Friday, October 29, 2010

friday fun times

And thanks to my glorious pal Rebecca, we all get to revel in this wonderfulness:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"I have a blanket, look..."

You see these shows? This one ...

...and that one over there?

Yeah, well, someday soon there will be a very clever blog post about these shows right here.

In this very space.

Or, at least, in a space very similar to this one.

But not today.

So I urge you to consider the loveliness of these two photographs, perhaps, if you have seen the shows in question, recollect your favorite moments, or, if you haven't seen them, consider additions to your Netflix queue.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Photo Monday

Photos for Monday 'cause...well...I can't think.

A side street near the Prudential Center.

The horror that is happening near the Pru.

Folks waiting to get in to the BPL.

Benches outside Trinity in Copley Square.

I love this corner. Why? Because, as near as I can figure, I'm pretty sure it's  Ground Zero for Cell

The fence of the Boston Public Garden.

Trees, well, up the really awful hill from my apartment.

This is apparently going to be condos worth $200k. Riiight.

Anyone else thinking of a house on Neibolt Street?

Longlasting windowboxes.

Random Beacon Hill stoop.

Bench on the Chestnut Hill resevoir.

Really annoyed-looking waterfowl.

Okay, clearly this is my Monday to be a complete tool. I get caught on my email by my boss at the job where email is verboten and I misattribute my gorgeous user icon graphic. *headdesk* It's fixed now! So sorry!

Friday, October 22, 2010

friday fun times

If I had read either of the stories I quoted on Wednesday in the Mail, I'd send it to these guys. Er. This guy. Er. Yes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The moment?

If my mom were to read this post -- which she will not -- she would undoubtedly tell me I'm "crying before I'm hurt."

When I first saw this story go up on SciFi Wire, I thought, "Well, it's SFWire. They get shit wrong all the time. And they're awful with anything to do with non-American SF/F. Forget it."

And then I saw it on the Guardian:
"The moment comes in the CBBC spin-off show, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which stars former companion Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. Matt Smith, who plays the current Doctor Who, guest stars in a two-part episode called The Death of the Doctor, to be screened on October 25 and 26. While the Doctor and Clyde Langer, played by Daniel Anthony, are in the process of outwitting spooky vulture undertakers the Shansheeth, Clyde asks how many times he can regenerate. The Doctor indicates that there is no limit. The action continues."

Well, as the article says, most of us have been waiting for something like this for quite some time.

Lets face it: the reborn DW has to be one of the most insanely successful franchises on the planet at this point. Far from shoving it off on BBC Wales because they're sure it will tank, the BBC can't hug our errant Time Lord any closer to its loving little Auntie Beeb heart. And Russell Davies and Steven Moffat both love their jobs. Not to mention Matt Smith, Elizabeth Sladen, John Barrowman, the camera-men, the publicity assistants, the stunt doubles, the script copiers, the tea lady, and everyone else associated with the not-so-last Gallifreyan. So, not being an entirely stupid person, I knew something like this was coming.

Of course, the problem here is that I haven't seen the SJA episode in question, so I can't judge if the Doctor is pulling Clyde's leg, or if Clyde (who is an excellent human barometer) takes him seriously or not. If it had been said to Sarah Jane -- well, that would be a different ball of wibbley-wobbley, timey-wimey stuff. And all of this is information that would help no end in deciding whether or not RTD/SM are honestly planning to take the dear ol' Doc into baker's dozen territory.

'Cause all us old-style fans remember what happens at 13, don't we folks? Yeah....juicy goodness.

"He's still...juicy." The Master in The Deadly Assassin.
Now, I don't know about you, but I have no real desire to see what came before that. Seeing that was traumatizing enough! I still don't like watching the episode and it horrified me as a child: what could happen that would make someone look like that -- and still be alive?

But the malicious power of the Master is not the point here -- or perhaps it is because the Master went past 13 and survived. Sort of. He had to squish around Gallifrey looking like that for quite some time, then steal someone else's body after exploiting their planet's hospitality rather grotesquely. To say nothing of what happened between Survival and Utopia -- some bad shit involving the Time Lords (oh, pardon me while I have a fangirl squee about how awesome it is that Rassilon is a bad guy -- oooh, so happy!) evidently.

So if that's our blueprint for how you have to get past 12 -- well -- I don't know.

Personally, I've been looking forward to seeing the Doctor die.

Now stop screaming and listen a minute.

My point is not that I want him to die. I'm not subscribed to "fucknothedoctor" blogs on Tumblr; I don't cast malicious spells on filming days; and I don't plot to bring down the BBC Wales studios.

