28 September 2010

How Much Do You Know?

I am not religious, never have been and most likely never will be. I have, however, researched most of the major religions just to become familiar with them. I mean, religion runs about 99% of the world (despite what you may think to the contrary) so I thought I should at least know something about it.

In the news today were the results from the recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. It quizzed 3,412 people on various elements of their own and other religions. Interestingly, the people who provided the most correct questions were atheists (lacking a belief in a god or gods) and agnostics (skeptical about the existence of a god or gods). Maybe they are like me wanting to find out as much as possible about the world around us rather than people who are content to go with what they are told.

You can do a short version of the quiz (with 15 random questions) here. How many can you get correct? I got 14 out of 15 (I would have had all of them if I hadn't changed my mind on one).

25 September 2010

The ORIGINAL "Big Bang Theory"

This is not going to turn into a "Big Bang Theory" blog -- even though it seems like 7 out of the last 10 postings have been about the show. No, the big news here is that we have FINALLY seen the original pilot episode that has been suppressed for lo, these many years.

At the time of our totally awesome, full-day tour of the Warner Brothers studios last October we had been trying unsuccessfully for months to get tickets for a taping of the show. So, we asked our wonderful tour guide if he had any. He said: "No. That's one of the hardest tickets to get. There's a great story behind that show. It's been knocking around the lot for years ever since the first pilot episode." First pilot? What was he talking about?

Our guide told how the pilot had a totally different atmosphere, it was dark, the neighbor next door was drunk and abrasive and it did not sell. He said that Warner Brothers asked for a second pilot (which studios nearly never do, but which Paramount did, for example, with the original "Star Trek" television series in the 1960s).

We asked whether that original neighbor had also been Kaley Cuoco. He said no. When we asked who it was, he said they were not allowed to talk about it -- which seemed all mysterious. He said they never talk about pilots that don't sell to avoid embarrassing the actors who were in them. Hmmm.

Once we got home, I found references to that original female actor (Amanda Walsh, pictured) but could not find the episode.

Last night, Matt stumbled on some YouTube clips of this mysterious unaired pilot that seemed funny, although too short to give a good idea of the show.

This a.m. I hunted around and finally found lots and lots of sites offering the unaired pilot -- and quickly discovered that the Warner Brothers lawyers got to them first as nearly all had a notice that the file was removed due to some violation or other.

You will note I said "nearly" all: Yes, we found a site in a country that is written in a language that I not only do not speak, but also do not recognize.

The main cast is small and includes Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki. It has Walsh as the female protagonist (NOT the next door neighbor) and a very funny turn by someone I have never heard of named Iris Bahr who plays Leonard's co-researcher. (She probably evolved into the character played by Sara Gilbert.)

After watching it, I can say it is not half as bad as people have said. I can understand why it did not work, but it was not the performance of Walsh (she was pretty good); rather the character. BBT works today (and is the number one comedy in America despite what the cover of the recent "Entertainment Weekly" posits) because the scientists are fish out of water, and Penny (the neighbor) is totally "normal." The original pilot has fish-out-of-water scientists coupled with a boozy abrasive drunk bitch who is also a fish-out-of-water. With all these fish flapping about on the sand, there is nothing to play against. It is the interaction between abnormal and normal that makes BBT work.

Of course, the addition of two more male scientists (Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg) was an excellent choice because all four guys are fish-out-of-water for different reasons. That gives the writers lots to play with.

The next question is "why is this pilot not on any of the season DVDs?" Personally, I think it is a testament to the brilliance of the show's creators (Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady) that they gave a few tweaks to "almost right" and made it "fabulous." Warner Brothers should be proud of what they encouraged and should share it with BBT fans.

In addition, I think it would be pretty sweet to have an episode with Walsh and Bahr as guest stars. They did pretty good with their roles and deserve to be officially part of the show.

You can see the original unaired pilot here -- unless the Warner Brothers lawyers have been working overtime.

