Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Friday, June 28, 2013


Realized I haven't done a stupid meme for a while.  Today's stupid meme is one that I have little to say about....


It is kinda funny.

And at the same time...

How sad it is to care more about the inanimate than people.  Be careful. One may end up alone with his or her gun and  bacon, although I suppose the gun could be used to hunt the bacon.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Watching History

There is a Chinese curse of "May you live in interesting times." The past two days have been truly amazing as far as interesting times.

It started yesterday, with the Supreme Court's gutting one of the historic civil rights  law by avoiding the problem all together by passing the law back to Congress.  No doubt the more conservative members of the court are relying on Congress to be unable to act. This includes Chief Justice Robert. He had tried to get rid of the Voting Rights Act since the 1980s and no doubt thinks that our dysfunctional Congress will be unable to refit the law despite the number of hearings and discussions they had in 2006 before the law was over-whelmingly re-approved by vote and signed by Bush.  The most conservative of the Justices, Justice Scalia wrote his belief that since Congress was wrong, the court needed to make it right.  There is virtually no mention in the decision in relationship to how the Voting Rights Act violates the Constitution.  Congress's next actions following this ruling announcing they are too inept to get it right, may get interesting.

Yet in a scathing condemnation on the majority decision, Scalia wrote that the court had no business involving itself in the legislative laws of Congress when it comes to DOMA. Today, more history was added when the court first punted the Proposition 8 law back to California saying the law had no standing with the court.  This was closely followed by the court ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. This time the majority opinion actually cited the Constitution for its reason.  Still, though the High Court made Federal laws applicable only to those states that recognize same sex marriage as legal.  So what is next? Most likely for those states which don't repeal their amendments and laws,there will come in a series of law suits by persons who legally married in one state and demand that a new state they now live in recognize their union and that refusal of that state to recognize prevents them from Federal recognition. This then becomes unequal treatment under constitutional law.  This also is going to have issues for openly gays in the military as the Federal government now will recognize them as legal unions while states in which the military base exists does not.  It's going to get interesting.

And between these astonishing pieces of history, there was the amazing filibuster in the Texas senate during a special session.  Yesterday in a bid for Texas to ban abortion and close all but five women's health clinics in the state, a lone Texas senator named Wendy Davis held the floor for nearly ten hours trying to stop the passage of the bill.  It was astonishing political theatrics regardless of where anyone stands on the issue.  After having violated and very technically so, the rules of Texas filibuster which are quite strict, Senator Davis lost the floor. Then other senators began asking a series of parliamentary inquiries to keep the bill from reaching a vote.  With fifteen minutes left in the session, the spectators began to cheer, scream, and chant so loudly, that the required oral vote could not take place.  It was really amazing as I and some 160,000 plus folks watched it unfold live on YouTube.  Even more astounding was the attempt by the Republicans to announce that the vote had actually taken place before the deadline at 11:58 instead of 12:02.  It quickly became clear that with over 100k witnesses, the ploy would not work.  Three hours later the Lt. Governor of Texas, president of the senate announced that the time was wrong, and the bill had failed. Governor Perry then announced  that there would be a second special session and the law will again begin from scratch.  It will be interesting. 

It is a privilege to watch history unfold. May you live in interesting times.  Indeed.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Monsters University not so Monsterous

It is good family fun and has a few moments of humor, but Monsters University, the Monsters Inc. prequel, lacks the warmth and heart of the first film.  It was to a certain degree little more than an animated version of Revenge of the Nerds in animated form without the nudity, swearing and less than family-friendly  material.  The charm or the original along with the cheap attempts of "cartoon" walkons like (spoiler alert) the Abominable Snowman and Roz, the movie just doesn't connect. I should also point out there is a scene after the credits, but unfortunately I didn't know this and did not see it, but I know what it is.

I know.  I know.  I have friends who loved the movie and more than a few critics loved the movie, but Pixar has lost its edge seeming to go more sequel rather than the cutting and creative edge magic.  Alright, I will give you that Toy Story 3 was a good one, and I enjoyed Brave but Cars 2 and the upcoming Planes just don't look like anything but retreads (sorry for the pun). There was a relationship in the original Monsters that just never seem to occur in the second story. The relationship between Mike, Sulley and Boo never occurs between Mike, Sulley and the Oozma Kappa brothers.

