. Alicia is getting a million phone calls about something she doesn't want to talk about, and Cary is telling her he's sorry about this, and she just tells him, "I don't care, I'm losing my mind." And the phone rings, and he says, "That probably won't be for me." And I giggled.

What I keep thinking about today is Michael J. Fox's character. He's a lawyer, and he's driving them crazy because he's a sleezy lawyer who uses his tarditive disknesia to his advantage in all his trials. He always starts off telling the jury that his body makes the weird movements, and he can't control them, and it's OK if they stare at him, they'll get used to it. He always does this.

Including in a judge's chambers, where there is no jury, and the judge is in a wheelchair. Both sides are flustered and upset about something, and he just starts explaining this, even though it's got nothing to do with anything. The judge says, "Why are you telling me this?" and MJF just sort of shrugs and says, "I have no idea."

There's also a judge who insists that pretty much any statement a lawyer makes include the phrase, "In my opinion." It takes them a while to understand this, but now that they have, they delight in watching the opposing lawyers get hit with it. "This is a clear case of discrimination!" an opposing lawyer will say, and absolutely straight-faced, Diane or Will will say, "Is that in your opinion?" "What?" and then watch while the judge asks the same thing.

There's tons of double-dealing, and alliance-shifting. At one point, when some of the partners are meeting out in the cold to avoid Various Factions trying to take over the law firm, and Alicia moves through it all--not untouched, but not particularly trying to influence anything beyond her family and cases. And yet, a lot of things are done because of her.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to watch this show. I like Chris Noth a lot, and I didn't much want to see him being sleazy on a regular basis. But he has redeeming characteristics, particularly his loyalty to Alicia even when they aren't together. (Another moment I loved was when her brother, Owen, told the press that Peter was homophobic. [Owen is gay.] When Peter's image consultant hears this, and questions first Alicia, then Peter, their responses are identical: they laugh, and when asked why, they say, "That's Owen." This doesn't explain anything to the image consultant, but it's exactly right for a couple who's been married 15 years. [Peter isn't homophobic, Owen knows it, he's just trying to hurt Peter for hurting his sister. All of which all three parties understand and have no issue with. There's no, "Owen, you know I'm not homophobic," scene. They don't need one.)

There isn't a lot of silliness--it's not that kind of show. But there's enough of it, and it's quality stuff: smart, believable silliness, the kinds of things people really say when life has taken them someplace they never expected to be.
carose59: TV (but he doesn't know what he likes)
I'd Read Somewhere That People Were Afraid To Invite Him To Dinner. I Wasn't; I Just Didn't Know The Man.

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I've been watching He & She on youtube lately and laughing my head off.

If you've never heard of it, He & She was a one-season comedy on CBS during the 1967-68 season. It starred Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss, real-life married people as a married couple. They had no children, which since they weren't newlyweds, was pretty radical. And Paula had a job! (Their names on the show were Richard and Paula Hollister.) They lived in a New York apartment next to a fire station; the buildings were so close together, they had a plank between two windows, and their friend Harry the fireman (Kenneth Mars) would walk over to visit. The apartment had a number of problems, usually doors that wouldn't open or stay closed; this situation was usually made worse by Andrew (Hamilton Camp), the maintenance man. The comedy was smart, sophisticated, and so well-played. This show should have been the heir to the audience that loved The Dick Van Dyke Show. I can't believe everybody got dumb in just one year, but it's the only explanation I can come up with. I was nine when it went off the air and I knew it was a great show. I don't know what the adults were watching.

All of this was wonderful; all of this is enough to recommend the show. What makes it an eleven for me is Jack Cassidy, who played Oscar North. Dick Hollister was a cartoonist who wrote a strip called Jet Man. The strip had been made into a live action TV series, for which Dick was creative consultant. (This is all clearly connected to Batman, which was insanely popular at the time.) Oscar North played Jet Man.

Oscar North is an egoist. He carries autographed pictures of himself to pass out to his millions and millions of fans . . . at the grocery store openings he goes to. He invents a bizarre little walk—it's more like a dance—to do when he's out in his Jet Man costume, to simulate flying. He brings a life-size cardboard cutout of himself to a dinner party, as a hostess gift. He gets teary when he discovers holes in the picture of himself in Dick's office (Dick was throwing darts at it). "I've been damaged!"

I don't blame Dick. Working in an office with Oscar would be like having the Pirate King in the next cubicle. He's amazingly charming and hilarious, and when I was eight, I had a massive crush on him. Watching the shows now, I feel like I'm eight again; he just delights me.

I'm not the only one who loved Jack Cassidy as Oscar North. The part of Ted Baxter was originally written based on Oscar North, and Jack Cassidy was offered the part. I'm sorry he turned it down, because he would have been wonderful.

