Sunday, March 27, 2016

Angel One Etc.

Alright, it's somehow been a couple of weeks. My husband just went on hiatus which is pretty much summer break for folks working in TV and I've been spending all of my time either with him or working on a new comic essay that I hope to start sending out next week. There was also some family stuff. So... I guess that's where the time went.

Anyway, I'm still lumbering through the first season and I think I may just sit down this week and watch a whole bunch of them so I can more on to the much more satisfying subsequent seasons. Last week I watched Angel One, 11001001, Too Short A Season, and When The Bough Breaks or:

The One Where Riker Wears A Codpiece: 

The One Where Riker Hits On A Hologram: 

The One Where A Guy Benjamin Buttons: 
I was fixing the broken hall closet whilst watching this so I should just post a picture of how amazing my work with a hammer, flathead screwdriver, and vacuum cleaner is but here's this instead: 

 The One Where Deep Throat Kidnaps Wesley And Then Wishes He Hadn't: 

See you tomorrow, kids. I'm off to get some cupcakes for Bunny's Birthday:


The last three months have been a little strange. In and out of doctors and specialists. My paternal grandmother passing away suddenly and my inability to get her out of my head. My sudden work (after a long dry spell) on a new graphic essay that ate up all of my time. My husband going on hiatus (ie- Spring Break!) and finally, suddenly being able to spend time with him when we aren't both exhausted and stressed out. I've been meaning to write about Angel One and a bunch of subsequent episodes. I had a whole plan.

Then, two nights ago, we went to see a movie and when I came out I saw a text from my family:

Nana just passed away.

I'd expected it. My grandmother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma nearly eleven years ago and her ongoing level of not only survival but quality of life the last several years has been nothing short of amazing. She took a turn last year and was even in hospice care earlier this year but was taken home when it seemed she wouldn't have much time. But she just kept holding out. Day in and day out. Until, a few nights ago, it was clear that she likely only had a day or so.

I was four years old when I learned to read. My grandma, a second-grade teacher, taught me a letter, a syllable, a sentence at a time. She also taught me the wildflowers of her beloved Blue Ridge Mountains as well as the animals, the trails around her house, the edible wild berries, the best way to cut a rose. She and I had a secret code. In little notes, in letters, on gifts, she was always GrC. I was ARW. She taught me the Golden Rule and to always put family first. She taught me to crumble crackers into my chili and scoop up the salty, crunchy, spicy mess with a spoon. She taught me to scratch a bar of soap before I worked in the garden so the dirt would rinse cleanly away.

My grandma loved me and I will always cherish those memories.

My grandma cut my fingernails to the bleeding quick every time she caught me trying to grow them long because, "Only bad girls have long fingernails." She washed out my mouth with Dial Soap when I said curse words and whipped me with an Easter bush switch when I (often) misbehaved. She took me to her school one day and they served chili and when her coworker admonished me for the way I ate my meal my grandma scolded me without irony and asked, "Where on Earth did you learn that? That's bad manners."  She had a few more grandchildren down the line and exchanged "Grandma" for "Nana" and eventually (before her brain was addled by her sickness and its cure) she forgot all about being GrC. And one night, when I was seven years old and the cold wind of February was ripping through the break in the mountains where her house sat, she stood beside her husband, my grandpa, and watched as he told my mother and me who were homeless and penniless and afraid that we couldn't take a step inside, let-alone take refuge with them. She slipped my mother a few dollars--as much as he wouldn't miss--and we went back into the night.

My grandma loved me and she made mistakes because she was human and I will never be able to forget those memories.

My grandma was the youngest of three girls--and ten boys--the daughter of a legitimately badass farm woman and a father who got his thumb shot off in WWI. She grew up deep, deep in the mountains and moved into the comparative metropolis of Asheville, North Carolina when she got married. She had a daughter, a son, and another daughter. She read the King James Bible every day and she went around handing out Bible tracts to complete strangers. She visited the sick. She prayed several times a day. She loved arts and crafts. I knew all this stuff a long early on.

