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Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Last month, a friend on Facebook told me about Roku. This is a little device — not too pricey, either — that one hooks up to one’s television and it uses the house wireless connection to stream Netflix, HuluPlus and several other entertainment services for which one might otherwise use a computer.

The recommendation was in response to my complaining that my little netbook takes forever to buffer Netflix movies and I had to constantly restart until they played smoothly.

The Book Group

So I’ve been watching all sorts of things on my little Rokus. I adore British anything, particularly British television shows, so Netflix gave me a list of shows I might like. One of them is called The Book Group. It’s about a woman (Claire) from Cincinnati who moves to Glasgow, Scotland, and starts a book club (or “group” — she insists there’s a difference) in order to make friends.

The people who show up include a man in a wheelchair to Claire’s third-floor walk-up apartment with his brothers in two to carry him and his chair up all the stairs and three women married to professional soccer players, two of whom are from the Netherlands, among a few others. It has the makings of a very sarcastic, funny series. But instead, it’s a black comedy and very subtle. One of the group members dies of a drug overdose and his cat nibbles a bit on his body before his brother finds him. Contrast that with the line from the first episode that On the Road by Jack Kerouac would have been a much shorter book if it was set in Scotland.

I admit, I giggled. It worked.

Inspiration from Pinterest.com.

As a writer, though, I’m enjoying the show. Wheelchair man writes a novel and it’s published. But it’s, apparently, not a good book. The publisher tells him so. The publisher goes on and on about how terrible the book is right before saying there’s a market for it and he’s going to publish it. He says all one must do is look at the best-sellers list to realize that the majority of the ready public is “very stupid.” He’s disgusted by what sells, but his business is making money selling the public what it wants. This was particularly apropos after a Facebook conversation a few days ago about 50 Shades of Grey. I have to wonder how many editors and publishers feel that way about some of the books they put out there. Because, let’s face it, there are a lot of terrible books selling like hotcakes. I’m glad someone finally had the nerve to say it.

But what really stuck with me, what really is making a difference in my life, the thing I need to remind myself of every single say is this: One of the characters goes to see a published author speak about his latest novel. They end up having a brief affair and she suggests one of his books for the group and he attends to meeting. In the course of speaking about his process, he tells the group that he used to putter around the house all day waiting for inspiration and it never came. So now he sits down at his desk at nine every morning and just starts. And the words come and he writes twenty pages a day.

So I’m trying something similar to that. Since I have a full-time job that is not writing a novel, I can’t sit down at nine every morning and just write all day. But I have decided to dedicate a minimum of one hour per day to it. I’ve done that for three days now and plan to continue today.

My friend Amy over at Mrs. Thor is in a similar situation — trying to get inspired and trying to make significant changes in her personal and creative life. So we’ve started our own private little writing group, though I don’t know that’s the appropriate term. We’re going to speak on the phone once a week and set goals for ourselves (like my writing an hour a day) and then check in by e-mail each day on whether we met the goals. It’s no pressure, but it’s still being accountable to someone else and hopefully inspired by the other person’s progress.

So far, I’ve added 3,100 words to my novel and rewritten a short story from a few months ago. It feels good.

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Persistence Pays Off

I last saw Katie Cazorla about fifteen years ago. I was at the Arnot Mall in Big Flats, New York, with my friends Missy and Mikey.

Mikey is a guy who has no shame and will pretty much do anything for a laugh. That day, he thought it would be fun to try on skirts at The Limited (or possibly Express — I can never keep those stores straight). The three of us went in and found Katie working there with another girl. It was a slow day and they were more than happy to help Mikey find the perfect skirt for his manly figure.

He didn’t buy anything, but we all had fun helping him try them on.

Katie was a year behind me in high school. I think we maybe had a class or two together over the years — probably gym class. We weren’t friends, we weren’t enemies. She was just another face in the crowd to me, and probably I to her.

But because we went to the same high school, inevitably, we have some contacts in common. I probably never would have thought about her again after Skirtgate, but MySpace and Facebook came along. Both those social networking sites like to try to connect users to other users based on having a mutual friend of a friend of a friend of a friend — usually people you’ve never heard of.

