Respecting the characters

I was watching a fourth season episode of NCIS, and it struck me how Michael Weatherly’s departure from the series last month fit right in with the entire arc of the series.

They respected the character, and the viewers.

Then there’s Criminal Minds, which had the departure of Shemar Moore, who played Derrick Morgan.  Also a very popular character.  The show has run nearly as long as NCIS, and like Michael Weatherly, he’s had a lot of really good character development over the years.

And the writers totally botched the departure. 

It was like they just threw it out there, trying to get some ratings.  In the first of the two episodes, the character is kidnapped and tortured.  The torture was the kind you should never ever do to the character because it was at the point anyone wouldn’t survive whole, and you want your characters to survive whole.  Even if they’re leaving, you want to feel like they’re going to live happily ever after.  Severe PSTD is not happily ever after. 

Story-wise, it felt like the actor decided at the last minute he wasn’t returning, so the writers scrambled to come up with a script to get ratings.  But it sure didn’t respect the character we’d come to enjoy.

I just bought a Gibbs’ rules t-shirt, in Navy blue.  The “rules” are one of those things where once you find out where they originated, it’s wonderful bit about the character.

Saturday Morning Cartoons, Linda Style

The Desert Storm veterans on Facebook are, curiously, talking about Saturday morning cartoons they watched. So these are some of mine:

The Secrets of Isis

I believe this was the first woman superhero on TV, and there still hasn’t been that many. Including Isis, I think I can count them on one hand. The title character was an Egyptian goddess who worked through a school teacher. They probably used this type of character because the King Tut exhibit was making the rounds during that time. It hit Los Angeles in 1976, and I went on a school trip to see it. So Ancient Egypt was in the news.

In watching it as a adult, the stories are kind of bland. Kids getting into trouble, and Isis having to rescue them.

Her costume is quite short — apparently the actress was cast for her legs — and there is absolutely no cleavage. The high heels are like four inches. Honestly, I don’t know how one superheroes in such a short skirt without embarrassment. And those heels? Not exactly useful for an action hero.

In perspective of the time though, this was a great character because there wasn’t anything for girls.

Star Trek

Which is now called Star Trek: The Animated series in DVD. It was done by Filmation. It was a cartoon that did not have kid trappings. Adults could watch it and not cringe (I can’t say that for all cartoons).

Because it was a cartoon and not with real actors (except for the voices), they could have aliens that were not humanoid because there’s that limitation of the person playing the role. My favorites are the ones that gave more roles to the women characters like The Lorelei Signal and The Slaver Weapon.

Jonny Quest

This, of course, had already aired long before I saw it. But it was awesome action cartoon with a blend of science and a cute dog.

As an adult, I got the DVD and was astounded at the animation quality. There are shadows, and the clothes have wrinkles. You just don’t see animation like this.

My favorite episode is the one with the invisible monster.  That was way cool.  And jet packs!

I would have liked to see girl characters in it, because it was really only about boy adventures, but I didn’t like how they did it in the later version. It just felt like someone said “We need to have a girl character,” and it felt shoehorned in, rather than carefully thought out to respect the characters and the story.

Hands down, the best opening and closing credits for a cartoon and right up there with live action shows favorites.

All these are on DVD now, so it’s been fun watching some of the old ones. Some have aged very well.

China Beach: A Voice for Women Coming Home From War

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to see books and TV and movies that represented me. I grew up reading books from the library that were for boys because there were few books for girls, and what there was consisted of nurse romances. If a girl was in a boy story, there was often only one girl, and the rest of the characters were boys.

Even today, the problem still exists. I can buy a book with a woman protagonist, and she’s the only woman in the cast — and it’s written by a woman. Clive Cussler writes a book with a cast of 100, and maybe there’s 1 or 2 women.

