November 4, 2009


I apparently decided to do NaNoWriMo this year, though WHY, I have no idea. It's already a disaster. In order to reach 50,000 words by the end of November, I'd have to write around 1,666 words per day, and I've been averaging about -18. I'm ill-prepared, doing more researching than writing because I am ill-prepared, and I tried writing in past tense after writing nothing but present-tense narratives for over a year and IT WAS AWFUL, and I think I hate my protagonist already? SUCH A CATASTROPHE. I don't know what kind of state I'll be in by the end of the month, or if I'll have anything more than a series of vignettes and a long list of bullet points filling in the blanks.

On the bright side, I did complete the 50 Book Challenge this year, so there's that. Also, I'm finally getting time to read The Painter from Shanghai, which I won in a Goodreads contest earlier this year, and it's wonderful. Three-quarters of the way through, I absolutely love it. But more on that some other time.

October 25, 2009

Undercover paramedic

For the record, my favorite part of any Law & Order episode, be it the original series, SVU, or Criminal Intent, is when the detectives go undercover.

Detectives Lupo & Bernard:

Undercover Paramedic and Dr. Policeman:

This made me almost as happy as that time Goren & Eames went shoe shopping (undercover, of course).

October 20, 2009

TV Rave: Trauma

I realize that I’m probably the only person watching NBC’s Trauma, but I don’t care. I love it. I love the way it doesn’t bore me to death (House), make me want to vomit (Grey’s Anatomy), or fail in its attempts to captivate me with the ready-made angst-o-rama of its protagonist (Mercy). The previews actually made me want to watch (unlike, say, Three Rivers) and the helicopter crash in their pilot episode actually served a purpose (I’m looking at you here, ER).


The show follows three pairs of paramedics in San Francisco: Nancy and Glenn, Boone and Tyler, and Marisa and Rabbit. Four ride in ambulances, while Marisa and Rabbit fly in “Angel Two,” a medevac helicopter. The characters aren’t particularly innovative, but the clichés aren’t too bad: Glenn Morrison is the new guy, so green he fainted at the sight of a severed arm in the last episode, while partner Nancy Carnahan is a jaded M.D. who prefers paramedic work to the hospital (though the reasons why aren’t exactly clear). Cameron Boone is a recovering womanizer struggling to avoid a divorce; Tyler Briggs is some sort of gypsy medic, having worked in cities across the country, including New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Marisa Benez was a combat helicopter pilot in Baghdad who’s good with machines but not so much with people, and Reuben “Rabbit” Palchuck is the cocky, slightly unhinged medic she flies. Rabbit and Nancy have good reason to be a little standoffish or prickly: the pilot begins a year before the rest of the series, when a devastating two-helicopter crash killed Nancy’s partner and boyfriend, Terry, and left Rabbit, apparently the crash’s sole survivor, in a coma.

Our heroes deal with several small incidents and a medium or large call before the end of each episode—I think that’s why I like it so much: they don’t try to squeeze 60 minutes of drama (with commercials!) out of one or two cases. House became so formulaic that I abandoned it halfway through last season. Here, when you hit the twenty minute mark, you’re not just waiting for the new, bizarre symptom to show up. In a given episode, the EMTs might be dealing with a spinal injury or a fake heart attack, or Boone might be in marriage counseling with his wife (yawn). It’s different every week. Score one for Trauma.

Also? I LOVE EXPLOSIONS. I loved when [spoiler] the hotel went boom at the end of Quantum of Solace[/spoiler] and that HUGE ambulance explosion on the fourth season premiere of Criminal Minds where for all of ten seconds I thought they’d actually killed off Shemar Moore. The Trauma premiere has a fiery helicopter crash and an oil tanker explosion. Michael Bay is probably a fan of Trauma, too.

There’s much less soap-opera personal life angst than you’d think—it’s not overwhelming, since they tend to condense all the characters’ issues into about five minutes of show, after you’ve come down from the adrenaline rush of all the fireballs and rescues and LIFE OR DEATH DECISIONS OMG. Whoever writes this show does a decent job of keeping the melodrama to a minimum—on the personal front. Plus, they’ve got Jamey Sheridan. Who doesn’t like (and still miss!) Captain Deakins and his eyepatch on Law & Order: Criminal Intent? Sheridan is eminently likeable as Dr. Joe Saviano, the ER doctor who coordinates with the medics in the field.

Here’s the downside: I’ve heard the ratings are dismal (it’s on against the amazing The Big Bang Theory and the underwhelming Gary Unmarried on CBS, the second hour of Dancing with the Stars on ABC, and a personal favorite, Lie to Me, on Fox), and they’ve taken to rerunning it on Saturdays in an attempt to get more viewers. Hulu’s even stopped promoting new streaming episodes on the front page. My point? I’m surprised NBC, with its history of doing such things, hasn’t pulled the rest of the new episodes from the air and made them online-only à la The Black Donnellys.

