The O.C., Navi Rawat, and Bone-Saws

I’ve recommended The OC to some of you, and after last night’s episode, well, I’m forced to admit, I need to recommend it again. The series is a sheer delight, a rich folks/po’ folks California soap opera, a genre I roundly despise, and yet, I love this show. It is smart and funny and almost constantly enjoyable. I rarely finish watching an episode without a grin, even if the episode has been a traumatizing one for its characters. There is a lightness of spirit and depth of wit in this show I don’t really think any other show approaches. The only thing in memory that immediately springs to mind is Northern Exposure, though this isn’t magical realist like that was.

Last night, Ryan, the tortured young tough, ran into his old flame, Theresa, from back in the ‘hood. She’s been on once before, and she’s lovely, smart, and witty, as she should be. What I didn’t realize as I watched it was, she’s played by Navi Rawat, who gave a blistering performance as Dana in the Angel episode “Damage” a few weeks back. Dana being the possibly demon-possessed, super-strong chick with a bone-saw making her way through the L.A. night to a momentous encounter with Spike & Angel. Ever since, I’ve been saying Joss Whedon should spin Dana off into her own show; the lass was that damn good.

navi1

An actress to watch.

HELLBOY IS HELLA GOOD

Forgive me for saying “hella.” Sometimes I get meme-flu. I’m better now.

Inspired by the upcoming Hellboy movie, I took steps to fix my lack of knowledge about the title character. I knew he was a creation of comic artist (and writer) Mike Mignola, whose shadowy, Kirby-esque work I’ve really liked over the years. Nobody else draws like Mignola.

I’d never really looked at Hellboy, though, because it looked like it was perhaps some weirdness-for-the-sake-of kind of thing. That and I rarely ever read comics anymore for sheer grumpy financial reasons (as in, a $4 comic that’ll take me 8 minutes to read is less entertainment for the moola than a $7 paperback that’ll take me a few days).

Little did I know that Hellboy wasn’t just a grand adventure strip, it’s pure pulp. And we’ve established I loves me some pulp.

Reading several Hellboy tales over the past week, I found them to be great fun, soaked in Lovecraftian atmosphere, told with great wit. What really surprised me, though, is that reading Hellboy is like reading folk tales or myth, because Mignola starts in those realms and builds his stories the way a good shaman would build a lesson tale.

And Hellboy himself is quite a character. He’s supposed to be a key figure (on the wrong side) in the Apocalypse, but, well, he refuses. So he fights the good fight against creatures much like himself. Oh, and his right hand is this great big slab of red rock, sometimes called “The Right Hand of Doom,” and it holds the power to end the world, and while he’s not inclined to use it that way, others are, and sometimes try to get it off him.

Great stuff.

Can’t wait for the movie.

EDIT: If you’d like to read some of this stuff for free, check out the e-comics at http://www.darkhorse.com/zones/hellboy/downloads.php . Also, the “Animation” bit is very cool.

The Amazing BUSHAGON!!! Master of DECEPTION! Warper of REALITY!

Bush doesn’t use scientific methods in analyzing information and making policy decisions? Who knew?

Oh yeah, the several hundred dead guys in American uniforms, and the thousands of dead innocents in Iraq, among others…

WASHINGTON — More than 60 scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates and several science advisers to Republican presidents, on Wednesday accused the Bush administration of manipulating and censoring science for political purposes.

In a 46-page report and an open letter, the scientists accused the administration of “suppressing, distorting or manipulating the work done by scientists at federal agencies” in several cases.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Cambridge, Mass., organized the effort.

John Marburger III, White House science adviser, said the charges were “like a conspiracy theory report, and I just don’t buy that.” But he said that “given the prestige of some of the individuals who have signed on to this, I think they deserve additional response, and we’re coordinating something.”

The protesting scientists welcomed his response.

“If an administration of whatever political persuasion ignores scientific reality, they do so at great risk to the country,” said Stanford University physicist W.H.K. Panofsky, who served on scientific advisory councils in the Eisenhower, Johnson and Carter administrations.

“There is no clear understanding in the (Bush) administration that you cannot bend science and technology to policy.”

The report charges that Bush administration officials:

• Ordered extensive changes to a section on global warming in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2003 Report on the Environment. Eventually the entire section was dropped.

• Replaced a fact sheet on proper condom use prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with a warning emphasizing condom failure rates.

• Ignored top Department of Energy nuclear materials experts who cautioned that aluminum tubes being imported by Iraq were not suitable for making nuclear weapons.

• Established political litmus tests for scientific advisory boards. In one case, public health experts were removed from a lead-paint advisory panel and replaced with researchers who had financial ties to the lead industry.

• Suppressed a Department of Agriculture microbiologist’s finding that potentially harmful bacteria float in the air around large hog farms.

“I don’t recall it ever being so blatant in the past,” said Princeton University physicist Val Fitch, a 1980 Nobel Prize winner who served on a Nixon administration science advisory committee. “It’s just time after time after time. The facts have been distorted.”

Russell Train, an EPA administrator in the Nixon and Ford administrations who spoke on the protesters’ behalf, described the Bush administration’s treatment of science and scientists as so “dictatorial” that it was causing good scientists to leave the federal government.

James Zahn, a former Agriculture Department microbiologist, said he discovered accidentally that pig farms in southwestern Minnesota, northern Missouri and Iowa were emitting airborne bacteria. Because pigs are often fed antibiotics, Zahn speculated that airborne bacteria from farms could include drug-resistant bacteria, which, if breathed by humans, would make them harder to treat when ill.

Zahn presented his findings at a scientific conference in 2000, but the Bush administration stopped him from publishing his data 11 times between September 2001 and April 2002, he said. When Danish researchers sought to learn more about his work, Zahn wasn’t allowed to share his techniques.

