Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tandava's Guide to The Zone -- Part III, New Year's Day (7pm through 6am 1/2/11)

So I made some changes to Part I and Part II of my New Year's Twilight Zone Guide, which reviews all of the Twilight Zone episodes to be aired on SyFy this weekend.

I added the "blue" category to Part I (i.e. episodes that are not great, but are worth watching for good performances). And, once again, if you are reading this entry in my FB Notes and want to see all the pretty colors, please view it here.

Plus I added IMDB links to all the actor and series' names, as well as jump links to the short lists in both parts so you can quickly get to the descriptions without scrolling.

Now, if you recall, Part I covers episodes airing New Year's Eve from 8am through Midnight.

Part II covers episodes on New Year's Day from Midnight through 7pm.

Part III covers episodes airing 7pm through 6am Sunday morning --  and SyFy has indeed saved many of the best for last! There are so many good episodes that my "short" list is not so short!!

It includes:

(1) Episodes on the Time Top 10 List -- These are the acknowledged classics; titles and times are red with bold underline.

(2) My Personal Favorite Episodes -- These are underrated gems with strong scripts and beautiful performances; titles and times are fuchsia with bold italics.

(3) Episodes Worth Watching -- These have flawed scripts or execution, but often have strong performances and/or ideas; titles and times are blue with bold.

My Favorites -- Not-So-Short List

7:00 PM -- The Invaders
7:30 PM -- Five Characters In Search Of An Exit
8:00 PM -- The Odyssey Of Flight 33
8:30 PM -- Where Is Everybody?
9:00 PM -- To Serve Man
9:30 PM -- Time Enough At Last
10:00 PM -- Nightmare At 20,000 Feet
10:30 PM -- Living Doll
11:30 PM -- The Obsolete Man
12:00 AM -- The After Hours
12:30 AM -- Death's-Head Revisited
1:00 AM -- Two
1:30 AM -- Mirror Image
2:00 AM -- The Changing Of The Guard
3:00 AM -- The Lonely
4:30 AM -- Nothing In The Dark

Full List -- With Descriptions

7:00 PM -- The Invaders -- Agnes Moorehead's virtuoso 25-minute wordless monologue; riveting with a slick twist at the end. #4 on the Time list

7:30 PM -- Five Characters In Search Of An Exit -- A soldier, a clown, a tramp, a bagpiper and a ballerina wake to find themselves in a doorless empty room. Well-played and engaging.

8:00 PM -- The Odyssey Of Flight 33 -- A 707 picks up a freak tail wind and travels back in time. Run-of-the-mill by modern sci-fi standards, but notable for its apparently realistic cockpit dialogue created by Serling's aviation writer brother, Robert Serling.

8:30 PM -- Where Is Everybody? -- Guy finds himself alone in an empty town, with hints of residents recently present (lit cigarette in ashtray, etc.). Eerie and amusing, most worth watching because this is the pilot that sold the series to CBS.

9:00 PM -- To Serve Man -- Aliens come to earth offering solutions to all the world's woes; their trouble-entendre mission: "To serve man." An undisputed classic, #3 on the Time list.

9:30 PM -- Time Enough At Last -- Burgess Meredith at his lovable best as a devoted bookworm constantly thwarted by his boss, wife, and everyone else -- until a touch of armageddon gives him new lease on life. #9 on the Time list.

10:00 PM -- Nightmare At 20,000 Feet -- "There's a man out on the wing!!" Shatner at his whiteknuckle best. #7 on the Time list.

10:30 PM -- Living Doll -- "My name is Talky Tina -- and you'd better be nice to me!" Telly Savalas takes on June Foray's creepy voiced doll. This one gave me nightmares. #6 on the Time list.

11:00 PM -- A Stop At Willoughby -- Beleagured exec finds himself in his childhood hometown. Similar to "Walking Distance" but trades insight for sentiment. Some people really like this one; I can do without it.

11:30 PM -- The Obsolete Man -- The superb Burgess Meredith is back to his book-loving ways, this time as a librarian in a dystopic totalitarian future, where both he and his books are declared obsolete.

12:00 AM -- The After Hours -- Stunning Anne Francis finds herself wandering the non-existent floors of a creepy department store. (Wait... is that mannequin watching me??)

12:30 AM -- Death's-Head Revisited -- Former Nazi captain's trot down memory lane via Dachau brings him to some unexpected denizens. Top-notch performances by Joseph Schildkraut and Oscar Beregi Jr.

