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Saturday, December 09, 2006


Feel The Foom

Friday, December 08, 2006


PS, I Love You

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Gilmore Girls: Haters, You're Wrong.

Despite what you may have heard, Gilmore Girls is still a very smart television show. The new producers and writers of the CW program have been met with enormous skepticism as they try to create a seventh (likely final) season for the series. As this season has progressed, many critics and fans have complained about a dulling of the dialogue, questioned themes and character choices or jumped off entirely. While the show is somewhat slower-paced this year, and the repartee is less obscure-pop-culture-sharp, I think Gilmore Girls is still one of the brightest spots on the dial--and the new creative team clearly knows the characters. The latest, very good episode, "Merry Fisticuffs", is a great example.

The leads, Lorelai and her daughter Rory, have always gotten themselves into trouble by avoiding unpleasant situations; they''d much rather white lie, outright lie or sin by omission than deal with painful or awkward truths. Last season, this shared character flaw kept Rory from talking to her mother or facing up to herself for half a year, and it eventually led to Lorelai's break-up with her fiance Luke, who has--or rather used to have--his own avoidance problems. At that point, fans (and even the actress, Lauren Graham) complained that Lorelai was acting out of character--but that has been her character since the pilot episode. Avoiding her parents. Avoiding commitment. Avoiding bad news. Rory was the exception to the rule. Currently, the avoidance trait has alienated Rory from her new friends and boyfriend, while it has caused Lorelai to elope with Rory's dad Christopher, which is seeming like a dumber idea with each new episode. Of course she's in denial about it.

This week finds Lorelai resisting Christopher's attempts--desperate and immature though they may be--to genuinely become part of her life. His efforts to ingratiate himself into her Stars Hollow community failed last week, so this week he wants to buy them a new house out of town. He sees Lorelai holding Luke's new niece, so he immediately wants to impregnate her. It's dawning on him that ring or no ring, he can't really ever "have" her for sure--which terrifies him. His fatal flaw is that he wants her but he can't accept her--catch the bit where he keeps taking out the groceries she puts in the cart. If anything is going to break up this marriage, it's Chris denying her food. From the junk food binges to Friday Night Dinners at Richard and Emily's, food has always symbolized the nuturing Lorelai never got from her mother. It is no coincidence that Luke runs a diner, feeding people for a living.

As Lorelai's mother Emily says to her daughter at the end of the episode, in the best scene Kelly Bishop has gotten all season, Christopher is weak and a fool, but likable. Emily believes that he, like all men, needs to be carefully managed, and that Lorelai needs to drop her self-denial and independence in order to protect her own interests. It's mercenary, cynical, heartfelt, at least partially true and totally in character. Of course, Lorelai always ends up following the opposite of her mother's advice, so we can see where this is all going.

The old show under Amy Sherman-Palladino was consistently good at creating complicated situations where you could empathize with everyone involved, and every conflict was motivated by character. (Up until Luke's secret daughter arrived, anyway.) Tuesday's show captured that dynamic better than they have all season. I appreciate that the writers made Christopher right to be upset, even if he's really reacting to his own impotence, overcompensating in all the wrong (but understandable) ways. Lorelai should be more willing to compromise, just as, paradoxically, Chris should be more willing to let her be herself. By the way: has there been an episode yet this year when Chris didn't have to flaunt his insecurity by reminding people that's he's rich? Again, he's still likable, even when he's being pathetic. Too bad for him that he knows it.

Meanwhile, Rory has allowed herself to become entangled in a pathetic lie told by her former friend Marty, who took a walk a few years ago after Rory rejected his advances for those of Logan. Now Marty is dating Rory's new friend and pretends that he and Rory have never met. Rory, not eager to reveal Marty's weird behavior to her friend, says nothing, and lets the pretense drag on far too long, even after Marty makes it clear he still wants her. (Yes, goddamn it, it's a soap opera and I. Don't. Care.) Logan, rich enough never to have to worry what anyone thinks, refuses to play along and explains the charade over dinner--causing Rory's friend, quite understandably, to flip out. Rory is mad at Logan for embarrassing her, not allowing her to control the situation. Logan seems contemptuous of Marty and Rory's weakness--and is probably more than a little vindictively jealous. (After two and a half years I still don't know if I like Logan, which is probably good. All the best characters on the show are at least that ambivalent.) The Rory and Lorelai plots have mirrored each other all season, and that doubling has only been heightened over the last two or three episodes: Logan/Chris, Rory/Lorelai, Marty/Luke. It was amusing how Rory was unable to use her Gilmore superpower of talking someone into submission in order to make herself feel better, as she went to her friend's apartment to explain, only to have the door shut in her face. Kid, you should know by now that stuff only works in Stars Hollow.

