Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I got this movie for a dollar: "Cougar Cult"

Since I landed last night and was too tired to do anything, I spent most of today running errands and getting situated back into my life. I went to a couple of thrift stores, the grocery store, and the used bookstore, where I dropped off a bunch of books and found a movie:

Cougar Cult

As you can see from the cover, it's about... women? Shirtless college guys? Kittycats? It's about all of that, and somehow so much more.

Our story opens with a shirtless young man cleaning a pool beside three older women, who lounge in chairs and drink wine. The poolboy, Henry, mentions that he needs to get going, but really needs to take a shower first. After offering him a drink, the ladies send Henry upstairs for a shower, where he proceeds to take the weirdest shower I've ever seen:

Henry only washes his torso.

And he doesn't use soap.

And doesn't duck his head under the water, ever. He just keeps rubbing his torso and arms with his hands, getting them wet, for about four and a half minutes of the movie. Seriously, almost five minutes of the movie look like this:

While that's going on, the women start walking into the house in weird, overexposed lighting over the sound of growling.

The camera cuts back and forth between the wet torso rubdown and the overexposed walking, and then Henry hears a weird noise, gets out of the shower, only puts on his underwear, and goes to investigate. Before you know it, he's being chased through the house by an unseen, snarling enemy. He barricades himself in a downstairs room, peeks out when it's quiet, and then something grabs him.

When the lights come back up, Henry is unconscious on the floor with the three women standing around him discussing how their god is going to make them take mates to preserve their youth. Henry is apparently unsuitable for this purpose, so the sisters proclaim that they're having steak tartar for dinner...


And it happens again:

That's a special effect that makes the SyFy Channel original movies look like Industrial Light and Magic. Seriously, what the hell was that? I'm making that my Facebook cover photo.

Now there are three young men in front of the house, answering an ad for a cook, a poolboy, and a masseuse for three older ladies. The older ladies, of course, are the previously seen catwitches, and I don't bother to learn the young men's names. I've already come to the understanding that they're not here to be characters. We'll just call them Blond Guy, Pool Guy, and Other Brunette. They are hired on the spot after confirming that they don't have girlfriends, and then Blond Guy takes a nap.

By which I mean Blond Guy lays in bed rubbing himself and writhing on the sheets for three minutes.

Three minutes. I rewound and counted. During the three minutes he has visions of the two brunette catwitches sneaking in and rubbing his legs, but it turns out to be a nightmare, which he is awaked from by Other Brunette. Other Brunette is suddenly concerned about job security, confessing that he's never given a massage before, so Blond Guy tells him to take off his shirt, get on the bed, and Blond Guy will give him a massage so that he knows how to do it.

Wait, what?

Is this gay porn? Because all of a sudden Other Brunette is like, "This feels good," and Blond Guy is like, "Let me talk to you about our weird 'hot' boss women while I rub you down, in my bed, in my underwear."

And then we cut away to Pool Guy, who spends four to six minutes of the movie standing by the pool in his shorts, spraying himself down with the hose. Seriously, is this gay porn? Like with all the porn cut out? Anyway, Blonde Catwich is watching Pool Guy through the window throughout this scene while weird growling noises play, and then announces to her Target lamp and random free weight set that she guesses he'll be next.

Other Brunette shows up downstairs to give one of the catwitches her massage, and she explains that he's way overdressed, and that when she comes back he better have lost "at least" his shirt.

Then Blond Guy takes a shower, which goes about the same as the one we started the movie with, although he also gets his hair wet. While this is happening there are a lot of those overexposed shots of the catwitches walking through the house, and then one of the catwitches sneaks into the shower and almost touches him, but he doesn't see her.

(Why does she look so angry about his butt?)

The sound of snarling surprises him out of the shower and he decides that he was hearing things. The other two guys stop by the pool to talk about how boring being a pool guy is, and then they see some random guy pull up in a sports car. He comes in to talk to the sisters, and they take him upstairs and tell him to take off his clothes because he's a gigolo. They use the blond catwitch's magic necklace to knock him out, then they perform some witchcraft on him, by which I mean they pour oil on his chest and he rubs it all over himself while writhing on the bed. The catwitches raise their hands a lot, light some candles, talk about their god, talk in weird voices, and then pronounce the ritual a success.

