Sunday, July 29, 2012

Return to Dallas

After twenty years, Dallas is back, and it's almost as good as it used to be. Focusing on a younger generation, but still making time for the original characters, the show has cleverly designed an appeal to its old viewers, and is prepared to bring in lots of new ones. The story lines are pretty much more of the same, and that's okay. We're not expecting Shakespeare here. What we are expecting is intriguing stories, driven by intriguing characters.

 Of the new young actors, the best job is done by Jordana Brewster, who plays a geologist caught in a love triangle between the two Ewing boys. By focusing on the little moments, she can lend a sense of realism to her scenes that the other young actors lack. Also, being that she is Latina, her character helps represent Dallas' enormous Latin population. Second, is Josh Henderson as John Ross, whose screen presence alone makes up for any lack of depth. The actor has a lot going for him, but is untrained. That means the show will be his training ground and we'll have to give him a year to see if he can live up to expectations. He does seem tailor made for the role, so I'm confidant he will ultimately not disappoint as J.R. Junior. I'm not sure why they cast Jesse Metcalfe as Christopher. I have seen this actor in several television roles, and he has never showed a great deal of talent. Since several of the actors on the show have appeared on Desperate Housewives, I think it may be a matter of who he knows, rather than what he is capable of. Julie Gonzalo plays Rebecca, a reforming con-artist. She's not very convincing with her scenes of desperate repentance, and I think the actress may find that aspect of the story to be as preposterous as we do. A character's motivations have to be believable, and in this case, they aren't. Of the younger characters, John Ross and Christopher were born on the show during the early 1980's, so they should be around thirty years old. I believe that is consistent with the age of the actors.

The stronger acting is done, not surprisingly, by the veterans of the show. Of them, Patrick Duffy is given the most to do, and he is more or less the show's main character. I suspect that Linda Gray and Larry Hagman negotiated light work schedules, which limits their screen time, but that keeps us wanting more, which isn't a bad thing. Larry Hagman's performance is always engrossing because he has the ability to jump from one mood to another with ease. In one scene he can be jolly, then quickly turn around and be crotchety, then come back as tender. If you look at some of Hagman's early work, before I Dream of Jeannie, you'll find that he has always shown a strong capability for multi-dimensional acting.

What Dallas has always done best is to present the greed and ostentation that defines Texas. From it's grand introduction, to its scenery, and most importantly to the way the characters interact with their surroundings, it really comes down to how one saddles up a horse and how one pours a drink. These are people who know how to live big. They own it all. The Southfork Ranch is different than it used to be, and that is disappointing. Originally, much of the action took place in the parlor, where the family gathered before dinner. Now it tends to take place in the kitchen, and though the Ewings have a cook, they seem to be more or less involved in many of the household chores. This could be considered a character choice, being that Bobby is now the primary resident, and he was always the more homespun of the brothers. I'd like to see the old floor plan back, and this could be incorporated should the more lavish J.R. take control of the ranch. I give them credit for addressing the lack of continuity between the exterior and interior of the house in the original series, as the outside view was of a one story house, while the inside had two.

Oddly, the show almost takes on an element of science fiction, with Christopher's development of methane ice as a form of green energy. It isn't so far off from reality though, since methane hydrate does exist, and is being investigated. It does have mass energy potential, but is extremely dangerous, as this article explains: Maybe this television show can be a harbinger of the future by raising awareness of a potential new industry.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Olympic Hats

Much has been said this past week about the new Olympic uniforms. Mainly, it was criticism of them being made in China. Now that they have pledged to make the next batch state front, and two weeks worth of work for about thirty people has been planned for some time in the year 2015, we can move on to the secondary criticism which was aimed at the hats the athletes will be wearing. Ralph Lauren chose berets, which some patriotic Americans feel are a little too French. Sacre Bleu, I say!

Since the hats have already been made, and nobody involved wants to lose money by ditching them, I'd like to offer my suggestions for less controversial pieces next time around. Looking ahead to 2016, here's some ideas I have for head wear in the next Olympics which will avoid any homage to our international frenemy:

Since we aren't too fond of the French these days, maybe we could take our cues from our most loyal ally, the British. An American tweaked bowler cap would be quite distinctive. We could accent the outfit with a monocle to give it a sense of style that is not quite timeless, but would be timeful.

If we decide to stick to something more American, we could go with the simple baseball cap. Baseball is the all-American sport, after all. Everybody in America wears baseball caps; and we wear them all the time. We wear them to baseball games, to picnics, to school, and to restaurants. We wear them so much, I've gotten sick of them. They're way on the casual side, but Americans do pride themselves on their lack of deportment. These would go over without a hitch for everybody but me.

The cowboy hat is a quintessential part of American lore, even though nobody really wears them except to rodeos and country music concerts. They are pretty damn sexy, and we can all appreciate that, but I don't think they would really work without blue jeans and boots.

