Monthly Archives: February 2016

Christopher William Carter, You’re Grounded

Christopher William Carter*! What in conspiracy’s name are you doing?!? You stop it this instant, mister!

Because of you, I had to call a friend after watching episode 6 to keep myself from doing harm to others. Do you understand what you put me through? I was up nearly all night worried about what happened to you! What the hell you were thinking?!

The thing is, I believed in you, and part of me still wants to believe. But you lied. You said this was a standalone 6-episode “event.” Do you understand what an “event” is? Let me explain. It has a beginning, a middle, and an END.

And before you dismiss me, know that I’m not some newbie bandwagon joiner who wants all the answers tied up in a bow. I helped bring you into this world, Christopher, and I can help take you out. Maybe I don’t go to Comic Cons dressed up as Scully, but I was there in 1987 watching Tracy Ullman on this upstart new network calling itself Fox. I was mesmerized in 1993 with your creation, and I was on the edge of my seat, first on Friday nights and then on Sundays. Sometimes I was still sitting on my couch after the show ended and the TV was off, my feet up because I was too scared to put them down on the floor in case the monster of the week was lurking under my couch. So don’t tell me you don’t know how to tell a story with a good ending.

Yes, X-Files kind of got ridiculous at the end, and the movies were mixed bag, but I understand that level of excellence is hard to attain, never mind sustain. I’m a fan, and a fan’s love is unconditional, but I can love you and still not trust you any more.

I sucked up the announcement of 6 measly episodes — christ, even British and YouTube web series are longer than that. But it’s been 20 years, so I was willing to endure the exquisite pain of 6 episodes. I’m adult enough to not bicker over the details. Scully and Mulder were coming back.

But then I read that episodes 1 and 6 would be the only mythology episodes. Hmmmm. That made me as uneasy as when Cigarette Smoking Man appears in a scene. You know that’s not going to end well. But, as a true fan I still sucked it up. I wanted to believe you wouldn’t lead me down the alien primrose path. And I fully admit I enjoyed each episode, even though it was also terribly painful knowing there were only 5-4-3-2 episodes left.

And then there was 1.

I actually waited a day before watching it, trying to hold onto it a little longer. But I couldn’t stand it. All that focus on their child, Scully’s pain, Mulder’s angst. This was deep stuff and good stuff. I wanted to believe you would tell me a story. A good story. You’ve done it before, and you’ve had 20 years to refresh yourself to tell me an even better story.

But I knew we were in trouble the first 20 minutes into the episode. It wasn’t moving along fast enough for much of anything to be resolved. I will give you credit that you gave us one big answer. But since we’ve survived 20 years without that answer and have found ways to move on with our lives, that actually was the cheapest, least important, least relevant answer. So actually I take back the credit. That was bullshit.

You did, however, stir up the pot, and then left 100 other things unfinished and untouched. Until the episode ended, I truly didn’t believe you were capable of such a piss-poor performance. I even admit to my own idiotic optimism. When there was about one minute left of the episode — oh, believe me, I was watching the time throughout the episode like a junkie counting the minutes before the fix will arrive — Scully says the only thing that will save Mulder is William’s stem cells, I thought, “Oh my god, that Mulder look-alike, Agent Miller, is William!” I still believed, even though it would have been a horrible, hokey rip off of a Star Wars “Luke, I am your father” thing, but, hey, there was only one minute left. How else could we wrap up this “6-episode special event”? I was that desperate for any kind of half-assed closure. I would even have settled for Mulder getting a cure of some kind and not knowing if it would work.

But the episode ended like a 7th grader writing, “…and then he woke up from his dream” because that’s the only way a child can end a story that has worked itself into an impossible corner. You did the sci-fi equivalent — dropping a UFO out of nowhere and shining it’s unilluminating light on Scully.

The end.

W…T…F…

In an interview with TV line.com you stated, and I quote, “I can tell you this: Fox owns this show. I can’t imagine, with the ratings that we’ve got and the way we ended this season, that there won’t be more X-Files. They will find a way to get that done.” Um, are you 5? And have you never seen The Player? There are even fewer guarantees in TV and Hollywood than in real life, so I think the only conclusion here is that we’re effed.