Like most prequels, Monsters University suffers from the fact that everyone knows what's going to happen in the future.  The questions are do we really care how Mike and Sulley became friends or more aptly why Sulley puts up with Mike? Do we care if we find out how Randall became Sulley's enemy? The answer for me, was surprisingly, "No."  John Goodman said in a recent interview that Pixar and Disney never really intended to do a sequel when the first was released.  That may be also one reason this one lacks the originality and soul of the first. There was never meant to be one.

One of the things that have made other successes for Pixar are the careful blending of  grown-up humor with plenty of jokes for the youngsters. Honestly, I felt that this blend was a bit far between.  It was similar in the experience for Cars 2.  The humor was almost too sophisticated for my grand kids who we took. They didn't get it. Monsters University was fun but very predictable.  It was okay.  I will probably not buy it on DVD.  It is, however, a good film for kids.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ads Take Time

Last week, my wife and I were watching episodes from the first season of Remmington Steele, which came out in 1981.  It was the series that shot Pierce Brosnan to stardom.  I noticed that the episode length for Remmington Steele was forty-nine minutes. That means only eleven minutes, or about that, were actually used for advertisements or about eighteen percent of the program.  

It set me to thinking about how many advertisements we are bombarded by.  According to marketing research the average hour long program on US television now contains almost twenty-two minutes of marketing content.  I should define marketing content is not just product ads but also includes advertising for other shows and the station and network the show is on. In other words, an hour show is now thirty-eight minutes long. But it gets worse. This also does not include product placement within the show.

There are more adds in talk television and 'unscripted' reality programs than scripted programs such as 'reality' shows.  I have read that dramas like Fringe and Castle actually run forty-two minutes long.  This includes introductory titles and credits, and so really, the  actual scripted part of the program is shorter than forty-two minutes.  Half hour shows contain about eight and half minutes of ads.  These shows, when they go to cable are often content edited for another minute and a half for cable TV.  An old TV show that was thirty minutes in length ran about twenty-five minutes and thirty seconds leaving just four and a half minutes for advertisements and things like station identification and other shows. So in short ads are now at least double or more in time compared to what they used to be. 

In the 1950's Italian TV which had it advertisements heavily regulated tried to find away around the restrictions which made inserting ads into shows almost impossible.  The result was one of the most popular programs ever created.  Carosello was a comedy sketch or cartoon with major stars, foreign and domestic,  followed by a series of short and usually quite creative commercials.  It was a show for advertisers.  It premiered in 1957 and ran until 1977.The show was a tremendous success.

But now advertisers complain about the skip feature on DVRs.  Imagine that. Here's a thought:  Try to make the shows less mind numbing and the ads more worthwhile.  Maybe folks will watch.  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I Miss The REAL Toy

I recently bought Cracker Jack.  It was their new butter toffee flavor. I bought a bag.  I noted that the larger  package of the original flavor carried banner announcing that it now had more peanuts. The butter toffee has no peanuts and by the way, is not a flavor I will buy again. But I digress.

The toy surprise was a piece of paper with a way to earn points for baseball items and a code for the new Cracker Jack app.  That's right, the toy surprise was an app code.  Now Cracker Jack has not actually given a toy for a very long time.  It has for the past many years been basically a really bad paper and pencil doodle or puzzle or fun fact.  There was  a time it was a really bad water application tattoo, but a piece of paper with an app?  This is a toy surprise?

Once we actually got a cheap, real toy.  When I was growing up Cracker Jack came with a real toy in it.  Not only that "the more peanuts" in the new over-sized package is actually adding back the peanuts that the box once had.  The number of peanuts was reduced in a bid to keep the cost down.  I would point out that for the box, toy, caramel corn complete with peanuts we once paid, I think, 10 cents. Getting rid of the toy and lowering the number of peanuts and probably the size of the box didn't keep the price down.  The toys when I was growing up were plastic.  Before that they were also often made of metal, which was probably not all that safe. But now...this is a toy surprise?

At one point at least the paper surprise, although not a toy, was at least creative.

