Friday, March 6, 2009


Meerkat Manor
I'm finishing a breakfast of a hot link sandwich on whole wheat with Coky-Cola. I partly blame Rachael Ray, whose "What's For Dinner Tonight" segment today included andouille. But I was also in the mood to not do food balancing.

Plus, I want to write on Ginny Bates a good long chunk after I get this bit'o'journal out of the way. I tend to fuel my muse on caffeine. White trash caffeine, that is.

As I type, Sarah Connor and Dollhouse are being taped. I'm hanging in there with Dollhouse because, after all, it took Buffy and Firefly a while to get established. But I'm not that happy with it so far. Way too much sexual objectification, and the whole "I'm on a camping trip with a man who wants to fuck me and then hunt me with a bow and arrow" episode was so unbelievably cliched and woman-hating, like a Lifetime movie written by Andrew Dice Clay. I hate the brain-zapper guy, and I know we're supposed to warm to the paternalism of the dimple-chinned black guy but that actor was a prick on an old ER arc and I've never liked him since. I was, however, brought to sudden attention at the very end of the last episode, when Echo signaled to Sierra "Not now, not in front of the watchers". So, I'll hang in for six or eight episodes. The writing better improve, however.

I note that a new series starts this week, Castle, which stars Nathan Fillion, known to all of us Firefly fans as Mal. I'll tape it as well and see what it's about. I have been watching Life on Mars with growing appreciation, especially for the role and acting of Gretchen Moll. It's certainly not the 1973 I knew, but I'm intrigued with how the plot line keeps us wondering: Real time travel? A prolonged coma hallucination? Tinkering from the overlords?

I got an e-mail offer from Netflix last week to please come on back home, although it's been two years since I had reliable mail delivery enough to make use of their service and cancelled. However, they now have the ability to view episodes instantly on your PC. I called 'em and checked it out, was told I had to have blah-blah-blah plus Silverlight on my computer (which I do), and signed up for a two week free trial. Which immediately did not work. I went through their tech support, who blamed it on Microsoft; went through an obsequious guy named Zhang at Microsoft, who had a ridiculous list of procedures that I declined (I should not have to Safe Boot to watch a movie, sorry); and was gonna give up, but as a last ditch did the old "delete application and reinstall" of Silverlight. Worked just fine after that.

I began browsing last night. They have a fair number of documentaries available for "Watch Instantly" that I find interesting. I've seen all the sci-fi and new arrivals there I want to, but there were several British comedies I'm going to either sample or re-view. Especially Good Neighbors, which (along with 'Allo, 'Allo) in 1989 kept me in hysterics on Sunday evenings, available through our local PBS station here. They also have Weeds and Mythbusters, both of which I've heard a lot about but never seen.

What I did wade right into, however, was Meerkat Manor, which is rather famous out there. I watched the first three episodes and am seriously hooked. I dreamed about little Shakespeare last night. It's all deliciously new to me, so while I may be spoiling things for another neophyte out there, please don't say something in comments that will give away future plots for me, 'kay?

I woke up wondering about at what point during the ten-year 24-hour study of this colony of meerkats in the Kalihari did one of the researchers, possibly enthralling his friends and family with yet another development, have the bright idea of "this would make one hell of a TV series"? I'll have to research that, I bet there's a story behind the story out there somewhere. (Fine to lead me in that direction if you want.) I also wonder about the naming of the animals, what protocols they're using. I mean, Zaphod and Youssarian are litter-mates, which raises the question if they had siblings named something like Xerxes and Wittgenstein. Is there a whole string of names like Daisy for the daughters of the matriarch, Flower? I especially loved how three littermates wound up with the monikers of Tosca, Mozart, and Shakespeare, with no regard for gender policing.

I also question the tagging (during the character intro before each episode) of Tosca as "rebellious" and Mozart as "caring", when in fact both of them are "unwed mothers" and both of them gave up foraging to sit watch over poor little Shakespeare. Is this the old madonna/whore dichotomy applied to females? And how much has being labeled with "social problems" perhaps pushed Youssarian over the edge? (As if his name wasn't enough.) But, as I say, I've only watched three episodes. To be honest, "social problems" seems to apply to all of them, with miniscule attention spans and erratic moods apparently part of meerkat DNA.

