What We’ve Learned from The Mentalist
Since The Mentalist has its Season 7 premiere tonight, I’ve been reflecting on what we’ve learned from the show since Patrick Jane made his first appearance back in 2008. It’s always a treat when we get to see a character written well enough and intelligently enough to color outside the genre lines. Here’s a short list of things we’ve picked up from the inimitable Mr. Jane.
1. The first order of business should always be to make yourself a cup of tea.
2. There’s nothing like a good cup of tea to make people drop their guard and tell you things.
3. People tend to not mind your eccentricities when you’re useful.
4. It’s perfectly fine if people don’t understand you as long as you know what you’re doing.
5. Living at work will exacerbate your obsessive sociopathic tendencies.
6. Just because you’re smarter than everyone doesn’t mean you’re better than everyone; always appreciate your teammates.
7. The quiet one in the room is probably the one who will have your back if you need someone to kick ass on your behalf.
8. If you have a past you’re not proud of, being nonchalant about it is better than wasting energy trying to keep it a secret.
9. Just because you’re enemies with someone doesn’t mean you can’t do good work together.
10. You don’t have to tell everything you know. But sometimes it’s fun to do so.
The seventh and final season of The Mentalist premieres tonight and will continue to air on Sundays on CBS at 9:30 (allowing for possible delays due to football). Farewell, Mr. Jane. It’s been a pleasure.
From:: Not Now, I’m Watching TV
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Saturday Concert Series #3: Damien Rice
Our selection for this week in the Saturday Concert Series is Damien Rice, Live at Best Kept Secret Festival in Holland, on June 22nd 2013.
This is primarily a solo acoustic set but it’s a very powerful performance. There’s a good selection of familiar tunes and the spare instrumentation showcases his vocal range and intensity. “Cheers Darlin'” is definitely not to be missed, and I’ll say no more than that about it – you just need to see for yourself.
One note: there are a lot of ads running this holiday weekend so if you’d like to hear the show straight through without interruptions, you may want to save the link for later. Here’s the link, followed by the set-list: Damien Rice, Live at Best Kept Secret 2013.
The Professor & La Fille Danse
Woman Like a Man
The Blower’s Daughter
Encore: The Box
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Photo © Copyright 2006 by Phil D’Angelo
by K.C. Collins
Do not deny me this
my savage dance with darkness
I crave no other company
in this garden of granite and bones
stark jagged blackened cedar
looming over stonesealed martyrs
deeper I drift beyond the fringe
where roses grow on lovers’ graves
and solemn eyes keep vigil
© Copyright 1999 by K.C. Collins. Republished 2003, 2004, 2011, 2014.
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Photo: “Tower” by Gerhard Gellinger via Pixabay
by K.C. Collins
Something about a belfry
a bird’s nest?
I was climbing stairs in a circular manner
and occasionally I walked upon the walls
my clothes were torn and I
thought I spied someone below
following me with his eyes
or maybe the sun
I think he rode a bicycle
to a bridge not far away
and from the rooftop I
breathed his name into the air
it was lost of course
leaving my mind as soon as it left my lips
just like the dream I told you
somewhere in the ether.
© Copyright 2001 by K.C. Collins. Republished 2003, 2004, 2011, 2014.
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State of Affairs: Appalled
I was reluctant to check out this show (seems I say that a lot lately) for two major reasons. One, at a quick glance, it appeared as though NBC was trying to do its own version of Madam Secretary, which CBS was already doing quite well. Two, in the previews, Katherine Heigl seemed to be a poor fit for a show of such gravity.
I tried to keep an open mind and give it a fair shot as I watched the premiere. I truly did. But this show is such a waste of time that NBC would be better off running an hour of puppy videos. At least the puppies wouldn’t expect us to take them seriously.
A word of clarification first: I’m not among the people who apparently hate Katherine Heigl for whatever reasons they feel they have. I very much liked her on Grey’s Anatomy. I haven’t watched any of her movies because romcoms just aren’t my cup of tea, but I feel certain she probably did a fine job in those. I just think it was bad judgment to cast her in the kind of show that State of Affairs aspires to be.
