Monday, October 29, 2007

Torchwood 1.8: "They Keep Killing Suzie"

"They Keep Killing Suzie" is the kind of episode that Torchwood does well: an exploration of the human character, unfolding in unexpected ways in a unique context. It could be seen as a return to form, if Torchwood had established one yet.

There are no aliens in this week's episode, but that doesn't mean that there aren't any monsters; whether they are monsters by nature or nurture is the question of the day.

Read the rest at The House Next Door.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

another one gone...

Days are flying by.

I made awesome blueberry muffins today and should write them up. We're slowly, ever-so-slowly, reassembling the house.

I'm busy, and finding time for things other than writing. At the risk of jinxing myself, I'll say it: life's good.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Torchwood 1.7: "Greeks Bearing Gifts"

This week's cautionary tale falls short in spite of its interesting themes and compelling execution. The failure lies in the decision to reduce Toshiko (Naoko Mori) to a lonely, vulnerable mess, unhinging the entire process. Portraying Owen (Burn Gorman) and Gwen (Eve Myles) as idiotic horny teenagers doesn't help. Fortunately Jack (John Barrowman) remains true to his save-the-day character, while Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd), reverting to his previous status of inscrutable cipher, evokes a three-word response: Seek professional help.

Hey, at least we're back to dealing with aliens this week. Read the rest at The House Next Door.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Friday Night Lights, 2.2 & 2.3: in spite of themselves

First of all, before I get into details about anything, I have to say that whoever writes the promo spots for NBC should be fired. If possible, the promo staff should be retroactively fired to before this season's episode promos started airing, so we could start over with promos that do not actively turn you off from the shows you formerly loved.

Click here to read the rest.

At this point, anything I'm watching on NBC is in spite of the promos, not because of them. Of course, the only things I'm regularly watching NBC are FNL and Journeyman (more on that later), but the promos spots for these two shows in particular are horrendous. I can just see the thought-process there: What are the most exquisitely painful plot points we can highlight, and how can we make sure everyone knows that their favorite characters are either in peril or miserable, or -- jackpot! -- both?

Seriously, NBC: knock it off, because you're making it harder and harder for me to want to watch these shows, which is a shame because when I finally overcome my promo-based aversion and fire up the TiVO, I adore them just as much as I ever did, if not more. So please, stop it.

2.2 - Bad Ideas
I loved this episode's title, it was so fitting. So many bad ideas, so little time. It seems every single character is caught in a downward spiral this season, the only difference is their relative velocities as they hurtle towards their collective doom. I'm not kidding about that, either -- everyone is in trouble.

The Taylors, together, are struggling with being separated and the feeling that their family is coming apart at the seams. Neither one is over-reacting to the stresses around them, which are considerable. Tami is completely overwhelmed by newborn, cranky Grace, and teenaged, rebellious Julie. The house is a disaster and Julie is not doing anything at all, it seems, to help out. I think it's hard to realize how alone Tami is in Dillon, in spite of the fact that she has a daughter. Her contacts at school are exactly that, school contacts, and she doesn't have another woman friend she can call up and say, "Hey, you can watch Grace for an hour so I can get some shopping done?", or anything else, for that matter. She should be able to leave Grace with Julie, and in fact she should be actively trying to get Julie to engage with her little sister, but Julie is so wrapped up in her own misery right now she's practically unreachable. Of course, if Julie would pitch in at home and help her mom, she might not feel so isolated, but she doesn't see it that way, and reacts (as teenagers typically do) by withdrawing.

When Glen, the science teacher who's covering for Tami while she's on her maternity leave, stops by with a box of files to review with her, he inadvertently becomes Tami's local support system. I don't think he minds, but he does know that he's out of his depth. He was right to ask what Tami was thinking, out walking with Grace in 105 degree heat -- believe me, when the thermometer reads 105, it's a lot hotter on the sidewalk, in the sun, and both mother and daughter were set up for dehydration. Tami should know better -- Tami does know better, but she's not thinking very clearly at the moment. Tami is not at all interested in Glen as a man, but I think it's very possible that Glen has a crush on Tami, even though he'd never do a thing about it, and I loved that he was finally able to get her to admit that living apart from Eric was her idea, and it was a stupid one. I'm relieved that Tami finally asked for help, and I think that it was OK to ask Glen, but I wish she wouldn't stop there -- she needs to keep reaching out and getting support, and as a counselor, she should know that. Isolation is terrible, and having a new baby is tremendously isolating even if you have other kids!

