1/30/10

The Final Frontier: The Stuff of Legend

I don't know what's geekier about the following link, the actual photo or the argument that gets going in the comments section over uniform colors. (For the record, these are clearly Next Gen era, making command red.) This is so amazing, I almost don't know what to do with myself.

For the record, if Jake and I ever have children...this will probably happen.

The Final Frontier

Geek Sidebar: As I type this, I'm watching an episode of X-files, as the credits just rolled...the name of the director appeared, Cliff Bole. Guess what else he directed from time to time? Next Gen. Coincidence? I think not!


1/26/10

Donde Esta Conando? or Why Conan Matters to Us


It's 12:30am on a Tuesday morning. I'm not asleep. Why? I'm bummed about the fact that there will no longer be any new episodes of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.

No. I'm beyond bummed. I'm sad. I'm...disturbed? I need to unpack this.

I'll start with the basics. I'm a fan. In the nineties, my oldest sister introduced me to his show. I was just a kid. A night owl. I wandered into her bedroom and saw her laughing face illuminated by the glow of her tiny, boxy camping tv. He was doing a remote about truck driving and I was instantaneously hooked. In my house, we were raised on Danny Kaye, so there was an sense of familiarity about this tall, witty goofball.

My husband and I went to a friend's house last Friday to watch his final episode. As he bid us adieu, Conan himself said the work he does is just comedy. The Tonight Show is just another television show. He shared other wise words. He was frustratingly mature.


With everything happening in the world right now, especially in Haiti, there really are better causes. I can't argue with that. We've been riveted by Haiti coverage and are definitely doing what we can...though it's not much. Certainly not enough.

But it's also possible to have two feelings simultaneously. Concern for world matters and bittersweet feelings about The Tonight Show are not mutually exclusive. And here I am, up past midnight, feeling...sad. Whether I should or shouldn't is a moot point. There's that pregnant pause around feelings again. That mysterious ellipsis.

I've been trying to put my finger on why exactly. Why is important. Why always matters. So let's catalogue:

  • Conan is hilarious.
  • His writers are great.
  • He really does have the best band in the history of television...
  • ...and Andy is the icing on the comedy cake. (I still stand firm on my opinion that Andy Barker P.I. was canceled WAY too soon.)

No. There's still something else.

Since the dawn of television, every generation has its own version of The Tonight Show, a time to steer the cultural ship. Conan is the host of my generation...of our generation. His humor has the trademark irreverence of our youth. I was eleven when he took over Late Night. As mentioned, my oldest sister encouraged me to watch his show. So I did. Conan was a presence in my life through jr. high, high school, college, and into my early adulthood.

Sitcoms and dramas go on hiatus, films are only in theaters for a fleeting amount of time. But the late shows, ah, they're on almost every night, give or take a few weeks throughout the year. They're sharing current events with you, they're along for the ride. A shared common experience.

For me, Conan was something of a test. I almost hate to say something like this, because it makes me sound like I take all my emotional cues from a TV show. That's not it at all. I'm a big consumer of news, and a careful one at that. I'm invested in world and current events. But there was something relaxing about knowing that you could turn your TV on every night at 12:30 (and 11:30 for the past seven months) and have a kind of a gauge in Conan.

If Conan could still be making jokes, there was almost a sense that everything was going to be okay. Through wars and economic crises, if Conan was showed up onscreen and made jokes, it felt like things were going to be okay.

And if he took a moment to stop and be serious, then maybe it was time to panic and loot.

Again, I know, it all sounds a little irrational. But in a way, Conan is a national mascot. A generational touchstone, like Carson and others before him. He's even living the experience of finding uneasy footing because his predecessor won't leave. Something people my age can certainly understand. After the recession, many people stalled retirement. After college, we met with a much less friendly job market than our parents did at our age. At least, that's how it felt.

Conan will land on his feet. I have no doubt about that. In the meantime, we'll wait and see what he does next. But now that all the hysteria is over, all the buzz, the final Tonight Show...there's a new kind of sadness I'm feeling.

Silly as it sounds, my generation was robbed of our version of The Tonight Show. I know NBC is a big private company. They can do what they please. I'm not as entitled as I sound. I'm making a commitment not to be cynical about it. But there's a surprising grieving process happening that, quite frankly, has taken me by surprise.

There's something that feels personally offensive about Conan's cancellation. As a twenty-seven year old woman ready to build a career for myself and finally start living life as an adult...it almost feels like they canceled me. Ridiculous as this sounds, I hope it's not a harbinger of things to come. An old guard who will refuse to go.