One of the ways in which He & She was an obvious successor to The Dick Van Dyke Show is that it's a kind show. People are nice to each other. The biggest problems Paula and Dick have are how to do things without hurting someone's feelings. The humor is clever and witty, not unkind. In one episode, Paula asks Dick if he's already bought her wedding anniversary present, and when he says he hasn't, she throws herself onto his lap and starts kissing him. His response is, "What do I get if I take back what I gave you last year?" In an episode where Paula finds out Dick's new background man is actually a pretty girl, she kids him, pretending to be jealous, but gets very upset when he's told to fire her.

Later: why I love Oscar North but loathe Ted Baxter.

*Nora Ephron

I can see the future

Thursday, 4 February 2016 07:55 pm
carose59: TV (but he doesn't know what he likes)
"I'm Afraid Of Bears, I Think Owls Are A Waste Of Time."*

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You've heard they're doing a revival of Twin Peaks, right? I don't think I'm going to watch it.

I loved Twin Peaks, but I never trust anyone who wants to revive old stuff. They never seem to know what they're doing. And I have two reasons not to be interested: Michael Ontkean's not going to be involved (and this after being enthusiastically preparing to be part of it) and something absolutely typical that was said when the whole thing was announced.

The statement was that they'd be bringing back lots of the original cast, plus adding plenty of new people—and they said this as though that second part was something the fans of the show were looking for.

Now, I understand that with twenty-five years having passed, they'll need to bring in some new people. If nothing else, Lucy will have had her baby and it won't be a baby anymore. But I am absolutely baffled about why fans of the original show would watch a revival for new characters. If I want new characters, there are three networks and probably a dozen cable shows that have interesting new shows with all the new characters I could possibly want.

Why would I want them wasting limited time on characters I don't know at the expense of me seeing characters I've missed? This simply makes no sense to me, and it's typical of the way TV people think. I can understand it from their point of view, but I don't believe they ever think about this stuff from the fans' point of view. Then they can't figure out why we don't tune in the second or third week their show is on, and we're somehow really stupid for wanting what we've been saying we wanted, and which they didn't deliver.

I really would like to see Cooper again, but without Harry? I don't think so. The idea makes me sad. And what I keep picturing is some kind of weird mishmash, like throwing the original Dark Shadows in a blender with the shiny new '90's Dark Shadows, maybe because it started the same season as Twin Peaks. I just have no confidence in them getting this right, and I don't want to see the results. Maybe in a few years, when it's crashed and burned and come out on DVD.

*Stephen Colbert
carose59: crime and other violations (i read the news today oh boy)
"I Seem Very Concerned."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

I'm supposed to care that my mother doesn't seem to care if she sees me or not. It used to be if she was upset with me, I'd fall apart. I couldn't deal with it. Now, I just don't give a shit. I buy her groceries. I do her laundry. I pick up her prescriptions. And when she starts talking to me in that tone of voice, I hang up on her.

I did that Monday. A nurse was supposed to come see her. The nurse called me to check on the time and I called my mother. My mother wasn't enthusiastic, but she agreed.

The nurse called back when it was about time for her to get there and I called my mother, who didn't answer her phone for forty-five minutes. When she did answer, she had that tone again, the LA LA LA LA, I CAN'T HEAR YOU tone. The nurse couldn't come, it was lunchtime. No, she couldn't come after lunch either.

I was pissed. Not because she didn't want the nurse to come, but because she didn't just tell me this in the first place. So I hung up on her.

I didn't see her yesterday. I was supposed to arrange for people to come, but we'd just go through this all again and I'm tired. So I stayed home and peeled apples.

Peeled apples? I hear you wondering. Yes. They had golden delicious apples on sale at Kroger. I bought thirty-six of them and peeled thirty-one. Two were attacked by squirrels The other three, I just ran out of steam before. I ate one of them and the rest I cut up and cooked. It takes a long time to peel and slice thirty-one apples. I watched Dark Shadows while I did it. Well, some of the time I did it.

They've done this totally weird thing. They've edited a bunch of episodes together and are calling it The Haunting of Collinwood. Understanding what's going on is apparently not necessary. We go from David and Amy being trapped in Quentin's bricked up room to them being outside—not just outside the room, outside the house—and in different clothes, with no explanation. If you don't already know what's going on, you'll just be baffled. Also, if you're looking for Barnabas, you'll be disappointed. He's on the show a lot during this time, but mostly he's helping Chris deal with his lycanthopy. Since they're not even including all the important details of the story they're focusing on, you can't expect them to include tangential stuff like Quentin's grandson (great-grandson?)'s lycanthropy problems. At this point, we don't even know Chris is related to Quentin.

I have to admit, I didn't watch all of it; I slept through some. It was over three hours long and I was unhappy.

I'm supposed to care about my mother, but I just can't seem to. On the other hand, I think that caring about her right now would be counterproductive to looking after her.

