Monday, April 21, 2014

Things I Like: Chef!

With the introduction of shows like Downton Abbey and Sherlock, British television has really begun to reach mainstream America in a way that it really hasn't, before. But PBS has been showing British TV for a long time, and there are some of us who've been interested in it since we were little. I watched Doctor Who when I was little, but we also watched other stuff. There was Monty Python (naturally), Are You Being Served, Black Adder, Mr. Bean, Keeping Up Appearances, As Time Goes By, Fawlty Towers, Waiting for God- a really huge variety of shows. I didn't really watch a lot of 'normal' television before I turned 12 or 13 (my brother and I watched the Simpsons for a few episodes, but Mom banned it), it was mostly these shows that I watched.

One of my all-time favorites, and one I don't hear a lot of people talk about, is Chef! (The name of the show is Chef!, I'm not being over-excited about it.)

The show revolves around Gareth Blackstock (played by Lenny Henry), Chef de Cuisine at La Chateau Anglais, and is either the best chef in England or the best chef in the world (depends on who you ask).


Gareth is very good at what he does, and gets furious when his kitchen doesn't meet his exceedingly high standards. He has no true people skills (when it comes to comforting someone going through a rough time or talking with customers about their meal, he's terrible) and is even worse at maintaining an even keel with his wife, relying on large romantic gestures to close the gap when he's fucked things up again.

I have heard that Gareth's character is based partially on Gordon Ramsay, but I haven't been able to find that substantiated anywhere, and so I can't say for certain. I can certainly see why people might say that, though, and there are definitely similarities. 

The true humor of the show comes from the contrast of Gareth, who reigns his kitchen with an iron whisk, being thrust into incredibly awkward situations. It's about seeing the fish both in and out of water.

There are only three characters that are consistent for the run of all three series (as it's a British show, series = seasons), Gareth Blackstock, his wife Janice, and Everton (a kitchen aid who grows into a talented chef under Blackstock's tutelage).


Series One:

Series One is mostly about Janice and Gareth selling their house and car so they can buy La Chateau, which was being terribly mismanaged, and their adventures in keeping La Chateau afloat. Everton, who went to school with Gareth long ago, wants to work under him because Everton wants to be a chef, but he knows nothing about cooking, so he is started as a kitchen menial. It is, without a doubt, the best series of the three, which is a little unfortunate. It culminates in the only Christmas episode in all three series.

Series Two:

Let's be clear: I really like the second series, too. It's not quite as good as series one, but it's still really good, and it ends in one of the best episodes in all three series. La Chateau is doing well, as a restaurant, though they are critically understaffed. They take on a new chef, who (it turns out) is an amazing chef, but also is an alcoholic who must be watched around the wine. He's also a sexist jackass. Everton, it becomes clear, has learned a lot under Gareth and really can cook. Much to Gareth's annoyance.

Series Three:

The problem with series three is that it, largely, takes place outside of the kitchen. People watch Chef! to see Gareth deal with his kitchen, but for the most part, it runs without him. Or he's far too depressed to do much more than show up and cook.

Janice leaves him (which is only surprising, honestly, in that it has taken so long). This series deals with the fallout from that. Everton's growth as a chef is pushed aside by a new character, an incredibly annoying American woman. Everton's relationship with Gareth also seems to have been retconned a bit- they act a lot more like old school chums than they ever did. In previous series, Everton and Gareth had attended school together, but only really kinda knew of each other. It's also possible that this wasn't retconned, but had just never been explored in previous seasons.

However, series three also resolves a lot of plot threads that have been laid down since series one, so if you're really involved with the characters, it's worth watching. (Honestly, meeting Everton's Auntie Clarice is worth the price of admission, in my opinion).

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Depression

Okay, so it's been a while.

I left my husband, moved to a different state, and pretty much... fell into a hole. Part of this was because my computer's motherboard took a dive, and it took a while to replace it and get my computer back up and running again because we also had to replace the chipset, re-install windows, and then it took me a while to find my windows 7 activation code.

Part of this was, naturally, because I've been fucking depressed. Greg and I started dating in high school, and he really has been my only romantic relationship. With him, I knew where my life was going and how it would be for the next few years, at least. Even though it wasn't going well and I was pretty miserable, I knew what was going to happen. I was right to leave, but leaving suddenly tore that knowledge up. It left this huge, gaping hole in my life and in my future, and that was enough to trigger a depressive episode.

I've always struggled with depression, and was diagnosed when I was 17 (or so) after another huge, life-changing event. I was on medication at the time, but it caused me some other problems (it triggered migraines and didn't really help) so I dropped the medication, and have gone unmedicated ever since. Most of the time, it's something I can deal with. This has been my longest episode of depression since high school (I think) and it wasn't exactly unexpected.