Katie pops up on my feed every once in a while. And because of that, I learned a few years ago that she’d moved to California to try to break into show business. I learned she moved in with a man who is a pretty big deal in the music industry — he’s a writer and producer, so most people in “the real world” probably don’t know his name, but from what I’ve read, we all should.

Katie did some Internet-based acting and she has a skeletal profile on the Internet Movie Database. She was getting nowhere fast and eventually opened a nail salon, The Painted Nail.

And that was the last I heard.

On Wednesday, Facebook recommended I might like to be friends with Katie. I hadn’t thought about her in months and months. And then yesterday morning, I had the TV on Law & Order: Criminal Intent while getting ready for work. During a commercial break, I saw an ad for a new reality show “by the executive director of Jersey Shore” called The Nail Files. I happened to look up at the television only to see Katie Cazorla running around the screen in the promo. (The show premieres Tuesday at 10 on the TV Guide Channel.)

As much as I like to pretend I’m above caring about celebrities, I have to admit I think it’s pretty cool. I mean, she’s not my best friend or anything, but she is someone I sort of know and she is going to be sort of famous.

But besides the starstruck thing, the news started my brain. Katie had a goal and she worked at it for years. She made it happen. She probably didn’t sit around thinking, “But what if they say no?” She didn’t wring her hands and get all nervous about it. She just put her head down and went for it. It took a while, but she arrived.

I think I could learn a thing or two from her.

Congratulations, Katie.

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Animal

The cable channel TNT plays reruns of Bones and to advertise recently, the network has been playing the song Animal by Neon Trees in the promo. That’s the first place I heard the song, but it’s been played a lot on the radio recently, too. I’m totally in love. It’s a perfect hybrid of the best music of the 1980s and the 1990s Grunge era.

Enjoy:

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TV OD

For the last five-plus years, I’ve paid no more than $11 a month for cable. That was the lowest possible amount I could get away with and not have to deal with an antenna and the new digital TV that only comes in clearly when it feels like it (from what I’ve seen, anyway).

That meant a limited number of channels. In all these years, unless I was visiting someone with at least the full basic cable, I haven’t watched any of the 24-hour news networks. I haven’t seen MTV, VH1, Lifetime or any of the reality shows that appear on those channels. We had Discovery for a few years, before moving to Tallahassee. That was before Jon and Kate Plus 8. I’ve lived in a lovely little bubble.

It wasn’t guaranteed that at any hour of any day I could find an episode of some iteration of the Law & Order series. Many hours of many days, there was nothing on television worth watching. I liked it that way.

I’ve been trying for the last year or so to watch less TV than I was even watching, read more, write more, spend more time outside. Limited options allowed for that.

Enter Comcast Cable to spoil my plans.

I received a letter a few weeks ago saying that Comcast is switching from its analog signal to all digital. In order to continue receiving any channels above channel 24, I think it was, I had to get special equipment from the cable company. Because not getting the equipment meant losing Animal Planet and TV Land (channels we watch regularly), and the equipment was free, I decided to go ahead and get it.

The letter and the woman I spoke with when I ordered the equipment informed me that I would probably start receiving “a few more channels” than I was currently receiving. The two boxes for our two televisions came last week. “A few more channels” turned out to be all the channels I would get for $50 a month on basic cable, plus (on the living room television) On-Demand shows. That means I can watch certain shows and movies any time I want.

Oh-oh …

The newness of it all is wearing off. I’m learning to hit the off button and pick up a book. I’m remembering that half-drunk feeling one gets after laying on the couch for hours staring at a box. It’s not fun. Even Chris, the man, said he misses not having all those channels.

I could disconnect the boxes, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Plus, we wouldn’t get Animal Planet anymore. So we have to learn to live with it.

I’m kind of amused with myself. I subscribed to the cheap package because I didn’t want to pay for more. Now that I’m getting more for the same price, I miss the old days. All this information overload isn’t good. Television has become the monster in all our living rooms. I envy those who made the choice to live without TV. I bet they’re happier and far more productive than the rest of us.

