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Diary

Shelter-in-Place: Day 134

I had another low point recently. I was in the middle of it when I wrote my last update on Sunday, and then it got worse. I came out of it on Tuesday the 21st, and this week has actually been pretty good: I got a lot accomplished at work and ended the work week on a high note.

I was telling Sean last night that I’m still not sure if there’s something that kicks these lows off, or if they’re just something that happen to me. I don’t really know what to measure in order to look for a cause. There are so many potential variables: food, my period, how much physical activity I’ve had, stress from work, stress from the state of the world, etc. Just the thought of tracking the depressive periods themselves is daunting; I’ve never been good at maintaining a daily log of anything. (I’m a free spirit!)

This blog has a long archive of my depressive periods; I wondered about them back in 2016 when I hit what seemed to be a permanent low. Things have gotten better since then. I found medication that mostly works and I have a good therapist. But the lows do still come, even if they don’t last as long as they used to. It seems like all I can really do is try to wait them out.

Anyway, I’m feeling better now.

I finished Chihayafuru season 3 and oof. I didn’t realize it would be cliffhangery. It apparently took nearly 6 years for this season to come out, and it ran from last October to this March, so it will probably be some time before we get a resolution, if we get one at all. Maybe that’s for the best, though; I can pretend Chihaya and Taichi and Arata live happily ever after as a triad.

My uncle Steve went to the hospital recently and is now in a care center, working to get well enough to go home. (It’s not coronavirus.) He’s not dying necessarily but he could, so that’s been on my mind. Uncle Steve is Dad’s younger brother, though not the youngest. He and Mom are the same age (they’ll be 72 this year) and they get along really well. They have this cute kind of sibling relationship. So she has been checking in on him and watching over his care, which as a former nurse she is highly qualified to do. Uncle Jeff (the youngest Aubrey boy) is also checking in on him frequently. AJ has been visiting Uncle Steve regularly for a long time now and I’m sure he’ll keep that up. I worry about all this, what with coronavirus, but I also know that Uncle Steve needs people right now. It’s a hard time for him. So while I worry, I’m really glad he has everyone.

As a side note, I really admire how much AJ does for his loved ones. He does what he can to take care of everyone: visits, cooking, organizing parties/camping trips, mowing lawns, and building things (he has some serious carpentry skills). I’m so glad Mom has him to look after the house and yard. I’m also glad he’s such a good example for Connor and Logan and all their friends, and Krystal’s kids too. He’s just good with kids in general. He wasn’t always, but he is now and it’s great to see.

Anyway, aside from all the bad things happening generally and specifically…it was a pretty decent day. I had Shane’s for lunch and sushi for dinner. Can’t go wrong there. I also did a fair bit of writing, which was great, since I’ve been in a bit of a lull since before the depressive period hit. I hope to write more tomorrow, and I think I should probably also get outside some to get some fresh air and vitamin D and hopefully avoid getting down in the dumps. For now, though, bed!

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Diary News Politics

Shelter-in-Place: Day 128

Days seem interminable now. Work is exhausting. Going on virtual walks and playing trivia with coworkers has helped break the tedium a bit. I wish I could have someone come stay with us for a while, just to have a different person around.

I’ve had several days recently where I just could not bring myself to cook dinner. Sean has been very sweet on those days. He is always very sweet, despite my extreme moodiness. I hope if he is feeling bad that he has an outlet. I try to be as sweet as possible to him too.

I’m tired of bras. I am not comfortable going completely bra-less outside the home, but I would love there to be some sort of compromise. Something in the middle that’s supportive enough but not as painful. Like…a half bra. I don’t know. In desperation I bought some of those sticky things that are supposed to hold your boobs up without a bra, but I don’t like them at all. My breasts don’t look right with them on and it hurts to take them off.

Just Shoot Me has gotten kind of obnoxious, with most of the characters being selfish jerks. Usually there needs to be something redeemable about a character for me to care about them. Sean is tired of it too.

I watched the first two Back to the Future movies last weekend and Part III Friday night. I love III, but I was feeling terrible, so really it just sort of averaged out to “meh”.

I’m trying to nip some writing insecurity in the bud by simply…not thinking about it too much, but as I haven’t really had the brainpower to write at all this week, thoughts keep coming back about how I don’t compare to others. There, that’s the thought acknowledged. Now I’m going to let it pass through me and begone.

Playing Wii Sports Resort has been nice. I have totally lost my ability to play Frisbee Dog, which sucks, but my bowling and table tennis games are getting better. Someday I’ll reach my old high scores in all of them…it’ll just take awhile.

I’ve also been playing Zuma again, but I started where I left off years ago, which means I was at a pretty high difficulty level. Yesterday I was in the 9s and I kept losing a certain round over and over again until I was finally out of lives. Sigh. At least I can start from the beginning and work my way back up, I guess.

The third game I’ve been playing a lot is Words with Friends with my mom. I decline all other challengers and I wish I could turn off all the other challenges and whatnot. I just want to play with Mom and that’s it.