1:00 AM -- Two -- Apocalypse survivors Charles Bronson and Elizabeth Montgomery approach each other warily in this sparsely written, beautifully acted episode.

1:30 AM -- Mirror Image -- Frightened bus traveller Vera Miles (best known as Janet Leigh's Psycho sister) is sure an evil doppelgänger is trying to replace her. Top-notch acting and direction.

2:00 AM -- The Changing Of The Guard -- It's A Wonderful Life meets Goodbye, Mr. Chips, TZ-style. Sweet, sentimental, with beautiful acting by Donald Pleasence.

2:30 AM -- Twenty-Two -- Recovering dancer is troubled by prescient dreams. "Room for one more, honey!" Shrill performances, flat writing. Mediocre tale best suited to Internet urban myth.

3:00 AM -- The Lonely -- Convict Jack Warden spends lonely days on an asteroid until his supply ship pal brings him a realistic robot -- in the ethereally beautiful form of a young Jean Marsh (best known as Rose from Upstairs, Downstairs). A touching, romantic story. Features Ted Knight as an obnoxious crew member.

3:30 AM -- Dead Man's Shoes -- Bum dons dead gangster's wing-tips and finds himself stepping into the thug's revenge-thirsty life. You might feel bad for the bum if you find yourself caring about anything in this one.

4:00 AM -- Hocus-Pocus and Frisby -- A braggart gas station attendant's tales of prowess are believed by some seriously gullible aliens who want to take him home as a specimen of Earth's finest.

4:30 AM -- Nothing In The Dark -- Aging Gladys Cooper tries to keep Death at bay by shutting her door -- until angelically beautiful Robert Redford shows up. I guarantee, it's not his acting that convinces her to open up..... Worth watching for her nuanced performance -- and his mesmerizing good looks!

5:00 AM -- Ninety Years Without Slumbering -- Ed Wynn fears that if his heirloom grandfather clock stops ticking, so will his heart! Pragmatic pregnant daughter sends him to a shrink for some serious de-Zoning. Too bad. According to Marc Scott Zicree, the original superior script stayed within (and was worthy of) the Zone.

5:30 AM -- The Last Rights Of Jeff Myrtlebank -- Small town home boy James Best wakes up at his own funeral, and seems much improved by the experience! Cute, folksy tale.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tandava's Guide to The Zone -- Part II, New Year's Day (Midnight to 7pm)

Continuing the list from yesterday's entry, below is a complete list of the Twilight Zone episodes to be aired on SyFy from midnight New Year's Day through 7pm.

A third entry will follow covering 7pm through 6am Sunday morning (this is very time-consuming, but I'm passionate about my Zone, and I've been meaning to do this for years).

First is the short list including the Time Top 10, my personal favorites, and other noteworthy episodes.

Since the colored fonts do not get picked up in the Facebook feed (and if you are reading this entry in my FB Notes and want to see all the pretty colors, please view it here), I'm adding additional formatting.

So, the categories are:

(1) Episodes on the Time Top 10 List -- These are the acknowledged classics; titles and times are red with bold underline.

(2) My Personal Favorite Episodes -- These are underrated gems with strong scripts and beautiful performances; titles and times are fuchsia with bold italics.

(3) Episodes Worth Watching -- These have flawed scripts or execution, but often have strong performances and/or ideas; titles and times are blue with bold.

My Favorites -- Short List

12:00 AM -- The Midnight Sun
1:00 AM -- Long Distance Call
1:30 AM -- One For The Angels
2:00 AM -- Night Of The Meek
3:00 AM -- Night Call
5:00 AM -- The Grave
6:00 AM -- Judgment Night
6:30 AM -- Long Live Walter Jameson
7:30 AM -- A Quality Of Mercy
10:30 AM -- A World Of His Own
11:30 AM -- Mr. Denton On Doomsday

2:00 PM -- Mr. Dingle, The Strong
2:30 PM -- People Are Alike All Over
3:30 PM -- A Game Of Pool
4:00 PM -- Number Twelve Looks Just Like You
4:30 PM -- Nick Of Time
5:30 PM -- The Dummy
6:30 PM -- Kick The Can

Full List -- With Descriptions

12:00 AM -- The Midnight Sun -- Earth has been knocked off its orbit and is gradually approaching the sun. Thermometers pop, a painting melts off its canvas (this is actually a painted wax tablet on a hot plate!), but this apocalyptic tale is most interesting for its relationships -- an excellent script, beautifully acted.

