Friday, September 30, 2011

Hey, don't knock the free publicity.

I just read a friend's blog musing on the obsession a certain someone seems to have for her even though she has tried repeatedly to ignore him and get on with her Second Life.  I like to think of it as this harasser and his cronies giving my friend free publicity.  See, the more these people bitch and moan about who allegedly said or did what, the more people talk — about the target of the ranting and raving.  And I think, when people begin to realize just who it is that keeps initiating conflict, eventually they realize just what a loser Mr. Serial harasser really is.  Who the hell cares, you know?  Stop whining and complaining and move on with your life already.

But some people are incapable of leaving others alone.  It's a pathological compulsion, driven by fear.  What's to be feared?  No longer getting attention.  No longer mattering.  Obscurity.  Mr. Serial Harasser simply must keep up his harassment, domineering, conniving, lying, and bullying because without it all he is just another nobody.

That's actually a perfect description of my brother, now that I think about it.  The moment I'm thrown out onto the streets to be homeless, he'll realize that it's not he who is through with me; I am the one who will be through with him.  And then what will he have to live for?  He's already attempted suicide at least once — he's told me as much.  I pity the boy.

Anyway, to my friend who may be reading this, I say enjoy the free publicity.  Trying to beat the competition by constantly trash-talking the competitors is bad business for the one doing the trash-talking.  It's a sign of desperation.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: The God Complex

Only, what, two more 'regular' episodes left to go for Series 6?  Where DOES the time fly?  Oh yeah, in an alien-built hotel made to look like one from 1980s Earth, which is the setting for "The God Complex".  It's basically a retelling of the Minotaur story from Greek mythology, and Toby Whitehouse's script makes it an enjoyable one indeed.

I won't give too much away from the episode, for the sake of people who haven't yet been able to see it.  Suffice to say that it's a great stand-alone episode and a real heartbreaker at the end.  The character of the Minotaur, actually an alien in the story from a race of beings who literally feed on the mental energy generated by a person's faith, could have been portrayed as an irredeemable monster.  But just as in the Series 5 episode "Vincent and the Doctor", he's really just a victim himself, and proves worthy of sympathy.

It is here I will give away the most spoilers, because I really want to focus on the Minotaur.  Imagine a race of beings who feed off of certain types of mental energy, who roam from world to world setting themselves up as gods to be worshiped, feeding on the faith of their followers.  On a planet with thousands, perhaps even millions of followers, it is easy to feed without necessarily killing, except for the odd sacrifice every now and then.  One imagines this is what the Nimons were perfectly content with.  Somehow, however, one of their relatives got himself imprisoned in a labyrinthine prison with no escape, and a steady stream of faithful people from all over the universe brought in to keep it alive.  With so few to feed from, the Minotaur is forced by his survival instinct to take all of the energy from its victims, killing them in the process, something it may very well never have wanted.  But it can't help itself, and eventually, after many thousands of years, it is at the point where it no longer even remembers its own name.  It simply is, and it cannot help but run on pure instinct, full of sorrow at what it must do to survive but unable to end its suffering on its own.  Sooner or later a hero comes and kills him, ending the barbaric ritual of sacrifice to the half-god bull.

Clearly, the writer intended this to be the basis for the Greek myth, or a continuation of it, or some combination of the two concepts.  Whitehouse could have done a lot worse with his handling of the Minotaur myth, but he pulled it off splendidly.

Okay, I was wrong.  I gave away a lot more than I intended.  If I'm able after this weekend, I'll write my review of "Closing Time".

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review with Link: The Girl Who Waited

Somebody already wrote up a fairly decent review of "The Girl Who Waited", so I'm just going to link to it here and let you judge it for yourself.  What I write below is merely to add to what has already been written.

