Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Archive of posts with tag 'television'

: Delia Derbyshire, Overlooked Musician and Composer

Delia Derbyshire wrote some of, and played all of, one of the most famous—and earliest widely-known—pieces of electronic music ever. Not only that, she did so before the advent of the first commercially-available synthesizer.

(Brian Hodgson composed the tardis sound.)
She was a kid in Coventry during WW2, hearing all the weird and haunting sounds of air raids and all-clear signals.
Decca Records told her that they did not employ women in their recording studios. So she joined the BBC. Delia said, “I was told in no uncertain terms that the BBC does not employ composers.”
Seeing the footage about her contributions to the Doctor Who theme was really the highlight of the Doctor Who Experience. As a Torchwood fan (and not really a Doctor Who fan), I felt left out for the most part.
There’s a great page about the history of the theme song.

On first hearing it Grainer was tickled pink: “Did I really write this?” he asked. “Most of it,” replied Derbyshire.

Yet, even though Grainer wanted Derbyshire to receive credit and a share of the royalties, it didn’t happen that way due to BBC red tape (no doubt assisted by the fact that Delia was female). Thus, she became uncredited and without royalties for something that has been heard by millions of people.
Bitter, she left the industry, became an alcoholic, and later developed breast cancer. Though she did get back into electronic music in the 90s, toward the end of her life, she died of kidney failure in 2001.
I find it curious that the BBC created an exhibit for her in the Doctor Who Experience—but still never managed to correct the credits or royalty situation.
If you’d like to learn more about her, here’s a bunch of YouTube links, but you probably want to start with Sculptress of Sound
Her name was Delia Derbyshire, and she loved listening to thunderstorms.

: Music that Captures Travel Moments

Last year, Rick and I took the non-stop to Frankfurt, where it took literally 1-1/2 hours to get from the gate we arrived at to the Lufthansa club nearest the gate we’d be departing from. Then we lazed about in amazing chairs for a while before catching our flight to Istanbul.
Our flight lands in Istanbul at 1:30 in the morning, though it was closer to 2 before we managed to pay our visa fees at the airport, get our passports stickered, and wander over to the immigration queue.
We took a cab to our hotel. The cab driver liked a genre I’m not generally into: light jazz.
Until the next song started. I remember driving along parallel to the Bosphorus, the famous bridge in the distance, mere days before the protests started up.
The song changed, and suddenly, I forgot where I was, completely involved in the music. I pull out my phone, launch SoundHound and ask it to figure out what song it is.
Yachts (a man called Adam mix) by Coco Steel & Lovebomb.

It had been used in the opening scene of Fairly Legal Season 2 and somehow I’d assumed it was incidental music written for the show. When we got to the hotel, I bought the song off iTunes.
Here’s part of that scene:

I started using SoundHound in 2011, and it’s really been great for finding songs that remind me of places and times. First song I bought after finding the tune with SoundHound? I was in New Orleans over the holidays.
Tootie Ma Is a Big Fine Thing by Tom Waits and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

When Rick and I were in Puerto Rico having a great dinner, SoundHound found a song playing in the restaurant, Gilberto Santa Rosa’s Amor Mio No Te Vayas.

So. Check it out. I especially like the fact that you can have it listen for a clip, then save that for later so you can search when you have bandwidth. Perfect for international travel on sippy cup (or nonexistent) data plans.

: Fun Thing I'm Waiting For

Season 2 of the web series One Step Closer to Home is filming in Australia. So. I’ve. Been. Told.
It’s a show about a newlywed couple trying to figure out all the normal stuff in life, like where to find the art for the living room and how to fit sex into the schedule.
Oh, and if you liked Season 2 of Fairly Legal with Ryan Johnson as Ben Grogan, here he is with his more typical accent.
Here’s the web site.

: The Hilarity of Actors at Cons

This is a really great report of a panel at a Supernatural con.

Sebastian Roché has the attention span of a fruit fly on meth[…].

And, about a prior con:

Misha comes on stage with a small pig, because why not?

: Expressiveness and Disbelief

I’ve been kicking this post idea around in my head almost a year, ever since I sat in front of a computer working on a fan site wondering if I’d gone mental. Adding to the surreality was working at a glass desk over the shallows of the Indian ocean — hardly normal for me.
Backing up a bit, several of us were fans of a particular actor and role on a particular show that was, as is often the case, canceled. It was obvious the actor in question hadn’t found additional work in the US and would return home to Australia soon. One night, a Twitter direct message conversation spawned between myself and another fan, and I up and registered a fan site domain on the spur of the moment.

The Site That Almost Wasn’t

The following morning, I was scheduled to leave for Tokyo.
No worries, I thought, it’s a few bucks. If I still think it’s a good idea in when I arrive in Tokyo, I can do something about it.
Or, you know, not.
Honestly, I almost didn’t. It’s putting one’s self out there a lot and it’s a lot of work, not to mention an implied ongoing commitment. Making a fan site is adopting someone as “your people,” only they don’t really get a say the other way.
Plus, back when I was a teen, a friend of mine and I were singing at Disneyland in the annual Christmas Hallelujah Chorus thing, and Jimmy Stewart was the big actor there that night. My friend was a total fan. Just loved him. Unfortunately, he was a total jerk that night, and it broke her fannish little heart. Sometimes, we’d rather keep our fannish things to ourselves.
From the other end of things, I remember the first time I saw a positive review for one of my pieces. I was stoked. This person probably will never understand why I think they are so totally awesome—even if they never feel the same about anything else I ever do.
Back to the site…I got to Tokyo. Kinda freaked out. Emailed someone who ran a different fan site:

I’ve just bought a domain for a Ryan Johnson fan site, but it’s the morning after and I’m having cold feet, so please tell me that you’ve had some positive feedback from someone other than me. 🙂

This is where people you don’t know from Adam will leap to help you.

Most people in the limelight are happy with a fansite, as long as it goes easy on the gushing, treats them as human beings without objectifying them and respects their private lives.

Which is really good advice for dealing with anyone, and not different than I’d planned. I can’t handle the fan sites that are populated by stalkerazzi photos. I hope that fan site runner gets some happy feedback from their person eventually.
However, it was a couple more weeks before I told Rick about the fan site, though that was partly because I was in the Maldives and he was not….

