Saturday, January 30, 2010

Beginner's Luck and the Fat Girl: A More Academic (?) View

Beginner's Luck: a movie James Callis co-wrote and co-directed. It's a very indie film and isn't really available anywhere offline. If you wish to see it, contact me or purchase it as They have it for very cheap (that's where I got mine).

I wrote a pretty anguished post about this scene about a year ago and have since removed and retconned it. But I feel like I've given this so much thought that I'll just go ahead and post a more academic discussion of the fat girl scene and how it could be read. I can think of two possible readings, one which is positive to the fat girl and one which is negative. By posting my thoughts, I hope to do the film justice. My readings are just one way (well, two ways) of looking at the scenes, and it may not be what the filmmakers intended. If you're uninterested in feminist/fat acceptant film readings, please skip to the next post. I try to keep my political views separate of this tribute blog, but this is one case where I have made an exception, so I'll continue to do so.

My Reactions

Let me start this off by saying that I can't truly make any assumptions about James Callis' attitude on women, fat people, or fat women based on this film. He may love us, hate us or think nothing in particular about us, and there's nothing the film can really tell me about that. Because it is just a work of art, there were lots of people involved in making it, and I don't even know how to read the scene. Making any kind of judgement one way or the other would be silly. But that's what I did when I first saw the film.

My initial reading - that James wanted to diss fat girls - was based on my own personal issues with body shaming, bullying and being rejected. I feel bad that I thought the worst off the bat, but weirdly, that's kind of how fan disappointments work. The fan lifts the idol on a pedestal, and on some level, you're always worried that you'll be proven wrong and your image is completely in your head. When you encounter a disappointment, you immediately think this is the REAL person behind your image, and he's horrible. So ironically, the fan mindset serves to create two opposing extreme images: the ideal idol and the evil idol. Neither of these images is real, and while people tend to accuse fans of being too naïve, I think the opposite is also true. Fans make some of the harshest judgements.

Something in my positive James image is probably real - he does act in a way that lends itself to that interpretation (he shows people kindness, says thought-out and intelligent things, etc.). Some of my image is projection of the qualities I most admire in a person (or even in myself). The opposite image of a rude, sexist asshole who secretly loathes fat women is probably all fictional - nothing in James' behavior suggests that and indeed even the film isn't that bad.

If I'm to go too far in either direction, I'd best lean for the "James is sooo kind and good" line of thinking. Because it's always best to think well of people and expect the best, rather than the worst. Nobody's fully good but nobody's fully bad either, and assuming things about someone's inner thoughts based on a movie scene is not realism, it's still just fangirling in the opposite direction.

And this may just be wishful thinking, but the more I write about this, the more positive things I find about the depiction of the fat girl. It may be a flawed depiction with a strong chance of negative reading - but it's not blatantly hateful or stereotypical. There is something positive there that suggests the fat girl in the film isn't just a fat girl.

The Scene(s)

James plays Mark Feinman, a young director wannabe who randomly decides to start a theatre group that would perform Shakespeare's The Tempest. He has no money, no experience and no resources, and it's all generally a big disaster. The group's first gig is booked at a seedy strip club. The owner, played by Steven Berkoff, is a crass and scary guy who wants them to take on his niece, or else.

His niece is a fat girl named Charlotte, who is shown standing awkwardly in front of the others in her first scene. Mark welcomes her with a rather desperate smile, and it's clear that she isn't wanted in the group.

In a later scene, the one I took offense with, Charlotte is supposed to be kissing Jason, another actor, for the play. Neither of them wants to do it, and Mark yells at them that he's the director and he wants them to kiss. Charlotte threatens him with "Uncle Bob". Mark then decides to show Jason how to do it - only he seems to have trouble doing it, and has to really force himself to bend down and kiss her with intensity, tho not much passion. He seems rather dizzy afterwards. (I must admit that if it weren't for the nature of the scene, I would have laughed, because James' body language here was hilarious.)

After this, Charlotte is shown rehearsing with the group, looking rather skeptical about the whole thing. In her final scene, she leaves Mark a message from a pay phone, informing him that she's leaving the group. "It's nothing personal - I just think you're hopeless," she says with tears running down her face. Before Mark has a chance to pick up, she's already stepped into a taxi. We don't see her again.

The Readings

So let me put on my academic glasses and try to parse the scenes in a rather more intellectual manner. I'll admit to my biased status as James' fan and I probably won't be able to be completely objective, but then no one ever is.

This time, I won't say anything about author intention. We were taught at the uni about "death of the author": never trust the author, always trust the tale, don't look for interpretations in the author's life events, and so forth. So I am looking at the tale and its possible readings. Anything in these scenes may have been negotiated between James Callis, Nick Cohen (the co-writer/director) and Debbie Chazen who plays Charlotte. I see a lot of negative but also a lot of positive. But this is just a work of art, not a personal statement from James Callis. I'm trying to keep that in mind.

The anti-fat reading

The fat girl is unwanted, like fat girls in films often are. She's awkward, big and clumsy, and dressed in clothes that aren't very flattering; even in her first scene, the audience is signalled by these things to find her unattractive and laughable. The uncle forcing her into the group is a bit like a scary uncle forcing you to go on a date with his ugly daughter - another movie trope - where you're forced to be polite despite your distaste for her. (When I say "you", I mean an assumed male viewer who finds slim women attractive. Which seems to be the only type of viewer who would enjoy this kind of scene.)