I cannot begin to describe to you my absolute delight when I watched "Rose" -- and it was amazing. And it is fucking amazing -- for all that I bitch about Rose being chav and Martha being damp and why didn't the Doctor keep Jack and what the hell happened with Donna and why the fuck did--- if RTD hadn't done a fucking fantabulous job rebooting the series, I wouldn't be able to do any of that. And he did it with rocksolid attention to the tradition -- and, more importantly, the feel -- of the original series and a love only a diehard fan could muster. I mean -- the Macra?! Who the fuck even remembered the Macra, for God's sake?

And he also did it by throwing certain things out the window. The relationship between the Doctor and his companion had been getting more fraught for several years at the end of the original series. Tom Baker was the last one who really managed to pull off the innocence of the relationship -- remarkable, given that he was married to Lalla Ward for several months at one point while she was on the show. With the fourth Doctor and Tegan, it just became harder to pretend this was the same relatively un-charged, friendly relationship it had always been (and I can hear the "What abouts..." and "But don't you remembers..." lining up; just throw 'em in comments if you've got 'em. I'm talking generalizations here.)

RTD very intelligently decided that the pretense had to be over. He may have made it a bit too much text for my taste -- I might have liked a tad more subtlety -- but I have to admit, it added dimension to the Doctor. I think it also contributed to Eccleston's decision to leave at the end of season one (for which I will never really forgive him or RTD), but Tennant did marvellous, strange, and beautiful things with it and that was lovely. And they were often about things stopping -- things he couldn't do: couldn't fix, couldn't bring back, couldn't do over.

I think my point here, before I wander too far, is that, if the new series has had one big overarching theme, it seems to be that things end. They stop. And sometimes? You can't bring them back; you can't restart them. Rose, Jackie, Mickey, Jack, Donna, the Time War, Midnight, hell, even the cute little Adipose were kind of about how the Doctor can't fix everything. Not a bad lesson for him to learn.

And, yes, the old series had these elements, too -- hello, Logopolis and E-Space; we're looking right at you! not to mention Susan, pretty much anything to do with the Daleks, or the Master -- but the new series has made it a mainstay. And I think part of the need to deal with things ending is the need to deal with the end of the Doctor.

We saw what happened to Tennant in End of Time: he knew he was coming and he was terrified -- which is terrifying for the audience! I mean -- WTF! The Doctor doesn't get scared! He gets annoyed, sure, and possibly angry, and then he gets down to it and figures things out, usually with the help of some awesome gadget and our helpful alien-of-the-week. He doesn't foresee the dissolution of his own personality and freak out about it! No, no--

But that was interesting. Had all the regenerations had that problem before? (Bar, say, third, fourth, and ninth Doctors who were pretty badly injured and probably just thinking, "Ow.") What does death mean if it never really comes? Or does it just come bit by bit as you remember being another person -- but that isn't you any more? I haven't seen the new season yet -- so don't for the love of God spoiler it for me! I've had a hard enough time dodging spoilers! -- but I'd love to think that the 11th Doctor has to deal with a bit of that. Surely he can remember 10's fear, the way he clung to being himself -- doesn't that leave a mark?

The first time I thought about the possibilities inherent in the new series for RTD to just make the Doctor go on "forever," I thought, "Great. This can just keep going."

But, of course, it can't.

And I don't want the Doctor to do something ghastly to prolong his regenerations and, from a fan/real world perspective, I don't want the show to drag on so long it becomes a joke, a ropey parody of itself.

It's taken me awhile to come to terms with this, as a dedicated fan. I love the episodes where the Doctor fixes everything as much as the next person but...maybe not with this. Perhaps this time -- we shouldn't stretch it out anymore. Maybe this time is about coming out from behind the couch and...having an end.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Photo Monday

Photos this morning because my "big thought" post for the week failed to coalesce in time. We'll see what we can do for Wednesday...

Playing field near the Charles.

Big willow tree near the Charles (sensing
a theme yet?)

Crew team desperately making up for lost time before Head of the Charles next week.
The Weeks Bridge (I think.)

A rather old dog hanging out with his owners in front of Crema.

Bench by the Charles (the other side of the Charles.)

Anna and her folks.

Many many acorns.

The kitty and her new favorite game of "lurk 'n grab."

The kitty and her all time favorite game of "snooze."

Ditto (but with the Smaug-approved watchful eye.)

Anna (who noticed when I thought she wasn't.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More on...

...The Passage.

For the much-ballyhooed "vampire novel of the summer" -- it was a real let-down. Coming in at under 1,000 pages but solidly above 500 -- Cronin resorts to more cheap tricks in the last 100 pages than a dime-store romance novelist. Barbara Cartland at her best at least never tried to pretend she was doing anything other than what was right on the page. Cronin is always trying to pretend he's doing something he isn't: the more he gets into what should be solid horror novel territory, the more he backpedals and tries to head back into modern lit-fic. If you're gonna do it, do it. If you're not prepared, don't show up.