Back to Julie, her attraction to the Swede finally overtakes her impulse to behave decently towards Saracen, which has been waning for some time now; she finally gets up the nerve to give the "it's not you, it's me," speech, but doing it makes her feel worse, not better. She gets over that pretty quickly, though -- only to be patted on the head by the Swede when she sees him at the pool! Sorry, but the Swede is a creep. He knows Julie is only 16 years old and his flirting with her is completely icky. He has to be in his 20s, and he's way too old for Julie, and yet he pursues her. Personally, at this point I think Lois and Saracen should get together, because they've both been badly used by Julie and could bond over that. Plus, Lois seems like a genuinely good girl, as opposed to the brat that Julie is becoming.

Moving onto Saracen, he made his best attempt to keep Julie, and keep her happy, but she had already moved on. He's struggling with the new coach's attitude, and his grandmother is as dotty as ever. Julie dumping him will ultimately turn out to be a good thing for him, I think, as will the arrival of his grandmother's live-in nurse. It's a shame that she's (so far) a stereotype feisty bitch, but she does seem to know what's she talking about regarding the care his grandmother needs. Again, this will, in the long term, turn out to be a good thing for Matt, as he won't have to worry so much about what's going on at home. High school juniors should worry about SATs, grades, and girls, and not whether or not Grandma is bathing at the neighbor's house again. Still, transitions are hard, and Matt has a lot of new situations to accustom himself to.

The Tyra/Landry storyline got stupider, which I did not think possible, with the introduction of the Lost Watch Issue. Stupid, stupid, stupid, but still, it forced the two characters together in an intimate setting, and gave Landry a believable setting in which to finally profess his love for Tyra. Two important things happened then: first, she believed him, and second, she was surprised, because she had never allowed herself to see it. Landry was not that good at hiding his feelings for Tyra, but she was great at not recognizing them for what they were. Now it's all out there. Tyra's subsequent confession to Landry shows what a great couple they are -- he's not sorry he did it and would do it again, for her; she wishes she had done it, both for the satisfaction and to spare him -- and she was equally believable. I liked that Tyra didn't jump into saying she loves Landry, because she doesn't know how she feels about him -- but she knows she feels enough for him to sleep with him, and the way that all works out was pretty much OK.

Jason Street: team mascot, or quarterback coach? Well, since the new coach has such an emphasis on the running game and Smash in particular, Jason isn't left with much to do. But he has new hope since he can make a fist now, something he wasn't able to do before. He's disappointed when the doctor insists, for the nth time, that he won't walk again. One of Jason's rugby teammates tells him about some experimental stem cell surgery they're doing in Mexico (forcibly reminding us of the episode's title.) Later, Jason runs into Tami as she's leaving Glen's office, and tells her that in his recurring dream, she tells him to get up and walk, and he does. He thanks her; Tami is touched but concerned, but Jason is radiantly hopeful.

Lyla's still a Jesus freak, but her prayers become less confident as she watches Tim Riggins macking with a rally girl on the other side of the cafeteria. Riggins is still messing up in practice and calling the coach's wrath down upon himself. The two are brought together when Buddy, Lyla's dad, overdoes it at the pep rally -- moved from his dealership out to a rival booster's ranch -- and collapses in a drunken heap. Riggins helps Lyla get her dad to his generic apartment, and the two share a (non-physical) moment. These two have chemistry, but Lyla knows that going back to Tim would be very, very bad for her, and resists. Tim, for his part, is still in love with her, and I'm not sure what it would take for him to not be.

Coming back around to Coach Taylor, he's struggling in his position at TMU. He's low man on the totem pole, and as such he's assigned the unpleasant task of ferrying an unrepentant player to a hearing on ethics charges. Taylor gives the obnoxious player an earful on how his selfishness and arrogance are letting the team down, but the player scores one on Taylor, asking him what the hell he's doing in Austin when he has a new baby at home in Dillon. Since the player smartens up and sincerely apologizes, and Taylor steps in and says they'll make sure this guy straightens up, the player ends up with only a 3-game suspension. When the head coach congratulates Taylor on his accomplishment, Eric realizes that this is the way it's going to be: he's the guy that gets to put out these fires, because he can pull it off, but he's not going to have any chance to change the culture there that leads to these problems in the first place, because he has no influence there. Tami says he has to make himself indispensable, but that's the kind of thing that happens over years of experience, and how frustrating it must be for Taylor to be shuttled over to a position of no real responsibility after guiding his high school team's every move on their way to the state championship.