After that they eat him (Jesus Christ, those cat heads!), because one of the catwitches is handing Other Brunette the gigolo's car keys. She tells him to park it in a public lot by the bank and leave the keys in it, so that the gigolo can pick it up later. Other Brunette finds this suspicious, but drives off anyway after talking to Blond Guy, who is apparently the cook since he's wearing an apron and briefs. Abandoned by his friend, Blond Guy takes another self-molesting nap.


All that guy did today was take a nap, give his friend a sexy backrub, take a shower, and walk around in an apron, and now he's taking another nap?

Wait, all three guys are taking naps. On top of their blankets. And rubbing themselves. In their underwear. It's gotten to the point where even I'm bored by the torsos, and I really like well-built male torsos. Anyway, the catwitches are walking through the house in the overexposed lighting again, the guys are writhing, and then some snarling noises wake up Blond Guy. He puts on his glasses, but nothing else, and goes to wander the house in his briefs, where he discovers that Pool Guy is in some sort of trance. He sleepwalks to the catwitches' bedroom, followed by Blond Guy, wakes up from his trance when the catwitches invite him to a foursome with the three of them, and then they do the same magic they did to the gigolo, except that they don't eat Pool Guy after they oil him down.

The next morning, Blond Guy tries to warn Other Brunette, telling him everything he's seen. Blond Guy also recognizes blonde catwitch's magic amulet as the South American symbol of an Amazon cat goddess, but blond catwitch overhears their discussion. Other Brunette stomps off, calling Blond Guy crazy, the catwitches walk in a circle and light more candles, and then they hypnotize Pool Guy into calling some other guy because they don't think Blond Guy will be suitable anymore. The other guy shows up (shirtless), blond witch hypnotizes him with her magic necklace, and then Blond Guy discovers that they've also hypnotized Other Brunette.

The witches turn into catheads again, but Blond Guy grabs the magic necklace and presses it to blond catwitch's forehead. Somehow this shorts out the magic, the catwitches disappear, the other guys wake up in bed in their underwear covered in oil, and then everybody goes home.

The end.

Unless there's a sequel.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hazy Shade of Winter

I like my town, kind of, and I like the state of New York, conditionally, but on some level I also always think of upstate New York less as the place I come from and more as the place I escaped from. Spending a week here in the dead of winter rather than during November, which used to be the dead of winter but now (possibly thanks to climate change?) is kind of hit or miss on whether it will even be chilly, much less whether there will be snow on the ground, has done nothing to sway me from the certain knowledge that no, I don't want to move back home on a permanent basis. Not now, and not ever.

Did I ever tell you the story of the train that goes by my house at night?

When we first moved here, and I had to come back for the whole summer after freshman year of college (still the only full summer that I have ever spent in my town), I was miserable. I didn't have a car and couldn't find a job in walking distance because I was male and unrelated to the members of the town board (as I explained in the link above, town and village jobs were held for relatives of the town and village government, and the gas stations only hired women), and everything was so flat. This used to weigh on me at times when I actually sat and thought about what I hated about living here, and tried to quantify it into words. This part of upstate New York is a lot of rolling farmland, so all I could see from my house was horizon. So much horizon, so far away. As a normally overdramatic and also prone to depression person, this began to weigh on me, this feeling of being trapped in a terrible place with all of the sky pressing in around me.

Enter the 11 PM train.

Our house was only air conditioned on the ground floor and in my parents' bedroom, so I had to sleep every night with the windows on either side of my bedroom opened to get a cross breeze to flow over my bed. Generally, since we live in the country, evenings were quiet except for the random interruption of the fire whistle less than a mile away, and the 11 PM train that I managed to hear every night, even if I was already asleep. I'd snap awake, lay in bed, stare toward the ceiling (I can't really stare at the ceiling, since I can't see the ceiling from my bed without my glasses on, so I just kind of point my eyes toward it), and listen to the long, mournful whistle of the 11 PM train as it passed through the village every night without stopping. The whistle was mournful, of course, because I was unhappy.