12:30 AM -- Third From The Sun -- Trigger-happy world leaders have their finger on the button! Doomsday is near! Time for a select few to secretly gather their families to escape to a nearby planet. Hm... now what planet would that be..?

1:00 AM -- Long Distance Call -- Creepy dead gramma wants her favorite grandson to be with her forever, and conveys her wishes via a toy phone. (Now if only Billy Mumy -- TZ's favorite child actor -- could wish her into the cornfield!)

1:30 AM -- One For The Angels -- One of TZ's more successful dark comedies features Ed Wynn as a fast-talking salesman who must use his skills to save a child's life.

2:00 AM -- Night Of The Meek -- Down-and-out department store Santa, Art Carney, loses his job but finds a bag of gifts and plays Santa one last time for the neighborhood kiddies. But is it just an act? Beautiful, touching episode.

2:30 AM -- Nightmare As A Child -- Freaky, annoying brat spooks schoolteacher. Or does the marm have more to fear? Find out, if you can stay awake through this snoozer.

3:00 AM -- Night Call -- Originally called "Sorry Right Number," this careful-what-you-wish for tale features calls from beyond and a beautiful performance by Gladys Cooper. It has also been recycled as internet glurge.

3:30 AM -- Probe 7 Over and Out -- Stranded astronaut Richard Basehart, meets hostile alien female on deserted planet. She hurls rocks at him. Or maybe it's just foreplay. Now, what shall we call this place...? The same story is better told in "Two."

4:00 AM -- The Rip Van Winkle Caper -- It's Treasure of the Sierra Madre with suspended animation and blah writing. Good performances and a fun twist at the end make it sort of worth watching.

4:30 AM -- I Am the Night - Color Me Black -- Murderous bigotry, hatred and fear are bad things. OK. We get it.

5:00 AM -- The Grave --Spooky old west tale of a dare gone bad, featuring James Best, Lee Van Cleef and Lee Marvin. Also recycled on the internet.

5:30 AM -- The Fear -- Reclusive writer and state trooper battle giant (or maybe not-so-giant) aliens in this bottom-of-the-barrel turkey.

6:00 AM -- Judgment Night -- Nehemiah Persoff just knows a nearby U-boat will blast his passenger steamer. But no one one board will believe him! (And exactly how does he know anyway...?) Excellent performances, great ending and a sweet cameo by The Avengers' Patrick MacNee.

6:30 AM -- Long Live Walter Jameson -- TZ's most successful working of the "morality of mortality" theme features fine performances, a strong script and a touch of righteous revenge.

7:00 AM -- The Arrival -- Mystery plane lands itself at airport. Could it all just be an illusion? Ummm... maybe...

7:30 AM -- A Quality Of Mercy -- In WWII Philippines brash Lieutenant Dean Stockwell learns to walk a mile in the other guy's army boots. Good performances all around, plus a pre-Spock Leonard Nimoy in a bit part.

8:00 AM -- The Fugitive -- Cinderella story, sci-fi style. Not great; not terrible.

8:30 AM -- The Gift -- Mexicans fear an (ahem) illegal alien. Too bad, cuz he could have really helped you guys... Crappy script, wooden performances. Skip it.

9:00 AM -- Black Leather Jackets -- Bad leather-clad alien (dressed this way to "blend") falls for local girl in this not-quite-Avatar.

9:30 AM -- A Piano In The House -- Enchanted ivories reveal uncomfortable secrets; akin to "What's in the Box" and "A Kind of Camera", and slightly better than either.

10:00 AM -- The Shelter -- "Maple Street" meets the lazy grasshopper. The industrious ant of this tale has built a bomb shelter for his family, and his neighbors scoff -- until there is an emergency... Bloated prose and one-dimensional characters make this a must-miss.

10:30 AM -- A World Of His Own -- Sweet story about the reality of reality features the only time Serling interacts with his characters.

11:00 AM -- A Short Drink From A Certain Fountain -- Here we go again with the be-careful-what-you-wish-for theme. Rich geezer wants to keep up with his greedy vain young wife; comeuppance awaits them both.

11:30 AM -- Mr. Denton On Doomsday -- Touching old west tale about top-gunslinger-turned-town-drunk finding redemption. Fine performances by Dan Duryea, Martin Landau and Doug McClure.

