It’s been a while since I updated the blog. I’ve gotten lost in a swamp of work and life changes. But now an even bigger one is happening to our country and I keep rotating between anxiety and shock. I don’t know how long it’s going to take for me to process this, sort of hoping that creating this post will help.

A lot of the time, when I’ve gotten angry about something lately, it’s been pretty much just me and pretty much just in a day to day way. Like the Ilvermony crap, or the pisspoor representation of bisexuals, or the white-washing in Doctor Strange. All that anger’s pointed at bigger issues, but people tend to do the one-shoulder shrug or the ‘yeah that sucks.’ Any group of friends will tell you–within very little time of knowing me–that I’m “the angry one.”

Half of America  (honestly, probably a little more than that) has lost its fucking mind from grief, fear, rage, anger, anxiety. My Facebook feed is covered in people who can’t believe this happened to our country–or who can and are deeply upset about it. For once, I’m not the only angry one and I don’t have to go far to find someone else feeling the same shitty way I do.

Alone, I’m a voice screaming into a void and hoping to hear the echoing rage. Together, we can be a fucking chorus that won’t be ignored, that refuses to be trampled. That’s the only tiny embers I have left for my fire right now–that consolation and hope that we can get better because there IS a loud MAJORITY who did not want want this. Thousands of people have already begun protesting. We’ve got the brilliant thinkers on our side. We’ve got passionate people on our side. We’ve got compassion on our side. We’ve got rage and fury on our side. Fuck any silent nights. I can’t sleep? Okay. I’m going to do something with the anxious energy I can’t get rid of. I’m going to post. I’m going to protest. I’m going to create because they can’t convince me that what I am is wrong. I’ve had someone try before. Didn’t work then.

I’ll get through the shock and find the anger, fuel those embers back into a blaze. Because my friends are right. I am one of the angry ones. And a chunk of our nation just decided to give me some ugly-ass big ol’ dragons to fight. Fucking bring it.

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Opening Moments

Dozens of books, posts, websites, and whatnot will tell you what to do with those opening moments of a work. You’ve got to make sure those precious words are leaving an impression, introducing your character, getting the plot going and a hundred other little things. The task is daunting, and can produce existential terror if you sit and think too hard about it. That would have been my problem this last week and when the fear of never producing constructed a writer’s block, I decided to look for outside inspiration to break it down.

I started by thinking about what media I’m liking at the moment. Now, Hamilton‘s a fantastic musical, but a book can’t really start with a long exposition of a character’s history these days. (Okay, yes, there is the idea that in writing ‘If you do it well enough you can do anything,’ but I certainly don’t have the expertise for that kind of opening). Knowing that Hamilton‘s writer Miranda is a huge West Wing fan and being one myself, I put the pilot episode on for the upteenth repeat to see how they handled their beginning. And, quite frankly, a lot of that writing advice finally clicked into place in my brain.

West Wing is available via Netflix, so if you’ve got a moment and a subscription, watch through the first few minutes. I’m going to break down some of the scenes here, so if you don’t want to be spoiled on the story, here’s your warning.

Okay, still with me? West Wing starts in a bar with a reporter pressing for information from another man, who we quickly learn is Sam. Their conversation reveals a staggering amount of information in just a few lines. We learn that Josh might lose his job, that Sam isn’t the kind of guy to blab to the press, that he’s friends with Josh, and that Sam’s not incredibly great at figuring out clues from women (“I think she’s looking at me. I can never tell when they’re looking at me.”)

From there, we’re introduced to other characters in quick succession and there’s two obvious commonalities. The characters are starting their mornings, and everyone is interrupted by POTUS–leading to the conclusion that everyone in this story works for the White House. In every one of these tiny scenes, we see character quirks, strengths, and flaws. Leo is ready for work, but he’s obsessed about the crossword getting an answer wrong. CJ is obviously dedicated to taking care of herself, but she’s crappy at trying to flirt. Josh has slept on his desk (probably worried about his job), but he still answers the pager’s beeping right away. Toby is surly with the air flight attendant, but his frustration is understandable even if his behavior’s not polite.

Those few brief scenes give us everything that the plethora of writing books advise. Each character is in mid-action, no one’s waking up to greet the dawn (well, except for Josh, but he’s not exactly greeting anything), there’s movement, minor tensions, and the bigger tensions (Will Josh keep his job? What’s the President like?) The show follows up with all those questions and continues to explore the characterization and the world setting.