I'm feeling... better. Not really on top of it, yet, but better. Much better.

I am hoping that this is not a brief glimpse of the light, but a true end to this depressive episode.

I miss blogging about stuff, talking to you guys and getting feedback. I miss chatting with people, I miss participating in stuff, and I've missed a lot of other things.

I plan on trying to blog regularly. I have a few ideas, so I'm going to start work on them as soon as I finish this and put it up, but I don't want to promise anything if I'm not up to it, long-term. I hope I am, I feel like I am, and I'd certainly like to be.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Thoughts on the Deep Blue Sea


So I watched this movie the other day.  Gonna go ahead and put a spoiler warning here, it's on Amazon Prime and Netflix (I think) if you wanna watch it. I don't get in depth but I do reveal the ending, so if that bothers you... anyway.

I didn't actually know what it was about, but Tom Hiddleston and Rachel Weisz were in it, and that was good enough for me. (Please note: I often make movie watching decisions like this. "Welp, it's got [insert name in it] so why the fuck not?" Results are decidedly mixed.)

Whooops.

So, it's about relationships ending. I just moved to California and am planning on divorcing my husband of nearly 11 years, so let's just say it is very fucking relevant to my life.

True story: I've never broken up with anybody before. I didn't really have any boyfriends in school (my teenage years were a goddamn mess and I didn't have the time or energy for friends of any variety) and so Greg was literally my first romantic relationship. I've never even broken up with anybody before.

A lot of the time, I don't know how to feel about it. I miss my friends and family, I miss Greg (in the same way I miss all my other friends, dude is literally one of three people I went to high school with that I still talk to, the other is my brother and the third is the person I moved in with), but I don't miss us in any significant way. I feel kind of numb when I think about it.

It's curious, how well the movie captured the end of two very different relationships, and how both of those really resonated with me in different ways.

Hester (Rachel Weisz) leaves a passionless marriage behind. It becomes clear, through the movie, that she's still fond of her husband, and he says he still loves her. He wants her back. This relationship serves more as a backdrop to the story between Hester and Freddie (Tom Hiddleston).

Freddie and Hester have passion, but Hester knows that Freddie doesn't truly love her- not in the way that she loves him.

I think of my separation from Greg as a quiet thing- when I told him I thought I should go, he agreed, and we were quiet and sad for awhile. But I forget all the fighting that had led up to it, all the little fights and the big fights.

The end of the movie was probably what cut the deepest, for me. Freddie says something to Hester very like "We're lethal to each other," and he means it literally. Hester started the film with a suicide attempt. Freddie is a drunk, and his fights with Hester are driving him more and more into drinking. But it really resonated with me, and I think I can say this with real certainty- a relationship, any relationship, that has gone sour is a slow poison.

I have watched my parents split up and get back together at least three separate times at this point (I would be fucking furious if they got back together again.) Countless friends have gone through dramatic divorces, quiet divorces, breakups of all varieties. I've had to frienddump people.

When a relationship has gone bad, persisting in it is like a thousand tiny little cuts. You scrape along each other and leave the other raw and bleeding, and you don't mean to. It just happens.

The end of that movie, man. Hester's husband wants her backs, offers to take her home, and she has to turn him down. It's hard for her- it'd be easy to go back. Like picking up an old habit. (I'm not gonna lie, that played a huge part in my decision to leave Norman- it'd be way too easy to go back to Greg.)

The moment he tells her it's over, and you can tell it's wrecking him as much as it's wrecking her. For all her insistence that he doesn't love her (possibly true), he truly does care about her, and that's clear.

That quiet conversation between Freddie and Hester the morning he leaves. Full of long, long silences. She shines his shoes one final time. He tells her that she should sell his golf clubs, to help cover bills. Asks her what she'll do with herself.

It's all so practical, in so many ways, and it was exactly like the last four days or so I spent with Greg. Which movies and books I would take, what to do about the animals, what I'll do for work when I get here, splitting the money.

The movie actually ends on a cheerful note, somewhat. You think Hester is about to try to kill herself again, but she's actually just turned on the gas fire and throws open the curtains, facing the day. I read a review about how it was supposed to signal the rebirth of England after WW2, and maybe it is. I don't know. (I think that sounds a little too cheesy pie, but I'd accept 'rebuilding your life after you think it's collapsed' and how that's applicable to all sorts of different shit.)