In short: no one's happy, but the stuff that's happening makes sense. The only really egregious thing was the Lost Watch business, but Tyra and Landry are doing OK in spite of it -- Landry, hysterically, asks "his" rally girl if she thinks everyone is capable of evil; before the bubblehead can answer, Tyra whisks him away. I wish that Tami would sit Julie down and admit to her that this bad idea was hers, and that she needs Julie's help -- that would go a long way towards reconciling Julie to what's going on in their home, but alas, that doesn't happen, and things go from bad to worse.

2.3, Are You Ready for Friday Night?
Easily could've been title, "Bad Ideas, continued."

The high points of the episode, for me, surprisingly, were all about Landry and Tyra: Waking in the morning, Landry shushing Tyra before she says something that "will undoubtedly ruin the most perfect night of my life;" Tyra climbing out of Landry's window, seen but unremarked upon by Landry's father. Landry's dad asking him if he's seeing any girls, and not pressing when Landry says he's not. Later, Landry's dad goes to Applebee's for lunch, and Tyra's his waitress. The "So, are you dating my son or what?" is too complicated for Tyra, and she takes a minute to think about why she hangs around with Landry, and in describing him to his father, she realizes that maybe she should love him, even if she doesn't, quite yet. So when she climbs back in the window, later, we know exactly why, and we can enjoy that these two have each other for at least a little while before everything goes all to hell (next week's episode promos reveal that the body was found.)

Unfortunately, some clunky Lost Watch foreshadowing was shoe-horned into these scenes, but since they launched that particular plot line, I guess they can't just leave it dangling.

Coach Taylor really doesn't like his job. He's working with a new young player who's having trouble with a particular play, just not getting it; Taylor is frankly appalled when he is directed to cut the boy loose. It's one thing to cut a high school kid, but at a football school, what are the odds that cutting the kid will mean that he loses his scholarship, and his chance to get an education? Taylor doesn't want to do it, and even asks if he has to do it, which is kind of weaselly; I'd assume he'd know already that was part of his job, but we never actually see him tell the kid he's cut.

Meanwhile, Eric is keeping tabs on what's happening back in Dillon, where Buddy is feeding him a line about how the new coach, McGregor, is brutal, and everything is falling apart. It's true the team spirit is at an all time low, as Smash is the center of attention and enjoying it, not giving anyone else credit for anything. It's so bad that other members of the team prevail upon Saracen to talk to Smash about his attitude, but inarticulate Matt was probably not the best choice to go up against smooth-talking Smash, who says it's all about Saracen being jealous because he's not captain anymore, and other assorted trash talk. Saracen insists that's not it, but Smash blows him off, and all the other players are even more steamed.

Riggins shows up at practice hungover, and ends up passing out when the coach responds with his usual draconian extra-drills approach; he ends up hospitalized for the better part of the day until Buddy Garrity, of all people, signs him out. Lyla stops by to visit, to repay the kindness he showed in helping her with her father after the pep rally incident, and she invites to Riggins to her church.

Jason Street, meanwhile, is trying to get Riggins to shape up but is constantly being denigrated by McGregor. During the season opener, nothing goes as planned, and the team is deadlocked at 0-0 until McGregor gives a play directly to Smash, who runs it in for a touchdown. Throughout the game, Street had tried to make suggestions to break the deadlock, but McGregor blows him off, saying he doesn't have time to listen to advice from the team mascot. On the field, Saracen loses it at the sight of Smash's grandstanding, and attacks him; the whole team ends up out there, trying to pull Matt off Smash. All the women in the stands look on, appalled; Eric watches from the sidelines, thinking: What the hell has this guy done to my team?

Julie wasn't even at the game, it seems; she's hanging out the Swede and his pot-smoking college friends, talking about politics and the environment and all those grown-up topics; Julie tosses off a remark about global warming, and everyone appreciates how smart and funny she is. Julie passes on the joint. Meanwhile, Tami is leaving messages on Julie's cell phone that it's 2AM... eventually we see Julie parked with the Swede, in front of the Taylor's house; they're making out. Tami sees them through the window and storms out, and demands that Julie get in the house. Julie refuses, and asks the Swede to take her away. Showing an ounce of sense for the first time, he refuses, "That would be kidnapping." Still, Tami ends up literally dragging Julie out of the van, saying she's not grown up and rid of Tami yet. Julie says they got rid of her when her dad went to Austin and Tami had Grace, which gets her a slap in the face; she runs into the house, crying. We don't get to see whether Tami and the Swede had words, but I would've really liked to hear them.

