Month: January 2015

Sex and the City Re-Watch Recap: Where There’s Smoke

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And now it’s time for one of my favorite seasons of SATC, and a great premiere episode to boot.

We see the girls in a ferry, pondering their single-ness despite the overwhelming number of single men. This time they are going to Staten Island for Carrie to judge a hot fireman contest. I’m not from New York, but meeting men from this island must be a shady prospect.

While Samantha is in testosterone heaven, Carrie is getting hit up by another judge, a politician named Bill Kelley. Doesn’t she recognize him as that sketchy politician from Desperate Housewives, or that corrupt ad man from Mad Men. Jeez, Carrie, you really need to get out more.

Miranda has retrieved drinks, a local version of a Long Island Iced Tea. They’re so potent Miranda thinks that they may get her drunk enough to let Samantha have sex with her.

Samantha already has her sight set on sleeping with a sexy fireman, and Charlotte can’t even because she’s just a goody good who wants to get married.

I must say that the fireman that seems to transfix them is not very cute. I wouldn’t show him my lower anything.
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After a quick scene of a pre-Beyonce single ladies dance moves, Samantha makes her move on Ricky. He’s not too bright. Samantha has to practically move herself to climax to give him the idea that he could join her. Really, Samantha, is it worth that kind of special needs service?

Samantha and Bill share a cigarette break. He’s definitely interested, but she’s not sure she’s going to have it, despite her flirtatious come backs. She winds up giving her address to him so he can “check her district”. However, she stops short at giving her phone number. Because she has limits?

Carrie and Miranda look for Charlotte, and Samantha has departed with Ricky for some remedial level love making. Charlotte is now absolutely drunk. She’s dancing solo to “Doctor’s Orders” by Carol Douglas in one of my favorite scenes in the show ever.
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On the boat home, Carrie and Miranda try to contain the intoxicated ramblings of a marriage-obsessed Charlotte.

Meanwhile, Samantha is getting it on. What’s new…

The next morning she can’t even shut up about it. Like a gay man, she thinks that cock talk is appropriate for breakfast conversation. It’s funny to see the girls hungover and barely functioning. Charlotte goes on again about wanting to be saved by her white knight.

Thus is Carrie’s theme for the week formulated; do women just want to be rescued?

Miranda is at her eye doctor’s office getting some orders of her own. She’s having eye surgery, but is told she will need someone to help her. Resistant to needing a white knight, she even evades Steve’s offers to help, just like she evades putting a label on their resurrected sex life.

Charlotte and Carrie are out together in some lounge so Charlotte can find a husband. Is that really where you’d like to go, honey, considering that some skeez bag named Jay Jay keeps accosting you? It doesn’t matter since some tall, blond, and strangely aggressive white knight comes in to save Charlotte from her plight. Maybe you can meet men in bars…

The next day Carrie goes shopping. Upon her return home, she finds Bill waiting for her. Creep. Does actor John Slattery actually act, or is he really like this, considering all his characters are the same? Oh well, he pressures Carrie into a date.
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Now we see shitty Carrie make a return when she ditches helping Miranda on the day of her surgery to get ready for this date. Miranda takes it in stride, and attempts to handle it all on her own, ever the independent woman.

Charlotte is on her first date with the white knight. Just as they bond over ideal marriages, he gets huffy over some guy bumping Charlotte’s chair. This leads to him assaulting the guy and threatening a waitress. See? You can’t meet men in bars, Charlotte.

Miranda is drugged up, and incapable yet she still has the willpower to resist Steve’s assistance, but he overcomes this and manages to get this disgruntled sleeping beauty to bed. When she awakens, she sees clearly that Steve is right next to her, and perhaps is worth more consideration than to be merely an ex that she sleeps with.

Across town, Samantha eagerly anticipates hanging out with Ricky at the fire station. The reality no where nearly matches her fantasy. Instead of the place being full of hot, model-like life savers, it’s full of regular guys who watch sports and eat life savers.

Samantha, however, is determined to get something fantastic out of this dreary reality and make a hot scene of her own. After she gets a bowl of that fresh chili that Ricky put on. Talk about hot stuff…

Carrie, still paralyzed by the trauma that is a second break up with Mr. Big. Bill leaves of after patiently waiting, and Carrie calls Miranda for some emergency assistance. Miranda and her newfound clarity inform Carrie that she afraid to get hurt again, which is what Carrie’s been afraid to admit to herself.

So off she runs to the party to meet Bill, where she admits that she did have a bad break up, and wants to take things slowly.

Back at the fire station, Samantha slides down the fire house pole, just the first pole she’ll ride that evening. After having sex against the fire engine, Ricky shows Samantha around the place, and begins to explain why all the uniforms are set up on the floor. Just as he is about to verbally explain the vigilance a fire fighter must maintain, the alarm goes off, and so he shows it in action instead.
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He swiftly runs off, abandoning Samantha to get yelled at by another fire fighter whose gear she was sexily trying on. In true Samantha fashion, she attempts to act modestly despite the obviousness of her sexual escapades that evening. When all is said and done, her fantasy ends with her being left nearly naked and vulnerable, in class such of an older couple on the street that prudent hasn’t had sex since the Reagan administration.