For a while there I was playing a game called The Arcana, which is more like a Choose Your Own Adventure book than a game really. It’s lovely and has great music and the story is intriguing, but it’s also very expensive, and so I stopped playing it even though I haven’t seen all the possible storylines. I really can’t justify regularly paying $40 for in-game coins. (You can technically play without using coins at all, but you won’t get to see some of the story paths, and you also won’t be able to collect all the nice picture cards.)

I still haven’t put the LED strips in the china cabinet, but I did frame those three art prints I ordered custom mats for. They look great. I think I will hang them in the office; for now I just have them lying on the guest bed below the wall where they will probably go.

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Diary

Shelter-in-Place: Day 120

I’ve decided that daily updates aren’t tenable, and trying to hold myself to that standard won’t help anything. Going forward, I’m not going to attempt to post every day, but I am going to try to post regularly, especially when something new happens or I have something in particular to say.

I went through yet another depressive period recently, as you may have seen. I won’t link to it from this post because it’s really not worth looking at. I don’t know if it was related to readjusting to my meds, or if I am just going to keep plummeting into despair every now and then until coronavirus is over…

My tendinitis has backed off, which is great, and I had another lovely walk with coworkers the other day, and yesterday I ate a Double Stuf Oreo for the first time in months. So some nice things have been happening. I also started playing Wii Sports Resort again. It’s been something like eight years? Maybe not that long, but who knows. Anyway, it’s still fun :)

I have two projects to do. First, my custom-cut mat boards came in, so I can hang my Art Nouveau-style Padmé, Leia, and Rey prints. Second, I still haven’t put the LED light strips into the china cabinet. Maybe I’ll get to one or both of these things this weekend.

Lately we have had something of an infestation of fruit flies. Today I realized the middle window in the sunroom has been sitting open a crack (like a few millimeters), and I closed it. Hopefully that was how they were getting in and we won’t see any more of them.

I mentioned before that we needed to get to watching Picard. Well, we did. We binged the whole thing in a couple days. The fifth episode was pretty terrible, and I was starting to get upset, but the ending was fantastic, so on the whole I would say it was a good series. And it’s getting a second season, and Guinan’s going to be in it, so that’s cool.

There’s probably more to say, but I don’t feel like working on this post any longer, so I’ll wrap it up here. The benefits of a personal blog: no need to write formally in any way.

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Diary

Shelter-in-Place: Day 110

Wow, okay, I haven’t posted in nearly a month, and haven’t done a true shelter-in-place update in longer than that. Way to go.

First I suppose I should say that I got through that depressive period. I had to physically go to my doctor’s office to get my prescription renewed, but he did it, and after readjusting to it I am doing all right.

It’s been so long since I’ve updated that I’m not sure it would be worth it to go through and list the few details I can pull together for each day (what I ate, anything out of the ordinary that happened). I did completely fill out my refrigerator calendar again:

A whiteboard calendar starting May 10 and ending June 20 with entries color-coded for exercise, food, paycheck, and "special".

Not a whole lot of exercise (reddish pink text) went on in May and June, as you can see. My plan had been to try and watch my way through all of Star Wars chronologically while walking on the treadmill in the mornings, but I only made it through TPM, AotC, the first two episodes of Clone Wars, and the first half hour or so of the Clone Wars movie. Maybe I’ll resume…someday. (Honestly, I am just really not interested in the “wars” part of Star Wars.)

Some nice things that happened during this time: I made cookies twice, I had two days off work for my birthday, I had a virtual birthday party with my work team, I had a virtual game night with my work team, I won three awards at work (and Sean and I celebrated with sushi), I went to the park with Heidi (both wearing masks and staying six feet apart), and I got started back with creative writing. For my birthday, Sean made me Gordon Ramsay style scrambled eggs for breakfast, I got Shane’s for lunch, and we had Outback for dinner with Cheesecake Factory for dessert. I had ribs instead of steak for a change of pace. Everything was awesome.

I don’t put the shows we’re watching on the calendar, but I can report that Sean and I finished watching all of NCIS, which is wild. 17 seasons. After that we went back and finished watching She-Ra, and now we are watching the 90s sitcom Just Shoot Me. We need to get to Picard at some point.

Here’s the calendar as it stands now:

A refrigerator whiteboard calendar starting on June 21 and ending on August 1, with entries color-coded for exercise, food, and paycheck/special

I switched the “special” things from dark purple to green so they would stand out more. One really nice thing that has happened so far is getting a new kitchen faucet. It’s a high-arc pull-down faucet; we had a regular pull-out faucet before. I like how much roomier the sink feels, and the hose is easier to deal with now (it got easily caught on the pipes under the sink before). The faucet got replaced because our old one simply stopped having any water pressure whatsoever, such that it was impossible to even clean the sink out. I thought the repair person would just fix it, but they replaced it instead!