For anyone out there who doesn't understand all the fuss over Conan, that's okay. You don't have to. But there's more going on here than millions of whiners and malcontents. There's a cultural shift. We lost something we thought we were going to have for years and years to come, a Tonight Show that appealed to our sense of humor, our world view, fronted by our host. All those years we spent having to go to bed early while the grown-ups watched Carson, and now we're finally old enough to stay up, and...

That mysterious ellipsis.


Edited on 5-31-18

1/18/10

Jack and Jeanne Munos of Haiti - After the Earthquake


I want to take a minute to write about something serious. This blog is typically reserved for light-hearted subject matter, nostalgia, and entertainment news. Usually, when I write about a hero, I'm talking about an action heroine or a comic-book character. In the past, when I've written a eulogy, it's been about a favorite actor or writer, Bea Arthur, Cyd Charisse, Majel Roddenberry, and so on. I was born a geek, I am a geek, and that will never change.

But right now, I want to talk about Jeanne Munos. I'm not confident in calling this a eulogy yet, her husband Jack asked that we pray for a miracle, and personally, I'm still holding out. (I'll also list donation info at the bottom of the blog.) This is going to get pretty healy-feely (as one of my grad professors would say) from here on out. So you've been warned. This is not a typical bornforgeekdom blog, but I am a writer after all. And geek or not, the only way I feel I can respond right now is in words, even if it's just for my own comfort. So here goes...

I was fortunate to work at the headquarters for the Free Methodist church a few years ago, in the World Missions department in Indianapolis. (http://fmwm.org/) You wouldn't believe the people I worked with. They were amazing, in a day-today kind of way that most people wouldn't believe. If I was late because of bad weather, they forgave me. If I seemed down, they wanted to know what was wrong.

I was newly married, twenty three years old, and hadn't even finished my undergraduate degree yet. I was only there for seven or eight months, (we moved for Jake's graduate degree) and it was hands down my best office experience ever. Even though at that time in my life I was the least stable practically speaking, still very much in that "I'm young, what am I going to do with myself?" way. Every morning, the people in the office would gather together and pray in earnest, for missionaries around the world, and for each other, in a very sincere way.

In many ways, that brief experience really pointed me in the right direction in my life, teaching me how to combine my gifts and talents with practical business sense and a professional work ethic. While I was there, I did my first ever freelance article, because I was in an environment where I felt like I could, like it was safe to try. So in many ways, I owe my so-far modest success as a freelance writer to that job and my co-workers, who taught me to have an easy way of looking at life. Go for it, pray about it, whether it works or not, keep going. But I have majorly digressed...

I worked on the website there, updating information. I did financial spreadsheets from time to time, filled orders for Sunday school material, worked with the mail, sent flags back and forth from churches who wanted to display them in honor of missionaries, and more. My supervisor was even kind enough to allow me to assist the media director from time to time with video projects, knowing that film was in my academic background and one of my interests.

But I was also fortunate to work with the missionaries as they were abroad. Communicating with them via email about news to post on the website, forwarding along their newsletters, and working with them on something called "prayer cards".

I remember a lot about various missionaries. They were all unique people with struggles and an everyday life that most of us couldn't imagine. And this is completely true, the two I remember the most were Jack and Jeanne Munos, serving in Port Au Prince, Haiti.

Even a few years later, I remember their emails and newsletters, full of rich detail and love for Haiti. I remember Jeanne telling stories about jumping on chairs to hide from bugs, a regular occurrence that she always thought was so funny after the fact. I remember their hearts for abused animals in the country, and all Jeanne's heartache over a beaten donkey next to her home as she prayed and thought so hard about how to intervene on behalf of the animal while remaining culturally sensitive.

I remember the way she talked about the children especially, they were so incredibly precious to her. She was deeply concerned for several children in particular, and would boldly introduce herself to entire families, offering to help or simply to be a friend, to hear about their lives. Never to condemn.

I have to tell you that I was so influenced, that Jake and I began sponsorship of two children in Haiti that we were able to carry on for almost a year. I don't say that to give myself any credit at all. I say it because I remember the day that I was so deeply touched by Jack and Jeanne's lives from a distance, that I went across the hall right then and there to the childcare department to ask to sponsor two children. Something I miss doing very very much, and hope to be blessed enough to return to doing someday soon. That's a testament to Jack and Jeanne and the power of their first-person witness from Haiti.

I remember Jeanne's stories about the sounds of voodoo drifting through the streets at night, and how those sounds often broke her heart, how she would sing to herself to try to drown out the noise, and pray for the people that they would find something better, something more meaningful and personal for themselves. She loved Haiti and its people so much, with such a fiery passion that so many of us don't allow ourselves to feel for anything, fearing it will make us too radical or crazy. Jeanne was all love and no fear.

