Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Sesame Street!

Sesame Street is 40 years old this week. Goggle is celebrating in its usual inspired manner.

I am celebrating by re-posting a blog I wrote awhile back expounding on my love of the place where there's friendly neighbours and the air is sweet! Enjoy!

(Oh and have no fear I will be posting a fresh and tangy new blog entry soon.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Progression of my Summer Movie Madness

I hate Math, but it has its usefulness. For instance, I can most accurately chart my feelings about this "summer's" movies with a line graph which starts on high then dips suddenly. I'm not drawing anything for you, so use your imagination.

Anyway I started off looking at this season's movies with barely concealed delight, then midway down I became less excited and elated. I know the reason why though. I know the reason, and I'll explain in a moment. However, this season had some good stuff out there I can't deny it, so let's get down to my annual (?) recap.

Star Trek
Okay you know what spoiled me for the rest of the summer: Star Trek. Curse you Star Trek, I would blame you if I didn't love you so much. Too much coolness and vulcans and pathos and excitement, and, and this......

I know, I've raved enough. If you want, check out my blog on this movie, and we'll never speak of it again! Never!(Except on days that end with the letter "y".)

I Love You Man
(This movie came out early in the year in the US, but only came to T&T fairly recently I think.)

This movie reminds me why I like a good bromance. In the tradition of "guys who love each other, but are straight", this movie had a hilarious take on a poor guy who realizes he has no guy friends and starts to go on "man-dates" to find a good buddy.

Watched this one with my BFFF on a "girl-date" (hmmmm that doesn't sound as good). It had lots of laughs - perhaps the most I had with any comedy for a long time. I also got to watch Paul Rudd who played such a sweet, sensitive guy that he became one of the heroes of the season for me. He didn't need to go up against killer robots, terminators or ninjas to win my affection. In some ways his situation was more real than a lot of the other hyped up movies in the past months. I am always fascinated by the intricacies of male relationships. If I was a sociologist, I would definitely be hiding behind a lamppost observing the male species in their natural habit. Fascinating! But I digress.

I have to give props to the ladies in this movie. I don't know Rashida Jones from anything else, but as Paul Rudd's fiancee, she was understanding, sweet and adorable which was wonderful considering that the movie could have gone the old route and made her horrible and controlling. I am glad I did not have to wonder why Paul Rudd's character loved her.


Yes, Pixar, you did it again! I knew you could! People wondered about Up and said no one would be interested in it etc. etc. Yet I saw Up, and was delighted. During one scene, a tear ran down my cheek, and that is my equivalent to bawling like a child. That hasn't happened to me in a movie for a while.

As usual, the characters made the movie. Poor Mr. Frederickson! - Another wonderful and unlikely hero just like last years little-robot-that-could Wall-E. Russell - wilderness scout, who never gave up, ever! The dogs have to get a special mention too. I really loved how despite their super intelligence, they were still very dog-like. They are distracted by squirrels and easily upset when their humans are upset with them. They just want to be loved! They also really hate "the cone of shame". At one point, Dug, the hero dog of our tale tells a horrible joke, and for some reason, I can imagine my own dog telling that joke - if dogs could tell jokes that is.

I love that a movie about an "old guy" and a "fat kid" became Disney's second highest grossing film domestically. Pixar once more struck the right keys in this movie. They played real love (more real than a lot of movies you see these days), pathos, humour and adventure, and made a symphony that thrilled my heart.

Pixar can do no wrong.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Every time another Harry Potter movie comes out I think I'm all "harry pottered" out, and go to see it just "because". However I usually end up getting caught up in the story anyway, and enjoying it more than I thought.

I attribute this mainly to the actors. Daniel Radcliffe and the others are doing very, very good jobs. There is a scene where Hermione is crying and Harry is comforting her, and it is very effective.

The characters continue to have just the right "look" as well - the twins, Mrs. Weasley, Dumbldore..... I am not a fan of the first film, but you have to admit, the casting people got it right the first time. They're even growing the right way. Rupert Grint is taller than the other two, just as Ron should be. Neville Longbottom has gone from a small chubby kid to a very tall one with an entirely different look, which I think will totally fit his role in the upcoming movies. I thought Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy looked drawn and squirrelly, but then I realized that his looks fit his tortured role in this movie well.

The kids who played Tom Riddle were very creepy. They were well chosen. And the adults did well too. I like this Dumbledore. Don't care what anybody says. Alan Rickman gets points as well for Snape. The movie does well for setting up the final confrontations.

I don't know about you, but I don't read the books before the movie. I don't have time for one thing. For another, I don't want to spend most of the movie, figuring out what was left out. It's a pointless task in my opinion, and I can't really fault the filmmakers. The same people who complain about things missing would complain profusely if the movie was six hours long, which it would have to be if they put everything in. Sorry folks. You can always use audiobooks.

