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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

Categories
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.

Categories
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).

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

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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.

Categories
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.

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Media Review

Feminism and Fringe

Fringe has been one of my favorite shows ever since it began. I loved the focus on a strong female lead who attacked problems head-on and who, at least in the beginning, provided direction for the group as a whole. But I’ve recently started to notice a few troubling details that make me wonder whether the writers are working with unconscious sexist assumptions.

Really, it all started with the horrid episode 4.19. It struck me as very odd that Olivia and Peter’s daughter should be, essentially, a clone of Olivia, and not have any of Peter’s scientific genius. This made me start to think about the female characters in Fringe in general, and I realized that none of them is really a match for Peter, Walter, William Bell, David Robert Jones. There are no genius woman scientists in Fringe.

Nina is said to be a scientist, but we rarely see her doing anything related to science. More often she is managing Massive Dynamic or directing others to perform scientific experiments. She can’t even repair her robotic arm on her own.

Astrid has a gift for computers, languages, and code-breaking, but more often than not she is relegated to the tasks of lab assistant and babysitter. We have never really seen her take the lead on a project, though she may make small observations that help the show’s featured geniuses arrive at a conclusion.

Other than that, we have the Fringe events of the week, some of which involve women, but usually those women are either pawns or are using technology they got somewhere else. We have had no main scientific antagonists who were female.

Do the writers of Fringe believe on some subconscious level that women can’t be genius scientists? Is this why there are no female Observers? (If what September said was true, and the Observers are the future of humanity, this implies that humanity evolved away from, or forcibly shifted itself away from, having two sexes. Are we to believe this is because women were inferior scientists and could not “keep up”?)

This all comes as the show has shifted its focus away from its protagonist, Olivia, to focus on Peter. Suddenly Peter is the one who has remained the same throughout all four seasons, not Olivia. Our base of “normal” is no longer Olivia, but Peter. We don’t see Olivia directing the action anymore…instead, she reacts. Things happen to her. At the very end of 4.20 she started to take control again, but after a full season without that strength, it didn’t feel like enough to re-cement her protagonist role. And we already know that in the ridiculous totalitarian Observer future, Olivia isn’t even there.

It’s just all very troubling, and I wonder if the writers see it.

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Media Review

Fringe 4.19 [SPOILERS]

I am disappoint.1

For the most part, I have been enjoying this eclectic season so far. It’s difficult to completely alter reality, and every character’s situation, and have the show feel like “home” to a viewing audience. Eureka kind of lost me, for example, when the main cast went back in time and changed the course of history. There were just too many differences in the new reality. I never regained that sense of “normal”.

Fringe has always been pretty mind-bending, and I was truly impressed with what the writers had done with the characters and history in the alternate universe. So I held out hope that our reality, the foundation we’ve been building for the past three years, would come back strong in season four, merging with the new timeline…that somehow, everyone, or at least everyone aware of Fringe events, would remember both.

Instead, the last handful of episodes have indicated that the only ones who will remember what the viewers remember are Peter and Olivia, and presumably the Observers, who worked to erase that timeline.

This climactic battle with the Observers in the future may yet lead to a restoration of the original timeline. It’s possible; anything is. But if that’s it, if that’s all, if that’s the resolution I’ve been waiting for, then what a letdown.

First of all, putting text on a screen to quickly explain an all-new story concept right in the middle of a show that’s already working within a different reality than the one previously established is heavy-handed. It might have been more confusing to be thrown into the episode with no explanation, but it certainly would have felt less awkward and B-movie sci-fi.

Second…Observers, in a nightclub, acting like gangsters, forcing themselves onto women. Uh, what? This is the first time I have ever seen an Observer do anything remotely sexual, and what a cliche way to add that to the story. I realize there are no female Observers–I’ve wondered about that for a long time, actually–but it doesn’t follow that upon wresting control of Earth from their ancestors, they’d start behaving like thugs from the 1940s.

Speaking of the 1940s: human enforcers of Observer law, dressed up like Nazis! Really! Yes, let’s invoke Nazi Germany in our already trope-heavy dystopian dictatorship.

I guess one thing that really drives me crazy about this is that the future September showed Peter seemed so bright. Humans would evolve and grow and eventually be able to go anywhere and Observe anything. This seemed Good. He never mentioned anything about destroying the planet in the future and then going back into the past to take it over. That, to me, sounds like some hack writer’s drunken “Dude, wouldn’t it be awesome if?”

But September fervently warned Peter that it was imperative he and Olivia get together, because their child would be essential. (If it wasn’t obvious to you that Etta was their kid, the millisecond she first appeared on screen, you haven’t been paying attention.) I had assumed at the time that this meant Peter and Olivia’s child would be part of building the bright future that led toward human expansion into the galaxy…not that she would be vital to stopping the Observers because her mind could somehow not be read by them. Snore.

And did it annoy anyone else that while Etta is practically a clone of her mother, she doesn’t seem to have picked up any of Peter’s scientific genius? What’s that about?

Speaking of clones: last night, I was convinced that this future must be some alternate timeline that would inform our own story, but did not doom our characters to its realities. My main support for this belief was the fact that William Bell was there. Only this morning did I remember that Walter didn’t bother to take William out of the amber…he simply removed his hand. This could imply that he intended to clone William, which could further imply that the William in the amber was also a clone. So that turns out not to be proof after all, much to my dismay. And come to think of it, I don’t think we actually know what happened to William Bell in this timeline anyway. He died in the original timeline, not this one.

Argh.