(By the way, when maintenance comes to our apartment, they wear masks and maintain a good distance. It’s not ideal to have someone outside the household come in, but at least they are taking good measures.)

Forgot to write this on the calendar before I took the picture, but I did go on a half-hour walk with members of my work team today, virtually. We did a call-in meeting and walked in our own neighborhoods with our phones. The weather is pretty great today, and it wasn’t too hot yet at 9am, so the walk was lovely.

Another nice thing that happened recently was that on Monday, I decided to fully retract the blinds in the dining room instead of just opening them. It made such a dramatic difference!

A dining room with a table at the center and three tall windows beyond it looking out into a green forest
View of a forest through three tall windows

I’ve been retracting the blinds a lot since then. It’s so refreshing. Last night I had them open at dusk and I saw fireflies!

An unfortunate thing that has happened is that my tendinitis has flared up. It was so bad last week that I had to ask my boss to virtually meet with me so I could dictate an email to her. I’ve been doing my stretching and icing and wearing my braces since then, but it keeps coming and going. I may need to change something else, like how I sit either at my work desk or my personal computer in the living room (or both). Getting an adjustable desk and new chair at work was the main thing that worked the last time this happened…

One last thing before the tendinitis makes it impossible to type: I’ve booked a cabin for a long weekend toward the end of August! I’m hoping this will help refresh me even more…it’s hard to fight feelings of helplessness and pointlessness being trapped at home all the time. Sean and I will go get away from it all and just enjoy being in nature. I plan to try to write, but if my hands/wrists/forearms/elbows are still giving me fits then, I may just force myself not to do anything computer or phone related. I guess we’ll see. Regardless, it will be great to be in a different environment for awhile, and have a break from work!

To make this something close to a proper shelter-in-place update, here’s what’s been going on today:

  • Breakfast: boiled egg, Greek yogurt with frozen blueberries
  • Exercise: 1.12 mile walk from 9 to 9:30
  • Snack: a cup of leftover crab Alfredo
  • Lunch: turkey sandwich with pepper jack cheese, Lay’s chips, and sweet tea

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Diary

Shelter in Place: Days 45–49

This is the update for Monday, April 27 through Friday, May 1, 2020.

Well, I apparently didn’t feel like writing journal entries this week, so here’s stuff pieced together from memory and photos. Basically it’s a lot of work, food, and watching TV. That Rona Life.

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Diary

Shelter in Place: Day 43

This is the update for Saturday, April 25, 2020.

This was a really productive day.

Some time ago—months?—I decided to go through the closet in the second bedroom. It was around the time I was putting Christmas away, and I just wanted to reorganize to make it easier to find things, and get rid of things we weren’t using. I pulled everything down from the shelves and sorted it into groups, then took a load to Goodwill and put back the things I knew I wanted to keep. That left a bunch of Sean’s things, mostly computers, computer hardware, computer peripherals, and computer technician tools, but also a crate of comics, some binders, and miscellaneous software.

For a while I had all this stuff sitting on the bed in the second bedroom waiting to be looked through, but the clutter started to get to me, so I dragged it all out into the living room and piled it behind Sean’s desk on our two folding tables. (To do this I also moved the bar table into the dining room where the Christmas tree goes, and took the mirrors down from that wall. I need to hang the mirrors up again—I know exactly where I want them—but I haven’t gotten around to it.)

Anyway, I think the clutter was overwhelming for Sean (it certainly would be, and was, for me) so it just sat there after that. I finally decided that I’d go through it myself, not to get rid of anything but to just sort it better and put it back in the closet.

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Diary

Shelter in Place: Day 41

This is the update for Thursday, April 23, 2020.

I did not want to get out of bed this morning. I did two 20-minute snoozes, finally getting out of bed about 11 minutes into the second one. Didn’t have time for a shower, so I pulled my hair back into a ponytail (it is just barely long enough to still do this).

Breakfast was cottage cheese, a banana, and a boiled egg, and I also made some powdered cocoa. Lunch was a Hillshire bistro board (the one with an egg in it), and I ate that while working. I took a late lunch break at 2 and heated up a couple pieces of leftover roast and some mashed potatoes, because I was still hungry.

It was windy and rainy when I got up, but by around noon that was over, leaving the sky overcast. I usually open the blinds in the office to let sunlight in while I’m working, but there wasn’t much today.

Work was good. I am organizing a lot of information, and that’s taking some brain power, and then I also conducted a meeting today, and that drained me completely. It all went very well, but it was super tiring! Once work was over I went to bed and napped until 8pm.

Dinner was stir fry veggies and chicken with rice and soy gravy. I didn’t actually have stir fry veggies so I used the “Mexican-style” mix. Fortunately it still tasted good.

As usual we watched NCIS while eating. I was really enjoying an episode where Gibbs was going through a lot of emotional turmoil over his ex-wives, but then that story arc’s bad guys killed one of them, and not the one they introduced in that arc but Diane who I absolutely love, so that put a huge damper on the whole thing. If they could stop fridging women for Gibbspain I would really fucking appreciate it.