Many TV shows are like this as well, with women being added because the network told the producers they needed to (Law and Order) or one woman who feels almost like an afterthought. Even Star Trek, which was about using diverse people, ended up with a cast of 9 for Next Generation and only three were women. One was for eye candy, and the other two got frustrated with the development of their roles and left. One returned, but the other did not.

But when I came home from Desert Storm, I had an intense craving for something that represented me, and not just something that appealed to men.

And I wanted one more thing: It to be about war.

China Beach Ties to Desert Shield and Desert Storm

China Beach was a unique TV series in that it was about women and war. It was set in a hospital during the Vietnam War and boasted a cast that was pretty close to 50-50 on the gender scale. The show had premiered in 1988, two years before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and every military woman I knew was watching it.

But it was almost like the show’s timing framed our war. When we deployed in October of 1990, we stayed our first night at a truck port (like a car port, only a lot bigger) at the waterfront. Things were very confused at chaotic. We had no sense of place, of exactly where we were. This was just somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and we were like “The Girl Who Fell from the Sky” in Airwolf. We didn’t have amnesia, but we knew someone was going to be trying to kill us–though how, we didn’t know, or when.

It was as if our connection to the world had been snipped.

At first light, we got up. After the long flights and long nights, we were like zombies marching off to the showers. A friend and I followed the crowd down to the waterfront, and we stopped dead in our tracks when we saw the showers.

Then we both turned to each, forming exactly the same thought, and exclaimed, “China Beach!”

It that moment, it solidified the fact that we hadn’t just stepped off into the Twilight Zone and vanished.

Other things soon popped up. We didn’t have the internet in those days, and TV was limited to CNN in a tent. So our only connection to the outside world was the mail (which I wasn’t getting anything of) and the radio. The military radio station struggled to find music that would appeal to us and ended up playing songs from the 1970s, and from the Vietnam War.

I remember sitting in a cargo container we used for an office and listening to Janis Joplin as we marched ominously toward the ground war.

Coming Home to China Beach

Maybe the ending of Desert Storm had contributed to the cancelation before the series could finish it up its final season. But by the time I returned from Saudi Arabia, it went into reruns locally, so I could see it every night. The timing for me couldn’t have been better.

I devoured it. I couldn’t get enough of it. I even taped the episodes and watched some of them over and over again. When I did a driving trip, I bought a China Beach audio tape and listened to the music. I’d heard nearly all the same music during Desert Storm.

I don’t know. Maybe watching China Beach in reruns was like a decompression of sorts from Desert Storm that I wasn’t getting anywhere. Maybe it plugged into the underlying anger that I felt when I came back. Maybe it helped me pull back from the extreme of war back to business as usual.

Over time, the show disappeared from the airwaves entirely, and all I had left was the videos. I don’t recall when, but I gradually stopped watching the videos. I guess I didn’t need them as much.

But after video tape went away, I started to want the show again. It would be 24 years.

China Beach Today

While other shows came out in the “new” technology of DVD, China Beach remained elusive. One of the major pieces of the show was the music, but music rights have waylayed many shows and movies. But it also turned out to be the most requested show people wanted on DVD, so it was released earlier this year with most of the music intact. I know that cost a fortune!

I wasn’t really sure what I expected when I got the first two DVDs (I was cheap; I didn’t buy the full set for $200. I waited until they came out individually for $20). But time has changed me from 24 years ago. I’m not devouring it. The writing is still top notch, but I can only watch one episode, and then I have to stop for a while.

Perhaps that’s the way it should be now. War is a very strange things. There’s nothing like it.

If writers ruled the world

Daily Post’s writing prompt is “You’ve been given the superpower to change one law of nature. How do you use it?”

That’s a dangerous topic for a writer. We live for coming up with stuff like that and then showing how it can go disastrously wrong, and this is particularly true in science fiction and fantasy where rules can be changed for the story. Like:


Them was one my early favorite movies.  It starred James Whitmore, James Arness, and Fess Parker. It’s set in Los Angeles, and man’s dealings with radioactivity (this was the 1950s, when atomic power was new) creates giant killer ants. The army has to stop the ants before they start breeding.  The last part of the movie is set in the Los Angeles River, which is a concrete river that runs through the city.