So, with as few spoilers as possible (and I do apologise for not putting a proper spoiler warning on my previous post about this book), lets get into a little hack-job reviewing, shall we? It's the middle of the work week after a long holiday weekend -- at least in the US it is; since I've no idea where you might be reading this from, I can't speak for your personal experience! -- and we're all a bit bitter about going back to the office right now, yes? Good. I thought so.

After the first 250 pages -- pretty good -- and the second 250 -- derivative, but okay -- we reach the last 300 (plus or minus) (checking the library cataloging record, I see that the book clocks in at 766 pages. It feels longer, believe me).

We have established the "vamp" apocalypse and waded through a writer's workshop exercise in worldbuilding. I think this is part of the problem: Cronin is fascinated by the idea of creating the post-apocalyptic world -- but it simply isn't very believable and, once having made it, he doesn't want to break it. Or ding it. Or mar it in really any meaningful way.


Cronin posits that, in the final days of the "vamp"-pocalypse when the infection is coming, the infected are spreading, people know enough to try to get the fuck out of Dodge. The government arranges evacuation trains -- but only for children. Okay, fine. So people get their kids on these trains and they're sent away to various secluded, well-protected colonies. Also fine. Good idea, really. The kids arrive at these colonies -- and are left. No adults. No care-takers. No Army -- "the Army" has later become a kind of short-hand both for the adult world that will come and rescue them -- and for the adult world that abandoned them when they were children. (Interesting thoughts both; don't get attached: they go nowhere.) Obviously, the colonies live and thrive and work out a way of being in the infected world that involves big lights and tall walls and lots of security and a fair amount of paranoia.

This is all well and good -- skipping past the last days of the apocalypse is an okay plot trick. It moves us on, lets us get some perspective -- all right. The problem here is that, in order to give us all this information, Cronin resorts to using a series of quoted diaries and letters from people who survive. And who survive not only the initial apocalypse but all these events he is now busily and minutely telling us about. To top this? Cronin heads his chapters and sections with long quotations noted as being from an academic conference being held to examine all these events!

So what was that noise at the back there?

Yup, that was tension just walking out the door right there. Hear the slam? Yup -- gone forever.

There is no doubt here. People will survive 'cause -- well, we're just awesome that way. Despite the mammoth numbers of genetically mutated humans who glow in the dark and can spring 50 feet straight into the air and are ungodly strong...yeah, we're just that fucking cool. The flip side to that, of course, is that the infected are just that dumb. Okay, if you must have stupid undead hordes, you must, but-- Cronin posits "vamps" hooked up psychically to some kind of uber-vamp-mind controlled by the first baker's dozen of the infected who are, in turn, being infected by "the Babcock." (And here's a suggestion: if you're going to have an evil psychic uber-vamp who is determined to make the world play out on a large scale his suffering as a psychotic child abuse victim, don't give him a name that's reminiscent of a Woody Allen accountant. It just sounded like a worse joke every time it got repeated.) And this is another cool idea -- that goes nowhere. The "vamps" are getting into people's dreams, controlling them like blood-bonded servants without biting them. That is just made of awesome -- and it goes nowhere.

Okay, so problem number one is, really, the post-apocalyptic world. It doesn't work. It's isn't believable. The children who were evacuated are meant to range in age from about two to thirteen or fourteen. At that age, kids know how the world works and some of them -- most of them, I'd say -- are pretty damn invested in seeing that it stays the same damned way. And the idea is that kids from all over, all classes, all sorts of families, all kinds of areas, are just mixed together in these trains and then in these Colonies. Some of these kids are going to be freakin' married to the status quo, particularly in a time of upheaval, change, fright, and despair as they have to leave their families. What are they going to want when they hit this Colony? Things to be just like they were before. Or -- maybe just a little difference. So 90 years on? Yeah, I imagine it would look a little freaky-deaky -- but rather like the "real world" slipped out of focus, or moved a few feet off its base. Like watching a 3D movie without the glasses.

But apparently these children took the world they remembered, crumpled it up, threw it out, and began again with some kind of weird-ass Lost-meets-Lord of the Flies scenario. Children are kept secluded from all adults except "The Teacher" until they're about nine -- and don't tell me that isn't just a tad bit weird -- and then reintroduced into the community. There are grades or guilds of workers in the Colony: guards, technicians -- and then kind of vast mash of "everyone else."