You probably already figured that out, but just in case, it's just a regular old train whistle unless you're a depressed teenager.

Anyway, one night at dinner toward the end of summer, I was all kinds of fired up about something, and raging and carrying on over how awful it was to live here and there was nothing to do and all you could think about all the time every day was how much you wanted to get away and how exciting it would be to live somewhere, ANYWHERE, that wasn't Philadelphia, New York. (I'm fairly certain that I also referred to my town at least once in this rant as "Philthy", rather than Philly, as I still refer to the sexist gas station as Philthy Fuels to this day.) I was in full dramatic fervor, just short of weeping and tearing at my hair, really all the way into Shelly Winters at the bus station in "A Place in the Sun" territory in terms of hysteria and Veda talking about dollar days and the smell of diner grease in "Mildred Pierce" in terms of content, carrying on about this terrible place and these terrible, inbred, nepotistic people who lived and died here and never dreamed about anything but their sad, terrible little lives and wanted everyone else to fall into the trap of staying in upstate New York with them. My parents, more than used to this, barely gave it an eyeroll while eating and watching the evening news with me, and that's when I hit the climax of teenage drama and launched into an impassioned, Emmy-worthy speech about the 11 PM train.

"Every night! Every night I lay in my bed, and I stare at the ceiling, and I hear the train go by! I listen to it whistle as it blows through town, and every night I wonder about that train, and where it's going, and who the people on it are! I wonder what they're doing, and if they're just passing through, or if they're getting out of this terrible place, with these terrible people! Every night I hear that train and I wonder where it's going and I wonder what it would be like to ride on it, to ride out of here, to get away from Philthy and get on that train and go somewhere! Somewhere far away!"

I probably should have followed this with weeping, but my dad, who had only been half listening (if you've listened to the same rant every night for a whole summer already, why give it your full attention?), turned around and casually asked, "Did you just ask about the 11 o'clock train? The one that goes through at night?"

"YES! The one that LEAVES HERE!"

Dad shrugged.

"There's nobody on that train."


"That's a freight train. It goes from Watertown to Potsdam and comes back in the morning. There aren't any passengers on it."

And then he turned back around and kept watching the news.

I was speechless.

I think my mom laughed.

At the time I interpreted this as "Nobody understands me!" in my teenage wailing, but now I think about this story and giggle about what a bratty little asshole I was and how my dad waiting for the perfect moment to casually puncture my teenage drama balloon. My parents are awesome.

Upstate New York?

Slightly less so, especially in winter. Talking about that was the original point of my post, as I realized this week that in addition to being flat and soul-crushing for people without cars, winter also leaches the color out of everything, rendering the entire landscape in a pallet of white, black, and slushy gray. As proof, I submit the following:

The sky blends right into the ground and even things that have color seem less bright.

And that's the other reason why I can't move back home, ever.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Never Forget the Sexy Christmas Mermen

After I flew in on Saturday, we were supposed to head downstate for an overnight to see relatives on Sunday, but our travel plans were delayed by a Northern New York classic weather disaster. No, not a catastrophic lake effect blizzard. The other classic Northern New York weather disaster:

The Ice Storm

And not the kind where Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver throw their keys in a bowl at an infidelity party. The kind where your house ends up looking like this:

and the trees get all weighted down and keep breaking, but it's also really really pretty:

Unfortunately, it's hell to drive in, and after being advised by the county that we weren't allowed to leave our house because of a travel ban, we waited and went yesterday instead. The drive down was rainy and a little foggy, but the drive back today was clear and sunny, and mom and I decided that part of our visiting would also include running some errands.

That's where I saw this:

Other than someone who actually lost a loved one in the 9/11 attacks, who needs this on their tree? Fox News? Rudy Giuliani? Toby Keith? Who is staring at their tree thinking, "God, this whole tree needs more 'Never Forget'. Do they have another ornament of a crying eagle in profile?"

My mom saw me taking a picture, rolled her eyes, and turned away. I was about to articulate some of these thoughts to her in my defense, but then I turned my head and saw these:

A sexy merman, pulling down his mer-jeans with one hand while he hikes up his shirt to show us his abs with the other like a 2005-era MySpace bathroom mirror selfie?