After the game, Erik meets with Buddy Garrity at his dealership; Buddy looks like he fell asleep face-first into his paperwork. Buddy starts selling Eric on the idea of coming back to Dillon, citing how McGregor is messing up the team, but then smoothly moving on to how Eric's family is struggling. Eric gets home, Tami confesses that she slapped Julie, and then she completely breaks down. (Emmy reel #2 for Connie Britton.) Eric ends up back at the dealership, shaking Buddy's hand and saying he hopes he won't regret this. Now, this is a sign of how desperate the situation is, because Eric Taylor knows that Buddy Garrity is not a straight-up kind of guy. Buddy's not totally sleazy, but he's not completely trustworthy, either. Why would Eric do this? Another factor to consider: Taylor doesn't realize just how out of the loop Buddy is. Does Eric realize that Buddy has been pushed out of the Panthers' Booster inner circle, and that he doesn't weild as much influence as he once used to? We don't know, but chances are, Eric doesn't realize that; if he did, he might have been more hesitant to enter into this Faustian bargain with the disgraced and displaced car salesman.

Meanwhile, at the Saracen house, the new girl is helping with Grandma but not doing Matt's laundry, an issue I can see both sides of. It's kind of obnoxious to do everyone else's laundry without telling Matt beforehand that she wasn't going to do his, too, especially since it's not that much extra work to throw Matt's clothes in with the others. Doing laundry for one person is a pain in the butt, you end up with three or four really small loads depending on how you sort it. So I'm thinking the nurse is going to be a world-class jerk until after the game, when Matt trudges in, abraded and depressed, and then she's actually nice to him. I liked the vibe there, which was much more big-sister/caretaker than romantic, especially her singing the song her mother used to sing her when she got hurt when she was little. It could go either way, but for now I'd rather not see Matt get romantically involved with anyone. That kids need to rest his bruised psyche.

Riggins takes up Lyla on her church offer, and we get to see a huge mega-church production with all sorts of singing and carrying-on. I don't think it was disrespectful to show this, as I believe it was accurate, but at the same time, I don't like that kind of ostentatious, revival meeting "service." Riggins is unreadable in these scenes, but later he goes to Lyla's bedroom as she's undressing for bed, and tells her he thinks he felt something. I honestly couldn't tell whether or not he meant it or was just trying to get Lyla to sleep with him again; when he kisses her, it would seem that we should go with "ruse", but I'm still not sure. Lyla is, though, and kicks him out: "Did you think I would fall for that?"

Riggins is a mess, at home, drinking, when Street rolls up and tosses a beer bottle at his house, screaming at him to come out. Jason's little speech has just the right amount of inarticulate rage, as he defends his coaching ability while insisting that he and Riggins end their "so-called friendship." Riggins just lets Street rant until Jason gets to the part about going to Mexico for the surgery, and then stops him: "Wait a minute. Mexico?" Next thing you know, both boys are in Street's truck, and it's road trip time. Hilarity ensues: "Do you have a map?" "I have a map," followed by Riggins attempting to give Street a beer. When Street declines, Riggins says, but we're going to Mexico! Street replies: "We're still in Texas, you idiot."

Previews for next week are ominous, with the body's discovery and at least one of the boys getting arrested, and Tami's joyous "Guess who's home?" immediately deflated by Eric's concerned "You mean I don't have a job?"

As I said, the promo guys are killing me. The show, on the other hand, is holding up remarkably well. I know there's hate out there, hate for the Landry/Tyra storyline, and now there's probably hate for the Eric/Buddy handshake, and what that portends. I said in my write-up of the first episode that I wanted Eric to stick it out for a season, because I didn't see how he could do otherwise and ever expect to get a job, but then I didn't foresee Buddy Garrity getting involved in the process. Buddy needs the Panthers even more (sadly) than he needs his family, and a cornered man will do whatever it takes to survive, so I'm not putting anything past Buddy Garrity's capabilities. But it's pretty obvious that things are going to get worse before they get better. The question is, will anyone be left watching by the time things start turning around? Will the show even still be on the air by that time? God, I hope so.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

not what I expected --

This last week, I mean. Don't know where it went.

The new floors are in, look gorgeous. More on that later, with photos. We have tons of work to do now, putting everything back together again.

Off to bed now; I've determined that getting enough sleep means the difference between feeling human and having to fake it all day. Pain is such a great motivator.
Blessed repose.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

reading & writing

Also, cooking. Just not blogging.

New flooring materials delivered later today; re-installation begins Thursday. It will be lovely to get everything back where it belongs.