To begin with, I've never really understood the animosity some fans feel toward the character of Amy Pond or of the actress behind her, Karen Gillan.  Billie Piper's Rose Tyler was too weepy, and Freema Agyeman's Martha Jones spent most of her time making moon eyes at the Doctor while getting all silently angsty over his inability to notice her feelings for him.  It wasn't until Catherine Tate's turn as Donna Noble that I began to like the Doctor's companions again, since the dynamic of the on-screen relationship was such that I could really see some fleshing out of both characters without the annoying unrequited love thing taking over.

With the character of Amy Pond, I began to fear that the series was returning to the lovesick puppy routine, but that gimmick was quickly ended when Arthur Darvill's Rory Williams became a central figure in the show and the true focus of Amy's romantic love.  If Moffat's tenure as head writer can be credited with anything good, it's the strong supporting cast for Series' 5 and 6.  It is this context that I watched and liked "The Girl Who Waited", though it's not nearly as good an episode as it should have been.

I didn't like the throw-away explanation of why a person can spend literally years alone without food and water in an isolated environment while dodging badly programmed security robots.  Timey wimey, wibbly wobbly stuff aside, it's insulting.  I'd have preferred a better explanation of survival, maybe showing a fruit orchard that the older Amy has been raiding or something.  I also didn't like that she initially rejected Rory upon reuniting with him, rather than be overjoyed.  Rory literally waited centuries for her in a collapsing universe as a plastic recreation of himself who was continuously awake, retaining his sanity and love for Amy throughout all that time.  She couldn't return the favor for thirty-six years, especially given what she's gone through with him and the strengthening of their bond since "The Eleventh Hour"?  Come on, the writers can do better than that.

Still, for those faults, I did enjoy the dramatic dynamic of this episode.  The final, heart-wrenching scene was reminiscent of Russell T. Davies' superb ability to tear out our hearts, stomp them into greasy spots on the ground, pick them up and reconstitute them, put them back in our chests, and start the whole process over again for the next episode.  But then there was the logical question that sprang to mind: why is Rory so broken up when he has managed to rescue the Amy he knows and loves?  And that killed the moment for me as a punch to the gut.  (Now don't go complaining about a spoiler — if you don't know by now that the Companions, with rare exception, get a Hero's Death Battle Exemption every episode, you really should pay more attention.)

I give "The Girl Who Waited" a C-, which is a pretty generous grade in my humble opinion.  It's saved by the talents of Darvill and an ever-improving Gillan, but excellent acting can only go so far with a story this weak.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Torchwood: Miracle Day - Final Review

Alrighty then, seeing as How Torchwood: Miracle Day has come to its end, I thought I'd give you a review of the series.  (Fortunately, the three-day eviction notice hasn't arrived yet — I expect it to any day now, but until it does I have a bit of time.)

As I said in the last review, series creator and head writer Russell T. Davies doesn't disappoint us.  One day, nobody dies.  They keep getting older, they still become sick and injured, but they don't die.  Everyone on Earth has become immortal, while Captain Jack Harkness has lost his own immortality.  He reteams with Gwen Cooper to stop whatever is causing this catastrophic event as world society begins to collapse.

Inserted into this mix is convicted child rapist and killer Oswald Danes, whose role in this drama forces Captain Jack to deal with his own guilt over the death of his grandson, which he caused at the end of Torchwood: Children of Earth.  As the series unfolds, we learn that Danes is searching for the cause of the Miracle, too, for reasons of his own.  CIA operatives Rex Matheson and Esther Drummons find themselves thrown into the action along with Doctor Vera Juarez, an emergency room physician whose efforts to deal with the Miracle's devastating consequences inadvertently lead to horrific actions by the world's governments to contain the population overflow.

After watching the final episode today, I can safely say that there is a planned Series 5.  How can there not be, with things left up in the air as they are?  Rex, who was mortally wounded in the first episode, finds himself changed in ways he never imagined.  Jilly Kitzinger, a professional propagandist working for Phicorp, the shadowy business involved in the Miracle, is almost certain to return in a future series.  The three families responsible for the Miracle remain free.  With all those threads left untied, you just know Davies has more in store for us.