While Carrie is getting ready to leave and catch her fairy, I mean ferry (the fairy tale allusions in this episode are over the top), she begins to make out with her politician prince. So much for moving slowly.

Unfortunately, moving quickly now still doesn’t get her to the ferry in time. Like Cinderella before her, she loses a shoe as the clock strikes midnight, but unlike Prince Charming, Bill is there in moments with his BMW. After he saves her, Carrie saves him with some driving directions. There ends the tale, that opens Season 3.

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Star Wars: TIE Fighter is on GOG.com

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Released by Lucas Arts and Totally Games in 1994, Star Wars: TIE Fighter is the excellent sequel to Star Wars: X-Wing, and one of the best games ever released in the entire Star Wars franchise. It’s combination of story, gameplay, and production values make it a winner to this day, and you can get it now on GOG.com.

I remember playing X-Wing and it was a dream come true. Long had I desired the chance to experience what it would be like in the cockpit of a starfighter, and that game have me that chance to carrry out daring raids and rescue missions to my heart’s content. Then came along TIE Fighter, and I wasn’t too keen on it. It was about the bad guys…  

I was such a good kid.

Once I delved into TIE Fighter, I was entranced. There was more of everything. More variety in the missions and spacecraft, advanced weapons, tractor beams, better graphics, brand new starfighters to test, there was always something new to experience. And my qualms about flying for the enemy quickly dissolved since I got to fight lawless pirates and Imperial traitors just as often as I got to fly against that Rebel scum.
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Superficially, TIE Fighter is a space combat flight simulator. You spend most of the game in a cockpit tweaking your joystick, shield and weapon settings, and blessing target after target out of the stars. However, there is so much more going on than this. While you may spend time flying around outer space shooting things, there is also a larger story going on around you, and you always seem to be in the epicenter.

The story of TIE Fighter is what really makes it shine, and it’s one of the first Star Wars games to draw extensively to the Expanded Universe while also contributing significantly itself. Grand Admiral Thrawn, Lord Vader, and even the Emperor himself have designs and plans that involve you. By the end of the game, not only are you a hot shot pilot to rival the Skywalker clan, but about half of the Empire owes you a favor due to your fancy flying. Whether you are uncovering conspiracies or protecting the Emperor himself, you’re always uncovering more and more story.
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Missions are presented to you in the form of objectives, and most of the primary objectives you face are relatively straightforward and sometimes challenging. It’s the secondary goals, or even the elusive bonus goals that will keep you on the edge of your seat in order to defy the odds to inspect that one container before it gets torpedoed, or trying to keep your craft together through wave after wave fierce opposition so you can identify that mysterious shuttle at the mission’s end.

These things aren’t necessary, but they add a great value to the gameplay, and since most missions rarely replay exactly the same way, you’re bound to get some replay value. Furthermore, there are always tidbits of story presented to you between missions, or even in f un little FMVs that show informing cutscenes. Their quality is rather dubious nowadays, but they’re still well made and worth a view if you want to keep up with the Byzantine inner workings of Imperial intrigue.
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I have one quibble with the version of the game I got from GOG.com.  First, I must say I’ve been a fan of that site for years and they work diligently to bring us updated versions of classic games that run on our modern rigs, and my complaint in no way regards the folks there.

For the price of one, you get two versions, the original 1994, and an updated 1998 release that features updated textures and orchestral music by John Williams as featured in the next installment in the series, X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter. At first, these sound like a bonus, and in a way they are.

However, the 1996 CD ROM version of TIE Fighter is the one I grew up with. Though its Gouraud Shading isn’t as accurate as the newer textures when compared to the films, its metallic-ish sheen was sleeker, and in my opinion aged a bit better. Also, the original soundtrack was outstanding as well, and it reacted to events in the game to alter the musical mood accordingly. It’s a shame that the effort invested into those amazing features is overridden by the version we have now, but maybe the Good Old Games team will get that for us sometime down the road.

Overall, it’s been great to revisit one of the best games of my childhood, one of the best games ever. It’s synthesis of features gives one of the most engrossing, satisfying experiences a PC gamer could ever ask to have.  So get out there and clear the galaxy of those filthy pirates, insidious traitors, and that ever irritating Rebel scum.

Ninety 90’s Songs: It Still Ain’t Over, Lenny.

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Kids today have this image of Lenny Kravitz being this glamorous figure, a make up artist who makes Jennifer Lawrence look pretty in The Hunger Games. His role as Cinna is pretty good, but for me I still remember a different Lenny. This was a neo-funk be-dreadlocked Lenny who crooned and rocked his way through the 90’s.