There are no guarantees, but there can be good finales. And one good finale in the hand is worth two conspiracies in the bush.

For squandering that opportunity and for unnecessarily tormenting long-time X-Files fans, Christopher William Carter*, you are grounded. You go back to your room and think about what you’ve done. You’re not to come out until you have a deal for another season. And no movie making. You’re not even close to earning our trust for that.

And that Truth Is Out There.

*I don’t know if William is his real middle name, but it’s always more effective for a yelling parent to use a middle name, so that’s what I’m calling him.

Under the Influence

I was sitting with my son the other day trying to put myself in his shoes as a junior in high school. Reaching back into the past felt like long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. But the memory fog cleared a bit and the first memory that came to mind was my sophomore year when I had my favorite teacher in high school. You know the one — just by their very nature they made you a better person and gave you a 1,000 gifts that take the rest of your life to fully appreciate.

Then my memory jumped to senior year. I had my favorite teacher again, and I have warm, fuzzy memories of me finally coming into my own at school and getting involved in the senior year activities and getting to know lots of other people outside of my usual circle.

Then for a brief merciful moment I thought, maybe nothing significant happened during junior year. But then the full force of memory came flooding back — I clearly must have suppressed it as a coping mechanism.

Miss Satta.

I can assure you that all my high school friends who are reading this right now are shuddering — whether they had her not. She was legendary, and not in a good way. She influenced me in an entirely different way than my favorite teacher. More in the way that makes you twitch. So here’s a salute to all the really bad teachers out there. You do teach us stuff; here are 7 of them from Miss Satta.

