Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Random Thoughts

Funny how many “final notices” you get on a car warranty.

Believe it or not, Spanish-speaking telemarketers tend to be every bit as annoying as their English-speaking equivalents. Even if you're Hispanic.

Yes, morticians have to make a living, too, but it's still seems tasteless to receive unsolicited advertising from such a person. Especially if you've lost a loved one quite recently.

The more different you are, the more likely it is that you wish to seem ordinary. The more ordinary you are, the more likely it is that you wish to seem different.

The older you get, the faster time goes, which explains why it flows like molasses on a winter day when you're young and like mercury on a summer day when you're old.

Is it worse to be a supporting character in someone else's story and wind up with a happy ending or to play the lead in one's own story and wind up with a tragic ending? And what about those poor souls who don't get a choice?

Which is greater: the writer who uses a vocabulary that can be only understood by a thousand people or the writer who uses a vocabulary that can be understood by a million people?

It's easy to be in favor of offshoring when it's not your job which is in jeopardy.

It's easy to be against unions when it's not you who has to put up with lousy pay and working conditions.

It's easy to be in favor of unions when it's not you who is being held back by the seniority system.

In short, it's easy to be happy with the status quo when it's not you who is being inconvenienced.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Dollhouse: “Echoes”

This is your show.

This is your show on drugs.

Notice much difference?

I thought not.

Dammit!

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Has Sprung -- and Sprung Back

The first day of spring occurred last weekend so naturally temperatures here in Dallas dived all the way down into the 30s the day before yesterday.

It's not the first time Mother Nature has proved so unpredictable here in Dallas but still it was surprising. It warmed up again this afternoon but will it stay this way?

Who knows?

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Movie Quote of the Week

Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I'm free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn't, I can, and my children will. Boys ought to grow up remembering that.
--James Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

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TV Quote of the Week

You ever try to clean an actual slate? You always see what was on it before.
--Eliza Dushku, Dollhouse, “Ghost”

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Science Fiction Quote of the Week

Everybody says that in every generation; but take my word for it, no matter when you live and how you live, there’s always somebody else somewhere else who thinks you live in the Golden Age.
--Jelling in Alfred Bester's “Hobson’s Choice”

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Banking on American Madness -- But in a Good Way


The film begins with the sight of a weary switchboard operator beginning her workday with a stifled yawn and a brief glance at her compact. Before it ends, it shows us a boardroom dispute, a bank robbery, an attempted seduction, and a bank run reminiscent of a similar scene in Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. Only this isn't It's a Wonderful Life. It's American Madness, a 1932 film by director Frank Capra that anticipates many of the same themes as It's a Wonderful Life but which has been neglected by film buffs for so long that I almost expected Joan Blondell to show up and start singing about it.

Does the movie deserve to be forgotten? Not in my opinion. Indeed, I found the film to be quite memorable.

Although it is tempting to declare the film dated because of the way banking laws have made bank runs a thing of the past, enough of the film rings true that I have no trouble forgiving Capra for that. Especially since he and his screenwriter Robert Riskin have provided such a good story.

Unfortunately, the movie's set-up seems more well-done than its resolution. Capra and Riskin have no trouble establishing the various characters of the bank staff in a way that seems more interesting than an actual bank would seem. But the way the bank's customers are panicked by negative rumors into attempted withdrawals of their money is depicted so convincingly that it takes quite an effort to believe such events can be reversed by mere mortals. And it is a bit depressing -- no pun intended -- to speculate how likely such a positive resolution would be in today's world.

For that matter, the philosophy of Walter Huston's Thomas Dickson, the president of the bank where all this takes place, seems a thing of the past. In these times of multiple credit reports, the idea that a bank president would justify bank loans on the basis of a man's character seems downright anachronistic. Yet I found myself identifying with Dickson even though Huston is by no means as naturally likable as Jimmy Stewart.

Could we use a Thomas Dickson today? I would like to think so. But somehow I doubt we will get one. And don't get me started on the likelihood of another Frank Capra...

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The Clarissa Complex



I probably can come up with a hundred theories if Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington became so popular but if I had to pick just one, it would be this:

Almost every American, male or female, can't help identifying with Jean Arthur's Clarissa Saunders character when we look at the American political world. We would like to be as idealistic as Jimmy Stewart's Jefferson Smith but I suspect most of us identify more with Ms. Saunders. Why? Because over the years, we can't help but grow a bit cynical at the difference between what our politicians promise and what they deliver. And although we would like to truly think the best of them, we can't help fearing that we'd end up like suckers if we do so.