*Willie Garson
carose59: amusements (a medley of extemporanea)
[Originally posted January 9, 2001]

I was peeling a tangerine this morning because I was feeling guilty (because somebody gave me a whole bag of tangerines and my mother gave me three grapefruits), and what kept going through my head was "Today the pits . . . tomorrow the wrinkles! Sunsweet marches on!" That and a line from a story I wrote about tangerines.

That is, the line is about tangerines. The story isn't.

I wish people wouldn't give me fruit. Except bananas. Because they're phallic, and as a slash writer, I need some phallic in my life.

I wish people would stop giving fruit to my mother, too, because my mother is mean and gives it to me to go bad at my house. (Yes, that's exactly how she says it, too. "Here, take these grapefruit, they can go bad at your house." And what do you say to that? No? If you think the answer is no, you do not know my mother.) So I take them, and after a while they look like they should have William Holden's signature on them. (I'm playing to the audience in my head today, so if you're actually following any of this, you're way ahead of the curve.)

I don't like tangerines, or oranges, or things you have to peel. They're too much work. If I'm going to have apples, I'm going to make applesauce, so I need a bunch. No, wait, that's grapes.

I'm allergic to kiwis, not that anyone has ever given me one.

Grapes are all right. And, actually, I love pears. And I love gooseberries, but when was the last time you saw a gooseberry? Have you ever seen a gooseberry? They're green, pale green, and they used to put them in fruit cocktail and tell them to pretend to be grapes. But the other grapes could always tell.

Plums . . . don't taste like anything. Peaches are nice, and so are nectarines. Peaches are sort of like biting into a small animal. So are kiwis. (The fruit. Obviously biting into a bird would be like biting into an animal; birds are animals.)

(I have no idea what's wrong with me today.)

Anyway. If you're planning on sending me food, please send chocolate. Do not send fruit or I'll just bring it to work and make everybody watch as it shrivels & dies.

ETA: Fuck! It's not William Holden, it's Richard Widmark! Jeeze, what is wrong with me today?
carose59: TV (but he doesn't know what he likes)
"I Was Moved, But Not Far."*

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Yesterday, I caught up with How to Get Away With Murder, and today I'm watching the new season of Scandal.

I seem to have missed some episodes of Scandal. People keep talking about a busload of jurors, and some beheadings, and I'm almost positive I would have remembered if I'd seen that. Well, heard it. I don't really watch TV much, I listen to it. But, still, how could I forget a busload of possibly-beheaded jurors? I'm pretty sure the jurors are dead, but I don't know if they were beheaded, although I do know who did whatever beheading was done. (I keep picturing a prison bus. Also, whichever episode of The X-Files it was where there was a guy who stabbed his whole family at Thanksgiving dinner. I always wondered, what were the not-being-stabbed family members doing while the being-stabbed ones were being stabbed?)

Part of me wants to go back and find out what this is all about, and part of me just keeps thinking that no matter what they did, it couldn't be better than what's in my head, and why would I want to ruin my head-story with the real story? I watched Dark Shadows and Twin Peaks and never heard anything as weird as a bus full of beheaded jurors. It sounds more like something from a dream.

I don't actually like either of these shows. They're pretty much the same show—they're all treachery and double/triple/quadruple crosses and intrigue. There are no good guys, and the bad guys become less and less interesting the more their personalities are stripped away by the needs of a more and more convoluted plot. I'm slightly more invested in Scandal because I know the characters better. The reason for that is, there are more seasons of Scandal, so I've spent more time with them, but also because so much of How to Get Away With Murder takes place in the dark, I have a hard time keeping track of who's who. And there are flashbacks, which confuse me. (I have issues. Many issues.) One thing I love about How to Get Away With Murder is all the gay sex. I think the gay guys are having more sex than anybody else on the show.

Why am I watching them if I don't like them? Well, I crave story, I'm a story addict, and the worse my life is, the more I need story. It's a good thing I do story instead of drugs.

On the flip side of the coin (ABC is USA's evil twin), I got caught up on Royal Pains. I actually like Royal Pains. It's a lightweight show, with no serious consequences attached to anything. Even someone occasionally dying doesn't feel all that serious. (The ABC shows are the opposite of this—everything is serious, but I don't care because I don't like anyone. They can all be beheaded on busses, for all of me.)

I have a weird relationship with Royal Pains, though. Getting caught up with it was really hard because it somehow seems like I've seen everything and yet missed a bunch of stuff. The previouslys always seem to contain stuff I haven't seen, but when I go back, yep, I've seen that one, and that one, and that one, and that one. Maybe that's the show, or maybe that's another one of my issues, I don't know. But now I'm caught up.