Now I know the company, Frito-Lay, will most likely argue that the small toys are not safe for little kids, and that was one of the reasons the real toy is gone.  That's not it.  It is the bottom line.  It seems to me, though, that companies have forgotten something along the way that the little extra gives us a reason to buy their product.  An app is not a toy.  A piece of paper is not a toy.  A toy is a toy.  Here's a thought.  Rather than trying to increase sales by offering  badly flavored "new" flavors of Cracker Jack'D or adding back the peanuts we once had or a piece of paper, try going retro. Give us back one of the reasons we once bought Cracker Jack. I can, after all, buy all kinds and cheaper forms of caramel corn. Give us the toy that made Cracker Jack fun.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Man of Steel - No tights, no red boots in the Reboot

First let me say I did like the Man of Steel. Well, I didn't hate it and I know more than a few folks that have hated it.  It is the best of the Superman movies made. It does have issues and is a bit over-effect driven but like most reboots of any value it takes a risk that it may tick off its fan base.  Man of Steel has done this if you listen to the many of the Superman geeks.

So in order to write this review, there will be more than a few spoilers. This is your warning.  Get out now with one bit of advice: save your money, 3D is not worth it for this movie.

The themes of the movie are many and have bothered more than a few.  Let's face it, Superman as the original superhero has always been a savior-figure.  While the Christ figure theme didn't really bother me as much as say the extreme blatant images of the third Matrix movie, it does seem to bother a few.  The studio is so okay with this connection that the actually have a resource web site which includes information for using the movie in Christian teaching.  (SPOILER)Of course, there is the slight issue that Christ didn't kill anyone.   Another theme early on is the failure of leaders to act.  It is clear that Krypton dies because of the political inaction and ineptitude. This is what forces Zod, who is programmed as a defender of the planet, to revolt and revealing him as the villain.  It is a clear statement about those who only act for political reason rather than govern.  There is also the theme of our inability to trust anything we do not understand or more aptly the lack of trust we seem to have these days.  The hopeful future of ET and Close Encounters have been replaced by a more cynical time. This theme, if current polls are accurate, is right on the mark. Are these themes thinly veiled? They are. Like most of the comic books

Zack Snyder, the director of the movie has made a film with little joy.  So if you go in expecting the humor of say a certain red and gold iron avenger movie, you won't get it.  The movie is darker in a tone more along a Batman line.  I know a few critics have remarked on this, but to make a review on a movie because it is a comic book movie and all comic book movies should be have humor and romance, is to limit the genre.  What damages the movie is pacing.  It needs balance.  I do like the creation of how Kal El becomes Clark Kent and how he becomes Superman by using flashback as a good way to build the character.  Henry Cavill is appropriately brooding as Superman.  We don't actually ever get to see much of the bumbling Clark Kent reporter, and we still don't know how Superman shaves his super beard.  Gone in Man of Steel are the red boots and briefs and the bright blue costume.  Gone too is the Superman hair curl. This Superman has a new costume.  I must admit that during one fight sequence when the evil General Zod grabs Superman's cape, I kept hearing the refrain of "NO CAPES!" echo in my head for some reason.  Still the story is good if a bit out of balance between action and dramatic scenes. I am still in awe when I see a British actor doing an American accent so well.  I guess it's because so many American do British accents so very badly.  

The villain is General Zod played by Michael Shannon.  Shannon as villain is an interesting choice.  Having seen him interviewed, I have to admit I was surprised at Shannon's performance.  Given that most comic book villains are generally very two-dimensional, Zod is well-portrayed by this somewhat mild-mannered actor.  Even his vocal portrayal is strong.  

The love interest in the movie is, of course, Lois Lane who is played by the versatile and seemingly everywhere-you-look actress Amy Adams.  While Amy Adams looks nothing like her comic book alter-ego, we finally get a Lois Lane who isn't fooled by a pair of glasses or in this case a beard.  Lois is not just smart in everything except when it comes to Superman; she is smart all the time.  While she still is the damsel in-need-of-saving, she also gets the opportunity to at least help stop Zod, even if it does take a scientist to finally make the plan work. 

Finally, is Jor El played by Russell Crowe.  Crowe has remarked that at least he had to get back in shape.  He is suppose to be Superman's spiritual guide as he comes to realize he is an alien among very fragile humans.  Crowe really doesn't turn in much in the way of his acting skill but then again, there really isn't much he could do with the part.

Like most comic book heroes, Superman is given to deal with being an orphan who watched the death of the  man who raised him and charges him with his responsibility to his great power.  He has angst in that he must keep his identity a secret, feels responsible for the death of anyone he has ever loved and is raised by his loving adoptive mother.  Sound at all familiar?

