Thursday, February 26, 2009

On Dollhouse

Meh. Let it develop.

Eliza Dushku's future may not contain Emmy awards, but she's hardly the worst actress on television. As Echo, her job is mainly to change clothes a lot and look pretty. No problem there. The role so far calls mainly for vulnerability. She has no problem with vulnerable either.

Topher (Fran Kranz) is the archetypal witty boy genius who always turns up on Whedon shows. His job is mainly to manipulate imaginary technology and deliver all the best lines. He seems stamped from the template of the Trio in Buffy's Season 6. Since Whedonspeak has been rampant in popular culture for the past decade or so, Topher's dialogue doesn't have the shock of the new in the same way as Xander's dialogue, or Andrew's dialogue, or even Mr. Universe's dialogue.

Bennett (Tamoh Penikett) is supposed to be the badass agent on a maybe phantom quest. His job is mainly to channel Mulder only angry. And without humor. He's the nerdy version of Elliot Stabler.

Langton (Harry Lennix) is the father figure full of weighty angst. He is the story's emotional grounding wire. He must make us believe. Lennix's presence in this kind of role of a good open for the future of the show. He is a fine actor. I have seen him in theatre.

While it is true the pilot episode was homogenized and explainy, it served its expository purpose quite well. I have heard complaints that the nature of the Dollhouse was revealed too early. But the show was never marketed as a big mystery like The Matrix (“What is the Matrix?”) or Lost (What the hell is the Island?). Mysteries are well and good, but Dollhouse is not about the mystery of the Dollhouse. The premise has been a selling point from the beginning. It has been a way to capture eyeballs. The question, “What is the Dollhouse,” may haunt characters within the show (i.e. Bennett), but it was answered for the audience in the promos.

The argument could be made that maybe Fox should have marketed Dollhouse as a mystery all along. Maybe they should have kept it under wraps for the past year and taken draconian measures to prevent leaks and so on. Maybe that would be the best way to simultaneously engage Joss's existing fanbase while intriguing new viewers. It's hard to know, seeing as two episodes into the series, we still don't exactly know what it's going to be about. Is that a bad sign? Maybe. We'll see. We don't know enough yet.

For now, we only have a few clues. The Alpha seems like our first Big Bad. Or is he a misunderstood white hat? Time will tell. As the plot unfolds, it seems necessary for Echo to become more and more self-aware. At some point, she will probably escape the Dollhouse, probably with the help of Ballard. Then the show will be Whedonized Dark Angel, which sounds pretty good to me.

The first two episodes have not tenderized my brain with awesome, but I am reminded that Buffy and Firefly took a few episodes to win me over. I will give Dollhouse the same chance. Will anyone else? Answer that question and you know the future of the show.

Cultural Critical Mass

This meme reached it awfully quick:

For the Rockefeller Center comedy crowd, the Republican Party is the gift that keeps on giving. Jack McBrayer and Tina Fey's careers will have afterburners as long as Jindal and Palin are in the public eye. Moreover, they will inoculate the country against far-right revivals. It's hard to get elected when you're reduced to a caricature. Just ask Gerald Ford.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Beautiful Failure

Dear Governor Jindal,

Reality says hello. It says it missed you. It asks, how do you like your illusions? Prodded or shattered?

They said you would be hard to parody. They were wrong. For the remainder of your political career you shall be known as Bobby the Page. Kenneth the Jindal. SNL will make a killing, impersonating you.

And to think, at one time I was afraid you might contend in 2012. Now I hope you contend. I beg you, Bobby Jindal, please run for president. If you or Palin are the Republican Party nominee, Obama is assured a second term no matter what catastrophe may befall him in the first.


For me?

-Anonymous Democrat

Girls in White Dresses with Blue Satin Sashes

Two of my favoritest things, and they go so well together.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Election Kaiju Theater

Author's note: I wrote this in October. It's way past it's expiration date, but that's what I get for using actual ink and paper these days. Mind the stinky cheese.