Basically, West Wing is a fun ride, and if you’re looking closely, there’s a lot you can pick up on writing. Are there other shows/books/media that do that for you? Feel free to share in the comments 🙂

For Whom the Bell Tolls — Supernatural’s END

So the news broke a couple of weeks ago, but I only found out last night. Looks like the CW will no longer be hosting their shows on Hulu this fall. Sure, you’ll be able to find their programming over on the CW site and the CW’s app, and okay, you’ll get the finished seasons much sooner on Netflix (as it stands, you have to wait until about a week before the new season starts to get last season. With the new program you’ll get them 8 days after the season ends). And yes, there is that traditional way of watching television, but how many people actually watch shows when they’re on these days? I don’t even have cable anymore–the basic package just isn’t cost effective for me. Why pay so much for digital only channels when I can stream via Hulu and Netflix and get it in HD for about the same as it would cost to get the most basic of channels?

I watch a lot of CW’s shows and I do so through the Hulu app because it’s the most convenient for me. I don’t want to download yet another app to watch a handful of programming and I watch from my PS4, so I don’t even think CW has an app for that. I write, which means I spend many hours a day with my computer. The last thing I want for my down time is to stare at the screen only a foot away any longer. So definitely not going to bother putting the app on my phone or tablet either. That means, at the end of summer, my access to CW’s network is going to poof. While I could wait around until the end of season to binge-watch what I missed, I doubt I’ll bother. What would be the point? My interaction with these fandoms is strictly online these days, and if I’m watching long after everyone else, the conversation will have already moved past any thoughts I might have. It’s not going to be fun.

And that got me thinking. I’m likely not the only one who will be giving up their program because of the inconvenience. Others aren’t going to wrangle each episode and CW’s shows don’t always compete with whatever else is on during their programming. Like Supernatural, this last year they were in direct competition with Fox’s Empire.

Talk to most people and they’d be surprised that Supernatural is going on its 12th season this fall. Rightfully so, not a lot of programs last that long and certainly not monster-of-the-week paranormal based fantasy. But I’m going to call it now. This one’s going down this season. Why? Well, besides the limited character growth over the last few seasons and the dwindling fandom, the removal of easy access will reduce the show’s visibility. For a show already bleeding Nielsen ratings the last few years, the inability to draw in new audience from the cross-network platform of Hulu will likely stagnate an already decaying fandom. At this point, without an influx of new viewers, the show doesn’t stand a chance of pulling up out of its tanking ratings.

So, enjoy this show–if you can that is–this fall, because this new deal will likely mean the end of Supernatural.

Fall TV Line-Up

As fall approaches, the tv seasons are finally ’bout to start up again. Not having all the time in the week to catch up with every single show out there (or the interest in absolutely everything), I’ve got my list just like everyone else. So here’s my “must-see” list:

Sleepy Hollow: Returning for a sophomore season, we’ll finally get the chance to see what happened to Abbie after last season’s finale. Season 1 of this show was a surprising joy to watch. For those not in the know, Sleepy Hollow follows the end of days story of Revelations from the Christian Bible. Okay, not a new concept there (and part of my early hesitation). It’s got the Masons and conspiracies–also not new. A man waking up from the past in the future. Again, so not new. But what really makes this show is fitting all those overused pieces into a new puzzle. You’ve got characters of color in abundance, you’ve got an almost X-Files feel to the way Lt. Abbie Mills and Ichabod Crane are going through the Apocalypse, and to top all of that off, every member of the cast gives a great performance. As partners, Abbie and Ichabod work in perfect tandem and each has their strengths and weaknesses. Their friendship and working relationship are clearly based on a level of respect. The seriousness and attitude of the setting and the believability of the characters make what could’ve been a trite piece of trash into a spell-binding journey. Sleepy Hollow Season 2 premieres September 22nd.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Also on return for a sophomore season! What’s amazing about Agents of SHIELD is how it’s worked into the same Marvel tapestry as the recent movie blitz. Last season saw both mentions of Thor 2 and The Winter Soldier. Hell, you know anything about Winter Soldier and you know that Agents had to deal with it. Honestly, I blame the movie with why Season 1 wound up dragging in some places. Agents had to stall time until the movie had come out. Now, for season 2, Coulson’s been charged with rebuilding SHIELD and considering all the fallout of Winter Soldier, we’re bound to see more and more consequences of that as well as the ramifications of what happened at the end of last season. I’ll admit I’m a Whedonverse junkie, but things are going to get morally gray this season and I can’t wait. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 premieres September 23rd. 