I also caught up with Bones. I thought last year was the last season, but no, they're all back. The show's gotten dull, but I tend to stay with things even through dullness because I'm a completist, and again, story. And I need to know how things end. I've read the ends of so many books I never read any more of, because the story sounded interesting but I didn't have time for the whole book. (Occupational hazard, working for the library.)

I've probably written this before, but it's apropos here, so I'm going to say it again. There was a piece in The New Yorker where the writer talked about taking his little girl to see Barney in person. He thought she'd be excited, since she watched the show, and her indifference puzzled him. She told him, "Daddy, Barney isn't a show I like, it's a show I watch." I totally get that.

*Mr. Straussman
carose59: Dark Shadows (I don't understand!)
"That's Probably Asking A Lot Of The Metaphor."*

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I've been re-watching Dark Shadows for a while—a month, maybe two. Time starts losing all meaning when you marathon a TV show, which is one of the things I love about watching that way. And I've been thinking about why Dark Shadows—a flawed, Gothic, supernatural, patchwork soap opera—is still picking up fans lo, these many years later.

Mostly I don't think about why we love what we love because mostly it's a waste of time. It's a matter of resonance. You don't see it as much as you used to, but you used to see scenes of wine glasses being broken by a loud, pure, sustained musical note. There's more to it than that, though. Objects have resonance. If you strike a wine glass, it makes a sound, a note; it makes music. Whatever note the glass makes is the note that can break it. If the glass is C and you use an E, you won't break it.

And so it is with the things we love. If they don't cause resonance, vibration inside us, they can't break through to the passion part of our selves.

But I do like to think about the whys of things, and at the end of each Dark Shadows disc is an interview with an actor, writer, director, technician, and at some point they're asked why the show has lasted. Maybe I can only hear that question so many times before I start trying to answer it myself. In a way, I'm more qualified to answer than most of the people being asked because I'm one of the lovers, while they're the creators of the beloved.

My mind wandered around, picking up words like purity and innocence and passion. The beauty of something flawed but uneditable, something so of the moment trying to fix it would only destroy it. None of that gelled, and if it doesn't gel, it isn't aspic.

Then, this morning I thought of something Alfred Hitchcock said about movies: "What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out?"

Then I thought about what Arthur Quiller-Couch** said about writing: "Murder your darlings." What that means is, no matter how much you love a line, a scene, a description, a character—if it doesn't fit, you have to remove it. (You say you'll save it, use it some other time, but that happens almost as often as lottery winners are struck by lightning. It's just something you have to tell yourself so you can commit the murder.) The story has to work, and if that means pulling out the wonderful description that throws the whole thing out of whack, you pull the wonderful description, kiss it tenderly, promise you'll use it somewhere, sometime, someday. And then the story flows properly. Think of it as having a giant diamond in the middle of your river, one that obstructs the boats that try to travel down the river. "It's a diamond!" you keep telling yourself as boats hit the big rock and capsize. "I can't just get rid of a diamond!" But if your goal is running a river (please ignore the way my analogy is breaking down), that diamond must go.

And then I realized that the Dark Shadows writers never killed their darlings, they never threw away diamonds, they didn't care about the story as a whole, or the river or any other half-assed metaphor I might come up with. They cared about the good parts.

Which, of course, led me to William Goldman and The Princess Bride.

Everybody's seen the movie, of course. But before the movie was the book, and while the movie is really great, the book is fucking brilliant.

In the movie, we start with a little boy recovering from an illness being read to by his grandfather, and then we move into the story the grandfather is reading. Occasionally we come back to the boy and grandfather, but mostly it's the story-within-the-story that we see. It's only a little more complicated than a regular movie. They could have made the movie without the boy and grandfather. It would have been less textured, but it probably would still have worked because The Princess Bride is a magical movie. It even has a magical origin story.***

But the book isn't magical, it's brilliant. It's complex, fanciful, sophisticated, mythic, and smart. It's a cousin to Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, telling you not only the story it's telling you, but a few other stories besides. It's stories all the way down.

In The Princess Bride, William Goldman (a fictional character) is trying to find a copy of a book his father read him when he was a young boy. The book was the classic novel The Princess Bride, a swashbuckling tale of romance and adventure. It started Goldman's love of literature, and he wants to buy a copy for his son's birthday.

He buys a copy long-distance—he's in California, his son and the book store are in New York. He's hoping his son will be just as dazzled as he was by this incredible book.

Only, his son isn't. He's bored to tears. And when Goldman gets his hands on the book, he can see why. Yes, there's adventure in the book, but what the book is really about is the country of Florin, and much of it is parochial and dull. Goldman is baffled. What happened to the book he loved so much?

Well, what happened is, his father only read him the Good Parts, the parts he knew a twelve year old boy would like. And Goldman has a brainstorm: he will edit The Princess Bride down to the Good Parts and get that published.