12:00 PM -- I Shot An Arrow Into The Air -- Three astronauts survive a crash on an asteroid (where the atmosphere and gravity are the same as on Earth, but no one notices this). Limited provisions stir bloodthirsty behavior. Yes, Rod, people in crisis are just no darned good.

12:30 PM -- The Little People -- Ego and physical relativity clash in this memorable (though mediocre) episode, which has been lampooned  in The Simpsons, South Park, and Futurama. Good performance by Claude Akins.

1:00 PM -- A Kind Of Stopwatch -- Blabbering bore gets comeuppance via magical timepiece. Even The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything was better than this turkey.

1:30 PM -- The 7th Is Made Up Of Phantoms -- Spooked National Guard tank crew gets drafted into Custer's 7th Cavalry. Big whoop.

2:00 PM -- Mr. Dingle, The Strong -- Loud-mouthed salesman pisses away alien gifts on trivial feats. Worth watching for an adorable Burgess Meredith and amusing (and very young) Don Rickles.

2:30 PM -- People Are Alike All Over -- Astronaut Roddy McDowall crashes on populous Mars, and consoles his fears with the thought that Martians (who include the radiant Susan Oliver) and humans must be "alike" ...

3:00 PM -- Stopover In A Quiet Town -- At least it was quiet until this nattering couple woke up in a strange house with no memory of how they got there, and no one to ask where they are, or why the grass is made of papier-mâché. And if they'd shut up for two seconds, we just might care....

3:30 PM -- A Game Of Pool -- Taut two-person drama about winning and losing, and what's really important in the game of life. Fine performances by Jack Klugman and Jonathan Winters. Not crazy about the ending; the real (and better) ending was done in the 80s TZ version.

4:00 PM -- Number Twelve Looks Just Like You -- Dystopic utopia where everyone is beautifully identical and lifts their pretty mugs with a glass of Instant Smile. Mediocre script saved by Collin Wilcox's terrific performance.

4:30 PM -- Nick Of Time -- A charming script and low-key performance by pre-Kirk William Shatner (yes, I used "low-key" and "Shatner" in the same sentence) grace this cautionary tale about superstition and self-determination.

5:00 PM -- The Bewitchin' Pool -- Worst. Episode. Ever. Even To Kill a Mockingbird's Oscar-nominated Mary Badham couldn't save this dismal excuse for a story. Spoiled brats escape manipulative divorcing parents by finding their way to SuperGrandma via an enchanted pool. Now, if Grandma dumped the tots in an oven, then we might have a story....

5:30 PM -- The Dummy -- Cliff Robertson as a troubled ventriloquist whose creepy dummy will simply not stay in the box.

6:00 PM -- Little Girl Lost -- Little girl has slipped into another dimension. Can her parents and conveniently present physicist pal rescue her before the portal closes forever? Decent script but bland acting. Tune in for the final 10 minutes for all you need to know.

6:30 PM -- Kick The Can -- Timeless story about rest home residents learning that you are indeed as young as you feel. "Look! Think! Feel! Doesn't that wake some sleeping part of you?!"

Tandava's Guide to The Zone -- Part I, New Year's Eve

It's that time of year! Champagne corks will fly and balls will drop, and many of us will spend at least some time in The Zone.

This year, as every year, SyFy (formerly the Science Fiction Channel, or SciFi) will air 88 episodes for its New Year's Twilight Zone marathon, starting 8am on 12/31 and ending at 6am on 1/2. So that's a lot of Serling for your dollar... but how do you tell the quality from the clunkers?

Unfortunately, SyFy is not airing any of the beautiful hour-long episodes from Season 4, but there are still classics aplenty among the half-hour episodes. All ten of Time Magazine's Top Twilight Zone Episodes will be featured (they are in red), along with some lesser known beauties like "The Masks" and "In Praise of Pip", (in fuchsia), and finally a few that are not perfect, but have notable performances (in blue).

Here is a short list of my favorite episodes which will be aired on Friday, December 31st, followed by a full list of all episodes, with brief descriptions and hopefully not too many spoilers. Celebrity names and other items of interest are bolded.

In a few days, I'll post a rundown of episodes to be aired from 1/1 through the morning of 1/2.

Happy Zoning!

