Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Appointment Television - The Return of Lost.

There's plenty of stuff going around that you'd have to be living in cave to miss the fact that the show LOST premieres its fifth season tonight. This is a show that sucks you in and keeps you. Even through the dodgy second season and other mid-season hiccups and unlike the betrayal of pale imitations (I'm talking about you Heroes) that go completely off the rails, LOST so solidly juggles convoluted plots and multiple story lines and characters with compelling writing and chilling performances that it only keeps getting better. Poignant, dramatic, scary, mind-boggling, adventurous, and romantic, in five years I've rarely been disappointed (see mid-season hiccups above). And this penultimate fifth season is set to blow the doors off everything that's come before.

I confess, I am Very. Excited.

The fact that there's an end date to the series has opened up the opportunity for the show's writers and producers to buckle down and answer all their faithful viewers questions and dangling plot points.
Also, per Entertainment Weekly, Sawyer will be much more in play this year.

As if I needed even more of a reason to watch.

It begins tonight with what I've heard is two shockingly revealing episodes, the first focusing on the Losties still on the island in 2004 and the second dealing with the Oceanic Six, the only characters to leave the island who are now existing in 2007 - and some of whom are desperate to return to the island. If only they can find it.


I, for one, plan to hustle my mother out of choir rehearsal tonight so that I can plant my fanny in front of the screen for the nearly uninterrupted duration. (Who am I kidding? There will be endless interruptions. Go DVR!)

The fact that Sawyer is shirtless for nearly the entire first hour has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with it.


All will begin to be revealed tonight 9 - 11 pm on ABC (local channel 7).

Oh my giddy freaking aunt.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Juxtaposition

My brain seems stuck in two places this morning. "Only two?" you say? Actually, that's a pretty good day for me.

I keep juxtaposing between today and January 20, 1995 with a side blip of the inauguration of Matt Santos final episode of The West Wing.

OK, maybe my brain is in more than two places today after all.

In 1995, I was in my last semester of the extended, five-year undergrad plan at Gordon College. I was spending Winter Break on campus that year to rehearse as co-lead in the Winter Miracle theatre production of Marvin's Room (I rocked, BTW). That January 20th day, I had the TV in my Bromley apartment tuned to Bill Clinton's inauguration, the first important election I'd voted in, the first time I really cared what was going on there or felt invested in the process, the first time I hoped for change. I still can picture the Clintons and Gores on stage after winning the election
whenever I hear Fleetwood Mac's Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow. This was post-Regan and Bush the First and their combined twelve years of Republican rule and before Whitewater, before Lewinsky, before all the disappointment.

I've always been cautious of putting my hope on a single person (matters of faith being the exception to the rule) because it opens up so much capacity for disappointment and failure. I'd rather a public figure exceed my realistic expectations that fail any grandiose, romantic ones. I'm more cynical now than I was in 1995 and yet as I watched the Obama fervor reach its pinnacle today (just shy of trotting out the donkey, as one Facebook contact put it) I recognized the same hopeful enthusiasm I'd felt myself thirteen years earlier.

Now I know it's enough to get me drawn and quartered these days to say that I remain undecided regarding President Obama.
I've neither liked nor voted for George Bush and am oh so glad to see the back of him and his puppeteers. (Did you see Cheney on the dais in a wheelchair? I gather he'd hurt himself on Monday or something, and I wouldn't wish ill on - well - but I still was thinking Aw, poor boo boo and not in a kind way.) Still, I'm waiting to weigh in on the new president. I'm hardly endeared by the prevailing sentiment that making any objection regarding him is as verboten as declaring my pro-choice opinion within the evangelical fundamentalist community of which I'm a part. (Don't scream at me about that now guys, okay? I'm already on an express elevator to hell for plenty of other things; I'm sure that'll be tossed in there too.) All the blogs I read, everywhere I turn, it's Obama ballyhoo. Except in my church community where resigned "well we lost, so let's pray for this guy and see he will do" optimism is tempered with end-of-the-world ballyhoo.

Basically, there's just a lot of ballyhoo going around.

My general middle -of-the-road, talk-to-me-after-the-first-100-days mehness doesn't really fit in either place.