Besides the poor ratings, there’s apparently been some sort of kerfuffle about how the show inaccurately and/or negatively portrays emergency medical personnel. My response—both as a writer and as a TV viewer—is that this isn’t a documentary. It’s a television drama. There are some things that don’t translate from reality to the small screen (why do you think reality shows are scripted?) and a show like Trauma is going to amp up the action as much as possible. Why? Entertainment. I don’t watch television because I want a perfectly accurate depiction of real life (news programming and PBS excepted). I watch because I want to be entertained, so I can stop thinking about what will happen if I never find a job, or if I shouldn’t drink quite so much Coke, or how I haven’t called that one friend in about five months and we’re probably not even friends anymore and it’s kind of my fault, or WHATEVER. It’s escapism at its finest, and if I choose mediocre TV, then that’s my decision. Now, if someone did a television show about employees at an archival library and didn’t show them using acid-free materials and taking special measures while handling archival materials to ensure the preservation of the items in the collections, I might be a little chagrined, but I wouldn’t get all up in arms about it. Basically, what I’m saying to the upset medical workers is this: RELAX, IT’S JUST TELEVISION. The folks who work on TV shows like Trauma are going to use their creative license to punch up reality into something resembling reality, but with prettier people with terrible love lives. And bigger explosions.

So here’s hoping the rest of the season’s episodes make it onto the air. Or, rather, onto Hulu, where I watch it, since my family’s watching Dancing with the Stars.

C’est la vie.

September 26, 2009

Fall TV: First Impressions

I've tried out a few new shows in the fall lineup in addition to my standbys, and my impressions are below. (Click to expand each section)

New Series...

New series

1) The Vampire Diaries (Thurs, CW): I kind of get the feeling that The Vampire Diaries is Twilight for people who thought there wasn't enough obsessive stalking in Stephenie Meyer's work. You've got the mysterious, brooding, self-hating vampire, Edward Stefan, and the brunette-for-TV (but blonde in the books, Wiki tells me) heroine, Bella Elena, in a small town. There's a Bad Vamp running around (HI BOONE IAN SOMERHALDER!) and the vamps can go out during the day without a) burning to a crisp a la True Blood or b) hilariously roasting a la Buffy (I distinctly remember Spike coming into the Summers' kitchen with a cloud of smoke surrounding him...and laughing hysterically). Only here, the whole reason Stefan's back in Mystic Falls (MYSTIC FALLS? REALLY?) is that Elena looks like his old flame, Katherine, from back in the Civil War era. Bella just waltzed into Edward's life, no fault of his (and he tried to run away, as I recall), but Elena is the entire reason Stefan came back, apparently at great risk to himself and his nephew/"uncle" with whom he lives. It's on the CW, so the mediocre writing and acting is par for the course, but I do genuinely enjoy Ian Somerhalder as Damon the Bad Vamp, who's clearly having a fabulous time being the oldest member of the cast and the villain to boot. It's like Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but on a much, much, much smaller scale. There are some fun moments, like heavy mist creeping over the ground and crows smashing into windshields whenever Damon rolls in (or, as TV Guide puts it, "[the show] also features a special guest appearance by massive amounts of fog"), and Stefan just awkwardly hangin' at the doorjamb because Elena didn't specifically invite him in, but on the whole, I'll restrict my vampire TV to True Blood. I like my undead with a dash of humor, which VD is lacking. (And besides, my Thursday nights are kind of packed already.)

2) Community (Thurs, NBC): I'm a new member in the Joel McHale fanclub, having only seen The Soup a couple times, but he's really the main reason I decided to give Community a try. Yes, the commercial they ran all summer was funny (you can find a version is here), and I laughed every time Joel/Jeff rattled off his real/fake Spanish, but really? I tuned in because he's a tall, slim, good-looking man. So sue me. Joel plays Jeff Winger, a lawyer whose law license has been suspended because he has a less-than-legitimate undergrad degree from Colombia. That's Colombia, not Columbia. So now, enrolled at Greendale Community College, Jeff is completely uninterested in anything but getting his bachelor's degree with as little effor as possible, and as a result, is a total jerk in the way that most protagonists are. He invites Britta, the attractive blonde from his Spanish class, to a "study group" AKA one-on-one time in the library. Except Britta invites Abed, the awkward kid with Asperger syndrome. And then Shirley, Annie, Troy, and Pierce show up and all of a sudden, it's a real study group. Their antics and Jeff's determined efforts to get into Britta's pants are amusing enough that I'm planning to add it to my TV schedule, in the spot vacated by The Office. Plus, it's got Ken Jeong (AKA the Asian doctor from Knocked Up and the king from the LARP in Role Models) as Señor Chang, the Spanish teacher. There are some painfully awkward moments, but nothing as bad as what we've seen on The Office. I'd recommend watching the pilot, which you can find on CommunityHulu.

3) Eastwick (Wed, ABC): Hoo, boy. So, I saw that Eastwick was available on Hulu, and figured, "Why not?" The series is (I suspect very loosely) based on the John Updike novel The Witches of Eastwick, later adapted into a film starring Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Rebecca Romijn, Lindsay Price, and some other woman I've never seen before are the sekrit underground witches (who aren't aware they're witches, by the by) in this updated version. Romijn is Roxie, the boho artist sleeping with a younger man (who, incidentally, does have a belly button); Price is Johanna, the uptight journalist (glasses, hair in a bun, etc.) pining after the hot photographer coworker; whats-her-face is Kat, the nurse/mother of five with a loser husband. SO they all wish for big changes in their lives and then some super-rich dude rolls in and basically makes everything they wish for come true. Roxie dreams the future, Johanna can make men do whatever she wants, and Kat is Natural Disaster Girl (earthquakes, lightning strikes, etc.). Now that I think about it, not much happened in the pilot...huh. Anyway, the acting's not as horrible as I expected and they seem to be aware of how ridiculous the show is -- and they're having fun with it. Plus, the super-rich, possibly evil dude, Daryl (the Mountie from Due South, if anybody else watched that), is hilarious. I might watch it again if I've got more knitting to do -- it's a good halfway-paying-attention kind of show.