My Favorites -- Short List

9:30 AM -- A Thing About Machines
10:30 AM -- And When The Sky Was Opened
12:30 PM -- In Praise Of Pip
3:30 PM -- A Penny For Your Thoughts
4:30 PM -- Walking Distance
5:00 PM -- A Hundred Yards Over The Rim
6:30 PM -- It's A Good Life
7:00 PM -- Eye Of The Beholder
7:30 PM -- The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street
10:00 PM -- The Hitch-hiker
11:30 PM -- The Masks

Full List -- With Descriptions

8:00 AM -- Perchance To Dream – Neat psychodrama with some freaky felinesque dream sequences.

8:30 AM -- The Four Of Us Are Dying – Guy who can change his face learns he can’t change his scumbag nature.

9:00 AM -- The Fever – Well-acted but ultimately hokey morality play about gambling addiction.

9:30 AM -- A Thing About Machines – One of my all-time faves about a guy who beats up on his machines -- which, in 1960, was his typewriter, electric razor, TV and car -- and they gang up to have their revenge. I have to wonder what this episode would look like today! ("Now, why don’t you get out of here, Finchley!!")

10:00 AM -- What's In The Box – Lame and ridiculous episode about a couple’s bickering leading to accidental murder and capital punishment. Freaky TV predicts it all. There, now you don’t have to watch it and aren’t you glad?

10:30 AM -- And When The Sky Was Opened – Well played, creepy episode about astronauts returning to earth… or did they? Or were they ever here? Or were you?? TZ makes us question our grasp of reality.

11:00 AM -- Ring-a-ding Girl – Medium episode about movie star returning to her home town and throwing a “celebrate me” party. Or is she? Even though it’s not great, I always find myself watching this one all the way through.

11:30 AM -- Escape Clause – I only like this one because I like David Wayne, but it’s not a great episode, just a grim morality play about the value of mortality. *Yawn!*

12:00 PM -- Mr. Garrity And The Graves – A more humorous take on the “value of mortality” theme, plus “be careful what you wish for.”

12:30 PM -- In Praise Of Pip – I LOVE this episode. I REALLY love this episode (and did I mention I love this episode?). Jack Klugman delivers a top-notch, tragic performance as a dying no-good trying to do right by his serviceman son, Pip (a much less fearsome Billy Mumy). Sweet, sad magical ending.

1:00 PM -- Queen Of The Nile – Dopey episode about life-sucking millennia-old Egyptian queen. Blah blah blah. Skip it. "Long Live Walter Jameson" handles the material much more skillfully.

1:30 PM -- A Nice Place To Visit – Another “be careful what you wish for” morality tale about what Hell might really be like.

2:00 PM -- The Last Flight – Well-acted drama about WWI fighter pilot who lands in 1960s England. Should he return to save his squadron? You betcha!

2:30 PM -- Mr. Bevis – Loser gets all he desires (money, nice apartment), only to learn he can’t be his true whackadoo self and keep up appearances. Moral: Enjoy who you are.

3:00 PM -- The Old Man In The Cave – Confused story set in a post-apocalyptic future of 1974 (!!!). Town listens to the “old man” until soldiers tell them not to be superstitious – and it doesn’t work out well for anyone. What’s the message? Don’t trust your own perceptions? Ugh. Only worth watching for a young James Coburn.

3:30 PM -- A Penny For Your Thoughts – Not a classic, but one of my favorites, featuring a young Dick York (the first Darren from Bewitched.)

4:00 PM -- The Hunt – This mediocre folksy tale by The Waltons creator Earl Hamner Jr. has been recycled as internet glurge. Guy and dog have died and are walking along the road to heaven. Guy at pearly gate says, “No dogs allowed.” Guy says, “I ain’t going nowhere without my hound…” Sheesh.

4:30 PM -- Walking Distance – I LOVE this episode, a classic (#8 on the Time list) about a frustrated exec who, longing for his boyhood days, visits his hometown – only to find himself a grown-up amidst his own childhood. Insightful lesson about valuing the present and not romanticizing the past.

5:00 PM -- A Hundred Yards Over The Rim – Underrated episode featuring a very young Cliff Robertson as a pioneer dad who will go yards, miles and years to heal his ailing son.

5:30 PM -- A Most Unusual Camera – Idiotic episode about three greedy idiots undone by a magic camera. Hokey, ridiculous, predictable ending. Skip it.

6:00 PM -- I Sing The Body Electric – Sweet episode about robot nanny lovingly bonding with tots.