Yet every now and then, we meet a politician that gives us hope that the world of politics does not have to be the way that it is. We do not necessarily develop the same type of relationship with them as Ms. Saunders does with Mr. Smith but we do come to trust said politico to the point of abandoning our cynicism in favor of idealism. Perhaps because said politico chooses to encourage our more positive emotions instead of encouraging our most negative ones.

I must confess that I have a tendency to wax more than a little cynical about politics myself. (For example, it is not a coincidence that "trust not in princes" is one of my favorite Biblical quotes.) And yet I am idealistic enough to prefer a politician who encourages me to vote in favor of something over a politician who encourages me to vote against something. A politician who chooses to run a positive campaign as opposed to one who runs a negative one.

In any event, I would rather take a chance that the candidate of my choice is a genuine idealist like Jefferson Smith than to assume that he is more a cynical rogue like the title character of The Great McGinty. And no doubt that is the real reason I like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington so much.

Either that or else I really like the chance to look at Ms. Arthur for about two hours...

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What Do You Say?

So what exactly do you say to the waitress who talks about how she spent hundreds of dollars pursuing a college degree -- and then had to drop out because she couldn't physically keep up with her studies?

What do you say to a friend who has just been laid off? And what do you say what that same friend is required to remain on duty an additional month or so in order to train his or her replacement in a foreign land?

What do you say when your friend's spouse starts succumbing to the same illness that afflicted one of your late relatives? And what do you say when that same friend starts giving in to the various pressures of being his or her spouse's sole caregiver?

What do you say to the single mother who has been beat up by both of her two ex-husbands?

And what do you say to the single mother who talks about giving up her current job for a more respectable position, only to end up sticking with the status quo because the more respectable job doesn't pay enough money?

What do you say to the friend whose younger sibling goes in and out of mental hospitals?

What do you say to the friend whose daughter keeps talking about wanting to leave her abusive live-in boyfriend yet never does so?

What do you say in a situation in which just saying nothing hardly seems like an adequate response -- yet anything else seems worse?

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Words of the Present

1. adoxography -- skilled writing about an unimportant subject; good writing about trivial subjects
2. agelast -- person who never laughs
3. ailuromania -- excessive fondness for cats
4. anaxiphilia -- act of falling in love with the wrong person
5. antinomy -- contradiction or opposition, especially between two laws or rules; contradiction between principles or conclusions that seem equally necessary and reasonable; paradox
6. autodidact -- self-taught person
7. belamour -- glance of love
8. bellitude -- beauty
9. bibliogony -- production and publication of books
10. bibliosopher -- one who gains wisdom from books
11. cingulomania -- strong desire to hold a person in your arms
12. clockless worker -- employee who is willing to work at any time, day or night
13. cognoscenti -- connoisseurs of art, literature or music; those with refined tastes
14. cupboard love -- show of affection motivated by selfishness
15. digitalia -- computer hardware and software and other organs of digital technology, taken as a whole
16. dinosaur wine -- writer Kinky Friedman's term for petroleum or oil
17. gynics -- knowledge of women
18. hoplophobia -- fear of guns
19. lagniappe -- word mainly used in southern Louisiana and Mississippi to mean either a small gift presented by a storeowner to a customer with the customer's purchase or else an extra or unexpected gift or benefit
20. lexiphanes -- person who uses ostentatious language
21. logophilia -- love of words
22. macrobian -- term which describes any organism which has a long life
23. macrologist -- boring conversationalist, usually met at parties
24. mouse potato -- person who spends a lot of time at the computer
25. mulierose -- addicted to the love of women
26. neologist -- person who coins new words
27. neophobia -- fear of anything new
28. noctuary -- record of what passes in the night; a nightly journal
29. petrichor -- pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a dry spell
30. philonoist -- seeker of knowledge
31. playback drift -- inability to play back data that has been saved on an obsolete storage medium due to modernization and technological advances.
32. plutography -- book (or, more generally, literary genre) that examines the lifestyles of rich and famous people.
33. preterist -- one who is fond of reliving the past
34. pronoia -- suspicion that the universe is a conspiracy on your behalf; opposite of paranoia
35. sarcology -- study of the soft or fleshy parts of the body
36. Scholar's Mistress -- term used in Fritz Leiber's novel Our Lady of Darkness to refer to a random pile of books and magazines which forms a roughly human shape.
37. sensory miser -- one who begrudges a too-extravagant experience of life
38. sensualist -- someone concerned with gratifying his or her sexual appetite
39. sensuist -- someone who rejoices in sensory experience
40. sophophobia -- fear of learning
41. synesthesia -- stimulation of one sense stimulating another
42. tacenda -- things that should not be mentioned
43. tanquam -- something that only seems to exist
44. temporal provincial -- term used in Michael Crichton's novel Timeline to refer to a person who is both ignorant of the past and proud of his ignorance
45. thanatopsis -- contemplation of death
46. verbivore -- person who devours words
47. vespertine -- during the evening
48. vetanda -- forbidden things
49. videnda -- things that ought to be seen
50. voluptuary -- one whose life is given over to luxury and sensual pleasures and who habitually indulges in (an excess of) sexual activity; sensualist