That's the true meaning of Christmas right there.

Especially when there's a patriot one, draped in a flag, a fireman merman (how does that even work? I get that everything's hotter under de water, because Sebastian the Crab told me in a song, but what's actually burning?), one tearing off a shirt and tie, a UPS merman, and a host of others.

Mom disagreed, and refused to purchase one.

If there's a sexy merman Jesus somewhere in the collection, I bet he's disappointed.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The 5 Weirdest Things I Saw in the Holiday 2013 SkyMall Catalog

As you may or may not know, I took two trips by plane in October. A friend was asking me about them, and I explained that on one flight somebody weird sat next to me.

"Weird how?" Valid question. I'm maybe a little bit not normal, so my judgment of the weirdness of others is questionable.

"Well... he read the SkyMall magazine. Like, the whole thing. With interest, like he was going to buy something from it."

"What's so weird about that?" my friend asked, looking at me funny. "There's some good stuff in there."

"Are you kidding?"

"No! You should look at it."

I fly three to five times a year, in an average year. Despite that, I haven't actually opened the SkyMall catalog and looked through it in at least five years, because I have this impression in my head that it's full of weird, expensive stuff that no one actually buys. I trust my friend, though, so today as I was flying home to see my family for Christmas I put aside my Gloria Swanson biography for a few minutes and flipped through the SkyMall catalog.

Now I have more questions than answers, but the main one is:

Who buys this stuff?

Who sits in an uncomfortable chair at 35,000 feet, opens this magazine, and thinks, "Yes! YES! That will complete my life!"

I don't know, but I sincerely hope they are purchasing one of the following items:

Life-Sized Yeti Statue

At $2350 (plus $225 shipping and handling), I don't see how you could possibly not buy this. Why, if I'd sprung for the in-flight Wi-Fi and had a massive head injury just before boarding the plane, American Express would be paying for this right now. Never mind the coffee table I was thinking about the other day. This is the kind of household item that would make my life complete.

Or is it? I don't want to discount the possibility that what I really need is the...

8 Foot Tall Headless Fashion Model Lamp

Unlike the Yeti, which is just art, this is both artistic and functional. What better light to read by than that emanating from the stump at the end of a decapitated fashionista's neck? And it's less than half the price of the Yeti statue. Why, it's practically on sale!

Just having such a thing in my home is bound to make me more fashionable, too, but just in case it doesn't, maybe I could treat myself to some...

High-Fashion Shirt Art

I'm speechless. Fortunately, the description lets me know that this is "a one of a kind shirt" (thank baby Jesus; the idea that there might be two of those and that they could breed is horrifying) that will announce that "you're a little different than everyone else". A little different? Or A LOT different? Because I feel like that's kind of a lot. The description also lets me know that this "piece of art" is great for frat parties. Frat parties? Really? Because I know a lot of fraternity members, and I'm pretty sure that shirt would only be welcome at certain specific kinds of frat parties, mostly because it's already half unbuttoned in the picture and probably really easy to take off.

If the shirt isn't really the way to go, though, maybe I should think more about something useful. More useful than the decapitated Kate Moss lamp, I mean. Something more like...

A Food and Pillow Sterilizer

Bonus: It has a child safety lock. I don't want the kids thinking ultraviolet radiation is a toy. Seriously, though, there's finally a tool that will help me irradiate all of the food I put in my mouth, just before I lay my head on my freshly irradiated sheets and pillows. I'm kind of sad that there's not a discount for buying more than one, though. I mean, I have two hands, and a really big bed. I'd feel better about bathing everything I own in melanoma rays if I could do it twice as much in the same amount of time.

Now that I think about it, though, maybe none of these things will make me happy. Maybe the only thing that can bring joy to my heart is...

A Custom Formal Portrait of My Dog as Napoleon

Seriously, I think I know what my parents are getting for their anniversary this year.

Thank you, SkyMall.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I am Joel's Charmless Coffee Table

I've realized over the past few weeks that I have feelings about my coffee table.

This is new.