What follows is the story you've seen in the movie, but there's so much more. There are footnotes, glorious, sometimes-page-long footnotes,**** hilarious, smart footnotes that are just Goldman talking to us, the readers.

I was about fifteen when I read The Princess Bride. I had no idea it was all a wonderful farce, that the real William Goldman had no son (he has two daughters) and that this was his Wuthering Heights,***** complicated and brilliant and wonderful.

Dark Shadows. I was talking about Dark Shadows.

Dark Shadows isn't the real novel The Princess Bride, because the real novel is a beautiful, well-crafted, highly-polished story. Dark Shadows is the story the fictional William Goldman's father read him. It's not just life with the dull bits cut out, but story with the dull bits cut out, it's distilled story. It's everybody's darlings, Dan Curtis's and Sam Hall's and Violet Welles's and yours and mine. It's soap opera on speed. It's the opposite of murdering your darlings, it's dress up your darlings and push them on stage, and who cares if the continuity is wonky, and time travel that makes Back to the Future look like a documentary, and sometimes it's astonishing and suspicious, this resemblance to an ancestor and sometimes nobody even notices, and sometimes the cemetery is five miles away and other times a little girl can walk there in a few minutes, and misspelled gravestones that wobble or disappear altogether, and I could go on all night in these dark shadows.

But I won't. Because what it is is us all being children together, and I'm going to be a ballerina and a queen and a fairy princess and an angel, all at once.

*Colby Granger
**I don't care what you've read about William Faulkner, Arthur Quiller-Couch said it first.
**The magical origin story of the movie The Princess Bride is thus:
Carl Reiner wrote a play called Something Different, which was on Broadway in 1967. That season, William Goldman was researching a nonfiction book about Broadway, and he went to as many plays as he could, some of them more than once. He also interviewed playwrights and other people involved in the theatre, which was how he met Carl Reiner. He loved Something Different (which did not do well) so much, he kept going back to it. He wrote glowingly of it in the book he ended up writing (The Season), and he sent Carl Reiner a copy. And, when he wrote The Princess Bride, he sent Carl Reiner a copy of that, too.

Which is how Rob Reiner happened to read it.

Which is how Rob Reiner happened to fall in love with it and want to make it into a movie.

Which is what happened.

****Maybe that's where I get my love of footnotes.

*****Wuthering Heights is complicated and brilliant and wonderful, but it's also goofy. Most people wouldn't use the word goofy to describe it, but most people don't remember (if they ever knew) how insane the structure of the story is. It isn't straightforward Cathy-&-Heathcliff. It isn't even narrator-telling-us-about-Cathy-&-Heathcliff. No, it's narrator-telling-us-a-story-he's-being-told-about-Cathy-&-Heathcliff. Who does that? Emily Bronte, and she was not to be trifled with.
carose59: reviews (only independent source of information)
The Universe Is Made Up Of Stories, Not Atoms.*

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I loved Burn Notice from the first. I'm not sure I started with the pilot—I caught it in a marathon, and was immediately captivated by the humor. (It's always the humor.) Michael Weston was competent, uncomfortable with emotion, and had a hilarious, dry sense of humor. He was in love, but didn't know how to be; he had a friend, but didn't know how to have a friend; he had a mother he couldn't cope with at all. He knew how to work, and he was excellent at his job—only he didn't have a job anymore. He was a man who had gone from superspy to persona non grata in a matter of seconds. He had to get his life back!

(He actually says this many times throughout the show's seven year run.)

He's dumped in Miami, his hometown, with only the cash in his wallet, and bruises and contusions from a beating he got when he couldn't fulfill his last job. His ex, Fiona, is there, kind of hoping to watch him die, kind of hoping to get him back. Just in case he doesn't die, she's called his mother, because he needs to suffer some more.

Michael manages to get work with an old friend, Sam. Sam's ex-CIA, now living on the kindness of the women he sleeps with. He gets a car from his mother, even though it means actually having her in his life. He starts doing small jobs for people with problems too small for a big PI agency and too weird or shady for the police. And he keeps trying to find out how he got burned, why he got burned, how to get back to that thing he loved so much, that place where nothing and nobody touched him.

He finds out, but he can't get back.

But he forges a strong bond with Sam. He makes peace with his estranged brother. He learns how to love Fiona. He develops a relationship with his mother that doesn't include hiding when she calls him. He even makes a brand new friend.

They become a well-oiled machine, with mother Maddie stepping up in emergencies. For five years, in between trying to get Michael's old life back, they help people. They are Robin Hood and his merry men, and it's delightful.

That's the story I was watching, the one about the guy who was learning to have a different kind of life, even if he didn't know it.