I should try to tally who all has died in the name of Gibbspain…by which I mean being killed by someone, not like dying of old age. The only man I can think of off the top of my head is Mike Franks, but on the woman side there’s at least Shannon, Kelly, Kate, Jenny, and now Diane. Bleh. (Other women have died, but not necessarily to hurt Gibbs directly.) This all makes me think of how Person of Interest fridged Joss Carter by shoehorning in a last-second romance between her and Reese before killing her. He had already literally lost a love to a bad guy, kicking off his extra-judicial law enforcement activities; the same thing happening again didn’t even serve a story purpose.

I know that in some cases the actresses want to leave the show, but you don’t have to kill them to achieve that. Ziva in NCIS is a great example of how you can organically have a character leave the main cast without killing them.

Anyway.

I stayed up until midnight thanks to the nap, but adding the nap to the regular sleeping time comes out to about my normal amount of sleep, so I think it was fine. And I feel pretty great this morning (I’m finishing this post the next day, lol).

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Diary

Shelter in Place: Day 39

This is the update for Tuesday, April 21, 2020.

I haven’t written anything creative in I don’t know how long—a week? Longer? I don’t feel like there’s much to look forward to right now. With so many people, including the governor of the state of Georgia, being shortsighted and foolish about this pandemic, it seems like shelter in place will never end. Not having an idea of when it might end makes it hard to be positive. I can’t make plans. I don’t know when I’ll see my friends and family again.

I went to the store this morning because I had a prescription ready. I covered up as much as possible, including wearing a hat and tucking my pant legs into my socks, and of course I wore a mask and gloves. While I was there I looked for a few things that we didn’t get in our curbside pickup order on Saturday and that Sean wasn’t able to find in the store when he checked that same evening. I snagged some toilet paper and paper towels (which I had been really worried about), some frozen fish and veggies, a couple frozen dinners because I figured I could make them fit in the freezer (and I did, with effort), some more dinner sausage, lunch meat, cheese sticks, Slim Jims, various Knorr noodles, two boxes of au gratin potatoes, and soy-flavored ramen.

The only thing I really wanted and couldn’t find was Knorr Alfredo noodles. I got a bunch of imitation crab, so I hope I can find Alfredo noodles online or something. Maybe the crab would be okay with garlic shells? I dunno.

I miss sushi. I’m going to look into whether any sushi restaurants are doing takeout. Maybe we can have some on Friday. That would be something to look forward to.

Today I had planned to do a video chat with a coworker and friend at lunch, but I wasn’t feeling up to it, so I rescheduled with her and spent my break watching Haikyuu!! instead, starting season 3. Seasons 1 and 2 had kind of accelerated pacing; character arcs I would have expected more time to be spent on were done very rapidly, with some even wedged in as retcons/flashbacks. It wasn’t bad, per se, but I like it when the story spends a little more time on things like that. Season 3, on the other hand, is all about a single 5-set volleyball match, the final prefectural match before nationals. They stretched things out so much that an entire episode was spent just on the opening ceremony. It’s quite a contrast to the first two seasons, but I enjoyed it. I enjoy the show in general; all the characters are really fun. I finished season 3 after work and look forward to checking out the OVA and what’s out so far of season 4 soon.

I’m at a point with a lot of my work where I have to wait on other people, which can be hard for me. I also had a lot of trouble focusing for much of the workday, I think because of anxiety over going to the store/the situation in general. I had to drink some sweet tea in the early afternoon to get myself back on track. Fortunately, it seemed to work. My brain got unstuck and I was able to make good progress on a project that involves a lot of problem-solving style thinking. By the end of the workday I was actually feeling pretty good.

After work I made frozen fish, creamy garlic shells, and Italian-style veggies (Sean did not care for that mix of veggies) and we watched Haikyuu!! and an episode of NCIS.

I went to bed feeling pretty decent.

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Diary Health

Shelter in Place: Days 30–35

I’ve gotten super behind on these. So here’s Sunday, April 12 through Friday, April 17, 2020. This post includes a detailed description of the decontamination procedure I use when I get takeout, if you’re at all interested in that.

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Media Review

How I Met Your Mother, Redux

HIMYM is over now. Last time I wrote about it, I was upset that Marshall’s career was steamrolling Lily’s yet again; since that time, of course, Marshall has been somewhat redeemed. He didn’t come to the conclusion that he should give Lily her turn logically; he just emotionally decided that he wanted to pay her back somehow for bearing his children. Not the greatest resolution (why does she have to be pregnant to deserve a full life?) but I guess I’ll take it.

The thing everyone’s talking about now, though, is the ending–and for the most part, what people have to say is how much they hated it. I have a slightly different perspective.

Spoilers follow.