I'll have to cram in as much as I can before the two-week deadline. I'm not going to continue Netflix beyond the free trial, ten bucks a month is not in my budget, especially not for movies.

Screenshot from Westward game
As if this is not distraction enough, I also discovered the Westward game series this past week. Like Virtual Villagers with goldmines and WOC gunslingers. This is from Sandlot Games, the same folks who developed the Tradewinds series, and engrossing really covers it. I dearly love the Western drawl of the female character who complains "Awl right" when you drag her from one spot to another, and the "bad sheriff" who, when you click on him, says in a Clint Eastwood growl "Leave me alone". I am also convinced that one of the Copperhead Gang, the bandits who have to be gunned down frequently, declares as she collapses in a small pool of blood on the dirt "Well, shee-yit". (This is not a children's game.) Like Tradewinds, the operating mantra is "save early, save often" and balance of trade/food reserves. There's three sets of this series out so far, and I'm only well into Part II, so there's weeks or months of fun ahead of me. The Sandlot website runs a Blue Plate Special each week where you can buy their already established games for five bucks, which I decided to splurge on. Since I've not bought anything but life essentials for over six months.

That's the lighter developments of my life this week. Otherwise, I'm contending with grim burdens having to do with family dysfunction, new health problems, and, oh, yeah, family dysfunction. Spring came and went here in about fifteen minutes. One day last week, a day when folks in Vermont were getting heavy snowfall, it got up to almost 90 degrees here in Austin (94 just west of here). We are now in the worst drought in recorded history. If heavy winds coincide with a fire that threatens the wilderness area which backs up to the parking lot outside my front door, I'll have to be evacuated.

But art supersedes, and humor. And kittehs. Now to go write in my alternate universe.


kat said...

All right, Jochild, I've got a bone to pick with you.

You and your amazing ability to write which draws me in and leads me to forget whatever it is that I was just doing. Like turning the stove on under some lemon juice and sugar. "simmer for 2 minutes" became "forget about it for a really long time till you wonder why the lemon pound cake that's cooking smells so weird" and the lemon syrup turned into oozing black sludge.

The death of my teeny $5 Ikea Saucepan is on you.

Now, on to other things:

Weeds is awesome. I love it wholeheartedly in a weird its-so-trashy-but-yet-wonderfully-hysterical kind of way.

Boyfriend and I are downloading Dollhouse. I really hated the "girl hunted in the woods by psycho sex freak" episode, but I heard an interview with Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku in which it was hinted that the interesting stuff only happens after episode 6, because Fox sucks and insisted on hooking people with the cheap, yucky, overly-sexy crap.

I suspect that it will get interesting when all of the stuff about supposedly erased memory starts to manifest. I bet that Echo has been playing at being clueless, personally.

Maggie Jochild said...

I mourn the death of the saucepan, Kat, I do. And hope the lemon pound cake lives in another form. I ADORE lemon pound cake.

Yeah, I had a suspicion about Joss Whedon being reined in. I fucking hate that -- produce more of the sexist trash until we let you do the other stuff because we're made enough money from the sewage.

And good to hear about Weeds. The fact that it keeps winning Golden Globes says something to me. Plus, the star was so GREAT on West Wing, y'know.

Maggie Jochild said...

Kat, I just went and watched my first episode of Weeds.

The opening sequence alone had me. Malvina Reynolds?!!! (I had a chance to see her live right before she died.)

Okay, now to watch another episode. Writing will have to wait.

kat said...

Just wait till you get to the season where they have to sit shivah for the sons' great-grandmother.....

The cake turned out okay. Flavor wise it's great, but I either over-mixed or have baking powder that should be replaced (did you know that it only has a 6 month shelf life??), because it's a lemon pound brick.

But, slather on enough powder sugar glaze made with lemon juice, and I'm not gonna complain.

p.s. I saved the pan (at the detriment of all of my dishwashing tools), so you can rest easy and not expect my lemon pound brick to come crashing through your front window

little gator said...

If you burn something in a saucepan, boil water in the pan till the black crud flakes off. Doesn't always work, but usually.

kat said...

I would be more likely to believe Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku more (about how Dollhouse isn't really about tantalizing men with the possibility of programmable women who do whatever you want them to, and really it's all a disection of what makes us all indiviudals) if Dushku hadn't just posed nearly nekkid on the cover of Maxim magazine....