The kissing scene is a replay of an old stereotype: kissing the fat ugly girl. Mark tries his best, but simulating attraction to Charlotte is an impossible task and he proves it by being so repelled by her that he can barely touch her lips at all. We're supposed to side with Mark and Jason, find Charlotte unattractive and sympathize with guys who have to pretend to kiss her. There are also other instances in the film where Mark finds a girl unattractive and favors another, this being only the most obvious one.

Perhaps it's also a joke on the guy: Jason is skinny and has glasses, and a girl wouldn't be expected to find him attractive. So the joke is on both of them, but mostly on Charlotte.

The fat girl is the epitome of the unwanted loser. When even she leaves and tells Mark he's hopeless, that pretty much shows us what a sad nobody Mark truly is, and how ridiculous his ambitions with this play. As the actual story of the film unfolds, we're ready to discard the fat girl and focus on the actual characters. The viewers aren't expected to sympathize with or care about the fat girl, so it's best to not have her in the scenes for any longer than necessary.

Kissing the fat girl is a throwaway joke, a typical (especially British) film trope. The underlying idea - which may or may not have been acknowledged by the filmmakers - is that a woman's most important quality is her attractiveness. Julie Delpy's eteric blonde beauty compared to Charlotte's clumsiness or Alex and Chloe's (the other "ugly girls" in the film) tomboyish appearances serves to strengthen beauty ideals. Nothing revolutionary about this indie film.

The pro-fat reading

Charlotte knows she is unwanted. She enters as a kind of victim of her (clearly sexist and scary) uncle. Who knows if she even wanted to be in this? Maybe her uncle forced her to come into the group. Or maybe she has ambitions she hasn't been able to realize, perhaps due to size discrimination. She's pretty daring to come at all, considering that the other members of the group clearly don't want her, and she looks scared but defiant.

In the kissing scene, Charlotte refuses to be kissed. The tables are turned: rather than being the unwanted ugly girl, she rejects the possibility to be kissed. Realizing there is no sexual chemistry, she tries to let Mark know that she's not willing to be humiliated like this. Mark makes a fool of himself by forcing it, and Charlotte is deeply offended by this.

Mark's distaste for kissing her could be about his sexual taste -not everyone likes fat women, and nothing offensive about that - or the fact that he's currently mad at her and is doing this to prove a point. The important part is her reaction: her defiance, her voice, her being hurt. Mark is generally shown to be a sexist idiot who doesn't know how to behave with the girls in the group, and the girls' hurt feelings are always displayed. We are not meant to sympathize with Mark.

Possibly the smartest member of the group, Charlotte realizes she should be leaving rather than staying on a sinking ship. Moreover, she's tired of being the unwanted fat girl in the group, and she knows this will not change. She may cry at the offense and humiliation, but she's not a passive victim. By leaving alone in a taxi, she takes her destiny in her own hands and breaks away from her oppressive uncle and the sexist guys in the group. She doesn't wait for Mark's response on the phone, because she's made up her mind. Mark tries to plead her to come back, but she's already left. She could have stayed on until the end of the film, being ridiculed for her weight, having more and more humiliating situations, but she wasn't. She cried and she left. This is a nice twist.

Charlotte is played by a fat woman, not a skinny girl in a fat suit. She is never shown eating - not even in the end when she's crying - and is generally as much of a character as any of the slim girls. Her weight is never referred to explicitly by anyone in the film, she has a name, and she has a voice. She is a strong fat female character, and this bodes well for the film's view of women. (In general, the women in the film are spunky and have a voice.)


Um, conclusion. I don't really have one. Well, I've written this out of my system. I'm not sure how to read all of this, but I see I had a lot more to say in terms of the positive reading, and maybe that means something. If you've seen the film and want to weigh in, please leave a comment. I'd be curious to hear other views.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Downloaded: A Picspam

Cylon agent 04827894r, a model Six, completed her mission on Caprica and was able to gain access into the defense mainframe. After her successful task, she is now being downloaded to a new body.

Memory scan: 0 %.

Memory scan: 50 %. You will notice that the agent frequently engaged in what humans call "frakking". This was done not for pleasure, but for business, to obtain the codes. While the human is helpless in the throes of his sexual needs, we are convinced that the agent had no feelings involved whatsoever. Cylon efficiency at its best!

Memory scan: 100 %. Consciousness activated.

Caprica: Wh... what... where... I was in a house..?
The Three: You're not in a house anymore. Now you're back with us.
Caprica: M-multiple orgasms..?
The Three: Yeah, I'm afraid the time for those is over. Your mission is complete. You're a hero!

Caprica: Gaius... Gaius was in the house... is he dead?
The Three: Gaius Baltar?
Caprica: How many Gaiuses do you know?
The Three: Fair enough. Well...

HeadBaltar: (longest shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh in tv history) I'm not really here!
Don't let on that you can see me or there'll be trouble! Oh, but don't worry, you're not crazy. I'm an angel.

The Three: Caprica, would you mind terribly if Dr Baltar was dead?
HeadBaltar: Say no or you're dead meat.
Caprica: Um, it would be... unfortunate... not that I care because I'm a completely emotionless machine.
The Three: Atta girl. Welcome back to our world.

(The time tags are really confusing but suffice it to say, around the same time the second season of Galactica is happening onboard...)

Caprica: Isn't this park such a relaxing place?
HeadBaltar: I suppose so, once they clean out those bodies scattered all over.

HeadBaltar: So many people died here. I despise you and your kind.
Caprica: Ahh, your hair...
HeadBaltar: Are you even listening? -Well, at least you're paying attention to something. My hair is pretty gorgeous.

The Three (faux-cheerfully): How are we doing here?
Caprica: Ah, just fine... unwinding in the park, thinking cylon stuff...