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Yet More Spanish Words I Like

1. bienamado -- beloved.
2. blanca -- white.
3. bonita -- pretty.
4. canela -- cinnamon; anything exquisite.
5. español -- Spanish; Spanish language; Spaniard.
6. final feliz -- happy ending.
7. flor y canto -- the flowers and the songs; the precious things in life (Mexican concept).
8. flor y nata -- the elite; the cream.
9. frontera -- frontier; boundary; border.
10. grandeza -- greatness.
11. grito -- shout; yell; a tight, controlled ai-yai-eeee sound.
12. inglés -- English; English language; Englishman.
13. lengüeta en mejilla -- tongue-in-cheek.
14. libro de bolsillo -- paperback.
15. libro de cocina -- cookbook.
16. libro de consulta -- reference book.
17. limpieza -- cleanliness; purity.
18. linda -- beautiful.
19. lindísima -- most beautiful.
20. misa -- Catholic Mass.
21. La Morenita -- literally, "Little Darkling"; Mexican nickname for Our Lady of Guadalupe.
22. muérdago -- mistletoe.
23. mujer -- woman.
24. muñeca -- wrist; doll; puppet.
25. muñeco de nieve -- snowman.
26. música -- music.
27. música campirana -- country music
28. norteña/o -- Northerner.
29. novela -- novel; soap opera.
30. Ojalá -- if only.
31. paraíso terrenal -- paradise; garden of Eden.
32. payaso -- clown.
33. pesadilla -- nightmare.
34. personaje -- character.
35. piel -- skin; hide; pelt; leather; fur; peel.
36. piel-de-canela -- cinnamon-colored skin.
37. piel de gallina -- goose flesh.
38. pintoresco -- picturesque.
39. pregunta -- question.
40. prendas -- natural gifts.
41. primavera -- spring (season of spring).
42. querida -- dear; mistress; paramour.
43. quijotada -- quixotic act.
44. quijotesco -- quixotic.
45. quinceañera -- special birthday celebration for a fifteen-year-old girl.
46. quinceañero -- teenager; fifteen year-old.
47. quizás -- maybe; perhaps.
48. recuerdo -- keepsake; memento; souvenir; memory; recollection.
49. regalo -- gift.
50. rosa -- rose; pink.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Quote of the Week

The one thing rich Americans think they know about the poor is what the poor most urgently need (which never turns out to be money).
--Richard Rodriguez, Brown: The Last Discovery of America

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Dollhouse: “Man on the Street”

I've been receiving strange phone calls all weekend, all marked “unknown caller” and all hanging up the minute my answering machine kicks in. Since few such calls have a local area code, I haven't exactly been vigilant about tracking down the culprit behind them but after this episode...I just might be.

Okay, I won't pretend that this episode will do for answering machines what Psycho did for showers and Jaws did for beaches. But it did make me think.

And yet after all the hype this episode has received, I can't help but wonder if all this series has to offer is woo-hoo fight scenes and oops-didn't-see-that-coming plot twists. By now, viewers of this series have learned to expect that not every character is what they seem to be. So when a key plot sequence in this episode revolved around a certain character turning out to be more than he or she seemed to be, I wasn't exactly surprised.

To be fair, Whedon did his damnedest to misdirect my suspicions. And yet I can't help wondering if Whedon has a more intellectual story arc planned for future episodes or if he intends to make this series little more than Faith the Manchurian Vampire Slayer. I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Movie Quote of the Week

Never. Oh, never. Nothing will die. The stream flows, the wind blows, the cloud fleets, the heart beats. Nothing will die.
--Phoebe Nicholls, The Elephant Man (1980)

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

R.I.P. Natasha Richardson

Actress Natasha Richardson, who was the daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave and the wife of actor Liam Neeson and who was most famous for her Tony-winning performance as Sally Bowles in the 1998 production of Cabaret, passed away Wednesday at age 45.