She was in the basement of her apartment building during the earthquake, and is now presumed dead. A word from Jack, who was on the third floor of the building when the earthquake hit, and is now recovering in Miami, is that he wants us to pray for a miracle. Maybe it's because Jake and I are so far removed from the tragedy, we don't even really know Jack and Jeanne. But we've been reduced to tears over it all weekend.

People are still coming out of the rubble, and for all we know, Jeanne could be one of them. God can do anything. Anything. Even if she's gone, who is to say that God can't resurrect her simply for the sake of Jack or because He can? He can. So we're going to keep praying for that, because we know that God can do anything.

If she's gone, she died doing what she loved and cared about most. Abiding with the people of Haiti. And that's a proud death, one to be admired, though it's very sad for "us". (I hardly feel it's fair to say it makes me sad, again, I knew her from a distance and for such a short time.) If she's here, then we need to pray that she will be sustained. Somehow receive water and nourishment and rescue.

I know I'm being naive. But I honestly feel like the example of Jack and Jeanne and all the people of Haiti has increased my faith, has changed my life. Our lives. Jake and I feel touched by this event in a strange way, in a way that we've never been affected before, and we can't even tell you why exactly. We're simply raw about it, all tears and prayer and tears and prayer.

If the people of Haiti have touched you, in any small way at all. Please give. Whatever you can. Supplies, time, and money if you have it. Free Methodist World Missions has set up a donation link, and I can tell you that they are not only incredibly trust-worthy, but they are already on the ground there. The media director and others are across the border doing what they can and documenting the situation. Here is the link where you can see first-hand what is happening with blogs and video, and where you can also donate.

http://www.helphaitiheal.org/

I'm hoping that the giving and caring legacy of Jeanne and all those who died in Haiti will find a new kind of life and vibrancy in the world, even here at home in our own communities. Jake and I can't go to Haiti right now with our camera, but we can donate money, a small sum though it is. And we can take better care of each other. We can open our eyes to our own neighborhoods and families and just be there. Be here.

Today is Martin Luther King Day, and that's a day that's all about freedom. And Jeanne Munos knew ultimate freedom. Freedom from herself, freedom for others, the ultimate liberty of giving and loving in a sacrificial way. I'm going to try to honor both Dr. King and Pastor Jeanne Munos by following my heart, using my gifts and giving of myself. Hopefully, God will bless us and we can only hope to live the kind of open and fearless life that she did, that she does.

As Jake was praying last night, he said something so eloquent. He prayed for Jack and Jeanne in their "different states of life". Whether Jeanne is with us or not, she's alive. And that's just about the sweetest final thought I can possibly think of. Jeanne is alive, she lives with Christ, whether that's here or in heaven. I think she would want us to jump into what's happening with Haiti, not to turn our faces away, but to go ahead and look at the people, what they're going through, and do something.

1/12/10

Conan O'Brien, I Love You

It's as true now as it ever was! (Special thanks to http://www.sirmikeofmitchell.com/)
Conan, I'll follow you wherever you go. Several months ago, I wrote this for ForcesofGeek.com. I'm so sorry that my fears, as it turns out, were very realistic. This is my column from February 2, 2009.
"Late Night with Conan O’Brien will soon cease forever, as Conan moves on to take over for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. I’ve been wondering about how Conan will have to adapt and whether or not it will affect his whole, shall we say, “vibe”. I wonder if he’ll be able to keep that trademark randomness going in his monologue and sketches. I fear that the 11:30 crowd might not “get” Conan the way his current fans do. I fear that the pale force hero will get a permanent sunburn living in California. In fact, I fear a lot.
I’m very neurotic when it comes to change of any kind. I’m like the female version of Billy Crystal from When Harry Met Sally. Only I manage to find time to fixate not only on my own impending demise and the state of the world at large, but also to worry about famous celebrity talk show hosts and how they’ll adapt to a change in time slot or a new city. It’s all selfish really, I think Late Night with Conan O’Brien is a near perfect specimen of a talk show. I don’t want it to change.
I can just picture Conan sitting in front of some kind of stuffy network tribunal, analyzing his past work like a bunch of corporate John Maddens. Telling him what has to go now that he’s on at an earlier time, trying to make him more marketable or accessible or some bologna like that.
At first I thought that there should be some kind of crash course introduction to Conan for people who aren’t that acquainted with him. You know, like those recap shows they do for LOST? The fundamental concepts of Conan’s humor could be covered in this little tutorial.
“This is called the string dance, you see he’s pantomiming that he has string on his hips then cutting it. Get it? That’s him being self-deprecating, sometimes he drives his desk, and yes, he’s freakishly tall. What’s that? The dog puppet? Don’t worry he’s not coming, but you really should YouTube him.”
Then I thought that maybe NBC should release some kind of public service announcement recommending that people buy or rent the DVD of Conan’s 10th anniversary show. Then I freaked out when I heard that Jay Leno was going to have a show in primetime right before Conan, thinking it would keep new viewers from becoming acquainted with our beloved Tilda Swinton look-alike. At first I thought it was insulting, they’re not really promoting Conan, they’re just pushing the schedule up earlier.

