The Middle Age
By Roger Fanning
Between TV and computer screens
counterfeiting a dragon glow in our mouths agog
and fundamentalists dreaming up real
fire and smoke to transmogrify the U.S.A.,
we may be on our way to something else,
as people in the Middle Ages sensed the decay
of the feudal system. Little orange mushrooms
sprouted from castle mortar and lilies
festered, till BOOM, the Gutenberg Bible
blew the roof off the church. The big party
(individualism) began, and the bare naked
rodeo we now call the Renaissance
gave us—let's face it—the best art ever;
In 1620 F. Bacon posited three
inventions as the high tech hocus-pocus
behind society's sea change: printing, gunpowder,
and the magnet. That's right, the magnet.
Used in compasses, it made heavenly bodies
obsolete, thus exploration of the New
World easy as pie. I mention in passing
Columbus's packs of mastiffs and greyhounds
trained on human flesh (brown), but the main
needle that guides my life is the needle
of debt. True North: My Mortgage. I find myself
thinking of Las Vegas, where I might
bathe in lilac neon and wander
palaces, tickled by the bickering
roulette wheels and the final clicks.
And get free drinks. And catch a lion act.
And I would turn my back on all that,
sagely, and walk out in the desert,
letting my crow's feet crinkle ironically.
Out in the desert at sunset
the wind must sequin up a sandgrain
or two, and the prodigal prune-face moon
appear above a dune. Beautiful.
Poignant as hell. And I bet you can hear,
far-off, barking Lotto numbers
the Beast of the Apocalypse. Yes, yes,
a Vegas vacation might be just the thing. Yes,
but I recall my childhood most keenly:
Hansel and Gretel's predicament: luminous
breadcrumbs one by one blinking out, a bird
too dark to be seen.
I was a bad girl and spent way too much of the day watching TV. I was supposed to have lunch with gblvr but she couldn't make it, and while I was waiting for her, I put on Atonement to record and ended up watching the whole thing again. Then, when I went to exit out of the Comcast On Demand menu, I discovered that House of Games was available! That is one of my favorite movies of all time -- neo-noir that's even more dated now than it was when it was new, but it's superbly acted and just so stylish, a con game that's contingent on the audience liking the characters enough to willfully suspend disbelief and trust them just like a con game. And by then the kids were home and there was homework and stuff.
Musicians play the hammered dulcimer, fiddle, and pipe for visitors snacking on apples, pie, and corn bread.
Some of the house servants had come down to cut up apples show visitors how to roast apples over the fire.
Then the apples got dipped in pots of honey and eaten.
Field hands worked with teams of oxen...
...and horses like this one, a thoroughbred that used to race before coming to Mount Vernon.
Flax was being harvested, treated, and spun into rope.
And one of the slaves met visitors to the cabin she shared with her husband and six children to talk about the long hours they worked and how they stored and preserved their own food.
All of us watched The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which at moments came awfully close to a parody of itself -- John Connor in therapy! With the daughter of a Terminator! I kept waiting for the dialogue to go to the obvious place: "My mom's a murderous android who killed my real parents!" "Yeah, well, MY mom thinks I'm destined to save the world, so she won't let me date!" Then we watched Heroes, which continues to move in odd spirals that leave me strangely unmoved; the characters I used to like best are either dead or shadows of their former selves, the villains who used to be the most interesting are now spouting cliches. At least Hiro didn't kill Ando! And now we know Sylar and Peter both got their power-leeching power from Dad, who's even creepier than Mom, though Sylar's abrupt ability to control himself and turn to the good side after the freakout "I want to be special" we met first season just seems ridiculous to me, and it will be a relief when inevitably he becomes evil again.
At least Boston Legal was vastly more enjoyable than last week -- for one thing, I really like it when Shirley and to a lesser degree Carl and Jerry are around, and for another, Alan and Denny's bonding didn't come at the expense of Evil Woman Syndrome.
A man named Jason Canfield comes in asking for Crane or Poole but ends up with Schmidt, saying his brother was killed by a doctor's incompetence...the problem is that he died in a military hospital, and the Ferris Doctrine protects even military doctors who have admitted to malpractice. Alan tells Shirley that they can't win this case, since the Supreme Court has already ruled on the subject, but she thinks Jason deserves the firm's help. Meanwhile, Jerry's sister Joy comes to see him to tell him that her son, who was conceived via a sperm donor, is dating a girl, also conceived via a sperm donor, who looks so much like him that she is convinced they are half-brother and sister.