One of the reasons I am putting Harry Potter on my list is because there were lots of highlights to this movie. For instance, the commericials make you forget that there are a lot of laughs to be had in Harry Potter, and the fun was really fun in this one. Lots of good humour.

The growing attachment between Ron and Hermione is well done here as well. The romantic element was actually well done over all. For example, the movie actually improved on Harry's kissing scene with Ginny. I really didn't like the one in the book. None of the romance seemed forced or annoying. It was just nice.

It was also great to see a nice, death defying Quidditch match, and to see Ron doing his thing as a goalie.

I am also still tickled by how much the costuming has changed and improved in my opinion. I was never a fan of those pointy hats from the first movie. I love how the kids now wear regular clothes out of school, and their "wizardly robes" look like private school uniforms in different variations. I can't say why. I just love it.

I must say how surprised I am that I could not pinpoint more movies worthy of mention in my recap. This time last year there were quite a few more.
But I do not despair, the good among the not-so-good was very high up there in the quality factor I must say, so I can't look back on the past few months without any great regret.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a very special blog post today. Put your hands together for my very first guest blogger. Marissa Gomez has been my best friend and partner in crime since secondary school, so I figure she was the ideal person to make history with my first guest blog. I asked her to write about someone creative who inspired her, and she sure did, so enjoy. Be sure to check out her own blog at Marissa's Space

Marissa A. Gomez

As I sat and watched the memorial service today of Michael Jackson the “King of Pop” I was still incredulous. Surely this was a gimmick for his upcoming concert. Surely he’d rise out of the casket, jump out and proceed to moonwalk to a huge standing ovation and a sigh of relief. I mean, it would be just the exact kind of showmanship that I’d expect from a man who epitomized the word. He popularised the “moonwalk” for Pete’s sake (and I bet Neil Armstrong is still wishing he had done that when he landed on the moon in July ’69). Michael created the Video Movie as it were; before “Thriller” videos were kept short and had a run time fit to be aired on TV. This man created HISTORY! Surely he can’t be dead!

But alas, the tears shed by his family members, his kids, and his friends were all too real. Truly an icon has passed away and we, the fans have to cope with this reality and cling to our memories.

I remember fondly that “Thriller” was my introduction to a vinyl record. I was 4 years-old when it was released in November 1982 and I could not get enough of the infectious songs, the beat and the lyrics. I learnt every song Side A to Side B (yes harken back to the days when LP’s had “sides”, so when one was done you had to go to the turntable and flip it over. The CD ruined that bit of fun surely!). Then in 1983 when he released the almost 14 minute video for the song, I along with the rest of the world and whatever aliens were out there in the galaxy picking up the MTV feed, well we all went wild. That was off the hook and at the time just about the most innovative thing we had ever seen! There was no turning back after that. His popularity escalated along with my love for him. I used to grab my dad’s motorcycle riding glove and jacket and put on the album and go dancing round the house to his music (I think we all did it as kids). Then just when I thought the man had done all he could do to impress me in my tender years he pulled the “moonwalk” out during a performance of “Billy Jean” at a Motown Television Special in March 1983. I remember thinking that that was the coolest and craziest thing I had ever seen. I wanted to marry the man then and there. I couldn’t get enough of him.

I followed his career as his music and fame grew and as I grew with him. Truly he provided the soundtrack to my formative years. He reinvented himself and his music and unlike some other artistes who started their career in the 70’s, he was able to keep up and adapt to the changing music scene. He seemed to know what we wanted even before we ourselves knew. As I heard someone express during an interview the other day – there are brands and then there was Michael Jackson. MJ was a brand and was as recognizable as the shape of the coca-cola bottles are throughout the universe.

I admit I also felt a little sad for the guy. I don’t know who among us would have grown up ‘normal’ if they had grown up under a microscope as he did. He was unable to go anywhere without being mobbed. His quest for stardom had come at a cost.

Sure, things got a little awry for him later on – the crazy plastic surgery, the crazy pets, the crazy marriages and couplings, the crazy antics (dangling his kid over a balcony for one), those crazy child molestation charges and the bankruptcy rumours that arose out of them. But I can’t remember him for any of that. I remember him as an artiste – a stellar one at that. I remember him as a philanthropist who supported dozens of charities and causes, AIDS, children, ending world hunger and world conservation being at the top of the list. I put all the ‘weirdness’ and ‘crazy’ antics aside and continued to love the man who co-wrote, “We Are the World”, and wrote “Heal The World”, and “The Earth Song”. I continued to admire the man who sang with such emotion, feeling and poignancy at age 5 and continued to do so throughout his life. I was constantly awed by his concerts and performances and wondered what he would possibly do next to eclipse the last.