Somewhere along the line I found out she'd been a poet once upon a time. She had written verses and read voraciously. She'd painted. She had wanted to go to art school and paint the natural world on big canvases like Georgia O'Keefe. She had been a desperately creative person... once. But life takes turns: A bad marriage. A hearing impaired child in a place and time with few helpful resources. A likely severe undiagnosed case of postpartum depression. A desperate need for comfort and companionship found, for whatever reason, in the arms of an oppressive, dogmatic, fire and brimstone church.

My grandma raised herself out of hard situations within the confines of her own beliefs. She found a school for the deaf and sent my uncle there--though it must have been hard. She taught herself and my mother and aunt ASL--my grandpa never learned. She started taking night classes and put herself through college and got herself a teaching job she had to drive an hour away to do. For a time, once all her kids were gone from home, she even had a little apartment nearer to her school. She nursed me when I was sick. She treasured every piece of art her grandchildren made. She gave money and food to strangers. She was a good-hearted and gentle woman moving quietly, unobtrusively through life, constantly reconciling her boundless human compassion with the ugly limitations her dogma provided. She was kind.

And she was flawed. It's tempting, in these times, to write about the dead as saintly. My grandma, for all of her good intentions and all of her beliefs and all of the time spent singing flat hymns in a church that always seemed cold and joyless to me, for all of her work as a dutiful wife and for all of her slipped fives and tens and twenties to people who needed it, my grandma was not a saint. She was a human. And that's better and sadder and happier and warmer and colder and, god damn it, hell of a lot truer.

A human being is never one thing. A human being is many things to many people. To me, she was GrC and she wasn't perfect. And that's ok.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

TNG Re-Watch: Datalore

This is a big one. Lore is such a huge part of the TNG... lore... and it's a little mind-boggling to think that it all starts way back here in this wacky-ass first season.

I remember watching this one when I was little, remember hating Lore (as we're supposed to) and I remember going the rest of my life thinking about how I needed a code word or phrase just in case I was covertly replaced by a doppelgänger.  In case you're wondering, yes, my spouse and I have set up an elaborate series of identity checks so that I can't be easily replaced by another me (from a mirror universe, or with my roboticist father's second child, or with someone from Earth 2, or a synth from The Institute) I even have a codename for alternate me just in case she shows up and I'm not even going to tell you what it is because there can be only one.

Anyway, back to Datalore:

We all know what a jerk Lore is and what an obviously lovely time Spiner had playing him and he'll come up again and again. What totally throws me about this episode is the way it all comes around to the end. Basically, Wesley has to save the day because Wesley saves the day in approximately 75% of these early episodes and yet no one will listen to him. This is the episode that features the famous, "Shut up, Wesley!" line from Picard. Which, let's be honest, this is ridiculous at this point. We all know that Lore could have replaced Data. We all know Wesley has already saved a ship-full of supposedly capable, intelligent, highly-trained Starfleet officers many, many times already. We know Picard has a special/weird/guilty relationship with Wesley. We know Wesley has a friendship with Data and would be the person to know whether he'd been switched out for the newer model. And yet, when Wesley says, "Hey, uh, Cap, I think maybe--"
and also: 

I don't know, I'm not trying to champion Wesley or anything but, come on. This makes zero sense. They go along, not listening to the teenager who keeps saving all of them, and (big surprise) he saves all of them again and then it's basically, "Oh, what a crazy day we've all had. Am I right? See you guys back at the office." Like it's no big thing that Data's brother almost got everyone killed and the only way the whole ship didn't bite it was that a teenager and his reluctant mom snuck off and fixed said teenager's robot bestie.

In spite of all this, Datalore is still one of the best first season episodes. I can deal with my hangups about it because Lore ended up becoming a legit baddie and this is where it all starts. First seasons (as I've stated over and over) are always rocky and a little slapdash and TNG's first season is no different. Next up is Angel One and you all know how I'm looking forward to that biz.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

TNG Re-Watch: Haven and The Big Goodbye

Last week I sat down and, while working on a new graphic essay, watched Haven and The Big Goodbye--two episodes at complete opposite ends of the fan appreciation spectrum.