The cheerful note didn't register with me. I'm still stuck in the silence that came between his "goodbye" and hers.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thoughts about False Memory by Dean Koontz

I think, though I am not entirely certain, that False Memory was the first Dean Koontz book I ever read. This would have been when I was between 16 and 18 years old. I enjoyed the book at the time, though there were some elements that made me uncomfortable, even then.


Upon re-reading it, it was... it didn't hold up. (If you're planning on reading this novel for... some reason, spoilers ahoy, I guess.)

The book is, largely, about Martie and Dusty Rhodes evading and 'beating' Dr. Mark Ahriman, who is a master of the kind of deep hypnotic controls you only hear about in conspiracy theories and cold-war era novels. (Funnily enough, the Manchurian Candidate is a central plot point in this novel.)

Martie and Dusty Rhodes are some of Koontz's very familiar archetypes. I've read enough to know that he has a few: there is the Nicest Person the Fucking World, there is the Grumpy Jerk (Who is Actually the Nicest Person in the Fucking World), and then there is the Bad Guy (who tends to have an obsession with sweets). There's no real need to expand on these archetypes, to be honest.

Martie and Dusty both fall under the Nicest People in the Fucking World character-type. Martie had a father who was, if possible, even more inhumanly good and nice, a firefighter who saved countless lives and later died of cancer, constantly referred to (even by Martie) as Smilin' Bob.

We get no true sense of Martie's father as an actual father figure, only as this distant hero. Not in a way that Martie resents or anything- that would have made it a bit interesting, exploring a heroic father who was so good at his job he destroyed his health and wasn't around to be close to his daughter- but every conversation was about what a hero he was, not about what kind of father he was. 

Martie is also described as a video game designer, but I get the feeling that she's described as such by someone who only has the vaguest ideas of what a video game even is. Like, he understand that video games are a Thing which Exist, and that naturally someone must be involved in the creation thereof, so let's just make Martie one and give vague references to it! Honestly, if he picked her career by spinning a wheel or rolling dice and consulting a chart, I would be the opposite of shocked.


Dusty is a house painter, and we know significantly more about that (presumably because Koontz has either known someone who was a house painter or hired a house painter). Dusty's career is treated as something 'real' while Martie ends up leaving her job to become a vet. This is treated as some kind of character development, though I don't know why, exactly. I guess it's because Martie wanted to be a vet when she was younger, but at one point in my youth I wanted to be a vacuum cleaner when I grew up (true story), so...

Anyway.

A very, very rough summary of the plot follows:

Dr. Ahriman is capable of 'programming' people to retreat into a completely docile and obedient state, and he often does so to his own amusement. He is a psychiatrist by trade, and often treats people he's programmed with terrible phobias. Susan Jagger, Martie's best friend, has been programmed to have a crippling fear of open spaces, and has been suffering for quite a period of time when the novel starts. Martie has just started down the road to a crippling fear of herself, again at the behest of Ahriman's programming.

Ahriman has also been using the programming to rape Susan on a regular basis.

While we're spared some of the gory details, it's definitely still really gross. Susan is later programmed to kill herself, because she knew something was up (though she had been instructed to believe her estranged husband was responsible) and she wanted hard evidence of it, so she set up a video camera and caught him in action.

Dusty later figures out something is wrong due to him noticing his missing time, and then later when he begins to tell Martie about reading the novel, he accidentally triggers the beginning state of her programming with one of the names. Strangely, it seems that Ahriman gave Martie the novel, but instructed her to never read it.(Susan's death occurs and then doesn't really impact the plot, sigh.)

It doesn't take Dusty and Martie very long at all to break their programming, largely due to Ahriman's (it must be said) extreme incompetence, which he claims is in the interest of a fair game. But mostly, every time Ahriman screws up, it's Because the Plot Needs Him To.

We get a hint of this early on, when Ahriman doesn't realize that Susan has videotaped him until he is long gone, and must return and take care of it. This is largely to A: create a second or two of false tension and B: give Martie and Dusty a reason to believe that Ahriman is responsible for their programming without Ahriman knowing. This is only accomplished due to a wording quirk- Ahriman asks if Susan had spoken to anybody about the contents of the tape. (She hadn't, technically, she'd left a message on their answering machine because Martie was in the middle of a panic attack.)

Later, Martie and Dusty go to New Mexico (they get some information from Martie's doctor who somehow happens to have also had a run-in with Ahriman and has a handy file on him, that's what leads them to New Mexico). Ahriman doesn't try to call their cell phone and access their programming even when he knows they know something because... um, well, he thinks that they're probably being really careful about calls and so there's no sense in even trying. (Because.)

There's a subplot about Dusty's younger half-brother Skeet, but I don't care. He's just there to work as a plot point.