So when on June 25th 2009 I heard that he had passed away I cried. I felt I had lost a friend who had been with me since I was born – and truly he had been. On my way home from the office that night I pulled out the 25th Special Anniversary edition CD of “Thriller” – ironically the ONLY ORIGINAL CD I had in the car that afternoon which I had put there some weeks before to play for my 5 year-old niece who had become a huge fan, like me, when she saw the “Thriller” video a year ago (again just re-emphasizing the fact that the man’s appeal spanned generations). I blasted it at full volume, singing along and got all teary-eyed again when “Human Nature” started to play.

And so today on 7th July, 2009, I still sit disbelieving that this icon is dead. This must have been how my mother felt when she heard that her childhood mega hero Elvis was dead. I cried again, and shamelessly so when I viewed the memorial service. I’ll probably continue to be a little sad when I hear “Gone too Soon” played or “Man In the Mirror”. But I will also smile when I think back on me as a kid, twirling round the room, with a glove and my dad’s jacket on trying to do the moonwalk to Billy Jean. I’ll smile as I remember his legacy, his music, his talent, his dance moves, his style (who else but Michael could popularize sequined socks and the wearing of one glove?), his videos, and his charitable works.

But somewhere, deep down inside, I still say that my icon is not dead. He’s off on the island that Elvis, Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Aaliyah and Princess Di are on, sipping on some juice, doing the moonwalk and having a good laugh. But wherever he is, I hope that he’s finally found the peace and quiet that evaded him for most of his life. R.I.P. Michael.

I'm Starting With The Man In
The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change
His Ways
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Can I call you J.J.?

Had to make mention of this article I found on a website I've never heard of. It's basically a listing of the 100 most creative people in the business, and my new kindred spirit J.J. Abrams is #14. Look at him. He looks like the kind of person who is really invested in his creative work, and reminds me of Jim Henson and George Lucas who always projected this deep commitment to reproducing their ideas. I love these geeky beautiful minds. Props to you J.J.

Since my blog is supposed to celebrate creativity and such, I couldn't pass this up. Check out the list at this link.

I confess I still need to peruse it in full, but I give them advance props for listing writer Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is a very good and very imaginative writer, a fact I can appreciate even if I do not absolutely love something he has done. I am so pleased at this I will even forgive them for including Tya Banks on that list. I may even blog about Neil sometime in the future. For now this is J.J.'s moment.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"My take on the Star Trek movie"; or "I need to go down a black hole to the past so I can watch this again!"

You know when you're watching something, and you have a pretty good sense that you're enjoying it, but then you have to analyze it later, and you find out that you really do like it, and you wish you could see it again? No? Well I guess that's just me.....

But anyway, I didn't just like the Star Trek movie, I LOVED it. Hurray!!! Thinking back on it now, I feel the warm fuzzies and the usual sad sensation that I won't be able to watch it for the first time again. However that does not prevent me from thinking back on favourite scenes with a smile.

(By the way, actually getting to see this movie was a crazy exercise involving exchanging tickets, getting in late to work and bad lighting in the Trinidad parliament. Crazy, but I won't go into the sordid details, suffice to say I got in.)

Instead of doing a controlled review, I am just going to dive in and go all out, flailing happily over what I liked about the movie, so sadly, if you have not yet seen it, I recommend you stay clear. I'm warning you, there will be major, major spoilers throughout!!!

*************HERE THERE BE SPOILERS***********************

Well before I go far, I need to talk about J.J. (Do you mind me calling you J.J., Mr. Abrams? Because I feel like we're friends now. Really! Let's do lunch sometime.) Anyway since he's the director, I lay all the greatness at J.J.'s feet because he's the beautiful mind who led the charge of rebooting Trek. I liked the story for this movie. It didn't drag. It didn't feel bogged down. The action sequences were grounded in the plot, and left me pressed to the back of my chair like I was going through G-Force (or Space jumping! Surely I would feel as if I left my stomach behind if I ever went crazy enough to do such a thing!)

I also thought this movie was great fun. Watching Kirk scramble all over the Enterprise while suffering from a crazy allergic reaction with Bones in hot pursuit was lovely self-hugging fun.

When I saw time travel was involved I just thought of Lost and smiled. Clearly J.J. likes his time travel stuff. I must also thank him profusely for not going all Lost on me and getting too caught up in the time travelling details and leaving my head spinning. I was able to keep my brain fairly well wrapped around what was going on, and what I missed I figure I can get on a second viewing.

The drama was definitely high drama with Eric Bana playing a Romulan. (He looked nothing like the Eric Bana I know by the way). Bana plays a Romulan called Nero with a fierce personal vendetta against Spock, and as my bFFF pointed out, apparently many Star Trek movies are fuelled by this sort of protagonist – remember Khan? Fascinating.

Finally the fact that J.J. makes this Star Trek story completely his own and shakes canon to create this whole new "alterna-verse" so he can do whatever he well pleases with this creation just boggled my mind. I need to start thinking more like J.J. Well played sir!