Arrow: You have to admire a show that has twenty-three episodes in a season and yet not a single one of them could be labeled filler. Also, Arrow has almost equal numbers men and women in the cast. In the last two seasons, the plots have peaked into a brilliant finale where the heroes often lose–yet without the feeling that the heroes failed to live up to their potential and without cheapening anything that’s happened through the course of the season. Season 3 premieres October 8th.

Flash: A spin-off of Arrow, I’m mildly curious to see if the CW can manage to produce two interesting shows or if Arrow was a complete fluke on their part. Flash premieres October 7th.

Revenge: I’ve got a thing for bad dramas. I used to watch Desperate Housewives for a couple years too. There’s something about the show being so far outside the realm of logic that I find attractive. It’s a complete escape from reality, but at least some of the cast is pretty hot. Revenge Season 4 premieres September 28th.

Scandal: Much the same line as Revenge, though with more characters of color and the levels of espionage and conspiracies delving into the back rooms of Washington, D.C. rather than the Hamptons. Scandal features better dialogue though and more interesting performances. Scandal Season 4 premieres September 25th.

The Walking Dead: The complexity of morals when the world’s gone to hell is definitely one of the main themes of the show. While Walkers present a huge threat, by this point in the series they’ve become background noise to the constant interpersonal problems. The show also has fantastic scenery every time and the cinematographers and directors have used the settings to their advantage in their story telling. The Walking Dead Season 5 premieres October 12th.

Constantine: Super powers or supernatural seems to be the theme of this list if you haven’t realized that yet. I picked up a couple of the early comics at the beginning of last spring and was thrilled to see that the show’s coming up this fall. Hopefully, the show’s as gritty as the trailer seems to promise. I’m interested in seeing how this translates to the small screen (and if maybe they might eventually come around to their senses about the character’s sexuality.) Constantine premieres October 24th.

Castle: For the first time in forever, I’ve actually caught up to the plot of Castle. I’ve got a long blog post, Heat vs. Storm, that explains what I adore about the show, so I’m not going to repeat all the reasons here, but do you need a better reason than watching Nathan Fillion and company being awesome? Season 7 premieres September 29th. 

Supernatural: I literally only watch this show with my friends in order to be able to bitch about it with them. Last season was beyond a disappointment and I expect that they’ll fall even flatter on their face this season when the episodes have to do with anything other than straight white men—assuming they even bother having characters that fit a different profile. If they do, I’m sure they’ll get murdered by the end of the episode. Very few characters seem to survive, unless you’re Sam, Dean, Castiel, or Crowley–the only season regulars yet again. I won’t even bother catching up on episodes I wind up missing, ’cause I doubt they’ll even go anywhere interesting, even if they have made Dean a demon. Season 10 premieres October 7th. 

How the True Blood finale lived up to its name

Let’s start with a reminder of what the product “True Blood” is. It’s a blood substitute. It’s kept cold and to the vampires who consume it (even a newbie as we saw with Jessica) it tastes like shit. While it comes in a few flavors (different blood types), it really never satisfies. So in the end, you’ve got a product that vampires are meant to consume, to pay for, and they’re supposed to fake enjoying to get along in society.

In so many ways, the True Blood finale last night was just like that: emotionally distant, lacking any real substance, and leaving a shitty aftertaste.

Fuck, where do I even start?

Okay, let’s go with Bill and Sookie’s plot, since that took up most of the episode. First off, I’ve given up any hope of Bill’s decision-making being anything similar to our decision-making skills. Bill Compton, despite all of his professing otherwise, has always put himself and his way of thinking first. You see it in the way he wants to “mainstream” and you see it in the way he wants to “raise” Jessica. So when he makes the decision to end his life because that’s the only way Sookie will ever move on, he’s not really thinking about Sookie’s well-being. He’s convinced himself he is and he’s convinced himself that this is the “only way” she will ever move on, but all he does is strip her of any choices and then fucking mess her up psychologically by asking her to finish him. You know who he could have asked, who would have gladly put it through him and been done with it? Eric. You know how he could have done it himself? Let the Hep-V take its course or walk into the sun he waited to go down. Instead, he wanted Sookie to use the last of her fairy light to take him out of the world so that she could go live a ‘normal’ life.