But it's not the story Matt Nix was telling. He's the creator of Burn Notice, and I don't think the idea that Michael would see what he had and enjoy it ever occurred to him. He fixed Michael's life—really, everyone's life, because Fiona was happy, Sam was happy, Maddie was happy, Jesse (the new friend) was happy. Their lives were smaller, but productive, and they were a family.

And then Matt Nix blew it all up.

Which, you know, he's the creator. He can do that. I'm sure he thinks that the show had a happy ending because Michael and Fiona ended up together, but he tore the family apart. Things got so dark, I was hunting for spoilers, honestly afraid he was going to kill Sam. (If he had, I would have quit watching.)

I think Matt Nix is as blind as Michael Weston: neither of them could see what was right in front of them, the pleasure and satisfaction to be had from a small life lived well. And that's sad, because he took it away from all of us.

Still, you should watch the first five years of Burn Notice. You can go further if you want, but don't say I didn't warn you.

*Muriel Rukeyser
carose59: Dark Shadows (I don't understand!)
"And I Know What You're Going To Say, You're Going To Say, Well, The Steak Was Dead. Sure The Steak Was Dead, But It's Dead Life."*

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OK, so Quentin's a zombie. (It's a long story. Well, not really. Quentin's crazy wife killed him. Barnabas needs him to be alive, so he asked Angelique for a favor. She brought Quentin back, sort of.)

So, Quentin's a zombie. He abducts Rachel, because she looks like Josette so Angelique wanted him to. But Rachel got away. Then he went to sit by Barnabas's coffin, to taunt him, also because Angelique wanted him to.

Then Barnabas remembered that he knew a ceremony that would reunite Quentin's body with his spirit (which is in Jamison, which is handy). They did the ceremony—which included making sure the chairs were placed so there was room for the spirit to get back to the body. Feng shui is so important when you're reuniting a body with its spirit. But the ceremony didn't work, and Quentin left.

Barnabas has to go get Jamison, which means going to Collinwood. Quentin only has to get back to his grave, at which point he'll die permanently. (Yeah, well, as permanently as anyone ever dies on this show.) You'd think Quentin would "win" this race easily. Except the next time we see Quentin, he's crawling towards his grave.

Why is he crawling? He was walking around just fine when he left the Old House; he even knocked down Barnabas and Sandor. (He was walking like the guy at the beginning of Night of the Living Dead, which is great characterization.) But now he's crawling, struggling to get to his grave.

Barnabas can't get Jamison, so instead he takes Quentin to Collinwood. For whatever reason, Quentin suddenly obeys when Barnabas tells him they have to go to Collinwood.

You know, I put up with a lot, watching this show. Time travel pardoxes, cemeteries that move closer to the house, werewolves who won't eat their flowers, people being menaced by heavy-breathing shadows, vampire victims who get annoyed when the vampire summons them. But zombies suddenly crawling along the ground for absolutely no reason is just annoying. Take some pride in yourself! Stand up and shamble like a zombie!

(By the way, Dark Shadows zombies don't eat people. They kill people, and they vandalize your house. I don't know why.)

*Seth Brundel
carose59: amusements (a medley of extemporanea)
It’s Horror. There’s A Monster In It.*

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Human beings are the biggest danger to human beings.

Human beings are the biggest danger to the planet earth.

Human beings are the biggest danger to the solar system/galaxy/pretty much everything anywhere.

Aliens are always testing us. The trouble is, we never know what they're testing us for.

Having a chip in your body--anywhere in your body--is a bad thing.

Do not test your new discovery/invention/serum on yourself.

Do not test somebody else's new discovery/invention/serum on yourself.

Don't bring people back from the dead unless you're a doctor and your method has received outside approval.

Don't let anyone turn you into an alien, no matter what the other alternative might be.

Computers aren't the problem. Human beings are the problem.

Cloning people is a bad idea.

Designing robots to be more human is a bad idea.

Designing robots to be more human, then being surprised when they act like humans is just stupid.

Don't let computers run your life, let alone the world.

Don't forget how to read.

Don't accept super powers from aliens.

Don't expect people on other planets not to mind when you go to steal their planet/energy/other stuff.

Don't steal someone else's body--for any reason.

Keep a grapefruit spoon handy; they're good for removing implants.

Do not buy things, or accept gifts, from aliens or people from the future.

Stay in your own time.

And, finally, one meta lesson: don't use the end of the world for your penultimate show. Any idiot knows the end of the world is for the last show.

*(Citation Lost)
(It's frightening how many potential titles on my list would have been appropriate for this post.)