The plot is mostly formulaic and has a happy ending very typical of Koontz books. Oh, related: though threatened at one point, the dog lives. Koontz rarely kills of dogs, the only time I can remember a dog having an 'on screen death' (as it were) the dogs were highly trained, violent and deadly guard dogs.

In this case the resolution could have posed a tricky problem. Going to the police and claiming your psychiatrist has been programming you in order to rape you and use you to kill other people is just not going to gain you much ground. If Martie or Dusty just march in and shoot him, they'll get arrested and go to jail (or be put in a psychiatric institute when they start talking about the programming). If Skeet does the job, he'll be put in an institute most likely, having recently left a rehab clinic against medical advice.With those pieces in play, the only real way to resolve everything relatively happily is for Our Heroes to kill Ahriman in cold blood. Like, to plan his murder and get away with it. The novel was so close to being super interesting, man.

Koontz solves that problem by having a character come in at the last minute, introduced in the last 1/3 or so of the book, who shoots Skeet (*rimshot*) and then the doctor because she believes they're machines in the Matrix.

No, really. Literally. She was seeing Ahriman because she had cultivated an obsession with Keanu Reeves that had turned into a paranoia of him, and during the course of her therapy she began to suspect something was not on the up and up with Ahriman, so she followed him while he was following Skeet and another character and saw him 'kill them' (they were wearing Kevlar, Because) and Ahriman called her and convinced her that the Matrix was real and that The One had special interest in her.

So, in truth, had Martie and Dusty taken Skeet and just hauled ass for Mexico or Nova Scotia or Iceland, Ahriman would still have been defeated. The whole thing seems kinda pointless, at that point. Like, in most of his novels, at least the protagonists of the story solve their own problems, but in this case not even that much happens. The whole book is like this.

They wouldn't know Ahriman was responsible for their situation without Susan. They wouldn't have any info on Ahriman without Martie's doctor (who just happened to have a run in with Ahriman before and just happened to have a full file on the doctor). They wouldn't have been freed from their programming if Ahriman hadn't handed them the key. Their 'activating' triggers were all from the same book, the Manchurian candidate. The haiku poems that accessed their subconscious or what-the-fuck-ever, were all drawn from the same collection of 'classic' haiku poems, by the same poet. They take no actions that significantly impact the plot. The events of the plot don't really significantly impact them. (Martie changes careers. Whoop-de-fucking-do.) So, what is the point?

I think the point was Ahriman. Ahriman could almost have been interesting enough to make the novel work, but Koontz doesn't really work in subtle strokes, and doesn't know how to take something so over the top that it comes around again. (Too much is too much but way too much is just enough, you know?) So Ahriman is neither truly gleeful and evil enough to seem a true obstacle, nor subtle or layered enough to be truly interesting.

He's suppose to be smart, but he makes some astoundingly foolish decisions during the course of the novel. 

When he is following Skeet around, he has his housekeeper drop off his most subtle car, which is fucking purple. (He actually says it's the least attention-getting of his cars. I don't even. Are the rest neon colored?) He also completely misses being followed by the woman who eventually kills him, even though she's driving an equally noticeable car (a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud- google it real quick).

He also is a character that the book so badly wants to be on par with Doctor Lecter (at some point Goldberg Variations is supposed to be playing during a scene between Martie and Susan, which I think is a direct reference). He's built up to be this very intelligent and dangerous opponent, who thinks of everything and can adapt to any outcome. He's supposed to be incredibly disarming and has pioneered a secret field of psychologically handling people for a secret organization.

He's also an atrocious psychiatrist. In practice, he has less charm than smarm, and he's about as subtle and nuanced as a brick to the face. His decisions from beginning to end are often questionable at best. His motivation is, supposedly, a game. Life is a game, and all the men and women in his command are just for his amusement- except it doesn't really feel like that at all. It's just an excuse to have these things happen, I think. The book smacks heavily of Plot Because Plot, without any real reason, and it seems like everyone is just doing what they're doing Because. Nothing happens for any reason other than Because.




Normally Koontz books are fast reads for me. Though they're formulaic, I do enjoy them (really!) but this book was difficult for me to slog through, especially towards the end as more and more of the padding dripped in. I would say that if you enjoy Koontz books (or like fast reading, formulaic books with happy endings where the sweet dog prolly won't die) you still should give this a miss in favor of his other works.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Elementary: Final Thoughts on Season 1

First of all, I want to thank everyone who took the time to read my post about the Moore tornado. Please remember that Moore is going to be rebuilding for a long time, and people still need your help. You can make a donation to the United Way of Central Oklahoma which has a long-term fund for Moore tornado victims. There are more links here.