So as I said, in my previous post, we got a good story which goes with the best of Star Trek, but as usual for me, the characters made it all.

What did I like most about this movie? Um that would be Spock, and then there's Spock, and oh yeah! Spock! I knew way beforehand that Zachary Quinto would nail the Vulcan persona. I mean just look at him!

Yes, besides his obvious – ahem- physical mastery of this role, I've seen Quinto in Heroes, and I knew he could do it and what do ya know he DID!!! Of course we all know that Spock has emotions and all, but any actor who plays him has to show them under a deceptively cool exterior. Just being wooden and unemotional would not do and is most.....un-Vulcan. Witness when our Spock hears his mother subtly insulted by the Vulcan counsel. Spock doesn't lose it here, but he firmly declines his acceptance into the Vulcan Science Academy and thanks them for the honour. His final words are a traditional Vulcan expression. They are coolly and respectfully spoken, but we all know he's thinking "Live long and prosper a**holes." (Spock would never curse by the way. At least not out loud. We are so much alike.) Zachary (can I call you Zachary?) plays this scene really well as he does many others.

The way Spock's story was told was also killer. I loved that we got to see many key scenes in his life, and any show featuring little Vulcans is awesome with me.

We also get scenes of a Spock that loses control a bit more than normal. In my mind, it's because he's still a young Vulcan (and all those annoying human genes can wreak havoc with your psyche). Seeing Spock lose it is thrilling. For instance, his temper sparks his beatdown of Kirk which we've all been waiting for. (Well at least I was.) Seeing him maintain control is also awesome. I really have to commend Quinto's acting in these situations. He can play cool and aloof, and he can do passion simmering just below the surface oh so well.

He also looks the part. I try not to let my blogs descend into gushing (though you're free to do so in my comments), but what the hey, Quinto looks the part. He channelled Leonard Nimoy, but he was himself. He looked good even without his signature eyebrows. He got new ones and worked them. If you missed when he arched one of them, I sorry for you! Like I said, trying not to gush, but the eyes, the nose, the lips.......okay where was I?

This of course ties into the much touted relationship with Spock and Uhura. Actually what I like is that I actually haven't heard any hype about this, so this was all a surprise for me. I've never thought of those two as a couple, so when I realized that Uhura was not only attracted to Spock, but that the feeling was mutual, I was properly flummoxed. Ask anyone in the theatre near me. (Um I apologize everybody.) (Pause here to once again replay Spock and Uhura's goodbye in the transporter room. Sigh.)

Anyway the fact that this played against the typical motif of Kirk getting the girl was exhilirating. That aspect of Kirk has exasperated me at times. The fact that Spock ends up with the woman Kirk initially lusted after, and the fact that their connection is firmly established when golden boy realizes it just leaves me tickled. Zoe Saldana is excellent as Uhura, and I love her cause she helps make the couple something I love and not something I tolerate as I do with many movie couples. I hate her because I think I would make a better Uhura. What I can't wear short skirts and boots?

Of course, this movie gets extra points from me for having two Spocks for the price of one. Leonard Nimoy of course is the foundation for the icon which is my favourite Vulcan, and I was again pleasantly surprised when he proved to have a large and very significant part to play. The scene where the two Spocks meet is well done – understated and witty as it ought to be.

I must also give considerable praise to Chris Pine for playing Captain Kirk so well. Captain Kirk is a confusing character for me. William Shatner's portrayal can be corny and the aforementioned skirt chasing could be annoying, but I still liked the guy. Didn't love, but liked. Chris Pine does a lovely job making a sometimes overly confident hot shot charming without being annoying! That's a great acting feat in my opinion and bravo to him. I also enjoyed the numerous beatings this Kirk took, and no I am not sadistic, but my fellow Trek fan and BFFF pointed it out while we were watching. Kirk took a lot of blows and he took them with style. You got to respect him for that. Oh and you got to respect that Chris Pine has some of the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen. I remember them well from Smoking Aces. (If you know any better contenders please post them. I am interested.)

Very well done James Tiberius Kirk.

I'll be at this all day if I go into great detail about all the other characters, but I got to say something for Karl Urban as Bones. In short, the man IS Bones. Maybe he and DeForest Kelley are related somehow. They should check that out, do some DNA testing.

I predicted that Simon Pegg would make a wonderful Scotty, and I was right! But I will not take credit for that prediction as Simon Pegg is delightful in everything. That is a no brainer. This Scotty is kinda crazy which I like. (Observe his Shaun of the Dead crazy look.)

Even later when he's with the rest of the straitlaced crew in full uniform, he's clearly the oddball with his brain somewhere off in Centaur IV. I really liked how he handled his part.