Star Trek: The Original Series

In the episode Charlie X, a 3-year old boy is stranded on a planet, and the well-meaning inhabitants give him the ability to do, well, pretty much anything with magic powers.  He grows into a teenager who has never been socialized, and is just coming into things like attraction for girls. There’s one scene in it that still creeps me out, where a woman loses her face because Charlie gets angry at her.  Charlie ends up unable to be a part of society and goes back to live on the planet, alone.

Hopscotch by Kevin J. Anderson

In Hopscotch, a science fiction novel in the near future, people can change bodies. Sort of like an extreme form of plastic surgery. Imagine if you lost your body and didn’t know where it was. It was like the ultimate vanity, and yet, the ultimate destruction of society.

Green Rider Series by  Kristen Britain

The Green Rider series is one of my favorite book series right now. Karigan, the main character, ends up becoming a Green Rider, though she doesn’t want to, and gets the power of invisibility. An additional function of that power is time travel, which is very dangerous to her body.

Stargate SG-1

This was a long running science fiction TV series starring Richard Dean Anderson.  In “Window of Opportunity,” a grieving widower finds a device that can go back in time, so he decides to use it to relive his time with his wife. The only problem is the device puts time in a repeating loop. While the grieving scientist tries to fix it, the heroes of our story are caught in a day that keeps repeating itself. This is a fabulously written episode and well worth watching if you haven’t seen it.

Writers always dream about superpowers and how they can break. It’s more fun that way.

The Lopping off of the TV Credits

When I was a teenager, I dabbled in fan fiction for Voyage to the Bottom of Sea.  The show had was rerun on KTLA at the same time as Star Trek in Los Angeles.  I decided to write a concordance for all the episodes, and one of the important parts of that was getting all the credits included and finding what else those people had been in.  So I wrote down all the credits as they rolled past.

Now we have sites like the Internet Movie Database that record the casts for everyone to see.  But many of the credits are disappearing entirely from the end of shows, and even the opening credits are vanishing too — all in favor of squeezing in one more commercial.  I was a watching a rerun of a show, and the station added the credits over the ending of the episode, squashed into tiny print that might be readable on a big movie screen.

And it’s just plain wrong.  It’s like saying that you can’t put the author’s name on a book because advertising has to go in it’s place.  It devalues the creator’s role.  Unfortunately, the only place we see the credits now is if watch the DVDs of the shows.

These are some of the actors I collected credits on.  I would like to have women included in here, but Voyage did not have a lot of women on the show, and most of them weren’t that memorable career-wise:

  • Eddie Albert: Well-known for Green Acres.  But I got a chance to see him and shake his hand when he came to Washington, DC for the opening of the Navy Memorial fountain.  He died not too long after that.
  • Michael Ansara: He, of course, played Kang the Klingon on Star Trek, a role only he could have made memorable.  He had wonderful voice and manner, and I always liked him as an actor.  I was able to hear him speak in 1997 when he attended his first con, and he was a gentleman.
  • Michael Constantine: He starred in Room 222.  I met him in Los Angeles.  You always think of actors as being somehow above things, but he was very down to earth.
  • Vincent Price:  Seriously, who doesn’t know who he is?  He was in a lot of the movies I watched growing up, and he played a character who had a romance with Julie on the Mod Squad.
  • Marco Lopez: He went on to appear as a regular in the TV series Emergency.  It was cool to realize a Hispanic actor got on a show in the 1960s and wasn’t just a stereotype, even if the roles often didn’t have dialogue.
  • George Takei: He starred on Star Trek and is still active in the industry today.  He has a book called Oh Myyy out.

I Won’t Enlist Because That Soldier is Pretty

The army’s had an embarrassing week.  It’s been roaming around the news that someone leaked an email officers sent each other saying that “ugly women” should be featured in ads depicting soldiers because they are perceived as more competent.