I intended to do this last week and have only just gotten around to it: I fucking loved the finale to Elementary. For real.

Elementary is my favorite adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. End of. It has surpassed every other version in my mind, including the Grenada Holmes (which remains a close second). Yeah. I love it that much. I love it more than Cumbersherlock. I love it more than RDJ and Jude Law Making Sweet, Sweet Love With Their Eyes. It is my absolute favorite. 

Note: I am not saying that any of these are better than any other, I am just telling you which my favorite is. Do not tell me I am wrong, because I don't care. But keep in mind, that every adaptation I listed, I absolutely do love, in spite of any flaws it has. There are other adaptations I love that I haven't listed, either, and at least three or four which I haven't tried but fully expect to enjoy. :)

Spoilers below.

You have been warned.

Let's talk about the episode before the season finale for a second. Lucy Liu is a truly excellent Watson, and Watson's growth as an investigator and as a friend to Sherlock has been wonderful to watch. She really stands her ground when the people around her are trying to do things or get her to do things ~for her own good~ (and that's been true for the whole show, actually). She actually tells Holmes "Look, I have worked on this just as hard as you have, and I deserve answers too," in regards to the Moriarty clue, and also points out that she's a grown-ass woman and can make her own decisions about whether something is too dangerous for her.

Jonny Lee Miller is also a PHENOMENAL Holmes, and I have to say that his reaction to seeing Irene Adler alive and well was incredibly well done. (Seriously, not everyone can look like they're about to faint, puke, and burst into tears at once on command. He actually turned a little grey, though that may have been a special effect.) We knew Natalie Dormer had been picked for Adler, so we knew she was going to show up, but throwing her at the end of the episode before the finale was pretty cool.

So, the finale: oh my god. I can't tackle it in order, it's been too long since I've seen it, so I'm just gonna talk about shit as I remember it.

I spent the WHOLE time (up until the reveal) going "I wonder why they went out of their way to cast Natalie Dormer as an American?"

Ha ha. Ha. Ha.

I actually paused when she revealed herself as Moriarty so I could just take a minute to process it. (Also so I could wordlessly point at the screen while looking at Greg like DID YOU JUST SEE THAT? HOLY SHIT! I am sometimes annoying to watch things with.)

Seriously, before that Holmes had suggested the whole "Adler works for Moriarty!" thing which... had been done, and honestly I don't think it's been done particularly well. So I was like "Eeeehhhhh I dunno," and then the reveal kicked my ass and made me love it.

I love Irene Adler as Moriarty (or vice versa), and here is why (in no particular order):

1: I hate the "oh, she works for Moriarty" plot point, but I also don't think it's been done particularly well. Especially in the RDJ/Jude Law movies.
2: Natalie Dormer has got some FANTASTIC villain body language that she put to great use.
3: More powerful, smart women in popular fiction!
4: Natalie Dormer
5: Holmes did not defeat her.

See, I was seeing this go around a lot on tumblr with "Oh, I didn't like that plot point because Adler actually beat Holmes in cann, she's supposed to win." Which... okay, yes, it appears that Holmes won. In that scene, however, he was the bait, not the trapper.

Joan laid that trap out, guys. She won.

Joan Watson was amazing. She was fearless in the face of Moriarty ("too angry to be scared") and just as helpful and knowledgeable as Holmes would have been. She ran that investigation without Sherlock's help, figured out Moriarty's blind spot and used it against her. These were all things Sherlock was too emotionally compromised to do himself. (These were all things that Moriarty knew, too, proving she was superior to Holmes in some ways, perhaps ONLY because she could see more clearly than he how emotionally compromised they both were in regards to each other.)

Also, they TOTALLY HAD ME with the whole "Sherlock ODs and it's ALL MORIARTY'S FAULT" plot, an excellent parallel to the false fall. Not that they're NOT going to fake a death later (though I would love it if they have JOAN fake her death so she can go haring off after an escaped Moriarty, because*) but I also like that the first season wraps up pretty neatly.


In the ongoing theme of me interpreting Elementary as a dark AU where Watson was an American and therefore couldn't be in London when Holmes started to need someone like Watson- not so much an interpretation as what is actually going on. Anyway, this totally works out. His first interaction with Adler in canon is that he is after her because of a case, then she bounces to America. In this interpretation, she fakes her death and... bounces to America! Well, eventually. Anyway, it all still fits, is what I'm saying.

 *OMG I just realized how fucking traumatizing this would be for Sherlock. *evil laugh*

TL; DR I love every tiny bit of this show (except for the Bing product placement, but I'll deal with that if it means I get to continue to have my BroTP), especially Joan Watson, and was left extremely satisfied with the finale.