The climax of the episode is the fistfight between Christopher and Luke--Chris frustrated by Lorelai's resistance, Luke frustrated by the seeming futility of his efforts to gain partial custody of his daughter and still in shock over his break-up with Lorelai. I find it amazingly perverse for the show to have Luke and Chris beat on each other as proxies for the woman they can't lay a finger on. Clever, and about as dark an idea as the show has ever flirted with. Not to mention one more example of massive avoidance.

Beyond occasionally weaker patter, if anything makes the show seem more conventional this season, it's that the new writers seem to have a harder time juggling the supporting cast; the absence of people like Lane, Sookie, Michel, Jackson, Emily, etc. for weeks at a time is more noticeable than it used to be. The original creators were better at that, I think. Perhaps it's because they've slowed the dialogue down--there's less time to get that extra subplot in there each week. It's also because they've split Lorelai, Rory and Luke onto more or less separate tracks--shuffling amongst them, plus finding room for Taylor or Paris, would be hard for any writer. The direction of the storyline appears to be bringing Luke back into the Gilmore orbit, though, so perhaps this will improve. Given the writers' clear control over the overall plot and character arcs, I'm in it for the duration.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Escalator to Nowhere

NASA Plans Lunar Outpost
Permanent Base at Moon's South Pole Envisioned by 2024

NASA unveiled plans yesterday to set up a small and ultimately self-sustaining settlement of astronauts at the south pole of the moon sometime around 2020 -- the first step in an ambitious plan to resume manned exploration of the solar system.

I'm sorry, but NASA is thinking too small. I believe we must retrofit WW2 battleships with Wave Motion Guns in order to retrieve the Cosmo-DNA from planet Iscandar and repel the Gamilon invaders. My plan is certain to stimulate technological innovation and create jobs. And it will help us save our environment--its express purpose is to rescue Earth from the Gamilon radiation that has rendered our surface uninhabitable, and which will kill the planet within 365 Earth days.

Hurry, Star Force!

I remember back about 1,000 years ago in the Clinton administration, when scientists explained that human space exploration was essentially pointless, too costly in human risk for no scientific reward; that modern robots were far better suited for conducting any research needed. But who listens to scientists? Pantywaists.

My overriding question about the moon base, Mars landing or any other human mission is why? What about a moon base raises it above the level of a multi-billion-dollar stunt? What research could be conducted there that can't occur much closer to home on the ISS? The original moon landings were motivated by the rivalries of the Cold War. I don't see the Islamofascist evildoers racing to claim the moon today.

It's not enough for a generation too young to remember the moon landings to want its own "Fuck Yeah!" moment. It's not enough to want to manufacture a "national purpose" or give Bush an up-with-space-people line for his State of the Union. The Times article fails to explain what vital interest or pressing need requires us to build this outpost. Are there vast diamond deposits up there? Otherwise it seems like a colossal waste of time and talent. If "private interests" want at those "valuable minerals", why should our tax dollars fund their bus ride?

Boosters of manned space exploration and development go on and on and on (and on) about the totally awesome details of building Moon Base Alpha without ever actually, as far as I can tell, getting around to justifying the damn thing. All the enthusiasm in the world--or rather, beyond it--for MAN! IN! SPACE! doesn't get around the apparent uselessness of the whole enterprise (pun intended!). I can think of a few more pressing national interests that could create jobs and save the earth, such as a coordinated effort to confront the effects of global warming. But that's not exactly the stuff of which 8-year-olds' (of all ages) fantasies are made.

"And that was the only folly the people of Springfield ever embarked upon. Except for the popsicle stick skyscraper. And the 50-foot magnifying glass. And that escalator to nowhere."

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