Another problem lies in that the supporting cast is under-utilized for the back story.  Good actors are given little to do.  Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Johnathan and Martha Kent lack the build to make them strong characters. The most under utilized of all though is Laurence Fishburne as Perry White.  If you didn't know who Perry White is in the comic book, you probably wouldn't notice except for the fact that we are surprised to see Fishburne used in such a bit player way.


It is the end of the movie that has caused the most controversy.  In all honesty, I am tired of long special effect battles that use CGI with blurred motion.  It does not make them more exciting, it just makes them hard to follow.  Has no one learned any thing from the failure of the effects in the Transformer movies?  Longer is not better. Just longer.  What upsets so many fans is that Superman kills Zod.  That's right the Man of Steel takes a life. Welcome to a true reboot.  I personally liked the risk that this change in the character of Superman took. Left with no other alternative, Superman must kill Zod to save the humans he has adopted. The problem is that the battle sequence before this is clearly devastating to the city, and surprisingly no one seems to get killed despite the number of buildings that are demolished by Kal El and Zod.  Still, to have Superman kill someone was a great risk, but then again, comic books do this kind of thing all the time.

As I said, I liked the movie.  It could have been better, but it is still the best Superman movie to date.  Man of Steel II has been fast tracked by the studio which has also committed to a third possible Justice League movie to follow.  I will most likely buy the DVD.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Brief Respite...

Dear blog followers,

I am taking a few days off and will rant again in the near future. Feel free to revisit some of the older blogs and follow.  Thanks so much to those who read my ramblings.

In the meantime...

It's all about perspective...
And just because

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

You Don't Get To...

With the revelation of the NSA data collection from phone companies and collection information from major internet programs through the secret program called PRISM, Congress is now scrambling.  If my memory serves, when the Patriot Act was passed the very first time there was some discussion about how much information the government could collect.  We were assured it was needed.  It was overwhelmingly passed.

If you think this is a new problem, it's not.  Take a look at this cartoon.  Anyone notice who the President is? Yep.  The cartoon is from before 2008.  It is dated November 27, 2002. So to pretend that this surveillance is new, is to live in the fantasy land.  Welcome to Washington, DC.

Then came several reauthorizations, amendments, edits, additions, all the things that Congress does was done to it.  Reviews, oversight, and invitations to see what was being done have been made twenty-two times.  And also demands that it change from the ACLU.

Now that it is out how expansive the Patriot Act is, Congress - Republican, Democrat and Independent  - Progressive to Tea Party - are trying to spin this.  A few have admitted that it was done and that it has been successful and more than few are on their soapboxes announcing that they had no idea or disagreed, but were under a gag order not to discuss it.  Well guess what? Congress, Executive, and Judicial have all signed on to this, and you don't get to now pretend that you didn't know or that this is an overreach by this administration.

The only Senator that I know of that has consistently voted "no" is also one that I seldom agree with, Rand Paul.  Still, he is now on his soapbox about it, but where was he with his outrage when it was happening? I know he and other members of Congress were unable to discuss it, but there are many ways to announce your outrage without violating security.  How many bills, those of you outraged by the excess of the act, were introduced to limit its scope or repeal it? None is how many.

Yes, we live in a different time since 9/11.  Yes, we need to balance our security with our privacy.  No, you don't get to pretend that you didn't know or couldn't do anything.  No, you don't get to pretend that this is an overreach only by this administration and wasn't done by another administration.  Time to live in our reality.
All three branches of government approved now all three get to deal with the consequences.

Monday, June 10, 2013

You Actually Posted That Old Story

Remember when we used to scare each other with stories like the Hook Man and Bloody Mary?  It was perfect for our twelve-year-old minds.  Guess what? People who aren't twelve still believe in such nonsense and post them on a regular basis.  Time to grow up, people.

There is a ton of Urban Legends, but really to see one posted and reposted that has been discredited more times than I can count means this person isn't paying attention or is incredibly immature.  So after I saw an oldie but a goody posted, I thought there really are some Urban Legends you shouldn't post. So as a public service here are a few that are just plain wrong.

The Killer in the Backseat.  This is the one that showed up last night.  It may be inspired by one incident that occurred in 1964, but there are no other incidents since then.  This myth involves a woman  who is getting gas when the attendant calls her back because of a problem with her credit card.  He brings her into his booth where he informs her that he could see a hulking killer in her backseat.  He calls the police, and she is saved.  There are variations such as a guy who sees an evil killer at a stop light or hiding under the car ready to slash her ankles.  All of them involve a woman being saved by a man from an evil man.  Here is the Snopes story.  This is one of those stories that are as old as the Hook Man or Bloody Mary urban myths.  Hopefully you are not as naive to believe these stories either so don't post this one.