  1. 4 dresses do not a work wardrobe make. Sure she rotated them, but we weren’t fooled. She wore the same dresses week after week, and we were bored enough that we made a guessing game of which one she would wear the next day.
  2. To distract your audience from the fact that you don’t know much about the main topic, go into great detail about stupid stuff.  We read only one book the entire year, The Scarlet Letter, but boy did we cover basic grammar points ad nauseam. And in every example sentence she used the name “Roscoe” because she said she had learned that when you use a real student name they don’t like. Hey Einstein, they also don’t like it when you don’t teach them jack, but apparently she never learned that lesson. She also had no problem calling us by other, not-so-nice names, so she wasn’t even consistent in her weird thinking. See lesson #5.
  3. Don’t judge a fellow student by how annoying you find them. We learned to admire a classmate — let’s call her “Roscoe” — who was kind of annoying and didn’t get jokes and said weird things that didn’t make a lot of sense. But one day she became our hero. In addition to owning only 4 dresses, Miss Satta also had body odor. Those of us who sat close to the front, including Roscoe, dreaded it when Miss Satta moved away from the blackboard and toward the desks, and we learned to hold our breath until she moved back away. But one day, Roscoe bold as brass came in and put one of those fragrant stickups under her desk. She didn’t even try to hide what she was doing. She pulled the thing out of her backpack, peeled off the sticker, and put it under her desk. We looked back and forth between her and Miss Satta, her and Miss Satta like a tennis match. But no dramatic scene ensued. Miss Satta often didn’t acknowledge us anyway, but still, but we learned that day how to use it to our advantage and not to judge our classmates.
  4. You can learn empathy for classmates you previously judged. Miss Satta sometimes turned her beady, dark eyes on the hapless study hall kid in our class. For reasons that make no sense in a non-education adult world, they would sometimes put kids who had a scheduled study hall in the back of actual classes. Mr. Gorneau was the unlucky bastard stuck in our class. We actually never learned his first name as Miss Satta only referred to him as Mr. Gorneau. I will admit that as honors we typically looked down on kids like him — he was clearly a D-track student, smelled like cigarettes and pot, and spent most of the class with his head down. But as a fellow Miss Satta victim, we understood he was one of us, and we felt bad for him. I mean we had to be there, but this poor kid had a right to put his head down and sleep if he wanted to. But Miss Satta was forever riding Mr. Gorneau, telling him to wake up and calling him out on various other made-up infractions. She only let up on him when she would call us names, which leads me to number five.
  5. If you learn the fine art of insulting people without actually calling them a bad name, you will go far in life. Even back in those Wild West educational times a teacher could probably get in trouble for calling a student a swear word, especially if somebody complained about it loudly enough. But they couldn’t get in trouble for calling you vaguely insulting things that aren’t bad words. To relieve our extreme boredom in her class, we often talked amongst ourselves, guessing which dress she’d wear or discussing whose turn it was to ask about our tragically lost papers on the character of Pearl from The Scarlet Letter. Did I mention we read just one book in that class? Of course, she didn’t like our chatter, but actually teaching us something so we wouldn’t talk never seemed to occur to her. Instead she called us weird names, like I was “the instigator” and she called another classmate a tick. She had other nicknames for us, and maybe her sole purpose was to have us puzzle over why the hell she was calling us those names, so we wouldn’ notice that she wasn’t teaching us a damn thing.
  6. Ask for what you need but don’t be invested in the answer. So Miss  Satta never did return the papers we wrote about Pearl, the little girl in The Scarlet Letter, henceforth forever known as “The Pearl papers.” When she didn’t hand them back immediately, we were simply puzzled. Then weeks passed and we got mad. We were nerds, we cared about our grades, and we’d spent a lot of time writing the bloody things. As the weeks turned into months, we decided to ask her every week about them just to see what she would say. She was impervious to our scheming. She always had a vague excuse and had no shame at all about it. She also knew the one thing we had yet to learn: in the classroom she had all the power. When we did write other papers her grading was so arbitrary it made us sometimes wish for the fate of the Pearl papers. She’d hand us back a paper that had a C- on it and no other marks. We were students who did not get C’s, ever, so of course we’d hold our breath and approach her desk where she lorded over us. We’d ask politely if she could explain why she’d given us the grade. She’d take the paper and run her beady, dark little eyes up and down it. then she’d take her pen scratch out the C-, put a B+ and then hand it back. For nerds like us who were trying to improve ourselves, or at least figure out what we needed to do to get an A, this was almost worse than not getting the paper back at all. Finally we had enough. We screwed up our courage to tell someone in authority about the great educational injustice and fraud we were enduring. We gathered the regraded papers and the story of the phantom Pearl papers, as well as a number of other facts to support our argument. After sympathetically listening to the litany of Miss Satta’s crimes and misdemeanors, the teacher we told sat us down and then shot us down with one sentence. “She’s got tenure, so short of her running through the halls naked, there’s nothing you can do to get her fired.” Which taught us about #7.
  7. Revenge is sweet, like scarlet frosting. So we learned if your mature, responsible, well-argued stand doesn’t work and only teaches you that she who holds the power, controls the situation, you can go to Plan B. This teaches you that they who are teenagers with friends and access to a vehicle can exact their own revenge. So we toilet papered the tree in her front yard and then took red frosting and drew a big “A” on her mailbox. Points for literary wit, and penalty for making it kind of obvious who the perpetrators were. It felt really good, though, and we could make a case for ourselves — who expects good kids like us to do such things?

We were merely motivated kids who just wanted their goddamn Pearl papers back. In the end she was maddeningly consistent in her dismissal of us — the toilet papering/frosted “A” incident never even came up, not even rumor or innuendo. It was an educational stalemate. But we sure did learn a lot.

Disco Inferno

I want it bad. I recently discovered a friend of mine owns a club-sized disco ball — at least 20 inches in diameter. He let me gaze upon its mirrored fabulousness in its snug and carefully packed box. In his previous house, he had a room large enough and with a high enough ceiling to have an electrician install it with a rotating motor, two lights shining on it, a dimmer switch, and a remote control. I was at once filled with envy, wonder, awe, and then came promptly back to envy.

Although I am a long-time proponent of urban small living spaces, as I ogled this shining ball of desire, I suddenly felt a change of a heart towards suburban McMansions with big empty rooms, polished wood floors, and high ceilings.

When my friend moved to his current place he took the ball with him. Who wouldn’t? But there isn’t enough space to install it and now he’s been cleaning out and is having a hard time deciding if he should keep it or let it go. Again, who wouldn’t? As I lusted for that dreamy orb, I scanned my brain for any friends who 1) had enough room for a giant disco ball and 2) are crazy enough and love me enough to install it just for me.