I've never really felt anything about my coffee table before. I've noticed it, of course. I see that it's messy, or needs dusting. It sits in the middle of the living room, so I'm aware that it exists, and sometimes I step around it. I store books on the bottom shelf of it, so it even serves a purpose, but again, I've never looked at it and felt something.

Am I supposed to?

This all started back on Small Business Saturday. While out looking at thrift shops and antique shops, I saw a coffee table. It was an antique wooden pinball type game, the thin kind that use to hang on a wall, and someone had taken the frame, added legs, and converted it into a coffee table. It was a little bit cheesy, but also a little bit charming, and I liked it enough to circle back around the store to look at it again four or five times. Priced at an even hundred dollars (which was probably negotiable), it's within my budget, and when I looked at it I just thought, "That coffee table is really me." But then I thought, "I already have a coffee table, though. Oh well."

Since then, I keep looking at my coffee table and thinking, and feeling that it is somehow inadequate.

My coffee table expresses nothing about me as a person, and I feel like that pinball coffee table would.

Back when I was in college, I had a friend who liked to go to Pier One. We would walk around and look at bibelots, and candleholders, and glassware, and sculptures, and I'd always say that someday, when I had my own place that was semi-permanent and didn't have to worry about things getting broken or lost in moves, I would have nice stuff. Interesting stuff. Maybe some antiques. Stuff with some character.

Fast forward to seven years ago, when I moved to my first grownup apartment. The only furniture I owned after years of being a hall director was a random collection of lamps, pressed wood bookcases, odd shelving units, a nice rug, and my childhood wooden toybox, inherited from my father's childhood. And what did I do?

I recreated the scene from "Fight Club" where Jack orders his entire apartment from a catalog:

I am Jack's Living Room

I went to Rooms to Go, where they specialize in selling you an entire room at a time rather than individual pieces of furniture, and I picked out a living room that matched my nice rug:


Including my coffee table.

And don't get me wrong: It's good furniture. It's seven years old, and still holding up well. The corners of the end tables are showing a little wear, and the chaise lounge, which I refer to as my fainting couch, is stained and starting to sink a little in the middle since I sit on it every day, but overall it's all still in good shape, and was probably a wise investment. It just has no character. There's no sense of individuality, except for the objects that I've placed on it. The table itself doesn't say anything about me, especially when it's sitting in a living room with nine pressed-wood bookcases from Target. Or it is saying something about me, and those things aren't very flattering.

I guess this is a part of adulthood that I've never really thought about: When do you fully establish your own style? And how long does the average grownup keep their furniture for? When should I buy some bookcases made of actual wood? Am I too old for prefab, pressed-wood furniture? What else in my apartment needs replacing? Is this even something I should worry about? Who cares what my coffee table looks like when I am averse to having people come inside and actually seeing it?

I don't know.

All I know is that lately I've had feelings about my coffee table, and they're feelings of dissatisfaction.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

In the words of Ralphie: "Oh... fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuudge!"

A friend asked me a question this week: "Since you usually spend Christmas alone, do you have any holiday traditions? Like, do you do anything to make it special?"

Getting to be alone isn't special enough?

It was a good question, though, so I gave it some thought, and discovered that I have two definite traditions that I participate in every year:

1) I have a tradition of stacking all of my Christmas packages in the living room, and then spending the days leading up to Christmas shaking them and casually dropping them in the hopes that they will fall open. I can't open them early, because Jesus is watching.

2) Every year, since 2010, I make the Carnation Famous Fudge Kit. Some years there is disappointment, and other years there is a glimmer of hope. This year I decided that even though I will be at my parents' house for Christmas I still needed to follow my tradition, and to spend a morning trying to make fudge that looks like the fudge on the box and then blaming and berating myself for failure to meet the standards set by a food stylist who was probably using blocks of wax covered with shoe polish in place of actual fudge.

This year, though, things turned out a little differently.

The first sign that something might be amiss came yesterday, when I attempted to go out and get the fudge kit. There were none at Kroger. Or at Target. Or at Food City. Or at the other Food City. In fact, the only place I could find one was Wal-Mart. It's almost as if demand for the fudge kit has fallen, as if people don't want to use it any more, as if somewhere there exist better alternatives and people are tired of trying to make glossy, perfect fudge that might not even be possible from this kit.