Today I sat in our newly renovated conference room here at the office, surrounded by the smart, creative, clever people I work with who still Get It enough to stand for the national anthem, even if it's only being played on the television. (Our CEO had the tech department set up three different plasma screens in conference rooms and on the promenade so that we could gather and watch the events.) I found myself of those aforementioned two (or three) minds, struck by the echoes of 1995 (though that poet today was no Maya Angelou, that's for sure) while comparing the naive hopes of my 22-year old self with the jaded optimism of today's 30-mphrm-year-old. And it is, without question, a historical event as our first African American president is sworn in. Personally, I long for the day when the skin color or gender of our leader isn't even worth mentioning, but it is exciting to see this event and all that it could yet mean to our country and our leadership occur in my lifetime.

I am hopeful. I really am. (Try not to faint.) I want change for our country and our circumstances and our outlook. My dwindling idealistic core can still be moved by good rhetoric, the subtle, unrecognized deeds and sacrifices of good men and women, and a Maxwell House Christmas commercial. I heard the reprimand of the Bush the Second years in the inauguration speech and the stated intent that this administration will do things differently. I heard a lot of things in that speech, much of which intrigued me but some of which made me go, oh, yippee, and not in a good way. But my shattered rose-colored stained glass lenses are twinkling a bit anyways, possibly in spite of myself.

However, I am now officially in Obama exhaustion, so can we please stop talking about it and just let the man do something before his extreme acolytes start cutting palm fronds?

Go ahead.

Wow me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Appointment Television - FNL and BSG

Tonight marks the premieres of two of the best shows on TV: Friday Night Lights and Battlestar Galactica.

Friday Night Lights IS the best show on television. Yes, its second season fell off the wagon a bit, but that first glorious season is as near to perfect television as it gets. The continuing story of the Texas-based Dillon Panthers high school football team and the lives that revolve around it is so much more than just about football. Anchored by the mesmerizing and as yet cruelly unawarded performances by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton as Eric and Tammy Taylor (otherwise known as Coach and Mrs. Coach), it is an entrancing, enriching, funny, and at times achingly heartbreaking show about small town life and big time dreams.

FNLs third season debuts
tonight at 9 pm on NBC (channel 4) after completing its full and exclusive run this week on DirecTV's channel 101. I wasn't fazed when it was announced that DirecTV would have exclusive fall rights to FNL in return for sharing production costs as I had DirecTV in my Weehawken apartment. I became slightly less sanguine about it when the trees sheltering my new apartment prohibited the installation of DirecTV, but it was this arrangement or no FNL at all, so I sucked it up and waited the delay out.

The news from the DirecTV front is that FNL is fully back in the awesome saddle. Do yourself a favor. Make your peace with the jumpy camera work, dive into the rare and phenomenally executed organic filming process (multiple cameras floating around the scene so the actors have to be fully "on" all the time.
Such. Good. Work.), and discover the glory of Friday Night Lights.

Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose.

A world away in content and yet neck in neck for quality is Battlestar Galactica. I adored the original version of this program that ran from 1978-1979 and for awhile (and to my mother's horror) insisted that any girl children my future might hold would be named Cassiopeia Athena. I remember Jane Seymour's short-lived role as Apollo's wife Serina before I ever knew who she was. When she was killed off, my mother commented that it was probably because she cost too much.

That lovingly time-capsuled show is highly outclassed by the reincarnated masterpiece that showrunner Ron Moore has created in today's BSG.

At its core are the career performances of Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell who are mind-blowingly fantastic as the admiral of the ragtag fleet and the president of the surviving colonists respectively. It's a master class of acting every week surrounded by a show that is never simply science fiction. The Star-Ledger's television critic Alan Sepinwall puts it thus:

"What I've always admired about "Galactica" is the way that it goes back to the roots of science-fiction. We've grown accustomed to the "Star Wars" model of sci-fi, where we want adventure stories with space battles, and robots and aliens, and time travel. "Galactica" has all of that - the outerspace dogfights, when they still do them, are as thrilling as you'll find, especially given the modest basic cable budget - but at its heart, it's using all the familiar sci-fi tropes to tell stories about people, who we are now and how we might react to a fantastic situation.

The series began as an allegory for 9/11, and over the years, it's been able to tell stories about Iraq, and religious fundamentalism, and abuse of power - all dressed up in sci-fi drag, to make the subjects more palatable, and to remove enough present-day context that it might make you question your own beliefs. It's one thing to be horrified by insurgent suicide bombers, but what if you're watching a show where the characters you root for have been placed in a situation (as they were a few seasons ago) where they're the insurgency?

And regardless of politics, what makes "Galactica" so gripping is its emphasis on character over hardware. The explosions and the killer robots are cool, but they don't stack up to seeing fully-drawn people - brought to life by a great writing staff led by producer Ron Moore and an astonishing cast led by Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell - grapple with these life-or-death, genocide-level decisions." (See Alan's complete review here.)

