Monday, December 22, 2008

Best/Worst of 2008 in Television

I watch a lot of television. I’ve broken it down into 4 relatively arbitrary categories: Animated, Comedy, Drama and Sci Fi/Fantasy. I left Reality sows off the list because, really, no one cares. Some may argue with the categories, but, Hell, it’s my list, so screw ‘em.

The programs on this list represent shows that were new or ongoing in 2008. As a result, some of them are from the end of last season and some are from the Fall premieres this season. There were some programs that I discovered or were broadcast for the first time in America in 2008 (Primeval, Sarah Jane Adventures) but they were originally produced and/or run in 2007 in the U.K. I did not include them in my choices though they are on the complete list.

I didn’t always have enough to fill out a full 10 shows for each category, so some are a little light. In order from least bad to worst and in order from good to best, here are my top picks.

Worst of 2008:
3. The Simpsons – I haven’t laughed in 3 seasons now.
2. King of the Hill – This show hasn’t been funny since... Ever. Really.
1. Aqua Teen Hunger Force – What was seriously edgy, surrealist humor became pure random nonsense this season. It was like watching a 5-year old paint on the wall with crayons.

Best of 2008:
4. Batman: The Brave and The Bold – I thought I would hate this show, but something about it’s bubblegum sensibility really caught me up in it.
3. Robot Chicken – What needs to be said about this show that we haven’t all said before?
2. Family Guy – See Above.
1. The Venture Brothers – Bitingly good satire of all the Saturday morning cartoons we grew up on.

Worst of 2008:
5. Testees – A lame attempt by FX to capitalize on the same sense of humor as “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
4. Gary Unmarried – I watched it because I like Jay Mohr, but this is stock-standard sitcom fare.
3. Big Bang Theory – Sorry to any who can stand this, but these are non-geeks writing what they think geeks are like, but with a laugh track.
2. Little Britain USA – The original Brit-version was hit or miss. This one is all miss. A combination of generic skits that could be set anywhere with skits that are broad American stereotypes but have no insight or wit. Watch “Tracey Takes On” to see how an English(wo)man really skewers Americans.
1. Kath and Kim – I turned this off after 10 minutes. The characters and writing were that abhorrent.

Best of 2008:
5. My Name Is Earl – Coming off of a rocky last season, they’ve found their legs again this Fall.
4. Chuck – In addition to being good fun, Adam Baldwin is always great to watch. This is the show you should watch instead of Big Bang Theory.
3. It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia – You either love it or hate it. It’s rude, crude, irreverent and offensive.
2. The Office – It is a well-written show. It’s not the U.K. Version, but it shouldn’t be a retread. Over the life of the show, they've made the format they're own and managed to grow the characters without losing the essence of the show.
1. How I Met Your Mother – Consistently well-written and it has NPH! Also, the writers for this show and Chuck write geeks better than the Big Bang Theory. Jokes carry over from episode to episode, so doesn't feel like a one-and-done sitcom. I really, really enjoy this show.

Worst of 2008:
5. The Unit – Wow, this show jumped the shark right at the beginning of the season and kept going. I'm still watching, but mostly out of morbid curiosity.
4. CSI: New York – Even Gary Sinise couldn’t prevent the writers from turning this show into CSI: Miami, Jr. I watched up to last season's finale but couldn't bring myself to watch it again this season.
3. Big Shots – An American attempt at remaking Manchild from the U.K. Instead of keeping the same half an hour format, they made it a full hour-long drama. It had a decent cast, but they lost all the fun of the original.
2. 24: Redemption – Well, that was a pointless 2 hours I can never get back. I'd go into detail, but someone reading this might not want a spoiler.
1. The Cleaner – Benjamin Bratt is really a stand-out in this show, unfortunately it is too preachy and the directing overly melodramatic. The premise wears thin after 2-3 episodes.