Beanies are still popular, (aren't they?) Our athletes could go for that "gangsta" look. The 2016 Games are scheduled to be held in Rio De Janeiro, where it's hot, so I'm thinking it's probably better to save these for the winter games.

My personal favorite is the fedora. Distinctive for both the American gangster (that's "gangSTER," not "gangSTA", thank you very much.) and the film noire detective. You can never go wrong with a fedora, no matter how uncool you are. It would nix the whole "made in America" theme they have planned though, because fedora's should only be made in Italy.

And as for those giant Ralph Lauren polo ponies emblazoned on this years jackets; it's tacky. I for one would not want to pay to be a walking advertisement. I'd rather wear a beret.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tera, Queen of the Succubi

This witch gave my short story a bad review!

Her name is Tera, and she is the self-proclaimed queen of the succubi. I'm being tongue-in-cheek when I call her a witch, and considering where her interests lie, I don't think she'd mind. "Queen of the Succubi" is kind of witchy sounding, after all. Also, I'm not upset that I received a bad review. I'm actually grateful that she took the time to read and review my story. She runs what could almost be an internet empire devoted to the subject of succubi and their brethren. It not only consists of her blog, where she reviews stories, movies, artwork and costumes; but also a succubi wiki, a forum, and a gallery.

The first thing I wonder about Tera, is if she has a job, since the webpage she runs is pretty extensive. I'm not sure if she's making any money off the enterprise, but I haven't seen any advertisements on her pages, so I'll assume that she doesn't. I think that's unfortunate, since she updates her pages every day, and obviously puts a lot of time into finding succubi related material and then writing about it. She obviously loves the subject, and has found a niche in the horror market that has not yet been exploited. If you like horror, particularly of the camp sort, you'll enjoy the blog. Her appreciation for succubi tends to focus on their sexual nature, and contrary to how I view them, she does not consider them to be evil. It is exclusively about succubi though, which can be a little overwhelming for general horror fans, but with all the options available on the internet, finding that niche is important.

Because of her hard work in maintaining the site, the extensiveness of the information, and its unique subject matter, I give it five pitchforks out of five.

You can read Tera's less than stellar review of my story at the following link:
A Succubi's Tale

While you're there, you can follow the links available to check out the rest of her network.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bristol Boring

I like train wrecks. They're fun, especially when I'm not involved. I'm speaking of reality shows here. The kind that spotlight a not-so-ready-for-an-off-network-series star with the word "star" in quotation marks. I tuned in to Bristol Palin's reality show to see such a train wreck, and was utterly disappointed. I didn't laugh with her, and I didn't laugh at her. So what's the point?

Some of the keys to a reality series train wreck is that the star must a) have a big ego, b) be able to laugh at themselves, and c) be totally non self-aware.

Bristol Palin does not have a big ego. I'd go so far as to say she lacks self-esteem, which is probably why she allowed herself to get pregnant by the likes of Levi Johnson to begin with. Her problem is that her identity is completely wrapped up in her mother's. She worships her mother. Her mother's opinions are her opinions. In the two episodes that I watched, she sings her mother praises throughout. She is no Sarah Palin though, and that bothers her. I'm sure it's natural for a girl to want to be like her mother, but at a certain age, it's time to take the parent off the pedestal. She takes after her father more in the personality department anyway.  The sooner she accepts that, the sooner she will find her own voice.

She has no sense of humor. When a Sarah Palin impersonator approaches her, she indicates that she finds that weird. When a man on the street converses with said impersonator, thinking she's the real thing, Bristol is perplexed as to why the impersonator plays along. The people she surrounds herself with are no less boring. It's mostly her younger sister Willow, who one might classify as the bitchy Palin, and her boyfriend Gino, who acts more like her puppy dog than a potential life partner. The series is trying hard to portray her new boyfriend as the anti-Levi. Most of us watching know better. We can see it in the way he plays with guns and other toys. He's a Levi clone, though with enough sense to know when he's got a good meal ticket in the works.

She does lack self-awareness though, having clearly bought into her mother's press about how right they are on everything, and how wrong everybody else is. She thinks the media picks on her and her mother. She claims thousands of people send them death threats. She judges protesters with the familiar jargon, "Why don't they get a job?"; which begs the question about whether Bristol herself could get a job if her last name wasn't Palin. Almost all of the press she has received lately revolves around her hypocritical opinions and her crybaby responses to criticism. If this were played up in the series, it would be entertaining. Instead it is downplayed, leading one to suspect that perhaps the Palins have a little too much control over the editing process.

Part of the premise that was advertised for the show was that Bristol is striking out on her own, trying to break away from her mother's shadow. From what I saw, she has no intention of doing so. Her life is comfortable in Alaska. She doesn't want to challenge what she thinks she knows about the world. This show isn't about personal growth, it's about validating a belief system that has been extremely profitable for her family. If they really want to make this thing exciting, they should force her to interact with a liberal on a regular basis. It would be staged of course, since she makes it clear that she doesn't associate with those kinds of people, but hey, she might actually grow from the experience.