Already this season I’ve had many of my assumptions challenged or overthrown (I thought Evil Nina and alt-Broyles were shapeshifters, for example), so maybe things aren’t as doom and gloom as I think. Maybe something good can yet come out of what for now appears to me to be a very trite, uninteresting story. There are little things that intrigue me, like Walter having his brain back, Etta’s life and how she managed to hide the fact that she’s Peter and Olivia’s daughter (her last name was never mentioned in the episode), what happened to the other universe (is the bridge gone?), and whether David Robert Jones is still around somewhere. I’m not so keen on watching another episode without Olivia. Etta does a good Olivia impression, but, you know, Olivia is the main character. Kind of like having her around. It sounded like something happened to Olivia, though, which implies she may not be in this little dystopian future story arc at all. Blerg. [Edit: Looks like I don’t have to worry about the next episode not featuring Olivia, as we are apparently leaving the future storyline unresolved and going back to the present next week.]

At least we already have established precedent for Peter going forward in time, then back in time to change the results he saw. It’ll be totally cheesy if he does it again, but I won’t complain.

I think what bothers me the most about this episode is that my entire understanding of the Observers has changed. I used to think of them as, well, observers. They watched and didn’t interfere. They were scientists and historians. They were interested in their own past and were lucky enough to be able to go and see it in person. September, our most sympathetic Observer, made a big mistake by changing the timeline in two universes, and that touched off all the events where Observers started interfering (except that one where an Observer decided he didn’t want a particular young lady to die). Olivia had an affinity for the child Observer they found, and I felt that this indicated the promise of future friendship. While I knew the Observers were willing to sacrifice people for the sake of the timeline, I always felt they were working for the greater good.

This episode would have me believe that everything, all of it, was the Observers preparing to take over, and just watching and preparing for the best time. And that one big piece of their puzzle was making sure no Peter Bishop ever had a child with our universe’s Olivia Dunham. You might ask, “Why not just kill them, then?” I’m sure a writer somewhere can come up with an explanation like “It would affect other things in the timeline too much.” Never mind all the other timeline changes the Observers kept making, including trying to erase Peter. Did they ever think to stop our Olivia from getting treated with cortexiphan, or is that too obvious?

I’m just disappointed. I’m unhappy that the Observers are nothing more than ruiners and conquerors. I’m unhappy that basically the writers are saying humanity can’t evolve past our petty greed and selfishness in 600 years, even as we make astounding scientific discoveries (and apparently eliminate all women :P).

What this episode is telling me is that even if Peter or someone else from the cast is able to prevent the Observer takeover in 2036, that won’t necessarily stop the Observers themselves from being evil. I’d grown rather attached to them, and I didn’t want them to be evil. I didn’t want this to be so freaking black and white. I wanted a nuanced story with hard situations and tough decisions for everyone.

It’s naive to think that totalitarian regimes can’t exist, obviously, and I probably shouldn’t dismiss them as cliche in stories. I guess I was just expecting more from a civilization 600 years older than our own.

Fringe, season 1

* This post is rife with spoilers. *

The season finale of Fringe answered a lot of questions.

For awhile I thought William Bell was dead, or that he had never existed. We never saw him.

I knew that Walter and Peter had been saved at the lake, and that Walter now owed the Observer a favor, but I could always tell that there was something more to that story and I didn’t know what.

Olivia started getting flashes of what I assumed were various other universes.

Now, after the season finale, it seems there is one main alternate universe. Liv’s flashes all came from that same universe…a universe in which 9/11 didn’t quite go the same way, and in which there was some other, more recent attack. After seeing the finale, I speculate that her flashes are due to the fact that that universe is starting to merge with ours. The “soft points”, from which radiate all manner of phenomena, are only the beginning.

It also seems likely that the kickoff point for the dimensional collision was Walter’s selfish snatching of another Peter–I’ll call him Peter’–from the alternate universe when his own son died. Indeed, the place where I imagine that theft took place–the lake where the two of them were saved–was the soft point Jones was able to use to open the doorway. I presume what actually happened was Peter drowned, Walter went to the alternate universe and retrieved Peter’, and the Observer was helpful in some way, but told Walter that at some point he would need to deal with the ramifications. The stealing of Peter’ was obviously a huge dimensional event–matter was taken from one universe to another, and has existed for some time in a place where it doesn’t belong.

William Bell has been living in the alternate universe for “months”, at least. (That’s how long Nina Sharp claims she hasn’t seen him.) It’s possible that he’s there in an attempt to stop or delay the merging. Perhaps he didn’t realize until recently that Walter stole Peter’. Once he knew the reason for the soft spots, he tried to compensate by shifting some of our universe’s matter–himself–into the other universe to replace what it’d lost.

I imagine his move will end up being too little, too late. Since Bell’s a completely different person, it’s not an equal exchange. And even though it’s not clear what role time plays in this, the fact that the exchange took two decades to happen will probably also have an effect, unless Bell has been there longer than Nina implies.

What confounds me at this point is where the show can possibly go from here. What will we discover about alternate universes? Will we end up able to cross between them with impunity after all? Or am I right, and does dimensional travel without equal exchange cause irreparable damage that will ultimately lead to a universe-collide? If we’ve answered most of the questions about why these events are happening, what kind of questions can we ask next season?


The revelation that Peter’ isn’t from this universe adds a new layer to Walter and Peter’s relationship. We know that Peter’ considers Walter to have been an abusive father. I’ve seen some speculation that it was Walter’ who was abusive, and Walter was a loving father who was too late to spare Peter’ from his father’s abuse. I think it’s more plausible, though, that Walter didn’t know how to relate to Peter’ because Peter’ wasn’t really his son. Whenever Walter is able to connect with Peter’ in a meaningful way, he is so delighted that I imagine it doesn’t happen very much. Walter was trying to bring his son back, but instead he brought home a stranger, and I imagine that fact, plus the guilt over what he’d done, plus the pain over losing his real son, drove him to abusive behavior and insanity.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Peter’ finds out about all this.