Another along the same line is the Deadly Pullover.  Gang members in this story or actually wannabe gang members flash their headlights on and off at random cars to get them to pullover so the wannabe can kill the occupants.  It is the last step in their gang initiation.  The myth is completely baseless, but like its brethren myth where gang members bump a random car or stop someone asking for directions, it is the best kind of myth because it relies on fear mongering which is something that is easy to do, especially on the internet.  Heck, politicians and activist groups have been using the technique for years.

Then there is the Kidney Heist or organ thieves.  This one of those stories that just won't die because it appears again and again on TV show like Law and Order.  There is no organization in the US or in other countries that have plans to drug you and steal your kidney or any other viable, transplantable organ.  Most recently there was a case in 2008 when a group of people was arrested in India for taking laborers into a secret underground medical facility to steal their kidneys.  Charges were dropped when it was discovered that the accuser still had all his organs including kidneys in tact and there was no underground facility.

The worst of these though, is the My Sick Child hoax or the Charity Hoax.  This is the one where you are asked to 'like' and 'share' a picture of a sick child and some organization or Facebook will pay $1 for each.  This is a sick scam. First there is no one paying for 'likes', and second, the poor child is usually a stolen pic someone's sick child used without permission and often a torment to the real family who has to see this pic posted all over the internet.  The child has cancer, a tumor, a deformity, etc.  It is a horrible abuse of children and their families. It is a hoax.  Anyone that would use pictures of these children for their sick hoax needs to not only lose the pic but have their account pulled.  You post this hoax on my timeline, and  I will report it.  I suggest you do the same when you see it.  Don't spread these pics.  While Facebook has been very slow to respond to this hoax, if enough report and keep reporting, maybe we can make a difference.  You can report them here. Here is a list of Charity hoaxes from

Try going to  If folks would just take a moment to research before posting or engaging grey matter before reacting, a lot of these hoaxes and urban myths would die a horrible death.  Quit fear mongering and use your brain.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Meme to Cover Them All

Seldom do we get to see a meme that not only tries to put three different political controversies in one place, but gets all three of them wrong.

Benghazi cover up has had more hours and more hearings than all previous attacks on American consulate personnel since 9/11.  Not a single of instance of "cover up" has been found despite what certain Republicans would have you believe.  As to the so called misleading talking points, even if they were managed and pure fiction, it is not a crime to lie or mislead the press. If it were, we would have to replace the entire Congress.

Following the abuses of power by Richard Nixon using the IRS to attack political enemies, Congress passed laws to ensure that the White House could no longer meddle in IRS affairs.  You may have noticed that the IRS director involved during the most recent mess was appointed by Bush.  The five year appointment is one example of these laws.  There is no evidence-zero evidence-that the executive branch had anything to do with the IRS targeting of conservative political groups.

The phone records, now expanded to include millions of Verizon customers and possibly internet records and who knows what else is a direct result of the Patriot Act.  I am not defending the stupidity of the Act, but pointing out that these actions have now been in place for over a decade.  It needs to go. The DOJ going after records have nothing to do with corruption, real or imagined, in the Obama administration or the Bush administration and everything to do with what we let Congress take in response to 9/11. 

So basically we have a meme which is completely wrong.  I have just one thing to say:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

It Don't Make Sense

That the IRS targeted any group no matter how extreme the group may be is wrong.  The scandal, the new buzz word in DC, is that the IRS targeted Tea Party groups for investigation.  I should also point out that if you type in "IRS Scandal" into Google, you may also need to include the year.  The IRS issue has been going on for years. In fact, Congress actually took action to make sure the White House has little to no control over the IRS in the 70's because of Nixon's abuse of his power over the agency.  Nevermind that these groups are clearly not charities but political groups and that it seems that only the smaller groups were targeted.  Having computers search for particular buzz words that specifically target one group or another is clearly wrong.

That said, shortly after the scandal broke, it was announced that not one of the conservative groups was denied status.  In fact, it seems the only groups which were not approved were liberal groups that were also possibly targeted or not targeted or... I just don't know.  I am still not clear as to who was hurt.  Conservative Tea Party groups were delayed but not denied.  Liberal Progressive groups were or were not targeted and were denied, and all this is an attack on the extreme right.  How's that again?