About halfway through the final episode, I said, “I get the feeling they’re going to kill off the Mother and have Ted get with Robin. If that happens, I’m going to be pissed.” Oddly, though, as it actually unfolded, I did not find myself angry at all.

I never thought Barney and Robin were a good match. I have always believed they enabled each other’s immaturity, and to me it was perfectly natural that they would divorce after three years. If you think about it, the entire final season being about their wedding sort of underscores the characters’ own attempts to justify the relationship, to make it seem somehow meant to be. Cleverly, the writers slipped in just enough Robin and Ted stuff to cast doubt.

I’ve watched HIMYM all the way through at least three times, and each time I thought to myself, “They are going to have to find someone outstanding to play the Mother, because Ted and Robin’s chemistry is amazing.” They had something that I didn’t see with Ted’s other girlfriends, except on occasion Victoria and Stella. (If he’d married Zoey, it would have been another “divorced after three years” situation.) I never actually expected Ted to end up with Robin, but I wondered how on earth the show could top their relationship.

And I kept wondering about that when the Mother, Tracy, was finally introduced. In the beginning, her brief scenes with Ted did not have what I wanted to see. I felt like she had better chemistry with the other characters than she did with Ted. I think this may have been done on purpose, not to make us dislike her as his love interest but to start subtly chipping away at the notion of “the One” (that there is only one person for everyone). Toward the end, of course, that chemistry was there, and I loved Tracy and was glad to think that she and Ted would live happily ever after. But we got a little foreshadowing in the episode with Robin’s mom, just enough to prepare us for the possibility that things might not go perfectly after all.

When we finally got to the part where the kids reveal that their mother has been dead for years, I was surprised to find that not only was I prepared, but it made perfect sense. Of course Ted loved Robin–as his kids point out, the whole story has basically been about her. Unlike his stories of the Mother, in which Ted omits or glosses over any conflicts, Ted’s been completely honest about Robin, leaving out no detail that might make her look bad. Subconsciously, he’s trying to talk himself out of loving her. His kids see right through that and call him on it.

(I do wish that scene had been done a bit differently. The cuts were pretty awkward. I wouldn’t have shown Josh Radnor; I would have used Bob Saget’s voice.)

We know from the story that relationships aren’t easy, that there’s no perfect person. We don’t know that Ted and Robin will live happily ever after. But we do know they have a fighting chance, and plenty of history to build on.

Life is messy, and things don’t always go as we plan. I appreciate that HIMYM was willing to show the best and worst sides of its characters. Honestly, the reason I could get so passionate about the story was because on some level I felt like the characters were my friends, and it’s always painful to see friends hurting or making bad decisions.

I’ve seen Tracy described as a convenient, disposable wife, there just to make Robin finally realize she loves Ted and then getting out of the way so they could be together, but I don’t see it that way. Bad things happen. I think Ted and Tracy had a good relationship, but the story of HIMYM wasn’t actually about that relationship. I think ultimately that’s why I’m not mad. If Ted had talked about the Mother in each and every episode, if she’d featured prominently as a character throughout the series, it would have been much harder to swallow the kids’ argument that their dad was actually telling the story of his relationship with Robin.

I’m not even really bothered about the fact that Robin remained single (and she may have dated here and there; we don’t know). I can easily see her going back to her career-first mentality after Barney–she was already practically there anyway. With her job taking her around the world, she wouldn’t have much time for a serious relationship.

And so I may be in the minority, but I’m satisfied with how HIMYM ended. The pieces were all there, and they fit together. The resulting picture may not be perfect, but it is representative of life–something that we can’t control, something that’s not always fair. All we can do is our best, and that’s what these characters did.

Categories
Media Review

How I Met Your Mother

It took me awhile to get into How I Met Your Mother–the first episode is so dumb that for a long time I resisted watching the show–but eventually it became my new Friends. I love all the in-jokes and watching the characters grow and change. I’m enjoying the final season; I feel like things are getting wrapped up well.

There are a few things that bother me, though. For one, I’m not a huge Robin and Barney fan. I liked Robin and Don. I liked how much they had in common (even to the point that when faced with huge life-changing career decisions, neither of them thought of the obvious: talk to the other!) and I liked how they made each other better people (when they weren’t avoiding actually talking to each other). I really feel like if they had just communicated a little more, they would have been fine. Robin and Barney, on the other hand, just seem to enable each other’s immaturity.

I also liked Barney and Nora. Nora inspired Barney to grow. The episode in which Barney decided to run away instead of rising to the challenge devastated me. He was so close!

I’ve noticed that in season nine the writers have been retconning in a bunch of backstory to make Robin and Barney work better, and I definitely think that helps…but I still don’t feel like their relationship has much substance. It seems to be based more on grand gestures and “how I feel right now” than actual commitment and mutual respect.

My biggest problem with season nine, though, is the apparent resolution of Marshall and Lily’s Italy issue. Based on the episode in which Marshall has a discussion with versions of Lily in his head, it looks like they will be staying in New York City so that Marshall can be a judge. Imaginary Lily even says “Of course we’re not going to Italy. We have a baby.”