4) FlashForward (Thurs, ABC): Oh, man. Provided it survives its first season, I think FlashForward has the potential to become my new Lost. That might be jinxing it, but I really liked the first episode. There are more British actors than you can shake a stick at (Joseph Fiennes, Sonia Walger [AKA Penny Widmore/Hume of Lost], Alex Kingston [AKA Professor River Song of Doctor Who, and Jack Davenport [Commodore Norrington!], plus I hear Dominic Monaghan is supposed to show up, too), but the American talent is what pulled me in: John Cho, who I loved in a completely un-platonic way as Sulu in Star Trek this summer, and Courtney B. Vance, who I still miss as ADA Ron Carver on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, were the familiar faces in the commercial that made me seek out the premiere. What I was completely unprepared to see was Seth MacFarlane (yes, Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy), in a totally un-comedic role as one of the FBI agents (I may have had an outburst on Twitter when he showed up on screen). I also recognized Gabrielle Cortese, late of Supernatural, but she was so awful in an already mediocre show that I'm glad her character is supposedly dead at the beginning of the show. Whether or not she's actually dead is of little consequence when you're faced with FBI AGENT JOHN CHO, GUYS. Seriously, he spends most of the episode in a flak jacket and bloody with his gun drawn, menacing a suspected (female) terrorist. Dear ABC: You know what you're doing, don't you? The premise of the show is this: everyone on the planet blacked out for the same two minutes and fourteen seconds, simultaneously, and for those two minutes and change, their consciousnesses jumped forward six months to April 2010 and they had a flash of their lives in the future. Well, everyone but poor Agent Demetri Noh (John Cho), who didn't see anything, and is afraid it's because he'll be dead in six months. FBI Agent Mark Benford (Fiennes), a recovering alcoholic, sees himself investigating the flashforward and drinking again. His wife, Olivia (Walger), an ER doctor, sees herself with another man (Jack Davenport), who is apparently the father of a little boy she saves during the first episode. My favorite of the flashes was Stan Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance), the FBI boss who tells Benford and Noh that he saw himself "in a meeting," which is apparently code for "taking a dump while reading the newspaper." The cause of the blackouts is a mystery, as is the lone OMGWTFPOLARBEAR kangaroo hopping down the streets of Los Angeles immediately after the blackouts, but the FBI, while looking through security camera footage from around the world, finds one man in a baseball stadium who was awake for those two minutes -- apparently the only person in the world who didn't lose consciousness. I'm super-intrigued by the whole premise of the show; it reminds me a lot of the first season of Lost, when we were still discovering the mysteries and mythology, and the questions were still relatively simple. I have a good feeling about this show, in part because the creators are David S. Goyer (who co-wrote the story for The Dark Knight) and Brannon Braga (of Star Trek: The Next Generation), but also because they've got a good cast and the strength of the story itself (based on a 1999 novel by Robert J. Sawyer) driving it. The script was good, the acting was good, and the action was well-executed and pushed from beginning to end. They even managed to introduce what I suspect will become the central theme of the show: are these flashforwards glimpses of the inevitable, or can these characters change the futures they saw? It should be interesting to see how the story unfolds and how the show's 13 episodes will be structured in terms of reaching the April 2010 date seen in the flashes. I'm putting it in the rotation of my regular shows.

Other series I'll probably give a chance are The Good Wife (Tues, CBS), Trauma (Mon 9/28, NBC) and V (Tues 11/3, ABC) -- the latter mostly because of Elizabeth Mitchell, who will always be HBIC Juliet Burke to me, but also for Morena Baccarin, AKA Firefly's Inara.

Returning series...

Returning series premieres

1) Castle (Mon, ABC): I loved the first season (and I'm waiting for my DVD set to arrive in the mail). I followed Richard Castle's exploits on TWitter over the summer (over here). I was super-excited to see how they'd handle Castle returning to the cop team after ignoring Beckett's very clear no-digging-into-my-mom's-homicide-or-you-and-I-are-done rule. Basically, Castle is now promoting Heat Wave, the Nikki Heat novel (you can read the first six chapters at, by the way), and Capt. Montgomery and the mayor believe that having Castle ride along while he's got a reporter from Cosmo tailing him will be good press for the NYPD. Meanwhile, Beckett's all but giving him the silent treatment (and so is coroner Lanie Parish, who's backing up her BFF Beckett) and we're basically back to day one, when Beckett was most annoyed by having Castle around. The story was perhaps a little convoluted, and they had Stana Katic use her awful Russian accent last heard during the 30 seconds she was on Heroes (but at least it wasn't her even worse French accent from The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice) and strip down to a cardigan, belt, and heels -- no pants, of course -- to save Castle from the murderer. Apart from the gimmicks, the dialogue is just as snappy and smart as last season, I was amused by the incorporation of details from the summer Twitter mystery on the show proper, and I'm glad to see that Beckett and Castle's friendship is on the mend after he, you know, APOLOGIZED for violating her trust. Looking forward to the rest of the season!