Posted simultaneously on LiveJournal and Dreamwidth.
carose59: the rose behind the fence (Default)
"I Love It, But Of Course I Know Fifty Ways To Love Your Lever."*

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So, besides stealing my car, the thieves—yes, thieves, because I’m picturing a whole gang of them, if for no other reason than they had to do so much just to take it, the Crown Vic did not go willingly, not with a dead battery and a broken leg—

Where was I? Oh, yes—they derailed my plans, sort of. The book I stopped home for is one I wanted to re-read. It’s called Frog Salad, by Sally George. Probably most people who read it would compare it to either The Big Chill or Return of the Secaucus 7. Since I don’t even think those two movies compare to each other, I’ll say that it’s about a group of friends who were activist/college students in the sixties, only now it’s the eighties and life is less black and white and more confusing.

The title of the book comes from one of the characters, an artist, who paints food. His most recent painting, the one he’s working on when the work starts, is of a salad with live frogs sitting on it.

Now, the reason I was going to re-read this book is that I wanted to refresh my memory because I want to write about one of the other characters, Janet, and a secret of Pat’s and mine. I read Pat this book years ago.

I read about a chapter while I was in the waiting room, and I immediately remembered that I hated the way the book ended. So I’m not going to re-read it, and all of this is from memory. But if you’re really interested in the book, send me your address and I’ll mail it to you. But first I’m going to tell you about Janet.

Janet is a perfectly normal woman who wants a penis. That is, she wants one growing out of her body. She’s been waiting her entire life for it to just magically appear one morning, or at least start growing slowly, but she’s realized that this is really unlikely, and she might just have to look into less spontaneous options.

And this is the part where I tell you about Pat, and me, and the secret. Pat was extremely taken by both Janet, and the book’s title. And before I go any further, let me make this clear: she wasn’t confused. She understood the title perfectly well. She just hijacked it for her own purposes, which is exactly one of the reasons I love her.

Anyway, because the frogs on the salad and Janet wanting a penis were the two outstanding elements of the book, Pat conflated the two, and whenever she wanted to point out a particular guy’s—um, package—to me, she’d call it his frog salad. "Check out the frog salad." Eventually we abbreviated it to frog. Which was pretty cool, since nobody knew what we were talking about. It became part of our private language.

Which segues into our private language, which I’ve also been thinking about. I was thinking the other day about how so much of it came from The Dick Van Dyke Show, and why that was—why that show in particular.

Certainly we both knew the show, since we’d been watching it every chance we got since we were very young. That’s one reason. Another is, it’s so very quotable. We were both Dark Shadows nuts growing up, and as adults, but (with some exceptions) not exactly a quotable show. Besides, it’s so cumbersome; DVD was three prime time seasons back when that meant twenty-six shows a season, but DS? Five years in soap opera years. I don’t know how many episodes that is (Pat would've), but I know it’s a whole huge lot.

We both watched a lot of other things, though I’m drawing a blank on what. I Love Lucy, and I do have a tendency to say pizz-a-key-a-trist for psychiatrist, even though the joke it’s from annoys the crap out of me. It’s from some episode where Ricky is looking for a psychiatrist. And he both pronounces the word phonetically (as though he knows how to spell it) and looks it up in the phone book under S (as though he doesn’t know how to spell it), which is sloppy and irritating. And I knew this as a kid. Yes, I was a humor savant.

Oh, there was Gilligan’s Island, but except for both of us believing that Gilligan was the best-ever Hamlet, and always singing the words whenever we heard the music—the music they used in Hamlet, not the Gilligan's Island theme—I don’t think it was all that meaningful. (Meaningful to us. I’m not going to talk about the meaning of TV in general, or GI in particular.) "I ask to be, or not to be, a rogue and peasant slave is what you see—"

Someday I’ll watch through the whole series of DVD and make a list of everything we used to use in everyday conversation (but I won’t post it, since I can’t imagine who would be interested). I still talk in our language, but now nobody has anybody idea what I’m talking about, which isn’t the worse thing in the world, especially since I'm talking to myself half the time.

And, even with Pat gone, I'm still adding to the language. You know that new cow commercial*, the one with the duck who's trying to meditate? And the cows come up and tell him he's doing it wrong, it's not om, it's moo. Well, when Pat would have panic attacks, I would hold her and repeat, "Calm. Calm. Calm." (I had to write it three times, in case you didn't know what the word repeat meant.) I know in my heart that if she was alive, I'd have changed it to "Moo. Moo. Moo," which would not only relax her, but maybe make her laugh.

*Paul Simon
carose59: cats and other uncontrollables (trying to control feline delinquency)
Gertrude Stein Was Right; A Mouth Is A Mouth Is A Mouth.*

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I don’t remember if I’ve written about this before, but there’s a cat that hangs around here, a calico who had kittens last year. She particularly likes my cousin’s front porch, and will hiss at anyone who bothers her (by walking past her). She is not looking for a home--she won’t have anything to do with any of us--and my mother and cousin and I all believe she has a home, because she’s just too well-cared for to be a homeless cat. (Also, she hasn’t gotten pregnant again, which, in my experience, is unusual for an unfixed female cat with access to males. My old calico, Mimi, got pregnant again a month after she had her kittens. [We found out she was pregnant again when we took her in to be fixed. Yes, Mimi had an abortion.])