The kids are back in school, so several things I've had in the queue to post may finally see the light of day. The craziness will be ratcheting up soon and won't let up until after Valentine's Day; I just need to keep my head down and keep moving to survive the holidays.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Torchwood 1.6: Countrycide

With the sixth episode of its debut season, Torchwood's identity crisis continues. Its premise collapses under mere moments of scrutiny, there's no cool technology or special effects, and my favorite character does something rather loathsome. But don't let all that put you off: "Countrycide" fires on all cylinders, featuring brilliant camera work and believable character development. Now, whether or not you will like it depends on your tolerance for on-screen blood and guts.

Read the rest at The House Next Door.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Kids are on fall break this week, so the regular schedule is out the window. We do have other things scheduled, though, including my mammogram on Wednesday. Ick.

Some progress on the flooring: DH and I have selected new flooring and ordered it; when it comes in, the installers will come back, rip out all the existing stuff, level the floors properly, and then install the new stuff. I'm happy because the new stuff (Alloc Classic Rustic Pear) is really gorgeous and we're getting rid of the quarter-round. It doesn't look horrible, in fact most people probably wouldn't even notice it, but to me, having the quarter-round baseboard molding just tells everyone that the floors were put in as an afterthought. So, since it costs us literally nothing to have them take off and re-use the existing moldings, that's what we're doing... this time. Of course we'll have to touch up the paint (again) but that's OK, I'm psyched to be getting rid of the quarter-round.

Took DS1 for his bloodwork today, and the poor boy has inherited my lousy veins. My attempts to get him to hydrate himself this morning were met with much opposition. The poor boy needed three sticks before they could find a vein. I think he'll be much more diligent about drinking up before his next blood test, whenever that may be.

Last but not least, inspired by Sissy, our first pie of the season, a smashing success. Just days after I complained about not being to find Cortlands hereabouts, I ran into HoneyCrisp apples in the market. They were pricey but I wanted to try them, having always heard good things about them. I used the apple corer/peeler/slicer with fantastic results on these firm apples. As hoped, they held their shape in the pie, but they really are just a little too juicy; you can see that some of the liquid bubbled up through the slits in the top crust. It wasn't too much, though; the only reason any spilled on the oven floor is because I tipped the pie when I was lifting it out.

HoneyCrisps are sweeter than the average pie apple, so I used only a scant 1/2 cup of Splenda and a slightly generous tablespoon of lemon juice to balance the flavors. Not too much cinnamon and just a little grating of fresh nutmeg with the butter and flour made the filling delicious, not runny, and not goopy, either. The thinner slices from the peeler/corer/slicer might disintegrate with some apple varieties, but the HoneyCrisp stood up well, and -- hooray! -- I didn't end up with the big domed upper crust towering over the flat filling beneath. I'm sold on the peeler/corer/slicer, permanently.

We all enjoyed it for dessert with vanilla whipped cream, and I'm doing my darnedest right now to ignore its calling me back into the kitchen for a before-bed snack. Happy Fall!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Friday Night Lights 2.1: 80% fantastic, 20% stupid

"Last Days of Summer"

So, last week I tried to convince you to watch Friday Night Lights, and I really hope you did.

Now, I'm hoping you'll stick around for the rest of the season, because the season two premiere, "Last Days of Summer," may not have been what you signed up for, especially if you were already a fan.

Click here to read the rest.

A lot of people have complained, a lot, about the character betrayals and set-ups this episode threw at us, and I can understand that. I'm not ready to quit, though, because I well remember how often the writing staff dug itself into a pit only to somehow get itself out again in just a few nimble episodes. So, here's the rundown:

The Taylors: by far still the best thing on television now, and possibly ever. Tami goes into labor unexpectedly, three weeks away from her due date; Coach has to fly back from Austin and gets there just in the nick of time. When we last saw this couple, Panthers had just won State, Tami had told Eric about her pregnancy, and Eric had accepted a job as the quarterback coach at fictional TMU in Austin. Eric wanted to move the family up so they could all be together, Tami insisted that she and Julie stay. Tami, because she loved her job as a guidance counselor and felt she was making a real contribution to the town, and Julie so she could have some stability for a few years before she graduated high school.