A small mention needs to go to Anton Yelchin as Chekov. Frankly I never thought anything much about Chekov when I watched the series. When I saw the eager little, curly haired intern in the movie, I still didn't think much about Chekov, but in a few little short scenes he managed to charm me a lot. Nice. I was quite surprised.

Of course being me, I have to mention that this is not a perfect movie. (I am not sure what movie deserves that honour. In my mind it fluctuates.) I have to watch this movie again to verify this (oh poor me!), but at one point Spock loses it and beats the snot out of Kirk. (Poor Kirk). He loses control, and you can see he's not happy about it, but I do not know if he ever addresses that. Did he ever apologize? I may have forgotten, so correct me or argue with me if you like, I'm willing to listen. In fact, this movie at times seemed to suggest that giving in to his emotions is the way to go with Spock. I do not advocate the total lack of emotion Vulcans favour, but I don't care for the idea that the human way is the best way to go – at least not all the time. Yes, I'm saying that we shouldn't be prejudiced against the views of a fictional alien race, but Star Trek is about keeping your mind open to different points of view. To be fair, I think that type of human preference has been evident in the series before. I'm never a big fan of it when it comes up.

But I digress and am getting nitpicky. I'm glad my expectations of this movie were fulfilled and surpassed. J.J. really decided to "boldly go" and then he went . I'm already hearing sequel talk which pleases me and also fills me with fear because sometimes sequels aren't good and somehow degrade the first installment (in my mind), but this is being really nitpicky, I mean this isn't just a sequel, but it's the eleventh sequel (though I do like the term reboot better; after all, it worked for Batman).

What I will do is regard these reboots with optimism and hope for a bright future of Star Trek movies featuring many breathtaking scenes; Kirk beatdowns; Uhura and Spock together forever, Zachary Quinto's whispery voice and intense looks and all sorts of other awesome stuff. Now I can't wait. Warp speed ahead.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Yay! Star Trek is sexy again!

One happy thought (with a little pixie dust) which perks me up when my daily existence seems kind of drab is that every day that passes brings me closer to the premiere of Star Trek. Yes, some of you are now groaning and clutching your stomachs. Others are giving me the Vulcan sign, but I have to admit it, Star Trek at the moment is giving me love tingles – giant love tingles.

So ring the bells and bang the drums, but before I go too far, I have a confession to make -shields up- I'm actually a Star Wars chick. Yes register your shock now. I mean I like Star Trek, and as you read on you'll see why. Star Wars inspires stronger devotion in me because it's based on mythology, on archetypes and redemption and the sins of the father and other wonderful things. It's harder for me to accept the faults of the movies (and yes I know they are there), and they connect with me in a deeper way. With that said, Star Trek is still cool!!!!!!* And the new movie, yeah, let's get back to that....

Sensible people will be pointing out to me that the movie has not yet become available to most critics or the general viewing public. They will forecast doom on my happy thoughts by suggesting that this movie could just plain suck, and I would agree that this could happen, but the giant love tingles refuse to diffuse.

One early review perhaps covers the reason for my happiness. According to The Australian "Star Trek is sexy again",,25310150-15803,00.html, and for that I am willing to bow down and praise the movie gods. One in particular.....would be J.J. Abrams, a person who I do not know well, but who I would like to get to know over smoothies and cinnamon rolls because I like the cut of his jib. Who the heck is he you ask? Well maybe you've heard of "Felicity", "Alias" and "Lost". If you've never watched any of these shows, do not feel too badly because I only watch "Lost". However from all that I have seen and heard J.J. is a potential kindred spirit. While I didn't watch his earlier shows, I heard lots of good things about them. He's creative, and goes about his projects differently (a huge plus for me). He's clearly intelligent and loving of his craft, and of course he created Lost – a deep, complicated, aggravating, fascinating odyssey of a show which has been holding me riveted over the past few years. So of course, J.J. Abrams was perfect for making Star Trek cool again. Duh!

But you've got to give props to the original material. J.J. couldn't do his work without strong base material to start with. I cannot remember the time or the place where I first became acquainted with Star Trek. But I have the distinct impression that I was not impressed with it – not like the time I saw my first Star Wars movie: Return of the Jedi which left me thrilled. I think I really got into Star Trek the way everyone gets into illicit things: everyone else was doing it.

Within the walls of my convent school where so much of my character and opinions were formed, I was exposed to several adolescents and budding superwomen like myself who were all reading Star Trek books, and I mean devouring them, so of course, I had to read them too. I was one of the gang wasn't I? And guess what the novels were fabulous, and it was an easy step from there to start watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and arguing hotly over who was cuter Kirk or Spock. (The answer to this is obvious of course. Read on.) Afterward I began to fully appreciate the greatness of The Original Series; the novels helped; my imagination did the rest.

Even without the influence of convent peer pressure, I find that I still have a place in my heart for Trek, and for me it's not just nostalgia. I don't need it as I still have those awesome characters. Lots of good people here and some absolutely brilliant ones.