#53 “It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over” by Lenny Kravitz. Released in 1991 on his second album “Mama Said”, this track is Lenny’s highest charting hit, reaching the #2 spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. While another famous 90’s crooner blocked his way to the top spot, I find this track to be more memorable.

Featuring the horn line from Earth, Wind & Fire (no Oxford comma?), the Phenix Horns, this song hearkens back to the classic sounds of the Soul genre. After much New Wave and electronic music from the 80’s, and with Hair Metal and House Music still dominating the music scene, “It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over” is a striking change to the prevailing tastes of the day, and obviously a satisfying one.

The video reminds me of those vintage live performances on Soul Train. Lenny is decked out in his Motown-esque attire. Seeing the section of strings whipping away with their bows really brings the song’s string arrangement alive in its sweeping, nostalgic glory. It’s a simple video, no cuts to black and white, just straight forward lipsynching and faux instrument-playing.

Lenny Kravitz continued to have several other hits, including “Are You Gonna Go My Way” from 1993, a hard-rocking electric guitar experience that has few rivals in its time. Even in decades beyond he’s remained a consistent figure in the music scene, even if he isn’t an overpowering superstar. Instead, he burns his creative flame steadily and consistently.

Like a Prince of the 90’s, Lenny ventured down many musical genres in his career, but unlike Prince, he’s never seemed to get too full of himself and burn out like a flash in the pan. Whatever else he may credit to his success, his eclecticism is also what makes him consistent, and this song is a hallmark of the timelessness his music embodies.

To Be Takei. Or Not To Be? That Is the Question.

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Some of us are afraid to be defined by some of our own features. It’s easy to imagine ourselves in caricature, like my childhood self who was ashamed of the freckles and big front teeth that surely would have dominated a comic sketch of my face.

George Takei is someone who could easily have let his life define him. He could have been a gay Asian man too ashamed of his orientation to pursue acting, and too burdened by the memory of being imprisoned by his own country for being Japanese-American to strive for anything more than to avoid further instances of racism.

Instead, he is a well known actor, activist for marriage equality and gay rights, and a devoted husband to his partner of over two decades. That certainly doesn’t seem like a man avoiding who he is.

In my family, George Takei is a household name. Unlike other children born in the 80’s my first major Star Trek experience was the original series instead of The Next Generation. That’s what happens when you live in a foreign country and have a VCR and the entire show on VHS, you binge watch episodes like candy. This normal for me and my parents.

So when George Takei came out in 2005, it was definitely interesting news for us, especially me, since Sulu was a childhood hero of mine alongside Spock and the gang.  Over the years, I watched as George stood up time and again, leveraging his reputation to advance important causes for gay people.

The documentary does a good job relating all of these things, not so much in chronological order as much as it tries to connect all of George’s pursuits to the reasons behind his passions. His family’s internment in concentration camps during World War 2 is a major inspiration for his current endeavor, the musical Allegiance. There is also his sexual orientation, which he had to hide during his early acting career, like so many others in that time.

While the documentary doesn’t showcase very much that was new, that can be attributed to the fact that George Takei is already quite open about himself. One point that did come through quite well was his sense of optimism he said he has maintained throughout his life. While it doesn’t hurt to be successful, there is something to be said for how much he attributes his own success to this optimism.

The fact that he is an activist for the gay community also shows that he understands that his success is something he can leverage to aid others who share his struggles. I still remember when he called out my home state of Tennessee, which attempted to outlaw the usage of the word “gay” in public schools. While my state still lags behind in the rights it extends to LGBT people, his campaign of “It’s okay to be Takei” still gives hope that even the most conservative states will be unable to conserve the bigotry that they hold as sacred.

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Overall, it was enjoyable to watch. George Takei has overcome racism and bigotry, has found success, love, and still makes time to pave the way for others to share in the opportunities he has had. This single documentary doesn’t make everything better for everyone, but perhaps it still serves as a beacon of hope for those languishing in the dark places where mysticism and hatred oppressively flourish.

Remembering that George Takei is a household name for me and my parents, as is everything Star Trek, it reminds me of when I noticed my father had liked George’s page on Facebook. This was before I had come out to my parents, and saw that my father, who had also grown up with Star Trek, had been able to look past race and sexuality  to have a good laugh every now and then from the hilarious content posted there. This gave me a inkling of the acceptance I would eventually get.

On the other hand, at a wedding several months later, after I had come out to my parents, I had an uncle of the backwards and conservative type come up and try to be chummy with me. The way he mentioned that my father and I followed “that George Takahashi-or-whatever-his-name-is” on Facebook was dripping with such racism and disdain that I realized some people will never wake up from their ignorance.

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It is people like that who can make us want to hide, or even change who we are. However, we all have a chance to be who we want sooner or later. While it may seem difficult to accept those things about us that others seem to hate, it starts starts with ourselves. If we all retreated from the truth of who we are, then there would be no documentary that charts the achievements of George, and it wouldn’t be okay to be Takei.