Tag Archives: TV

‘Star Trek’ wisdom

I’m working on a great project — a scrapbook — with a sewing theme. I dug up a bunch of wonderful quotes about how “friends are like fabric — you can never have too much” but the Trekker in me also thought of an episode from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” titled “Tapestry.”

The quote doesn’t work for my project (because we’re not highlighting one’s youthful mistakes) but it’s a good quote nonetheless, so I’m sharing it here as a reminder to embrace my past and for you to embrace yours, whatever it is, because it makes me me and you you:

“There are many parts of my youth that I’m not proud of. There were… loose threads — untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I… pulled on one of those threads — it unraveled the tapestry of my life.”

~ Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard

Why being a stepmother is like ‘Survivor’

My Adored Stepson sent me a text and called me today to wish me happy Mothers Day.

I survived 40 years without giving Mother’s Day a second thought (other than to thank my own mother), so I’m still a little surprised — and pleased — when I’m thought of on Mother’s Day.

Best gift of all: My 18-year-old stepson, after living the past three years with his mother in Minnesota, is graduating this week and spending the summer with his father and me before he goes off to college.

Some mothers of teenagers, let alone nonbiological mothers, might be appalled by this turn of events, but I’m delighted. My Adored Stepson inherited many of the characteristics I like in my Beloved, so I enjoy his company and am considering time with him this summer to be a gift.

But stepping into the role of stepmother hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes, it has been … well … how do I say this … bang-my-head-against-a-wall, heartbreakingly difficult. Days like today, when I get to engage my stepson in a Mother’s Day conversation about his last day of work, tomorrow’s business class exam and ethics of $3 T-shirts made in Bangladesh make all those other, less satisfying moments worth it.

In honor of Mother’s Day and the season finale of the 26th season of “Survivor Caramoan: Fans vs. Favorites,” here’s a list of ways being a successful stepmother is like winning “Survivor”:

1. Outwit, outplay, outlast. If you can’t outwit and outplay a 13-year-old, you’ll never outlast one.

2. Do not be the leader. Leaders get voted out of “Survivor,” and bossy stepmothers are unlikable all the way around. I learned early on that I had no role as disciplinarian, and thank goodness, my Beloved was up to the task.

3. Don’t be a follower either. Children — biological or step — learn how to push their parents’ buttons. If you let them get to you, they win.

4. Be nice but don’t be too young, too pretty or too stupid. Having to compete for your spouse’s attention helps no one. Be yourself. Be sincere. Help with homework. Care.

5. Keep your emotions in check. Dawn’s crying jags on this season’s “Survivor” are a little too much. Yes, the actions of my stepchildren have made me cry. Crying is good sometimes. But not on camera or under the hot lights.

6. Being a good cook helps. If you can’t be a good cook, tend the fire. My tastes and my stepson’s tastes do not jive. Thankfully, my Beloved is a good cook. And I clean up after him well.

7. Lighten up. On “Survivor,” lunatics get voted out but people like to keep funnymen around. In the end, the comedians are often the “fan favorites.” In my step-dynamic, Caswell tells the jokes and I laugh at them. In the words of Martha Stewart, this is a very good thing.

8. Avoid lying. Blindsides make for good tribal councils, but blindsided contestants tend to hold grudges when it comes time for the final vote. That goes double for stepchildren.

9. Win immunity challenges at any cost! There have been a lot of challenges in this season’s survivor requiring contestants to stand, balance, hold on or hold their breath the longest (I found that challenge involving the metal grate and the rising tide really uncomfortable to watch, but Brenda didn’t panic and ultimately won). Similarly, sometimes the best tactic for a stepmother is hold on longer than she ever thought she could.

10. Don’t monopolize the challenges either. If you’re seen as huge threat, you’ll be voted off. Stepchildren don’t like threats to their security either.

Enjoy the “Survivor” finale tonight! And happy (step)Mother’s Day!

Happy birthday, Mr. Spock

COMPUTER
How do you feel?

COMPUTER
How do you feel?

COMPUTER
How do you feel?

SPOCK
I do not understand the question.

~from “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”

I wonder how many times Leonard Nimoy heard “Live long and prosper” today. It’s his birthday. He turned 82.

Being a fan of “Star Trek” (that’s Trekker to the rest of you), I am an admirer of the man who made pointy ears a serious costume. I’ve been impressed with how he molded his career in the years after his iconic role and the ways he used his fame as a foothold to bigger things (he’s a pretty good movie director, for example).