And from this mix of people, Cronin posits a world that's kind of like Roland of Gilead's Mid-World, except not as complete and not as well-thought out. These are the kind of settlements the slow mutants put together -- or the infected "greenies" out in the desert wastelands. The Colony we are concerned with is a group of about 500 people, adults, adolescents, and children at this point, in a small "town" area. They've walled it in and installed huge klieg lights which scare off the "smokes," as the "vamps" are called for no particularly evident reason. (Another problem -- Cronin assumes vocabulary shifts, naturally enough, but neither explains them, nor allows his characters to explain them for him. Tanith Lee in Biting the Sun, he is not.)

It just doesn't work. And I'm not entirely sure why: part of it is that in other post-apocalypse stories I've seen that I buy into -- The Road, Mad Max and The Road Warrior, the Dark Tower series -- there are bits and shards of the "old" world still around: books, toys, machines, video-tapes, jewellery, for God's sake! and here there's nothing. There are some machines that the technicians -- and only the technicians -- understand how to work or repair (and they're slowly breaking down), but that's it. No-one has so much as a ball-point pen.

And it's only been 90 years! It isn't like the infected destroy materiel -- they just take people. There's nothing in the "before" story that says "And then the Army set fire to cities" or "And then there were riots that took out every town between the Pacific and Atlantic."

The evacuated children would remember their parents, other siblings who didn't make it, friends, teachers -- and all of that just went "phut" when the gates closed on the Colony? Some of them brought stuff with them -- that all just vanished? Yeah, there's this thing called "sharing" where the supplies for the Colony are put in a central location and, literally, shared out and that makes total sense -- high-end recycling -- but people always -- and I do mean always -- sneak personal stuff with them. Watches, pens, books, photographs, CDs, glasses, rings, bracelets -- there is no way to make a new grouping of people this clean without a lot of planning and searching. It doesn't even work with prisoners except at seriously high-security facilities.

So there's that.

Of course, the Colony has to go. Any idiot can see that. So our little group of semi-intrepid semi-heroes sets off on the classic "trek to find the truth." All this is spurred by the arrival at the Colony of Amy, the 14th person to get infected by the virus back 90 years ago. She may or may not be infected, doesn't seem "vampiric," and seems more than mildly psychic. Oh, and she doesn't talk, but she does have a radio transmitter in her neck which is continually receiving a message saying "If you find her, bring her here" and a set of coordinates.

Thus, the trek.

Which takes forever and is unbelievably predictable. There are the large ruined cities -- courtesy of Resident Evil 2 and 3; the attack when the group is bivouacking in the city -- courtesy of 28 Days Later, The Stand, and pretty much every other zombie movie ever made; the colony of people in the middle of nowhere who are doing suspiciously well and are suspiciously welcoming of everyone, particularly the women -- courtesy also of 28 Days Later, The Road, Mad Max, and so on and so forth.

And then there's the line that lets you know who have just slogged through nearly 600 pages of material for no good end. One of our noble little crew has been kidnapped by the "vamps" and then returned -- unharmed, just a pointless plot cul-de-sac, folks, nothing to see here -- and another character asks her what happened. She can't remember and, in reply, he says, alluding to other people from his community who have been taken and returned and cannot remember what happened: "The trauma was simply too great."


Wrong answer.

You are a horror novel. I don't care how many awards your author has for doing other things where phrases like that are acceptable. In this case, they're not. You are about trauma. All the nasty shit other genres don't deal with? That is your stock and trade: blood, rape, murder, death, mayhem, betrayal, angst, pain, anger, hatred, incest, fear, agony, pain, disgust -- all of that. It doesn't have to be explicit: you don't have to splash blood up the walls or hang guts from the ceiling; you don't have to have genetically mutated octopi crawling in the windows or giant spiders in the cellar; nobody's head needs to spin around 360 degrees and there is no need for pea soup (unless you want these things, of course.) But you never get to say, "The trauma was too great."

And on that note, we cue the music, folks.

Oh, I could go on.

There's the wretched character death -- and rebirth -- in the last 50 pages; the meaningless pregnancy and birth; and the completely awful deus ex machina on the last page -- but it isn't worth it.

To my mind, once that phrase "The trauma was simply too great" has been uttered, all bets are off, clean the tables, time to turn out the lights.

We're done.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Photos Galore

Well, ok, possibly not quite "galore," but you get the idea.

Full points to the person who spots my technical error!

Really happy late marigolds.

Part of my grandparents' neighbor Estelle's garden...



Holly berries.

More holly.

Estelle's lower garden.


Possibly the creepiest grave decoration in all of South Cemetary.

South Cemetary road.

Ditto, stone wall.

The most zombie-friendly sign ever.

Is one of them moving? Over there on the right?

South Cemetary headstones.

First name? Last name? Who knows.

Walden Pond


Thoreau would never know what to do...

This is our group photo from Walden Pond.

Didja see it? Yeah -- it ain't November. *sigh* This is what happens with the "push random buttons you haven't tried before and see what happens" approach.