Thursday, September 29, 2005


Now seems like a good time to reveal my true identity as a sci-fi nerd. I love science fiction, in all its forms, and I am immediately on board with any entertainment premise involving the following: time travel, space travel, parallel universes, the future, non-humanoid beings (a lesser nerd would just say "aliens" there), robots who have turned on their masters, and the scantily clad but kick-ass warrior women intrinsic to the genre.

In keeping with that love, Back to the Future is my favorite film of all time. (Time travel: check. Accurate-sounding but totally bogus science: check. Improbable love story and threat of incest: well, actually going into different kind of checklist there..) The movies I enjoyed most over the past few years were Minority Report, The Matrix, and War of the Worlds (despite Tom Cruise). I even wanted to watch The Island (but I didn't. You have to listen to the critics sometimes.) Gattaca was Netflixed to my house yesterday. I said no to drugs in the '80s and instead read all of Isaac Asimov (I told you: very nerdy). I taught Octavia Butler's Dawn: Xenogenesis to my BU undergrads, and I can justify that choice over similar works by Ursula LeGuin. I have watched every single episode of the original Star Trek series with my dad and have them all recorded on wobbily VHS tapes at my childhood home. Most recently, I burned through all six DVDs of Battlestar Galactica in two days. Plus commentary. I am actually only one Star Trek convention away from being in a little too deep. All this to say that my sci-fi credentials are up-to-date. So it should mean something when I say that I am ready to talk about my favorite science fiction series of all time.

Like all good love stories, it involves heartbreak: the knowledge of eventual but certain loss. I started watching Firefly after it had already been killed (by evildoers at FOX, naturally). I picked up the DVD set of the cancelled series almost by accident and proceeded to get immediately and entirely sucked in. The characters are good, the writing is fantastic, the world of the series is gritty, realistic, and compelling, and the show is funny, scary, and smart all at the same time. Fabulous television. Which explains, of course, why FOX showed the episodes out of order on the loser-slot of Friday night and then pulled the series after only eleven shows. Nobody ever accused FOX of being intelligent.

More than inventive set design or futuristic technology, what makes science fiction great is its (boring-sounding but actually important) moral component: its particular gift at commenting on those values and ideals most important to human life. While often showcasing humanity's grossest tendencies toward greed, violence, and careless destruction (see how many times "nuclear winter" is the beginning premise of any show), sci-fi embraces the best elements of human nature as well: courage, belief, adventure. Science fiction also depends on a strong and abiding element of hope, even when things look bad. Which traits do you embrace when all but 50,000 members of your race have been extinguished? How adaptable is human nature to harsh environments and people who are different? To what lengths will humanity go to seek out new worlds and new civilizations, to boldly go... etc.? Good questions, all asked by science fiction. The genre is well-suited to these questions, since it can extrapolate the human condition 50 or 500 years into the future in order to reveal the most complex parts of human nature today--something sci-fi has been doing ever since the original Star Trek modelled the members of a distant planet after the warhawks and peaceniks of the '60s. So, yeah, I like it.

Firefly recognizes the importance of this moral element and plays with it. That is why the roles of "good guy" and "bad guy" are deliciously muddled, even while the frontier ideals of toughness, pluck, and basic human kindness are lifted up again and again. The series generally passes up easy definitions, going for complexity and ambiguity instead. All the while that crucial undercurrent of hope is palpable, even while the far-from-privileged renegades run into the ugliest of villains and the seemingly bleakest of scenarios.

Like a lot of good love stories, this one ends with a second chance. Some non-idiot executive at a different studio realized Firefly's greatness and greenlighted a movie, Serenity, based on the series. A movie, my friends, that is being released tomorrow. It is, of course, very possible that the movie will fall far short of my impossibly high expectations, that trying to make a feature-length film of this story will screw it up completely, and that I will leave the theater with the double blow of not loving the movie and realizing that the Firefly saga really has come to a final end. But, in the best tradition of science fiction, I will hope for the best. I suggest you come along for the ride if you can.

Buy it.

See it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Yeah, it's the real thing.

Hope Springs Autumnal

It's not over yet. Friday night I saw my first Red Sox World Series Championship ring in person, and just being around that unnecessarily large and glittering chunk of diamond and chutzpah gave me a boost of optimism.