She will be missed.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dysgenics for Dummies: Idiocracy



The main problem with being a smart person like myself who has been trained since childhood by his Mensa member father to think for himself is that one doesn’t always like the same movies that other smart people like. Or at least one doesn’t look at such movies the same way that other smart people prefer to look at them.

Take, for instance, Idiocracy, the latest effort from film auteur Mike Judge. The standard take on this movie from most smart people is that this film is a daring effort at exposing the current American trend of “dumbing down” and where it is likely to lead us. Of course, a truly smart person, or at least one who is familiar with the concept of lateral thinking, can’t help but wonder if a movie arguing against dumbing down is all that daring. Has there ever been a film that argued in favor of dumbing down? A film that argued that we need more stupid people in this country or that our education system asks way too much of its students?

Okay, it could be argued that such films exist. But they are not necessarily the type of films people think of when they think of such films. Good Will Hunting, for example, is generally considered a smart person’s movie but it hardly presents smart people in a flattering light and indeed, the conclusion of that movie would seem to suggest that smart people would be a lot better off working on their people skills and making out with the opposite sex than they would be if they just concentrated on increasing their academic skills. Apparently, it is okay to be smart, that film argues, as long as you don’t actually do anything beneficial with your smarts apart from using them to argue with intellectual wise guys and impress women.

Of course, that is not the type of movies smart people like to think about when they’re looking for examples of anti-smart-people sentiment in America. And anyway, if such people were truly smart, they would have read enough to realize that most of the issues dealt with in Idiocracy are not exactly new. People have been fretting about the possible mental inferiority of future Americans since the turn of the century. Only back then it was argued that it would be recent immigrants that would lead to the intellectual downfall of America. The idea was that mentally inferior immigrants were outbreeding intellectually superior native-born Americans and that we were doomed to become a nation of morons because of this.

Of course, many of those “mentally inferior” immigrants eventually raised children who proved to be just as intellectually capable as any college-educated native-born. Indeed, it soon became obvious that the differences between such immigrants and the natives often had more to do with class, language, and education than with anything else. If you were born into the right class, spoke good English and had parents who could afford to provide you with a college education, you were automatically presumed to be smarter than people who were born into the “wrong” class, spoke little if any English, and had parents who could barely afford to send you to public school, much less college. Of course, this is not how America was supposed to work, but unfortunately, few smart people of the time bothered to argue that point. Perhaps because they were afraid that by doing so, they would run the risk of not being considered smart any more.

Of course, there are people who still think that way today, the most obvious example being former U.S. English member John Tanton. Like Judge, Tanton liked to argue that America ran the risk of being overrun by mental morons because all the dumb people were producing babies faster than the smart people. The only difference being the two being that Mike Judge does not pretend to single out a particular ethnic group to blame for such a result while Tanton preferred to single out Hispanic immigrants -- especially illegal Hispanic immigrants -- as being the “dumb people” in question.

To be fair, science fiction author C. M. Kornbluth made a similar argument to Judge’s in his famous short story, “The Marching Morons.” Like Judge -- and unlike Tanton -- Kornbluth refused to put the blame on any one group for the dumbing down of future America. Indeed, Kornbluth could not resist hinting that the few smart people who existed in such an America were likely to be racially mixed. Nor did Kornbluth pretend that any attempt to correct such a situation would be bloodless. Indeed, it could be argued that “The Marching Morons” was originally intended to satirize the eugenics arguments of the early twentieth century and that the true point of the story was not to warn against a tide of overly fertile dumb people but to warn that any attempt to come up with a “final solution” for that problem would be far worse than the actual problem.

In any event, Kornbluth wrote his short story back in the 1950s which puts Judge’s Idiocracy in the odd position of being a wildly imaginative restatement of a story that has already been told. To be fair, Judge’s version is a lot more light-hearted than Kornbluth’s story and has a happier ending. Moreover, he tosses in a lot of modern references for the benefit of those movie-goers who would just as soon not read anything from the 1950s -- or for that matter, not read anything, period. Indeed, it could be argued that Judge essentially “borrows” the concept of the original Kornbluth story and “dumbs it down” for the sake of twenty-first century moviegoers. Moviegoers who never once question how a society of people too dumb to figure out a jigsaw puzzle can maintain complicated machinery like computers and electric cars. Of course, some might argue that to consider such issues in a movie like this is to spend way too much time thinking. And, of course, the last thing Judge apparently wants viewers of this film to do is to think.