Caprica: I do feel kind of stiff still. This body, I know it's identical but I don't really feel... myself yet.
The Three: I remember when I first downloaded. It was painful and stiff. But you know what, you get over it!
Caprica: Right, with time....
The Three: No, I mean, you get over it. Now.

The Three: You're such a hero now! And to think of what you did. Seducing a man so completely and having him under your power. I mean, your mission could be very ... unsettling.
HeadBaltar: Hey, what so unsettling about sleeping with me?
Caprica: Hmmm...
HeadBaltar: Caprica? Tell her I was good.
Caprica: Hmmm...

The Three: Anyhoo, I thought you could check in another cylon who downloaded around the time you did. She's having some troubles adjusting. She still insists on calling herself Sharon.
Caprica: You mean like how some models prefer to be called Cavil, or Simon?
The Three: No, this time it's a sign of adjustment issues.
Caprica: How so?
The Three: Look, it's not supposed to make sense. Just go to her house and try to convince her to be a cylon.

The Three: ...Because if you don't, we will have to kill her consciousness.
HeadBaltar: Oh, how lovely! Damn it's good to be a cylon!
Caprica: Shut the frak up!
The Three: Excuse me?!
Caprica: I was talking to my um... conscience.
The Three: That's the spirit!

AN UNIDENTIFIED TIME LATER, at Boomer's place, things are going not altogether well...

Caprica: "Listen, your mission was God's will. He'll help you out."
Boomer: "Well, I don't believe in your God!"
Caprica: (awkwardly) "Eh, but... God believes in you!"
Boomer: *eye-roll*
HeadBaltar: "Wow. You tell me you've never done this before? What a natural."
Caprica: "Shut up or help me out."

HeadBaltar: "OK, these elephants. Once you bring them up she will have a nervous breakdown and you guys can relate."

Boomer: The elephants? They just remind me of how I'M A FRAKKING CYLON!!!! AAARGHH! *throws a picture with a glass frame at the wall*

HeadBaltar: How clever! You scratched your own cheek in an attempt to get her sympathy.
Caprica: Why would you tell me that? I know what I did.
HeadBaltar: No, it's for the viewers. Look, here comes the replay.
Caprica: Oh, for the love of...
HeadBaltar: Get over it, you only have to do this for one episode.

HeadBaltar: "Listen, I can help you out. Just repeat in unison with me. I am different."
Caprica: "I am different."
(in unison:)
"I'm more like you. There was a man I loved. I'm sure he would have loved me too, eventually. Granted, he freaked out when I asked him if he loves me, and I caught him cheating on the day of the attacks. But I'm still convinced that somewhere deep inside he was able to love me..."

Boomer: "Awww, that is so desperate. I can totally relate to you now."

Later: the girls are bonding.

Boomer: Cylon tampons.
Caprica: Oh, totally superior to human ones. See, I told you there are good sides to our culture!
Boomer: So, you said you were in love with one of us. Who was it?

HeadBaltar: "Us", so cute! She thinks she's human. By the way, isn't it soothing to know that even as an angel, I'm still an alcoholic?

Caprica: *tries to grab an invisible glass, then remembers that might seem a bit crazy* Heh heh, silly me.
Boomer: Eh...
Caprica: Right. The guy. Maybe you've heard of him... Gaius Baltar?
Boomer: Gaius Baltar the athlete? Gaius Baltar the president of Picon? ...You don't mean doctor Baltar?!
Caprica: Right.
Boomer: He works for the cylons?!
Caprica: He's... alive?
Boomer: He's the frakking vice president of the twelve colonies! Where have you been? -Oh sorry, I forgot you've been dead.


Meanwhile, on Galactica... Our "hero" tries to save the child of baby Hera. He's still looking every bit as charming and confident as HeadBaltar... um, maybe we just caught him on a bad day.

Adama: It's gotta be bad for humans if they wanted it.
Roslin: I don't know how we can be safe if that baby is onboard.

Gaius: But but... we gotta save the baby! It's some part human! I... totally have a scientific interest in this! *freaks out*

Roslin: Calm down, Dr Baltar.
Gaius: That's vice president Baltar! *his voice breaks in a whimper*
Roslin: For some reason, it's easy to forget that...

(Dear viewers, there was a big deleted storyline here where Gaius Baltar actually tried to save the baby, but we cut it for no apparent reason. Also: there was more Gina. Sorry.)

SOME TIME LATER... (It could be the same day, but honestly, who can keep track when they always seem to have the same clothes on?)

Boomer and Caprica are having coffee over at Ominous Café, where multiple copies of cylons are chatting and drinking their coffees.

HeadBaltar: Ahh, my hair...
Caprica: Why would the Three want us to talk? She knew you'd tell me about Gaius being alive.
HeadBaltar: Are you still on that? You robots sure are thick. As is my hair... *strokes*
Caprica (tries hard to not show her feelings of being hurt/turned on)

The Three (faux-cheerfully): Hi girls! Mind if I join ya? What were you talking about?

Caprica: Ehhhhh.....
Boomer: Ummmmm....
HeadBaltar: Oh for goodness sake, think of something! I don't know how the cylon race has survived so far.
Caprica: C-cylon tampons..?

MEANWHILE, on Galactica...
Roslin decided the best and fairest thing to do would be to pretend the baby died, and give it to some human mother so she can raise it as human. Gaius returns to his lab to find a seething HeadSix...

Gaius: "Listen, Six, the baby, well, it died. It's not my fault, I swear! Please don't kill me!"

HeadSix: (hisses) God... will...punish... youu....
Gaius: (unconvincingly) Um, I'm not scared because I don't believe in the cylon God so how could he punish me, eh...
HeadSix: ...with lack of sex!