Apparently, Eric had been coming home for the weekend every two or three weeks, or maybe there were longer stretches in between. This long-distance commuter marriage/family situation would be enough to make anyone crazy, and it has had its effects on Julie, who while not exactly unhappy with Matt Saracen, is wondering Is this all there is? This can't be all there is! Julie's scene with Tami at the pool is marvelously underwritten. There's no need for dialog to convey exactly what Julie -- and every other teen at the pool -- is thinking: There's Mrs. Coach, hugely pregnant, living proof that she has sex with Coach! Every guy is thinking how lucky Coach is, because Tami is hot, and every girl -- except Julie -- is thinking she wouldn't mind bearing Coach's babies. Julie, meanwhile, wants to die, because she's a teenager and she does not want to think about her parents having sex, because it's just too gross to contemplate. All of this gets communicated through facial expressions and body language and tone of voice, and it's completely brilliant.

Connie Britton has an Emmy reel already, from that pitch-perfect scene with Julie at the pool to holding back tears when Eric has to return to Austin, only to completely collapse as soon as she hears the click of the door. Here's the thing with Tami: she knows that staying in Dillon was her idea, that Eric never wanted it, and now she's regretting that decision even though she will never be able to admit that to anyone, ever herself. She promised Eric she could do it, and so she will.

Meanwhile, Coach is trying to figure out what the heck he's doing with his family, including his new baby, hours away from where he works. That kind of divided life ages you quickly, and he looked worn out even before the baby was born. This life is weighing on him. I know he hates it, but he promised he would endure it because Tami asked him to, and she promised him they could do it, together. Then Gracie comes three weeks early (we'll cut them a ton of slack for not casting a smaller baby -- it's impossible to get newborns), at a time of the year when the coaches are establishing their teams and everything. Eric has to go if he's going to keep his job.

I've always hated -- in real life or on film -- any dialog containing the words I have no choice, because there's always a choice. When Eric says it, what he means is, My choice is between my job and my family, and if I don't have a job, that's the biggest betrayal of my family I could ever commit. The choice has been made; if Eric's not working, there's no income. And if he walks away from this job, the odds of him getting another approach zero very quickly. Still, I hated hearing him say it, convincing himself that it was true. And Tami didn't argue.

The Coach/Julie scenes were right up there with the Coach/Tami scenes, ranging from frustration and anger (on both parts) right up through forgiveness and love. Julie was doing a lot of acting out in this episode, especially with the passive-aggressive stuff like not cleaning up the house, and going out on her little sister's first day home. But she was so miserable, all those things were literal cries for help. When her dad came and rescued her in the car, and they talked, really talked, you could see her relaxing back into her love for and faith in him, and their family. The next day, with the tiniest of nods, Tami called Eric's attention to Julie washing dishes, unbidden by anyone. The contrast of how good and right everything is when they are together and how miserable they are apart can be seen in the difference in the family vibe at the beginning of the episode and at the end. Family life is a constant series of negotiations and compromises, but if a major player is absent a majority of the time, everything gets skewed.

Matt Saracen is still a total sweetheart and I love him dearly, and I loved how he was practically aggressive in asking Julie to the party after Coach quite pointedly told him not to just stand there and watch it happen. I expect (hope) now that Julie's eyes have been opened re: the Swede (cute, but way too old for her), she'll be much nicer to Matt. I've read elsewhere that Matt could do better than Julie, and I suppose that's true; she is a bit whiny and hasn't been very nice to him lately. But he loves her, and understands the pain of separation and family responsibilities -- Julie should let Matt help her cope, instead of shutting him out.

Talk of Saracen of course brings us to the indomitable Landry, who is, somewhat improbably, still friends with Tyra, and trying out for the football team in an effort to win the respect of his dad, not to mention the admiration of Tyra. We haven't met Landry's father yet, so who's to say the ploy won't work, but with respect to Tyra, Landry doesn't get that she likes him because he's not a football player. Jesse Plemons has the build for football, so it's not completely unbelievable when he makes the team, but I'm a little disappointed that Landry's abandoned his counter-cultural hatred of sports. On the other hand, Landry is Saracen's best friend, and Saracen is QB1, so Landry really can't be a big sports-hater after all, can he?

Let's address the murder, shall we? I'm not going to talk about previous versions or any of that crap; the only thing that's "real" in the universe of the show is what NBC broadcast, which is that Landry picked up the pipe and attacked Tyra's would-be rapist from behind, while he was walking away, and Landry hit the man again once he was down. There's no spinning this, it was murder. I think he could reasonably plead temporary insanity but there's no question that it was murder.

So, having murdered the creep, Landry freaks out and Tyra is no help whatsoever. They don't, apparently, call 911, when it would've been so easy to lie and say that Landry whacked the guy while he was attacking Tyra, that would've removed any thought of murder, and there would be no reason for anyone to suspect they lied, anyway. We really don't know what they did, though. Yes, we saw them driving to the bridge, and we got shots of the rushing waters, but did they dump the body? Would they really be that dumb? Hello, the guy's car is still parked at the convenience store.