Or at least he does not want them to think too much. Otherwise, they might miss out on his movie’s message -- which is really funny when you think about it…

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

The X-Files: “The Rain King”

Anyone else get the feeling that this should have been the last episode of the series? True, it helps on an atypical happy note -- something rarely seen in a X-Files episode. But it ends on a note of ambiguity too. True, two characters have their romantic problems resolved, but the romantic problems of the show's two lead characters -- FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully -- seem destined to continue.

And though I would like to be able to argue that the show continued to improve after this, it’s difficult to think of few episodes -- apart from an occasional exception like the Groundhog Day tribute “Monday” -- that were really all that great.

Indeed, the whole series starts going downhill after Season Six. In fact, some X-Files fans would argue that I was being excessively Pollyannaish at including Season Six in the list of good seasons.

Anyway, this is not exactly a classic episode, and in many ways, one might consider it quite forgettable. After all, the episode tells us nothing about UFOs or extraterrestrials or government conspiracies or even the whereabouts of Mulder’s missing sister. It could be argued that the morale of the story is borderline creepy -- act out in a psychotic fashion and you too can get the girl of your dreams -- and if the writer had not been so intent on creating a “comic” episode, he could very well have put a darker spin on this same material. But he doesn’t.

And yet I like this episode precisely because the writer resists the pull of his dark side. So many episodes in this series seem to toss in an unhappy ending just for the heck of it. And after a while, one gets tired of the constant reminders that yes, mankind is bad and the fight against evil is not so easily won. Most people don’t have to watch a TV show to know all that. They’ve learned it from personal experience.

And while one could argue that at this point we hardly needed yet another episode alluding to the unspoken romantic relationship between Mulder and Scully, it was nice to see an episode allude to that fact without hitting us over the head with it.

I found genuine humor in the scenes in which Mulder had to give dating advice to a guy who was even more emotionally repressed than he was. And, of course, Scully’s big soliloquy on the evolution of platonic love into romantic love was quite touching.

So should I feel happy about an episode that seems to argue in favor of a possibly lethal romantic obsession? Not really. But then one could argue that the episode is not about that at all. After all, the one guy who receives the most punishment in this episode -- the fraudulent “rain king” of the title -- is a guy who tries to be something he’s not. He pursues relationships for his own selfish reasons, and he ends up paying a price because of it.

For that matter, the emotionally obsessive weatherman who proves to be the true culprit of the episode also pays a price for not being himself. By repressing his true feelings for fear of rejection, he ends up ensuring his own loneliness. It’s only when he is encouraged by Mulder and Scully to conquer his fear that his romantic problems resolve themselves.

And if there’s hope for a guy so repressed that his very emotions can cause thunderstorms, then there just has to be hope for Mulder and Scully -- and by extension, the rest of us.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Quote of the Week

We find comfort among those who agree with us -- growth among those who don't.
--Frank A. Clark

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Dollhouse: “True Believer”

No, it's not a reference to the Eric Hoffer book of the same name. It's a reference to Echo's latest assignment in which she infiltrates a cult as an undercover agent who doesn't even know that she's an undercover agent. Should I even try to pretend I was surprised by what happened?

Also, Agent Ballard's next-door neighbor Mellie -- the mysterious neighbor lady referred to in “Stage Fright” -- comes to visit him at work. Could she be working undercover for the Dollhouse? Or is she just really really desperate to give away her Italian food?

And still no answer about the scars on Dr. Saunders' face. However, she and the resident imprint expert, Topher, have noticed something unusual about one of Echo's fellow co-workers aka “dolls.” Apparently the doll in question isn't acting very Ken-like...

And someone on the Dollhouse staff really doesn't like Echo. And apparently is underestimating her abilities just a wee bit...

