Gladiator Junior Edition

I realized that I never posted the outcome of the American Gladiator style match between young Anakin Skywalker, Harry Potter, and Gibson from the X-Files. Granted, we never got any response from any of you, so either no one cared or everyone thought the outcome was obvious.

Which it is.

Though he lacks the same powers as his opponents, Gibson spent like an entire season living in a nuclear reactor. Which he survived, but which must have made him radio active. Which means that just being in the arena with him will lead to radiation poisoning. Thereby shortly after the match begins, Harry and Anakin are left weakened, stripped of their powers, but with healthy tans.

And Gibson strolls out to be forgotten like a dangling plot thread once more.

Friday Night Fights

We’re going a little retro with our second installment in our fictional character grudge match series.  This week:  young Anakin Skywalker (as seen in Star Wars Episode I, if you admit to having seen Star Wars Episode I), Harry Potter, and Gibson, the kid from the first X-Files movie go at it American Gladiator style with those giant q-tips.  Who wins?

Bonus points for giving us a play by play.

We’ll post results in a week or so.

Mary Celeste

Normally, I leave the creepy, unexplained and generally occult to Kristy, but being as I’m writing this on the anniversary of the discovery of the Mary Celeste, I’m willing to tackled a little unexplained mystery discussion.

The Mary Celeste set sail out of New York in mid November 1872 with a load of alcohol in barrels bound for Italy.

On December 4 (or 5th–no accurate time zones existed at the time, so the date is fungible) the Mary Celeste was spotted by another ship, the Dei Gratia, which had departed New York after the Mary Celeste.  It was headed for the Strait of Gibraltar, but appeared to be sailing somewhat erratically.  After observing and seeing no apparent activity, the crew of the Dei Gratia boarded the Mary Celeste and found it was in relatively good shape, if somewhat wet.  And that there was no sign of the crew, captain or the captain’s wife and 2 year old daughter.

Now, common sense would lead on to think of the obvious: pirates!

But the ship was in tact, and the barrels of alcohol in the hold were untouched, save for 4 barrels which were missing.  The only other missing objects were some of the basic navigation equipment, and all of the papers save the ship’s log.  There was adequate food and water aboard.  There was no sign of struggle or violence.  A large life boat was gone and the ship had a rope that may have been attached to that boat frayed, and dragging behind.  One of the bilge pumps was running and the other two appeared to have been dismantled.

None of it made sense.

The ship was clearly seaworthy since it was still sailing relatively well when found.  With cargo still there, it wasn’t like someone raided them for the cargo.  And with no signs of struggle, it’s unlikely there was a violent mutiny or altercation.  And why were such random things as all the papers except the log missing?

There are some very plausible theories, one of which includes the potential that alcohol fumes caused a brief explosion which caused the crew to quickly abandon the ship, and that while in the yawl, waiting to avoid the alcohol fume explosion, a storm or rogue wave took them out.  But….an explosion would have blown the hatch open, and the boarding party found it latched.

The Scully in me (which, Kristy will tell you is definitely the dominate part) says that the alcohol fume explosion is probably right.  Perhaps there was an attempt immediately after the explosion to contain things by re-shutting the hatch before everyone departed in the yawl.  I also have to question if maybe there WAS something important being carried on the ship–something in the form of paper or documents–that wasn’t on any manifest, and that the crew was intercepted by someone with a very specific mission.

And then there’s the part of me that thinks like Mulder.  That part of me knows exactly what happened to the Mary Celeste:

Aliens.

Haircut Let Down

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that on Friday I finally made up my mind to get a haircut.  Normally getting my hair cut into a slightly layered bob (think Agent Scully hair around the time of the first movie and season 6).  This is my goto haircut.  It’s usually followed by me thinking I’m going to grow my hair out and not really succeeding because A) I don’t really look good in long hair and B) my hair really just starts going to total shit after it gets a little past my shoulders.

I’ve had a few mishaps in the haircut department.  I lack the vocabulary to really tell the stylist what I’m looking for, and the pointy-talkie hand gestures from beneath the cape are not always effective at communicating the idea either.  I’ve only had 1 really horrible outcome with a truly bad cut, but I’ve had plenty where I’ve come out a little ho-hum thinking “It’s not bad, but it’s not really what I wanted, either.”

I finally got smart and took pictures of the cut I loved the most and I bring those along.  This has worked pretty consistently–until this time.  I like this stylist.  She’s cut my hair on and off for quite a while.  Trouble is, she’s mostly been trimming my hair during my “I’m growing it out” delusional phase.  I didn’t think this would be a problem as I sat down, told her I was ready to get rid of the length, and pulled the pictures out of my purse.

She instantly said, “Oh, a layered bob.  Sure.  Okay follow me back here and we’ll get you washed.”

