Are they blind or just more perceptive?

“Amazing Grace,” “Bella,” “I Am Legend,” “In the Shadow of the Moon,” “Spider-Man 3,” “The Ten Commandments” and “The Ultimate Gift” vie in the inspiring movie category as Movieguide has named nominees for its 2007 Epiphany prizes.
The awards presented by the family and religion-oriented org honor projects that promote traditional family and biblical values.

The nominated films will compete for a $50,000 prize.

“Lost Holiday: The Jim & Suzanne Shemwell Story,” “Saving Sarah Cain,” “The Valley of Light” and episodes of “Doctor Who” and “Friends and Heroes” are the nominees in the corresponding TV category, with another $50,000 at stake.

Awards will be presented at the 16th annual Faith & Values Awards Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Feb. 12. [Variety]

The episode of “Doctor Who” that they’ve nominated is “Gridlock,” which features hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of drivers trapped on a future motorway and driving in circles for what could be eternity. I am amused by this conservative group’s nomination as there are two subtexts in this show: first, and obviously what they were going for, there is an element of “faith” in the episode. Despite their dire situation, the drivers sing, en masse, “The Old Rugged Cross.” But second, and far more interesting in this context, is the subtext provided by the Cassini “Sisters,” two elderly women caught in the traffic who remind one of the characters that they are not sisters. The senior lesbians make this clear as they hold hands while singing the hymn.
Did the Movieguide people miss this? Or the scene with the naked drivers? Or the scene with the weird wolf-like monster and the two Vestal virgins? Family? You mean the human who has a litter of kittens with a cat named Brannigan? Heck, what about the drug use in the first few scenes?
Or could this be evidence of a new trend among conservative religious watchdog groups — looking past the surface and seeing the real point of the show, which in this case was anti-drugs, pro-tolerance, and pro-faith?
I have to say, I find it hard to believe that such a group is looking that deeply; I’ve been trained by this sort of organization to expect witch hunts and finger pointing. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.
(By the way, Movieguide folks… it’s probably not a great idea to put every word on your website in graphics. Not only does it eliminate that pesky dial-up audience, but also means that blind users can’t read your site. And neither can Google. Enjoy that traffic, guys.)

Who is at fault? The lender or the borrower?

I don’t understand.
ABC News just ran a story about a couple who are tearfully struggling to pay their mortgage and have had to take steps like canceling their phone service and borrowing money from their kids.
Their mortgage has gone from 9% to 14%. Their current monthly mortgage payment is $2,015. Their combined income is $80,000 a year.

The phone’s been turned off; Mike’s truck has been repossessed. They fill up $10 at a time.

“I can’t even afford to get gas so I can go to work, make money, pay the bills,” he said.

The Walkers are so afraid of losing their home and uprooting their three sons that they pay the mortgage first even when it cuts into grocery money.

“We had the electric company come in here to shut off our electricity,” Susan cried. “It’s so embarrassing.”

By my calculation, they’re probably taking home $5000 a month, leaving $3000 a month after they pay their “high” mortgage. What the hell is going on here? Couldn’t ABC find a family who are in real trouble? This is not the example I’d use if I wanted to point out that things are bad for ordinary people. They sometimes borrow money from their sons, who live with them. I can only assume that they aren’t asked to pay rent despite at least one of them being 19. What in the hell are they spending all that money on?
If I made $80,000, not only would I be able to pay my $3900 a month mortgage on a tiny bungalow, but I’d also likely never have my electricity turned off for non-payment.
Without going into specifics about my financial situation, let’s just say that I make less than half what they make. My mortgage is nearly twice what theirs is. I’ve never missed a mortgage payment in more than 2 years, I’ve never had my electricity turned off, borrowed money from a relative, nor had to turn off my phone.
So, I have to wonder: is the problem with the mortgage, or with the financial responsibility of the borrower?

Television Today: A Treatise

The writer’s strike has certainly changed the face of television by throwing the new policies of the networks into sharp relief — the lack of reruns in the last few years has had some side effects that I’m not sure they thought through.

Suzanne Pleshette

Suzanne Pleshette Dies in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) January 20, 2008 — Suzanne Pleshette, best known for her role as Bob Newhart’s wife on television’s long-running “The Bob Newhart Show,” has died, just days before a ceremony honoring her with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Pleshette, who underwent chemotherapy for lung cancer in 2006, died of respiratory failure Saturday evening at her Los Angeles home, said attorney and family friend Robert Finkelstein.

The beautiful, husky-voiced TV, film and theater star was set to attend the Jan. 31 ceremony, her 71st birthday.