Of course, the episodes shown thus far are being shown out of order so I shouldn't read too much into them. But I'm guessing we don't find out the real identity of Alpha and his connection to Echo for at least quite a few episodes.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Movie Quote of the Week

Audrey, the world is not going to come to an end when there are so many people making so much money.
--Christopher Cooke, The Unbelievable Truth (1989)

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TV Quote of the Week

Oh, I have heard more than enough about Schrödinger’s cat.
--Kaley Cuoco, The Big Bang Theory, “The Tangerine Factor”

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CD of the Week


Yes, the artwork is horrible, but the songs on "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?": Songs of the Depression are really nice to listen to. As you might guess, the High Hatters' version of "Ten Cents a Dance" is one of my favorite songs on this CD. Nor does it hurt that this CD contains Dick Robertson's surprisingly witty tribute to vocational hindsight, "If I Ever Get a Job Again." Then, of course, there's Eddie Cantor's classic mocking of Panglossian economics, "Cheer Up! Smile! Nertz! (Ballyhoo)" a song that seems almost as relevant today as it did back in 1931. Plus there's a great many songs on this CD including a version of "Happy Days Are Here Again" that has actual vocals.

It's not the easiest CD to find, but I found it to be worth the effort. After all, if we must relive the 1930s, we might as well have some decent music to listen to.

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Dreaming of Jeannie with the Light Blonde Hair

Heh. First Jean Arthur woos me with her reaction to a coin in Only Angels Have Wings, then she does it again with her reaction to another coin in Easy Living, now she has me smitten with the note she slips Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. What can I say? I guess I'm an old softie.

Of course, it could be just that the contrarian in me hates how Ms. Arthur has been overlooked over the years. Nor do I like how she's been mocked for her distinctive voice -- as if having a distinctive voice is somehow supposed to be a handicap. Or maybe it is the way she manages to steal almost all her movies despite not exactly playing an aggressive character.

All I know is that I have yet to see a movie in which she has disappointed me. And there's not too many modern actresses about whom I can say the same thing.

I'll probably have more to say about Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in the near-future, but for now, I have to admit it had me at "starring Jean Arthur."

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Buscando Trabajo (Looking for Work)

Buscando Trabajo: Day One (Mi Amiga Lost Her Job Today)
Buscando Trabajo: Day Two
Buscando Trabajo: Day Three
Buscando Trabajo: Day Ten
Buscando Trabajo: Day Fourteen
Buscando Trabajo: The Story Continues (Sorta)
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Prelude (Time Enough at Last)
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte I
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte II
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte III
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte IV
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte V
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte VI
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte VII
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte VIII
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte IX
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte X
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XI
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XII
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XIII
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XIV
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XV
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XVI
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XVII
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XVIII
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XIX
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XX
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XXI
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XXII
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XXIII
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XXIV
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XXV
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XXVI
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XXVII
Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte XXVIII

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sueño o Pesadilla (Dream or Nightmare)

Every so often I have this dream about this blonde girl I know. She lives way across town but in these dreams I had recently, she lives in the same condominium complex that I do. At first I dreamt that she lived at the opposite end of the complex. I would always set out to walk down that way but I would never make it.

Then I dreamt that she lived next door. One day she would drop off a box on my front porch and I would hear it while I was sleeping. I’d get up and go to the door and call her inside. But she would always have a friend with her when she did come inside. A male friend.

And then my mother would show up. And my father’s oldest sister. And they would look at me disapprovingly yet not say a word.

I would start trying to talk with them but they would look at me silently. And harshly. No expressions of love here. It was as if all of them -- the girl included -- were wearing masks and if the dream lasted long enough, the masks would slip and I would realize what I had really let into my condo. And why I was fortunate I had never made it to the girl’s condo when she lived at the far end of my complex.

But I always woke up before the dream got to that point.

At least I’ve always woken up so far…

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

United States of Tara: “Pilot”

As much as I love Toni Collette (the actress who plays the title character Tara) and as much as I get the appeal of a show that allows her to play more than one character, I'm still not looking forward to the actual series for which this episode was a pilot. Perhaps it's because there has been one too many series making fun of suburbia. (Doesn't anyone in TVland -- apart from the good folks of Eureka, of course -- actually live somewhere they like?) Or perhaps it's because I don't quite trust Diablo Cody -- the author of Candy Girl -- to not make this series seem like Crazy/Beautiful for mental patients (no pun intended).

On the bright side, the pilot did a good job of depicting the frustration one must feel having to live with a loved one who suffers from multiple personality disorder. The feeling that, yes, I still love this person, but geez, she does make it harder to live with her than it has to be. A feeling that reminds me a lot of the stories one of my former girlfriends once told me about how it was living with her alcoholic mother. (Not that alcoholism is synonymous with multiple personality disorder, but it does appear to produce similar emotional complications.)