Picture for a moment John McCain and Sarah Palin as superheroes in a bad Japanese monster movie. Picture them in the worst 80's kaiju schlock you've ever seen. Picture them as low rent Power Rangers in blue and pink costumes.

Watch as a gigantic donkey man-creature with glowing red eyes stalks onto a cheap soundstage: a 1/8th scale model of some cartoon version of Washington DC, complete with the Capitol, the White House, and the Washington Monument. The creature roars and stomps around the city, crushing houses and cars at random. It stomps on over to Congress and vomits up a horde of baby monsters. Some cackle and slither into the Senate and the House, trailing blue slime in their wake. Others scatter into the city.

One of the creatures slithers down a street and and into a house where an overweight man is sitting on a couch and watching NASCAR. He is two cans into a six pack, and one of his hands rests just beneath the waistband exposed by his unbuttoned pants. He sees the creature and shrieks.

An old soldier and an aging beauty queen walk together down a nearby side street. While discussing tax cuts, they hear the shrieking man. They give each other looks of alarm and run into a convenient pair of phone booths. They emerge, clad in sparkly red spandex outfits with masks and capes.

On his chest, the old man has “John” in military stencil script above an outline of Arizona. On hers, the beauty queen has “Sarah” in pink cursive above an outline of Alaska. Together, they sprint into the house with the threatened man. They shoot red lasers from their eyes at the slimy blue donkey-spawn. It dances in alarm and vanishes in a misty puff.

John and Sarah exchange high-fives and the rescued man offers beers in gratitude. John dribbles his beer on his outfit a little, but Sarah helps him with it. She leans in close and dabs his chin with a napkin. John puts an arm around her, ogles her bosom, and winks for the camera. The rescued man brandishes a plunger and gives thumbs up. The moment is interrupted by a violent rumble outside. Sarah and John look each other in the eye and dash theatrically out through the door.

They arrive in the street to see the donkey man-creature has made off with the Washington Monument and is wielding it as a club. It smashes a few buildings, bleats, and stomps toward the White House. More slimy blue donkey-spawn leap from out its mouth and slither away to cause untold havoc.

John and Sarah point to conspicuous rings on their index fingers. Instead of jewels, the rings have matching elephant symbols. John and Sarah nod and dramatic music booms from somewhere. They strike hero poses and shout in unison, “Magical Maverick Powers, Unite!” Then they slam their clenched fists together, connecting the rings.

A flare of multicolored light bursts from the point of impact. Mist spills into the street around them and coalesces into a gigantic robot elephant-man. Inside its eyes are John and Sarah, working levers and spinning dials. The robot elephant strikes a hero pose, then flies off under power of rocket boots. It lands, arms folded, directly in the path of the donkey man-creature.

The donkey man-creature bleats a challenge to the sky. It rears back and swings the Washington Monument at the robot elephant-man's torso. The robot elephant-man catches the full force of the strike and is knocked clear over to the Vietnam Memorial. Trees sway and foliage flattens from shock wave.

The donkey laughs a herky-jerky laugh and resumes its path to the White House. The elephant rises to its feet, shakes off the effects of the club, and lifts the Vietnam Memorial from out the crumbly earth. It sounds a trumpet blast from its robotic trunk and hurls the Memorial like a boomerang.

The Memorial whirs across the burning city and strikes the donkey man-creature upside the head. White sparks shower from the point of injury. Part of the head falls away, revealing inside a tall thin black man with a turban on his head and a copy of the Quran strapped to his back. He works levers and turns dials, and curses alternately in hood slang and arabic. His multitude of donkey-creature minions emerge from the Capitol wearing suits and grinning. They hurl a massive barrage of acorns that blot out the sky.

Cut to a close up of John and Sarah panicking within their robot. Arcs of electricity dart around the control room and the screen shakes left to right.