Stuff I Learned

I’ve always thought of myself an audio person rather than a visual person. In high school, I was in band, marching band, orchestra, dance band, and choir at the same time. I studied sound recording (audio and film) in college. I’m generally more interested in how someone sounds than how they look.
I’ll often identify actors by voice long before I recognize their face (due to lighting, makeup, and the general chameleon-like nature of actors in their profession).
However, suddenly having (way) more than a thousand pictures of an actor’s career in front of me and having to pick and choose which made the cut and which didn’t — things started to click.
I’ve never really liked animated movies. Sure, I can enjoy them, but I never deeply bond with them. If you asked me why, I’d have said: the limited facial expressiveness doesn’t bridge my suspension of disbelief.
And that’s true, as far as that answer goes, but the real answer runs far more deeply than that, and I really had never put two and two together.
People’s facial expressiveness mattered to me far more than I realized. I tend to take people at face value, and I realized that I was getting far more of that “face value” from facial expression than I’d been aware of.
I started thinking about people I liked—the colleague you joke with, the person who sticks out at an event you attend—and realized that many of them had more expressive faces than average.
And, unfortunately, people whose faces are less expressive than average are generally people whose faces aren’t as memorable for me unless they say something that’s particularly memorable.
As I sorted through the pictures and tried to get good screen captures for the fan site I was building, I finally understood a whole lot more about why I hated YouTube so much, why I preferred Vimeo, why I liked BluRay and hated standard def, and why I generally loathed streaming media. The lossiness of video, particularly streaming formats, cuts a lot of the facial expression detail. I kept feeling like I was watching Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine when his face was melting—not because of any issue with the acting or production, but because of the quality of the video I was viewing.
So while the fan site wasn’t a project I undertook to understand more about myself—it really was “Dude, I love your work”—it helped anyway.
I was nervous and strung out about announcing it, but he was very kind. It’s hard to pick a favorite out of all the pictures, but this one’s on my short list.

: Ten of My Favorite YouTube Videos (Including Sheep Playing Pong)

So, Google had been annoying me with the “Do you want to link this YouTube account to your real name?” crap for eons. It was like a bad date who wouldn’t take the word “no” seriously, you know?
Usually, I’d log out of YouTube, then reload the damn page to watch the video. As my friend Jason is so fond of saying, “Because fuck you.”
So I went to favorite a video today, and I had no favorites list. None. Zero.
I thought I’d lost my carefully-kept list of Ryan Johnson clips. I haven’t put fan videos featuring his work on that list, but my favorite of the ones I’ve found is this Fairly Legal one featuring Duffy’s “Mercy”. I think maybe it’s time for a second playlist here….
Anyhow…what happened. My YouTube account split. I now have my old persona and my new persona. All two of my uploaded videos are goners, but at least I still have what mattered most: my favorites.
So, without further ado, here are ten of my favorite YouTube clips.

  1. Jessica Biel can actually sing. I love this song, love her performance. Colin Firth steals the movie, but her music is, in my opinion, the real star.
  2. Ilio the Surfing Pig. For real. I first saw this segment on TV, and there was more of Ilio surfing then, but only “Part 1” has been uploaded. If anyone finds a better link, I’m all ears.
  3. Salvador Dali on the 50s TV show What’s My Line?
  4. Jordan, the Royal Tour. Visit the country of Jordan, guided by a former Star Trek actor who also happens to be the head of state. (This is several YouTube videos long and is definitely worth watching if you’ve never seen it.)
  5. Daylight Robbery, a show featuring extreme squirrel obstacle courses.
  6. Star Trek/NIN “Closer” mashup. Exactly what it says on the tin. Original series slash at its finest. All clean except for the (non-bowdlerized) song.
  7. TED: Bonnie Bassler, The Secret Lives of Bacteria. Quorum sensing bacteria is just such an amazing thing to me.
  8. Boney M, “Rasputin.” Love this video. Though it is their official video, the male singer isn’t the person at the microphone as this is the non-live version of the track with live footage carefully cut.
  9. Sean Penn gives us all a lesson on how to answer awkward questions about one’s ex. Major props to him for a really winning approach that leaves nowhere to go and is hilarious at the same time.
  10. Extreme Sheep LED Art. Welsh farmers with a truckload of LED lights and a bunch of sheep. Hilarity ensues.

So, there you go. Hope you enjoyed.

: Season Three: Narrative Structure

Now that Fairly Legal Season 2 is being broadcast in worldwide markets, I keep seeing people ask what season 3 would have been like.
Several of us who’ve done a lot of writing have discussed this, and I’m sad to say that others have come around to my point of view. In short: I believe this was answered in the first scene of the second season.

Specifically, it’s this line:

No. No. I tend to make things much worse, and then I disappear.

That’s the proverbial Chekovian gun on the mantlepiece. Since it didn’t happen at the end of season 2, my guess was that it was intended for the end of season 3.
Sarah Shahi has said that Kate was going to be very “Sex and the City” in Season 3, dating lots of guys. Implication being anyone other than Ben.
And, honestly, in the sense of keeping a longer-running show around, it was too early to put Ben and Kate together. Look at how long the romantic lead-up was in Castle. Or CSI. (In CSI, I like that it didn’t turn out to be Happily Ever After for Grissom and Sara, but then there’s the awkward part of the relationship being shorter than the buildup.)

Show Longevity Revolves Around UST

Where UST = Unresolved Sexual Tension. That’s what sells advertising, and TV shows live or die based on ad spend. You can throw a believable male/female spark between the primary characters, press them -> very long. Several hundred thousand words (aka several books) long. Here’s a Twilight one that tops half a million words. A Star Wars one that’s 300k words. A 400k Glee fic. (Note: I haven’t read any of these; I generally limit myself to ones that are no more than typical novel length.)
As a footnote, I’ve come to a new understanding of serious fanfic writers: fanfic is like improvisational jazz for writers. You get to take someone else’s motif and play with it. I like the pieces that subvert the underlying work’s tropes or add meta layers to them. I love weird crossovers (Fairly Legal/V anyone?). A piece I admire concept-wise (but have only read a bit of) is this meta-fanfic where Bella is a fanfic writer and Edward is one of her readers. Note: half a million words and a lot of UST.

