A Luwaxana Moment

I’ve been dying my hair on and off since I was fourteen. The first time it was for a part in a show—I was a Cuban dancer in Guys and Dolls and back then my hair was still fairly blonde. But really, they would have let me not dye it. I just kinda wanted to see what I looked like with black hair.

I liked the way it looked, so it was black on and off through high school. Then it was various shades of black and red on and off in college. Then senior year I found my first gray hair. Though Cammy assured me that I should see it as a battle scar, a way of saying, “I survived William & Mary, but look what it did to me!” I felt like it made me look old, and even though after four years of running on about four hours sleep per night and realizing exactly how stupid I really am I felt old, I didn’t want to show that to the world.

I tried for a while to ignore the gray. Two years later I made an ill-fated attempt to cover it with highlights. Around the time I started grad school I decided I was going to have to commit to full time dying. Initially I went with a really pretty, totally fake looking deep plum, but they stopped making the color (actually, two years later I found the color at a drug store in South Carolina, so they may have simply stopped selling it in my market). Then it was various shades of cherry cola red.

At some point, one of my students who was a beautician convinced me that if I wasn’t going to pay to have a professional color my hair, I should at least buy professional grade stuff at Sally’s rather than the drug store brands. So I did. And my color got a bit more natural looking… until I was getting ready to start my PhD. Because it was the first time in many, many years I had several months in which didn’t have to look historical, I told my hair dresser (yes, I had splurged) she could go crazy. So she gave me a few pops of purple. That I loved.

Since then the color pops have been an on and off thing. I’ve had purple and blue (which was supposed to be purple, but came out blue) and red and more purple. It’s taken a while to get the process down (this is perhaps the subject of a future blog), but the long and the short of it is that I spent 5-6 hours a couple weeks ago coloring my hair and giving myself back spasms in the process. Why would I do such a silly thing when my time is at a premium and I’m not a huge fan of back spasms?

Ironically, the best explanation I ever heard was in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Luwaxana Troi takes off her redonkulously crazy wig to reveal her brown hair underneath. Odo informs her that it looks fine and she responds, “It looks ordinary. I’ve never cared to be ordinary.” It’s a horrifying moment when you realize you have something so deep in common with Luwaxana Troi, but that’s what I experience every time I watch that episode.

I have brown hair. Once in college I tried to say it was reddish brown/auburn and a classmate informed me bluntly, “It’s brown. Don’t try to make it sound interesting.” Harsh, but true. I also have brown eyes. I’m average height, average width (above average weight, but that’s another blog entry too). Until recently I wore the most common bra size in the country. I have a name that was one of the ten or twenty most common in the year I was born. I’m smart, but not astoundingly so. I’m not particularly pretty, but I’m not a dog. I’m very average. And I’d rather not be.

I’m never going to be tall thin and beautiful like my sister. I’m never going to have piercing green eyes or blue eyes that change with the weather and my outfit. I did suddenly acquire boobs, but they aren’t all that impressive. These things I have no control over. But I can make my hair not look average. I can make it look like nobody else’s. So this is why I spend more time than I ought to on the project and put myself through lots of abuse. Because I’m a bit like Luwaxana Troi. Yikes!

Top Five Coolest Male Voices

Call me a product of my generation, but I’m a chronic multi-tasker.  I can’t watch television or movies without doing something else.  I’m always cleaning, working out, crocheting, or writing blog entries that should have been up hours ago.  Which means I wind up listening to more than I “watch.”  Which is maybe where this list comes from.  Or maybe I just like guys with nice voices.  Who knows?  This is my personal list, not a collective production of It’s my TV, It’s My Peanut Butter.  While they’re fairly consistently my top five, the order shifts around a bit depending on my mood.  Note these are speaking voices, not singing voices.  That’s a whole other list.