Best of 2008:
5. Generation Kill – An amazing HBO miniseries about an advanced Marine Recon unit during the invasion of Iraq. Watch it back to back with Band of Brothers.
4. Breaking Bad – I was blown away with Brian Cranston as the lead in this series. Two of the five top shows in this category are from FX Channel. That should tell you something.
3. Mad Men – Darren Star did an excellent job capturing the era of 1960’s Madison Avenue. A laconically paced show, it has more going on in the silence between dialogue than most films.
2. Sons of Anarchy – Imagine “Hamlet” meets the Hell’s Angels. It’s great to see Ron Perlman playing a role without makeup. There are so many great things I can say about this show, but really you need to track it down and watch.
1. The Wire – The best show on television. Ever. Over the life of the Wire, the show-runners have turned the spotlight on drugs, law enforcement, the education system, government at all levels, corruption and more. It is at times raw, depressing, occasionally upliftng, but always moving.

Honourable Mentions:
Boston Legal – David E. Kelly passed on “Life On Mars” just so that he could get one last 13 episode season for this show. It had some dips the past few seasons, but these last episodes were a tour de force of writing and acting. They all went out on a high and I’ll miss them. Denny Crane!

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – I’ve no idea how the rest of the season will go, but the beginning of Fall 2008 has been some of the best shows in the past 2 seasons. They are really focusing on Grissom’s characterization (William Peterson) and how the entire cast relates to him and each other. Some quality television here..

In Plain Sight – This USA network program really surprised me. I thought I would hate it, but it’s surprisingly well-written. Mary McCormack plays a believable strong female lead with many, many faults. Her family drama can be tiring, but the stories revolving around her job as a Federal Marshall are good.

In Treatment – HBO’s adaptation of the critically acclaimed Israeli show Betipul, created by Hagai Levi. It’s about a psychotherapist, Dr. Paul Weston, and his weekly sessions with his patients, starring Gabriel Byrne. The shows broadcast once a day, five days a week. Each day was a different client and that client’s story would continue the next week at the same time. I found it arresting. I would save up and entire week’s worth of shows and watch them in a marathon.

Leverage – This show is too new to put on any best of list, but it is worth keeping an eye one. Timothy Hutton stars as an ex-insurance investigator who leads a crew of crooks and con-men who pull jobs to help out the little guy. Very light, tongue-in-cheek writing with some good action on the side.

The Mentalist – A Fall 2008 new procedural starring Simon Baker as an ex-TV mentalist (think Derren Brown) who now works with the police to help solve crimes. I’ll admit, the actual plots may not be the most original, but Simon Baker is so much fun to watch that it has shot to the top of my watch list. Even the supporting cast are great to see when they interact with him.

The Riches – Sadly, this show has been put on the chopping block. For anyone who is a fan of Eddie Izzard, this was the perfect opportunity to see him really stretch out in an ongoing series. He’s always been great in movie roles and cameos, but The Riches really let him grow. Smartly written as well. Every time I thought they had plotted themselves into a corner, they managed to pleasantly surprise me with a twist.

Sci Fi/Fantasy
Worst of 2008:
5. True Blood – I tried. I did a full 6 episodes, but I found it boring. Maybe it’s because Vampires are so labored at this point and this seemed another retread of an old idea but trying to make it weird enough to justify being an HBO program.
4. Smallville – It is so painful to watch this show now. Even the geekgasm I get from seeing live-action versions of my favorite DC characters cannot overcome the tortured dialogue, logic gaps and high school soap opera relationships.
3. Moonlight - Yet another ill-fated vampire drama. “What if he’s a vampire, but he’s also a Private Investigator? And he’s been around since the 50’s? Gold!” No, not really.
2. Flash Gordon – Oh My GOD! This was craaaaaaaaap.
1. Knight Rider – I have never, NEVER, turned off a new program before the halfway mark. I always try and give it the benefit of the doubt; maybe even 3 episodes before I give up on it. This season, I deleted 2 programs from my TIVO after only 10 Minutes; “Kath and Kim” and “Knight Rider.” It was bad. Not “So bad it’s good” bad. Just bad.