Dividing Loyalties

The love triangle’s a hard one, and I think Fairly Legal lost ratings because it divided crucial viewers between the Justin camp and the Ben camp. Most of the new viewers were solidly in the Ben camp, and it’s interesting to note that essentially all the fanfic written after Season 2 started was about Ben and Kate, not Justin and Kate.
Working backwards from the final scene of season 2, I get why it happened the way it did, but it would have been far more sympathetic to the Justin shippers for Justin to find a new and compelling possible romance to give the Justin fans something to look forward to.
Worse, Kate’s Sex and the City antics in season 3 would have lost many of the Ben shippers, including me if it had gone on too long.

Character Arcs

The opening bar scene in season 2 made me wonder: was Ben intended to be a two-season character? Or not? As someone who loved the character, had he stayed disappeared after the end of season 3, I’d have stopped watching. My expectation for the season 3 ending would have been that Ben would have disappeared sometime in the final episode and Leo and Lauren–and possibly even Justin–would have pushed her into going to look for Ben, with the final moment being them seeing each other, leaving that moment hanging in the air. Because, you know, season finales and cliffies go together like strawberries and whipped cream.

That Word

Speaking of, I have to say that I really, really love where season 2 of Fairly Legal wound up. I think it was one of the best moments I’ve ever seen for a show ending, because it both closed off a lot of possibilities, but left the new season (if there were to be one) open in the way most season endings don’t.
I need a word for that. It’s almost the opposite of a plot chokepoint.
Said ending caused my plot brain to go into overdrive for months. Every morning, I’d dream a new plot that could stem from that moment.

: How Will They Know?

Some years ago, Rick and I sat listening to a panel of some TV writers talking about their experiences in Hollywood. Neither of us remember the writer in question or the name of the proposed show, but we both remembered the punch line, and I think it’s an important one.
It’s one of those that’ll stick with you.
Before Buffy, the proposed TV show (never produced) about vampires was going to feature a major character who was a Moor, centuries old, educated at Oxford. Or maybe Cambridge.
One of the network execs giving notes said, “He doesn’t sound black.”
Writer explains character’s background and education.
Network exec says, “How will they know he’s black?”

: Lessons Learned from Writing Fanfic

I started writing fiction around 1988. My best friend, Joyce, started a writing group out of our circle of friends. If I wanted to play, I had to write. All of us (who are still living) are still writing, too.
The first piece I wrote Joyce said was like “waltzing with Frankenstein” — it’s clumsy, but I got there. It was science fiction. In that future, people had beepers. Just goes to show you about failures of imagination, doesn’t it?

While waiting for a response, Gilbert’s beeper made a raspberry sound. He calmly moved his hand to silence it, and, in his haste, knocked it to the ground. It shattered with a last mournful wail. Gilbert’s faced turned raspberry, no doubt to match the sound.

And so, my literary (non-) career began.
I remember spending an inordinate amount of time looking stupid shit up. Like punctuating dialogue.
My next novel I wrote on a typewriter. Way. I started it — and given much of the slush I’ve read, this is not an uncommon place to begin — by having the character wake up. I wrote three novels of it in first person. It bit. I wrote a short story set in the same world. It also bit. Marion Zimmer Bradley said it had “no sense of wonder” back when she used to send personal rejection letters. I have always wondered if that was more her problem or mine. (I’m not an idiot: at least part of it was indeed my problem.)
Somewhere in there, I tried to write some Trek fanfic, but I really wasn’t inspired. That’s because it was before Riker grew a beard, I think, and before I dated the guy who kinda sorta looked like Riker.
Then I fell into a rough crowd, literarily speaking, and wound up with contracts for twelve adult (read: porn) westerns in four different series. Yippie-ki-yay. Wound up being half my income for that 18-month stretch, mostly written when I lived in Fort Lauderdale in a studio apartment with a roach problem, dating a guy who had a magic ability to rescue and repair televisions. I know that not all twelve wound up being published; I know at least one was, and no, I’m not telling you the names. Move along.
Oh, and my late husband, not realizing what the stash of books was all about, burned them one evening. Just. Great.
I started writing technical books and chapters after that, including a book about (Macintosh) System 7 for Que. They came with prompt checks and contracts (and really prompt deadlines; I had three weeks to write my first book), but eventually I realized it was coming at the expense of writing fiction. Fiction writing makes me happy; technical writing does not.
I got turned down for Clarion a couple of times and realized I needed to try harder. I went to Odyssey one year, but our year is sort of a lost year, unfortunately. Some of us are really only just now starting to get some success.
In 2001, I started my MA in Writing Popular Fiction (now an MFA program), and learned a lot. I was accepted for Clarion in 2002 (don’t ever do that mid-MA/MFA, it was a stupid idea), and then went on to do Viable Paradise in 2002 (see previous comment) and again in 2004.
Then I got into the doldrums, where I was lost for years. I’m not usually a fast writer and I am fairly easily discouraged when I hit a wall. Nanowrimo has been really a successful endeavor when I’ve been able to commit to it.
Last time I wrote a whole novel draft (2009), it was only in a few weeks, but I wrote it out of order and it is an unholy mess. Let’s just say that, like E.L. James, it is an erotica riff that launched from Twilight in its own way, but the resemblance ends there.

She strolled by, smelling like a hot Texas night where lovers cling under the magnolia tree wrapped in dense humid mists, fireflies twinkling with excitement. Only she was two thousand miles from Texas and blocks from even a single magnolia.