I’ve gotta believe, however, being so closely associated with a singular character must be difficult. He did, after all, write “I Am Not Spock” and then decades later, “I Am Spock” (see? an author, too!). He, above all, can’t escape his alter ego. “Not a day passes that I don’t hear that cool, rational voice commenting on some irrational aspect of the human condition,” he wrote.

In any case, here’s a fan wishing him on his birthday a portion of the joy he’s imparted through the years as an entertainer.

SAREK
Do you have any message for your mother?

SPOCK
Tell her … I feel fine.

For the right audience, Fey’s ‘Bossypants’ is fun, funny

For a fun diversion, proud women of a certain generation will appreciate Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” because you’ll get her jokes. The rest of you are out of luck.

bossypantsI laughed out loud (that’s LOL to those of you born after I graduated from college) many times while reading Tina Fey’s memoir, and it was worth every penny and every minute I invested in it.

But I’m a sucker for celebrity memoirs. If you’re looking for a complete documentation about what makes the former “Saturday Night Live” writer and creator of “30 Rock” funny or genuine, you’ll have to wait for the unauthorized biographies. Fey’s telling of her own story glosses over some of the details (her facial scar) and jumps around. But it’s a satisfying and entertaining portrait of a feminist comedienne of today.

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with 1-star reviews (authors get like that), so I always check out the 1-star reviews of books I like, trying to figure them out. I ran across this accusation about “Bossypants”:

It also showed me someone with a gargantuan ego who has a lot of false modesty.

Star Trek MemoriesWhat? I respectfully disagree, “Ebby” who liked “Samuel Adams: A Life” but didn’t like “Bossypants.” With that in mind, I’ve chosen to compare and contrast Fey’s “Bossypants” with “Star Trek Memories” by William Shatner, the actor with perhaps the most bloated ego on planet Earth. Or possibly the Milky Way. I confess to enjoying his memoirs very much, but he defines “gargantuan ego”; hey, you can’t take on the Klingons without a healthy opinion of oneself. At least Fey admits to being a “bossypants.”

Compared to Shatner, Fey goes into a lot more detail about her childhood and work history including an entertaining stint at the YMCA in Evanston, Ill. I particularly enjoyed her retelling of her transformation into Sarah Palin. I was surprised by the number of photos in Fey’s book, including flattering shots like this one, which she, of course, plays for laughs:

Fey photo

Shatner’s first memoir (yes, “Star Trek: Memories” was the first of three, count ’em, three memoirs written with author Chris Kreski about his “Star Trek” connections) is filled with vainglorious pictures like this:

The caption reads: The "highly prestigious," not to mention "extraordinarily handsome," new capitan. What a guy!

The caption reads: The “highly prestigious,” not to mention “extraordinarily handsome,” new captain. What a guy!

Fey is a comedienne who sometimes acts. Her memoir is a writer’s book, filled with clever jokes that might not work on TV or even in the audio book (my Beloved did not find my readings of her work amusing), but they’re funny in print. Here’s a bawdy one about the first time she wore contact lenses:

“Right up until camera time, I was sweaty and green from having to touch my own eyeballs like that. If you’ve never had to do it, I’d say it’s not quite as quease-making as when you lose your tampon string, but equally queasish to a self-breast exam. If you are male, I would liken it to touching your own eyeball, and thank you for buying this book.”

Shatner, an actor who fancies himself to be a comedian, tells many stories of the times he pulled practical jokes on his co-stars, like the time he made fun of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock screaming, “Pain, PAIN, PAAAAAAAIN!!!” while channeling a mother alien whose eggs had been destroyed. Writes Shatner, “At which point I yelled, ‘Jesus Christ! Get that Vulcan an aspirin!'”

Listen, I love Capt. Kirk, and I’ve held on to his hardcover memoir for two decades, but he’s just kind of harsh sometimes.

Fey wraps up her memoir with some observations about juggling motherhood with a demanding career. It’s a humorous take, but she’s spot-on, too, I think, about the illusion of “having it all.”

Shatner, meanwhile, writes an epilogue about how much some of his cast members hate him and how it’s really too bad. Genuine, I thought, but as self-serving as Fey justifying her life choices (it’s worth reading Nichelle Nichols’ and James Doohan’s memoirs for their unvarnished perspectives).

In conclusion (isn’t that how a rule-following high school student wraps up her compare-and-contrast assignment?), “Bossypants” succeeds at amusing readers, particularly ones who are female, mothers or fans of “30 Rock.” Though she might show moments of false modesty, I found her memoir to be genuine and playful, sort of like having lunch with a funny performer. Which shouldn’t be surprising — she is.