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‘They Invented Gayness’

A little while ago, I wrote about Ardal O’Hanlan and a show he was on called Father Ted.

This being a holiday and all, I figure there won’t be a lot of visitors today, so I didn’t want to “waste” a really great post featuring my superior intellect, skill and philosophical whimsy 😉 , so I decided to share one of the funniest scenes from that series (which we finished watching in its entirety about two weeks ago — you all really should watch it). Unfortunately, embedding was disabled, so you have to click on the video and watch it on YouTube, but it’s worth it.

The setup is that Father Ted and Father Dougal decided to clean the house after the housekeeper fell off the roof and hurt herself. They don’t know where to start and Ted picks up a wide, flat lamp shade, puts it on his head and imitates the stereotypical Chinese person … just as the residents of Craggy Island’s Chinatown are passing by the window. On such a small island, word spreads quickly. If you fish around a bit, you can watch the entire episode in spurts and spats on YouTube. It’s beyond worth it.

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The Gilmore Girls, Redux

Rory and Logan on their "first date" that wasn't really a date.

Last month, I took on the daunting task of watching every episode from all seven seasons of The Gilmore Girls. When I first wrote about it, I was I believe into season two and not quite sure yet what I thought.

It took me about three weeks, but I watched every last episode from start to finish, in order. And I really liked it. The characters grew on me. Lorelei seemed not quite so selfish at the end, but more lost than anything else. But I didn’t like the ending. (WARNING: Spoilers ahead.)

I mean, I liked that Rory graduated from Yale and got a great job and was going off on a great adventure. I liked that Luke and Lorelei got back together (though I wish they’d spent more time on that reunion and maybe even shown a wedding or something). And I liked that Lorelei seemed to have repaired her relationship with her parents.

I didn’t like that Rory wouldn’t marry Logan. That decision took some pondering on my part, but I think I figured it out.

Luke, Lorelei, Rory and Logan

All through the Rory/Logan relationship, I was really rooting for them. I really liked the Logan character and thought the two were soul mates (if such a thing exists). And then she said no to his proposal because she wanted a career. Normally, I would say maintaining one’s independence and pursuing one’s goals are great reasons to turn down marriage. And if I thought Logan was the type of person who would have held her back, I would have applauded her decision. But to me, I think she could have taken the job she took, done it well, built her career up and married Logan all at the same time. He wanted to be with her for the rest of their lives, but he didn’t want to hold her back by doing so.

That’s hard to find. I didn’t understand how she could let him walk away. When she pulled the rocket out at the end, I realized how much more he loved her than she loved him.

And so I was kind of annoyed for a while (not to the extent the Lost finale annoyed me, though). Then I thought it over and realized it was the only decision she could make because she was her mother’s daughter. Lorelei raised an independent, intelligent, driven, well-behaved, asset to society … who is afraid of committment. And after seven seasons and a lot of good story, that’s what the show boiled down to: Lorelei passed her own issues down to the next generation. And that made me sad.

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http://www.soundtrack.cz/ index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=162

 

I’ve had this incredibly long book sitting on a shelf for more years than I can remember. I think I may have picked it up to read once and maybe got to page five, but I’m not even certain about that.  

I intend to read it. It’s on “the list.” Some day. Les Miserables is also on said list with similar results (they’re even the same color!).  

Imagine, then, my delight when NetFlix suggested The Mists of Avalon as a movie I might like — especially since I didn’t know it existed in movie (made-for-TV though it was) form. I could at least get an idea of the book and push it a little further down “the list.” The movie, too, sat in my queue for much longer than I intended, but I have hundreds of movies and television series and you name it’s that I’m trying to watch before I die and there are only so many hours in a lifetime.  

Finally, though, I but the bullet and got the movie a couple weeks ago and watched it last Sunday. All three hours of it. As of this writing (two days after watching the movie), I’m still processing.  

There are movies and books that stick with me for months after the experience. They take root in my brain, planting seeds of ideas and encouraging deep thoughts or a yearning to return to the world of which they showed me such a small, enticing glimpse.  