Don't have the time or the space to go very far in depth, but my heart is with the stellar guys above. Of course, my very favourite – Spock – goes first. This half Vulcan, half human defies the usual hero dynamic by being logical and by keeping his head, even when he was pushed to the edge. Spock used intelligence to get by; he knew no other way to do it, but yet he was still passionate (though not overtly so), so, so brave and loyal. (Remember "The Wrath of Khan" and "The Search for Spock"). He made me love the whole entire Vulcan race –arguably the best alien species in the whole Trek universe. Their way of dealing with life in a purely logical manner is in Spock's words "fascinating", even if it is not ideal. I like the idea that different life philosophies are explored in the series. Spock very often proves that his way of thinking aint too shabby. Our everyday humanness usually wins out in the show's viewpoint, but consideration is given to others' as well. Besides of course, Spock's devotion to his values leads to many wonderful, fierce and delicious debates with McCoy (one of my honourable mentions for awesome character by the way).

Data was just a sweetie and dang funny too. He wasn't as worldly as Spock – truly an android trying to be a "real boy". He was another character that provided great story potential – some of the best books were about him. Who didn't like Data a little or a lot, seriously?

Captain Jean Luc Picard is the greatest Starship character in the history of Trek in-my-not-so-humble opinion. Forget Kirk. (Well no don't forget him, he's cool and all too.) But Picard was classic. He was assured. (After all, he was himself and always himself in the most dramatic/stressful/ridiculous situations.) He was professional. He was a real gentleman, and he could say "Make it so" in a voice that made you want to jump to it and get things done! It helped a lot that Patrick Stewart is an exceptional actor, and it's no surprise to me that he became a sex symbol among Trek fans.

Besides the wonderful characterizations, Star Trek excels at presenting plotlines which make you think, and raise all sorts of ethical questions. I like it that there were sometimes no easy answers to things (though you knew that the Entreprise crew could always figure it out under pressure). Their encounters with various alien races were a great setting for this, especially when it came to the Klingons, the Vulcans and the creepy, unassailable Borg. Without a doubt, Star Trek could make you tense and excited, and I like tense and excited. But you were tense and excited while your mind was thinking furiously (hey kinda like Lost) which brings me to the new movie again.

I admit that for some time, my love for Star Trek has remained dormant; this is because that nothing was really around to shake up the old fun, but this movie gave me a nice little jolt. I mean look at it.....

This Trek has characters we've met before, but in new incarnations which I love like Zachary Quinto AKA Sylar as Spock.

Cutie and crazy man Simon Pegg as Scotty (special mention to Keith Urban (remember Eomer from Lord of the Rings?) as McCoy)

A Captain Kirk who looks devilish and knowing and fun

And a cast that just looks cool. What can I say!

Finally the trailers all leave you with an impression of dazzling special effects and action which is anything but run of the mill. (That's my main issue with some action sequences these days. You feel as if you could have seen the same thing happening in dozens of other movies. There's nothing about them which grounds what happens in the particular movie you are watching, but I digress.)

(I like Kirk and all, but does anyone else want to see Spock pound on him? You know he was tempted sometimes in the original series.)

If despite all this, you are not interested I understand, and you must forgive me for getting so excited and antsy about a mere movie, but have no fear I'm not a marketing assistant in secret, just a sometimes geek shivering with anticipation.

*Warning. For me Star Trek is the Original Series, The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, and most of the related movies. I never got into the other shows. No offence meant to fans of these series.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

These were the people in my neighbourhood

Recently while scouring YouTube, I was inspired to look up an old classic television show called Electric Company. If you've never seen this show I pity you. Electric Company was an educational children's programme from the 70s which was well known for its fun, funky and inspired children's programme. They won Emmys, broke records and overall overshadowed the world of children's programming. For me, one of the main indications of its quality is that it was created by the good people of Sesame Workshop (formerly known as the Children's Television Workshop (CTW). Never heard of them you say? I guarantee you though that most of you are familiar with their work, and perhaps like me, you feel that you owe them a debt for shaping your least if you don't, you should.

A glance at this Wikipedia article should enlighten you on the work of CTW. They created the masterpiece of children's programming known as Sesame Street. Folks from Trinidad may also have seen their 3-2-1 Contact and Square One. As far as I recall, Electric Company was never shown here which was very unfortunate. It was one of the most fun educational shows I've ever seen. At an educational level above Sesame Street, it taught more about the fundamentals of reading like adverbs, punctuation and tenses. Who would notice though while mesmerized by the songs, the cartoons, the witty sketches... Like Sesame Street, the show drew an impressive roster of multi-ethnic talent like Rita Moreno, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, and a pre-superstar Morgan Freeman as a funky bibliophile aptly called "The Easy Reader". He had several of the same traits of Electric Company : cool, innovative, fun though not particularly well known.

