Random Musings: House repairs, rubbish heaps, Firefly

I had no idea that roofing shingles frayed. Over the weekend I went up on the roof to check our our swamp cooler and, beside finding out that the unit probably hasn’t been used in years and will need some work to make operational again, I found out that our roof is probably original materials. The shingles are so old (over 25 years now) that you can see the fiberglass fibers around all the edges.

I have to admit this house is a bit frustrating. I knew it would probably need some work, but the list just keeps getting longer. We don’t have the money and I don’t have the time right now to even begin to deal with most of it. We’re going to have to cross our fingers and hope it all hangs together long enough for us to be able to deal with it.

I’m not experiencing buyers remorse, necessarily, and most of the problems are cosmetic, but as much as the house cost I was hoping it would be in better shape than it is.

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Our new city has a yearly event where you can just dump your disposable items, yard waste, and anything else you like in a big heap in the street and they’ll come by on a predetermined day and haul it all off for you. It’s a great idea, but I have to wonder if it’s a coincidence that so many people are pruning their trees and shrubs so heavily, or if they hack away at their plants this much every year. We have several neighbors whose rubbish piles are bigger than my car.

The big day is tomorrow, so a lot of new piles grew up over the weekend. At first it was just amusing. Now our neighborhood is starting to look somewhat post-apocalyptic. The kids are hoping that they’ll be home when the trucks come by, as they really want to see how they deal with all of the various piles (everything from tree branches to big-screen TVs). As for us, since we just moved in, de-junking before we moved, our little pile of dead plants from our garden looks rather pathetic compared to all the surrounding heaps. Oh well. There’s always next year. Then we’ll show ’em!

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I’ve finally picked up a copy of Firefly over the weekend. (Thank you, Jonathan!) Last night I watched the first, two-hour pilot. I’m hooked. It’s not like any other show I’ve seen. It’s gritty, a bit angst-y, and the characters are not exactly a happy bunch (except Kaylee, but that’s another story altogether). It has shades of Star Trek: Deep Space 9, except that, in spite of their roughness and angst, these characters are likeable. Even Captain Mal, sporting more inner demons than Legion, still manages to be a sympathetic character.

The series has been billed to me as a sci-fi-western, and I was a little leary about that concept (my western-fan wife was more than leary–repulsed would be  more accurate, to the point where I released her from her promise to give it a try). I’m pleased to report, however, that the concept works–at least for me. For example, it makes sense to me that on a world where the colonists blew their budget just terraforming the place they wouldn’t have a lot of capability or money to replace machinery, so why not use horses for transportation? They can live on what’s growing there, and they’re self-replicating machines. Sometimes low-tech makes perfect sense.

Besides which, the producers decided if they’re going to jar people with the sci-fi and western juxtaposition, why not go for a hat trick and make it a sci-fi western with oriental culture thrown in for good measure (with a dash of Nazi-esque facist governments). The modge-podge works for me. They include all of those elements, but only as far as it makes sense.

They also manage to make me feel dread and suspense; something I’ve not experienced in a television show in quite some time. They do such an excellent job building up the Reavers (who we actually never see), that when their ship crosses paths with a Reaver vessel and they have to try and sneak by, hoping the Reavers aren’t in the mood to attack, I felt it in my stomach. I nearly forgot that the whole scene was highly improbable in the first place: two ships passing by each other as slowly as they were would never make it anywhere before they all died of old age! It would be like trying to sail the QE2 to Mars at 30 knots! They could have pulled off the same suspense and still made the relatives speeds seem more realistic. But I forgive them. The suspense was worth it.

I’ve been doing some reading about the show, and it seems that the pilot never actually aired, and that they changed the mood of the show some between the real pilot and the first aired episode. I hope they don’t change it too much. I like it just the way it is. Some of the “problems” the Fox execs had with the show were every bit as present in the Sci-fi Channel’s redeux of Battlestar Galactica, and that show was a hit. I wonder if Firefly would have been more popular than it was had Joss Whedon gotten his way.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to completing my education. Not that I doubted, but I suspect this series is going to be everything people have been telling me it is. So long as they don’t mess with Kaylee’s character. She’s probably the most intriguing one of the bunch (and more than a little bit cute, I’ll admit). She’s the living proof that none of the other characters are beyond redemption. She’s not so much naive as untouched. She knows there is darkness in the universe–even among the crew–but she simply accepts it, while at the same time being completely and genuinely happy to be who and where she is. I’m sure she’s not an easy character to play and not over-play, but Jewel Straits seems to have it nailed down.

As for Jayne, I first became familiar with Adam Baldwin from his character John Casey on the current series “Chuck”. It’s going to take some work to get the chronology right; that “Casey” is channeling “Jayne”, and not the other way around. Though already I can see a depth in Jayne’s character that hasn’t been allowed to surface in Casey in the first two seasons I’ve seen of “Chuck”.

As for Captain Mal/Nathan Fillion, I don’t have much to say yet. I’ve been around geek culture enough to know he’s something of minor deity these days, but I’m reserving judgment–especially since Captain Mal is the character Fox most had problems with, and is therefore likely to change in the next episode. All I can say so far is that Fillion plays the original vision for Mal well. You could see the inner demons getting caught in the gears turning in his head. I hope most of his character survives the adjustment.

Tonight’s challenge will be not putting off the other things I need to get done (again) and plunging right back into the show. If I’m smart I’ll stop watching now and use the remainder of the series as an incentive to keep me going on NaNoWriMo next month. But I probably won’t do that. <gump>I am not a smart man. </gump>