Sure there have been missteps along the way, episodes not as up to par as others and characters that I happily would have thrown out of the airlock. And while I was horrified when it was announced that the producers had made Starbuck a woman (in the classic version of the series, Dirk Benedict played Starbuck pre-A-team), I wound up really liking what they did with that dynamic even as I increasingly hated the character (Shut UP Starbuck!)

On a whole, this show cannot be beat and has only grown more apropos and eerily allegorical to the world around us with each passing week.

Over this past summer as the first half of season 4 rolled out, my moving madness prohibited me from working my way through the DVRs saved episodes. Plus I was fed up with Starbuck's whining and screaming (i cheered when she blew up in the fighter and then they had to bring her back. Pooh.) I always figured I'd get settled in the new place and have myself a BSG marathon, but that was before the above mentioned DirecTV installation disappointment when my saved episodes went the way of the dodo with an assist from the UPS guy. Thankfully, the SciFi Channel is running a marathon today of all season 4 part 1 episodes and my new DVR is memory cleansed and ready to go (frankly, it's the first time I've seen the DVR memory at under 50% since I moved in.)

Tonight's season 4 part 2 premiere at 10 pm on the SciFi Channel (check local listings) is the final one for this series as the saga winds its way through the final 10 episodes to a conclusion that will no doubt showcase some of the best drama and performances ever.

I Can't Wait.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

POW! Right in the - Patella?

I'm writing this while sitting in bed on Sunday evening with the lap desk and my laptop, Pride and Prejudice playing in the background. It's not at the He's walking, he's still walking! point, so I'm only paying half attention right now. Hollis has just joined me and she can't figure out why the tuna she's smelling isn't meant for her, so I'm shifting my tuna melt from side to side to avoid her avid nose.

It's not laziness that brings me here but rather confinement. Saturday morning I lay in bed dozing, rousing myself from time to time to check the DVR clock, which is set to the correct time; my alarm clock is always set 15 minutes fast to trick my mind into thinking it's sleeping later when actually I'm just getting up earlier. I just didn't have it in me to do the math that morning. I was trying to decide just how much time I really needed to get washed and dressed to leave on time for my writer's meeting - the Liberty State Fiction Writers - and how much more time I could thus spend lollygagging in bed. Contemplatively, I crossed my legs, my foot bumping Hollis in the process at her perch in the bottom corner of my bed, and my knee went CRACK! That's it, that's all it took. A simple shifting of the leg and my whole world becomes about that one faulty joint.

I was determined to make my meeting though, the first of this new writing group that was formed by several friends of mine. I wanted to show my support by being present, come crutch or imminent blizzard. And I was glad I persevered, happy to see good friends after the long holiday and to be briefed about the group and their comprehensive program and Web site. I think I could surf it forever and still uncover hidden pearls.
(We're at the bungled Bingley proposal scene BTW: Miss Bennent. Mister Bingley.) It was good that I went and my friends helped me manage the knee while I was there (thanks friends!) so it was all good. A few hours later it was home to ice packs and paid meds and eventual oblivion, Thus have I stayed all weekend.

It's frustrating t0 be sidelined just when I had made plans to improve things. Things always seem to go pear shaped when I've managed to motivate myself towards something positive. (Ah, Lady Catherine has arrived. Heaven and earth. Are the shades of Pemberly to be thus polluted?) Perhaps it's just January blues. I always struggle to get into gear at the beginning of the year. All the bliss and good feelings of the Christmas holidays are suddenly gone and it's back to life as usual.

We interrupt this blog post for the following important announcement: HE'S WALKING. STILL WALKING. AND WALKING.


Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I'm planning to wear my Christmas light socks to work on Monday to make up for my blah weekend. Maybe it'll trick my subconscious back into shiny happy people holiday mode. Hey, nothing like a little self delusion to start the week. Plus, I'm looking at a knee injection on Monday night and for the two following Mondays in turn so I'll take whatever I can get.

Nothing but good times ahead.

Update Monday night 1/12/09:

Knee injected? Check.

Knee drained? Yeesssssss

Shouted down doctor's office with creative expletive alternatives whilst enduring procedures? Oh my giddy aunt, check.

Surreal fluffy clouds on a blue sky painted on the lights in my doctor's exam room ceiling? You betcha.

Compliments on my Christmas lights socks? But of course.