1.  Avery Brooks.
It is a travesty beyond travesties that StarTrek: Deep Space Nine did not have a voice over in the opening credits.  Yes, it would have been awkward to rework the whole thing from the first two Trek series so that it was about a thing that stays put instead of has voyages to seek out new life and new civilizations and yadda, yadda.  But seriously?  They wasted the opportunity to have that voice sensuously intoning whatever over dramatic music and pretty images of space.  He could have been reading a recipe for marzipan and I guarantee you female viewership would have gone up.  I’m a weirdo among Trekkies in that DS9 may well be my favorite series (again, depends on the day, sometimes its TNG.  Note I waited till Cammy was out of the country to say that because she considers it a sacrilege.) and while Picard was clearly the best “captain” I think it’s undeniable that Sisko was the bigger badass.  And the voice was a big part of it.  I generally feel like DS9 should have ended a season earlier than it did, but season 7 has avoided being stricken from my memory for two things.  One of those is Sisko singing.  The other is a pair of white baseball pants.  If you’ve seen them, they need no explanation (no, they aren’t on Sisko).

2.  Sean Connery. Yeah, I’m a sucker for the accent.  And the attitude.  And the being that damned hot while being old enough to collect social security (or whatever the Brits have).  Admittedly Saturday Night Lives Sean Connery parody has become almost indistinguishable from the real thing in my mind, but whatever.  Favorite line ever?  A strange choice:  “If I have to wear a suit, she has to wear a bra” from Playing by Heart.  A line that would not be nearly so funny in any other voice.

3.  James Earl Jones. Do I need to explain this one?  Didn’t think so.

4.  Carlo Rota. Yeah, it’s the accent thing again.  And the tone.  Cammy was really the one to point this out to me, but I would listen to this man read the phone book for hours.  Physically, he doesn’t do much for me.  But that voice?  Mmmmm…. Momma like!  And if I could get him to say one one of those Yassir-isms to me like “My flower” or something, I could die a happy woman.

5.  Jeremy Irons. Another accent.  Yes, it’s a theme. I’m okay with it.  I’ll admit it was The Lion King that introduced me to him.  He is deliciously evil sounding.  My friend Megan once said, “Evil looks good.  It’s kind of the whole point of evil.”  Let me tell you, evil sounds good too.  But he sounds good as a good guy too.  I melt every time I watch The Mission.  Every time he says that line about “If you’re right, and might makes right, then love has no place in this world.  And it may be so, it may be so.  But I can’t live in a world like that, Rodrigo.”  I become a puddle.  I know, it’s a well written line and would take an idiot to fuck it up, but Mr. Irons knocks it out of the park.

6.  Antonio Banderas. BONUS!  Because I left him off my list and can’t believe it.  But can’t bring myself to bump anyone either.  Yes, another accent.  At least I have variety in my accents.  But damn!  His accent is intermittently delectable and hysterical.  And by hysterical I mean listen to his version of “Oh What a Circus” and hear how he says “hysterical.”  Make sure you aren’t drinking anything.

Cliffhanger Sunday!

Today marks the 30th Anniversary of perhaps the most notorious cliffhanger in television history:  On Dallas J.R. Ewing was shot by an unknown assailant and “Who shot J.R.?” became entered into the colloquial lexicon forever.  I don’t remember That episode–if I watched it it would have had to have been in a past life.  But I do love me a good cliffhanger.  And by love I mean hate with a passion.  And enjoy every second of.  Because I’m a horrible masochist.

*Warning, the rest of this blog entry will contain spoilers for episodes of various series that aired some time ago.  If you’re one of those who is still slowly working your way though Star Trek: The Next Generation or some other series, trying your darndest not to find out what will happen in the end, I apologize.  If you watch your shows within a year of their broadcast, you should be fine.* (later blog entry to come on expiration dates for spoilers)

So what are your favorite cliffhangers?