Electric Company did not have the enduring popularity of Street which celebrated its 39th anniversary recently. In Trinidad especially, it seems to have transcended limits in its fan group. EVERYONE likes Sesame Street. Sing a few songs, mention a sketch or two (Remember the time Ernie couldn't sleep and started singing about it with his sheep backup dancers) and you'll get joyous responses which would probably devolve into a long, endless reminiscing session. I repeat EVERYONE loves Sesame Street. What's not to like? The songs were wonderfully done, and some of the older ones were just beautiful. The characters were vivid, adorable and sometimes unexpected. I love Grover's advanced vocabulary in his silliness (I once heard him say "cornucopia"). Ernie's is cute, but he's also a fun conman that you just have to love, since there's no malice in him and he has an infectious laugh. Bert's coolness is apparent in his commitment to just being himself. He doesn't really care what anyone thinks and enjoys his oatmeal, his boring stories, the number 6 and Mr. Rogers. In its early days the show was sometimes scary which was excellent. I firmly believe that some of the greatest work done for children needs to have some scariness in it. I think I miss that most of all: the days when The Count was almost vampiric, when martians could come right through the walls and pigs could crash your birthday party. (You're a true fan if you can get all these references.) It could be poignant too. Sometimes something was sad, and you just didn't know why, just that something pulled at you deep inside. A few times it was more evident. Many people remember the episode when Mr. Hooper passed away. Big Bird's grief was very real, and his trouble touched the hearts of all of us. It helped to see that he was surrounded by the familiar, mixed family we've come to expect on the Street. Who wouldn't want to live in a place where everyone was a friend, everyone was family. You could turn to anyone and be safe.

Goodbye Mr. Hooper

Creepy Count

I haven't watched a new episode of SS for years. Old fans are fond of talking about how the show isn't the way it used to, that it's just full of Elmo and other nonsense. I don't know how much of this is objective critique and how much is nostalgia. Elmo's no Cookie Monster, but if he is the new favourite of the present generation, they have to come first. For me, I'm just glad to know that SS still on the map, hopefully still cleverly educating dozens of little ones and hopefully still appealing to their parents at some level. The thought gives me great comfort. It's just nice to know that no matter how far away from home we go, we can still find our way back to Sesame Street.

More examples of the genius of Sesame Street

It taught you about being proud of yourself. It could also be poignant and beautiful.

It was often very funny.

The music was just so darn catchy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Oh the Places He Took Us!

I wanted to being my post in honour of Dr. Seuss' birthday (March 2) with some witty remarks in verse, but I found that nothing sufficiently droll and “Seuss-ian” came to mind. This of course reminded me, how the great Theodore Geisel AKA Dr. Seuss would have probably been able to produce something fun, clever and delightful in no time flat (or maybe longer, after all these things can take time even for genii).

After all, the good doctor produced some of the best children’s books ever. Books which can appeal to adults too (even to some of you lifelong adults if you stop looking down your noses at anything which is ostensibly targeted to people over twenty). Like all good children’s books, Dr. Seuss’ works transcend the boundaries of the genre, and like most true classics, they are engrained in our psyches.

Even if you haven’t heard of Dr. Seuss, surely the phrase “the Cat in the Hat” sounds familiar to you. And even if you’ve never seen green eggs and ham, you know they exist somewhere. And if someone says you’re a Grinch at Christmas, you might give them the stink eye because you know that’s not a nice thing to be. This is because Seuss’ over sixty children’s books, which feature these and many other unforgettable images, are all a permanent part of the literary landscape.

For me, his work captured my interest from an early age because it was just crazy fun. I liked reading The Cat in the Hat to my sister because it was the story of a six foot cat causing mayhem in two children’s lives. I like his Green Eggs and Ham because it features determined little salesman Sam-I-Am who is striving to get his finicky friend to eat his oddly coloured breakfast food.

Seuss’ use of words is lovely and fun too. I liked reading the books because they were fun to say out loud. A fun but creepy character called the Glunk was “greenish, not too cleanish and he sort of had bad breath”. At one point in the How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Grinch “got an idea! An awful idea! The Grinch got a wonderful, awful idea!” So fun.

Of course, Seuss would not be Seuss without the doctor’s trademark illustrations. The scratchy drawings, the lopsided trees and buildings; the interesting but sometimes faintly menacing villains; the really weird names and objects (e.g. Whos; The Lorax and some place called Solla Sollew.) Dr. Seuss' narrative is nothing without his drawings.