But the other day, I got to thinking. I am the 11:30 crowd. It’s been eight years since I started college and many more years than that since I first discovered Conan. I can’t imagine that when I was a 17 year-old freshman at Ball State University that I would’ve predicted hearing myself say things like, “I love Conan O’Brien so much, but I wish he wasn’t on so late.”
But I definitely do say that, fairly often actually. Next thing you know I’ll probably be complaining about how they don’t open their doors soon enough for the early-bird special over at Denny’s. Even if my habits are changing with my age, as is bound to happen, my sense of humor is managing to stay the same. (Yes, as stale as ever with no signs of change.) So I have to believe that even though Late Night has only been playing in a small theater big enough for 200 people for the last 16 years that his fan base has snowballed during that time.
As much as I fear the changes that have to come from Conan moving from New York to L.A., from 12:30 to 11:30…there’s a lot about the move that is really starting to excite me. I’ll be able to watch it much more often now. And why should I begrudge Jay Leno getting a 10:00 show? That just means his loyal viewers get to watch him when maybe they’ve been falling asleep in their chairs trying to make it to The Tonight Show. Just the way I typically can no longer make it to Conan. Hey, we don’t all have Tivo.
I’m also remembering a time recently when I sat one of my sisters down to show her Conan’s 10th anniversary special. That’s the DVD that we put on whenever we have parties or company, and I find myself talking to people about it as though I was trying to win them over to the Hare Krishna or something. She’s about eight years older than me, and she laughed hysterically. The entire way through the DVD. Which just goes to show…good comedy knows no age.
Besides, I’ve got more important things to worry about now. Like what I’m going to do about the fact that David Letterman and Conan are now on simultaneously. Now pardon me while I go ponder the futures of all the employees over at Worldwide Pants…"
*Sigh* Now I begrudge both Leno and his fans, and I begrudge them HARD. No matter, I really will follow Conan, and my only hope now is that he stays on the air, some way, somehow.
You'll rue the day NBC. Rue it, I say!
READ Conan's official statement here. This man is a class act ALL the way.

1/11/10

An Ode To My Chiropractor

I have a slew of geeky ailments that match my personality. I wear my retainer at night, I need glasses and contacts, and I also need a little help from some orthopedic footwear now and again. I also need to visit a chiropractor for some occasional re-adjustments. Every time I go, I leave feeling like a new person. It's absolutely amazing what a little popping and cracking can do to help you remember that walking doesn't have to equal pain. So today, I thought I would dedicate a Friday Night Videos blog (Yes, I know it's Monday afternoon...but this is the only fitting way to pay tribute.) to my chiropractor.

Thank you my good man. Thank you indeed! Thanks to my appointment today, I now feel like this...



Does that number make anyone else weep like a baby thinking of your grandparents? No? Just me? I love the elderly SO MUCH. (Don't even get me started on COCOON!) Moving along...



I can even walk like this now if I want to. And I do want to.



In fact, now I can walk however I want. Like a man or an Egyptian.



So thank you good sir, for helping me get back to my cheerful, cheesy videos-loving self!

1/9/10

Where's The Magnum P.I. Movie? (a.k.a. I'm way too mad about this)

Would've been better with lasers.
Complaining about franchise reboots is an old person's pursuit. Like shuffleboard. Or the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Network. Both things I love very much.

Therefore, because I am an old, I will now share my feelings.

Feelings about how they could successfully make a Magnum P.I. movie. And rules. I think you'll agree with most of them. But first, a caveat. Because I may be an old, but I'm also a smart. Allow me to prove I'm not beginning with a bias.

I’ve learned my lesson about decrying remakes on principle. Star Trek schooled me on that, six times in the theater alone.

Let's get to the point:

I will not abide a reboot of Magnum P.I., whether it be for film or television. Sequel? Sure. Continuation? You bet. Reboot? That's a big fat nope.

There've been rumblings of a Magnum movie for years. The rumors are always the same. No Tom Selleck. It was Nicolas Cage for a while. Word on the street is Matthew McConaughey has the rights now.