Unfortunately, the pilot was not so good at depicting why one would put up with such a person. Indeed, I couldn't help losing patience with the show when it tried to present Tara's sister Charmaine as some sort of bad person just because she refuses to see Tara's disorder as just some wacky personality flaw.

I keep telling myself that Ms. Cody undoubtedly means well. But I can't help but wonder... Would I be so quick to watch this show if it was about, say, an alcoholic? And would it be receiving the same amount of critical attention? Inquiring minds want to know.

But perhaps I should wait until I see more episodes before I say more.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Heroes: “Angels and Monsters”

The writing goof I most love on this show thus far:

It's been established that Maya -- a character who can kill a village full of people without lifting a finger -- has a tendency to inadvertently kill people when she's under stress. So naturally another character yells at her a lot...

Plus how exactly do you capture someone who can kill you without lifting a finger? For a modern-day poison damsel, Maya is remarkably useless at defending herself. I appreciate the fact that the show's writers chose to include a Hispanic character in the show. I just wish the character had been a better one than Maya.

For that matter, I must confess I'm not exactly pleased to see the return of Adam (one of my least favorite characters from the second season) but then I wasn't pleased to see everyone's favorite nogoodnik Sylar get his powers back last season and thus far Sylar's story arc is going better than I thought it would.

Predictions:

The conflict between Meredith (Claire Bennet's birth mother) and Claire's adoptive mother will work itself somehow -- hopefully without a big sacrifice on Meredith's part.

We'll see Tracy's hermana Barbara sometime before the end of the season. Probably on the side of the bad guys. And she better not be in the same business as her deceased sister Nikki. Although I wouldn't mind seeing Jessica again. As unlikely as that would be...

One of the writers of this show is going to admit to having one hell of an Oedipus complex...

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Quote of the Week

Write from the gut and soul. Spill it. Write from las alturas and from hoyos (avoid cheap, italicized, affected use of Spanish words). Don't offer excuses, explanations, apologies, apologias (the Latin). Remember Danny Santiago? His theme, his gimmick and hook, was being Chicano. Explaining, i.e., apologia lit. In other words, don't write for Them. Don't respond to their issues (if they ask about the gang problems in your community, ask them what they're doing about their biker and pedophile problems). Try to please God or the Virgin and not others (well, Others). But privately. As in silent prayer. They know you are flesh, know your tears of joy and pain. You will quit your day job; if you're a writer, you'll be fired often enough, anyway. If you want to be The Leader of the People, if you want to be a Saint, if you want to be The Guru, please don't pretend to be first of all a writer. Unless you're dead.
--Dagoberto Gilb, “Notes on Lit from the Americas”

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Dollhouse: “Gray Hour”

The new Joss Whedon series is back with yet another generic storyline: the old failed heist plot. Blue skies!

According to an interview with Eliza Dushku cited on the Television Without Pity site, the series is supposed to start improving with episode six. Let's hope so.

And should those of us who are old enough to remember a godawful series called Point Pleasant be unhappy that this episode never quite delivers on the promise of an “Echo goes all Carrie White on people” subplot? After all, Point Pleasant was also written by a former Buffy scribe and generally aspired to be an updated version of Carrie -- among other things. And yet it was awful. Someday I may go into detail about just how awful it was but for now... Be thankful that I don't have the patience to go back and relive that show right now.

I must confess it was fun to see the same character played by two different actresses. Or better yet, to have the type of TV show where such a development could not be considered all that unusual. But then I can't help but wonder what happened to the original person who inspired that character. And why would a “humanitarian” organization like the Dollhouse need such a person to be kept on file in the first place?

Will the next episode supply the answer to such questions? Or will we the audience be yanked around some more? Since the next episode is by Tim Minnear of Firefly fame, I'm hoping otherwise. But we'll see.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Movie Quote of the Week

Major, we already run the misfits outta our country. We sent ‘em back to England.
--Tom Selleck, Quigley Down Under (1990)

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Dollhouse: “Stage Fright”

And the generic plots just keep on coming.

In this episode, Echo plays a backup singer who is assigned by the Dollhouse to protect a famous pop singer from a psychotic fan. Do I really have to tell you that things go awry?

At the end of the episode, one of the Dollhouse people threatens to have Echo sent to a mysterious place called the Attic. Needless to say, it's probably nothing like Disneyland.

Plus we learn that a mysterious neighbor lady who was seen expressing her infatuation with FBI agent Paul Ballard in earlier episodes is actually a good thing for Mr. Ballard. Not only does she interrupt and inadvertently prevent a break-in of his apartment, but she also comes to visit him in the hospital.