Monday, January 12, 2009

007 Is Tone Deaf - Movie Mondays

Oh, Mamma Mia. Here I go again.

OK, this one I had my doubts on. I only had a passing urge to see it in the theater this summer especially as, based on the previews, I thought for once here was something that Meryl Streep couldn't do, namely sing and dance. Turns out she isn't all that bad and actually manages to sing The Winner Takes It All
rather well. It's not an easy song and one that goes on for-evah at that, so doing it really well is saying something. As for her dancing, well, not everyone was born with rhythm and she certainly plunges in fearlessly so points for that. It's still looks a tad odd - La Streep cavorting around a Greek isle in overalls while always trailing flowing pieces of cloth, shawls, sweaters, or disco arm bands like some sort of Pied Piper for textiles - but, okay.

I confess, I like ABBA songs, particularly Dancing Queen, Waterloo, SOS, Take A Chance on Me, and to a slightly lesser extent, Mamma Mia itself. Chirpy, bouncing, fun, and romantic tunes with good harmonies. What's not to like? And with this movie, I also get nearly 2 hours of Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard being cute and silly. Plus both Pierce and Colin take their shirts off and get wet - Remington Steele AND Mr. Darcy in the same scene dancing and singing bare chested in the faux rain. I don't need much more than that to be having a good time (maybe a little more.) I think the film may have caught fire at one point.

Good on ya.

The movie is really delightful. I laughed out loud over and over again at all the antics. Yes, it's mostly a chick flick, but so what? Julie Waters - best known far and wide and forever to the masses as Harry Potter's Mrs. Weasley - is an absolute scream and Christine Baranski and her never ending legs and wicked humor are as much of a good time as ever. Plus, it's filmed on location in Greece (or somewhere like it) and the scenery is absolutely stunning. And then there are those three lovely lads. I can turn a deaf ear to the musical missteps and general unlikeliness for the most part to get all that and just fall into the silliness and have a good time, which, after all, is all the film wants you to do.

for one thing.

Pierce Brosnan is tone deaf. Lord bless him, 007 can't carry a tune if it was strapped on his back. Only either no one making the film noticed - incredibly unlikely - or it's all good to them as it's freaking Pierce Brosnan and women from 4 to 104 will fill the seats to see him. So he has not one, not two, but at least three solo moments. I cringed every time he ballyhooed, repeatedly groaned Oh poor Pierce!, and prayed for temporary loss of hearing. With the chorus behind him and when he's not trying to be, you know, melodic, then he's - er - um - okay, but please God, don't give the man his own microphone ever again.

Good thing he's pretty. Still, oh so very pretty.

Speaking of the chorus, there is a gaggle of Greek laborers - maids, gardeners, plumbers, farmers, etc - that pop up behind the stars throughout the movie, mostly during the big numbers, to serve as the chorus. The Greek Chorus. I nearly peed my pants laughing when I figured that out (I'm Polish; it took me about 20 minutes, but I was there eventually). An actual Greek Chorus. During the end credits - and do, please watch the credits, don't flip the DVD right back to the menu or turn it off. Totally. Worth. It. - they show the actors who played the chorus floating on clouds, wearing ivy leaves on their brows, playing harps and accompanied by sheep just to point out for those of us that STILL didn't get it that they're the Greek Chorus.

Oh my giddy aunt.

It's not quite free, but take a chance on Mamma Mia anyways.

Rated PG-13 for risque themes and humor and one shot of Stellan Skarsgard's bare butt

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Oh, How I Love Tuesdays

I love Tuesdays. Normal Tuesdays. Tuesdays during a work week. Not a summer Tuesday. Then it's just another delay to a summer weekend. Not a vacation Tuesday. Then it's just another amorphous day that will bleed into the next much like the one before until you finally come up for air and say, "Do I need a bra for this?"

But a normal Tuesday, a work week Tuesday, can be just lovely.

Tuesday mornings, you see, my mother has bible study.

In its nascent stage, Tuesday morning is actually more difficult. I may leave the house slightly later than usual as I drop her off at church on my way to work (exponentially easier since our departure from the less-than-fair climes of Weehawken), but I have another person to account for in my morning routine. This routine now includes coffee and danish or eggs or French toast if I slept really well or it's the weekend, which are usually the same thing (these are for Mom; I eat when I get to the office). It means making sure I get out of the bathroom soon enough to be out of her way like it's 1986 again, sometimes helping with dressing and finding the misplaced book or pair of glasses, and occasionally checking that the thunk I just heard wasn't my mother falling or struggling to walk but rather the cat being ignobly dislodged from the normally serenely sleeping mother's lap.