“She was a pro’s pro,” Bob Newhart said. “Although we knew she was quite sick, she was one of those people that you thought would go on forever.”

“The Bob Newhart Show, a hit throughout its six-year run, starred comedian Newhart as a Chicago psychiatrist surrounded by eccentric patients. Pleshette — as his sardonic wife — provided the voice of reason.

Four years after the show ended in 1978, Newhart went on to the equally successful “Newhart” series in which he was the proprietor of a New England inn populated by more eccentrics. When that show ended in 1990, Pleshette reprised her role — from the first show — in one of the most clever final episodes in TV history.

It had Newhart waking up in the bedroom of his “The Bob Newhart Show” home with Pleshette at his side. He went on to tell her of the crazy dream he’d just had of running an inn filled with a cast of odd characters.

“If I’m in Timbuktu, I’ll fly home to do that,” Pleshette said of her reaction when Newhart told her how he was thinking of ending the show.

Born Jan. 31, 1937, in New York City, Pleshette began her career as a stage actress after attending the city’s High School of the Performing Arts and studying at its Neighborhood Playhouse. She was often picked for roles because of her beauty and her throaty voice.

“When I was 4,” she told an interviewer in 1994, “I was answering the phone, and (the callers) thought I was my father. So I often got quirky roles because I was never the conventional ingenue.”

She met her future husband, Tom Poston, when they appeared together in the 1959 Broadway comedy “The Golden Fleecing,” but didn’t marry him until more than 40 years later.

Although the two had a brief fling, they went on to marry others. By 2000 both were widowed and they got back together, marrying the following year.

“He was such a wonderful man. He had fun every day of his life,” Pleshette said after Poston died in April 2007.

Among her other Broadway roles was replacing Anne Bancroft in “The Miracle Worker,” the 1959 drama about Helen Keller, in New York and on the road.

Meanwhile, she had launched her film career with Jerry Lewis in 1958 in “The Geisha Boy.” She went on to appear in numerous television shows, including “Have Gun, Will Travel,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “Playhouse 90” and “Naked City.”

By the early 1960s, Pleshette attracted a teenage following with her youthful roles in such films as “Rome Adventure,” “Fate Is the Hunter,” “Youngblood Hawke” and “A Distant Trumpet.”

She married fellow teen favorite Troy Donahue, her co-star in “Rome Adventure,” in 1964 but the union lasted less than a year. She was married to Texas oilman Tim Gallagher from 1968 until his death in 2000.

Pleshette matured in such films as Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and the Disney comedies “The Ugly Dachshund,” “Blackbeard’s Ghost” and “The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin.” Over the years, she also had a busy career in TV movies, including playing the title role in 1990’s “Leona Helmsley, the Queen of Mean.”

More recently, she appeared in several episodes of the TV sitcoms “Will & Grace” and “8 Simple Rules … For Dating My Teenage Daughter.”
Time magazine film critic Richard Corliss wrote Sunday that she never achieved quite the stardom she deserved because she came along after Hollywood stopped making movies for the types of sophisticated female characters that she was born to play.

“I prefer to think of her as one of those stars who got away — away from stardom, when the old dream factory forgot how to manufacture domestic glamour,” he wrote. “She had the goods, but at the wrong time.”

But to Pleshette, being a working actress with a long career was more important than being a star.

“I’m an actress, and that’s why I’m still here,” she said in a 1999 interview. “Anybody who has the illusion that you can have a career as long as I have and be a star is kidding themselves.”

Allan Melvin

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Allan Melvin, a character actor known for appearances in such TV staples as “The Phil Silvers Show,” “All in the Family” and “The Brady Bunch,” has died, the Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday.

Melvin succumbed to cancer on Thursday at his home in Los Angeles, the paper said, quoting his wife, Amalia. He was 84.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in New York City, Melvin got his big break on “The Phil Silvers Show,” which ran from 1955 to 1959, playing Cpl. Henshaw, the right-hand man to Silvers’ Sgt. Ernie Bilko.

He went on to play Archie Bunker’s neighbor Barney in “All in the Family,” and different roles on at least eight episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Fans of “The Brady Bunch” knew him as Sam the butcher, the boyfriend of Alice the housekeeper.

Melvin also worked in cartoons, providing the voices of Magilla Gorilla in the Hanna-Barbera series of the same name and Bluto on “Popeye,” the Times said.

(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Vicki Allen)

Aside from his most famous role as Sam the Butcher, Melvin was also hidden from our view as Drooper, one of the Banana Splits; as well as voices in The Flintstones, The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour, The Smurfs, Spider-Man and Friends, Foofur, Ducktales, Talespin, and others.