Best of 2008:
5. Life On Mars – I’ve heard so much negative blowback from pretty much everyone I know that they were going to do an American remake. I was surprised at how much I like this series, in spite of that. I’m lucky in that I have not seen the original series, so I have no bar against which to measure. I’m glad, actually, as it allows me to enjoy the program without the original influencing my own impressions.
4. Fringe – This show was slow to get started. At first the characterizations were sketchy, the scripts seemed to jump about and the whole endeavour came off like it didn’t know what it wanted to be. Since then, I think they’ve settled into a good groove. They’ve established an arc story, fleshed out the characters and put in some solid writing. It has enough of the weirdness to be a good successor to the “X-Files” and some thriller/action fromthe influence of “Alias.” I’m looking forward to the ongoing story.
3. Reaper – Ray Wise as The Devil. Let me say that again, “Ray Wise as The Devil.” Laura. Palmer’s. Dad. Is. The. Devil. Is there any more to say? Other than that it is a fresh, original idea, has a fun cast and witty writing? Cannot wait for its return this season.
2. Doctor Who – Well, who doesn’t love Who. David Tennant is a joy to watch, even though I cannot stand Donna Noble. At. All.
1. Battlestar Galactica – Consistently the best Sci Fi show on television. It has shown itself to have crossover appeal to people who do not normally watch Science Fiction, at least in my crowd. When my friends’ wives, who would normally be watching “Grey’s Anatomy,” started having BSG watching parties, I knew there was much, much more to this show.

The complete Television Watched List (in alphabetical order):
- American Dad
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force
- Batman, The
- Batman: The Brave and The Bold
- Family Guy
- King of the Hill
- Legion of Super-Heroes
- Moral Orel
- Robot Chicken
- Simpsons, The
- South Park
- Spectacular Spider-Man, The
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars
- Venture Brothers, The

- 30 Rock
- Big Bang Theory
- Carpoolers
- Chocolate News
- Chuck
- Curb Your Enthusiasm
- Entourage
- Gary Unmarried
- How I Met Your Mother
- It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia
- Kath and Kim
- Little Britain USA
- Miss Guided
- My Name Is Earl
- Office, The
- Reno 911
- Sarah Silverman Show, The
- Saturday Night Live
- Scrubs
- Testees
- Unhitched
- Welcome to the Captain

- 24: Redemption
- Big Shots
- Boston Legal
- Breaking Bad
- Cleaner, The
- CSI: New York
- Dirty Sexy Money
- Eli Stone
- Generation Kill
- Grey's Anatomy
- In Plain Sight
- In Treatment
- Las Vegas
- Law and Order
- Law and Order: Criminal Intent
- Law and Order: SVU
- Leverage
- Mad Men
- Mentalist, The
- Monk
- New Amsterdam
- October Road
- Psych
- Riches, The
- Shark
- Sons of Anarchy
- Unit, The
- Wire, The

- 30 Days
- Amazing Race
- American Gladiators
- Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
- Deadliest Catch
- Hell's Kitchen
- Intervention
- Kitchen Nightmares
- Mythbusters
- So You Think you Can Dance
- Survivor
- Survivorman

Sci Fi/Fantasy:
- Battlestar Galactica
- Doctor Who
- Eureka
- Flash Gordon
- Fringe
- Heroes
- Knight Rider
- Legend of the Seeker
- Life On Mars
- Lost
- Moonlight
- Primeval
- Reaper
- Robin Hood
- Sanctuary
- Sarah Jane Adventures, The
- Smallville
- Stargate: Atlantis
- Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
- Torchwood
- True Blood

- Colbert Report, The
- Daily Show, The
- Real Time with Bill Mahar
- Showbiz Show with David Spade, The

Best/Worst of 2008 in Film

I limited my Best/Worst list of movies only those pictures that were released in 2008 that I saw in theatres. DVDs or other means did not qualify. With that being the case, I only saw 18 movies that met those qualifications.

I have to say, out of the “Worst” list, I would only qualify 1 and 2 as being outright terrible movies, beginning to end. The other three aren’t that bad, just not all that good.

In order from least bad to worst, here are the bottom five.

Worst of 2008:
5. Wanted -
Once you get beyond the pretty action sequences, this is just a pretty car with no engine in it.

4. Harold and Kumar 2 Escape from Guantanamo Bay -
I was expecting more from this movie. Beyond NP, there’s very little to recommend it. You can lose the last half and nothing would be missing. They emphasized emotion over comedy.

3. Get Smart -
Honestly, just not that funny.

2. Mother of Tears -
Dario Argento’s latest. Complete dreck from beginning to end. Lots of of naked flesh though, so that’s a plus.