Wade, the lawyer from the pharmaceutical case that Alan won, is representing the military hospital. Denny bets Alan that he's sick of Alan suing the government and bets him $50,000 that he'll lose. The judge is prepared to dismiss the case but Shirley says that if people are going to fight and die in U.S. wars, they deserve an hour in court. (She gets it mostly because the opposing lawyer tells the judge that he should send Shirley to the legislature.) Shirley calls a recruiter who starts to testify that the military recruits heavily in poor neighborhoods where the kids have few other options, but the judge deems this testimony irrelevant and dismisses the witness. Over lunch, Wade tells Shirley that he can tell the unscrupulous Alan Shore conned her into taking this case, but he warns her that Alan is dragging her firm's reputation down and calls him a bad seed. Shirley insists that Alan is a principled and noble attorney and she is happy to take on his reputation. She refrains from accusing Wade of smarting from Alan's pharmaceutical victory.
But the judge demands to see counsel in chambers to ask if they have been wagering on the case, which Shirley forcefully denies until the judge asks Alan if he and Denny have a $50,000 bet. The judge says that he plans to recommend Alan for disbarment. Shirley is irate both at the impropriety and the insensitivity toward the dead soldier. Alan is equally furious when he goes to Denny, accusing him of bragging about the bet to cause Alan to lose the case, saying that Denny has sold him out. Shirley tells both men that they sicken her, and Alan storms out of Denny's office, telling Denny that he can't even look at him. When Denny visits Alan later, he is subdued, telling Alan that he's slipping -- he can't control his crazy behavior, he thinks he shouldn't be practicing law. Alan says that this is an overreaction and assures Denny that he was just angry; their friendship will survive Denny's poor judgment. They agree to keep the bet because Alan intends to win, but he demands that Denny promise not to tell Shirley.
Meanwhile, Jerry is told by the sperm bank that the privacy of anonymous donors is inviolable, so he takes them to court, having broken the news to his nephew and the nephew's girlfriend that they might share a biological father. He testifies that many donors make repeated deposits and some would-be parents always choose the same athletic man with an Ivy League degree. The sperm bank argues that none of these kids would exist without privacy protection because men wouldn't donate sperm, but Jerry's nephew says that no one ever consulted him about a contract that will deny him knowledge of relatives and diseases that run in his family. The judge agrees with Jerry that the laws need to be revisited; she refuses to force the sperm bank to reveal the biological fathers' identities, but says that Jerry's nephew and his girlfriend have a right to know if they share the same sperm donor. Unhappily for everyone, they do.
Wade says that challenging the Ferris Doctrine could affect national security, military discipline, and preparations for war, but Alan says that releasing the records about Private Canfield's death wouldn't do any of those things. He was healing from wounds sustained in Iraq when he was given the wrong medicine and injured by an incorrectly inserted breathing tube; even the hospital does not dispute these facts, and if it had happened to anyone who was not a GI, there would be a settlement. It's poor kids who are joining and dying (and John McCain wants to stop educational opportunities for GIs to keep them from having options, as Alan interjects), so of course no one in the legislature is challenging the Ferris Doctrine: it's not their kids dying but poor kids. The judge agrees and rules that the case should go forward.
Despite the victory, Shirley still isn't talking to Alan, though Denny is sure that she'll forgive them eventually and is more concerned about whether Alan has really forgiven him. He thinks they're overdue for a road trip, and when Rome is ruled, out, Denny suggests a dude ranch, with horses and sheep and fresh air and sheep. Alan says that he doesn't really like horses, but getting away is what they need. He adds that he doesn't think Denny is slipping.
It was with mixed feelings that I read in TV Guide that David E. Kelley will take his new legal series to NBC. CBS has given Kelley lots of freedom to do what he wants with Boston Legal, though apparently that was not the case with Life on Mars. I can't see how I can possibly love any show or cast more than Boston Legal though -- I didn't watch L.A. Law, didn't like Ally McBeal and didn't care about The Practice. I watch Boston Legal for the main cast, though I've liked all the supporting cast members too.