18 September 2010

Falling Off Horses

Friday we got our own copy of season three of "The Big Bang Theory" which is, hands down, the funniest show on television. We have all the seasons, but season three is even more special because it contains the episode for which we were in the taping audience. Sweet!

We always watch the extras first, and in this set there is a short question-and-answer segment in which the cast provide information about themselves and their characters. One question for Kaley Cuoco asked what she would be doing if she were not an actor. "I don't know," she said, "probably something to do with horses, because I love horses." The irony here is that just last week she fell of a horse and broke her leg!

Get well, Kaley!

You can read about our visit to Burbank and a taping of the show here, here, and here.

17 September 2010

"Heart Speaks to Heart"

This is rich:

This Sunday, the pope will beatify a man named John Henry Newman (1801 - 1890). This means Newman will officially be raised a little higher above normal humans, and one step closer to being named a saint. What's great about this is that Newman may be the first (person reasonably thought to be a) homosexual to be given such an honor.

Evidence of this comes from several sources: he lived with a man (Ambrose St. John ) for 32 years, he was devastated at St. John's death, and he wrote about his feelings for St. John, saying "I have always thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's, but I feel it difficult to believe that anyone's sorrow can be greater than mine." He even went so far as to request he be buried in the same grave as St. John.

Wait -- it gets better: the author of a new biography of Newman says that despite the fact that they lived together for more than three decades, they were not physically gay. John Cornwell, the author, says "Having read ... 32 volumes of (letters), I can't find any clear evidence of a sexual physical relationship" because, of course, back in the 19th century homosexuals ALWAYS wrote very clearly and definitively about their physical sexual activities.

I am gay and proud of that fact. I have written about my sexual orientation in my public journalism and other writings dating back to at least 1984; but I guarantee you no one reading those millions of published words would have any clue as to the actual sexual activity in which I engage. So, 100 years later, in an age where gay men and lesbian women are free to write about their feelings, you cannot find any evidence of my sexual activities; so, why would you expect to find them in the late 1800s -- between two male members of a religious order?

My understanding is that gays can be made saints; it's just that none (publicly acknowledged to be gay) have -- yet.

NPR did a piece about this story today, which you can hear here.

14 September 2010

Somewhere There's a Hat

We've been loyal and happy subscribers with Netflix since 2000 -- about a year after they started their subscription service. It was Matt's idea. I was hesitant not because I didn't like them; rather, we already had a VHS and cable service. What did we need DVD rental for?

Of course, my attitude has changed since then. Not only is Netflix the best thing that we ever did entertainment-wise, it continues to be an important part of our entertainment planning. In fact, ever since we went off satellite (only digital broadcast for us, now) we are streaming even more from Netflix -- along with getting discs in the mail.

Slate recently did a nice profile of the naysayers who have predicted the demise of Netflix for years. This came as a surprise to me because I just cannot see any negative element of this great service. You can click here for an interesting review of the premature obits written for Netflix.

11 September 2010

Jack Benny Live

This is totally priceless. Recently we were watching old installments of The March of Time on Turner Classic Movies (RIP). On one from May 1943, there were brief clips of Jack Benny and his cast doing an episode of their radio show. So, I went hunting online and found footage from a different episode of the Jack Benny show -- this one from 12 April 1942. (The links are below.)

It is amazing to be able to see the actual live version of a broadcast which I have heard a dozen times. How cool is it to watch Jack, Mary Livingstone, Don Wilson, Eddie Anderson and (surprise!) a brief glimpse of Frank Nelson! (If you don't know who he is, it is really hard to explain. You'ld probably recognize his voice.)

01 September 2010


Matt and I were having a discussion just the other day about how some people have no idea how to use the "best if used by" or "sell by" dates on food. I know people who will throw out perfectly good food just because today's date is one day beyond the "best if used by" date.

No. Food can be good for many weeks beyond the "best if used by" or "sell by" dates. Industry probably relies on the confusion around these dates to sell more food products.

My rule of thumb is this: if it looks good, smells good and tastes good then it is still good. Modern refrigeration can keep food fresh for weeks! I think common sense is in order.

You can read more about what these dates really mean here.