And then today, I see this news blog.  So if the IRS targeted Tea Party groups how exactly did an LGBT group that sells bow ties end up on the list? I know this whole thing smells, but I need a clearer explanation as to how exactly this is a targeting of only the right?

We seriously need to get the political groups out of the charity group tax exempt.  Wanna avoid this problem?  Dear Congress, please quit holding hearings on non-existent scandals and expensive votes or nonvotes on laws already on the books. Quit stopping laws solely because you get paid by special interest groups or don't like who the People chose for president.  Try this on for size.  Do your job.  Clarify the tax code so the IRS is not in this position to guess what exactly is charity and what is exactly political action.

This scandal is from someone not doing their job following the Supreme Court ruling that created this mess because suddenly both sides had money from groups got to claim they were not political while being political.  The job not done was  not the IRS  who failed, but once again it was Congress playing politics instead of taking care of the country.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

This Is My Hole


(Somewhere, I ran across a group of political definitions and so decided to make one of my own just for grins.)

The first rule of digging is when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.  That said...

Definition of - 

Liberal: Someone who digs a series of holes until he finds the right spot. Unfortunately the hole is often way bigger than it needs to be.

Conservative: Someone who denies the existence of the need for the hole until he arrives at the right spot two years after the liberal has been there. Unfortunately, the hole is often filled in so much that no one else can fit.

Progressive: Someone who is moving toward the hole slightly faster than a conservative but with better aim than the liberal.

Tea Party: Someone who continues to deny the existence of the hole even while standing in it. He may also hide from the hole…possibly in Alaska.

Anarchist: Someone who wants to destroy the hole, has no idea what the hole means, and doesn’t really understand the hole.

Environmentalist: Someone who sees the hole as possibly detrimental to the ozone layer.

NRA Member: Someone who sees the hole as an opportunity to use his semi-automatic assault rifle with over-sized clip in the name of sport and the 2nd amendment.

Big Oil: Someone who sees the hole as a place to fill with seepage and then sprinkles dirt on top, pretending that there is less in the hole than there is.

Health Insurance company: Someone who sees the hole, covers the hole, and overcharges for the digging of the hole until no one can afford it and then denies having ever covered the hole.

Wall Street Broker: Has his own hole that no one will control.

Pundit: Someone who discusses the ramifications of the hole pretending he actually has knowledge about the hole and ultimately decides it must be education’s fault.

Modern Philanthropist: Someone who recognizes the need for the hole and then uses his vast wealth to create an entirely different set of parameters than what is needed, often involving the purchase and use of the product that gave him his vast fortune.

Centrist: Someone who knows and has always known exactly the right spot for the hole, why it is needed and how big and deep it should be. Unfortunately, he must wait for the liberal to quit digging and the conservative to catch up and the rest to understand the hole is everyone’s responsibility.

Who is on your list and what does their hole(s) look like?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Through Line

Too often, we see it on television or in the movies.  A convoluted plot or a plot so disjointed, it makes little sense.  Any great writer will tell you that the plot is driven by great characters and great characters a fully rounded and complex.  That does not mean though that complexity is revealed through little unrelated side-scenes but through the situation of the plot.  All parts of the plot should be in some way attached to the center element of the plot.  It is called the "through line."

Here endeth the lesson...

Why this little literary definition?  Simple, I am tired of unrelated material being used in television shows to give characters something to do.  A show is established on the lynch pin of the plot, through line or spine.  The through line runs the full length of the plot.  If writers of a TV show build a scene to create "family" life for a character then that life needs to be a part of the through line. Take for example a series like Criminal Minds.  The leader of the central characters is Aaron Hotchner or Hotch.  The show carefully built a family life for Hotchner and the struggles that his life as a behavioral analyst cause.  Eventually though this family life intersected the premise of the show which is to catch serial killers.  Hotch's family, is thrown into upheaval when he is targeted by one of these killers.  Eventually, the killer takes the life of Hotch's ex-wife.  We get a well-rounded character and a seemingly unrelated subplot that is crafted to attach to the through line of the show.

