A Life Well Lived

When I was a young child, there were two television shows I was allowed to stay up late and watch with my parents.  One was Monty Python, the other was Star Trek. That may explain a few things about me and my sense of humour, come to think of it.  As I grew older I became aware of boys and started having crushes on tv characters, like many teenage girls did.  But while most of my female acquaintances – at least the ones who admitted to watching Star Trek – fell madly in love with the dashing captain of the USS Enterprise, it was the cool, enigmatic First Officer that captured both my attention and my heart.  I, in my girlish daydreams, fantasized that I would be the one to melt that icy exterior.  Yeah, I know, get in line.  As the years went on, and my teenage crush faded, it was comforting to know that when there was nothing else on I could usually find a Star Trek episode somewhere.  I got so I could practically recite the lines with the actors.  I got into fandom, and into conventions because of Star Trek; my father took me to my first convention when I was eleven years old (held at the Royal York Hotel in 1976) and after that I never looked back.

Today we lost Leonard Nimoy.  He was so much more than just Mr. Spock but, of course, that’s the way he will be forever remembered by many people who may never have known that he did other things.  I remember, many, many years ago, my dad showing me a newspaper clipping (which I may still have) describing Mr. Nimoy playing Sherlock Holmes in a stage play in the US – how I would have liked to see that.  I remember seeing him on Mission Impossible, after Star Trek was cancelled, playing the ex-magician Paris.  I remember watching Zombies of the Stratosphere late at night – or perhaps it was in the wee hours of the morning – in black and white on a flickering television screen.  I remember watching a pre-Star Trek Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner acting together in an episode of Man From U.N.C.L.E., Mr. Shatner playing the part of the wide-eyed ingenue to  – spoiler alert – Mr. Nimoy’s nasty bad guy.  Recently I’ve been watching Fringe on Netflix, having missed it the first time around, and I’ve been enjoying him immensely as the morally ambiguous William Bell.  As someone who loves music, I remember his music – from the silly fun of The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins to his serious version of Johnny Cash’s I Walk The Line.

The thing that I think a lot of people will remember about Leonard Nimoy, aside from Star Trek of course, is how much he loved people and loved his fans.  It was evident at cons, and evident in his Twitter conversations.  In January of last year he tweeted “Any here want to make me their honorary grandfather consider it done. ”  I was one of the thousands upon thousands of fans who rushed to tweeted him back and formalise what we already knew – he was like a part of our family. And, while we knew he was mortal and – more recently – struggling with health issues, he was still so much a presence and so larger than life that we thought he’d always be there. Unfortunately it was not to be.

Goodnight, Grandpa Leonard.  Be at rest, be at peace.  My world is a slightly dimmer place tonight without you in it.

Cutting the Cable TV Cord

It’s official – hubby and I have cut ourselves off from the cable world.  We decided that, between the massive amount of DVDs we still haven’t watched, Netflix Canada costing $8 a month, and cable costing around $80 a month, that maybe we could do without it.  One of the things we talked about before making the decision – and we did talk about it a fair bit, as well as running what is known in the system testing world as a “parallel test”, where we had cable and Netflix Canada and our DVDs – was that we weren’t watching TV so much for specific shows but just doing a lot of channel flipping.  It was like “ooh, there’s Pawn Stars”.  It wasn’t that we were actually watching Pawn Stars because we liked Pawn Stars – although we do – it was that we were flipping channels and there’s Pawn Stars and that’s cool/well there’s nothing else on so let’s watch it.   As well, for myself at least, I felt I was spending way too much time flipping channels and seeing what was on instead of doing other things, like writing and crafting and stuff like that.

In any case last Tuesday was our first non-cable day and, to be honest, it was no biggie.  We came home and instead of turning on the TV and flipping channels trying to find something to watch, we put on Netflix and watched an episode of Top Gear UK with supper and, when that was over, watched another episode just because we could.  And after that was over we turned the TV off and went and did other things.  BNC (Before No Cable) I would probably have sat flipping channels for another forty-five minutes watching bits and pieces of programs.