VOICEOVER: All looks lost for our tax cutting heroes! How will they escape? Find out next time on Maverick Sentai Fever!

You Think?

I thought, she thought, you thought my thoughts
Though now I know, you knew you oughtta
See the sight I saw before you sought my
Thought I knew would show you all tonight had wrought

A Refrain

"You don't get it, kid," says Cutter. "The loop won't break. Anyone punches that ticket, they ride in circles 'til doomsday."

I flip a lock of hair from out my eyes and admire the glittering sliver on the table between us. Tiny metal rectangle, pearlescent one end, black at the other. "That's what I want," my voice says, "I want to feel this way forever."

"It'll pass," he says and sighs.

"That's the point."

"I mean the feeling that you want it to last. It'll get old."

"... what?"

"You'll get over it," he says. "Everyone does. For now, just relax. Enjoy the ride. Don't let's lose our heads and do stupid shit as we peak. That's what I'm here for, right? I'm your sitter. Just relax." He folds his arms and nods to emphasize this last part.

I sigh theatrically and lean back in my chair. Cutter softly laughs and shakes his head. He looks away.

I snatch the sliver from the table and slot it.

"You don't get it, kid," says Cutter. "The loop won't break. Anyone punches that ticket, they ride in circles 'til doomsday."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mindful Interlude

One before I sleep.

Academy Awards Telecast

I sat down to watch the Oscars with my partner and her mother. Hugh Jackman sang, "I AM WOLVERINE!" and we squealed with delight. Other highlights have included the Heath Ledger moment, Penelope Cruz, Tina Fey on stage with Steve Martin, and all things Jackman.

Now I am keeping an eye on the broadcast and my partner's mother is telling me about Jackman's performance as Peter Allen and showing me videos of him in Oklahoma! from ten years ago. One is embedded below. Seriously, it's Hugh Fever tonight in our household. I am being antisocial by blogging instead of chatting.

Now I've gone and bought The Boy from Oz album. I'll burn a disc to play for Mom and load it on my Touch. This is, of course, ridiculous. I have a new obsession. Mom says hers is an old obsession and it came to her even before she saw X-Men because she follows theater and knew about the Oklahoma! performance.

Anyway, I hate you, Hugh Jackman, for being charming and talented and ambiguously sexual.

Oh, did they gave out awards too? Something about a quiz show in India? Kate Winslet gushing all stunning and genuine? Meryl Streep, the Grand Dame of Cinema, presiding in the front row and smiling with approval? Gerundize my presence with the icy parts of particles. Let me end before I turn to dada anymore.

Double You, Part One

Note: This is how it felt to be paranoid and twentysomething in the dawning century.

The chrome factory stood monolithic amidst a wasteland of skeletal trees and cracked clay. Red brick pillars belched plumes of black that darkened the sky.

The factory had a rectangular entryway. The shadow of an emblem was smeared along a girder overhead. A new logo was painted beside it: a blue and white smiley face with red stars for eyes.

A rusty escalator led the way inside. At its base, a walled pen miles wide was filled to the brim with humans. They had arranged themselves in orderly lines. Many discussed the greatness of the factory. Their enthusiasm was nearly uniform.

A young woman in shabby clothes approached a line sideways and cut toward the front. An older woman caught her by the elbow and squawked in protest. Others gave their strength and flung the young woman aside. She tumbled in the dust and clambered away. The older woman smiled and moved ahead of her helpers. A yellow daisy on her hat fluttered in the wind. A dozen people now stood between her and the escalator. She was minutes away now.

“Do you know what happens in there?” she asked the man in line before her.

“Not really,” he said, “but everyone says it's great.” He was forty-something and clean shaved. He wore a white dress shirt over blue jeans. Sweat stained his armpits, but he did not stink. The smell of the yard overpowered everything.

“I haven't met anyone who knows yet,” said the woman. She frowned and looked over her shoulder. The younger woman had rejoined the line some distance behind. She's cut in front again, the older woman thought. At least she hasn't cut in front of me.