This is total BS, and it quite frankly pisses me off. Having a baby does not make you incapable of living in another country; just ask all the military families and military contractor families living abroad right now. That’s a cop-out reason to stay in the States. What’s really happening here is this: Lily, once again, is being asked to sacrifice her career for Marshall’s.

Lily became a kindergarten teacher after graduating so she could put Marshall through law school. That was time she could have been using building up experience in her own field, but she put her career on hold. This is what you sometimes have to do in a relationship, and it’s a decision she made, and that’s fine.

When Marshall finally became a lawyer and they started making money, it might have been a good time for Lily to focus on a career in art. Unfortunately, she had racked up a ton of credit card debt. This irresponsibility shouldn’t be ignored; that’s clearly her own fault. I do wonder if that behavior wasn’t her way of subconsciously rebelling against not working in her chosen field.

By the time Lily got around to trying to change her career, she had no direction, no idea where to go. She tried a bunch of ridiculous jobs before ultimately going back to the safe choice of teaching kindergarten. At the time it felt like she had developed a passion for it, and maybe she had. But notice that she didn’t try to do anything fine art-related during that time.

She does start a side project selling her artwork online, and this seems to make her happy, although it’s disappointing that her work appeals to animals rather than people. It makes her degree sort of seem like a joke.

But then she is discovered as an excellent appraiser of art. Suddenly her expertise is valued and she has a real opportunity to do fulfilling, meaningful work in her chosen field. Where Marshall always had the luxury of an obvious path in front of him, Lily had to stumble through the dark to find her way to something that spoke to her and could also support her family. She finally found it at the end of season eight.

And then what happens? Marshall gets offered a judgeship, and so once again Lily’s needs must go right out the window.

There’s a reason Lily fled to San Francisco years and years ago. She’s grown responsible in the interim, and I can’t imagine she’ll run away to Italy without Marshall. But he needs to start reading the signs. One person can’t always be the one making the sacrifices in a relationship. In the conversation with Lily in his head, he learned that he needs to stop thinking of relationship discussions as something to either win or lose. While that realization has merit, he also needs to think about what it means that he has been able to pursue his dreams for the entire length of their relationship, while Lily hasn’t had much of an opportunity to do anything about hers. No, you can’t make a relationship totally fair, but this situation is egregiously unfair. There’s got to be a better balance.

Ultimately, I would like to see Marshall get his head out of his ass and realize that Lily’s dreams are just as important as his. And I’d like to see them move to Italy.

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Media Rant Review

The death of Joss Carter

I haven’t watched Person of Interest since the writers’ decision to kill Joss Carter. Here I’ll explain why that decision continues to upset me.

Joss’s role as one of the three main characters was to bring the show back down to earth, to add believability. The idea of a guy with genius programming abilities and virtually limitless funds joining forces with a guy with action hero powers to fight crime might almost be silly if not tempered by real-world considerations. And as an audience, we can’t truly identify with the superhero. Like Bones needs Booth, like Holmes needs Watson, like Superman needs Clark Kent’s relationships with regular people, the John-and-Howard superteam needs Joss. And so Joss was there from the beginning, balancing John and Howard out.

At first, Joss was something of an antagonist, then she became a protector, and then she struck out on her own. After Fusco’s story arc, Joss’ may have been the richest of all the characters’. We see it as it happens, whereas John and Howard’s character development has largely been flashback.

Beyond being a necessary counterpoint to John and Howard, Joss was the only relatable female character in the show. Root is fascinating, and Shaw is a lot of fun, but neither of them is a person the audience can really identify with. Root and Shaw are also lithe; Joss’ full figure was a welcome change from the Hollywood stereotype. Joss was also the only person of color in the main cast.

In one fell swoop, the writers have transformed Person of Interest into a show about a bunch of larger-than-life white people. Yawn.

The decision to kill Joss was bad enough, but then they had to do it so badly. Don’t get me wrong, the suspense and twist at the end were well done. But there was a completely unnecessary element: Joss and John’s supposed love story.

I have never picked up on a romantic relationship between Joss and John. Retconning it in at the last minute cheapens her death. It seems to say that the reason her life meant something is because she was John’s love interest. That she had no worth beyond that. That John wouldn’t have found her death as tragic if not for that element. (And they’ve already done a star-crossed lovers story for John. No need to do another one!)

Downgrading Joss from main character status to love interest status also reinforces the fallacious notion that men and women can’t have relationships without romantic love eventually coming up. If this were true in the real world, we’d never get anything done.

Joss and John were comrades. Buddies. Friends. Yes, of course they cared about each other, but I would argue that it was in the same way John and Howard care about each other. I highly doubt the writers would shoehorn a love story into an episode about Howard’s death.