It’s not that I wasn’t writing, but I wasn’t doing enough of it. There are reasons, and some of them are good reasons. Let’s just say it’s part of the past.
In 2010, I decided to go for my F (MA->MFA upgrade), but decided quickly that it really wasn’t for me. For the first time, I felt like I knew what I was doing as an author, and what I needed was more story seeds, not more education. Instead, I set out and fixed some long-standing obstacles in my past, including mending a long-broken relationship with a good friend.
So I had an idea for Nano last fall, and I decided on a project I’d been wanting to for a few months, so I started on it on Nov 1 dutifully. In a few days, I fell over.
Why? Because my writer brain had been waking up every day for months, without fail, working on fanfic. So I said, well, what the fuck, we’ll write some fanfic then. I started doing that on the 6th or so.
I got the 50k done in November. The piece is somewhere around 70k now, but I haven’t yet taken the machete to some places that need it, and I cut 10k out of it one day.
I started posting it. Any of my Clarion classmates can tell you this: I’m really really not a one-draft writer. So seriously not. I under-write. I leave out important stuff. My first draft is really more like making clay for the final pot without any pot-like shape to it.
But this is fanfic. You can make it as polished as you want — or not. I’ve decided to mostly post first drafts, flaws and all. However, my first drafts are far cleaner than they were in my Clarion days. First, I’m not as tired. Second, I’ve grown as a writer. However, I’m aware of my limitations, but I decided I wanted to play now, not six months from now.
I’m glad I did.
I got fan mail. (As of today, I’ve gotten fan mail ten days in a row.) Fan mail is incredibly addictive, folks. It will keep almost anything going.
But that’s not what’s most valuable about it to me.
I’ve discovered a lot of things about how I write. I’ve always known I’m a plot writer, and characters don’t really talk to me except when we’re in media res together. I can’t do those character sheets ahead of time and have it mean anything. But fanfic comes with complete characters (hopefully not so complete that you don’t have room to grow them somehow), so that wasn’t a problem for me this time. Because of that, it was easier to keep going because I felt like I had a feel of what the characters would say and do that I don’t get when I’m writing the early parts of my first drafts.
So I can start characters first. I just never have been able to with original stuff.
There are spaces in between scenes where things can happen, and those interstitial moments can be very cool.
Other people are writing the same characters and using them in different ways with different moments, memories, and lines. You get to look at those choices and figure out if you agree more with them or your own interpretation — or if you want to write another piece that takes advantage of what you’ve learned from someone else’s interpretations. It’s interesting how much even four people can diverge on interpretations yet agree in the main. also offers some very nifty traffic stats. I have a reader in Kazakstan. How cool is that?
But mostly, the other people writing in that same world will amuse you and you will learn from them — and they from you.

: Dead Shows: Fairly Legal

Rick and I were discussing my favorite kinds of shows as I was whining about Fairly Legal being canceled. He pointed out I liked smart shows with good dialogue, complicated plots, and layers to them — and that most people simply couldn’t relate to them. I also really like a good sense of humor in a dramatic piece, but it’s not something that’s absolutely necessary for me.
My three favorite movies, in order, are: The Player, Duplicity, and Inception: all but the last have a great sense of humor; Inception probably would be my favorite movie if it were warmer and funnier.
So let’s go over those doomed series. This will be the first of a one-post-per-show format.

For this show, I really loved the writing. There were lots of places where things were left far more open than in a typical series, and I just love that kind of pointilist dialogue.
There were, unfortunately, a lot of fans of the soon-to-be-ex-husband on the show, aka #TeamJustin. Having built that up for a year, introducing Ben was bound to cause some of the fans to become disaffected, though many of us who liked Justin in the first season switched to #TeamBen. For me, I liked Ben from his first episode, though I saw his flaws, but for others, it didn’t happen until around episode 8 (“Ripple of Hope”) of 13 episodes, which was, imho, way too late to get people on board. Some people stopped caring about the show as a consequence. Side note: iTunes claims I’ve watched Ripple of Hope 192 times. Ahem.

The other aspect is that Justin comes off as a stronger male character (in the classic romance novel sense) than Ben does. For me, Ben comes off as a more modern character: he makes the fundamental assumption that women know what they want and are generally able to communicate it. There are a lot of layers in the dialogue, such as this opening scene where Kate and Ben meet.

K: (plays with rim of glass)
B: Plymouth and tonic.
K; Check, please.
B: Do you always come in the door leaving?
K: Umm, it is Not My Scene.
B: But, here you are, so you were either born on that bar stool or you came in here disguised as a woman who wants attention.
K: And you’re wearing a $3000 suit with a pocket square.
B: I believe my motives are clear.
K: Sorry. It has been a while since anyone’s offered to buy me a drink.
B: Really? Did the world go blind?
K: (Laughs) I’m married. Was married. Now I’m not. Anyway, the ex is on his way to sign the (waves hand) whatever, but it looks like he has blown me off.
B: Well, it’s just as well, or he would have changed his mind.
K: (Laughs) Nice try. Maybe it’ll feel normal some day.
B: Do you believe in fate?
K: Wow, was that a line?
B: It’s a question. Takes the edge off picking up strangers in bars.
K: I’m 29. I’m, uh, nearly divorced, recently orphaned, more recently out of a job. My life is kind of at this unexpected turning point, so yeah. I do believe in fate. And I believe she is a fickle, fickle bitch. [nice recap for people who didn’t watch Season 1]
B: You seem broken.
K: (laughs)
B: I like that.
K: And you’re a fixer.
B: No.
K: Yeah.
B: No, I tend to make things much worse, and then I disappear.
K: Well, at least you’re decent enough to be honest about it, you don’t see that much.
B: Oh, you must be a lawyer.
K: (lying) Schoolteacher.
B: Right. You’re a schoolteacher and I’m a decent guy, so (raises glass) cheers to honesty.
K: Hey, cheers. Yeah. (laughs) And good night. (gets up, starts leaving)
B: Is truth the way to your heart?
K: (turns)
B: Withdrawn, counselor, I misspoke. We have not yet established that you have a heart.
K: The way to my heart would be to do everything and to say nothing. No negotiation, no foreplay, no strategy. Just be who you are and take me.
B: (stares)
K: (whispers) Too late.
B: (stares after her as she leaves)

Justin winds up telling Kate what she wants (and is wrong) and keeps trying to assert his dominance, like in this scene from the Finale.