Everything was fine.  This shop is generally entertaining because the women who work there harass each other openly, which means I can listen and laugh and not have to make small talk.  The stylist went to work, as she cut the back she asked if the length was right.  It was.  Snip, snip, snip.  First the length came off, then it was time to shape.  As she was working the top layer, she asked again if the length seemed right.  I couldn’t really see a problem.  It seemed a little short, but not too much. Snip snip.

The trouble is, along with my inability to verbally communicate what I want in a haircut, I also lack the kind of spacial perception necessary to judge length.  That top layer?  Too short.

It’s not hideous.  Even my Mom, who doesn’t hold back when she has a problem with a haircut, said that it actually looks nice.  But it’s not what I wanted.  It doesn’t look like a uniform bob.  It’s more Scully circa season 7 when she went a bit shorter.  If I pull back the top in a beret (a typical action for me anyhow), it looks just fine–exactly like it would look if I had the correct length on the top layer.  And, thankfully, in a few weeks that top layer will be long enough, I’ll go in and have the stylist even it out and life will be good.

But until then, the excitement of shorter hair is just not quite enough to make up for the let down of not getting what I really wanted.

Navigate This.

We here at My TV, My Peanut Butter are quite the fans of TV on DVD.  We were the ones who tried to tape and collect everything, so this whole better-quality-smaller-container-easily-available thing was tailor made for us.

But all this consumption has also given us some very strong opinions.  Particularly on the subject of menus and navigation.

The way a main-menu runs on a DVD, particularly one for a TV series, can make or break the experience.  Some of them have really rotten icons that don’t make it clear what you’ve highlighted so instead of playing the episode, you wind up turning on Korean subtitles.  Some of them have the world’s crappiest menu music (you can always tell when there was a dispute over rights to the music in the show).

But the worst of the worst is the lack of a “play all.”

The offender that comes to mind first on this is The X-Files (though they are by no means alone: Stargate SG1?  I’m looking right at ya).  I love my X-Files, and there’s not much about them that can tick me off, but I hate, loath and despise that when I put in those DVDs?  I have to manually select each episode, and then manually select to play it.  It’s not just the lack of ability to put it in and hit play knowing it will run for 4 eps without my having to stop ironing, it’s the fact that every single episode requires me to essentially select it twice.  And then when the episode finishes, I get dumped back to that episode’s play menu, and have to navigate to go back to the main menu to play the next episode.  Annoying. As.  Hell.

Menus aren’t the only failing though.  Other navigational screw ups can destroy an experience as well.  So right behind the lack of “play all” on the menu poorly marked chapters within an episode.  When you’re sitting down to a marathon of a series, no matter how good those credits are, but the last 6 or 7 episodes of that 20 episode season?  You’re bordering on homicidal.  In the name of the safety of yourself, and others (including the makers of the show), you pick up the remote as those credits begin again and hit to skip forward.

Except some clueless asshat put the chapter break well past the end of the credit sequence, so now you have to scramble to go back to the previous chapter where you will either have to grit your teeth through the opening, or you’ll have to use the more manual fast-forward and hope you don’t overshoot your mark.  Total drag.  Oh and Stargate?  I’m totally looking at you again.

So, to all you wonderful people who bring me TV on DVD?  Please take notes.

Big Foot Sightings

The local news had a story about a North Carolina man who was out chasing coyotes and encountered Sasquatch.  I dearly love Sasquatch sighting stories, moreso when they’re taking place East of the Mississippi.  Inevitably you get a red-neck fella in a camo baseball cap relating his tale through a thick accent with a completely unmasked tone of shock.  It’s fantastic, and, I’ll admit:  I think at least a portion of them are dead-on (the rest were just communing with the still and we all know it).

Yes, that’s right.  I believe Bubba when he says he saw Big Foot.  Why, would I, a semi-intelligent and moderatly well-educated young woman set any store by the grammatically incorrect ramblings of a fellow who thinks Bach is just one of them fancy beers?

Because I’m pretty sure I once saw Sasquatch in Tennessee.

Those who’ve known me long enough might just chock this up to my own humbly rural roots, but I swear it’s true.  Sometime after midnight, late in December, under a bright full moon, my family was driving back to Virginia from Texas.  In Tennessee, climbing up out of a river valley somewhere East of Nashville, I looked out the car window, wide awake (I rarely sleep in a car–just can’t do it).  In a slight clearing in the trees, I saw several deer nibbling at what little vegetation was poking up from the snow.  They were far enough away from the road and slightly down an incline that I knew I didn’t have to warn Mom (who was at the wheel–she doesn’t sleep in cars either) about any unwanted jay-walkers bounding into her path, so I just stared as we got closer.  As we zipped past, I saw it, a dark figure near the edge of the clearing.

It looked like it was watching the deer.  Not moving toward the, and not stalking them.  Just watching.  I calmly announced to my mother, “I think I just saw sasquatch.”  To which sIhe said, “Um, Cammy, do you think you need to crawl in back and try to sleep there?”