That's just crazy talk, I thought, putting the fudge kit in my cart. Wal-Mart no longer has hand baskets, so you have to use a cart even if you're only buying two things. There's nothing wrong with the fudge kit. If it doesn't come out right, it must be the cook.

This morning, I got my kit out:

making fudge (1)

"New look", you say? Because the fudge on the box looks as unattainable as ever. The front of the box wasn't the only change, though. When I opened it, I discovered that something was missing:

making fudge (2)

They no longer five you the little pan to make the fudge in. The instructions on the back mention lightly spraying an 8 inch pan, but don't mention that you have to provide the pan yourself. Oddly, the kit wasn't any cheaper even though it comes with less stuff, and I felt the first stirrings of resentment against Carnation bubbling within me. I don't even have an 8 by 8 pan. Who am I, Martha Stewart? A Keebler elf? Whoever Freihofer's is named after? (Charles Freihofer, it turns out.) You think I can just pull the right sized pan out of the air?

I can't, but I realized that my my vintage turquoise Pyrex 503 (which I need a lid for, if anyone wants to send me something really special for Christmas) dish is roughly that size:

turquoise 503

Measurements confirmed that it is 8.5 by 7 inches, which seemed close enough to 8 by 8. Dish problem solved, I started on the kit, which hasn't changed. You dump the condensed milk, butter, and sugar mix in a pot:

making fudge (3)

Then you stir while it heats:

making fudge (4)

and then it boils and you stir constantly for exactly four minutes:

making fudge (5)

After that you remove from heat, add the marshmallows and chocolate chips, stir, and pour it into the pan.

I was so hopeful for a minute. I was stirring, and it was glossy! The fudge had shine, damn it! I was all, "In the pan! Get it into the pan! Oh, God, I've done it! I'VE MADE THE FUDGE!" and then, in the twenty seconds it took me to spoon it into the pan, something happened:

making fudge (6)

That Goddamned fudge looks exactly like last year. It looks the same every year! Seriously.


shiny fudge




choppy fudge

Every year the fudge looks like this. Low heat, high heat, butter, margarine, disposable pan, Pyrex dish... none of it matters. That's what I have realized this year.

The Carnation Famous Fudge Kit makes grainy, visually disappointing fudge.

It's not the cook. If you make the same thing four times, and it comes out the same way four times, that's the way it's supposed to come out. The flaw is in the recipe.

Next year, I will continue the tradition of making holiday fudge.

I have a whole year to settle on a new recipe.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"What's a warp core?"

During the four day Thanksgiving weekend, I had an unplanned television binge: BBC America did a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" marathon, and like a moth drifting lazily toward a bug zapper on the corner of the porch roof I was slowly drawn in and unable to turn the channel for hours. Since then, I've continued watching whenever I'm flipping channels and it happens to be on, and for some unknown reason it happens to be on a lot.

In viewing so many episodes in a row, and in discussion the show on Facebook, a thought has recently occurred to me:

For all the years that I have been a fan, I may have misjudged Counselor Troi.

Deanna in action

No. You heard me. Like Baby's dad in "Dirty Dancing", when I'm wrong I say I'm wrong, so don't push it, lady.

I've written before about how Counselor Troi is kind of the most worthless crew member on the ship, but I've realized something in binge-watching: the showrunners did the character a horrible disservice by putting her in those all of those unprofessional, casual cleavage suits for six seasons instead of a uniform. I'm sure that guys watching liked it, but...

Here's what was wrong with all the bunny suits:

1) In a practical sense, they left Counselor Troi disadvantaged compared to the rest of the crew in potentially hostile situations. If an away team beamed down, everyone else had a belt, or loops on their pants, for holding things like phasers, tricorders, datapads, or whatever else they might need. If Counselor Troi beamed down with an away team, she had cleavage. No pockets, no loops, not even a purse.