What did you think? About the season in general, or the finale? Or anything else. I'm open!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Moore Tornadoes

I was planning on posting about the Elementary finale. I still will do that, but it will be a separate blog post.

This is just my impression of today- what happened to me, what I did, what I have heard. I may have heard facts wrong or misinterpreted things. I was not in the tornado, this is not a survivor's account.

I live in Norman, which is the town south of where the big tornado hit today. Moore has been struck by several tornadoes in the last 14 years, the last big was on May 3, 1999. This was before I moved back to Oklahoma, but I have always had family here, so I was aware of it. That tornado was hugely devastating to much of the same parts of Moore as the tornado today.

I was not in danger today. The storms that were tornadic were to the north or the south of me.

Yesterday, I was in danger, but I took precautions when the activity got close to me. For those who do not know, tornado precautions are: get into the smallest, sturdiest room of your house. If you can, cover yourself with a mattress or something else soft, to keep glass from harming you.

My safe place is my bedroom closet. I pulled everything out of the floor and gathered all the pets I could grab (two of my cats had a fight and hid in cabinets, but I had to hunker down). I grabbed a blanket. Our closet is full of clothes and I planned on pulling them all down if I heard anything drop on the house. I sat in a closet with the dogs and Bats until the radio told me I was safe. The rotation that threatened me eventually did drop a tornado, but it had moved east of my town by then.

Today, a tornado absolutely devastated Moore. My father-in-law works in Moore as a postman, and when we texted him after the tornado he texted us back immediately- we knew he was all right as soon as we asked. But when we texted my husband's mother, she informed us that the tornado had hit the post office, and it's very likely that my FIL's car was completely destroyed- another car in that lot was completely gone, and the others were totaled.

The highway was closed, and we had no idea how we were going to get to him. My MIL was not driving- she was too upset to drive, really. My husband drove her car and she directed us through some of the smaller back roads. We got to almost where my FIL was, but we were on the other side of the highway, in gridlocked traffic. We parked in a parking lot and walked over the bridge.

We were on 19th street, which is near the big Warren Theater that was hit (but, again, on the other side of I35 from it.) The Warren had been hit, and looked bad. A lot of the cars from the parking lot were tossed into the highway. There was a lot of debris all over everything- little wads of mud covered cars, buildings, the road. Tiny bits of trees, mud, hay, and peoples lives covered everything.

The power was down, there were officers everywhere directing traffic. We crossed several intersections and ran across the bridge. We were in the middle of a crosswalk when an ambulance came bombing up the exit ramp, and we had to haul ass to dodge them. I could smell smoke from a fire, my MIL saw the plume of smoke.

My FIL was fine, he was apparently nowhere near the path of the tornado. He hid in a school and then finished delivering his mail before going back to the post office. He couldn't get his vehicle back to the office due to traffic, so he had to park it and walk five blocks. Seeing him was good. We were all relieved, even though we knew he was all right.

Walking back, I was watching where I stepped carefully. There were baseball cards, some still in sleeves. Someone's collection. A torn corner of a picture (if it had been a whole picture, I would have saved it, but it was just a snatch of one). A muddy child's blanket. A star barrette. More baseball cards.

Someone got into a shouting match with the police directing traffic. He wanted to go straight, and the officer was insisting he turn. We told him to park his ass and walk. Don't know what he did.

The sound of sirens was never ending. We must have been passed by dozens of ambulances. We were right by the triage area, so that's to be expected.

When we got back, the phone and the internet and the tvs were all still down. We went to Walmart to get an antenna, but they didn't have any at all. A guy who was also looking for one said he had been everywhere in Norman, this was his last home. Radio Shack had a sign up, saying that they didn't have any.

We drove to the Walmart in Purcell, and they did have antennas. There was another couple buying antennas, trying to figure out how many they needed.

It's hard to watch the news, but it's hard to do anything else.

Oklahomans will turn out in droves to help. We always do. We're being told, right now, that they don't need anybody. If they did, I would be there, and not at home, watching the news.

Here is an excellent article about the tornado and it's context. It explains about tornadoes, Moore's tornado history, and more technical details about tornadoes and how they're formed.

Here is a collection of information on how to help the victims of today's and yesterday's tornadoes.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Thoughts On: The Vampire Diaries S4 (1/?)

I caught up on this season just in time for the hiatus, and right now we have over a week before the next new episode airs. (This is your warning for season spoilers as well as me speculating what will happen this season, which some may consider spoilers.)