1. Righteous Kill -
Deniro and Pacino team together for the first time since Heat and it is the dumbest, most predictable script with some of the worst direction from beginning to end. There’s nothing redeeming about this film.

In order from good to best, here are the top five:

Best of 2008:
5. Tropic Thunder/Hellboy II: The Golden Army -
This is really a toss-up. I felt both of these needed to be included in the top five. I found Tropic Thunder to be a blisteringly funny take on the Hollywood business (although Stiller was a bit over the top at times). Hellboy is gorgeous and well-put together. It gets a bit schmaltsy at times, but an altogether solid selection.

4. In Bruges -
Beautiful cinematography, quirky story and wonderful performances. It’s both charming and dark in its comedy. If you really pay attention, the script actually has more philosophical depth to it than is apparent from a surface viewing.

3. The Dark Knight -
While I think this is a masterful film from Nolan to Bale to Eckhart and especially Ledger, but it gets too bogged down in its own philosophy at times. As a result, some of the dialogue gets heavy and overlong resulting in some serious navel-gazing. That’s why it ranks below Iron Man.

2. Iron Man -
This is how you make a comic book film. I have one or two VERY minor complaints, but overall a superbly put together film.

1. Frost/Nixon -
I am by no means a Ron Howard fan. That being said, this is the best film I’ve seen this year. It has the single best shot I’ve seen on film this year and it’s all do to Frank Langella’s acting.

The complete Movies I Watched List (in alphabetical order):
The Bank Job
The Dark Knight
The Forbidden kingdom
Get Smart
Harold and Kumar 2 Escape from Guantanamo Bay
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
In Bruges
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Iron Man
Mother of Tears
Pineapple Express
Quantum of Solace
Righteous Kill
Tropic Thunder

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm keeping myself busy...

Well.... Let's see...

- Designing 3-4 websites at work -- I'm a web designer now!

- Story editing a comic/film treatment for a friend

- Helping organize a collective of comics creators and put together an anthology book

- Working on an outline for a 6-8 page comic story for that anthology

- Laying out plans for recording my first podcast

- Getting excited about seeing Quantum of Solace Saturday afternoon.

- Marvelling at my lack of cynicism about an Obama presidency

What are YOU doin'? :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Tavis Smily just spoke on NBC Election Night coverage and quoted MLK. It bears repeating for everyone:

"Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right. -Martin Luther King, Jr."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hmm,,, Interesting

"MySpace addicts are somewhat vain – focusing heavily on establishing and fine tuning their online personas by customization of their personal profiles

Facebook addicts focus more on engagement – interacting with applications, music and people both on and off the platform

Twitter addicts are most interested in fostering communication and exploration – sites that allow a user to understand what their contacts are doing, provide a platform for content discovery and encourage users to actively participate are the most likely places to find hardcore twitterers."


Interesting Twitter facts

"Twitter is a social media microblogging platform where users keep their "followers" up-to-date with what they are doing with short posts of just 140 characters or fewer. The service launched in 2006, but it has taken off like gangbusters this year.
According to, Twitter more than quadrupled its users from November 2007 to June 2008. There are now more than 1.2 million Tweeters.

Lest you think it's just for kids, a Time magazine article last month reports the largest age demographic is 35-to-44-year-olds, which make up more than 25 percent of users. And the 55+ demographics are growing, too. Interestingly, more than 57 percent of Tweeters are from California. "


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Those sneaky, sneaky spammers

Bravo! This has to be one of the sneakier attempts to get me to click through on something. It's specific enough to actually apply to me, but just vague enough to be generic:

"Aug 28, 2008 12:39 PM

Subject: Whats up

Body: my my look how you've grown :) its been like seriously prob. 10 years since we've talked so you prob. dont even remember me.. but mike from our middle school gave me your myspace profile.. anyhow I've moved outta state since then but wanted to get in touch with you.. you look amazing btw.. anyhow I only check my myspace account like once a month so if you wanna chat hit me up on my msn messenger when you get a chance my msn email is"

Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday June 29, 2008

It was a pretty full weekend all things considered. Nothing too exciting, but very domestic. I spent both nights doing some freelance work; providing a facelift for a godawful children's book that a failed wirter/director/PA is trying to get off the ground. The writing alone will set literacy back 50 years.