2) In a visual sense, they left Counselor Troi professionally disadvantaged. Sure, casual clothes might make her more approachable as a counselor, but for bridge duty she should have had a uniform. Imagine, for a moment, that you are skyping with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. Everyone you see in the room is wearing a standard issue, regulation uniform, except for one sitting off to the side in a dress. Would you assume that person was a valued, key member of the leadership team, or would you assume they were a civilian? There's a reason why Ensign Ro looks so surprised that Counselor Troi is a lieutenant commander in "Disaster": It took the writers five seasons to get around to mentioning that she carried any military rank at all, much less one that designated her to be mid-level management.

3) All that cleavage made it even easier for the writers over the years to mold her into the helpless female/damsel in distress role. What kind of episodes and plotlines did Deanna get over the years? Mind raped repeatedly, kidnapped, imprisoned, forced into an arranged marriage, harassed about not being married and not having grandkids, unwanted alien pregnancy, henpecked by an overbearing mother, and let's not forget "Eye of the Beholder", where she spends an entire episode in a girl-on-girl catfight over Worf with some poor woman. Compare any Counselor Troi plotline with the ones that the other major female castmembers had and the difference is jarring. While Guinan was always written as kind of sexless, Dr. Pulaski, Dr. Crusher, Tasha Yar, Ensign Ro, Nurse Ogawa, and even Keiko O'Brien were always written as professionals first and females second. That's the reason why episodes like "Sub Rosa" and "Code of Honor" seem so out of character: they are. In most episodes you could change the gender of Dr. Crusher or Ensign Ro and only have to make minor adjustments to the plot. Counselor Troi is continuously infantalized and helpless, dependent on the men around her to protect her, which may explain why she was dead in almost every alternate future shown.

Realizing that the show creators contributed heavily to my negative impressions of Counselor Troi doesn't fully redeem the character. I still have three main problems with Counselor Troi.

1) I caught her in a lie. In the first season episode "The Battle" she tells the captain that she senses deception from the Ferengi, but in the third season episode "Menage a Trois" she tells Riker that Betazoids cannot sense any Ferengi emotions. I guess in the first season she was eager to prove her worth or something. (By the way, "Menage a Trois" is yet another example of #3 above. Not only are Deanna and her mom kidnapped, but they spend most of the episode naked after the Ferengi forbid them from wearing clothes. These kinds of things didn't happen to the other female characters, but they happened to Counselor Troi more than once.)

2) In seven seasons and multiple movies, Counselor Troi was shown at the helm, driving the ship, only one time. That time, in "Generations", she crashed the ship into a planet and destroyed it.

3) She doesn't know how the warp core works. For years I have referred to her as Counselor Deanna "What's a warp core?" Troi, on the grounds that she asked that question in "Disaster". Having finally rewatched "Disaster" tonight, I've discovered that, well...

Counselor Troi never actually said that.

But she said something equally stupid, related to the warp core. When Ro and O'Brien are explaining that the antimatter containment fields are collapsing, Counselor Troi foolishly asks what will happen then. Ensign Ro gives her the WTF? look that I remembered, and blurts out that the ship will blow up. She finds it incredible that Counselor Troi doesn't know this, and she's right to be annoyed about that. Counselor Troi, as a lieutenant commander, is a Starfleet graduate and as such is expected to have a basic working knowledge of how the engines (which are powered by a matter/antimatter reaction) work. We know, because it was a question that Wesley Crusher had to answer on the Starfleet Academy entrance exam in "Coming of Age". You can't even get into Starfleet without knowing how the engines work, but Counselor Troi has somehow managed to get in, graduate, and spend five seasons on the Enterprise without knowing it. In the entire run of the series, that may be the dumbest thing she ever said.

So, in closing, Counselor Troi may not be as awful as I've always said she was.

But she's still no Dr. Crusher.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"So, did you take November off from blogging or something?"

I went out both days this weekend, Saturday and Sunday. Both days I made a plan, got up, and mostly stuck to it. This is important because it really didn't happen at all for the rest of the month. Most weekends in November, except for going to work at football games, I have come home on Friday afternoon, closed my door, and ventured no further than the dumpster or the laundry room until Monday morning. I'm going to be honest, because it explains why I haven't had anything to blog about:

I've been having some trouble with myself.