His logic alone was so rampantly sexist I was willing to reach through and do it myself. He didn’t want to stay with Sookie because she would “never have children, never have a real life” and he believed that so long as he was alive somewhere, she would never get over him. The show–including Sookie–just accepts this as justifiable cause. The reason is so sexist, I’m still groaning and rolling my eyes at it. The message completely reads, “I am man. You can never move past me because of my awesome effect on your life. You’re obviously not a woman if you do not procreate. Being different is bad, you should try to blend in.” So in the end, I’m glad that they staked Bill and got that fucking backwards, archaic logic out of the world-setting. I just wish Sookie had gotten pissed at him beforehand and called him out on his complete crap. I wish she’d done it as an expression of “I do need you out of my life, you’re damaging it. I’ve accepted who I am and who I choose to love, but you never accepted yourself or me.” —Her final speech did have elements of it, but it lacked the anger or resolve of removing the toxicity from her life finally.

Of course, maybe she couldn’t have that mentality because the show’s writers certainly didn’t. After Bill’s scene, we’re treated to a “several years later” montage of watching Eric and Pam set up for their new business, while still keeping the old perfectly afloat, showing that nothing from the events of the show has actually done anything other than increase their wealth in the end. And then, the Thanksgiving scene. Holy fucking shit. Are we supposed to suspend our disbelief so far that all of the people that we’ve seen hook up in the final season are still together after four years when during the course of the show they all broke up and connected with new flames a couple of times? Some of them, yeah, it’d be understandable, but far more believable if at least a couple of people at the table had had someone new sitting besides them.

However, the worst part is that we start this scene with seeing a pregnant Sookie in the kitchen. She, who has always struggled with ‘normal’ men, she who earlier in the episode flashbacked to a moment when she believed that she’d never have a normal marriage and all that, is pregnant and in the kitchen. To top off this nightmare, we never see the face of the man in her life now. We get the back of his head, just enough of the side of his face to see that he’s got a beard, and on top of all of that, he’s got the head of the table seat. It sends the message that, despite having the rest of her family there (both blood and those close friends), her life was not the happy, perfect bliss without the fucking man and a fucking baby on the way.

And on top of all that, at the beginning of the episode, we see Bill force Jessica’s hand into an impromptu wedding with Hoyt because he never got the joy of giving his daughter away at a marriage. We see amnesiac Hoyt deciding that after one night, yes, he would like to marry Jessica one day and sure that day could be today. Jessica starts out by saying “Oh hell no, this isn’t what I wanted for my wedding day” and then Bill talks her into it with his “Ah, but I haven’t gotten to do what is mine by right,” *cough* sorry, “I haven’t gotten to have my privilege,” *cough* sorry again, “I haven’t gotten to do what so many other men fantasize about doing” –oh fuck it all. He emotionally blackmails her into the act. So we get a by-now cliche moment of him getting to hand her off at a wedding–the trope being badly misused in this situation because Bill Compton was given the chance to cure his terminal disease and instead he chose to go on towards the True Death. Because Bill chose not to take the cure, any emotional connectivity to the scene is completely lost. Once again we were forced to witness Bill’s bad decision-making dictate how everyone else got on with their futures.

In other story-telling aspects, the episode failed to deliver. We knew Bill was going to die (though because of the ‘he’s feeling human’ comments and symptoms there were bets that Bill was going to turn human in the end for Sookie) because he kept driving that point home. The scenes lacked any sort of tension, especially since the one tense force left on the show–the Yakuza–got taken out in the first seven or eight minutes. No one was in any danger, nothing was going to change the blandness that was happening, and we got was a drama that moved about as much as a vampire’s heart. For a season that began with a tense ‘anyone could die next, anything could change,’ the ending wound up safe, slow, and almost-line-by-line predictable. It was like the Hep-V vampire disaster ended too quickly, and since they didn’t know what else to do with their time, the writers/showrunners just started hooking everyone back up for the happy ending. True Blood never cared for that happy ending before–always leaving each season off with a giant hook, always gripping onto the next violent problem, but after Hep-V and Bill being essentially over, they don’t even discuss or mention the political fall out from everything that’s gone on in the last year. No hope or mention that vampires would get their rights back, that while everyone’s survived, their universe has a long way to go before it’s okay–and no one cares about the shape-shifter moment on national television or that the entire town found out about Sam’s ability. Naw, domestic bliss saves the day, doesn’t it?

For my friends and I, the ending felt so unsatisfying that we agreed that we’d wasted our time on the entire show. We’d been sucked into the world of Bon Temps for years and instead of a reward for the journey, we were wanting to spit it out faster than a baby vamp and her first bottle of O Pos. I can’t recommend the whole journey in good conscience any more. At least when next summer rolls around and I hunt down something else to watch, I won’t be sitting back and missing True Blood and pining away to know what happened after the end. As Bill Compton would have wanted, we can all move on with our lives without any profound effects.