Imagine my dismay to note that she’s not only starring in it but also the executive producer. Her mom, who’s also her manager, is an executive producer too.
Feeling that my first impressions were correct, I nonetheless pressed on with watching the premiere, hoping that it wouldn’t be as bad as I anticipated.
The opening scenes involve Heigl’s character Charleston in a psychotherapy session. She’s being difficult, resistant. This entire therapy motif has been done to death in TV dramas, using therapy conversations, arguments and flashbacks as a sort of “prequel” plot exposition; we’re to understand the character’s motivation and history without the tedium of having to sit through what actually happened, so we can get on with the present story. Unfortunately, this method has been used so poorly and so often in various shows that it has become the very tedium it tries to skip over. Suffice to say, Heigl’s character is a hostile, angry person with good reason, and she acts out excessively – or perhaps this is just hyperbole for the sake of entertainment. Either way, it falls flat.
Frankly, if I were her character and had been saddled with such a trendy, precious name as “Charleston,” I’d be pissed too.
But Heigl doesn’t really do hostile and angry very well. Some can, others can’t; she’s more-or-less believable but not very sympathetic. We get that Charlie’s supposed to be mad at the world; we just don’t care. For comparison, take Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife; she does a great rendition of angry woman, and not only do we care, we’re on her side. Heigl, though her character has much more severe things to be mad about (dead fiancé vs. sleazebag hubby), is just not convincing; she wears the role like an ill-fitting coat.
While we’re on the topic of dead fiancés as character motivation, I’d just like to say that I’m getting sick to death of back-stories that go into some hideous personal tragedy (usually the loss of a man – whether father figure or significant other) to explain a female lead’s call to action. It’s as though network television expects us to believe that this is the only acceptable reason women ever achieve anything of substance. Equally irritating is the similar theme of successful women with estranged father problems (Temperance Brennan’s father was a criminal, Maura Isles’ dad turns out to be a big gangster, just to name a couple). It’s annoying, it’s been done enough that we’re tired of it, and it’d be great if writers could come up with some other, fresher ideas to add texture and depth to characters.
But back to State of Affairs. Heigl’s new vehicle lurches along like a car with a tank of watery gasoline – from therapy couch to acting-out behavior to chatting with the President to being banned in disgrace from the building and back to chatting with the President – and we’re left feeling stranded on the roadside, waiting in vain for some credible thread of storyline or a cast member with a modicum of charisma to get things going, but it never happens. (There’s a curious dearth of staff presence during these briefings/heart-to-heart chats with the President, who just happens to be “Charlie’s” dead fiancé’s mother.)
There’s also a technical issue; a great deal of the story revolved around texts that Charlie kept getting. They were displayed onscreen for us to see, but the choice of color and transparency made them virtually unreadable. In a more compelling story, this would have been extremely frustrating. As it was, though, it was just another gaffe; by that point, even though I knew they were probably crucial to the plot, I just didn’t really care.
All in all, the show is an ill-conceived and poorly-cast mess. Alfre Woodard works well enough in the role of the President, but she certainly didn’t need this to round out her resumé.
There were a couple of good but forgettable lines late in the show. Unfortunately they seemed stilted, out of place within the rest of the script. Brief flashes of sardonic wit just isn’t enough to carry a one-hour show, and the lines don’t come across as being all that witty when uttered from the mouth of a main character we struggle to believe.
I’ve read that Katherine Heigl has said she loves doing romcoms. Maybe she should stick to those; they’re well within her range, and she has a proven track record with them. Sometimes there’s a very good reason actors and actresses get typecast, and there’s no good reason not to keep doing what you do well.