I get how they arrived at that.  When NCIS cast Lauren Holly as the new director, they got comments that was she was too pretty for the role.  I actually agree with that.  She was “model pretty,” which is to say a standard most people wouldn’t fit into.  She did not look like a high-powered Washington, DC woman; rather, she just looked like she was cast because the producers thought guys would be attracted to her and watch the show.

But the reality is that a job like the director of NCIS, or any other government agency, would be very wearing on a person.  High-powered government officials have long hours, equally long meetings, and probably not eat right because of all those long hours and meetings.  Even when they go home, they are on call.  If there’s a crisis involving whatever they do, they get called.  Sorry, but the character isn’t going to look like a model with all of that.


There were two problems with what the army did here.

The first was that they assumed that because a female soldier was pretty, she wouldn’t be competent or would be sleeping around to make rank.  News flash!  We all went through basic training and suffered having a drill sergeant yell in our face.

The second was a more curious one.  How would they define “pretty”?  Or, let me put a different way: Would you want to be the one they defined as “ugly”?


None of this is helped by the media and the book industry.  We have an ad airing now that’s gotten a lot of controversy because it’s men in boxer shorts and jackets.  Yet, no one is bothered by another ad where a woman dances very proactively and is dressed in something that I don’t think qualifies as clothes.  Book covers for urban fantasies are designed to be provocative and have characters who need to be surgically removed from their clothes.  Yet, if any women complain, the men are like “What’s the big deal?”

But a key difference — and I think even the army missed this one — is that the media and the book industry are using s** to sell (I’m trying to avoid getting a ton of spammers here) products.  With the army, all the soldiers — male and female — are dressed the same.  It’s awfully hard to make a military uniform glamorous, especially when it doesn’t fit really well to start with.

Yet, looks are still the first thing these officers went straight to.  It’s not an easy answer, because it so wrapped up in our culture.  But there are actually answers to beginning to solve the problem the army was clumsily trying to address.  It’s just a first step, but might make a difference.

If the army wants women to look more competent:

They should photograph them more.  When I’ve searched for photos of military women for this blog, I can barely find any.

They should photograph women doing army things, like the men.  When the army does photograph women, it seems like most of them have the soldier talking to children.

There are some soldier stuff photos, but there’s not a lot.  It’s like the photographers get out in a group of soldiers and tune the women out entirely as if they weren’t there.  It sends the message that the women really aren’t that important, and that what the men do is.  Yet, we’ve had women die in combat, women save lives.  I’m watching episodes of China Beach, and without the nurses, some male soldiers probably would not be alive today.  And we’re worried about women being too pretty?  Please.

Am I the only one who doesn’t like Game of Thrones?

Game Of Thrones

Photo from Game of Thronesx

Everywhere I go lately, everyone is talking about Game of Thrones.  The series is airing on HBO and just had its third season premiere, and is based on the popular series by George R.R. Martin.

I read the first book back in 2010.  At the time, I was taking Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel, and she recommended it as having examples of the perfect scene.  My initial reaction was “Not enough plot,” which made the story very slow moving for me.

There were also so many different storylines going on that it was difficult to stay in involved.  Just as I’m into one storyline, it vanishes for many pages, and by the time it comes back, I’ve forgotten what interested me.

So it ended up being a book that got a “Meh,” and I didn’t read any more books in the series.

However, my local cable channel offered a freebee week, which included the first two seasons of Game of Thrones, so I tuned into see what I thought.  Again, I had about the same reaction, “Meh.”  I did like Daenerys storyline (which was the one I was interested in while reading the book), but there was too little of it too far apart to stay involved.  I did not like all the nudity, which I’ve heard has been a controversial issue (I think the nudity would bother me less if the men weren’t always fully dressed while the women were nude).

Is anyone else not enthralled by Game of Thrones?

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