Good thing it’s not up to me to count ‘Voice’ votes

Today was April 15. For me anyway.

I spent 12 hours yesterday entering numbers into QuickBooks in preparation for a meeting with our accountant (yes, even the CFO has to answer to an “accountant,” lowly he is not — thank goodness for his informed brilliance).

This morning, I discovered one entry in the amount of “e” (?) and another with a date of 2/01/212. Now that’s an ancient expense!

We got done what needed to be done, errant entries be darned, so now I’m chillaxin’ with both last night’s and tonight’s episodes of “The Voice” (go Minnesotan Nicholas David!). Nothing like a little reality TV to erase the pressures of ledger reality!

Lesson 1 in your presidential election primer: Watch Romney tonight

“Do your duty, and leave the rest to heaven.”

~ Pierre Corneille

I invoke this quote from Pierre Corneille, a French playwright, to compel you to believe it is your duty to watch Mitt Romney’s nomination acceptance speech tonight at the Republican National Convention.

If it was already on your evening schedule, this post is not for you.

But if you didn’t even know the Republicans were meeting this week, or you didn’t know Romney was speaking tonight or you don’t know who Mitt Romney is, please reconsider your decision to watch “Project Runway” or enjoy Thirsty Thursday specials at the local watering hole. (I will, however, permit you to tape Heidi Klum & company — that’s what I’m doing — or watch Romney while imbibing — I might be doing that, too.)

Mitt Romney is the Republicans’ candidate for president. A six-word resumé for him would be this: High-powered businessman, former governor, multi-millionaire, Mormon. The back story: Romney, who battled it out in the most exciting Republican primary elections in ages, is running against Democrat Barack Obama, who is attempting to secure a second term as president. The election is in 67 short days on Nov. 6.

I completely understand why you think your vote doesn’t matter or why you might believe all politicians are greedy and deceitful or why politics is more boring than watching paint dry.

But I think voting is a privilege and a duty of being an American, and if you’re going to vote, you really ought to be informed. A lot of other campaigns may be boring and not worth watching (such as the one for village clerk or state representative), but determining who the man who becomes president of the United States is important.

Who is in charge might not make any difference in the country’s direction, but I’m with Corneille: Do your duty, and leave the rest to heaven.

I am not here promoting either candidate, only that a citizen’s minimum effort in electing a president should include:

  1. Watching Romney’s speech.
  2. Watching Obama’s speech next Thursday.
  3. Watching at least part of one presidential debate.
  4. Voting on Nov. 6.

This is not too much to ask in return for the American infrastructure and freedoms you enjoy every day.

To conclude today’s lesson, I will invoke another Corneille quote:

“All evils are equal when they are extreme.”

~ Pierre Corneille

Time out for a fun Monday distraction

“The Voice” keeps getting better every week.

Regular readers know I’m a big fan of reality shows, but I’ve never really gotten into “American Idol” or any of the dozen other shows in that vein. Until “The Voice.”

Maybe it’s because I have a couple of iTunes cards burning a hole in my pocket (you can buy your favorite songs of the evening on iTunes — how’s that for almost instant gratification?). The contestants on “The Voice” do covers of popular music (yes, pop, so sue me) that make old music new again.

If you haven’t been watching “The Voice,” it might be hard to get into it because you don’t know who to root for and you don’t know the backstories. But you should check it out anyway. Just watching it cheers me up. The music is so fun. Except for Christina Aguilera. I pretty much hate anything that comes out of her mouth. Ignore her. The rest is a joyous distraction.

And at the end of a long Monday, there’s nothing better.

(P.S. Vote for Chris Mann. Just to be “weird.” Thanks, Adam Levine, for that commentary.)

We capitulated: We’re back on the TV grid

The Great No-Cable Experiment has ended.

We dumped Dish Network in January when the company that leaves no money-making stone unturned demanded a monthly rental fee for the equipment that had been in our house for nearly four years; we had wanted to suspend service for three months while we were RVing it down south and restart when we returned. My Beloved told them they could keep their expletive equipment, and we left for Texas. We saved $75 a month, added a few DVDs to our Netflix queue and happily enjoyed less celebrity news and pace-quickening weather reports.

When we returned in March, the only thing we missed from network TV was baseball. OK, I was the only one missing baseball. So I subscribed to mlb.com for $25 a month — still a deal.

But then the millionaires  in charge at the NFL decided to kiss and make up, and the NFL doesn’t offer games via the internet. My Beloved started hyperventilating when he realized he couldn’t see his Bears every weekend unless he made a sojourn to the neighbor’s garage.