It’s unlikely that State of Affairs will be canceled, at least not right away; its premiere had solid ratings for its time slot. But that may be the high-ratings lead-in show coupled with the curiosity factor; others like myself probably tuned in to see if Heigl could actually pull it off. NBC taking The Blacklist out of its Monday night spot, however, has also been a great move for ABC’s Castle and CBS’s NCIS:LA, who each got a nice bump in viewer ratings. Both those shows have good storytelling as well as likable casts with great chemistry, and I’d be very surprised if they didn’t run away with the Monday night viewing audience. But if you insist upon torturing yourself by checking out State of Affairs, it’s likely to be around for a least a few episodes.
State of Affairs airs on NBC on Monday nights at 10:00 EST.
From:: Not Now, I’m Watching TV
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Saturday Concert Series #2: Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
This week in the Saturday Concert Series, we’ve selected Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble Live in Montreux, 1985.
Recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1985, this is SRV and company at their very best, with great versions of perennial favorites “Pride and Joy,” “Look at Little Sister,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” and a set-list of ten more classics. As an added treat, Texas blues guitarist Johnny Copeland joins the band onstage for a handful of songs, and he and Vaughan together are exceptional.
Grab a cold one, settle back and enjoy an hour and a half of some of the best Texas blues and shuffle you’ll ever hear: Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Live in Montreux, 1985.
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A Plea on Behalf of Seasonal Workers
by Rob Colfax
You know what time of year it is. The commercials have been on TV since before Halloween, prodding you to go out and buy gifts. Now. Buy gifts, or your family, your friends, your significant other will take you for an thoughtless, unloving cheapskate.
And it’s not enough to just buy gifts. They need to be perfect. Stakes are high. Choose the right gift and win your sweetheart’s undying love. Implied, of course, is the idea that if you buy the wrong diamond or fail to secure the latest iGadget, your lover will see you for the loser you’ve always feared you might be. You will be scorned and abandoned as your erstwhile soulmate runs off to New Zealand to settle down and raise goats with a guitarist named Finn.
It’s understandable that you’ll be stressed when you venture out to the shops or the mall and begin to hunt and gather the presents.
But please: don’t take it out on the help.
Most stores employ at least one or two extra people during this time of year. You may find them slow, unhelpful and frustrating. Try to remember that they are probably just as frustrated as you are.
10 Reasons to Be Kind to the Sales Staff
1. Most seasonal staff don’t get the training or support that regular staff receive. Even regular employees often don’t get the training they need to be as helpful as you – or they – would like. Sometimes the training they do receive has to be done on their own time (i.e., they’ll never be paid for it).
2. Entry-level retail workers typically start at $7-$8 an hour before taxes. Commissions, you say? You think they make commissions on top of their base pay? Some may, but it’s probably not as much as you think. It may be 25 cents on the $100 item you’re thinking of purchasing. Or it may be conditional upon your agreement to purchase the extended warranty they’re embarrassed to ask you to buy (so no extended warranty = no commission).
3. They probably had to spend the equivalent of their first paycheck just to buy suitable clothes to meet the company dress code requirements.
4. They probably haven’t had a break since they came on shift. Yes, employment laws mandate regular break and lunch periods for workers. It’s a nice idea in theory but practice is often very different. When things are busy and a store is understaffed, breaks very often just don’t happen.
5. If they do get a lunch break, it’s often not possible to economize by packing a lunch to bring along (no break room, no refrigerator or microwave in many retail workplaces) which means they’re spending an hour’s worth of their pay on lunch. If they get a lunch break.
6. Often, they’re given the same ridiculous sales goals and quotas to meet as the rest of the staff, even though they’ve had no training on how to meet them and won’t be rewarded with a raise, bonus or continued employment should they somehow manage to do so. They will, however, be badgered, harassed, belittled and yelled at just like the rest of the staff if they fail to meet their goals. If you think a boot camp drill sergeant is tough, you should hear the abuse a district manager is capable of toward sales clerks who aren’t ringing up enough gift cards (or whatever the “focus” item is that week).
7. It’s highly unlikely they’ll get any days off between now and Christmas to do their own holiday shopping. Or grocery shopping, for that matter. Or laundry. For the next several weeks, they’ll be living in the same pair of khakis and subsisting on fast food, vending machine crackers, or broken candy canes from the damaged bin.