But once said mother is deposited at church, oh bliss divine.

To give an idea as to my growing love affair with Tuesday, here's an illustration of this week's Monday.

11:10 am: Phone call at work
Mom: Kierst, where is the jam?
K: We don't have any jam.
M: You just went to the store.
K: Yes, I did.
M: No jam?
K: No jam.
M: Please, could you get some after work?
K: You bet.

11:43 am: Phone call at work
Do you remember that board of danishes you used to get me?
K: You mean Entenmann's?
M: No, not the Entenmann's. Don't get me Entenmann's.
K: Okay. You want blueberry muffins?
M: No, don't get me blueberry muffins either. This was something, I think you used to get them at the Weehawken Shop Rite.
K: Y0u mean the cinnamon swirls?
M: No, not the cinnamon swirls. It was like a long board with about 10 danishes.
K: Okay. I dunno. The only long board of danishes I can think of is at Cosco or BJs.
M: No, I don't want BJs. Could you look for it when you go to the store tonight?
K: Okay.

1 :15 pm: Cell phone call while I'm driving to doctor's office
Mom: I was wondering if you were out running errands.
K: I'm going to get lab work done.
M: Oh, okay. Listen, I forgot to get a card for (my cousin's daughter) Sarah's birthday.
K: Okay.
M: If I don't get it in the mail tomorrow, she won't get it on time. Can you stop and pick one up for me?
K: Okay.
M: Thanks a lot.
K: Uh huh.

2:30 pm: Voice mail message on my work phone
Mom: Yeah Kierst, it's Mom. I guess you're at lunch. I'll try your cell phone.

4:12 pm: Phone call at work.
Mom: Are you totally worn out or can we go to Philadelphia on Sunday and see your grandmother?
K: I told you. Dad's going on Saturday.
M: Her birthday's on Sunday. I mean, that's her actual birthday.
K: Yes, I know.
M: Your dad's going on Saturday?
K: Yeah.
M: So we could go Sunday.
K: No! She can't handle two days in a row. She gets too worn out. Besides, Nana prefers that we spread them out and not all visit on the same weekend. That way she's feels she gets out more. And we were just there on Friday!
M: (disappointingly) Yeah, okay.

6:15 pm: Cell phone voice mail message alert beeps while in self check out line at Shop Rite.
Mom: Kierst, it's nearly 6:30. Just wondering where you are. Give me a call.

6:17 pm: Voice mail message at work
Kierst, just wondering where you are as it's nearly 6:30. Give me a call, please.

This morning, this blessed Tuesday morning, as I sat at my desk reading a few jobs and sifting through e-mails and posts from the holiday week, there was barely a peep from either my cell or work phone. Oh bliss, oh rapture unforeseen. Mom's study goes from 9:30 to 11:30 in the morning and then today she had a lunch planned, so there was no contact from the motherland until, inevitably, like clockwork...

3:30 pm: Phone call at work
Mom: Hi Kierst.
K: Hi Mom.

I bloody love Tuesdays

Sunday, January 4, 2009


I don't make New Year resolutions. To me, it's just another way of listing things that will never get done. I'm perverse enough that making a list almost assures the failure of achieving anything on the list simply because there is a list.

Get that?

I also don't set "goals" as a pansy-assed way of avoiding the word "resolution". Do it or don't do it, but don't wimp out on the terminology. I have some things in mind that I would like to see happen in 2009, but I won't handicap their chances by sticking them on some sort of list. Look, it works for some people. I'm not some people.

Basically, making it to the next year fully intact is challenging enough of a resolution for me. I think of my friend Jane's resolutions and realize that this mind-set of mine is far from positive, but it's nearly 7 pm on my last night of a disappointing vacation, so I'm going to just wallow in my mediocrity for a moment and resolve to be more positive tomorrow. Don't defriend me yet, Jane.

Ugh, I said it.

I guess, if anything, I can resolve to be more me in 2009. "Is't possible?" you may ask. One shudders to think. But I valiantly resolve to be more of a survivor, more of a good time - not that way, you pervs! (okay, maybe a little) - more committed to the things that matter to me, and less negative about those things I can't control even though they are few and far between (kidding! sort of). I promise to be more snarky, use bigger words (if I can find them), and radically obliterate preconceptions and limitations relating to my size, my income, my brain, my faith, or my hair color (though I'm not a blond, so half the battle there is already won). A good enough start to any year.

How do you like me so far?