I assured her, as I assure you now, gentle readers, I was not sleep deprived.  I’ve also run through the other possibilities.  I pondered that it was just a man in heavy clothing–a hunter or naturalist out to observe wildlife–but the size of the figure relative to the deer was entirely too large for the average male.  Maybe one with a hormonal disorder.  Maybe.  I considered that it may have been a bear, but the build and stance were all wrong for any bear I’ve ever seen.

That leaves Big Foot.

I’m too practical to believe in most things of a weird nature.  On the spectrum of X-Files, I’m definitely more to the Scully than the Mulder.  But, in keeping with the logic of our favorite FBI redhead, I’m willing to believe that there’s at least a possibility of a small number of creatures living in Appalachia which have evaded the eyes of man for a significant period of time.  It’s improbable, yes, but not completely impossible.

So, I’m off to find my camo baseball cap.  The accent?  Well, I already have that one.  Bubba?  I believe you!

TVPB Lexicon: Appendix Kiss

In scholarship one of the things they always emphasize is that you need to define your terms from the outset.  People define words differently and if you don’t make it clear how you’re using a term you can confuse the heck out of your readers.  Or worse, make them think you’re saying something other than what you’re actually saying.

So I feel it’s important for us here at It’s My TV, It’s My Peanut Butter to define our terms.  So that we can be clear.  And so that you, our gentle and not-so-gentle readers know what the heck we’re talking about.

Today we venture into the peanut buttery lexicon for an important fangirly term:  “Appendix kiss”  This word derives from a phrase used by a college buddy of ours.  Describing one television kiss she said, “Well, with that kiss he could go, ‘hey, I see you had your appendix out when you were twelve.’”  And it stuck.  Hence forth an “appendix kiss” has referred to those over the top, super deep (at least to outward appearances, we realize they’re acting) kisses that make shippers go “SQUEE!”

The original appendix kiss is in The X-Files episode “Triangle.”  It was memorable enough to provoke Cammy’s happy dance which is truly something to behold.  In Farscape when Aeryn and John were stuck in the Flax?  Serious appendix kiss.  I’m sure there were a couple in BSG, but can’t remember episodes off the top of my head and am stranded without my DVDs.  Soap operas have perfected the art of the appendix kiss; I can’t even begin to list them.

What say you readers?  Do you have a favorite appendix kiss moment?

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.

Defining the Gratuitous Rewind Moment

Gratuitous Rewind Momentdefinition: A moment in a film, television program or other form of video or motion picture media that so captures the mind of a particular viewer that he/she rewinds and rewatches it over…and over….and over.  Gratuitously.  Generally applies to mushy, sappy, cute moments that make girly shipper-type viewers squee with joy, however the term can also apply to moments so odd or hilarious that viewers find themselves backing up to watch again and again.

The use of this term dates back to a college-dorm viewing of The X-Files episode “Post Modern Prometheus.”  A group of girls gathered around the TV kept re-winding and re-watching that little moment at the end where Mulder stands up, and extends a hand to Scully, pulling her up to dance to as the faux Cher “performed” “Walking In Memphis.”

Yes, I was one of those girls.  And so was Kristy.  And it was a defining moment.  As we finished watching the episode, there were a lot of “awe”s and “that’s so cute”s and as the credits wound up, we found ourselves glancing sheepishly at one another.  No one wanted to ask.  After all, it was rather pathetic.  A sad sign of the single-status of all the girls in the room that we were so taken with that one chivalrous moment.  That in the midst of an entire episode about the weird, strange and mysterious, each one of us was completely taken in by a less-than-three-minute exchange of a hot man pulling a woman up to dance with him in a totally surreal setting.  No, we didn’t want to admit that we were that hopelessly romantic and manipulated into the mainstream romantic schmalz.

We were trying to play it cool.

Finally, someone caved:  “Can we watch the one more time?”

Faces brightened instantly and the flood gates opened.  “YES!”  “Rewind it!”  “It’s so cute!”  So much for shame and embarrassment.

And one time?  Turned into another, and another, and another.  All in a row.  Each one yielding a little more giggling.  Until, amid the laughter, someone pointed out that we had “gratuitously rewound” that for a half hour and some of us had quizzes to study for.  So we stopped.  And from that moment forward, those “gratuitous rewind moments” were no longer something to be ashamed of wanting to see, but something to be noted, cataloged and pointed out to those friends who were simpatico enough to appreciate the particular subject and recognize the amusement to be had by reviewing it multiple times.

So, in the It’s My TV, It’s My Peanut Butter catalog of “Gratuitous Rewind Moments,”  the first entry is “Mulder getting Scully to dance at the ‘Post Modern Prometheus’.”  The first…..but not the last.