K: Oh, Justin.
J: Here we go.
K: Oh, God, what?
J: Nothing. I just know you, that’s all.
K: Look, this is the, uh … , right needle, wrong haystack. I’ve been fighting this feeling–
J: Oh, my, Kate–
K: …and I keep hoping–
J: Don’t do this!
K: …that this is going to feel right–
J: It does feel right. We’re not who we used to be, don’t do this.
K: I know you think that I’m running away.
J: Yeah, because you are. I knew you were gonna get scared.
K: I’m not scared.
J: (nods his head)

It also doesn’t help that Kate is the patron saint of lost causes, and while Justin has given up on her, she hasn’t given up on him. Then, to make matters worse, when she starts getting scared at Ben’s advances, she runs back to Justin, who then becomes fully engaged again. That all works as far as the plot goes, but some of the ways it plays out make Kate less sympathetic and Ben seem less strong a character as far as many women might see him, and that loses audience.
Justin tries to manipulate Kate directly, but he’s bad at it. Ben’s a far better manipulator, but he’s discovered that manipulating people doesn’t make for good long-term relationships, so he’s the kind of guy who manipulates the underlying situation and let the people cards fall where they will. As an example: knowing it’s complicated and it’ll take her days to decide, they fly to Lake Tahoe “for the day” for a case for which he’s gotten her appointed as a Special Magistrate. Naturally, with Kate, it becomes a multi-day affair, with the two of them spending two nights in Tahoe. The second night, there’s a hot tub scene where Ben’s out there and Kate comes to give him some news about the case, then a different conversation follows. I see Ben’s strategy: he’s made an advance, she’s run to someone else, and if Ben makes the next move and closes the gap between them, he will never know if he manipulated her into it or if she truly picked him. On the other hand, if he gets her close by, within inches, and she closes that last mile, that’s something else. Thus, the hot tub scene, which parallels the season’s opening scene.

K: What’s that?
B: It’s a rock. Found it up there today, it’s sort of shaped like a heart.
K: Do you think it’s ever possible to feel that way again?
B: Like what?
K: The way it feels when you fall in love for the first time. Do you remember that? It just feels like this wave just washes over you, but you’re not afraid to drown. Wow. It’s just so easy the first time.
B: Love is never easy. You don’t have to be 17, you just have to be brave. I knew you couldn’t just pick a side and then fly home. I wanted to stay the night, because I do care that much.
K: (looks up at him)
B: So do you. (crosses over to her) That’s why you went back to Justin, because he’s safe. And this you can’t control and it scares the hell out of you. You want that wave. (reaches for her hand and pulls her into the water) No strategy. No foreplay. No negotiation. You just have to have the guts to dive in. (beat) Do you?
K: (freezes)
B: Too late. (walks off)

One of my other favorite bits is when Ben’s ex Lydia is the opposing counsel in episode Shine a Light.

B: She’ll have another Tanqueray and tonic.
L: You trying to get me drunk, Ben?
B: Don’t need to get women drunk.
L: Ah, so they just fall at your feet without lubrication.
B: My cross to bear.
L: He’ll have a Plymouth and tonic.
B: You remember. I’m touched.
L: I didn’t need any help, either.
B: Except for that one time in Sausalito.
L: We were both pretty sauced up then.
B: And Alcatraz.
L: That was work related.
B: Oh. (incredulous) That was work.
(Ben crosses behind Lydia as she’s laughing)
B. I thought about your offer.
L: The $125,000?
B: Yeah, it doesn’t really work for me.
L: I could knock it down to 75 if you’d like.
B: How about a million. See, here’s the thing. Karl was so peeved about that settlement that I failed to bring him that I started to wonder: who did tell him about it? Do you know?
L: Search me.
B: It’s perplexing, isn’t it? Because whoever did would have communicated with my client without me being there — which is an even bigger ethics violation than failing to mention a settlement agreement in the first place.
L: (says nothing)
B: You spoke to my client without me being there. The bar association will be so crushed. See, it’s not fair that you’re the only one who gets to be satisfied here, Lydia. Do you know what I mean?
L: Alcatraz.
B: Exactly. (Pause) So. Bring me a cashier’s check for a million dollars by the end of the day and I’ll see if he’ll bite.
L: You’re bluffing. And I should have left you handcuffed to that cell.
B: Is that a yes or a no?
L: (turns and leaves)

They know each other well enough to have secret metaphors that are never explained, but you can almost read between the lines.

: The Show Killer. Me.

Here are some series I have loved in Season 1 or 2 that have died an early death, in approximate reverse order. These are all series where I became a fan within the first two seasons in real time and was religious about not missing an episode.
Fairly Legal
Terra Nova
Stargate Universe
The Agency (CIA show with Jason O’Mara and Paige Turco), brilliant in Season 2, never on DVD. 🙁
The Lone Gunman
Cleopatra 2525
Space: Above and Beyond
oh, and Twin Peaks
Notice anything about the show longevity?

: My Favorite Show Was Canceled

Sorry to see you go, Fairly Legal.
There’s really only been two shows I’ve fully bonded with in the last few years: that one and FlashForward, but they appealed to me in completely different ways.
I’ll write about that later.