And that brings me to the next part of this post, which is some of the stuff I’m watching now that we’ve cut the cable cord.  Yeah, I know Netflix Canada doesn’t have as good a selection as Netflix US (or so I have been told) but having said that it’s got a pretty darned good selection of stuff.  It’s got a lot of stuff that I either said “hey, this great, the whole TV series is there so now I can watch it from start to end” or “hey, I really used to enjoy that, I wouldn’t mind watching it again”.  Case in point with that latter one is Charlie’s Angels – I loved the old Charlie’s Angels television show!  Netflix Canada has all five seasons of it, so I actually sat and watched the pilot episode the other night.  And, much to my surprise, it was quite good; it held up really well.  Quite frankly, you could take the plot of the pilot episode and with very few changes you could drop it into a TV show today, and it’s a perfectly valid plot. A big surprise, too, was a very young Tommy Lee Jones as a good ol’ country boy that helps the Angels out.  One of the things I love about watching old television shows is seeing actors I recognise before the became big stars.

So that’s one example, and it’s something that I’ll probably keep watching on and off, at least up until Kate Jackson leaves (because, I’m sorry, Kate Jackson was always my favourite Angel; I always identified, for some reason, with the brainy ones).  The other surprise I got was that Charlie’s Angels wasn’t as “sexy” as I remembered.  I had it in my mind that Charlie’s Angels was the three beautiful women who always ran around in bathing suits and bikinis and that sort of thing.  And, yes, in the very first episode where Charlie calls the Angels to come into work, Kate Jackson is off riding a horse in full riding gear, and Farrah Fawcett is off playing tennis in her short shorts and a nice little striped  shirt, and Jaclyn Smith is in her nice little white bikini getting out of the pool. And that was the last time you saw them for entire episode in that sort of thing. The rest of the episode they were fully clothed, there was very little sexism in it, there was none of the “aw, such a pretty girl” type of thing.  Granted, it was the pilot episode so I’ll have to see, as the series goes on, whether it lives up (or down) to my expectations.

Another show I’ve started watching is The Unit, starring Dennis Haysbert, Regina Taylor and Robert Patrick.  This was a series I’d heard about after the fact but never watched and I’d often thought “hey, you know I wouldn’t mind checking that out some day” but not to the point that I was going to spend $20 on DVDs, or even $10 on DVDs for it.  So whe I saw that Netflix Canada has all the seasons of it I thought “well, there you go”.  I’m up to the end of first season and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  It’s nice, I think, to be able to watch a series like that where you know you’ve got the entire series, or even one entire season, and you’re not having to wait for another episode to come out each week.  And you can watch it in order. Of course with The Unit it’s not as big a thing because there’s not (at least so far) a huge over-reaching story arc, but it does make a difference with something like 24, for example, where if you miss one episode you’re screwed because there’s a continuing arc story.

One thing I really like about Netflix Canada is the amount of British programming available, both with TV series and movies.  For example,  there are sixteen seasons (!!!) of Top Gear UK.  And that’s not even including the last few years’ seasons – I think Netflix Canada has up to 2009.  This is something that hubby and I have been watching – we’ll throw on an episode with dinner.  Now, neither of us are huge car people but that’s not why you watch Top Gear (at least that’s not why we watch it) – you watch Top Gear because of the interplay between the three hosts, because they’re absolutely insane and hilarious, and, of course, to see some of the stuff they get up too. When they get into how the Jaguar XJ92.5B has a 3.8 litre turbo engine and 500 brake horspower and this, that, and the other thing, I will admit I tend to space out.  But when they talk about some of the features of the cars or some of the protoypes, like the GM hydrogen-fueled car, that’s cool. And when they get The Stig testing the cars on the track, well, that’s fun too.

They also have the Kitchen Nightmares UK version. I’m not a Gordon Ramsay fan, so that doesn’t turn my crank as much, although I understand that the UK version is much better than the US version – apparently he’s a kindler, gentler Gordon Ramsay.  But they’ve also got stuff like a limited-run series hubby and I discovered called Jekyll.  Jekyll was created by Steven Moffatt, the same guy who does the absolutely brilliant Sherlock modern series.  It’s the story of a modern-day descendent of Jekyll & Hyde who, of course, turns into the monster.  It’s very interestingly done, because they use much makeup when he’s in Hyde form. There are some physical changes, obviously, so you can tell when he’s Jekyll and when he’s Hyde, but it’s not like he turns into this ugly, horrendous monster.  It’s more the way the actor, James Nesbitt, shows an entirely different personality when he’s Hyde as opposed to when he’s Jekyll.  We’ve just seen the first episode and it is one that we are going to catch the entire six-episode run of.  Having said that, it’s very heavy and very dark, and that’s just in the first episode, so it’s one of those shows that we have to be in the right mood to catch.

So that’s what I’m watching at the moment.  And, of course, that’s just the TV series that have caught my interest.  We’ve also seen a number of excellent films as well – just the other night we watched Hugo and next up, at some point, is Tintin.