My Simpsons avatar, courtesy of my 10-year old, from this site. It's a shocking revelation of both my inner Milhous and the fact that I really should become reacquainted with the gym sometime soon.
Corinna: It says here that Sweetwater hosts the annual sorghum festival. What the h*** is sorghum?
Alex: Third most popular cereal grain in the country.
Corinna: How do you know that?
Alex: I'm a gardener. I know crops. What's the address again?
Corinna: Four fifty-five.
Alex: No, no way.
Corinna: No what? You don't even know what this says.
Alex: It says that we have to rob the bank.
Corinna: How do you know that?
Alex: I wasn't always a gardener.
Alex Tully, we hardly knew ye. Drive got cancelled after just four episodes over three nights. Those of us who got hooked too quickly are waiting for the final two episodes to show up somewhere, anywhere, after they were scheduled to air July 4th, then yanked and rescheduled for July 13th, then apparently scrubbed altogether. (Hey, Fox...ya might want to check into that Long Tail thing.)
I'm back from a 2,700-mile drive myself. We took the quintessential summer family car drive vacation, looping through the Great Plains, with Mount Rushmore as the epicenter. My favorite serendipitous soundtrack moment of the drive: switching on the radio after heading onto the interstate out of Miles City in "Big Sky" Montana; a station comes in, clear as a bell. It's playing The Who's "I Can See For Miles and Miles."
When I drive, music is essential company (although sometimes to distraction). The CD's in my commute car/mom taxi have to wear well over weeks, and sometimes months, of repeated listening, and now it's time to change out the CD changer for these summer tunes:
Pale Young Gentlemen, Pale Young Gentlemen
David Daniels, Serenade
Sly and the Family Stone, Greatest Hits
Haydn, Auenbrugger Sonatas (Ronald Brautigam, fortepiano)
Bangles, Greatest Hits
Elvis Costello, Armed Forces.
Time for a silly blog list, yes? Here are my 25 favorite TV characters ever (originated by James Gunn, via Whedonesque, including a list from Joss!). I've broken some of Gunn's rules (whaddya mean no cartoons?), and arranged these somewhat chronologically:
1. Morticia Addams (Carolyn Jones), The Addams Family. Wife, mother, gardener...who says you can't have it all?
2. Chet Kincaid (Bill Cosby), The Bill Cosby Show. Noteworthy ep: "A Christmas Ballad." First season just released on DVD(!).
3. Dr. Bombay (Bernard Fox), Bewitched. The cranky quack was the only thing that saved this show from the switch from B&W to color and from York to Sargent.
4. Arnold Ziffel ("Arnold the piggy"), Green Acres. Some pig!
5. "Nanny" Phoebe Figalilly (Juliet Mills), Nanny and the Professor. Noteworthy ep: "A Letter for Nanny"...the one where Nanny cries.
6. Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk), Columbo. Noteworthy ep: "Try and Catch Me" with Ruth Gordon.
7. Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin), The Night Stalker. Goofy, scary, perfect.
8. Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), The Mary Tyler Moore Show. At her best before she got skinny. Noteworthy ep: "Love Blooms at Hemple's."
9. Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx), Sanford and Son. Favorite mixed drink: Cranberry juice and Ripple: 'Cripple'.
10. Sergeant Foley (Bruce Solomon), Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. The inexplicably irresistible almost-love interest of the pigtailed Louise Lasser.
11. Assistant Crown Attorney Heather Redfern (Janet-Laine Greene), Seeing Things. The buttoned-up lawyer whose teenage crush was not Paul McCartney, but Glenn Gould.
12. Detective Ron Harris (Ron Glass), Barney Miller. Dapper and literary...I'd always hoped to be set up on a blind date with someone just like him.
13. Bradley Raines (James Rebhorn), Guiding Light. The indelible soap opera role. (District Attorney Norwalk in Carlito's Way? That's evil stepfather Bradley! Dr. Bowman the psychiatrist in Far From Heaven? That's evil stepfather Bradley!)
14. 'Coach' Ernie Pantusso (Nick Colasanto), Cheers. To whom thanks are owed for teaching us that Albania's chief export is chrome, and for (as director Nick Colasanto) the two best episodes of Columbo ever, "Etude in Black" and "Swan Song".
15. David Addison (Bruce Willis), Moonlighting. If you ignore the smirking, the "singing" and the bogus final chase scenes, there's actually something to see here. Noteworthy ep: "Knowing Her," with Dana Delany and the Isley Brothers' "This Old Heart of Mine.".
16. Dana Scully (Gilllian Anderson), The X-Files. Held her own even after this show jumped the shark and skidded down to the bowels of hell. Noteworthy ep: "Beyond the Sea."