Don’t throw out those old videotapes

I’ve been watching “Life Goes On,” the late 80s-early 90s television series that was groundbreaking in its casting of an actor with Down Syndrome (Chris Burke). The DVD set of season 1 was released just recently, but something was missing…

Best of San Jose: Get High

Last weekend, I took a drive to Lick Observatory, which is technically in San Jose yet thousands of feet above it. As the crow flies, it’s about 14 miles from downtown, but in actual terms it’s 24 miles… and it takes a bit more than an hour to drive there.

Livin’ on the EDGE

When I left for DC — was it a week ago? A month? Seems like a fuzzy nightmare — I disconnected some “non-essential” services at the house, fully expecting to be moving out of the house when I got back. So, today I am living in a house that’s been packed up, with no internet and no TV.
I’m going to try living without TV for a while, since during the writers’ strike there’s nothing much to watch; and even on a good day when the writers were scribbling away, I didn’t think there was much worth watching. Netflix will sustain me quite nicely, I think.
But internet? Oh, boy. That is a staple of life. It is awfully hard to telecommute without the “tele”, and I’ve been reading the newspaper and blogs every day using my iPhone and its EDGE connection. I always thought that the EDGE was fast enough, not as bad as people claimed, especially when out on the road and looking up a few things. But for everyday use? Not so much. Add to that the dismal signal in my house and it takes minutes to load the front page of the newspaper.
I used to have Speakeasy DSL, which — from a customer service standpoint — was fantastic. No ridiculous restrictions on how I could use my connection or what I could or couldn’t download; I could even share the connection with my neighbors. Unfortunately, it was half as fast as they were charging me for, and those charges were a bit high. Still, I called them up and found out that because I’d canceled, I couldn’t just reconnect it. I’d have to have a completely new line installed, with all the hassle that involves and the long lead time.
So, tomorrow Comcast will be out to stick a cable modem on the end of the cable and I’ll live with the threat of hackers and viruses for the time being. At least I’ll be able to surf again without having to go into the office.

In praise of AT&T

Ah, the American Telephone and Telegraph company, always looking out for me.
They knew that I was really stressed over the last few weeks, so they kindly arranged to make things easier and quieter.
First, they did something wacky to my phone so that I wouldn’t be disturbed — calls would just never ring through at all. Peaceful!
Then, they arranged to have no service at all when I visited family in southern Virginia. Quiet!
And lastly, they kindly delayed all my voicemails so that they wouldn’t bother me until at least 24 hours after the message was left. Efficient! This meant that I’d never be disturbed by something, oh, urgent or by someone who was calling to offer me work that might pay well but interrupt my relaxation.
Thanks, AT&T. Love ya.

They were too repressed in the 60s

I think that this scene from the “Torchwood” series 2 premiere is an update of an old Star Trek episode — specifically, this is what should have happened when Kirk met Finnegan on the amusement planet. Watch it and you’ll see what I mean.

He’s Going Home

False alarm, folks.
I feel really sheepish and sort of ashamed at having created such consternation for people in my life with my decision to move back to DC — because I decided once I got there that I didn’t really want to do it.
Here’s the deal. I was excited about the DC job offer, by an old friend of mine, to serve as a conference manager. It sounded like great fun and was something that I’d dabbled in for years. I’ve been struggling for some time to pay my huge Silicon Valley mortgage and this came at the right time.
But when I got to DC, I was second-guessing my decision within minutes — the frigid weather, the rude people in the airport, and the horrific traffic just brought it all back. I immediately got a headache. (I’ve had chronic headaches for decades, until I moved to California — and had a heart attack — when they disappeared along with my chronic cough.) I felt stressed and sick.
It was shocking, almost as if I’d stepped into a poisonous atmosphere. And after a couple of days struggling with what I was feeling, I had to make the decision to go with happiness over career and financial security.
So, it’s all off — I’m not moving back to DC, and I’m ready, once and for all, to embrace the realization that San Jose is now home.
Yeah, I’ll probably have to put my house on the market now and find somewhere cheaper to live. That will be really tough, because my little house is truly my home, not just a piece of property. Still, I am banking on the idea that I’ll be happier in a cheap apartment in San Jose than I would be in DC.
False alarm? Well, not really. Perhaps I needed to get this close to making the move to realize how much my life in California, such as it is, really means to me.
Back on a plane home tomorrow for a fresh start — literally, because all my belongings are packed in boxes and I have no internet or television in the house…