But things are not well in the clubhouse, my friends. The boys are banged up, teammates are turning on one other, and the Sox are half a game back of both the Yankees and the Indians. (Of course, they are also at this moment playing game one of a doubleheader against Toronto, and are 2-0 in the third. So the numbers are fluid.)

Who is trying to bring down Curt Schilling?? The man who charged through the playoffs with a bloody sock, Bush-lover or no, does not deserve to have one of his own teammates turn Brutus on him. My money for the traitor is on Keith Foulke, who is done for the season and has been carping about how tough it is to play baseball in Boston for a while now. Oh, and also how he doesn't care about crowd reaction at Fenway--what "Johnny from Burger King" thinks of his pitching. Way to endear yourself to the fans, chuck. 2-0, top of the fourth.

Things are getting cranky around the edges. I blame the higher expectations after last year's amazing win and most of all, the utterly unfamiliar feeling of being defending champs. It's not that the Sox haven't appreciated the thrillride, but it's always been so easy to be the underdogs. At a point like this any other season, we are ecstatic about being in the thick of the chase. A half game! away from making the playoffs one way or another. Maybe we can catch the Yankees! And through it all, everyone would have expected the team to push us to the limit and then let us down. EVERYONE expected that. This collective unbelief always nourished a secret and persistent spark of hope, at least in me. You had to believe in your team despite prevailing wisdom, despite the yammering idiots on WEEI, and despite decades and decades of terrible Sox luck. That was exciting, in that secret, childlike-faith way. Now? If we don't make the playoffs, we're a pathetic bunch of underachieving losers. Sox quickly retired in the fourth, top of the fifth same score.

But this post is about optimism. I still feel like the chemistry is off, and physically this team is pretty beaten up. But it's still a good team, with a lot of amazing elements (Big Papi, the ManChild when he decides to play, a couple of young and promising pitchers) and they could get the job done. (On the other hand, Toronto just scored on a Mirabelli passed ball. They could also not get it done.) But seeing the hunk of gem and metal these guys get as their reward made me think: why not? Why couldn't they do it again? They just have to get to the playoffs first. And despite the naysaying, and sportsradio, and traitors in the clubhouse and Renteria at short, I, not so secretly, have decided to believe that they will.

In case you need a closer look.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Welcome little Owen Williams, NINE pounds, 3 oz! Congrats Melissa and Lee!

Thursday, September 22, 2005


So, it's 4:12 a.m. on a quiet Wednesday night (well, Thursday morning actually, but my day doesn't start until I've gone to bed and then woken up a solid 8 or 9 hours later), and I am awake and alert in that state that sometimes occurs as a result of running around so feverishly all day long right up to this very minute that if you went to bed you would just lie there and busily think about your hefty to-do list until your nonstop mind moves on to inventing alarming scenarios involving your loved ones. No thanks. I've decided just to wind down here instead.

While winding down, I will share a few things that were flying around in my head tonight as I made four gallons of barley & bean soup. (Yeah, Wednesdays are Suzy Homemaker Days. . . Don't take that seriously.) As I cried my way through two cups of chopped onions, sauteed some garlic, and tore up baby spinach, I recognized anew that the BBC whips the pants off American radio all day long. Luckily NPR has wised up and just plays the BBC all night, apparently for the benefit of married grad students up late cooking. (and...who? who else listens to NPR at night? Truckers?) BBC is just better. It's succinct, it's rational, it's thorough, they have those neat accents, and, for a plus, it's actually international news. I know more than I could even tell you about German politics (did you know they had an "inconclusive" election for prime minister last week?! fabulous!), the state of democracy and women's rights in Bahrain, the fates of Mexican drug ministers, and an impeding natural disaster named Hurricane Rita (pronounce it "HURRikin") threatening the coast of our charming colony. If more people got their news from the BBC, we might be in better shape.