It’s a super short list.

Even shorter than when I was trying to find a home for my buffet, which only had one person on it. So I gazed at the ball intently, and while my fingertips caressed the perfect little mirrored squares of complete happiness, I realized with a start that in that moment I would have swapped a home library for a disco ball room.

For many years I dreamed of having a library in that way you say, “When I get a house/condo/apartment, I want to have a library with built-in bookshelves.” And then life has a way of making you realize that if you are a city person in the Boston area who is not independently wealthy, you’ll be lucky if you can get a place with a normal closet that fits 20 outfits hanging sideways, rather than a circa 1910 eight-inch indent in the wall that has a door and fits exactly three articles of clothing that face you. Or maybe one winter coat. So I had to let that dream go.

But this sphere of eternal fractured light was going to be a lot harder to relinquish.

Oh sure, I get to see a disco ball when I go dancing on Sundays, but I have to ask myself, is that really enough disco ball time? As I look around in my middle age, knowing now is the time to decide what’s truly important and worthwhile in life, do I really want to spend the rest of my days in a place that doesn’t have a dedicated disco ball room? With a rotating motor, two lights, a dimmer switch, and a remote control? Hell no.

I have started disco dancing in my kitchen on Saturday mornings for exercise if it’s too cold to walk on the beach, so maybe I could install it in my kitchen. But then I remembered I have ridiculously low seven-and-a-half-foot ceilings, and the tile floors don’t lend themselves to dancing on my knees.

I suppose I could try an extreme compromise — my coworker had a small, desk model disco ball she used with her grandkids. It was one of the first things I said to her when we met. I started my job while she was on vacation, and I can’t remember how I found out about the disco ball, but once I did, I knew we’d get along. When she returned from vacation, I said something like, “Hi, I’m Sandy the new communications person, and I heard you have a disco ball.” It’s a credit to her that she decided to befriend me anyway.

My books have managed to make their peace with not having a library and seem content enough to be on book shelves in my living room and bedroom. Although there may be some discontent brewing, as a stealthy pile of them has begun appearing on my coffee table and on a shelf under my TV. Nonetheless, perhaps I could be OK without a 20-inch disco ball with a rotating motor, two lights, a dimmer switch, and a remote control. Maybe I could make do with a small rotating disco ball that makes dancing seem somewhat festive in a lame kind of way, and will never, ever compare to the real thing.

Or maybe I could just store the real thing for 18 months until my son goes off to college. Who wouldn’t want their bedroom turned into a giant disco ball hall? College kids like to sleep on the couch anyway, right? That’s the way, uh huh, uh huh, I like it.

I’m a Delicate Flowah

Many years ago, while walking down the street in Boston, I overheard a woman say loudly, in a distinct Boston accent to her companion in answer to some unheard comment, “I’m a delicate flowah.” It’s been one of my catch phrases ever since. Because, yes, even a chain-smoking, whiskey-drinking, grizzled Bostonian can be delicate sometimes. I don’t know if she was all those those things, but let’s face it, that’s why people like that accent, because it sounds like those things, and that is way more interesting than someone speaking so blandly, you don’t care if they are delicate of not.

So while I like to fancy myself a tough Bostonian, I do have my delicate flowah moments, and a few of them have occurred at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). I do like aht. I like aht a lot, and I learned just enough aht history in college to be obnoxious at the Museum of Fine Ahts (MFA), which is full of all the good oldies. But this contemporary aht stuff is different. Oh, sure, I saw Mapplethorpe back in the late 80s when people had their panties in a twist about his naked photography, but that’s different. Photography has at least something I can relate to in that it was created by a camera. No, I’m talking about my past few visits to the ICA, trying to be a good cultural citizen. But it’s not easy — what with contemporary aht’s lack of reference points and odd materials (is that plastic? Dried blood? Sawdust with metal shavings glued on bricks?). Sometimes an “installation” takes up whole room, and there are random pointy things and sandy things and crap hanging from the ceiling. When I enter such a room, I’m a total delicate flowah: I find it very disorienting and disturbing. I look to the little white card to throw me a bone, to tell me something, anything, grounding about this piece. But it says the installation was created in some studio in New York, or Los Angeles, or New Mexico (art never seems to get made anywhere else) and put together by the museum’s curator. Then I go from delicate flowah to indignant working class girl: What?! The ahtist couldn’t even get his lazy ass down here to put together this scary, weird thing himself? How is that aht? More power to you if you can make a living creating weird-ass installations in a studio and just ship it out around the country, but I sure as hell don’t need to see it.