I also highly doubt the writers will kill Howard, or John. I don’t feel that Joss’ death has suddenly made the show more “dangerous”, in which “anything can happen”, as the producers seem to be claiming. The writers were able to kill Joss because she was a she and a person of color, therefore traditionally expendable. Her death relegates her to “token black character”. It doesn’t matter that removing her character from the show changes the concept. Audiences have plenty of precedent for minority characters being offed regardless of their importance. We understand it, and unfortunately we accept it.

I have no doubt in my mind that the writers consider killing off John or Howard much more difficult–that such a thing would break the show. Yes, it would change the concept. Joss’ death also changes the concept. But unlike Joss, John and Howard are two white guys, and therefore their stories are “essential”. The producers joke about killing John, but if they do, I imagine it won’t be until the last episode of the series.

Want to know another way in which the show isn’t “dangerous”? They very carefully made it clear that the kids would be okay. First they retconned in Joss’ ex and showed that he had changed, so we know her son will be taken care of. And then they saved Fusco’s son. If this show’s concept was actually changing into a Game of Thrones-style story (ugh), no one would be safe, not even children. No, this show isn’t “dangerous”. Killing the solitary minority character is not a groundbreaking move that changes the paradigm. It is simply a weak decision that follows decades, perhaps centuries, of lazy storytelling tradition.

Feel free to prove me wrong, writers. I never wanted any of the characters to die. I love them all. But now that you’ve killed the “expendable” minority, how about you put your money where your mouth is and make a truly dangerous decision about who to off next?

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Media

Music used in Person of Interest

Sean and I love Person of Interest, a show whose heroes are like a combination of Batman and James Bond. Former CIA operative John Reese has the spy skills and general badassery; partner Howard Finch brings the technological expertise. Unfortunately the show isn’t available to watch online, so we don’t see it as it airs; instead, we wait for the season to end and buy the Blu-Rays. Season one is available here.

Aside from its excellent score, written by Ramin Djawadi of Game of Thrones fame, the show is augmented by some iconic tracks, listed on the Person of Interest Wiki. Here’s a guide to buying the tracks from season one on Amazon MP3, mostly for my reference but also for yours if you’re interested. The songs are sorted by artist.

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Media Review

Sherlock deductions

Sean and I finally watched series two of Sherlock, finishing up last night, and I’m so excited about my Reichenbach deductions that I wanted to write them out. If you haven’t seen series two, stop reading now and go watch it on Netflix. Then come back.

Here are the things we know:

Sherlock chose the final meeting place with Moriarty.

Sherlock doesn’t fulfill Moriarty’s demand until John arrives. He tells John exactly where to stand and watch, and he also tells him some very specific things, saying it’s important.

When Sherlock jumps, he doesn’t go head-first. As smart as he is, he’d know that would be the best way to die. Instead, he jumps in such a way that he’d seemingly land on his hands and knees.

After the fall, the first thing that happens is John is clipped by someone on a bike. He’s disoriented. By the time he’s back on his feet, a crowd has clustered around the “body”. John runs over, but time has passed. And the crowd, while letting him get a look, ultimately doesn’t let him examine Sherlock.

We don’t see the funeral. We therefore don’t see if it was open casket.

We don’t see what happened to Moriarty. No one but Sherlock knew he’d “shot himself”.

More generally:

Sherlock Holmes, like James Moriarty, is an actor. He can pretend anything. He can even be friendly if he wants to; he just rarely wants to.

Sherlock and Moriarty have similar intellects and drive. They are both willing to go beyond what would normally be considered, well, sane. We know this from the end of series one, not just from the conversation and suicide one-upsmanship at the end of series two.

The information Moriarty has on Sherlock comes primarily from their interactions in series one and from Mycroft. This means he is estranged from new information, especially after Sherlock finds the hidden camera.

As Sherlock has never indicated any interest in Molly beyond using her as a tool, Moriarty has no reason to think she is important to him. Indeed, Sherlock confirms this when he asks, “Watson? Mrs. Hudson? Lestrade?” (Technically Molly may never have caught Sherlock’s notice if she hadn’t observed his mental state, but that’s tangential. The point is, up until then Sherlock never would have considered Molly a part of his “team”, and so Moriarty doesn’t either.)

I believe that at the point Sherlock told Molly he thought he was going to die, he had already deduced 1) how Moriarty had managed his break-ins; 2) how Moriarty planned for his taking-down of Sherlock to end–suicide in disgrace. He may have even deduced 3) how far Moriarty was willing to go to ensure Sherlock killed himself. And as he knew Moriarty would have plans in place to deal with Watson, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade, this knowledge didn’t help him come up with a way to outfox Moriarty, because if he enlisted their aid, Moriarty would know…hence Sherlock’s desperation, and his sudden epiphany that he could rely on Molly.