2) CSI: NY (Wed, CBS): I've had my issues with my darling, beloved CSI: NY. We've had a couple of spats, a big ol' falling out over the Danny/Lindsay marriage and baby, and I've threatened the writers with bodily harm on more than one occasion. I loathe the punny one-liners they force Gary Sinise to deliver to take them to the credits. I actually cried a little when they killed off the very capable Detective Jessica Angell at the end of last season (which, BTW, is the second female regular they've killed off, and I don't believe we've lost any of the men). There are some actual talented actors on that cast who are given jack shit to work with in the scripts, and are forced to try to sell romantic pairings that have little or no chemistry (e.g. Danny/Lindsay, Mac/any woman except Lindsay, although I may be biased). So I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they'd done a couple relatively brave things with the season premiere: first, Stella and Adam hooked up, which no one saw coming except everyone who knew Adam has had a huge crush on Stella FOREVER. Second, and more importantly, they put Danny in a wheelchair, having lost the use of his legs in the drive-by machine-gun attack that ended last season in a very pale imitation of The West Wing's "Who's been hit? Who's been hit?" cliffhanger. However temporary Danny's paralysis may be (remember what show this is), I'm glad they took the chance on dramatically changing his life and giving him room to really grow as a character for the first time in a long time. Of course, they've added a new blonde character, Haylen Becall, played by quite possibly my least favorite actress to make the rounds of CBS dramas, Sarah Carter (she's been on Numb3rs and the thankfully canceled Shark already) and her little-girl voice. Haylen is a crime scene cleanup tech who wants Adam's job. Bitch, please. It's like Riley Adams over on the CSI mothership: I hate her already. Apart from the high points I've mentioned, the premiere was more of the same. I still don't like Lindsay. Hawkes still doesn't get enough screen time. AND WHERE IS DOCTOR SNAPPY GLASSES? Disappointing overall.

3) CSI (Thurs, CBS): Now, unlike its Wednesday night spinoff, the original crime lab did not disappoint. I mean, sure, there was a lot of gimmicky bullet-time, but the effect was...kind of mind-blowing, actually. Anyway, Riley Adams is gone (HUZZAH!), having left a snippy exit interview criticizing Catherine's leadership and claiming there's no team unity. News flash, Riley: did you ever think maybe it wasn't that there was no team unity, it was just that nobody liked you? So Riley's out, recently departed Sara Sidle is back to help round out the understaffed team's roster for a few episodes this season, Ray Langston (Laurence Fishburne) has earned his CSI Level 2 credentials, and the long-suffering Nick Stokes got promoted to assistant shift supervisor. Meanwhile, Liz Vassey (DNA tech Wendy Simms) and David Berman (Assistant ME David Phillips) are regulars this season, meaning they get to be featured in the opening credits. Selfishly, I hope this means we get a lot more Wendy/Hodges will-they-won't-they this season. They're my CSI OTP, for real. The end of the premiere episode seems to set up a serial killer storyline, according to clips from next week -- I hope this is just a one-episode thing. The last time they did a serial killer, it was the Miniature Killer and it consumed the season in a thick cloud of melodrama that I could really have lived without. Nevertheless, looks like a promising landmark season ten.

4) How I Met Your Mother (Mon, CBS): Now that all the pregnancies are out of the way, I can stop getting distracted by Lily and Robin's huge, billowy shirts and suspiciously large purses and get back to just watching the show. I wasn't bowled over by the premiere, mostly because I hate super-awkward situations as comedy (I get too embarrassed for other people to actually appreciate how funny it is), so Ted's classroom mixup on his first day as a professor -- well, technically he'd be just an instructor, I think, but whatever -- was more painful than anything else, and I'm not sure how I felt about Lily's whole Barney-and-Robin-MUST-define-the-relationship thing. I mean, normal people might have to have that kind of conversation, but Barney and Robin aren't exactly normal people. I mean this in a good way, of course. There wasn't quite enough Marshall for me, but I'm just so pleased that Jason Segel's cut his hair that I'm fine with what we got.

5) Criminal Minds (Wed, CBS): My heart beats only for SSA Spencer Reid, Ph.D., which is why I was pleased to see him be heroic in the CM premiere (even if it was only so he could get shot to explain Matthew Gray Gubler being on crutches due to his dislocated kneecap...ouch). They had a bit of a split narrative, working a case on just four hours of sleep after their horrific season finale case in Canada while wondering where team leader Hotch is. Turns out Hotch was stabbed a bunch by a serial killer that got away before, then dropped off at the hospital in an Elaborate Mind Game that will surely consume the season. Wonderful. Still won't stop me from watching, if only because I hope to see more of JJ with her Louisiana babydaddy and see what Paget Brewster does with her hair this season (are the bangs gone for good?!). I mean, those are the reasons people watch, right?

Other returning shows I'm keeping an eye on include Bones, Law & Order SVU, Law & Order, Numb3rs, and Lie to Me. I did watch The Mentalist's premiere, but I just can't get over my impression of Simon Baker as untrustworthy, and apparently everyone hates Robin Tunney's character? But I liked her (because she kicked Baker out of her car for being rude and childish, mostly). So...we'll see.