Saturday I completely regressed back to high school. I spent the day at the beach shooting photos, listening to some playlists I made on my iPod of 80's music and doing some bodysurfing. I think it's been more than 3 years since I've been in the ocean. Sad, really, considering I live so close and really like swimming.

Ran Into Phil which was funny though not unexpected. I don't know why I thought I might see him, just sometimes I get a feeling. We're still in that awkward getting a feel for each other stage but, to paraphrase him, "He's good people" and a bit inspirational to me.

Sunday had a bit of excitement. I came home after running errands most of the day to find a note under the mat that my [adopted] cat had been bleeding from the mouth and the neighbor was worried. His former owner had taken him into his apartment and reported that, although he had no visible wounds, it looked like he'd been attacked by a dog. According to Tony, Rhet [the cat] was covered in slobber and did have blood on and around his mouth.

Try as I might I couldn't and still can't find and wounds. After I got back from work last night I noticed that Rhet was uncharacteristically needy; he followed me around the apartment and would climb on my lap every chance he could. It was late anyway, so I just stopped what I was doing and decided to curl up in bed with him.

I notice this morning that he's moving a little slowly and favoring his back right leg a bit. That doesn't worry me as much as the fact that he seems to be drooling quite a bit [unusual for him] and hasn't touched his food this morning.

I'm starting to realize that though I grew up with a cat, I'm woefully unprepared to take care of one. I think I may have to figure out a way to get him to a vet for a checkup, at least for my piece of mind. Not, mind you, that I need this kind of expense right now. Ugh.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Good with Service People

I'm constantly amazed at how easy it is to get to know people. To get behind their shields and have real conversations with people. Case in point, I just finished having a conversation with a guy at a place down the street. He's a 49 year old pensioner living in Bangkok, Thailand. I walked away with his name, U.S. and Thai contact numbers and we talked for over 2 hours.

I remember distinctly being on one of those drunk cruises in Cabo San Lucas and while my erstwhile partner in crime spent his time trying to get somewhere with two young women on the boat, I was in the back talking to an elderly couple on vacation from Colorado. We left the boat and while he had a case of blue balls, I had an invitation to stay anytime with them at their house in Colorado Springs, some phone numbers and a lasting impression that while my friend was a jackass, I reminded them of the way the wish their son could be.

Some of my friends came to saying something of the sort of, "Oh, Scott, he's good with service people." Really, it's just that I treat them like people; I ask about them, their families and how they are doing in their lives. It's amazing how far a simple act like this can get you. I've received everything from free food and drink to invitations to stay with them on vacation.

Now, I don't want to be disengenuous about this. I'm actually very interested and involved in the conversations that I have. I don't enter into anything with any ulterior motive beyond general curiosity. I love meeting new people and finding out about them and their experiences. It's the sense of the new and novel that compels me. But I find that in general the more open that you are, the more open they will be. I've learned so much about the world and about other cultures just from being open to spirited conversation from Taxis that it's crazy. Although I've forgotten most of it, I've learned phrases in Uzbekh, Armenian and Pakistani from cab drivers. I used to take phonetic notes on the back of business cards and napkins.

It seems to me that the world would be much better off if people were more open and understanding to these kind of interactions.

Of course, the bonus is that I get a lot of free shit, so that's not all that bad either, is it?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Miami Vice S1 Ep4:

More shirtless Don Johnson than I can handle. Pointer Sisters "I'm So Excited" on the soundtrack!

Miami Vice S1 Ep5:

Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky) directed. Best so far. Long stylish shots w/nothing but music. Solid Ruggiero/Surnow script

Miami Vice S1 Ep6:

Ultimately a forgettable episode after Ep4-5 two parter. Dennis Farina guest spot is the only highlight.

Miami Vice S1 Ep7:

Picks up the slack left from last ep. Crocket has to convince an abused wife to stay with a violent criminal [Bruce Willis] to keep the investigation alive. The freeze-frame at the end reinforces why the show was so good forit's time.