17. Sheriff Lucas Buck (Gary Cole), American Gothic. The perfect role for the always awesome Jeffrey MacDonald-Mike Brady-Bill Lundbergh-Cotton McKnight Gary Cole.
18. Executive Assistant DA Benjamin Stone (Michael Moriarty), Law and Order. The first and the best.
19. "Sideshow Bob" Terwilliger (Kelsey Grammer), The Simpsons. Noteworthy ep: "Cape Feare".
20. The Chief (Lynne Thigpen), Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Authoritative and soothing, she was the first talking head that got a smile out of my colicky first born.
21. Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Noteworthy ep: "Once More, With Feeling."
22. Hal (Bryan Cranston), Malcolm in the Middle. Noteworthy ep: "Rollerskates". Please tell me that was not a stunt man skating to "Funky Town".
23. Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), 24. Let me get this straight: Tony is dead, and Audrey is alive? 24 writers got some 'splaining to do...
24. Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), Firefly. Coming back to TV in reruns next month, in high-definition (!), if you get Universal HD on cable.
25. The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), Doctor Who. My other car is The TARDIS.
The sign in the first-grade classroom reads: "Today is fantastic Friday."
My seven-year-old tugs at my sleeve and asks, "Eight o'clock tonight, right?"
It's our new Friday night routine: me and our new little Whovian watch the revived Doctor Who (the "first" season, which originally aired last year in the UK), with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor—thrilling, smokin' hot, and, (as this Doctor would say,) Fantastic!
We're already more than halfway through this incarnation of the Doctor, whose 13-episode lifespan will turn out to be shorter than that of a Firefly.
In the episode "Rose," an obsessed amateur who's been investigating and tracking the Doctor shows Rose (the Doctor's companion in this series) photos with evidence of the Doctor's time-travelling appearances in pivotal scenes in history: the JFK assassination, the launch of the Titanic, the eruption of Krakatoa. If he had dug deeper, he might have also unearthed evidence of the Doctor's influence in the history of popular music:
Look, I got hijacked down the information superhighway (thanks, Fredösphere), so I need to unload this stuff now so I can go get some work done:
We start with:
An intriguing newspaper bit about the true origins of the Doctor Who theme and the uncredited contributions of electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire.
Everything you wanted to know (and more!)—and didn't even know to ask—about the history of the Doctor Who theme (with lots more about Delia Derbyshire).
Which brings us to:
A Doctor Who theme site with sound files—and sheet music.
(How's that song go? "I Enjoy Being a Geek.")
Last Sunday's half-day marathon of Columbo on the Hallmark Channel included my favorite episode, "Étude in Black," with guest villain John Cassavetes playing an irresistible cad of a symphony conductor. Nick ("Coach") Colasanto directed the episode (as he did with my next favorite episode, "Swan Song" with Johnny Cash). Steven Bochco wrote the episode, and Myrna Loy and Blythe Danner (then enceinte de Gwyneth Paltrow, according to imdb.com) are featured in significant roles. Cassavetes' conducting is a joke (deliberate, I'm convinced), as he waves the baton wildly out of beat with the music, and affects a laughably beatific expression during a random passage of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. He makes an after-concert visit to the home of his mistress, wearing his sunglasses at night (don't mess a-round with the guy in shades, oh no), and even indoors, the only purpose of which is to allow the camera to show (in a split-second, hilariously clumsy special effect), reflected in the lenses of the sunglasses, the incriminating flower that fell on the floor of his mistress's living room while the maestro was committing his crime.
That flower is a border carnation, in a beautiful, pale, slightly cyanotic pink, from plantings grown by the conductor's heiress wife (played by Blythe Danner) in a large oblong planter next to the tennis courts of their estate. She hesitates through the botanical name of the flower: Dianthus----caryo--phyll--us, and explains to Columbo that it's a "shorter and scrubbier" version of the typical florist's carnation. Her husband wears a carnation from her garden as a boutonniere whenever he conducts, she says. And when it's proven that he didn't on the fateful night, he's busted, of course.
I ordered some Dianthus caryophyllus seeds from Thompson & Morgan this year, in a variety named 'King of the Blacks', promised to flower in deep, dark red. T&M earns high marks from me for customer solicitude: it enclosed an extra packet of the seeds with the order, explaining that it was concerned about reports of irregular germination, and recommending that all the seeds in both packets be planted. Whoa...after exceedingly successful germination (and excessive required thinning), it looks like I may end up with enough border carnation (blood red instead of pale pink) to fill a large planter, in homage to this Cassavetes Columbo, and to be renamed, during its stay in my garden, Dianthus caryophyllus 'Étude in Black'.