Shows I've given up since last season? House (too much melodrama, I can't stand House/Cuddy, not enough Cameron and too much Thirteen) and The Office (sorry, Jim and Pam, but I'm so sick of Michael, Dwight, and Andy that I can't give a crap about your wedding and baby and whatever else happened after episode...two? of last season). Also, fond as I am of Sylar, I haven't watched the Heroes premiere yet, and I'll probably wait a while before I do. Just don't feel like it.

Speaking of House (as I was under the cut), news broke yesterday of Jennifer Morrison (Cameron) being written out/leaving, which just sealed the deal for me -- I've officially broken up with the show. I don't care how good Hugh Laurie is or if he's found new ways to make House sympathetic (per Neal Justin, the Star Trib's TV critic), I JUST DON'T CARE. Also! USA Network has essentially killed Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Vincent D'Onofrio (Det. Bobby Goren) and Kathryn Erbe (Det. Alex Eames) are leaving after the season premiere, as is Eric Bogosian (Capt. Danny Ross). Julianne Nicholson (Det. Megan Wheeler) had previously decided not to return after having her second child, leaving Jeff Goldblum as the last man standing. He's apparently supposed to carry the show on his own, with new partner Saffron Burroughs (with whom I am Not Best Pleased). Now, I love Detective Nichols. I think bringing Goldblum in as, essentially, Detective Jeff Goldblum revived a flagging show that had become Law & Order: The Bacon Years, but I think Nichols is too quirky to pull off being the focus every week. It was nice to alternate weirdo Nichols with Goren, who had become sadly sluggish since his mother's death, and it was especially fun to watch Nichols and Eames together; I think Kathryn Erbe and Goldblum were a great team, and if D'Onofrio wanted out, they should've paired Eames and Nichols if the actors were amenable. If Erbe also wanted out, fine, but this big a casting shakeup reeks of Bureaucratic Asshaberdashery to me. The fact of the matter is this: Jeff Goldblum is a showkiller. Others have tried to rest a series on his shoulders and failed, miserably (see Raines). I don't think we'll be seeing L&O:CI in 2011. That's my prediction.

And that's that, if anyone made it this far. Being unemployed makes keeping up with television very, very easy. Imagine how much fun it would be to be a TV critic and get paid to watch TV! Maybe I ought to have some new career aspirations.

September 3, 2009

Cleaning is easy when you have no mercy

The last month has been devoted to frantically cleaning my apartment (though not well enough, apparently, since my security deposit was returned with two deductions), moving back to my folks' place, and then attacking over twenty-two years' worth of junk with no mercy whatsoever.

Everyone in my family is a packrat, but I've gotten sick of living in a pit, so I went through and tossed a solid 75% of the crap that was all over my room (literally: there was a path through the junk from the door to the bed and a free space to set your foot if you needed to reach over the desk to open the curtains) so that not only can I see the awful brownish-yellow shag carpeting, but I also vacuumed for the first time in...a while. It's amazing what you find when you go through twenty years' worth of stuff.


For example, I found several books I'd long ago written off as missing, and found a full set of bedsheets I didn't even know I had (which turned out to be too small for the bed, but still). I reclaimed the full half of my closet that had been full of other peoples' clothes for the entire duration of my life and found three identical, barely-worn men's coats that I'll donate to charity this fall. There was also a faux-silk Katharine Hepburn-style blouse that I washed and painstakingly ironed, only to discover it's too big (alas!), along with an honest-to-goodness muumuu and a romper (from its original period of popularity). The downside to clearing out my bedroom is that now our living room is completely packed to the gills with castoffs. I honestly don't know how my tiny room held all of the stuff that's out there now, because the living room (twice the size of my bedroom) is barely big enough for it all.

In an effort to make this admittedly huge undertaking (as in, I don't think anyone's cleaned since my grandparents moved into the brand-new house in the 1960s) beneficial for the rest of the family, I've started clearing out areas of our basement, too. The extra bits and pieces from my two years living in college dorms had all been sitting downstairs for two years while I lived in a furnished apartment, along with a lot of lecture notes and useless gifts from ex-boyfriends. After attacking the notebooks and binders and looseleaf textbooks the bookstore wouldn't buy back, I ended up with several half-blank notebooks and a couple sketchpads. I won't have to buy new notebooks from now until the end of time. There were 5-inch floppy disks, two old computer keyboards, a set of 23 craft books from the late 1960s, a nightshirt from France (tags still attached), a stuffed bear I'd forgotten about, a speech I wrote for AP Composition during my junior year of high school that's still funny now, and more huge spiders and centipedes than I care to think about.

Basically, I'm going to have the biggest garage sale ever.

So this blog might be all about what I find while cleaning for a while. But hey, it's my blog, right? I can write what I want! Particularly since I'm blogging in oblivion! On into the void, dear blog!

July 3, 2009


Fact: I despise Facebook.

I've got the profile and everything, but there's very little on there that I actually update on a regular basis. Their ever-changing policies and the lack of privacy make me uncomfortable. I use it mostly to contact friends who, like me, are telephone-phobes. But after hanging out with one of my best friends from high school and hearing some of the gossip, I scrolled through all the folks from my graduating class, just out of curiosity.


Holy crap.

There are babies and people are married and there are a whole bunch of guys in the military now, looking dashing in their dress uniforms in their profile pictures. I mean, I'm aware that people are growing up and going out into the world -- hell, I was a bridesmaid at my friend's wedding when we were nineteen and she has a kid now -- but it's a little shocking to see it all at once.