Friday, May 2, 2008


A friend of mine passed away last month. I'd known Micheal about 10+ years now, but I'm not sure that I'd have called us close friends, but friends nonetheless. Micheal was a Mac professional from way back. He set up our first computers at the original design firm my brother and I worked for. He was always ready to help with his encyclopedic knowledge of the ins and outs of technology. Whether he was getting paid for it or not (and often he would argue against billing us because we were friends), he was never without a solution to a problem. He’d moved out to Texas years ago and we kept in contact sporadically. I found out back in June of last year that he had brain cancer and had had some surgery and chemo and it had gone into remission.

Then he called my brother and I on March 27 to tell us that his brain cancer had come back and the doctors gave him about a week. It was a strange conversation; evidently the tumor in his head was already affecting him because he went from laughing to crying to being perfectly normal in the space of seconds. His main concern was making sure that his 12-yr old autistic daughter would be taken care of as she was most likely going in to foster care. My brother and I made some inquiries here and there about legal trusts, but thankfully someone far more knowledgeable and capable stepped in and took care of it.

By April 4th, 8 days after he called me, he’d passed away. My brother is taking care of his online affairs [dismantling the websites he ran and such] and Micheal's wife wrote a heartfelt letter to circulate. In Honor of Micheal, I'm posting it:

"Ode to a Mac God

In late 2003, a mole that Michael had for some time on his left shoulder had turned ugly. Ugly enough that the doctors finally agreed that it didn’t look good. After waiting months the mole was removed and diagnosed as a stage 4 melanoma. In mid- April, 2004 a cut away surgery was done to remove what was believed to be the surrounding areas, root and lymph nodes.

The results were good. We were told no cancer cells were found in any of the tissue or nodes removed. No further treatment was necessary. The dermatologist monitored Michael closely for any signs of a melanoma showing up anywhere else. All was going well, and no signs of a melanoma showed up anywhere.

In May of 2007 Michael started having headaches and odd pains. We figured it was sinus problems since allergy season was in full swing for him. On May 31, 2007 Michael called me and told me he was feeling really bad, and was having some trouble remembering things. We figured it was just a bad sinus headache.

On June 1st I received a call from the Plano police department. Michael was at the bank and couldn’t remember who he was. He had gone in to report his cards lost, and to freeze his accounts. Thankfully an exceptional bank employee had enough information before the trouble started to be able to research bank records and names to get my contact information.

I went to the bank, which is across the street from my home. The paramedics were already there. They told me they believed he might have suffered a stroke, and thought he should go to the hospital. Michael didn’t want to go and they wouldn’t take him without his consent (the same people who thought he had a stroke said he was cognitive enough to make his own decisions). After convincing him to go, Sarah was dropped off at Grandma’s, and I went to take the insurance information to the hospital.

By the time I got to the hospital, they had already diagnosed a brain tumor. Surgery was scheduled for Monday. Once again everything looked good, and after radiation treatments Michael started a clinical trial for melanoma of the brain. Though the treatments left him tired and weak, he carried on the best he could spending the afternoons and weekends with Sarah and being an attentive dad.

In February, a PET scan showed no signs of any cancer and they started talking about doing gamma knife surgery to remove a small spot that had been on his lung. A CAT scan was done the end of February to determine placement of rods to be used for the surgery. On the scan they saw a few spots that looked odd on his brain and decided to do an MRI to check them out. Mid March the MRI was done.

Over the weekend Michael had said he wasn’t feeling well and his head and ear hurt. We thought, once again, “welcome to allergy season.” Monday, they called Michael and told him he needed to go back to the hospital. There he was told that the cancer was back and bigger than before. This time the prognosis wasn’t good even with surgery he might only get a few extra months. We were told he would have a few months.

After a lot of thought and it came down to he would rather have a few goods months than cut into his time with surgery that they couldn’t guarantee the out come of. There was a possibility since the tumor was bigger and deeper and had tripled in size in 3 weeks that he wouldn’t have any function afterwards, Michael opted not to have surgery and spend what he had left with his family. Things happened quickly from here.

Friday and Saturday all was good. Sunday Michael realized he was having trouble remembering things. Sunday night he was asking me to read e-mails to him.

Monday morning we went to the bank Michael was tired and weak and needed some help walking and balance was an issue. He wasn’t eating or drinking much. Monday night he needed a lot of help to get from bed to his chair and back again. He had stopped talking for the most part. Tuesday he slept most of the day and we had to struggle to get him to take his meds.