As for the Miracle itself, what it is and how it came to be are unknown.  It's simply there, and as far as MacGuffins go, that's enough.  I have to say I'm torn as to how Davies chose to deal with Oswald Danes.  It's obvious he got the fate he wanted, but why he wanted it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Given the nature of the character, maybe that's appropriate.

I guess my favorite part of Torchwood: Miracle Day is how the character of Gwen Cooper has evolved.  Davies wrote her, and Eve Myles portrayed her, as "a working mother" wracked by guilt but soldiering on because she has to, because who else will?  Gwen has become the quintessential mother figure of the series, responsible not only for her own nuclear family, but for her extended Torchwood family as well.  How she handles the illness and death of her own father simply rends one's heart, making the character and her job that much more easy to sympathize and identify with.

Overall, I'd have to give Torchwood: Miracle Day an A+.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Night Terrors and Torchwood: Miracle Day

Okay, I'm writing this before I have to prepare for my DJ gig in a couple of hours that will be immediately followed by me leaving (I hope) for a friend's birthday party.  I'll start with a brief review of the Doctor Who episode "Night Terrors" and then begin my review of Torchwood: Miracle Day.

"Night Terrors" is so much better than "Let's Kill Hitler" that I wonder how Moffat can stand letting himself be upstaged by someone who actually knows how to write.  George, a little boy plagued by the monsters inhabiting his room at night, does a ritual chant for expelling them, calling out for someone, anyone, to "save [him] from the monsters."  His loving but frustrated parents don't know what to do, since his fears have pretty much paralyzed not only his life but theirs since they have to drop whatever they're doing at any given moment to reassure him, all to no avail.  George's call for help is so powerful, psychically, that it reaches all the way out into space and time to write his message on the Doctor's psychic paper.  Naturally, the Doctor is compelled to go help, and the episode kicks off.

Okay, sorry, I should have warned you about spoilers.  But bear in mind that what I just described above only takes place before the opening credits.  What I liked about this episode is that it was generally bereft of the convoluted storytelling Steven Moffat has injected into the show since he began his tenure as head writer.  As a stand-alone episode, "Night Terrors" really shines.  It deals with the fears every child has about the toys and other things that, while ordinary and friendly by day, turn into scary monsters at night.  Only in this episode, those monsters turn out to be very real, and the Doctor must help banish them.

There's a closet (or cupboard, as it's called in the episode) where all the things that frighten little George are locked, the better to help soothe his fears.  That construct becomes a central part of the story.  Even more integral to the plot is George's father, who as it turns out has fear issues of his own as he is confronted by his bullying landlord.  His hangups and those of his son are inextricably linked, and we learn why by the end of the episode.  As it turns out, George is truly the son his dad always wanted, and is like him in so many more ways than one.  I wish more had been told of the relationship between the boy and his mother, who is largely absent from the episode, but given the obvious constraints the show's creative team are operating under, this was understandable.

Amy and husband Rory, as usual, end up being chased around by the monsters and in their now-typical fashion lend both credibility as horror-story heroes and comic relief.  A lot of Who fans haven't caught on to Karen Gillan's Amy Pond, but the actress seems to be really growing into the role — less sassy, more realistic, maturing.  Arthur Darvill as Rory is brilliant as usual.  At times I think he is the real star of the show under Moffat's tenure, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing;  for the first time in many years, Doctor Who's Companions are more than simply damsels in distress weeping over the Doctor or being helpless in situations — they're smart, strong, and proactive, though they don't always know enough to make sound judgments.  I can now easily see where Moffat is going with these characters as the parents of River Song, and their influence on her is crucial to that character's development.  If Moffat has done anything right since taking over the show, it's creating, developing, and evolving these two characters.

I will tell you this about "Night Terrors": how it plays out was written a lot better than it probably had any right to be given the creative rut Moffat has put the show in.  I was pleasantly surprised by this episode, and I sincerely hope that Moffat stays out of the rest of the series so better writers can tell his overall story arc.