6:30 PM -- It's A Good Life – One of the most famous episodes (#2 on the Time list) featuring little Billy Mumy as a terrifying child who can create and destroy at will. The brilliant Cloris Leachman is his petrified mother. (“That’s a good thing you did… A real good thing… Now please wish it into the cornfield!).

7:00 PM -- Eye Of The Beholder – A classic (#10 on the Time list) about the relativity of beauty, the lengths we will go to be beautiful – or to at least conform – and the dangers of conformity. Note: the girl at the end (Donna Douglas, of Beverly Hillbillies) is a different actress than the one under the bandages (Maxine Stuart), but she speaks in her own voice -- doing a very good impression of Stuart!

7:30 PM -- The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street – #1 on the Time list. The text of one is included in grade-school anthologies. Beautifully written masterpiece about fearing thy neighbor. The brilliant Claude Akins is considered the lead, though it is a true ensemble piece. Don’t miss it.

10:00 PM -- The Hitch-hiker –A driver keeps seeing the same hitch-hiker thumbing a ride as she heads west…. A deliciously Hitchcockian morality/mortality play about fear and acceptance.

10:30 PM -- Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up – This was voted 8.5 on the IMDB, but I think it’s dopey and ridiculous. Bus passengers are stranded at a diner – but there is one too many. Oh, and rumor has it that a spacecraft crashed nearby. Give me a break.

11:00 PM -- The Howling Man – A visitor to a monastery is disturbed to find the monks have a screaming guy locked up. Well, they must have a good reason… A lot of people like this one. I think it’s pretty meh. Features John Carradine as a monk.

11:30 PM -- The Masks -- One of the GREAT underrated episodes, and the only TZ episode to be directed by a woman, Ida Lupino (she also starred in “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine”, which is not featured in this marathon). A crusty millionaire geezer tells his greedy family he will die before Mardi Gras is over – but they must wear freaky custom masks through the evening if they want to claim their inheritance.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tokyo Story Part I: How PURE Reflections Came to Japan

"Japan beckons cold-footed Carol!"

It is the evening of Wednesday, September 22nd -- barely three days after our Big PURE Weekend of workshops and shows (which I organized and hosted) and I am still catching my breath.

And now, I was going to Japan.

The Monday before, I'd learned that Kaeshi, PURE's Artistic Director, had been approached by Lâle Sayoko, a well-known Japanese dancer and member of PURE, about bringing PURE Reflections to Japan.

Lâle had seen the show and performed with us earlier that year and found the experience so powerful that she had determined to share it with her sisters in PURE Tokyo (PURE's only international chapter -- so far! :-> ). And now her dream was becoming a reality -- more quickly than anyone could have imagined!

Kaeshi, it turned out, was going to be in the Far East for Jillina's Bellydance Evolution show in December, and had been approached to teach a few workshops in Osaka. And while she realized it would not be feasible to bring the entire 30-person cast of dancers and musicians to Japan, it might be possible, she thought, to mount it with a Japanese cast.

"Do you think one week will be enough?" she asked as we headed through Cooper Square Monday night.

"Well... they would really need to understand the show," I replied, "It would take a lot of preparation in the weeks beforehand..."

"I know..." she winced a little.

"Well, you're not doing it without me."

Her eyes popped. "Really? Would you really do that?"

"Sure," I said, "I mean ... I can't let you do it alone."

We checked airline prices that evening. $980! My account wasn't exactly flush, but the show was more important. And even with two people at the helm, mounting PURE Reflections would be an herculean task.

Then I started to worry... What if the dancers aren't that committed? What if it all falls apart in the eight weeks between now and then?

Then my paranoia set in.

I wrote Kaeshi:  "I just checked prices and it says $980... was that what it was yesterday, or did it go up like $100 already?"

Her measured response followed moments later: "It is the same price as yesterday. It did not go up..."

I was bursting.

"I am getting slightly cold feet about this," I dithered, "... it's happening a lot faster than I'd thought. Feeling very nervous..."

Her next message warmed my soles: "I think at this point, it's safe to go ahead and buy that ticket. The dancers are already all rearranging their work schedules to suit what I posted about rehearsals... Japan beckons cold-footed Carol! Catching a plane is much like riding a subway, only it looks and sounds a lot different on the other side..."

Well OK then!

And I bought the ticket.