(I imagine the writers are making a point about the importance of human relationships here, a theme I think the Holmes-inspired House could have used a bit more of…but perhaps I’m reading in a bit too much ;)

And so Sherlock’s plan to save his friends and best Moriarty depended on two things: Moriarty not knowing he was relying on Molly, and Moriarty continuing to underestimate him. Sherlock had to act out his deductions as if he were having them for the first time on the rooftop, too late to do anything about them. But in reality, he’d already set a plan in motion through Molly that would allow him to jump from the rooftop, appear dead, but emerge unscathed. This plan had the crowd below, the guy on the bike, and even the medical team that picked up his body in on it–just as Moriarty had people at every level in on his break-in scheme.

Further, I don’t think Moriarty is really dead; he goes on and on about how hard it is to keep on living when everyone is so dull, but the sense of self-preservation isn’t that easy to kick if you’re not actually depressed…and Moriarty isn’t depressed. He’s bored. “Killing” himself probably seemed like a fun idea. Sherlock probably knew Moriarty wasn’t dead, as well, but he’d tried the verbal jousting route and the safest way to protect his friends was to go through with the fake suicide plan.

What I’m interested in seeing is where things go from here. I don’t quite remember from the stories, but I believe there was one in which Sherlock was said to have survived Reichenbach Falls after all. Maybe in the interminable time before series three I’ll go back and reread.

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Media Review Writing

Fringe finale disappointments

There are copious spoilers in this post.

Let me first state that the two-part finale of Fringe was generally enjoyable. There was a nice Fringe event featuring one of my phobias–nanobots (you can’t see them!)–and it was awesome to see Leonard Nimoy return as William Bell, especially in the second half. His performance was excellent. I was intrigued by the notion that David Robert Jones got what he wanted in this timeline: recognition by Bell, even if it meant self-sacrifice. And the new explanation for why Walter had parts of his brain removed was shocking and perfect. I also loved Bell’s escape at the end, which hearkens back to Olivia’s first meeting with him in the original timeline. Makes you wonder if he rode out of there inside someone’s head. The various character wrap-ups were nice too. I appreciated seeing Nina doing some science and being recognized for it. You could tell that the writers had been planning things so that they could end the series here if they hadn’t gotten a season five. (Which perhaps would be better, since season five seems destined to follow the horrid totalitarian Observer plotline.)

But.

The heroes of the day, ultimately, were Walter and Peter. Olivia’s main contribution was to get her and Peter onto Bell’s ship, which seemed more “oh, Olivia should do something heroic too” rather than “Olivia is a vital member of the team”. In fact, it was Olivia, or rather Olivia’s victimization at the hands of William Bell, that threatened to destroy the world. And she had no way of fighting this. All she could do was stand there freaking out. She didn’t even think to kill herself–Walter had to do that for her. (Self-sacrifice would not have been an empowered choice, but at least it would have been her choice.)

Nina makes a big deal about how compassionate Olivia is, and how Bell is using that against her. It is Olivia’s compassion that allows her to become powerful. But based on the events of this finale, we may well conclude that compassion is weakness. Olivia is so compassionate, she can only react emotionally, and is stymied when faced with a dilemma more complex than protecting one person in front of her. She’s powerful, but ultimately she’s weak. She’s just a woman.

That’s the message I was getting.

I would have liked to have seen Olivia control her powers. We saw her doing it in the future of the original timeline, the future that Peter ultimately ended up erasing. The difference with the season four scenario is that she had been dosed with cortexiphan more recently by Evil Nina, to get her up to par with her original timeline self. This probably led to the instability and rapid release of power, provoked by the events Bell put into place around her. But think back to seasons one and two. Olivia–original timeline Olivia–had already dealt with her victimization, with taking care of other victims. She’d found her strength. She’d turned weakness into power and her past into a mission. Would this Olivia really have been flummoxed by William Bell, once she knew what was really going on?

I say no. I say that our original timeline Olivia would have stared Bell down, folded her arms, and calmly turned it off like a light.

Heck, if they’d played their cards right, the writers could have left in the headshot scene, which was actually pretty cool. Just as Olivia figures it out, Walter shoots her in despair. Peter freaks. But the bullet goes all the way through and Olivia’s cortexiphan-infused brain self-repairs instantly. Bell, about to flee, stops to gloat as the universe-destruction starts up again. And then Olivia drops the hammer on him. Later, in the denouement, Olivia undergoes a series of tests and discovers that excessive use of her powers causes an enormous drain on her body and might threaten her life, so they should be treated as a last resort.

(I’d like to keep the part where Walter removes the bullet, because that scene is just crazy, but I’d also like for Olivia to be able to stare William Bell down as she’s turning off her powers, and I’m not sure he’d stick around after he thought she was dead.)

My rewrite would allow Olivia to keep her powers without becoming some sort of overpowered superhero. It would give her an advantage in a universe populated with (male) scientific geniuses, other than her photographic memory and detective skills, which haven’t really seen much use lately. It would also bring back the feeling from seasons one and two, when the main character of Fringe was a strong woman who fought her own battles rather than feeling like a victim and waiting for her white knights (or rather, Bishops) to save her.