The only thing I can say is: in real life, people do panic and do stupid things. Also, in this show, the writers have the characters do stupid things, like having Smash lead all the black players off the team while they were in the playoffs, just to impress Waverly. That was stupid, and a betrayal of his character; if you ask me, the one thing Smash understands is the importance of football to Dillon and to his own future, and that kind of showboating maneuver, especially over a trumped-up "offense" supposedly perpetrated by a coach he had worked with for years, was ridiculous. So I hated that plotline, although I did love how they resolved it: Corrina, Smash's mother, gave him a good talking-to and straightened him out, and he called off the strike.

It was stupid of Tim Riggins to start sleeping with his 30-something neighbor, too; when last we saw them, she had kicked him out of her bed and, given Tim's current drunken state, she has kept him away. Tim needs someone to anchor him, and without Tyra or Lyla or neighbor lady, he's toast. I've seen particular complaints about Tim's backsliding, but given his character, it makes a lot of sense to me.

Lyla Garrity, born again? Not such an angel, though -- I cracked up at her scene with Tim ("Enjoy your depravity!") and the "blessing" she said for grace, archly telling off her mother's would-be boyfriend and her mom for wearing "skinny jeans." She's every bit as much of a control freak as ever, only now she has Jesus on her side, Lord help us all. And Lyla's parents are obviously still mired in their breakup, with Buddy still sleeping at the dealership, and snooping around his kids' afterschool activities.

Poor Buddy, his life completely sucks: the new coach won't even let him watch practices. Of course we're meant to detest the new coach, who in real life would swearing a blue streak at his boys, but since this is not HBO, has to make do with the lamest swear-free rants I've yet to hear. Jason Street, looking fit and enjoying his coaching job, can see where New Coach is going to have problems that Eric Taylor never did. I kind of like that New Coach is a hardass, but the problem is, he's a hardass even when he doesn't need to be, and it was over-the-top to accuse Jason of being a mascot.

We can easily read into this situation how things will go, eventually: Dillon hates the New Coach, Coach Taylor hates being so far away from his family, New Coach is let go for some pretext, Taylor is brought back in. How many episodes will this take? I know a lot of fans want Coach Taylor back in Dillon asap, and wish he were already there, but I'm not one of them.

Here's what I'm hoping: Coach Taylor sticks with his team at TMU for the entire season there, and somehow manages the bouncing back and forth between Austin and Dillon. Anything less than that, the writers better have something mock-proof to justify him leaving any sooner. In the real world, that's the way things work. He'd have to stick it out at least a year before he could leave with any credibility or hope of getting a job anywhere else.

As for the murder plot, I have no idea where they're going with that, and I'm scared for both Tyra and Landry. They are two likable characters and I want them to succeed, but again, in real life, sometimes good people get screwed over, and sometimes good people are screwed over by their own very bad decisions. People are freaking out about this scenario because they love Tyra and Landry, and I understand that, but this show is not afraid to show that even good people make mistakes, and good people often fail.

I've read complaints that the murder took viewers out the story, and made the show less real, more tv-drama. These complaints have validity, but since the murder and its aftermath took up so little of the premiere episode, and we don't really know what happened, we're just going to have to wait and see how the writers handle this. I've seen them write themselves out of some jams before, particularly Smash's steroid use and that whole business with the ineligible Voodoo. So I'm not quitting, because I think it's possible to deal with this storyline in an honest and affecting way.

I have faith, and hope -- what can I say? This team gave me a full season's worth of mostly good stuff. The 80% of this show that is fantastic is among the best there is, and even the 20% that's stupid is better than most. Go Panthers!

Torchwood 1.5: Small World

"Small Worlds" presents an undeniably affecting story. The problem is, it has practically nothing to do with Torchwood.

I didn't get into this in the review over at The House Next Door, but this episode about killed me. DD is eight years old and obsessed with fairies. Given her elfin features, I've occasionally asked her if she's not a changeling. The idea that any human child could become the elementals of "Small World" is the kind of horror story that doesn't need blood, guts, or special effects.

Click on over and read the rest.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Are you watching Friday Night Lights? Why not?

Friday Night Lights, NBC's exceptional exploration of life in the football-obsessed small town of Dillon, TX, debuted last year to critical acclaim and mediocre ratings. It barely managed to survive its first year of schedule changes and emerged still much beloved by its tiny fan base, but seemingly rooted in the ratings cellar.