I don’t know yet if Avalon had such an effect.  

Morgan Le Fay (Photo courtesy http://www.tintagelcastle.nl/ html/morgan_le_fay_big.html)

 

A quick synopsis for those who aren’t familiar: The Mists of Avalon is the King Arthur stories (some of them, anyway) told from the perspective of his half sister, Morgana Le Fay. It focuses mainly on the women in the story and begins with Morgana (Morgain in the movie — her name varies in each tale, depending on who tells it) claiming that all the King Arthur tales told before are lies. It shows Morgana as a heroine and champion of her brother rather than the traditional stories of Morgana as his enemy. The Lady of the Lake is their aunt and a real person presiding over the fabled Avalon, where King Arthur is supposed to have gone in place of death, awaiting the day when he can return to power over England (the Once and Future King).  

The battle in Avalon is between The Lady and a third sister (not Arthur and Morgain’s mother) over control of Camelot and Avalon. Queen Guinevere is a much less noble character in this version, flawed and jealous, but in a very sympathetic way.  

That is the general story.  

The Virgin Mary (http://www.catholicsforkucinich.com/ memorare.html)

What lies beneath is the evolution of the British Isles from paganism to Christianity. It chronicles the Christians’ acceptance of the “old religion” as Christianity slowly swallows up pagan traditions until those traditions lose their pagan roots and appear to be the sole property of the stronger religion.  

Avalon disappears into the ether along with worship of The Goddess, explained in the movie as the yin to Father God of Christianity’s yang. The very end of the movie, however, shows The Goddess living on in worship of the Virgin Mary in Christianity and this gives Morgain hope that the old religion will one day return, as she so longs for it to do.  

This is not a new or original concept. I think it was in an art history class, studying Gothic architecture and specifically Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral (notre dame translates to “our lady”) that I first heard of The Cult of the Virgin. Early Christian leaders realized it was easier to draw pagans into the new religion than it was to conquer them. Being that paganism is the worship of a Mother Earth-type figure, a goddess, Christian leaders elevated Christ’s mother to a status she did not earlier occupy in order to make the transition easier on the new converts. Mary gave the pagans a goddess to worship, but one approved by Christians, which led to the pagans’ full acceptance of the new religion. This probably happened slowly over generations more than all at once, but it worked.  

The movie didn’t go into much detail about Mary. This idea is an afterthought. I don’t know about the book. I guess I’ll have to read it.  

Regardless, the concept of Mary as an embodiment of the goddess of paganism often brings joy to my heart. My spiritual beliefs are a mishmash of ideas, many of them at odds with each other. I don’t pretend to know any answers. I won’t say one religion is right and another wrong. I don’t know enough to make that judgment. More often than not, I’m not sure what I believe. I’ve considered embracing Judaism or Catholicism at different points in my life, being the religions of my parents and what I’m most familiar with. I’ve attended Protestant and Unitarian churches and they most definitely do not move me the way Judaism and Catholicism do.  

But I cannot accept the entire doctrine of either faith. And I feel strongly that Eastern religions have a lot to offer. I’ve attended a meditation seminar at the local Buddhist community, I practice yoga and I read Eat, Pray, Love. I’ve found much to embrace in those practices, but also much to reject and again, I’m at odds with my own thoughts.  

Notre Dame de Paris (Photo by Christopher Kramer of San Francisco, CA, via Wikipedia.com)

 

One thing I’m certain of, though, is that the greater universe and everything beyond is a larger model of life on Earth. That means, to me, that there is no masculine without the feminine and vice versa. A god and a goddess. A woman cannot create life without a man and a man cannot create life without a woman. Even cloned animals have proven to be highly flawed. I’m all about logic and sense and that is what makes sense to me.  

And because of that, I found much wisdom in the Avalon movie. What I’m unsure of is the motivation and honesty of it. That will take more pondering on my part. Maybe I’ll pull the book off the shelf in the next few weeks, if I ever finish the book I’m currently reading. It’s far more grounded. It’s time for something mystical.

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