MEANWHILE on Caprica:
There is an EXPLOSION because of the HUMAN RESISTANCE trying to kill the CYLONS. One HUMAN - ironically it's Anders who's one of the Final Five - ends up in the ruins with the three cylons we know... But Caprica and Sharon don't want to kill him.

Boomer: Look, why does he need to die?
The Three: Awww, so sweet! You want to save your little human buddy so you can play with him! You sure are frakked up, "Sharon".

Caprica: (to thin air as far as Three can see) Oh Gaius... I love you, I want you...
The Three: WTF? You're both demented! I should just box both of your lines right now.

HeadBaltar (meaningfully):
"Your wounds are red, cigarette smoke is blue,
let the smoke float and you will too..."

Caprica: What?!

HeadBaltar: OK, cut me some slack. I'm still new to this "ominous head character" thing.

HeadBaltar: Caprica, I love you more than I've ever loved anyone in my life. Now please kill the Three.

Caprica (kills the Three): Oh, Gaius. And I thought this head thing was going to be creepy.

Caprica Six convinced Boomer to work with her. And so they became Super-Caprica and Super-Boomer and the cylons may have done weird and wonderful things, if it weren't for Caprica's silly plan to go find her beloved Dr Baltar and frak him once more. And despite how awesome this episode was, there was never another one from the cylon point of view.
The End.

Monday, January 25, 2010

James Callis at FedCon 2009: The Panel, Part 2

This image will come up again later, but it just looked so amusing up here with James staring at the title with an open mouth...

OK, part 2 then. I was going to sprinkle Elina's comments again, but I must admit I've forgotten most of them by now. So I'm afraid it's just me babbling and digressing worse than James himself. My apologies.

This starts at about 30 minutes of the panel.

Question: Gaius' attitude on Laura Roslin seems ambivalent. How does James think he sees her?
How does he see Laura? Well first of all, Mary McDonnell, as you know, is the most phenomenal, beautiful actress, and working with her was an absolute privilege. She's uh... stunning! [applause] And that's the thing she, you know, before our scenes most of the time, she couldn't even look at me, she was getting ready to be Roslin and just you know, beat me up. Although to hear her talk about it, she's always like, "Oh, James is always beating me up." We both had a persecution complex. Roslin thought Gaius was after her. But actually, Gaius wasn't after her. He was after on... on some level, that political grandstand. He's possibly one of the only characters that Roslin did not have her way with. She rolled the law with everybody, he was the one person who was like.. No, I'm not gonna do that, I'm not gonna sing your tune. Not gonna sit in space for another year so you can be the president when everybody wants to go down on the planet.

He had some very pragmatic things. One thing is especially, cos like I said, I don't think Gaius Baltar is malicious. He always respected Laura Roslin in a way that he knew she hated him. It's one of these things, a kind of love-hate. There was something special about her and honest about her. And I think there were some lines, in that thing.. oh yes! When she wins the election, the lines I had to Zarek about, "She tells the truth. She's honest. Which is why we lost. Cos our campaign wasn't like that." So a lot of respect, yes...

Like, there's a scene when I wake up on the cylon baseship and she was kissing me, in the dream. Well, originally in the script, that was a gun, she blew my brains out. [laughter] I was like, that's a bit obvious isn't it? Wouldn't it be kind of far more fun if you really don't know what the hell's going on and then Gaius is like "I'm dreaming, aren't I?" and we're out. That kind of thing worked really well. He had a profound respect for her.

It's an interesting point that Gaius had his own way while the others obeyed Roslin. He wasn't much of a leader but at least he wasn't just her sockpuppet. It kind of elevates him above some characters, sometimes even Adama. (But then he was in love with Roslin so maybe he gets a pass.)

Every time I have a dream where I ask "Am I dreaming?", others reply, "No, this is reality!" and every time I ask that in real life, people mock me by saying "Yes, it's all a dream! It's all in your head!" So that bit kinda bugged me. But I loved that scene because it's just so Gaius. Everyone forgives him so easily, and while HeadSix - maybe representing his conscience in the dream - tries to bring it back to his awful guilt, the humans are still just smiling goofily, and then it all turns into sex. "I've always wanted you" - pretty much what Gaius would expect any woman to say, especially if he finds the woman attractive. I also loved how Gaius wakes up and his hand just shakes a little - a very nice touch, because people don't generally jump up in bed when they wake up. (Something Gaius did do in the annoying season 4.5 scene where he dreamt of Adama being killed.)

When he saved her life.. through the.. I dunno, organization of the cells from the baby. That wasn't really about saving her life. See, this is where he's a strange man. That was more about: "I'm so brilliant! Here I am, discovering this thing. Oh yes, I can also save her life. But that's really not so important." It's more about that crossword satisfaction of coming up with something completely novel and genius. And he saved his life, which I brought up again and again and again in the script. Every time she hated me, I was like: "You know, I saved your life! You can't bear it!" There is a truism in nature that.. what is it? You know, some people can't forgive you the good turn you do them. That's what I'd say. [applause]
That's interesting because we just rewatched that scene in the Gaius/Six rewatch community, and I think you can really tell he's on a "mad scientist" kick, complete with crazy facial expressions. Baltar's motivations in the scene may be a matter of interpretation, but James certainly plays heavily on Mad Scientist Performs A New Trick.