All right. This weekend's final encore showing of The Office Special is in progress, so anyone who would care about the spoilers ought to have watched it already or is watching it now. I saw the special last night, after much worry about whether the show would succumb to the thing that I fear and loathe, The Dishonest Happy Ending. My husband only stayed up long enough to catch the hilarious music video of David Brent's cover of Simply Red's cover of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' "If You Don't Know Me By Now". When I tried to describe the denouement of the Tim-and-Dawn storyline to him this morning, I couldn't do it without it coming out totally hokey. But it wasn't hokey; it was brilliant. I won't try to describe it here either, except to say that I loved that there were no swelling anthems of Love Lifting Them Up Where They Belonged or They Had The Time of Their Lives and They Never Felt This Way Before. Instead, the scene is set in the office after hours, temporarily converted to a dismal venue for the office Christmas party, and as Dawn comes back to Tim, after he's thought he'd seen the last of her, the song that's playing at the party is the all-alone, 2 a.m., cry-in-your-beer song, "Only You", sung by Alison Moyet from her days with Yaz. I did not expect that I would be happy at this happy ending, and I am so happy that I was so wrong.
I pulled off the plastic name badge as I stepped out into the night air. Long day; time to crawl back home. Short day; already dark before dinner. I'd just left a meet and greet with a hundred other suits. We'd all stepped around the four kids in tails sawing at strings off to the side. No mike for the brunch music. My ears were still ringing from the the boom boom room, pulling out of the Kohl Center lot. I took the Bug putt-putting down University. I thought I was heading home. But the Bug steered right, into the parking lot of the big box bookstore, by post-hypnotic suggestion. I checked it out. No big book at the big box. But I spied a diversion. Ellroy of El Lay would be reading. Haven't read him. Why not see him. I joined the crowd. The chairs were filled. I stood at the back next to a big fellow. Canary yellow sweatshirt. Faded jeans. An introduction was being read. Tall guy watched and laughed. I tuned it out, waiting for the main attraction. I picked up and flipped through a book from the shelf next to me. The Quotable Slayer. Willow says she's tasted evil. She's asked what it was like. She says, kinda chalky. Good for a low-grade heh. Loses points with Kennedy in the scene. I looked up. Intro was over. Phil Jackson next to me loped up to the podium. Oops. That was Ellroy. Good reading. A little bit beat poet. A little bit Dr. Johnny Fever. I don't know from noir, but I'll give The Cold Six Thousand a whirl. My new copy's inscribed: "To Chan: Historical slash-out!" Someone tell me what that means. The Q&A was cool. Ellroy hates jazz. Ellroy loves classical. Ellroy gives a list. It begins with Beethoven. Ellroy goes for Hammett over Chandler. Ellroy says, Chandler wrote the kind of man he wanted to be. Ellroy says, Hammett wrote the man he was afraid he was. Me, when I read Chandler, I get stuck on him. I read Chandler:
The man called Costello shrugged his shoulders briefly. The red-haired man at the table turned a little in his chair and looked at Mallory with the impersonal air of a collector studying an impaled beetle. Then he took a cigarette out of a neat black case and lit it carefully with a gold lighter.Oooh, I say. Do that again. An hour later, I'm still on the same page. And I haven't read any Hammett—hell, Hellman's man. But look what I find in the next Fortune Cookie.
My intermittent insomnia seems to have returned of late. I can blame a multilayered to-do list (I visualize it as a combination of Möbius strip and infinity symbol) which, of course, is so much more efficient to tackle while lying awake in the middle of the night. And I suppose that it doesn't help that I love the java jive, and it loves me. But I'll be fighting fire with fire (or coffee bean with herb), and plucking off a pound or two of hops blossoms from my Humulus lupulus 'Bianca' to stuff into a pillow for soporific effect...let's hope the herbalists are right about this one.
So there I was, watching a rerun of the series finale of The Office at zero-dark-thirty hours the other night. I'm a big fan of this show, but it's not one you can leave innocently on in the living room with children wandering in and out, so I hadn't yet seen this episode. Now, this quiz claims that I'm Jennifer Taylor Clarke, but I believe my gender skews the result; really, Tim Canterbury, c'est moi. (As an aside, although I'm just a bit nervous about the planned screen adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I'm more than comfortable with the casting of Martin Freeman, who plays Tim, as Arthur Dent. I like Sam "Rudimentary Lathe" Rockwell, but I'm not sure I'm feeling him as Zaphod Beeblebrox. And I'm really torn about Malkovich—great, great actor (and the one true Ripley), but signed on to play a new character not in the book? As I said, I'm a little nervous.) But back to The Office. [Readers note: spoilers follow.]