On another visit, I remember just wandering around in the warren of small rooms with all kinds of visually incomprehensible things, and I was longing for something to ground me — anything — paint, clay, plaster, metal of any kind. I got so agitated that at one point I found a dark room and just curled up and sat on the floor, even though it was showing some random art film. At least I knew there was a video camera involved in its creation, and I breathed into my knees until I wasn’t so delicate. It maybe didn’t help that I was there with my unhappy life in tow — a less-than-delicate mother-in-law, a fraying marriage, and parental overwhelm. But I had all those things in the MFA, and I never had to resort to curling in a ball.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I accepted my friend’s invitation to see the 2016 Oscar nominated short films on Super Bowl Sunday, showing at, yes, the ICA. But I figured, what the heck. My Bostonian citizenship only requires me to care about the Super Bowl if the Patriots are in it, so thankfully I was off the hook this year. I liked the idea of doing something unrelated to football and I’m in a much better place in my life. We’d be seeing films, and I could bypass all the scary aht. I also can be delicate with intense films, but these were short, so I figured how bad could it be?

Let’s just say I wasn’t the only delicate flowah in the group. Don’t get me wrong, they were all quality films. It’s just that three of the five were pretty intense. But it was nothing that two glasses of wine at dinner after and some general discussion about the intensity couldn’t fix.

It still doesn’t really help me understand contemporary aht any better, but at least I know I can go to the ICA without curling up in a ball, so maybe I’m not so delicate after all. But I am a wicked good flowah.

Photo: From 10 bizarre works of art from weirdworm.com, The Physical Impossibility of death in the Mind of Someone Living by Damien Hurst

 

 

Because I’m Worth It

Some of you may remember those L’Oreal hair color commercials from the 70s that proclaimed “Preference by L’Oreal. Because I’m worth it.” I’ve never colored my own hair, except for that one unfortunate time in college when I should have known better than to hand the box over to my friends. They seemed so confident, so sincere, and yet the words, “uh-oh” will forever make me want to grab the nearest hand mirror and scream, “How bad?!?”

So, I can’t tell you if L’Oreal is worth it. But I can tell you paying for a professional is. And I can tell you that there is an even better way to gauge my worthiness. It came at the end of last year, my 50th, which was wicked big fun that you can read all about it here. I’m not referring to my AARP card, which I’m still mulling over and eyeing suspiciously from afar. Yeah, yeah, I know you get all these fantastic discounts like when you’re in college. But the main differences seem to be that there aren’t any coupons for getting into clubs for free, and I actually have to remember to use the card for the discounts. I’m lucky I remember I have a kid, never mind when I need to whip out the AARP card.

No, the validation came when I received my quarterly life insurance bill. You know that thing you pay for most of your life and never actually need. But if you don’t have it, you will most likely need it, and after briefly mourning you, your loved ones will curse you for being such a stupid cheap bastard lunk head for not getting it. Yeah, that thing.

Well, because I had reached the fantastic age of 50, I was informed at the end of last year, that I will now pay $100 more per quarter for my life insurance. That’s $400 more a year! Can you imagine? While pop culture and the Force Awakens General Leia haters will tell you getting older is worthless, disgusting, and something that should be scraped off the bottom of your shoe, the insurance industry has bravely stood up and proclaimed, “You are 50 and fantastic and worth more than some 20-something who may have a beautiful ass, but no assets we care about. You, my lovely, mid-life customer, you are in fact quantifiably worth more. Exactly $400 more.”

So thank you life insurance industry for standing up for what’s right. I will write that check with pride and self-satisfaction, because now I know for sure: I’m worth it.