Now take Bones.  The through line of Bones is also to catch killers.  The plot centers on a team of scientists and an FBI agent who catch killers.  The main characters are Temperance 'Bones' Brennan and Seeley Booth.  The show, which I do watch, frequently does leave the through line to create rounded characters.  Unfortunately, these lapses are basically pointless.  They affect the tightness of the series and give the watcher nothing.  For example, in one attempt one of the scientist, Camille Saroyan, or Cam, has a foster daughter.  The subplot line serves no purpose except to give Cam something to do and do badly.  There is a host of these scenes. Booth has an alcoholic brother who falls in love with a former prostitute while on a trip to India.  No purpose.  Booth and Bones are a couple with issues as to where to school their daughter.  The family plot line was a necessary conceit to cover the real life pregnancy of the actress Emily Deschanel.  The rest serve no real purpose.  It is the proliferation of these that are actually slowly, but steadily taking away from the spine of the show. It is killing the series.

If you want to know if these scenes are valuable, try muting one while watching the show.  If the loss of knowing what the conversation is about makes no difference to your understanding of the plot, then you know it is a time filler and little more.  Shows that leave the premise or through line frequently suffers from this writing.  Ending sexual tension, leaving the premise, or unrelated scenes damage the series.  Sometimes it is called the 'Moonlighting effect.' The name comes from the error of ending the sexual tension on the series Moonlighting which shot Bruce Willis to fame in the 80's.  One must wonder how long it will be before shows like Bones and Castle will pay the price.  Both have ended the tension between the main characters and Bones also has far too many unrelated scenes and both continue to drop in the ratings.

You would think the writers in Hollywood would learn, but they don't.

(I know a long winded literary lesson to get to the point of why we lose our favorite shows.)

Monday, June 3, 2013

So, You're My Fan...Give Me 50 Bucks

Although a Presley autograph is valuable on the open market today, like most celebrities of his day, he would send  a fan an autographed picture for free.
The first time I recall seeing it was at StarFest.  I'd heard that sports stars had begun to do it, but the first celebrity I recall charging for an autograph was William Shatner who was closely followed by Leonard Nimoy.  Now they all do it.  Major stars like Shatner's signature, I hear,  now approaches  a hundred bucks if not over although the first time I saw him do it, I think it was around $60.  But  at that time and for that amount, for me, it might as well have been a thousand, even though it was rumored he donated it to charity.  Oddly, I don't think he did.

Some still do not charge if you happen to meet them in public.  Steve Martin supposedly carries a stack of prepared cards with his autograph for fans. I know I see movie stars do it at openings or even stopping on the sidewalk to give an autograph or photo.  Not all of them are trying to make money.  Maybe it is just a phenomenon at fan conventions such as comic cons or science fiction.  Nerds do adore their celebrities.  

This week at the Denver Comic Con, I was saddened that even Mr. Nice Guy, George Takei now charges.  I still remember taking my young son to a mini convention where "Uncle George" signed autographs.  I've met many a Trek star even the glorious Majel Barrett Roddenberry who actually sat in the vendors room signing any and all autographs.  Even Patrick Stewart, signed autographs for his fans. I had Francis Ford Coppola, who had won the Oscar for the Godfather, sign at convention for free. There were, a few, who just didn't sign.  DeForest Kelly had arthritis so badly at that point I saw him, he was no longer able to sign.

It is no longer true.  At the Comic Con, most of the B-level Celebs charge.  Saul Rubinek was at $30 as was one of the former Doctor Whos, Colin Baker.  I believe Wil Wheaton was at $40 as was Takei.  I didn't bother to check Shatner, I couldn't afford any of them nor will I pay some one for an autograph who I made a star.

Without me, Mr. Shatner, Mr. Takei, or even you Mr. Rubinek, your signature would not be worth the paper it is illegibly scrawled on.  I...We are your fans.  Once, stars remembered this and gave us the gift of a small piece, the autograph.  They knew who made them and bought tickets even to the lamest of their movies. They weren't so greedy as to charge for that small 'thank you' of giving a fan a signature and photo with them.  A few, even charge for that too.

What saddens me more, is that fans will pay.  They will line up and fork over money for making an actor a celebrity. Perhaps, they are too young to remember when the stars autographed because you were a fan not because they could make money from their fans.  Perhaps they have that kind of disposable income or intend to make a little money by selling it on Ebay.  For me, I would like to see the lines and signature stalls, empty.  Celebrities standing there alone with their handlers wondering why they have no fans.  No thanks, I am not paying you for my contribution to your celebrity.  You're just not worth it.