: Two Conversations

From Fairly Legal, Season 1, episode “Coming Home”, a key conversation between Justin and Kate. From this, it’s fairly obvious that Justin filed for divorce and that Kate didn’t want to split up.
K: (Knocks on Justin’s door) Hey, I tried calling you, you didn’t answer your phone.
J: That’s because I didn’t want to talk to anybody.
K: I’m really sorry I betrayed your confidence.
J: So you just apologize and everything’s all right?
K: Justin, it’s me we’re talking about.
J: You’re unbelievable, you know that?
K: Aww, Justin. I’m sorry. But don’t hold this over my head just to get even.
J: This isn’t about getting even. This isn’t about Paul Hainsley and you know it.
K: All right, fine. I admit it. I’ve been avoiding signing the divorce papers. It’s…. I really like things the way they are.
J: What we have is not a marriage, Kate.
K: I know, and isn’t that great?
J: How is that great?
K: Well, when we were married married, we never had any time for each other, right? And that created pressure.
J: Which I was willing to work through; you weren’t.
K: It’s everything I loved about the relationship without actually having to be in the relationship.
J: So it’s all the fun without the work, right?
K: Yeah, so what’s wrong with that?
J: Where do I start?
(they kiss)
J: Stop.
K: What’s wrong?
J: This is what we always do.
K: Yeah, there’s good reasons why we should.
J: No, and then it just goes back to the way it was before and nothing changes, and I don’t want to do this any more, Kate. I can’t.
K: Sure you can.
J: No. I can’t. What if you were mediating this relationship? What would you say? Ignore the problem. Let’s go to bed. Nah. You’d say fix it, right?
K: Maybe.
J: Yeah. I love you, Kate. But what we have is broken. We can’t keep pretending that it’s not.
K: Justin.
J: (backs away) I’m sorry.
And the opening scene from season 2’s first episode, Satisfaction, where Kate and Ben meet. It essentially is a plot map for much of season 2.
K: (plays with rim of glass)
B: Plymouth and tonic.
K; Check, please.
B: Do you always come in the door leaving?
K: Umm, it is Not My Scene.
B: But, here you are, so you were either born on that bar stool or you came in here disguised as a woman who wants attention.
K: And you’re wearing a $3000 suit with a pocket square.
B: I believe my motives are clear.
K: Sorry. It has been a while since anyone’s offered to buy me a drink.
B: Really? Did the world go blind?
K: (Laughs) I’m married. Was married. Now I’m not. Anyway, the ex is on his way to sign the (waves hand) whatever, but it looks like he has blown me off.
B: Well, it’s just as well, or he would have changed his mind.
K: (Laughs) Nice try. Maybe it’ll feel normal some day.
B: Do you believe in fate?
K: Wow, was that a line?
B: It’s a question. Takes the edge off picking up strangers in bars.
K: I’m 29. I’m, uh, nearly divorced, recently orphaned, more recently out of a job. My life is kind of at this unexpected turning point, so yeah. I do believe in fate. And I believe she is a fickle, fickle bitch. [nice recap for people who didn’t watch Season 1]
B: You seem broken.
K: (laughs)
B: I like that.
K: And you’re a fixer.
B: No.
K: Yeah.
B: No, I tend to make things much worse, and then I disappear.
K: Well, at least you’re decent enough to be honest about it, you don’t see that much.
B: Oh, you must be a lawyer.
K: (lying) Schoolteacher.
B: Right. You’re a schoolteacher and I’m a decent guy, so (raises glass) cheers to honesty.
K: Hey, cheers. Yeah. (laughs) And good night. (gets up, starts leaving)
B: Is truth the way to your heart?
K: (turns)
B: Withdrawn, counselor, I misspoke. We have not yet established that you have a heart.
K: The way to my heart would be to do everything and to say nothing. No negotiation, no foreplay, no strategy. Just be who you are and take me.
B: (stares)
K: (whispers) Too late.
B: (stares after her as she leaves)

: Mediating Cats and Dogs

Love this opening dream sequence from the upcoming Fairly Legal episode “Borderline”:

“They’re smart enough not to chase cars.”

: Fairly Legal, Season 2 (thus far)

Fairly Legal, Season 2 (thus far)
After season 1, USA axed the show creator and brought on a different show creator, then brought in Ben as a love triangle character. Season 1 was about the rather broken relationship that Kate had with her soon-to-be-ex husband Justin, which was summed up in season 1’s episode “Coming Home”:

J: What we have is not a marriage, Kate. K: I know, and isn’t that great? J: How is that great? K: Well, when we were married married, we never had any time for each other, right? And that created pressure. J: Which I was willing to work through; you weren’t. K: It’s everything I loved about the relationship without actually having to be in the relationship. J: So it’s all the fun without the work, right? K: Yeah, so what’s wrong with that? J: Where do I start? The scene ends with Justin pulling back more than once. In Season 2, Kate finally does sign the divorce papers she’s been putting off, and Justin ineptly tells her she can start dating again. This leads to an awkward situation where she’s out having a drink with Ben (as a colleague) and Justin shows up with a new date, something Kate’s completely unprepared for. But let’s back up for a minute. The opening scene of Season 2 is when Kate’s sitting at a bar waiting for Justin so they can sign the divorce papers, but he doesn’t show (not his fault, as is shown later in the episode). Ben, a rather cocky attorney, comes by to hit on her. He throws one line after another out, hoping for something to stick, and as she’s starting to leave, he finally hits home. B: Is truth the way to your heart? K: (turns) B: Withdrawn, counselor, I misspoke. We have not yet established that you have a heart. K: The way to my heart would be to do everything and to say nothing. No negotiation, no foreplay, no strategy. Just be who you are and take me. B: (stares) K: (whispers) Too late. B: (stares after her as she leaves) As it turns out, he actually does really listen to what she says here, though he doesn’t really get the groove right away. The next day, he’s representing one party in her mediation, and by the end of the episode, he’s bought his way into the firm. Now, strictly as a writer thing, it’s the way to get him into situations up close and personal with the main characters — there was no other way to have him continually interact wth her. For Ben, though, he’s the 23rd-highest-grossing attorney in the city, he has no associates, is generally a lone wolf (and competent at it), so why would he buy his way into a law firm that was going under — if it weren’t for his initial fascination with Kate? The day after he buys into the firm: B: You look familiar. K: Oh dear God, it’s true. You actually do work here. B: Didn’t you hit on me in some bar recently? K: You know how some women don’t remember the pain of child labor? I don’t remember the bar. B: And yet here I am, rosy cheeked, 153 pounds, 7 ounces, right in the office next to yours. We’re going to have so much fun together, Katie. Pillow fights. Movie nights. Up gossiping till dawn. K: (punches elevator button repeatedly) Things progress until episode 6, “What they Seem,” which is when Justin fumbles telling Kate she can date. There’s an earlier bit cut out of the actual episode that’s in the [season 2 promo]( that’s necessary for context. J: The only reason he brought you into this mess is because he thinks you’re can throw me off my game. K: Oh, you think? J: Oh, so you know he’s using you. K: Yeah. Sometimes a girl doesn’t mind being used, especially if he’s cute and has a lot of money. (blows Ben a kiss.) (To Justin) How’s your game now? Later in the same episode after the case’s resolution, J: (About a case they just worked on) I guess I’m not usually blinded by my emotions. K: (Sarcastically) I have no idea what that’s like. You said I was the one being used. J: Just for the record, if you wanted to be used, or — not used, but — look, what I’m saying is– K: (turns to look in the direction Justin’s looking and sees Ben) Ben Grogan? J: No. No? (impliedly asking if she were interested in Ben) K: No. J: No, no, no, I’m talking about the concept in general of dating. (devolves into stammerfest) K: You’re so cute to see you fumbling for your words. J: Oh my God, forget I said anything. K: Good, I hope so, ’cause that was weird. Somewhat earlier, Kate is convinced that inattentional blindness is at the heart of her current mediation, and Ben doesn’t believe in it, so Kate leads him into the office by his tie and tries (successfully) to distract him. Her demo buys her most of a day to try to uncover what really happened. In the bar later, Ben notices Kate isn’t her usual self: B: To partners. K: Whatever. B: Look at you, agreeing to have a drink with me. K: Oh, slow down there, cowboy. I just needed a bar and somebody with a car to drive me there. B: What is the matter? You’re the queen of win-win. This is win-win-win. K: Uh huh. B: You get the truth, O’Hara gets to keep his pension, and Andre Chernof is going to clean up. K: Mmhmm. Then Justin walks in with a date. Ben asks if she wants to leave. Initially she resists, but then grabs Ben’s coat and says, “Let’s get out of here.” Ben drives Kate home, and she invites him in. She then propositions him, but he turns her down. For a lot of fans, this was when they started liking Ben. Naturally, the two characters wind up in the elevator the next morning: B: Oh shazam, now I remember. You saw Justin on a date last night, drank too much, I drove you home, and you asked me in for meaningless revenge sex because you think I’m an empty person. Did we? No. Because I said no to you and went home. (There are a lot of great elevator scenes in this series) Two episodes later, after another case, Kate and Ben are leaving the building at the end of the day, and he pulls her into a kiss. While he starts it, she definitely contributes to it, then breaks it off. In the following episode, she describes it as “I kissed somebody” to two different people — as though she had initiated the action, but when she tells her assistant Leo, and he asks who, she lies and says he doesn’t know the guy. Leo figures it out later that day, though. Nevertheless, Kate stands up Ben the next episode, instead spending the night with Justin (who tells her “Don’t ever change” — a line that justifiably enraged a lot of fans). It’s not until the 10th episode, Shattered, when Kate finds out that Ben really cares, and leads to my favorite line of the entire series when Ben’s ex shows up as counsel for one of Kate’s cases: “Were you two Amish together?” Kate corners Leo after noticing that Leo and Ben are acting different around each other; Leo tells Kate (after Ben asked him not to — twice) that Ben had come around to his house looking for Kate when Kate stood Ben up. Despite this, Kate leaves hand-in-hand with Justin at the end of the episode, but she looks back twice to see the reaction on Ben’s face. [Next episode’s sneak peak suggests that Ben isn’t going to fight fair.]( I approve. I didn’t come around to Ben right away; he’s become increasingly sympathetic as the season goes on, but he’s just as flawed as Kate is. What I find interesting is that when you look at personal space, Kate is far more likely to invade the space of or touch Ben than she ever was with Justin. Kate’s a very touchy person, and is comfortable with that close boundary, but she tends to keep her distance with Justin unless she’s trying to manipulate him into sex. I really hope she stops doing that, but hell, I had one of those relationships with an ex for years, so I can also empathize. In Kate’s case, it really doesn’t seem like she’s dated anyone other than Justin, which makes it harder for her to break things off. In Ben’s case, we’ve already met two of his exes, so one wonders how many dozens (or hundreds) of others there are. Or, as I’ve said before: Kate’s a train wreck and Ben’s a perfectly good train. The main thing wrong with Justin is that he’s an unwreckable train. In order for a plot to work, the plot mechanisms need to be able to create change in the characters, and Justin’s like Argon: non-reactive. He’s too steadfast a personality to be interesting with Kate. Ben is mercurial and has that well-practiced exterior gloss over the wounded puppy inside.

: The Beeping

My mother complained yesterday that something in the house was beeping. My iDevices were all happy, so I ignored it and went back to catching up on Anthony Bourdain episodes of The Layover.
Later, she mentioned something to Rick, who then set off trying to find the sound’s source. A few seconds after he passed the TV, there was another beep. A few seconds after that, another.
It was the show. Specifically, it was profanity being cut. Of course, I hadn’t noticed it because of the context in which I was hearing it.
Rick reports back to my mother, who asks, “Why the beeping?”
Rick says, “It’s Anthony Bourdain.”
Which made me laugh.
For what it’s worth, the Amsterdam episode of The Layover is one of the funniest pieces of television I’ve ever seen, though the clips on the web site are dramatically cut from the iTunes episode.
In my blog post about transiting through Amsterdam, I forgot to mention a detail that sticks with me: the couple ahead of me at the transfer desk were clearly stoned out of their gourd and had, accordingly, managed to miss their flight.
I mean, the Dutch are super-efficient, so I was a wee bit gobsmacked by the relative size of their transfer stations (though it is the 14th busiest airport in the world), at least right up until I realized that part of the underlying issue was also oh-so-Dutch.

: On the Funding of Television

Context: a local Comcast rep came to talk to us as we’re one of the “switchers.”
Dear M,
Thanks for stopping by our house to talk to us about Comcast. As you know, we did have some rather legendary service issues, but that’s not ultimately what led us to leave the fold, it was merely the catalyst.
In short, the entire process of billing for cable television is broken. Without the ability to not subsidize channels like Fox News or shows like 19 Kids and Counting (when did The Learning Channel become so craptastic?), there’s no way I’d come back to cable.
And yes, I really do want to pay show-by-show, not just pay for a shotgun lineup of channels. Now, the shows we actually watch are able to get direct dollars from us, and if more people chose that approach, maybe there’d be better-quality shows produced. Or not. Regardless, what we like is now more directly correlated to what we pay for. What we dislike, we are not paying for.
Also, except for the broadcast channels, I’m able to watch shows with no ads. Imagine that. I’m paying about the same amount of money over time (less, actually) and fewer ads. I’ve never been clear on why I paid a cable company for non-broadcast channels that have advertising.
So, there it is. Sure, we don’t have as many channels as we had before, and downloads aren’t instantaneous, so it’s not a perfect system. It is, however, a better one.