And Netflix, taking a page from Dish Network’s handbook on “How To Squeeze Every Last Cent from Your Consumers,” raised its rates and co-mingled … or merged … or morphed with Quickster. Buh-bye, whatever you’re calling yourself.

So now we’ve gotten into bed with DirecTV, which has yet to betray us (it’s probably coming, I know). Yesterday, DirecTV installed their equipment, and now my Beloved gets NFL Sunday Ticket — which includes all the NFL games — for “free.” We got a smokin’ deal, thanks to a referral from my brother-in-law, so at $40 a month, we’re still paying less than we did to Dish Network. My husband asked why he has to put up with commercials on television for which he’s paying. Why? This is America and Americans are capitalists, that’s why!

Alas, after a nine-month hiatus, we discovered last night that even with 240 channels, there’s still nothing on TV.

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! It’s lunch time!

Some people travel to meet new people. Some people travel for the sightseeing. Some people travel just to get away from the tedium of being at home.

I travel for the food. Whenever I visit a bed-and-breakfast inn, it’s the morning meal that makes or breaks the stay. I can avoid chain restaurants when I’m with my Beloved, who has a nose (tongue?) for hole-in-the-wall dining establishments. I rarely order a safe and familiar hamburger and french fries, unless I’m in an establishment known for its hamburgers and french fries.

I want to experience the food. When in Rome, eat like a locavore.

That said, I admire Anthony Bourdain’s adventurous palate. Bourdain is the world-traveling star of “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” on the Travel Channel, and he finds cultural significance in a location’s food. That man will eat almost everything, and he finds something appealing in just about anything.

I will not eat insects or most varieties of raw meat or fungus, like I’ve seen Bourdain devour with a smile and a witty aside. But, like him, I refuse to dine my way through a trip at McDonald’s and Chili’s. Keep your all-you-can-eat buffets, and God forbid we stop at a Cracker Barrel.

Have you heard the joke about McDonald’s? There’s a big vat in back and it’s filled with gray sludge. When you order a hamburger … slurp, one hamburger, coming right up. Out spits a hamburger. French fries? Slurp! Small fries. Cola? Slurp, a cola spits out. One more slurp! Here’s your change.

It’s all the same stuff. Heavy on calories, light on flavor. When you eat at McDonald’s, you’re not dining, you’re digesting.

So, when the waitress asked me how I wanted my shrimp po boy “dressed” at lunch today, I said, “Make it the way it usually comes. I want it that way.”

That sandwich with deep-fried cornmeal encrusted shrimp came with lettuce, tomato, onion, a slice of cheese and a smear of mayonnaise. And on the side? Thin-sliced deep-fried pickles.

“Po boy” sandwiches are few and far between at home, and shrimp po boys? Even more rare. Was I dining on alligator eyeballs or pig’s testicles? Nope. But still, a good reflection of the South and the coast and the little cafe’s local cook’s tastes.

And oh boy, was it good!

Takes a shunning and keeps on running

“The Biggest Loser” is on my short list of must-see TV programs, and it’s on my Beloved’s short list of not-for-me programs. So, most Tuesday nights, I spend the first hour of “The Biggest Loser” watching it while walking on the treadmill at Snap Fitness, and then I sneak in the second hour at some point later in the week when Tyler isn’t watching TV with me.

Those NBC schedulers messed me up tonight, and I ended up watching “Glee” on Fox and Jim Gaffigan on Comedy Central while I was on treadmill because “The Biggest Loser” was delayed an hour (“Glee” was gleefully Christmasy and Jim Gaffigan and his bacon jokes kept me laughing so I’m not complaining).

My Beloved relented when I got home, and we watched “The Biggest Loser” despite his objections to Jillian’s obnoxiousness.

I watch “The Biggest Loser” for the heartwarming stories of triumph and the amazing weight transformations.

We snapped a shot of this Pace Arrow when we glimpsed it last September from the interstate in Minnesota.

His favorite part? Besides the end?

At one point during the marathon, contestant Elizabeth ran in front of a 1983 Pace Arrow camper. “Hey, there’s our RV!” he said, rewinding to take a second (and third and fourth look) at the recreational vehicle that looked eerily like the version sitting outside in front of our house. “Look at those awnings over the windows. Looks like its in pretty good shape.”

Hey, if I can watch football games and remark on the new uniform fashions, I guess he can watch reality TV and marvel at the mechanical longevity of Pace Arrow RVs.