We realized we could not take care of him at home and started looking for a care facility. Wednesday we had his doctor come and look at him and we decided to have him re admitted to the hospital. He wasn’t responding much at all. He did look at the paramedics and smile but that was about it. That night they said he was in a comatose state.

Thursday his breathing was heavy. I went to visit at night and could tell he was struggling to hold on. True to his character he wasn’t going to stop fighting the battle until he knew his girls were going to be all right.

I told him that the girls knew he loved them and they loved him. I told him Sarah would be Ok she is a fighter. I told him it was all right to go every thing was taken care of and he was loved and would be missed. Shortly after that he started to shut down.

On April 4th 2008 Michael lost the battle he fought so hard to be the last year. He fought to be here for his girls he loved so very much and worried about them every day. He missed seeing his baby turn 13, and Emi walk the stage for high school graduation this year. In the end we lost a great father, friend and Mac God.

Michael we will miss you!!! Thanks for touching our lives.

Thanks of all the love and support. It is comforting to know how many lives he touched.

In addition to me, and his beautiful daughters, Emi and Sarah, Michael leaves behind his mother, Linda and two brothers, Dan and Patrick. Our youngest daughter Sarah has cerebral palsy and will always require some level of care. Michael's greatest concern was what would happen to Sarah if he weren't here to take care of her. A special needs trust has been set up for her to provide for her in the future. In honor of his last wish, the family is requesting donations be made to the "Sarah Marie Briney Special Needs Trust" in lieu of flowers.

Carleen Briney"

Monday, February 18, 2008

I is a writer

Well, I got a pleasant surprise in my Inbox on Friday:


I'm pleased to announce that yours has been selected as a winning pitch for the CAG Classics Anthology. Competition was stiff, as we had a lot of submissions to pick through. But your story will go on to production.

Congratulations, and thanks for your effort."

That's right, I'm going to be published. Sure, the anthology won't be published until November, but I'm still proud as punch.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I wrote this piece three years agoon the anniversary of my mother's death. It was a tough time for me then. I'm in a much better place now and I can look back on this essay with a gladder eye. I celebrate my mother every time I repost this and, I hope, honor her.
It was January 16th, 1997. I can’t really remember how it started. I know it was a phone call. I’m assuming after the fact that it was my brother, considering how close we are, but it could have been my father. The first thing that I do remember clearly is the waiting room for the ICU at Cedar Sinai Hospital. All we knew for certain at that point was that my mother had been in an accident and was in Intensive Care.

Mom was an Ohio transplant. She drove out from Toledo with her brother in the early 60’s after graduating from OSU. Uncle Jack was going to be an engineer and Jane was going to be a teacher. She became a wife, mother, substitute teacher, then teacher, vice-principal and principal. Then she became an alcoholic, Coke-addict and squatter. She ended up sober and an accredited Drug and Substance Abuse counselor. She had degrees in English, Teaching, Psychology, Drug and Alcohol Counseling, a Masters in Education and several other accreditations and certificates.

She was the closest person in my life. She taught me to read and with that my love for literature. She was the only person in the world that I could tell anything to. Later in life, after she’d gotten sober and was counseling, she would ask what I did the night before. I’d smile and say things like,”Oh, I went to a rave and did X.” She would just smile, shake her head and say,”Just be careful,” and then move on. She never judged me.

When we were finally allowed in to see her, she was lying on the bed, eyes-closed, skin clammy, with IV drips, respirators and everything else you could possibly imagine. She looked so small. She’d wasn’t a tall woman, very short in fact. But she had never looked that small.

The doctors explained to us that mom was in a coma, apparently brain-dead, and the machines were the only thing keeping her alive. There was a possibility that she might come out of the coma, but it was slim at best.

I remember the first time that she went through rehab. I was 17 at the time and used to work in this comic book store near my house. I was the night manager and had to close at night. I was like the Flash I was so fast at getting everything stocked and the doors shut tight. Because I had to make it across town time for family counseling in the Detox Unit. I went every night. I was the only one in my family that did. It was in the hospital there that my mother met the Cocaine dealer she ended up dating afterwards who got her hooked on that drug. She relapsed and became an even worse addict and alcoholic.