The season started out as nearly a total refresher. If you were unfamiliar with TVD and wanted to watch the show, but didn't want to get through three seasons to catch up, you can start with episode 1 of season 4 and be reliably caught up on the story.

And, as we knew at the end of S3, Elena is a vampire. It was teased in the first episode of this season that she maaaay not become a vampire, but as most people who've read the books will point out, Elena turned into a vampire almost immediately in the book, without any of this pussy footing around. (Apparently, Damon could actually turn into a crow and Katherine Pierce could also turn into a white kitten. Does anyone else kind of miss Damon's crow? Anybody? Bueller?)

((Wait a minute, wasn't there a temporarily evil Power Ranger who could turn into a cat? Was it a white cat? AND WASN'T HER NAME KATHERINE? Holy shit, what if the Power Rangers writer was referencing TVD back in the day? The TVD books were published in 91-92, and those episodes aired in 95, so the timing isn't an issue. That'd be... a really interesting and weird connection. Also, holy shit did it take me a long time to confirm that.))

Shit, where was I?

Oh, so Elena is a vampire, but she's kind of a weenie of a vampire. She doesn't want to kill anybody, but she can't drink blood due to the siring shenanigans that happen with Damon. It's a little weird, because someone has probably died to make her into a vampire- Stefan smashed his head in, and she puts a finger in his blood, but the guy had a grievous head wound around, to count, FOUR vampires, including a baby vamp. Surely ONE of them snacked on him, right? Well, I guess it doesn't count if she didn't do it, which is a bit of an irritant.

This is partially because they're trying to pit the human that Elena sorta was against the vampire she's going to become, given some time. Stefan isn't helping, he talks about how guilty she's going to feel if she kills someone, how her heightened vampire feelings are going to lead to her downfall- he may not realize it, but he's completely setting her up for this fall. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy- but this is Mystic Falls, so it's fulfilled in a literal sense. She kills some kind of mystical Vampire Hunter and it turns out that he LITERALLY is going to try to grief her to death.

They solve that by having Jeremy kill one of Tyler's friends, a hybrid who had just broken free of Klaus's sire bond. This started one of the themes of this season, which is that they're no longer presenting these decisions as black and white.

Basically, the world of the vampires has been kill-or-be-killed in a lot of ways, but when Damon or Stefan killed to protect Elena (or other humans) it was forgivable. Human life is more precious than vampire life, according to the morals of this show.

But now all of our main characters are supernatural (except Matt, who may be the last human in Mystic Falls). We have to believe that they are people and their lives are valuable, which means that the lives of other vampires/werewolves/hybrids/whatever are also valuable. We're introducing some moral gray area, here.

Rebekah later points this out, too. She didn't kill Elena out of malice, she killed Elena because it was the only way to kill Evil!Alaric. He was going to kill her whole family, and he was powerful enough to do it. He would wipe out every vampire on earth and then he would kill Elena, the last of her line and potentially the only person who could bring vampirism back (the blood of her predecessor was used to create vampires in the first place, so a witch with that know-how could presumably do the spell over again using the same blood that made vampires in the first place). Vampires faced absolute extinction and Bex did what she had to in order to save her own life, the life of her remaining brothers and the REST OF THE GODDAMN VAMPIRE RACE.

Rebekah doesn't like Elena, but who can blame her? Elena's partially responsible for the death of two of her brothers as well as any vampires those brothers ever created. Elena is willing to do anything to protect her brother, so it makes sense that Rebekah feels the same way about hers. She doesn't HATE Elena, either, though. In fact, she saves Elena's life, and mostly she's just being shitty to Elena, not truly hateful. (The trick where she snatched Elena's daylight ring? Inconvenient and rude, but Bex could have made Elena walk into the sunlight without if if she was truly that hateful.) She handwaves it off by saying "If you're going to die, it should be epic," but that's not the whole of the truth.

I'm kind of disappointed by Bonnie's arc so far. I like her because she's willing to do things that her friends don't like because she believes they're the right thing (like the time she lied about making the vampire weapon not work) and I was hoping that opening her into a new type of magic would make her even more powerful, a Dark Willow sort of story arc. Now she's being completely controlled by a dude, who has all the power over her. I'm still hoping she breaks out of this and becomes the biggest baddest witch on the continent.

I really like what's happened with Damon this season, so far. He's faced some complex moral decisions, and he's navigated them (more or less) fairly well.  He's as well-adjusted as he's ever been, not only admitting to feeling things for people who aren't him but openly expressing it. When he's compelled to murder Jeremy, he continually shouts advice at him while he stalks him murderously. Partially he's snarking on Jeremy's vampire evading technique, but Damon snarks because he cares. Then, he fucking hugs Bonnie because he is so glad to see her.