A friend of mine once declared the end of The Two Towers (the book, not the movie) to be the greatest cliffhanger in history.  It didn’t do it for me.  If memory serves (my copy of TTT is at the parents house) the novel ends with Frodo being carried off by the orcs.  A good cliffhanger, I’ll grant you, but I’ve read too many epics and epic like tales to have believed for a second Frodo wouldn’t be found.  Only way he was going to die before the end would be if it was a heroic act of self sacrifice.  But it helped that Return of the King was on the bookshelf and I only had to walk across the room to find out what happened.

This makes me wonder, does there have to be genuine fear or uncertainty of the outcome for a cliffhanger to be effective?  I’m not sure there does.

One of my favorite cliffhangers is the end of season 1 of Farscape.  Crais takes off with Talyn, Moya starbursts away, John and D’argo are stranded out in open space, D’argo’s unconscious and Aeryn can’t get to them.  Damn!  (For added info on the impact of this cliffhanger on my psyche, I got hooked on Farscape in Peru where they were about a season behind us.  This cliffhanger was the last episode I saw there, then I came home to find the US in the middle of season 2.  I knew things had worked out, but it was a long while before I found out how.)  Now I didn’t think for a second they were going to kill off half the cast, but I didn’t know but what they might kill one or two.  And I was on the edge of my seat in the wrong hemisphere.

The final episode of Farscape would have made an excellent cliffhanger if the show hadn’t been canceled, turning it instead into the Worst Show Ending Ever.  (I realize it was eventually resolved by the less than stellar Peacekeeper Wars, but that doesn’t kill the sting)

I enjoyed the season 1 “Who’s at the door?” cliffhanger on Veronica Mars even if it was a little silly.

Whatever season of the X-Files it was that ended with Mulder disappearing and Scully being knocked-up was kind of fun in a fangirl “Squee”y kind of way.

Battlestar Galactica had an interesting take on cliffhangers.  They ended Season 2, for example, by jumping forward a year.  All of a sudden Apollo was fat, Starbuck had bad hair, and the cylons were invading.  We were left wondering not only, “What the hell is going to happen?” but also “What the hell happened?”  Double cliffhanger.  Nice.

There are a group of cliffhangers I wish I could have been a part of.  Star Trek:  The Next Generation in “Best of Both Worlds: Part 1” I wish I could have been there for that moment when we saw Borg!Picard.  (I’ve seen this moment, but only years down the road, knowing what was going to happen)  Back in 1990 I can only imagine the thrill of the “WTF?” the audience was feeling.

So yeah, cliffhangers, the evil thing that the television gods do to us and we thank them for it.

Series Finales: The Rare Breed of a Decent Ending

Random factoid:  Today is the one-year anniversary of the series finale of Battlestar Galactica.

I find it odd that it’s been a year because I recall the finale well, and yet it’s an episode I only watched once because it was too much of a kick in the gut to watch without significant emotional recovery time in between.  In my book, that’s a mark of greatness for a TV show or movie.

There are comparatively few programs that have an ending as painful-yet-satisfying (Starbuck notwithstanding–I maintain that was just excessive cruelty).  Of course, there are comparatively few programs which are good enough to justify hanging in to watch until the bitter end.  When I start to take stock, there are few series that I’ve clung to until their ending, and of those there are fewer still that were given the unique opportunity of ending by something other than the swift-pen of a studio exec marking their cancellation, and of that few who received the opportunity to wrap up their loose ends, even fewer actually did it in a way that really did justice to anything that came before.  As I started to do the math, I realized the following:

I’ve only actually made it to the finales of approximately 14 shows.  I’ve been hooked on a lot of shows that went dud somewhere in the mid-seasons and I never went back.  In the case of The West Wing, I watched solidly seasons 1-4 and the first half of 5, then walked away completely until the finale, which I consider among the best I’ve seen.    So I counted that as my 14th show, because even if I lost interest in the middle, I did care enough to see it brought to an ending and that’s more than I’ve done for other shows I’ve given up on.