Also surprising? Discovering that a teenage crush I assumed would die with time and distance hasn't gone quietly into that good-night. Rather, the fellow in question is perhaps more appealing now that he's some sort of world traveler with the kind of foreign experiences that terrify me a little bit.

Curiouser and curiouser. The ten-year reunion should be interesting. I might go, provided there's booze and I have somehow become this fierce:

(But hopefully not that crazy.)

June 19, 2009

Pleasant surprises

Got an email from a potential employer today, asking me to confirm that I'm still interested in being considered for the job. The job and its government benefits.

Why on earth would I say no?

Still, though, I'm waiting until I've calmed down a little to respond, and I have until noon on Monday to do so. Getting this far in a hiring process is weird. I have no idea what I'm doing, but I know I have to keep going.

And here I was, all ready to just keep plugging away at a couple spec scripts I've been working on in hopes of getting one of the screenwriting fellowships in L.A. The question now is this: do I want to keep working in libraries and archives, using skills I've developed over three years of archives work, or do I want to pursue something in which I have an actual interest and ambitions, but very little experience and nothing to recommend me?

Aie. The real world is a scary place.

June 5, 2009

Shiny, new things

Some fun new things chez Impermanent:

I won a First Reads giveaway from Goodreads! (Ignore the crap from my desk in the photo...I was too lazy to clear it off.) I've entered about a frillion giveaways (because, really, what's better than free books?), but this is my first win. The book is The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein. I'm looking forward to reading & reviewing it, but I've got a stack of books from the library to finish first (a handful of screenplay and writing books, The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O'Rourke, Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, The Charlemagne Pursuit by Steve Berry). Hopefully it won't take too long to get through everything...I'm plagued by that age-old problem: so many books, so little time.

On the tech front, I just got a new HP Mini 1000 Netbook:

It's adorable. Only about 10.5" x 6.5" and about two pounds, I've had it for all of 24 hours and I already love it. (I threw my first-gen iPod mini in the pictures for scale.) There was a bit of frustration when trying to get online for the first time, but Qwest tech support walked me through the whole thing (I got very decent service with the internet customer service guys; I've heard the phone service reps are impossible, though) and everything is good to go now.

There's no disc drive on the netbook, so I'm trying Open Office's word processor instead of MS Word; I've heard it's totally compatible and some folks even prefer it to Word. We'll see what happens. I'm going to have a hell of a time getting Final Draft on there, though. Aie. Also, it's probably a good thing I'm young and don't need bifocals, since the screen is 8.9" (diagonal) and a 1024x600 resolution means things get pretty small; my mother couldn't read any of the text online and I had to make most images on Flickr full screen before she was happy.

All I need to do now is sew up a padded sleeve for carrying it around and we'll be completely portable. At the moment, I'm chained to my desktop whenever I want to write, which inevitably makes me less inclined to do it. This is going to do wonders for my productivity. (Famous last words...)

We're heading into a cold, rainy weekend in the Twin Cities, so I'll have plenty of opportunity to 1) read and 2) use my netbook while hiding out indoors. Silver lining and all that, right?

June 3, 2009

The state of things

1) Waiting to hear from the U.S. Navy about an archives job. I was rated "Qualified" (as opposed to, I believe, "Best Qualified" or "Well Qualified") for the position, so not holding out much hope.

2) Woken up two hours early this morning by not one, but two absurdly loud jackhammers in the parking ramp across the street from my apartment. My roommate slept straight through them. She was woken up instead by the sound of my typing. (?!)

3) It's officially patio season in the Twin Cities. One of the best things about summer is enjoying your food outside on not-so-windy days with a pint and piped-in contemporary pop music. Oh, yes. Summer is good. I'm looking forward to Brit's Pub's Bastille Day celebration and some cider (what? I don't particularly like the way beer tastes) on the rooftop lawn. Even the restaurants along Washington Avenue in Stadium Village (just off the U of M campus) have squeezed a few tables out onto the sidewalk for those who enjoy bus exhaust with their meals (it's really not that bad, particularly at Sally's, where the patio is set back from the sidewalk). Goal for the summer: eat + get vitamin D at the same time.

Until next time...

May 6, 2009

To boldly go


I was fortunate enough to attend a free Paramount-sponsored screening of J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek a couple weeks ago in the Twin Cities area, and with the film coming out on Thursday/Friday (depending on who you believe), it seems like a good time to share my reactions (now that I’ve stopped bouncing around like a kid on Christmas morning…TWO WEEKS LATER).

Fans of J.J. Abrams’ other work will know that, many times, he likes to jump right into the middle of the action after a deceptively calm opening. On Lost, it was Jack stumbling out of the all-but-silent jungle into the chaos of the plane crash on the beach. Mission: Impossible III opens with an engagement party and then segues into a rescue mission to save Ethan Hunt’s protégé. Similarly, Star Trek opens with the crew of the U.S.S. Kelvin checking out a mysterious outer-space lightning storm, then finding themselves suddenly bombarded by an enormous, seriously freaky-looking ship, the Narada, that turns out to be captained by a bitter, ever-so-slightly unbalanced (read: completely insane) Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana). Long story short, the Kelvin’s captain bites it (sorry, SPOILER), the acting captain, a young man named George Kirk, orders the ship’s crew to evacuate, and sends the Kelvin on a collision course with the Romulan ship. Meanwhile, Winona, George Kirk’s wife, is giving birth to their son in the medical shuttle. The boy is named James Tiberius Kirk after Winona and George’s fathers, respectively, and then George dies when the Kelvin crashes into the Narada.