At the next PURE-NYC meeting, Kaeshi asked if any other members would like to take the Tokyo plunge, and the bravehearted Pacita -- who turned out to be an extraordinary Assistant Director -- stepped up. And after a similar announcement during the PURE facilitator weekly web conference our team doubled in size, with Brian and Misha from Sarasota joining, as well Katie from Connecticut (who had hosted the show in May).

And we were on our way!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bizarro Help Desk Ticket of the Week

Sometimes, my job makes me channel my inner-Dr. House (only without the whole life-and-death thing... although lawyers certainly like to convince you that everything is life-and-death, but I digress....)

Last week, a Help Desk ticket came in from a secretary at the law firm where I work complaining that "dots" were appearing on her Client Bill printouts, just above the total figure.

"I can't send out a quarter-million dollar bill to a client with dots on it!" she bleated.

First, the Help Desk sent the ticket to Hardware Support, figuring there was something wrong with the printer. But then they printed another bill on regular paper, and there were no dots. So then they figured there was something wrong with Microsoft Word, and the ticket came to my department.

"You know this is probably a Hardware problem," my coworker groaned.

"Probably," I shrugged and went up to visit the secretary who was now pulling out her hair.

She showed me the printed culprit:

Printer Issue -- The Crime

"See!" she brandished the forlorn stationery, "Dots!"

I groaned a little. Was it really such a big deal? Yeah, I had to admit -- I'd be a little put off if I were a client receiving a motley bill for a figure larger than my mortgage....

I ran a few more tests -- each time eating up more stationery, which made the secretary grumble since the bill sheets are logged and numbered and must all be accounted for. So I started running through ones that had already been printed, several at a time -- and I noticed the dots didn't appear every time.

And they only appeared just above the Total figure on the pre-printed side of the stationery, containing Firm letterhead, various disclaimers, instructions and a blank line for the date.

I tried printing on the back of the stationery. No dots.

Then I noticed a pattern.

The Bill template has always given us grief because the stationery's Date line is so close to the top margin. In Word, we -- the unfortunate few responsible for configuring Word -- set the margin in the Bill as high as it will go (usually a quarter-inch), but most printers don't like this and push it down -- because printers have their own margin settings.

When Word has a tug-of-war with a printer, you end up with tiny differences from page to page -- something that doesn't usually make a difference until you're dealing with pre-printed stationery and picky secretaries.

So, in every case where the "dots" appeared, the Date looked like this:

Printer Issue - The Culprit

Whenever the date cleared the line, there were no "dots."

And I realized that the "dots" were, in fact, a tiny remnant of the date text -- exactly where the type hit the pre-printed line.

In short, it was  printer issue. Or, more accurately, a fuser issue.

I don't know much about laser printers, but my guess is that the fuser wasn't running hot enough. The fuser is supposed to burn the toner particles onto the paper, but this printer was not able to burn into pre-printed bits of the stationery. So the toner stuck to the rollers, only to get burned onto the next part of the paper they rolled onto -- which, coincidentally, was directly above the Total line.

The temporary fix:  Move up the date even higher and print only one at a time so you don't have the roving margin effect.

The permanent fix: Get a new fuser.

In other words, it was a Hardware problem.

So. There.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

October-November Events Archive

Friday, October 1st @ 11pm
Dancing at Lafayette Grill
54 Franklin Street (3 block south of Canal), NYC
No Cover/2-Drink Minimum

Sunday, October 10th @ 4pm
Dancing with the Rising Sirens
at Rakkasah East
Ukrainian Cultural Center
135 Davidson Ave, Somerset, NJ

Tuesday, October 12th @ 9pm
Dancing in the PaperDolls Burlesque
Blue Owl Lounge
196 2nd avenue (corner of 12th and 2nd), NYC
(212) 505-2583
Cover $10

Tuesday, October 26th @ 9pm
Dancing in the PaperDolls Burlesque
Blue Owl Lounge
196 2nd avenue (corner of 12th and 2nd), NYC
(212) 505-2583
Cover $10

Friday, October 29th @ 9pm
Dancing and Emceeing for the Lafayette Grill Halloween Party at
Lafayette Grill
featuring Tango, Salsa, Middle Eastern Dance & Comedy
54 Franklin Street (3 block south of Canal), NYC
No Cover/Donations Welcome
$10 Table Minimum

Dancing in PURE Reflections: Beauty Reimagined
Yokohama CreativeCity Center
6-50-1 Honcho, Naka-ku
Yokohama 231-8315