8. If they call in sick (even if they have the most contagious flu and are under doctor’s orders to stay home for a couple of days), more than likely they’ll be told not to bother coming back to work. The same applies if they have a death in the family.
9. They’re spending 8-12 weeks working in an environment where, no matter how well they do or how much their coworkers appreciate their help, they’ll be out of work again come January. A few years ago, one major retailer even shocked their associates by firing all seasonal help on Christmas Eve. (This company has since gone bankrupt and closed. Clearly the money saved on a a few days’ cheap salaries wasn’t really worth it.)
10. Most seasonal employees don’t do this type of work regularly, for good reason. Many are students, artists, writers, people who are already working another job. They’re often not “people persons,” and may be overwhelmed by all the chaos of the season. They’re stressed and exhausted. Just like you.
By now, you may be wondering if there’s any way to make this season of crass consumerism less painless for yourself. And the people in the shops who are trying to help you, of course. I’m glad you asked.
10 Tips for Less Stressful Shopping
1. Cultivate patience. If you need to ask questions of the staff, try to understand if they don’t know all the answers. Better yet, instead of going in and asking the people in the shops a dozen questions so you can then go home and buy your gift online, reverse the process: do your research online before you go shopping. Use your smartphone in the store to get information. There are much faster and less nerve-wracking ways to find out what you want to know than standing in line to grill an overworked sales associate.
2. Shop during off-peak times, if your schedule allows it. It’s less crowded, you’ll feel less stressed, and sales staff will have more time and energy to give you their attention when you need it. You’re also less likely to buy things you’ll regret later.
3. Don’t take the kids. I don’t care how much you love your children, it’s much more stressful for you and everyone else (including the kids) if you take them with you. It’s too easy for them to get excited and overstimulated by all the hoopla, and too hard for you to concentrate when you’re trying to make sure they don’t break anything or get carried off by a stranger in the next aisle. Find a sitter.
4. Limit your phone conversations to your car. When you’re on the phone, your attention isn’t on your cart or your wallet. Not only are you holding up the line and being a huge annoyance to anyone within earshot, you’re a prime target for thieves.
5. Make a list. While some gifts require looking around to see what catches your eye, you’re much more likely to make bad decisions when you’re in a noisy, crowded store. Make your choices when you have some time to think, write them down, and stick to your list once you get out. This may mean that you order some things online, and that’s even less stressful; just be sure to allow enough time for shipping.
6. Let the little things go. It’s easy to become fixated on some minor inconvenience or problem when everyone’s stressed, but do your best to take a deep breath and let things go if it’s not a matter of life or death. Christmas gifts are rarely a matter of life or death. If for some reason you absolutely, positively feel you must complain about something, don’t take it out on the person who’s ringing you up. The cashier has no control over how many LEGO sets are on the shelf. Sometimes it’s just nobody’s fault, no matter how much you’d like to yell at someone.
7. Learn to accept that mistakes will be made. Anticipate it and allow room to work around it. Try to remember that a mistake isn’t a personal vendetta against you. You make mistakes too.
8. If you feel you absolutely must complain, wait until you get home to do it. You’ll sound like a much more rational person once you’ve cooled down for a few minutes, and customer service reps are much more likely to be helpful if you aren’t ranting and raving. If you have a receipt, there’s usually a number or website where you can contact someone who can actually address the issue; if you don’t have a receipt, look up the company online. You might even find that complaining doesn’t seem as necessary once you’ve gone home and had a bite to eat.
9. Be kind. Be generous. Donate to your favorite charity; it really will make you feel a little better in addition to supporting a cause you believe in. Perhaps you can even get family, friends or coworkers involved. Imagine a holiday where, rather than feeling pressured to get one another the perfect gift, you all agreed to give to a worthy charity instead.
10. Remember: everyone is doing the best they can do at any given time.
It’s that time of year again. If you venture out to the shops or the malls, be safe.
More importantly, be kind.
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