Don't freak out. I'm not depressed, or suicidal, or in need of intervention. I DON'T NEED A PHONECALL TO CHECK ON MY MENTAL WELL BEING. I've actually talked to a therapist about this before a few years ago, when I was seeing one more often, so I know what's wrong. I've just had a little trouble shaking it off. I've written before about my introvert streak, and how that usually just translates into me doing stuff by myself a lot, but I've never mentioned that in the fall it tends to get a little worse for a while. After a few weeks of adjustment I come back around to normal equilibrium and everything's fine. This is my yearly cycle, and I'm aware of it, but this year has been worse than usual because I changed my fall schedule without stopping to think about what impact that might have and how I should plan for and address it.

Every year I travel in October, which I did this year, going to New Orleans and Providence, and then in November I go back to New York to see my family for Thanksgiving. This year I decided that I haven't done Christmas at home in forever, and it might be nice to have a change, but that meant that right at the time when I don't want to be around anyone but am forced to be because I am with my parents and have no car, so someone is in proximity twenty four hours a day for a week or so at a time, I was by myself for the first time in years. Unfortunately, most weekends it meant that I couldn't convince myself to leave my apartment. I'd get up, take a shower, shave, and then find the idea of going out and being around people too overwhelming to contemplate. All that traffic, all those cars, all those people I might have to talk to or be bumped by or just look at, it was all just too much to think about, and it was easier to just close the door and stay inside in my safe place.

I've known for a couple weeks that I really needed to shake it off, but was still having trouble. I still haven't seen the "Thor" sequel because both weekends that I wanted to the idea of going to the mall and having to sit near people made me anxious, but fortunately last weekend my friend Melissa invited me to see "Catching Fire" on Sunday, so I had to actually get up and leave the house or else I would disappoint someone else. This weekend, I drew up a plan for Saturday, and actually followed it, all by myself. After a month of not doing so, this feels like a tremendous achievement to me. I didn't draw up a plan for today, but a plan came together anyway.

See, yesterday was Small Business Saturday, and I decided that I needed to go out and support small businesses by going to the comic store and by looking for ties, thrift shop clothes, and vintage Pyrex. I've not shared my Pyrex collection here, really, mostly because I don't have a nice display space to show the entire thing, but since I started collecting a little more deliberately and less haphazardly I've done a lot of searching and reading on the internet. Friday night I even spent 45 minutes or so reviewing patterns and ebay listings so that I'd be able to recognize rarities and know if prices were fair. I was having an ok day, having spent more on ties than on Pyrex, when I saw this:

Tally Ho

That wasn't anywhere in any pattern reference that I reviewed. I stared at it for a moment, wondering if maybe someone had taken a bowl that the color faded off of (this happens when you put vintage Pyrex in the dishwasher; a bowl and lid that I picked up at an estate sale for a couple dollars are so far gone that I just keep putting them in the dishwasher myself) and painted it themselves. People make weird art projects out of other things, so it could be possible, but I looked closer and saw that the design was fired on.

"Maybe it's Glassbake. Or Fire King. It can't be Pyrex or I would recognize it."

Intrigued, I picked it up and turned it over, and sure enough, it's Pyrex, but I had no idea what it was.

For the first time ever in my life, I wanted a smart phone that connected to the internet.

Instead of just buying it anyway, I put it back, rationalizing that it might be a newer, non-vintage piece, not putting together in my head until I got home that the Pyrex logo on the bottom had a crown on it, and none of the other dishes in my collection do. It has a crown because it's British. That piece is from the "Tally Ho" pattern, which was given out in the United Kingdom in the 1960's as a promotion for a tea company, and was manufactured there as well. I have no idea what it's doing in East Tennessee, but I kept thinking about it and thinking about it, and people on Facebook encouraged me to go get it, so today I got up, got ready, and went back to the store.

According to the Pyrex Facebook group that I'm in, I beat another shopper who was on the way to get it by twenty minutes.

I'm counting it as destiny. If I had stalled, or delayed, or not gone directly to the store according to my plan, then the bowl would have been gone when I got there. Instead, now it's mine.

I left the apartment two days in a row, and I had a good weekend.

I will be ok.