Welcome to the new Star Trek.


The thing I like about Abrams’ version of the oft-mocked camp and kitsch of the original Star Trek television series is that he doesn’t take the hard line that so many remakes and “reboots” have been doing lately—Battlestar Galactica went dark and gritty for its makeover (as brilliantly parodied in the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode “A Space Oddity” that aired April 16); James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Batman have been reinvented as gritty action heroes, the camp of early Bond and the Batman TV series nowhere to be found; even the revived Doctor Who takes a darker look at its universe than classic Who (I’m still a little terrified by Stephen Moffat’s “Blink”). There are endless remakes coming out on television and at the movies in recent years, and it seems like the majority of them chose to turn the source material into very dark iterations of what came before. This new Star Trek finds the middle ground—not everything is hunky-dory, but it’s not all despair, either. Kirk bleeds when he loses a bar fight—boy, does he bleed—and so does the child-Spock when he’s bullied back on Vulcan, but nobody horrifically loses an arm or gets a compound fracture (like Montand and John Locke on Lost, respectively…and ew). This is a universe where planets can get blown up and people can die, but not one where utter devastation is the status quo. Frankly, I find it refreshing.

The dialogue doesn’t make me want to cringe—quite an accomplishment, given the scripts from the original series and from the two Trek films I’ve seen that feature the original crew (Wrath of Khan and Search for Spock)—and yes, they work in lines like “I’m a doctor, not a physicist, damn it” and “I’m givin’ her all she’s got” in a way that doesn’t make me roll my eyes. (I saw the movie in a theater full of Trekkies, and they got a genuine kick every time something familiar popped up. It was fun.) The effects are great, the redesigned Enterprise is fabulous inside and out, the Narada is terrifying in the best possible way, and the cast?

The cast is GORGEOUS.

Chris Pine plays Kirk with the right amount of careless charisma and recklessness, and my female and male friends at the screening were big fans by the end (I know him from Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, so I was somewhat prepared for his aesthetically-pleasing face); Zachary Quinto (also known as the reason I watch Heroes) is an amazing Spock, and very believable as the younger Leonard Nimoy—you can definitely see how Quinto’s very controlled Spock grows into Nimoy’s slightly more relaxed Spock through his relationship with Kirk. Rounding out the Enterprise crew are Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu, Karl Urban as McCoy, Simon Pegg as Scotty, and Anton Yelchin as Chekov, plus any number of redshirts and women with weird hairdos. (And yes, there’s a green Starfleet cadet who gets up close and personal with Kirk because he is, as always, a total letch.)

The other thing about these actors is that they’re not only easy on the eyes, they’re funny. Really funny. And the whole movie (written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) is surprisingly—but not overwhelmingly or inappropriately—funny. Only twice (maybe three times) did I feel like the comedy could be construed as a little over-the-top, and those moments will be easy for anybody to spot. I think it’s to the credit of everyone involved (from the screenwriters to the actors to the director) that the scenes that could make a purist throw up his/her hands and declare that they’ve made a farce of his/her beloved franchise instead garner laughs from Trekkies and Trek newcomers alike (at least, they did at the screening I attended).

The new Trek makes a few departures from the original series, but I think they work and they make sense for a franchise trying a fresh start in a new century. Even as a relative bystander to the phenomenon for most of my life, I could tell that some of the Star Trek media started to inhabit the uncharted wilds of Ridiculous (oh, I’ve read the plot summaries on Wikipedia), and even though I watched a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation with my mom when I was kid and really liked Voyager and Captain Janeway when I was in junior high, I think this is a well-deserved and well-executed makeover. Kudos to J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (because writers deserve much more credit than they get!), the cast (including a voice cameo by Abrams’ lucky charm, Greg Grunberg!), et al for a job well done.

(I’m not going to lie: I’m probably going to see it in theaters at least three times.)

(And like it more each time.)

(I am such a nerd.)

April 17, 2009

Such a heavenly way to die

Just the other day, my friend Sasha and I were lamenting the fact that 500 Days of Summer wasn’t going to come out until July. July, ARGH. How could we possibly wait that long to see the adorable Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the “anti-romantic comedy” that’s been getting solidly positive reviews from Sundance and SXSW? Did I mention it’s directed by Marc Webb, my all-time favorite music video director (he did “Helena” and “The Ghost of You,” among others, for My Chemical Romance, Regina Spektor’s “Fidelity,” Evanescence’s “Call Me When You’re Sober” and “Good Enough” and a whole host of other videos amazing three-minute movies). Seriously, if you watch only one of those videos I linked, watch “The Ghost of You.” It’s possibly my favorite music video of all time.

Anyway, this showed up on my Twitter homepage yesterday as the “secret of the day” from Secrets of the City (@secretsday):
Today's Secret: Film Fetish: The MSP International Film Fest

As I said multiple times yesterday, I’m so glad I clicked on that link. Turns out 500 Days of Summer was slated to open the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival last night, some three months before it comes out nationwide. UM, YES PLEASE. (By the by, the fest’s website might be down from time to time if lots of people are using it; I got a “bandwidth exceeded” message when trying to check info before the screening yesterday.)