What was the meaning of the coda in the end, where Baltar says "Silly silly me"?
I have a telephone here, maybe we should ring Ron Moore, find out. For those of you who don't know, Ron Moore is the producer of BSG, who was actually in the last scene reading a newspaper, or we were reading a newspaper over his shoulder. Um, I don't know. I think it's the simple answer. I didn't know what Six was from very early on, but I worked off something that she was either some facet of my personality or... my deep-seated guilt that just would not leave me alone. Like a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder, a form of MPD or something like that. I suppose on a kind of iconic level, they're voices of good and the voices of evil steering Gaius forward. Although really only he had six as his guardian. What did the end mean? Well, they cut some lines out, you see, which I think did make it rather difficult to totally understand. But um..

[thinks] Essentially it was.. the "silly silly me" was replying to a line that Tricia had had about what the stakes were. I think it's like.. silly silly me. "What are the stakes" The most important .. do you see? If we're gonna do this thing, does it happen again? Should we have a bet? What's the betting, that this world is gonna end up like, you know, Caprica that we all screwed up? And I'd come like "What is the bet?" She just gives me this look or says something and then I reply, "silly silly me". That's supposed to mean like: I understand the stakes are enormous. Getting it wrong this time means the destruction of everything.. again. That's what that's supposed to mean, I believe. Was there another part of your question?

Fan: "No, that was all."

James: "OK, good."
I've had so many searches for this. "Baltar silly silly me", "Baltar you know it doesn't like that name", and so forth. I was glad that I saw the David Eick video blog of the final read-thru, because there you have James saying the lines about "what are the stakes", and I was able to actually inform people in that post about the finale. That's one of the few cases where people searched for something specific, found my blog, and actually got what they were looking for. I get so many search terms where I think "Wow, that must be one disappointed visitor". Best example: "When a man gains weight, does his penis get smaller?" Um, I really don't know, and I swear I never considered this aspect of James' random weight gains. If this blog were a place where you can find that sort of ramblings, you'd have my permission to slap me with a fresh fish of your choice.

But I digress. I'd rather they had kept the final scene the way it was in the script (or the read-thru we saw anyway), because it just seems - well, hard to follow and kind of hurried the way it is. They even seem to speak as fast as they can, and then there's the longg robot montage. But hey, it's James and he got to be in the final scene of the show and speak the final lines. And that's really something.

A question about the finale's message. The fan seems to think it's an anti-technology, "luddite" episode.

Well, you know. First of all, it is a TV show, and maybe if there was more time and [effort?] You know, like, any one decision we always thought on Galactica would lead to a 1000 conversations that we couldn't necessarily film. So when Lee had the idea that we shouldn't bring technology down, you know, if it had run for another few seasons, there could have been a whole show about half the fleet up in arms about whether or not that was a good idea, if you see what I mean. Just wasn't an avenue that was explained cos I think we were trying to get to the coda, as you said.

It's a very very difficult.. in fact it's impossible, we have our creature comforts. I'm speaking to you right now on the microphone, cos when it went down, you couldn't hear me. You become accustomed to the things that you think make your life easier. And Lee is an idealist and always has been. And everybody seems to put ther trust in him. We haven't, luckily, so far been involved in a nuclear holocaust that wipes out everybody we know. But if we had ben, maybe your question would be slightly different. I swear to god if there was something, no matter how many people would be left they'd be, hey, do we really need the microwave? Do we really need it? Maybe we can do something else.

That's not necessarily luddite, either. I mean, luddite is just smashing up the machines, ha ha... for the hell of it, because.. on that scale, the mills in.. when the industrial revoultion was coming in, they were like, oh my god, they've got three of these spinning jennies and 400 people are out of work! Smack them down! -That's not what this is about at all. And the coda towards the end? It's kind of fantasmagorical. It's this happy thing. yeah, weve all survived, it's all great. And isn't it nice, there are angles or maybe demons walking among us. But like you go back to the tv screen and it looks like all of this has happened before and all of this might very well happen agian. Just in a kind of... in a more sweet? version than our fans are normally used to, given the apocalyptical nature of our show.

Quite simply the BEST word ever devised. It's a mixture of the words, 'fantastic', 'amazing' and 'magical' all in one juicy little package.

It's important not to overuse the word. It's reserved for when ordinary, boring words just won't cut it.
Yet there's also another definition here that seems to be different:

A misspelling of phantasmagoric, but used generally as a synonym for cool. Phantasmagoric means the constantly shifting series of intertwined pictures like you experience during dreaming. Fantasmagorical draws on this definition, but more describes an interesting experience.

So um... the coda was either a series of intertwined pictures like in a dream, or just really awesome? Maybe he means it was really confusing.

It's probably true that they just wanted to hurry the plot along. There was a post at Galactica Sitrep at the time, and it was about how abandoning machines would be a likely thing to do in that situation, kind of what James is getting at here. I think it makes sense in the context of, if they wanted to have flushing toilets and computers and all that, they'd have to stay on the ship, and they've been confined there for the last five years and want to explore the land instead. To me, this makes perfect sense. Sending Galactica to the sun doesn't make that much sense, because they could have used a lot of what was still on the ship (medical supplies?) and it could have served as a home for some people at first. I don't necessarily see the ending as luddite, also because there was no way they could have gotten more electricity and all that, if there was none invented on the planet yet.

What I do find kind of irritating is the thing with the robots on the TV screen. I think that was a mistake. Maybe with the one robot, the one that looks like an Asian woman - the reference to Eights? - but not a dancing robot and my god, not a bunch of toy robots rocking out to All Along the Watchtower. That just took me off the mood, after a very emotional and fulfilling episode. I also think the angels' dialogue was a little too... obvious. Like, what they were wasn't explained, and who they appear to wasn't explained, but they did make a very obvious point about humanity going too far and destroying ourselves. I actually think it would have been cute if a modern-day Gaius Baltar had been walking in the crowd and they'd followed him.