“It was truly a new problem with potential impact on human health,” Zahn said.

SMILETIME

Okay, so last night’s Angel wasn’t exactly creepy, except maybe the opening, but it was definitely original. Not to mention just damn funny. H.P. Lovecraft meets Sesame Street

And hey, hot werewolf!

What a great freaking episode.

I hate the WB. Dark Shadows my ass.

If I come up with any specific comments about the episode, I’ll post them in the “comments” section under this entry, so folks who haven’t seen it won’t have it spoiled for them.

Cream Rises

From a press release about Angel’s centennial episode WAY back on January 21:

ANGEL is currently The WB’s second highest-rated series with adults 18-34. The series was created by Academy and Emmy Award-nominated writer Joss Whedon, along with David Greenwalt. Whedon serves as executive producer, along with Sandy Gallin, Gail Berman, Fran Rubel Kuzui, Kaz Kuzui, Jeffrey Bell and David Fury. The series stars David Boreanaz, Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards, Amy Acker, James Marsters and Andy Hallett. “You’re Welcome” was written and directed by David Fury. ANGEL is a Mutant Enemy, Inc. and Kuzui/Sandollar production in association with Twentieth Century Fox Television. The series is currently in its fifth season.

Second highest rated among their most cherished demographic? A darling of the critics?

Shit, get that thing off the air immediately! We need something…something like…

A new version of Dark Shadows maybe…

I say again: fuckers.

Well, I’m always on the lookout for a chance to winnow my TV viewing, and the sole silver lining in the cancelation of Angel is it opens up an hour of my time every week. That being the case, and the WB’s ass-headedness so evident, I won’t be bothering with any new stuff they offer, unless it’s from Whedon.

But we will be left wanting…

TV Guide’s Matt Roush on Angel:

February 17, 2004
I go away for a week to escape the winter chill, and look what happens. WB cans Angel midway through its fifth season, leaving fans of cool, dark fantasy bereft. Some of us are still dealing with the demise of Buffy the Vampire Slayer last spring, and that one was long planned! This unfortunate dusting of Angel confirms rumors that had been circulating since before the 100th-episode celebration, but it still comes as something of a shock. If there’s an upside, it’s that Joss Whedon and his crew appear to have been able to muster up some sort of suitable season/series finale, so we won’t be left hanging.

But we will be left wanting.

Buffy, and to some extent its spin-off Angel, helped put WB on the map — much as The X-Files was key in establishing Fox’s network identity. I still remember my shock when I first put in the tape of the Buffy pilot, with expectations that couldn’t be lower — after all, I’d seen the movie. I wasn’t counting on much from the series or from the mini-network that up until then had little to recommend itself. (This was before Felicity, Dawson’s Creek and Gilmore Girls, mind you.) Sarah Michelle Gellar’s delightful performance as the spunky slayer, the warm wit and wisdom of Whedon’s worldview, and the dynamic presence of David Boreanaz’s soulful Angel (who would prove himself to be a leading man capable of carrying a series of his own), all were revelations to me.

Over the years, I have come to expect a certain level of quality from WB, and I have also become accustomed to the network not making that many regrettable programming decisions. Losing Buffy to UPN was one, letting Angel go before its creative team was ready is another. I will miss this world terribly. I think WB will come to miss it as well.

It’s yet another body blow in a discouraging season for fans of offbeat TV. How many more reluctant goodbyes will we be forced to make to our favorite series before this year is over?

Deja View

Over the past few years, there have been a few pieces of reportage that have stuck in my mind as masterworks, so I thought I’d share them here as they drift back into mind.

The first is from right after George W. Bush “won” the election in 2001, and is from Salon:

Dan Quayle redux

As we prepare for a second President Bush, the deja vu isn’t caused by memories of the father.

By Lawrence Weschler

December 16, 2000 At the time of his sudden ascension to prominence, back in 1988, when the entire world seemed to be stammering, as if in one voice, “Him? Why him?” Dan Quayle, we were assured, had struck a resonant chord in the patrician sponsor who had selected him to serve as his vice presidential running mate. George Bush saw something in the boyish young (though actually not that young) man; indeed we were told, he recognized in him something of a son.

Little did we know.

There were countless other fresh young politicians from whom to choose that strange summer morn, some of them quite competent, but Bush pere chose that one. Just as this time around, bent on revenge for their defeat four years later, the Bush clan could have rallied behind the competent son but instead chose to marshal its forces around (behind, in front of, above, beneath) its hapless dauphin.

People have been speaking of George W. as a latter-day liter version of his father, and there is indeed a strong sense of deja vu in all of this, but the comparison to Bush the elder misses the essential point: This is not so much a case of deja vu as of repetition compulsion, a bizarre family psychodrama writ large. With George W. (the pervading vacuousness, the deer-in-the-headlights stare, the cavalcade of late-night TV jokes, the burgeoning compilations of tortured syntax and uproarious gaffes, the nervous edgy glances of the surrounding adult handlers, the defiantly clueless Alfred E. Neuman gaze, the utter lack of curiosity regarding the cluefulness of the world), what we are witnessing isn’t so much the return of George the elder as the triumphant apotheosis of Quayle!

Remember how we used to cringe through the better part of Daddy Bush’s term in office, mortified that something might befall him and we’d all get stuck with Quayle? Well, guess what? I’m reminded, in turn, of the joke that was going around in March 1969, about the accident victim who’d spent the entirety of the previous decade in a coma. Coming to, his first frantic query had concerned the health of President Eisenhower. Informed that Ike had in fact died just a few days earlier, the poor fellow wailed, “My God, that means Nixon must be president!”