No matter who's attached, I believe there are five rules that should be followed when it comes to movies based on TV shows. Especially as time marches on and the gap grows between those of us who remember Magnum P.I. as a contemporary show and people who only know it as a pop culture reference.

But some of us love Magnum P.I. unironically, thankyouverymuch.

How much? This much:


Anyway, here are my rules…

1.) Don’t reboot a series when the original cast is still willing, ready, and able to do the movie. Unfortunately, not all the members of the original cast of Star Trek are still with us. And by us, I mean the living. Thus, Next Gen was born.

But with Magnum P.I., the gang's all here.* Not only should they NOT recast it, they should stop wasting time letting it linger in development hell and make the movie while they still have the chance.

At the very least, introduce a new cast alongside the former, a la Star Trek: Generations. (And now I promise to stop talking about Star Trek.)

Behold, the sweat of legends.

2.) Don’t make a joke out of it.
That’s not to say the movie can’t be funny. The show was funny. But let’s not give it the Ben Stiller, bad wig treatment. Just pick up with Magnum wherever you think he would be at this point in his life and go forward.

3.) The only TV shows that make funny parody movies are the ones that were intentionally cheesy in the first place. There's a fine line between homage and parody. Magnum P.I. may be stylistically dated, but so were The Golden Girls and we certainly pay them the proper respect.

4.) Don’t make the entire movie about age. Yes, Thomas Magnum is older. But if we’ve learned anything from Harrison Ford, it’s that you’re never too old to get back into the action. Acknowledge the age. Don't dwell on it.

5.) No new kid. No secret son of Magnum. No young pup needing to be trained in the ways of mystery-solving. Just let Magnum be the star. (Though I guess the last episode of the show did set up a daughter scenario. She'd be in her twenties now…so, pardon me while I prepare my headshot.)


It's hardly novel, but here’s what I would do if I were in charge:

Pick up with Magnum in Hawaii now. He’s returned after serving in the military again, working for intelligence. He's now re-retired. The first shot could be him stepping foot on the island.

Higgins inherited the estate from Robin Masters, and has allowed Magnum to move back into the pool house. Maybe Higgins has taken up writing like his old boss. Perhaps he has written a series of mysteries based not so loosely on Magnum’s life.

Every day, he gets the paper and nonchalantly scans it to see what's the haps on the local crime scene. But really, there’s not much to do beyond petty crime and tourist scams. Naturally, he longs for the glory days. He's bored.

Anyway, something big goes down on the island, Magnum is the only one who can help and the fun continues. Yeah, I know it's vague, but I'm just delusional enough to think I need to protect my idea. Writing a Magnum script would be a literal dream come true.

I’m just baffled that the suits are wasting all this time on such a financially viable property. They’re remaking EVERYTHING. Pardon me while I petty for a second. I know I'm not the arbiter of such things, but...so many properties are getting a second chance at getting a new chance at life, especially things that either:

a.) don’t need one (Footloose, Fright Night) or

b.) don’t deserve one (Melrose Place, 90210)

Yeah, I said it. Yes, I liked the new Fright Night. But I don't think it compromises my point.


That's not to mention the fact that so many remakes right now are straight from the 80's, a la G.I. Joe. The time is ripe. But nobody is going to let Tom Selleck do a legitimate Magnum movie? Come on!

It’s not right. It’s like the only way they know how to get things done anymore is to come up with all the worst ideas first and work backwards from there until time runs out and the window of opportunity is closed forever. (Sorry, I'm extra cranky with the Hollywood machine right now considering what's going on with Conan O'Brien.)

Possible directors?

1. Jon Favreau, for his ability to mix action with comedy. But would he do it? Can’t say.

2. Frank Oz handles quirky quite well, but again…not so sure he’d sign on considering his long, rich history with original scripts.

3. Ivan Reitman is familiar with the sensibilities of the originating time period.

4. Anybody know if Ron Underwood is still available?

5. David Gordon Green also has the chops to handle the action/comedy without making it a caricature that will look embarrassing in a decade or so. (Sorry Rush Hour, but you aged very very quickly.)

At this point…I’d happily take a TV movie if it was done by the right people. Not every movie has to be directed for wide audience appeal. Focus on the original fans. Forget about making it a wacky wig* summer tentpole. Maybe it would even be safer that way, fewer people to answer to and easier to stay true to the series.

Secure the original Magnum house. Film in Hawaii. While you’re there make friends with the LOST crew as they film their last season.

It could work. It could genuinely work. So whoever's responsible for the hold-up, knock it off!



*I wrote this eight years ago...rest in peace John Hillerman.
*Man...apparently, I really have a vendetta against wigs.