Let's repeat that: he fucking hugs Bonnie because he is so glad to see her.

Bonnie and Damon have had an adversarial relationship from the get-go, and yet he is so relieved that she is okay and there that he hugs her and takes her home. And- get this- the whole time home she's ranting and raving, and he doesn't treat her like crap. He nods and smiles- he understands that this is not the Bonnie they know and care about, but instead of just dumping her off somewhere or peacing on her, he takes her to her friends and then discusses what to do from there.

Stefan it is, arguably, at his personal worst. Yes, he murdered a bunch of people, but that wasn't entirely at his own behest- he was prodded into that by Klaus, and while Stefan is responsible (btw he should learn how to at least handle human blood so that doesn't happen again) it was against his will, he did that to save his brother. This season, he's entirely on his own, and we're seeing that when he's not in love with Elena, when he's not trying to be his most (boring) human for her, he's actually an interesting character.

The show is an ensemble show, but let's not kid ourselves- it has revolved around Elena from the beginning. Each season one more support beam has been stripped from her. Before the season started, her parents died. Then she lost her extended family, step-by-step, including the amazing Jenna. Then Ric died, and finally, Jeremy. Systematically destroying every last bit of her blood ties, her ties to her human self, destroying everything about the girl she was. The human that she used to be. That is all dead. When Elena set the house on fire, it was more than a cover a story, it was a symbol- every last part of her that we know has died and changed, and she will never be the same.

We've been teased over the season with glimpses of the kind of vampire Elena could be, were she unfettered. The party with Damon, the moment she killed the Vampire Hunter dude, when she helped kill Kol. We know that Nina can do a lot of fun things- otherwise we wouldn't keep asking for Katherine back.

And now- now!- she has had her humanity turned off. Those inconvenient feelings that were keeping her in check are gone. If you can, watch the scene that happens during again- watch her face go blank, and her tears dry. She's an absence of feeling.

The beginning of the season has been about moving these pieces into place for a game that proves to be fascinating. Elena will now only act on sheer pleasure- her basic wants and needs. She gives no shits anymore, and if you've watched the preview you know that includes eating cheerleaders and strolling around the boarding house buck ass naked (which is such a Damon move I cackled). We know that one of the things that haunted Elena was that she might become Katherine, and now it looks like that may happen.

Now, if her emotions are turned off, does the sirebond continue to work? After all, she's no longer invested in anything, at all, period. She has no shits left to give. I suppose we'll find out- but I'd love for this to finally give Elena the agency to break the sirebond. Making Damon's decision sort of the right one, in spite of Stefan's misgivings. (Also, sort of the wrong one, based on her snacking on cheerleaders.)

What I want to see:

I want to see Bonnie to break free of the hold on her and start to Fuck Shit Up, Royally. I'd love for her to become either the season ending big bad, or....

For Elena to team up with Bonnie to become the season-ending big bad. Damon, after finally discovering that part of himself that actually likes people, has to fight the woman he loves and one of her best friends to SAVE THE DAMNED WORLD.

ELIJAH

Katherine to fight Elena- because, uh, obviously. Katherine has the McGuffin, and killed Jeremy to get it. Anger can feed a vampire's strength, and Elena may have an unexpected ally in...

Rebekah. I so want Elena and Bex to become friends, y'all. And I hope that Elena shutting off her emotions is the start of this- they do girly teenager things together and help each other pick out prom dresses and then snack on the help. (Frenemies would be even better, especially if they were frenemies with benefits. Seriously, take a minute and imagine those two gals hatefucking each other.)

ELIJAH

I like the idea of Stefan facing his own love triangle- Rebekah, with whom he has some serious chemistry, or Caroline, who is his rock in stormy seas. (The perv in me votes for BOTH AT ONCE, PLEASE.)

((Okay, if I'm honest, I'm totally okay with any and all vampires partying with each other in any configuration that could take place in- anything that throws a monkey wrench in the shipping wars would make me clap my hands with glee. And I think it would make the show way more interesting if they start addressing the idea that vampires don't have to adhere to traditional relationship ideas- they're gonna live forever, the idea of til death do us part is kinda silly.))

Damon turn into a human. That would be FANTASTIC.

ELIJAH.

What I don't want to see:

Elena going back to exactly who she was. Shreds of her old personality, yes, but she should be well and truly changed, now. She's going to have to rebuild herself from the tattered remains of her life and her feelings, and I want to see that emerge over a period of time.

Bonnie continuing to be under the control of other people. That's just sucky.

Stefan going back to being boring.