When she went back into a program, I told her flat out that she’d let me down last time. That I did not want to see her or talk to her until she had been a year sober. A little while later the envelopes started coming in the mail. Every time she went to a meeting and received a chip; 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, a Year; she mailed it to me. Even after four years of sobriety she never stopped doing that. I still have that old keychain I keep them on at home.

It was three years after her first rehab attempt that she ended up in the hospital. She’d had a seizure. As it was explained to her, her body was so starved for vitamins and nutrients that it had shut down. She was left with the choice of quitting and living or, if she continued to abuse, death.

It was a seizure like that one that had led to the car accident, the doctors thought. Her body was admitted paralyzed down the left side which evidenced some sort of attack. It had been one of those intense El NiƱo storms and they assumed that she’d had an attack at the wheel which caused her to go through the red light. Her car was smashed into by a Jeep Cherokee crossing with the green.

It was about five days after the accident that she opened her eyes. That was probably the worst part about the entire experience. You could be in the same room with her and you would put your hand in hers. She would squeeze. Her eyes would follow you. But those were just autonomic responses. Her eyes were reacting to the change in light when you stood above her. Her hand, to the sensation of touch. My mother was effectively brain-dead.

When I was just going into Junior High, my mother requested that I be tested for the GATE program [Gifted and Talented Education]. Our principal flatly refused because neither my brother nor my sister scored well enough to get in when they were tested. Mom fought for me and, as a result, I was tested and score in the highest percentile. She was there when I gave the keynote speech at our Junior High graduation.

All through high school my mother was a substitute teacher. I even had her for some of my classes. It’s a strange and wonderful experience to go to school and on campus at any one time is your brother, sister and mother. I got into trouble a lot. Not bad stuff, mostly just talking back and the like, but enough that the administration knew me. Our principal was good friends with my mom and every time he saw her would ask,”How’s your rebel son?”

She was with me every step of the way when I was growing up.

A little over a week after the accident the family had a meeting with hospital staff to explain the options available to us for my mother’s care. In their opinion, the hopes for any kind of recovery was miniscule. In addition, if by some slim chance she did come out of the coma, there was no possibility of recovery without some sort of brain damage. The recommendation of the hospital was to discontinue life support, but we had some time to think about it.

My sister did not take the news well. She drilled the doctors with questions, looking for any possible hope that there might be a complete recovery. Seeing my mother in that room, nurses having to wipe the drool from around the tube in her mouth, staring wide-eyed at the ceiling, eyes looking to the left or right depending on who was blocking the light, I couldn’t see that hope. I’d been in that room, talked to her, looked in those watery eyes and there was no spark there.

One of the things that she and I could always talk about was Star Trek. It's so incredibly trivial and dumb, but we both loved the show. The old ones and all of the new series. She loved Capt. Janeway and the Voyager series, but nothing replaced the original in her book. She gave me my love of fantasy and science fiction. One of the first books she gave me to read was a leather-bound version of the Hobbit by Tolkein. I was eight. She gave me the chronicles of Narnia, A Boy's King Arthur, Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court, her copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. I still have a set of tapes of the entire run of the original 60’s Star Trek that she taped herself, labeled in her handwriting.

On January 30th we decided as a family to take her off of life-support. They told us it might take anywhere from eight to twelve hours for her to pass away. We all went to the diner across the street from the hospital. We’d spent a lot of time there; you could see the window of the ICU room on the 8th floor where mom was from there. It was only an hour later when the ICU staff called us.

My father refused to see the body. He said he wanted to remember her in life, not death. My sister didn’t know what to do. My brother and I went in to see her. The room was empty except for her. They had pulled out all of the equipment. Her eyes were closed and her skin waxy and yellow, cold to the touch. He and I just held each other and cried. When we finally returned to the waiting room, I told my sister that she didn’t want to go in there. She never did.

We cremated my mother. The wake was held at the recovery house where she’d gotten sober and still helped out as a part-time counselor. Over 250 people came. My brother spoke and told the story about mom and me and the AA chips.

She passed away January 30th, 1997, only two weeks after being involved in a car accident. She would have been 71 this year.

I miss her every day.