That brings us to 13.  Of those, 6 had what I consider the “non-renewal-travesty” endings where maybe some things were resolved but over all you could tell the story was cut short by some moron who decided the ratings weren’t good enough.  The most bitter is Remember WENN, for which I’ve boycotted AMC since about 1998.  This group also includes 2 series (Farscape and Firefly) which were later wrapped up in a movie event of some sort (neither of which was as satisfying as I would have liked). In general I don’t count conclusions which take place in another medium (for example, Angel was axed with a very inconclusive ending, IMHO, but continued as a comic…which I haven’t actually had a chance to read so, not counting that at all).  Some of these may have run to crappy endings one day, but they were cut down at a time when I was still watching and had no reason to cease.

That leaves 7 shows which I stuck with until the end and which came to their conclusion with intentional endings.  Of those 7, I found that the more episodic the show, the more likely the ending was not actually as satisfying.  For example, I loved Star Trek: The Next Generation, but I can’t honestly say that I got much out of “All Good Things”  It was a nice ep and all, but it’s not really….satisfying.  And I certainly can’t count the follow-on movies as anything worth calling a good conclusion to that part of the Trek Franchise.  The same goes for Stargate: SG-1.  Straight ball honest?  Off the top of my head, I don’t even really recall how SG-1 ended.  Yeah.  I’d put in my season 10 DVDs to check, but I have Anne of Green Gables playing right now and little in the world justifies stopping Anne of Green Gables.  I do know that the end of SG-1 never answered anything regarding Sam and Jack so my inner-standard-issue-shipper is dissatisfied.  Again, there were the follow-on made for TV movies, but you definitely can’t count those as a conclusion.  Then there’s the biggest stinker of all, The X-Files.  Say wha?  Yeah–no.  I never expected answered questions to end The X-Files because that would have been a travesty in and of itself, but I did expect that I wouldn’t feel like  I’d been cheated after suffering through those last few seasons.

When all is said and done, I’m left with Babylon 5, which had a finale so appropriate to the show that I cry like an infant in need of a diaper change every time I watch (Kristy has actually forbidden me from viewing “Sleeping In the Light” if I’m already depressed because the emotional recovery time after viewing this episode is way too long), and with Battlestar Galactica, which, as I’ve already stated, I haven’t been able to watch in an entire year since first seeing it and drenching two hankies and my shirt sleeve with tears and snot.  It does not escape me that both of these satisfying (if heart-wrenching) endings came from programs that knew the value of a full series arc.

And yet, it’s funny.  Technically the episodic shows have those tied up endings down pat–after all, they do it weekly.  You’d think they’d be better at it.  But in giving us a tidy package each week, they deny us the pleasure of concluding with something that feels like more than just another package in a row.  By the time the episodic shows have decided to wrap it up (which is generally a season later than it should have been), there aren’t many threads which reach back to the beginning.  The few continuous threads they have running through the series (almost exclusively those based on an uncertain romantic coupling) are either hastily put together in a way even the most amateur of fan-fics could out-do, or they are left dangling, generally with some misguided view that this is a deeper and more meaningful thing to let the audience wrap up in their minds.  Which is bull, particularly if the dangling thread is a romantic couple.  Shippers in an audience already wrapped it up a thousand ways in their minds and posted it to the internet, so the least the series folks could do is grow a set and show that they can handle writing a wrap-up to the romantic web they’ve used to tease an audience over multiple seasons.

Maybe so many endings suck because, ultimately, endings are scary.  In reality even the happy endings in life still come with the reality that change lurks around the corner, all creepy and unknown.   For those who’ve been writing to the arc, the ending has been known from the beginning.  It’s not scary because it’s a known quantity that they prepare for every step of the way.  For those poor episodic types, there’s no grand plan.  It’s just day by day.  So when the day comes to finalize it all, it’s just too much–and suddenly that cancelled-too-soon ending seems more humane.  Even if we in the audience don’t realize it.