Elina had some point about microwaves. I think it was that they wouldn't work if we'd been thru a nuclear holocaust, and also that microwaves save electricity. Am I remembering this right? She read my last panel post and didn't even remember saying those things until I reminded her in Finnish. I know we were both on severe sugar high when we watched this, but still. Tsk tsk.

When the question is extra demanding, there needs to be some hair-pulling. Does he pull the answers out of his hair? Luscious hair gives luscious answers!

The next fan says he wants to lighten up the mood with something "shallow and superficial. "Good!" says James.

Were there any pranks on set that he can tell us about, was there a lot of fooling around?

James: Normally I must say no. Most people concentrated so hard, very few people were, as it were, larking around particularly. One thing I do remember is.. I'm very friendly with Jamie Bamber...

Fan: Have you seen him naked by the way?

James: Uh... No. [smiles] No, in a word...

Fan: Sorry about the interruption.

James: No, not at all. [my note: It does seem to throw him off though, because he has to think for a bit. Hee!]

So... I was speaking to him and he had a very serious scene coming up with Edward James Olmos. He said, "You know, I've got this big scene, I'm thinking about doing a few things I'm thinking about a few things like this and like that.. what do you think?" I said, "I think you should think about the fact that LEE spelled bakcwards is EEL." [pause, laughter] "I think that will come in handy." And then he turned around and he said, "Well BALTAR backwards is RATLAB!" So there you go. [laughter]

It's not a new story to me, but it's always fun to hear. I'd imagine James might be a prankster on set, but I guess he was not.

The next fan starts by saying that James did a good job of being unlikeable on the show. It was nice to see someone say something like this. It's honest and refreshing, there's no need to fawn over him. (Even if I know I do.) I'm not saying the fans who praised him were necessarily dishonest or putting on an act, but I think it's possible to overdo it a little bit. I can understand that though. I can't even imagine what embarrassing things I would say.

Fan: With you, I was mostly thinking, "Not him again!"

James: [mock-scolding] There's always one, isn't there?

Fan: So my question is... What are your musical ambitions, because I heard you play instruments?

James: Don't really have musical ambitions, but I do play music and it really helps me.. chill out. There's a quote by.. I don't know why I know this, it's obviously a university thing I picked up, something I picked up at university while trying not to learn anything. There's some quote by some guy called Mallarme, and the quote is: "All art aspires to the condition of music." And I think it's true. And being on touch on some level with ... I was just listening to Kruder & Dorfmeister, has anybody here heard Kruder & Dorfmeister? Thank you Germany! Supercool. Yes, no real musical ambitions, but music is for me, on that scale.

It's interesting that James, an actor who studied acting and literature, still upholds music as the highest form of art. I'm a bit surprised he doesn't value cinema or theatre above music. It's a beautiful thing to say, though, and I wonder about James' relationship with music. I read in an interview that he originally wanted to be a rock star, which is not something he often brings up. He was adviced to go with acting instead because of the risk of being a one-hit wonder. We all sometimes ponder on how it could have been, if only. Obviously James has many talents and you can only do so much in one lifetime. But like I've said before, James' music impressed me, and I always wanted to hear more. Maybe one day we will?

I'm amused that even Professor James himself wonders why he remembers a certain quote. We all have a bunch of stray knowledge in our heads, stuff we read somewhere or heard from someone we know who's an expert. I think this is particularly true of university students and alumni. So much useless knowledge floating around.

Also - I actually checked Kruder & Dorfmeister out on Youtube. It is pretty cool; they're Dj's doing a kind of jazzy club music. One thing though - they are from Austria, not Germany. So that's like saying "I love U 2 - thank you England". But I haven't seen anyone complain about this in the FedCon reports, so it must not a big insult to Germans to be confused with Austrians.

Asked about the Six models - which was the most interesting one?

James: That's... I just can't answer that question, I don't know. He was in love with one and they all reminded him of the one he was in love with. So the most interesting one must be Caprica six. Who I think, on some level, has a very big tie with the HeadSix. For the longest time, as you know, Gaius couldn't differentiate between the two. So yeah, I don't know about all of the others. I don't know if he even got to meet all of the others, maybe he did. It's hard to tell, isn't it? If they all look identical, whether it's, you know, and they've all got the same name... [goes silent like he doesn't know what to say. mischievious smile]

Well, I wouldn't say Caprica, Gina, Natalie, and Shelly all had the same name? Weirdly, I think he's confusing Six with all the Eights - they all had the same name and I guess the Simons and Dorals went by the same name too (which is just sloppy writing in my opinion, because wouldn't they just have names as a cover to work with humans?). But Sixes were different, they had different hairstyles and different names.

The answer almost sounds like James, much like his character, confused the different Sixes.

The next question is about the humor with Baltar.

James: [thinks] I just remember trying to do... at the very beginning.. what's the word? When something is very inappropriate, it can be funny. And I remember very early on there was this very serious scene I was doing with Alessandro. where he said I'm very sorry bc it looks like your defense cdodes or because you had a hand in that.. half the planet's been killed. The normal reaction to that sort of thing is.. I dunno what you do.. you couldn't look somebody in the eye or... it's very very serious. I dunno why, but I just thought, what if Gaius Baltar is a barefaced liar, and he's a really bad liar, as well. It's something I found funny. So when he asked me the question, I went.. [face] I dunno... You're talking about millions of people being killed,
so that kind of puts it in a strange, perverse context.

James does the miniseries face.