Why is Paul Ballard in the hospital? Well, apparently one of his “reliable” sources proved to be not as reliable as Mr. Ballard thought.

And Echo appears to be bonding with one of her fellow co-workers. But not in a way she dares advertise to their mutual employer.

And why does the mysterious Dr. Claire Saunders -- one of the Dollhouse employees -- have scars on her face? Where did she get them from? Was the mysterious Alpha involved?

And is this show really going to get better? We'll see.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Dollhouse: “The Target”

In the last episode of this series, Echo played a hostage negotiator who rescues the daughter of a Mexican millionaire from vicious Mexican kidnappers.

In this episode, she is hired to play the wilderness-friendly girlfriend of a young millionaire, only to find out halfway through her mission that said millionaire expects far more from her than a warm snuggle in a shared sleeping bag.

If you're familiar with short stories, you can probably guess where this story is heading the minute the millionaire reveals his last name to be Connell. (As in Richard Connell, the author of a famous short story.) Even if you're not familiar with short stories, you can probably guess what happens since this episode involves one of the most used plots in TV and movie history.

Not a good sign.

Plus we get a brief flashback involving the mysterious Alpha, a former member of the Dollhouse who used to be like Echo but who one day rebelled and killed a number of Dollhouse personnel. No one in this episode is sure of Alpha's current whereabouts. Sure, he's supposed to be dead but no one is quite sure of that. Plus...whoever said that Alpha is necessarily a he? And why did he spare Echo in his murder spree?

We also learn how Echo came to bond with her current handler, a ex-cop who appears to be growing a bit of a conscience as far as Echo is concerned. Unfortunately, the Dollhouse doesn't appear to be an organization in which good consciences are rewarded even though the head people tend to profess humanitarian motives for their work.

And who sent Paul Ballard, the rogue FBI agent, that mysterious video tape we glimpsed in the last episode? The one with a home movie of Echo's graduation in it?

Could it be Alpha? Or Satan?

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Dollhouse: “Ghost”

Eliza Dushku of Buffy fame returns in a new Joss Whedon show that I'm tempted to describe as a Faith-based initiative.

Apparently, Ms. Dushku plays Echo, a member of a secret organization called the Dollhouse that may or may not be legitimate. Okay, there's no real maybe about the legitimacy part but the head people tend to profess humanitarian motives, so who knows?

First scene shows Echo negotiating with a female VIP of the Dollhouse, a negotiation which -- the show makes quite obvious -- is not being done from a position of strength.

Next scene shows Echo riding on a motorcycle with a guy she really, really likes, only to have all memories of said guy stripped away from her when she returns to the Dollhouse for her “treatment.”

The main plot involves Echo having a different personality “downloaded” into her each week, a personality that is later stripped away with supposedly no trace left behind. In this episode, the personality is that of a hostage negotiator, sent by the Dollhouse to help negotiate the release of a young Mexican girl from Mexican kidnappers. A subplot involves a rogue FBI agent named Paul Ballard who is doing his damnedest to track down the Dollhouse.

Plus the show tempts us with the possibility that Echo might not be forgetting as much of her past personalities as the Dollhouse's head honchos would prefer.

Is the show as good as past Joss Whedon shows? It's too early to tell, but the generic quality of this week's kidnapping plot doesn't bode well. Hopefully, it's just a misstep.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

House M.D.: “The Softer Side”

And the medical term of the week is genetic mosaic.

Plus, it's apparently a bad thing for world-famous doctors like Dr. House to be happy.

Especially if it's for the wrong reasons.

Plus there's that whole risking-death thing.

Okay, it's obvious to most people who know me in the offline world that I have a soft spot for this show. But is said soft spot deserved? That's the question I keep asking myself this season.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Wrong Week

It's been one of those weeks...



And the worst part is...I don't do any of that stuff Mr. Bridges mentions...

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Science Fiction Quote of the Week

His only fault, and it is a terrible one, is that he asks questions that no one can answer.
--Philip José Farmer, Venus on the Half-Shell

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Película de Sueño (Dream Movie)

I had that weird movie-like dream this morning about a green swamp monster who only preyed on people -- especially women -- who ate yellow squash. And of how the monster accidentally got on the trail of a friend of mine who was always sponging off people and borrowing their food.

Oddly enough, the friend in the dream had an English accent -- and I don't have any real-life friends who have English accents. But then I haven't run into any swamp monsters in real life either.

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