Anyway, I started calling her Miss Calico, or Callie, because I name animals, even animals that aren’t mine to name. I’m not sure how many kittens there were to start, but I kept seeing a little yellow kitten around. I gave him a name, but then I discovered that there were three little yellow kittens. There are differences, but since two of them run like hell if you get anywhere near them, it’s hard to tell them apart. So, of course, I renamed them all Tommy.

(If you know 3d Rock From the Sun, this probably doesn’t require explanation, but if you don’t, here’s a short one. In the last episode of the first season, Dick is told he’s going to be replaced. In the next episode, his replacement arrives and is even more of a supercilious asshole than Dick quite often is. He calls Harry Tommy, and when corrected, he announces that Harry’s name will be Tommy from now on. When Tommy asks what his name will be, Dick says that Tommy’s name will also be Tommy. [Writing exactly what he said is problematic, for reasons you’ll see in a second.] “You’ll be Tommy, too.”

“Is that Tommy Two, or is it like Tommy also?” Tommy asks, and Dick yells that from now on they’ll all be called Tommy! So Harry, Sally & Tommy were all Tommy. So of course I had to name the three kittens Tommy!)

Anyway, whenever I see any of the kittens, I ask how the other Tommys are.

I confuse them, because I can’t stop talking to them. I’m a person who talks to cats, and no matter how hard I try, I just have to say hello, and ask how they are, and tell them they’re cute. I don’t try to pet them, or even get very close to them, I just talk. And if I’m far enough away not to feel threatening to them, they stare at me, all of them, even Callie, as though I’m saying something they almost understand me, and in one case, he looks like he’d like to come over and have me pet him.

I have a thing with cats. They follow me. When I’m out walking, I have to be careful not to speak to them or even make eye contact, because the last thing I want to do is accidentally lure some poor cat away from home, because you simply can’t explain to a cat that she shouldn’t go with you. You can’t explain anything to a cat.

I’m glad the Tommys are skittish; it makes them safer from people who might want to hurt them.

*Frank, Scenes From The Class Struggle In Beverly Hills
carose59: amusements (a medley of extemporanea)
"Well, It Can't Be Every Day There's A Giant Nickel Outside The Bank."*

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First I ran across Hollywood Homicide (Lou as a cop undercover in drag as a hooker, although that’s not my favorite moment. My favorite moment is Harrison Ford stealing the little girl’s bike and growling at everyone as he rides away on it).

And then I watched Psych from . . . OK, I don’t know when. But he’s a fed who’s apparently never even heard of sensitivity training, since he’s at least bordering on sexually harassing Juliet in a way that was somehow desperate, clueless, and just plain weird.

And add to that, I’ve been listening to a bunch of Twilight Zone episodes that were adapted for radio. If I ever get a chance, I’m going to dope-smack Dennis Etchison one.

He’s the one who wrote the adaptations, which are really weird. They’re almost entirely the exact old shows, redone by other actors. The adapting is mostly adding the kind of things you have to add to make a show that used to be visual make sense in a purely auditory format, and I have no trouble with that. It’s the anachronisms that are getting on my nerves.

He randomly throws in references to home computers and video games, and it just—it makes me want to find Dennis and have sharp words with him. It sounds really stupid.

What does Lou Diamond Phillips have to do with this? you ask. (Oh, yes, you did. Don’t try to deny it!) Well, he’s done some of the episodes.

One of them was the one where the astronaut goes into space and comes home only it’s really a parallel planet where things are almost the same. I liked that one, probably because there was movie with that plot that I saw when I was a kid—only the astronaut in that one was only gone half the time he was supposed to, and things were backwards. But I remember figuring out the plot before the denouement, and feeling quite clever.

The other Lou Diamond Phillips episode is A Kind of Stopwatch. If you don’t remember, it’s the one about the braggart who gets this stopwatch that stops time. Of course he ends up breaking it while time is stopped, which leaves him all alone in the world.

And I swear to God, Lou Diamond Phillips plays him as Woody Woodpecker, laugh and all. It’s really a bizarre thing to hear.

The week is almost over. I’m hoping not to run into Lou Diamond Phillips again.

In non-Lou Diamond Phillips news, I keep getting spam with the subject: "Have you ever wanted to be a cop?" which is mildly amusing—as are the spams that ask if I want to own a casino. The really funny part is, the sender is always Vince-something, XYZ, 123—some combination of numbers and letters. (So far it hasn't been 4587, so I know it's not Vince Terranova.) And even though I know it’s spam, I want to write back and say, “No, Vinnie, I do not want to be a cop! Now quit asking!”

*Alexandra Eames

July 2017

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