Here’s the setup: Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a romantic. Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is not—she doesn’t even believe that love exists. So you can imagine how things play out when Tom sees Summer and immediately believes she’s The One (even though she doesn't want to be anybody's girlfriend). We see their relationship play out as we jump forward and backward through the titular five hundred days, with a counter bringing us from awkward elevator chitchat to pancake dinner breakup and up and down again.

The beginning of the film is the middle of the story: immediately following the breakup, we see the emotionally destroyed Tom dispassionately smashing dinner plates while his concerned friends (Geoffrey “Snozzberries” Arend and Matthew “Supervisory Special Agent Doctor Spencer Reid” Gray Gubler) and full-of-legitimately-good-advice little sister coax him down off the metaphorical ledge. Only after Little Sis tells Tom to “start from the beginning” do we get the beginning of the story. The back-and-forth timeline is a dangerous thing and could so easily have backfired and gone horribly wrong, but Webb and the writers (Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber) execute it perfectly. Geoffrey Arend, who was at the screening and did a short Q&A afterward, said that Webb had a huge scroll mapping out the timeline precisely the way it appeared in the screenplay and how it subsequently translated to the screen, which is one of the best behind-the-scenes factoids I've heard.

The interweaving timeline was much more interesting and dynamic than a straight-line narrative would have been and it was a nice way to move between the very heavy emotional weight of the post-breakup days and the light, happy falling-in-love days (including the musical number!) without getting overwhelmed by one or the other.

Speaking of music, I loved the way Webb used it to drive the film. It's not surprising that the guy who directed basically every music video I've loved in the past ten years would incorporate music seamlessly into his first feature film (plus, most of his videos look more like mini-movies than, say, McG's brand of frenetic flash). There's a great soundtrack including Regina Spektor, The Smiths, one of my favorite Feist songs (“Mushaboom”), and even a song by Carla Bruni (yes, First Lady of France Carla Bruni Sarkozy). /Film has the full list here. There's some great drunken karaoke scenes that 1) are hilarious, and 2) make me glad I have yet to get so drunk I'm willing to do karaoke. (And yes, Zooey Deschanel does some singing.)

The acting is uniformly good—Joseph Gordon-Levitt is funny and heartbreaking and all kinds of good things as Tom; Zooey Deschanel conveys the right blend of cute and hesitant and a little sad (and has a touch of the inflection sister Emily Deschanel uses as Dr. Temperance Brennan of Bones when explaining Summer's nickname “Anal Girl”); Arend and Gubler are good as Tom's friends and Chloe Moretz manages to stay on the right side of the precocious/creepily precocious line as little sister Rachel.

On a different note, I want all of Zooey's outfits from this movie. Well, except the high-waisted pants. But everything else was gorgeous.

To make a long story short (all together now: too late), I really, really liked the movie. I may have even loved it. It made me laugh, it made me care about the characters, it made me ooh and ahh over the great art direction and set dressing. Like the narrator says at the beginning: this is not a love story. It's a story about love. That distinction makes it different (the anti-romcom, see?) and interesting: that Hollywood ending almost never happens, but what does happen so much more often is lovely and worthwhile and important all on its own, and that's the story that 500 Days of Summer tells.

Strongly, strongly, strongly recommended.

Some general info about the film festival (MSPIFF) itself: the full catalog of films being shown can be found in PDF format at the website (or here, but it's infinitely easier to read in a hard copy, which you can find at the Oak St. Theater if you're on or near the U of MN campus, or they'll probably have copies at screenings (most of which are at St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis). I'm going to try to hit a couple screenings, if only because it supports Minnesota Film Arts.

I haven't taken a close look at everything, but I know the ridiculously hard-to-track-down How to Be, starring RPattz, is showing on Monday at 7:15pm at St. Anthony Main with the following note: “Cast and Crew Present for Screening and After Party!

Now, I'm 99% certain that Pattinson is in Canada shooting New Moon/Eclipse (are they shooting simultaneously? I don't know), so I'm also 99% certain he won't be there. Downside: no getting to see The Hair in person. Upside: probably fewer squeeful teenage girls and more tickets available. But the movie looked interesting anyway, so I might go.

Having written all that, I feel a little like a pretentious hipster.
Oh, God, what if I am a pretentious hipster?

I hope not.

April 14, 2009

Opening remarks

Here's the status quo:

I am...
  • A college grad with a B.A. (summa cum laude!) in English
  • (sort of) supporting myself with temp jobs at my university's archives
  • trying to figure out what I'm going to do with my life
  • looking for a full-time job I won't hate and getting passed over at every turn

This blog will be intermittently updated with dispatches from the front while I job-hunt and fill my idle hours. The title here, Impermanent State, means I'm in transition from student to real adult, from part-time temp positions to (hopefully) a full-time job, and the constant flux of modern life.

So, to begin...

What I'm watching:

Heroes on Hulu: I just started watching Heroes about a week and a half ago and--thanks largely to the strike-abbreviated second season--I'm almost caught up. Rather than the all-too-common system of putting only the five most recent episodes online, which is the case with most network sites, Hulu has the entire third season of Heroes up, which is marvelously convenient for those of us just getting into things.

What I'm reading:

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

I'll be updating my Goodreads page with books more often than this one here, I imagine.

This is what this unemployed person does with her time, I suppose.

(More news as it comes...)