I bet I know why you're not watching, and I hope I can convince you to at least give it a shot. Head over to The House Next Door for my responses to the top ten reasons you're not watching FNL.

do I need a job?

I realized that if I go too long without getting called in to work, I start to feel disconnected and useless, regardless of whatever else may be going on.

Today I worked for most of the school day, as the teacher I was subbing for had to be out in the morning and wasn't sure whether or not she would make it back for the rest of the day. By the time 1PM rolled around, I figured she wouldn't bother coming in, but then she showed up and so I left, feeling very much at loose ends. I wasn't psychologically ready to go, I hadn't finished the day. I admit it, I was a little sad at having to leave!

Yesterday I started thinking again about going back to school and getting my teacher's certification and all that. DS1 will be starting high school (!) in three years (!!) and I'm thinking if I could work in a decent private high school, maybe we'd get a break on tuition. But the idea of teaching full time still scares me, even though more and more when I sub, I feel frustrated with classroom situations that I would handle so much differently, but I can't do anything because I'm just the sub. I think how it would be (so much more work!) to have my own classroom and my own classes. I'm sure I could do it (barring recurrence or any other medical crisis.)

Every time I get on this path I start waffling: what about the writing? Haven't been earning much at all lately, but have done some good stuff and hope to parlay that into something, eventually. I want to get back to the food writing, and should work on putting my columns together into a book... there's a lot of work that should be done there, but so far I am utterly lacking in the discipline to do it.

Two columns can earn me what I make for a day's teaching... and often take less time, and are more convenient. Plus, the writer's life is an infinitely flexible one, whereas the teaching life ties you to the academic calendar. Getting a teaching certificate is going to cost some not-insignificant amount of money; continuing to write is pretty much free, except for time, but of course getting certified would require a huge time investment also. Teaching is fun and fulfilling and keeps me in contact with people in the world at large; writing is fun and fulfilling and isolating, at least the kind of writing I have been doing.

I don't know how to make this decision: go back to school, get certified, teach -- or stay home, sub whenever, and write? I think I will keep doing what I'm doing and see what shakes out.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

by rights

Sometimes, Life appears to be little more than an accumulation of insults, many small incidents piling up, one after another, resulting in general malaise.

And sometimes, the incidents are not so small; today I'm feeling the brunt of them all, and the tiny things have much more force than they should. The not-small events: someone died, not close to me, but close to someone I am close to; the continuing saga of the floor, along with the unfinished house; DS1's trip to the neurologist, where terms like limb girdle weakness were mentioned.

We doubt that DS1 has LGMD -- for one thing, he always improves with practice, and LGMD is a progressive disease -- but at this point we don't doubt that there is something going on. Then comes the second-guessing and wondering why we didn't do anything about this earlier, but also the recognition that DS1's capabilities qualify as "normal," which represents a range, after all. He has been evaluated by three different pediatricians and not one ever recommended him to an orthopedist or a neurologist; that was all my idea after hearing about a friend's experience with her son. But DS1 is not like her son, who just needed orthotics for his completely flat feet. When DS1 is thinking about what he's doing, he can do just about anything, and do it well. When he's not thinking, he can barely get himself out of a chair. It's as if he needs his conscious brain to control his muscles properly.

Part of the meeting with the neurologist today was taking a detailed family history, and I denied having any muscular or skeletal problems other than the RA and the fibromyalgia, and oh yes that business with my hip and my piriformis and my tailbone, and back in 2003, the uterine prolapse. So you do have muscles problems, the neuro said.

I never thought of it that way. In fact I never associated any of these things with the others; when you string them all together, suddenly they're a cluster of symptoms. The neuro wonders if I in fact do have fibromyalgia, or if I have some muscle/neuro thing going on. I've been rejecting the very idea of "find the one thing that's wrong with me and fix it" for so long that I have to try very hard not to scoff at the idea that I really may have something wrong that led to all these other issues.

And of course I have to face up to the possibility that my son has inherited his condition from me (DH may be partly responsible, too, but since he has zero health problems and his family, likewise, I think I know where to point the finger.)

So there's that, and the fact that I'm feeling stupid about my writing again. What am I doing and why am I doing it are two questions I can't answer well, right now, and that makes everything seem like a struggle.

I think it's reasonable for me to feel 1) disturbed and 2) sad about all these things going on. I try to be careful about distinguishing justifiable sadness from depression -- so far I'm not having trouble getting out of bed or getting stuff done, I just feel sad.

Like Nina today, I wonder: why am I not a duck?