"The Gathering", the ninth episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day, is the second-to-last one of this fourth series that tells the story of Captain Jack Harkness and his friends.  A lot of things are reaching their climax now, and I can hardly wait to see next week's episode, which will wrap up the whole series.  I'll give a more thorough review of this and other previous episodes tomorrow, but safe to say that Russel T. Davies has much, MUCH more in store for us.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Real-Life Instability

Okay, next week is probably going to see me absent from SL for an extended period of time.  There are some reasons for this that I'll explain here.  I'm posting this in case anyone who reads this blog wonders why I'm not online.

The happier part of my explanation is that I've not only started classes again at college, but that after nearly four long years I've finally got a job — with the college itself!  Okay, it's a part-time position with a maximum allowance of twenty hours per week; this is because college policy forbids the institution from saddling student employees with so much work that it hinders their academic pursuits.  It's also minimum wage, so I really can't sustain myself with it.  Still, it's better than nothing and I for one am supremely grateful for the position, which came at a badly needed time.

Which brings me to the monumentally screwed up part of my explanation.  It's long and may be a bit rambling, but please bear with me.

Back in July my younger brother decided to barge in on me unannounced — no phone call or e-mail to let me know he was coming over.  He takes a look at the clutter of my living area upstairs from my parents, and decides to give me one of his patented lectures on how I live my life.  Since I was unemployed, had no access to on-site laundry facilities or money for the laundromat, and extremely limited space to put things, naturally things are going to pile up.  I'm not saying I couldn't have made more of an effort to keep the place looking better than it did, but my situation simply does not allow me to do much, especially when I am literally forbidden access to cleaning materials needed to help keep the place up.  I make do with what I have.  Anyway, I told him to fuck off as anyone in my position would, and the little stain left promising to call the authorities and have me forcibly removed from the house.

Then, on August 5th, he brought over two women from the county board of mental health services to evaluate me — again with no prior announcement whatsoever.  After asking me some rather stupid and insulting questions, they left.  Whatever he hoped to "prove" to the board of mental health about me, it was a spectacular failure on his part.

So Monday the 8th comes along.  Another unannounced visit.  Younger brother hands me a thirty day notice signed by my mother to vacate the premises.  If I'm not out by the 7th of this month, they will proceed to deliver a three-day notice.  When I've failed to move out by then, a court hearing will be scheduled to evict me.  That take anywhere from two to three weeks, maybe less than two weeks.  It really depends on how busy the court docket is.  If I can't convince the magistrate to give me more time, I will be rendered homeless.  It is highly unlikely that I will be able to keep a roof over my head.  This may, in fact, be the last entry I'm able to make for a long, long time.  It may be my final entry, period.

All I can really do at this point is to try to convince the housing court magistrate that I've just started a new job and that I am willing to begin paying rent again, albeit with a firmly established and legally binding lease agreement that will protect me from unlawful retaliation, and hope that he or she gives me the necessary time to save up and move back out on my own.  After so many years of unemployment, and with wages stagnant while the cost of living goes up exponentially, it really is extremely tough trying to live in this country (the Corporate-Owned States of America).  It is unforgiving to the poor and without mercy.

Wish me luck, offer prayers, send money if you can and you're willing.  Because if I become homeless, I really don't think I will survive.  I probably won't starve; I bought the college meal plan and so will be able to get at least five meals a week until the end of the semester as long as I can keep my student identification card.  My job will provide me with regular enough income that I can replenish some of what I've spent of my financial aid money and, I hope, save for a cheap apartment somewhere and store my belongings.  But I can suffer and die from exposure, and news articles I've read on how homeless people are regularly assaulted by everyone from cops to spoiled rich kids fill me with dread.  To say that I am scared would be an understatement.

That's it for my explanation.  I hope to see (and be seen by) my friends soon.