The really amazing thing is that even while getting carried away with Seuss’ stories, the lessons to be learned from them were apparent and invariably cleverly done. There were simple lessons like trying something before you decide you don’t like it (Green Eggs and Ham) and bigger lessons like the importance of life “no matter how small” (Horton Hears A Who) and the meaning of Christmas (how else did the Grinch’s heart grow three sizes that day?) With stories so deceptively simple and so simply told, it is amazing how affecting they can be. I am yet to read The Butter Battle Book

but the TV adaptation (a faithful one, according to Dr. Seuss) depicts two warring nations of creatures each bent on defeating the other side by creating bigger and bigger weapons. In the end, there is a stalemate as each group debates whether to drop their identical bombs and wipe out everyone. Anti- war propaganda some said; the basic ingredients of war I say: what it all comes down to in the end - all in a book supposedly for kids.

Not every Dr. Seuss adaptation is as well done (shudder with me as I point toward the movies for The Grinch and the Cat in the Hat), but I’ve heard good things about last year’s Horton Hears a Who which I will eventually see. Special mention must be made of animated short of How the Grinch Stole Christmas – the ultimate Christmas classic. Directed and produced by uber genius Chuck Jones, this is quality stuff, and definitely complements and enhances the book with narration and voices by Boris Karloff and the famous “You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch” song. I can’t be the only one who has to watch this at least once during the Christmas season, and the animation when the Grinch gets his awful idea is pure wicked delight. Again Dr. Seuss has woven a golden thread into my childhood quilt of memories. Thank you sir!

The good doctor was eighty-seven when he died in 1991, and I think he went way too soon. Like any good poet, he wove pictures with words and produced an unforgettable weird, crazy mix which charmed and delighted and was never overly cutesy. I think his contribution to literacy is invaluable. I think his themes were timeless. I think his "wordsmithery" was genius, and he deserves his place in the hall of great poets in my opinion whether it be Keats, Wordsworth, Milton and the like.

Find out more about some of the books I mentioned

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

The Cat in the Hat

The Butter Battle Book

Green Eggs and Ham

Horton Hears A Who!

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Sister with Soul

If you have not heard of Annie Lennox, well that’s...just....sad. I think most people have seen her or heard of her from her days in Eurythmics and I bet you all the money you have in your pocket that you’ve listened enchanted to her voice and wondered who was singing. Perhaps this song might jog your memory.

If you’re intrigued and want to know more, read on.....In brief, Annie Lennox is a Scottish-born singer, who went from lead singer of the Eurythmics to successful, Grammy winner singer/songwriter cum diva. If you want to know more about her bio this Wikipedia article.

My opinions on Lennox can be summed up quite simply that music-wise, she’s like a musical goddess on earth. (Now I think about it, she could easily play a goddess in a movie. She has the regal, other wordly look down). Anyway for one thing, she can sing. Describing her strong, smoke and honey voice is beyond me, Rolling Stones named her as one of the greatest singers of all time, and I think Rob Thomas (another genius) describes her best:
“Anybody my age turning on MTV and seeing Annie Lennox sing 'Sweet Dreams' —
that was enough right there," says Rob Thomas. "There was something so soulful
in the way she sang songs like 'Walking on Broken Glass.' " Lennox combines a
childhood love of Motown with an operatically powerful voice — crystalline in
tone, yet sultry. She introduced R&B to New Wave with Eurythmics, and in her
solo career, she invented a sort of New Age soul, based around shimmering
synths, horn blasts and, most important, layer upon layer of that voice. "Annie
is amazingly versatile," says Thomas. "She can sound like a beautiful angel — or
she can make it sound like she's gargling glass. A great singer is somebody who
makes you believe what they're saying, and you always believe Annie."

When I listen to Annie Lennox sing, her voice takes you places. When she sings the first line of “Why”, you fly with the notes. She delivers her lines in ways which make the hair on my head stand on end. One thing that disturbs me about some of the popular singers of today is that they don’t sing very well. Again I’m not the best judge, but I know what I like, and some of the “singers” around right now are uninspired, uninteresting and occasionally just plain irritating. (Yes Rhianna, I’m talking to you) Truth to tell, some of them are okay performers (though I don’t think that justifies their popularity), but Annie portrays emotion amazingly. It is mesmerizing to watch her. I defy anyone to watch her video for “Love Song to a Vampire” (high on my list of my favourite songs ever) and not get the appropriate chills.
People talk about Madonna being able to give a good performance. I think Annie’s up there with her.
Her music, her style, her expressions invoke deep emotion, shadowy corners, painful beauty, the supernatural and mystery. Just listen to her Diva album and you'll see what I mean.
On top of all that, reading her article on Wikipedia taught me something new, as I only just
discovered that’s she’s written a lot of songs. I’m just a big fan of chicks who write and perform their own stuff, (yes, I adore you too Sarah McLachlan). It suggests versatility, intelligence and that when she sings, she knows what she's singing about.
If there’s any songstress out there who deserves all the accolades she’s received and who deserves quite a few more, it’s Annie Lennox. She embodies musical genius, class and depth in all of her work. I ask only that she keeps singing from her soul.