“Maybe nobody knows for sure. We'll know when we get there,” said the man, and scratched his afternoon stubble. A buzzer rang and another person, a little boy, stepped upon the escalator. It lurched into motion and carried him twenty feet to the top where he disappeared behind an automatic metal door.

“Oh well,” the woman said. “We stand united in ignorance, I suppose.” She giggled and twiddled a button fixed to her purse strap. The button was printed with the starry eyed logo.

The Kaufman Joke

A disembodied voice says, “Hello. I am Charlie Kaufman.”

A second voice says, “No, I am.”

A third voice says, “Lies.”

“You're both imposters,” the first voice says.

“Are you joking?” asks the second. “I can't tell if you're joking.”

The third says, “It's impossible that I'm not Charlie Kaufman. I grew up awkward and wrote a movie about John Malkovitch.”

“Those memories are false,” says the first. “Someone implanted them with a brain portal.”

“This is a joke, right?” the second voice asks. “Someone is joking. The punchline will arrive and everything will make sense, but we'll be terribly embarrassed.”

“You're wrong,” says the third to the first. “I implanted those memories when I lived them. Go away already.”

“You're the one who's wrong,” says the first. “I remembered those things until someone erased them. Now I'm a sad puppet with a typewriter.”

Echoing sound of headscratching.

“Wait,” says the second voice. “I'm confused.”

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Culture Lag

Here is the loop. And here is me, far from the loop, stumbling around in a nightmare of unending toil. I must be the only nerd in the universe who hasn't seen this video by now:

I found this video while doing research to polish up my student article about the LHC for a family member. While I wrote, the notion occured to me that the economy blowed up real good around the same time the first beam tests were completed. This means that the LHC start-up knocked the world into a parallel dimension where economic failure is common. When it restarts this September, we must pray that it knocks the world back into the dimension with the good economy. That way, we can all live fat, happy, and in debt up to our eyeballs.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I Warned You

Don't let me fool you. I don't listen to half the albums I buy. They're like charm bracelets. Like tchochkes in tourist traps. Look at them once and toss them aside to moulder in a forgotten luggage pocket for decades. I buy albums that should interest the idealized me who is hip and smart. The real me samples one or two songs on a dark evening after work, and returns to Goldfrapp and Jeff Buckley and Madonna the rest of the month.

So if you ever hear me describe new art I love, new music, new anything, don't believe me. Whatever it is, I listened for thirty seconds and then put on Morning Sci-Fi or Haunted or I'm Not Dead. I read for twelve pages and set it down and forgot about it. I'm a shameless liar; a blatant manipulator; a cranky diva. I'll tell you not what I like, but what I want you to think I like, because I like the idea of me liking it.

I want you to think I'm quirky and fun. Don't let me fool you. I want you to think I'm cultured and sane. Don't let me fool you. I want you to think I'm the kind of woman who listens to the Future Sound of London and Samuel Barber and Aimee Mann. I want you to think I'm the kind of woman who watches Mulholland Drive and Repo Man and Singing in the Rain.

I lie. Half the time I even lie about lying. Believe me at your peril.

Seroquel Reverie

Moonlight splits the clouds and the land is silent
In the town, a clinic
On the steps, a woman
With wild eyes, her head
In her clutching hands
Her weary lover has brought her to be healed
Please, God, let this mind be sealed
For a time at least shield me
From myself let my self be concealed

The End of All We Know

The ghostly trio of the new age returns
astride their loophole to offer us the rope of Lenin.

Bear ye witness to Armageddon.
What goes up must fall down, down, down,
Tumbling from towers in silvern torrents:

credit derivatives (undifferentiated);
collateralized debt (which is wealth);
and contracts for the future (for there is none);

Phil Gramm, philosopher king, has struck the sentry dead.
Phil Gramm, philosopher king, has turned our gold to lead.