The joke of it is, on that level, while it's funny... We call it Schadenfreude, I believe. It's never funny for him, which is why it's so funny. If it'd ever been funny for him, we'd all have been in the audience going, "No, I don't think this is right." Whereas he was always in panic and fear. And the way he displayed that panic and fear was so self-serving and so transparent. So yeah it's... Again, this is a useful tool because if he didn't have that going for him, what the frak does this man have going for him? So it's one little tick in his box, at least he has a sense of humor. Which is more than we can say for a lot of people. There it is. [applause]
Well, he's handsome - come on, James, you are - and rich... and highly educated, and intelligent... So you can tick those boxes. That's about it though. I think the new aspect in this answer is the idea that it's not funny for Gaius. He is funny to an outside observer, but tragic for himself. Actually, if he had more of a sense of humor about himself, he might behave better, because he'd see how silly his narcissism is.

There are lots of fans writing blogs - ahem - and talking about the show and the finale. But did they think about the fans' expectations while shooting it?

James: No, in a word. I was just saying in Paris.. just last week, it was like.. Somebody asked us why we're such good friends really, why we really do have this bond. Jamie described it like, the whole cast is like... have this bond like we're soldiers who served in a war. To some degree we kind of are. Acting does something to you. I said it's because we never knew if the series was gonna go ahead, we shot a pilot, we shot it far awya from everybody else in vancouver, and that is not Los Angeles. It is a bit like an outpost, and we were.. You know, in these studios, they basically lok like the spaceship. We did this thing for ourselves. We acted with each other for ourselves. Every day was like play for today, for the actors, for the director, for the writers, the people on set. What are we gonna create in this box right now? What sparks and colors are we going to make fly for our own edification and our own enjoyment? Then it was like, my god, is the rest of the world watching us? Are they... other people... They can see us?

We got very very close because... We were saying that there's other shows where I think people realize they're a big deal, they know eveyrone's watching it. Maybe they're like... This is the bit where I give the cool look. Cos the fans like that cool look. That's not what we were doing. Although.. [gives the cool look again]

The cool look.

Yeah, no, I believe on some very big level, we were doing it for ourselves, and when you love something that much yourself, it's no wonder that it creates energy whereby.. we finished filming over a year ago. And honestly, this room is packed, because you all loved the show. You definitely didn't all love Gaius Baltar and I'm the one talking here right now. So that kind of thing has a big effect. Nobody wants to be disliked by the fans, I don't think anybody wants to be particularly disliked by anybody. We weren't doing it.. I don't think in the sense of... when it becomes more instructed by the fans rather than the strange ? that you don't know what you're going to see?, it would be a case of the tail wagging the dog, which would.. I don't think it'd be a good idea. That's what I have to say.

The fan says that really came thru on the show, and that it's one of the reasons the show is so great. And I agree. James thanks her and looks like he really appreciates this sort of compliment. Not that he doesn't appreciate all the "you were great" type compliments, but I think this one somehow touches him deeper. Maybe because it's so specifically "you succeeded at this particular thing you were trying to do".

He was referring to the Jules Verne thing, and I believe Jamie Bamber made a reference to Band of Brothers, which he was in. Five years is a long time to work together, and it probably does give you time to form lifelong friendships.

Would the show listening to fans be the tail wagging the dog? I guess I'm biased as a fan but I will say this... sometimes some fans had deeper ideas than the writers. I remember all the discussion about what HeadSix is, what Daniel, the cylon number six, had to do with everything, and so forth. There were many avenues Ron Moore could have explored, just by looking online. Maybe that would have been lazy writing, but I do think he should have at least checked what level the fans were thinking on. I think he sort of went under the expectations and didn't even try to resolve some things. This is not to say he should have done anything specifically because the fans wanted it, but it's a bit disturbing to me that some blogs had deeper and more interesting explanations than the finale itself. I did enjoy the finale, but it was still lacking in some (deep thinking or sci fi) aspects.

The next question begins with "You are a successful and very good actor..." James frowns like he's thinking "Wait, are you talking to me?" The question is what tips he'd give to aspiring actors.

"Who, me?!"
Everybody acts, every day. Everything. Even people like going into a store and asking for something. So much of our performance and the way we are socially.. you are acting little bits. It's a kind of diffiuclt question.. bc you said successful actor. Everything is so relative.. really relative. I want to be an actor, and I think a lot of people want to be stars. That's a very... You know like these all these.. what is it, Pop Idol, I'm sure you have it over here. These kid of star making shows about being a celebrity eather than necessarily being an actor. I would say if you wanna be an actor, there's nobody else like you in the universe. You are unique. Be unique, be yourself. Don't be like anybody else. I think lots of people try to be like other people.

And another thing actually, something I worked out.. I've just been in LA right now, and I saw a lot of people auditioning. Not just auditioning for like a job. I saw like a lady with very high heels and a very tiny dog that looked more like, I must say, a rodent than a dog, and this jacket.. [walks]

And I looked in a pizza stand.. this guy doing this stuff! it's like everybody is auditioning all of the time! I dunno for what.. so you look at them, so you pick something different... I'd say on some level, stop auditioning. Start being... just in the moment, the time, just be yourself. That should be fun.
It would be interesting to ask him more about this. Does he intend to portray a certain image to us fans, or is he really just being himself? How easy or hard is it to be yourself in front of the audience, when you know the whole world can see you? I feel like his personality does come through in everything he does - but then that's just my image of his personality, so I could be wrong.

I think LA might just be one of those places where going down the street is a performance. But yes, some people actually consider you successful because you've been on an internationally acclaimed and popular show. Who knew?