Which leads me not at all to another thought I was having during my midnight cooking having jobs and all that really the way we are supposed to live? I mean, really? I'm not against the process of working on something meaningful, or even taking home a paycheck to do it. That all seems rather necessary. But is it NORMAL to spend most of your waking hours away from the people you actually like? Or the things you actually like to do? I don't have a 9-to-5 job right now, so my work hell happens at home. But James does work in an office, and he works not 9-to-5, but something more like 8-to-8. As we went to the gym together at 9:30 pm, then went to the grocery store at 10:45, and got home with our armfuls of provisions at 12:30 so he could fall into bed dazed and bleary-eyed at 1 am, I couldn't help but think: there is something wrong with this picture. I spent more actual time with fringe friends in college than I do with my husband. (You know, fringe friends: those people you have something in common with, maybe you play lacrosse together or you're from the same hometown, and you like them, but they're not your real friends. You won't ever see their face again after graduation.) I spent more time yakking in those people's dorm rooms about nothing than I do speaking to my husband in a meaningful way about anything. ! Is this okay? Right now, at 4 a.m., it strikes me as an odd way to live. Is this what everyone else is doing too? Tell me, readers.

And finally, I know it's too early to do it, but here goes anyway. I'm not exactly throwing in the towel, but I'm taking it off that little hook in preparation. The Sox are a half a game behind the Yankees as a result of their meeting earlier this evening with the indomitable Devil Rays (that was gross sarcasm, for anyone who doesn't know baseball or doesn't know what "indomitable" means), and they are no longer in first place in their division for the first time in nine weeks. Kind of bad timing, considering this season is going to be all wrapped up in less than a dozen games from now. But it's not about the half game, or even about how sad it is that Tampa Bay took two out of three from the World Series Champs. The Sox just don't have it this year. I've felt it for a long time now, and it's not about stats, or about injuries, or how Theo broke up the band from last year, or anything like that. It's just a gut feeling. Last year, my gut felt different. (hmmmm, let's rephrase). Last year, I knew we had a shot. There was a little bit of magic and that secret tingly feeling that you can't share with other people because you don't want to jinx it. This year, no tingly. We might make it to the playoffs, we might not, but whatever the case, if we do get there, there will be no magic for this group like there was last autumn. I've decided to voice this fear in the belief that it might be better just to accept it now and let the dream go. We've been defending champs for a year, and that's going to have to be good enough. So. Okay, there, I've said it, that's my prediction.

Now, here's hoping me saying that will turn things around.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Yes, I have been AWOL. Yes, I've spent the month vainly trying to put necessary parts of my life in order after a very full season spent everywhere but at home. No excuses though. Summer is over, and soon the decaying leaf and frosty air tang of fall will give everyone a hit of inspiration and the deep breaths of a back-to-work ethic.

I tend to lose touch with my friends in other places a little bit over the summer. Everyone is too busy with end-of-season playoff chases, trips, in-town gatherings (check out the yummy Sicilian meatballs I made for guests on Friday), and weekends of day-drinking to keep up with emailing or writing, except of the postcard variety. I applaud all of these things. But now it feels like it's time to get down to business, in both baseball and blogging. (After all, the Sox' lead in the AL East is a paltry one-and-a-half games.)

After the summer has passed, one's group needs to regroup. In the old days, this meant figuring out what happened to your friend who was arrested in Newport during Tall Ships week or who got kicked out of their summer share for sleeping with someone else's boyfriend. These days, it means getting the latest news on more monumental changes in the lives of the people in my life around the country: weddings, births, and, sadly, even illnesses and deaths, as we get older and our family members do too. Yesterday, I attended my final wedding of the year, my oldest friend gave birth to her first child, and I learned that my grandmother is going into hospice care, covering the big three all too well.

So I'm back--I won't be gone that long again--but I won't pretend to be full of wisdom and insight now that I'm thirty and surrounded by friends and family, so many of whom are experiencing major life changes.

In fact, in some ways I feel younger than ever, if "younger" means having a) more workout clothes than work clothes b) an unhealthy obsession with a movie release date [September 30: Serenity] c) friends who like to punch out hotel nightclerks and other friends who drive drunk across state lines in borrowed jeeps (a.k.a my Saturday night) and d) the type of luck to get kicked out of Nashua, New Hampshire's most amateurish strip club (a.k.a last Thursday). The hiatus is over, but I can make no promises that you'll be getting quality programming or valuable info from here on out. Just a little more me, a little more regularly. Thanks for reading.