: Cord-Cutting: Antenna Ho!

The antenna guy came today. We used AV Solutions Pros out of Mountain view. He got it done as quickly as it could be and with great quality. We’re getting some channels I hadn’t expected to, and it all seems very nice. Of course, we’re subject to weather fade, much like satellite is, but he said it’s really worst conditions now due to the leaves on the trees.
Over-the-air cost so far is a wash with buying the HD shows the first year, but of course it’s a gain in years after that.
Now it’s an ongoing saga to figure out content we care about in this new ecosystem, plus I want to make sure to pick up any interesting show premieres somehow — that’s how I discovered FlashForward two years ago.

: Cord-Cutting: Netflix

In addition to the usual computers, we have three devices we can watch Netflix instant on:

  1. TiVo (Series 3)
  2. Apple TV (Second gen)
  3. Boxee Box

Of the three, the best user experience (not to mention the smallest) is the Apple TV.

  1. Best throughput and caching
  2. Best user experience
  3. Best responsiveness

Maybe I’ll make a little movie about it.

: Cable: The Final Insult

Rick and I drove our Comcast equipment back to its home in Foster City on Saturday morning on the way up to the city. The man behind the counter gave me a stickie that said $14.48 — as in the amount I’d be refunded.
Catch is, I had a bill that wasn’t yet paid (or due), so that wasn’t the final number.
A few minutes ago, I got an email: “Your Aug 7, 2011 Comcast billing statement is ready for viewing.”
So I tried to log on, curious what the final total is, and this is what Comcast’s site said:

You do not have access to account or billing information. Please see the Primary account owner to view and pay the bill online.

How incredibly dorktastic.

: Getting Rid of Cable

Before we met, neither Rick nor I had anything other than broadcast television. Not long after we met, I started to work at TiVo. At that point, we started getting cable again, and haven’t stopped since.
Until now.
Back when I re-subscribed, basic cable inched up from the high $20s to the mid-$50s. What I hadn’t really obviously noticed was how it had further creeped up in the last two years to close to $70, even on a discount plan.
We added Starz recently so that we could watch Torchwood, but it was free for six months.
I checked my cable bill the other day: it’s now $95.64.
Not on my watch, it’s not.
So then came the math: how much would it cost us each month to replace cable?
I decided to start first and see how much it’d cost us to buy the shows we can outright. Granted, many of these we don’t care that much about, and some (e.g., broadcast shows) are available over-the-air.
Even with that, though, if we bought all of them (including The Daily Show and The Colbert Report), it’d still be a wash.
So, given that, and that there are various means of getting the shows we want to watch without Comcast, cable is going bye bye tomorrow, replaced by a newer Apple TV (already purchased) and probably a Boxee in the future, as well as perhaps another small media server computer at some point.
The real beauty of this plan is the ability to actually pay more directly for content that we want to fund, rather than aiming a gob of money at Comcast, where we’re paying for ESPN, Fox News, Soap Net, Trinity Broadcasting Network, the Brazilian Futebol channel (srsly), the Gospel Music Channel, and a bunch of other channels that, at best, we don’t give a rat’s ass about, and, at worst, we think are harmful to sanity and civilization. (I don’t mind paying for the multi-cultural channels: I think they provide value to their target markets. I just don’t happen to be part of that market.)

Available on iTunes, most are also available on Hulu:
Being Human (BBC America) ($10/$10) * CastTV
Being Human (SyFy) ($30/$20)
Burn Notice (USA) ($35/$25) * CastTV
Doctor Who (BBC America) ($40/$26) * CastTV
Fairly Legal (USA) ($26/$17) * CastTV
Falling Skies (TNT) ($17) * CastTV
Leverage (TNT) ($43/28) * CastTV
Nikita (The CW) ($50/$40) * CastTV
Outcasts (BBC America) ($21/14)
Project Runway (LIFE) ($34/23) * CastTV
Rizzoli & Isles (TNT) ($38/28) * CastTV
Sanctuary (SyFy) ($48/32) * CastTV
Suits (USA) ($30/20) * CastTV
Survivors (BBC America) ($10)
The Glades (A&E) ($32/22) * CastTV
Top Gear (BBC America) ($18/$12) * CastTV
Warehouse 13 (SyFy) ($35/23) * CastTV
White Collar (USA) ($35/$25) * CastTV
Colbert Report (Comedy) (special, ~$100/yr) * CastTV
Daily Show (Comedy) (special, ~$100/yr) * CastTV
$62/mo for all the above in HD; $50 in standard def
Available on iTunes but possibly also OTA with the antenna situation sorted out, most are also available on Hulu
Body of Proof (ABC) ($27, but the first season was a part season, so not included in numbers below) * CastTV * Hulu
Bones (Fox) ($60/40) * CastTV * Hulu
Castle (ABC) ($50/$35) * CastTV
Criminal Minds (CBS) ($43/33)
CSI (CBS) ($53/$36) * CastTV
CSI: Miami (CBS) ($53/$36) * CastTV
CSI: NY (CBS) ($53/$36) * CastTV
Fringe (Fox) ($30/20) * CastTV
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) ($50/$35) * CastTV
House (Fox) ($34/23) * CastTV
NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS) ($60/40) * CastTV
$36 / month for HD; $28 for standard def
Not Available on iTunes:
Antonio Treatment (HGTV)
Ashes to Ashes (BBC America)
Baltic Coasts (HDNet) — gorgeous photography!
Design Star (HGTV)
Dr. G.: Medical Examiner (FitTV)
Holmes on Homes (HGTV)
Last Chance to See (HDNet)
Mexico: One Plate at a Time (ABC Local)
Sarah’s Summer House (HGTV)
Selling New York (HGTV)
The Mentalist (CBS)
The Story of India (PBS)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (Starz)
World’s Coastlines from Above (HDNet) — this one I’ll miss the most, frankly, even though it’s only a few episodes. There’s no way to purchase them, but it is stunningly beautiful photography.
World’s Toughest Fixes (Natl Geo) ($16, but no current episodes)
Invasion (SyFy) ($40 for entire series; show’s canceled)
Others I haven’t had season passes for but do watch:
Covert Affairs