And don't knock little dogs, James! Especially when I just likened you to a dachshund not long ago. He seems woefully unaware of his little-dog-like appearance and should be made aware of this. I challenge con-goers to have him sign a picture of a dachshund. Or maybe I have to do it. I wonder if Dora Negri-Crutchfield has available publicity shots.

A question about Baltar's Aerilon accent - could he do it again?

James: [accent] I can do that right now for you darling. I spent 3 years in York University, which is up in the North of England. And first time I arrived up in York, I went to the pub, and I said [in his own accent] "Can I please have the pub lunch?" And the lady said, "Whatcha want darling, beef -ow-park?" I said, "Beef and ..what?" She said, "Beef-ow-park?" I said, "Is that French, does it come in a pastry?" [laughter] Seriously, I thought somebody was going to stab me thru the head! Like this guy said to me, he went, "Beef or pork, you idiot." Oh.

So yeah, there's a very.. and York was quite you know.. [accent] quite tough, they were very very tough. I remember going to the chip ship one night and after going to the.. local disco called Toff's, and students would all jump in line, I'd be here, like at the front of queue, and I'd have three mates who were like, "Hey James, can you get me some chips as well?" So more and more people were jumping the line. There aren't any kids in here, are there? If I get a bit x-rated?

Ahoy, Captain! Really James, if you worry about the language, just use "frak". I see he's already forgotten it because the show hasn't been shot for ages.

Partly? just the language, but there was some big old guy going, "'appens every Friday night! Fucking students coming in here! Stop cutting in the line. I want my chips!" I'm like okay, pal. OK. So yeah, that's where it came from.

A tough Yorkshire expression.

The accent is a hit, but not as much as in the Starfury panel from 2008 - I wonder how well the German fans understand his Yorkshire English. I'm fascinated that the accent is so thick James himself had trouble with it at first. Initially, when I was learning English, I couldn't understand a word Scottish or Irish people said, but I've gotten better at it. (Albeit not necessarily that good, see my attempts at transcribing Mark Sheppard.) I do have a sort of sad memory about Yorkshire accent specifically - I loved the books by James Herriot, and had ordered one into our library in English. I was twelve, had studied English three years at school, and felt all confident I could read the book and enjoy it in the original language. Then I open it and see all the attemps at transcribing Yorkshire dialect, as well as the medical terms. It took me ages to get through even one chapter. Very disappointing.

I had to google "pub lunch" to know what kind of food inspires the question "beef or pork". I think it's um... delicious-looking... British food is... interesting... I would totally eat that... *gags* No offense to the Brits, Finnish food isn't so great either. The German subtitles provided on the DVD say "poplunch", which might be a misunderstanding or a German type of pub lunch. Once again, I digress to ponder on the food references. I should make a whole "What James Eats" post sometime and really dig on the issue from a more... academic... viewpoint. If you want to see such a post, please let me know.

The next question is about Baltar being tortured, "with the water" and...

James: Oh by the colonials as opposed to by the cylons? What a good life this man had! Yes.

[The question is how it was to shoot those scenes]

James: It was horrible. Honestly it was horrible. People are being tortured right now, people have been tortured. God only knows what the fuck that feels like.. how utterly horrible that must be. So you.. I've said this before because that's the real thing, you don't want to look like you're not committed to it. I think that's the sign that this is surprisingly all over.. [pretends to swim thru the fog]

James goes dancing in the fog a little bit, and the camera can't even keep up. Our boyish guy. He's just probably trying to get closer to the fans, as he stands there at the edge of stage and talks seriously after a moment. It just looks suspiciously like he got excited about the fog and went crazy there for a second. Normal for James. ;)

The only thing I will say is that when I had my head strapped to that thing, Edward James Olmos wanted my eyes to be pinned open wit these clamps. That we did try. They got this doctor round. I was lying on the table, and he put these, like, crocodile clips inside my eyes,like to keep them open. And I said, "This one hurts, this one really really hurts." The guy went, "Oh I'm sorry. I sat on it in the car, I bent it.. tsk tsk." [laughter] I looked across at the proruder I went, "get me out of here right now!"

And Eddie was like, "It's vital! We can't do the scene without the crocodile clips, it's impossible!" [laughter] I was like, "I will be able to do the scene eddie, but I can'twear the crocodile clips, I'm sorry.

Edward James Olmos face. He's always so intense!

[The fan asks if he had been watching A Clockwork Orange.]

James: That's exactly where this idea came from. And I... Not to be ridiculous but you know, if you were making a movie and you had that kind of peraration, or to be, on another level, you were being compensated in some form, it might be worth it. But to actually go blind for an episode of Battlestar wasn't.

"Going blind for an episode of BSG was NOT worth it." Not sure what making a frog face has to do with it, but it looks adorable.

Hee! It's like in Dragon*Con a few years back, but even funnier. And his expressions are priceless.

That's where the panel ends. James gets huge applause and he comes back to take a bow, and I wonder how it must feel to stand there and see just how much people appreciate an hour of you talking.

Cos to me he kind of looks surprised and awed by it.

There was supposed to be an interview with James on the DVD, but it's really just a mini-blurb about what he thinks of the con. It's lovely, but I'm not sure if I'd call it an interview.

"It's quite humbling meeting all these ppl. And you realize.. I was saying that the little things we did for each other in Vancouver, everybody else is seeing. It's very special to be appreciated, it's really nice.

People here have been charming and know the series and know us, and it's been a real pleasure, a real pleasure."

"It's humbling meeting all these people". You can say that humbly or arrogantly - I've seen people say "I feel really humble" and look the opposite. But James actually does look touched and humble, bless him. (L)!