So this is the one wherein Troi reveals that Betazoids (this is never brought up again btw) do genetic bonding (read: arranged marriages) all over the place and that her dad for some reason bonded her to one of his buddy's kids. This whole issue has likely been written about all over the place but I'm working and just don't have time to read a bunch of the internet's feelings on the matter. I'm not a fan of this whole idea (and it really feels like a TOS episode pitch) but that's the way the whole first season is which is something I've already talked about at length. This is an episode both of the generation prior and it's stylistically very much of its own time. The color changing rose, Troi's tight super bun and weird outfit that makes you wonder if she's even in Starfleet (I've also written a whole post about Troi's uniform) and the object of her arranged affection has floofy late 80s hair and a nice tan and he's a thoughtful doctor who carries around his sketchbook full of pictures he drew of another floofy-haired late 80s person everywhere he goes all the time.

Actually, this guy:
Isn't bad at all. Once you get past the floofy 80s hair and the Thirty Something styling of this Wyatt Miller dude, he's lending some legit sensitivity to an otherwise fairly ridiculous character. In a seriously silly episode, this actor seems to be playing it straight and he really does stand out. As I was watching I thought, "Wait...this guy looks really familiar. I feel like I've seen him very recently."

Luckily IMDB exists and I found that he's been on basically every television show since 1999 (including Voyager) but that he was also Clock King in The Flash which Scott and I finally tried about two weeks ago and then watched it every free second of our time it until we were caught up. This is Wyatt Miller now:
He was also (originally?) in Arrow but we're going about our bingeing fairly backwards and haven't seen it yet.

Anyway, here's my main takeaway from TNG's Haven: Robert Knepper is a fucking boss and has been ever since he, as Wyatt Miller, got himself out of that arranged marriage and onto a plague ship with the (literal) girl of his dreams.


The Big Goodbye:
I've written two posts about this one. The first in 2013 and again when I happened to catch it on TV in 2014. To be fair, I was really not in the mood for any Trek the January after my whole life had been monopolized by it so it's no wonder that my feelings regarding Picard's first turn as Dixon Hill hadn't changed. And... they still are... well, they're ok.
Look, really, I feel like The Big Goodbye is a good early episode of the show. It heavily features Picard doing interesting things which will pretty much always guarantee at least a couple classic moments. It's a romp. Everyone's running amok in a pulp novel marveling at the slang and the clothes and we're all marveling at them doing it. It's fun.
I think my argument with this one has always been that it gets too much credit but, as I've mentioned, that's probably more a generational thing than anything else. When this episode first aired I was too young to appreciate it and by the time it came around again I'd seen the show, the writing, the acting develop into something else and I preferred that something else. Still, The Big Goodbye, is a classic episode so it's worth the watch. And, if you're me, it's worth the watch not because of the trench coats and fedoras, not because of Data's kooky hijinks, not even because of MacFadden's rare chance at some comedy. For me, the reason to spool up this one is to see the usually stuffy Picard fanboy gush over his first experience in the Dixon Hill program to his entire senior staff without any inclination that he's being slightly ridiculous. In this scene, Picard is all of us. In this scene, he's me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

TNG Re-Watch: Hide And Q

Alright, honestly we're at episode ten and still in the vast expanse of "Episodes That Could've Been Written For The Original Series" and, really, that's not the worst thing ever. It just means that Next Gen hasn't found its own voice yet. But, here in Hide And Q we're starting to see hints at what the show would become.

SitRep: Picard and crew are on their way to a super important rescue mission when Q shows up and makes them fight a bunch of pig guys in revolutionary war outfits (btw-is it not jarring when Data can't even describe their "ugliness" and offers to put it in a report?) in order to test whether Riker will hold out when given the choice between being regular old Riker the human or godlike Riker the Q. This is Star Trek so we know what happens. Riker--though tempted--eventually resists the temptation and they go along their merry way (after Riker gets a good scolding from Picard) as if nothing has happened.

Again, this episode just doesn't reach the heights that later season stories would but the performances--especially those by DeLancie, Stewart, and Burton are great. In particular, the Shakespearean exchange (quoting As You Like It, Hamlet, and Macbeth) is fantastic and it's obvious that Patrick Stewart is in his element:

God, I could listen to this man extol the virtues of humanity all day long. Thankfully, I have six and a half seasons of Next Gen to go.

Friday, March 4, 2016

These Awkward Early Episodes

Last week I watched Code of Honor, The Last Outpost, and Where No One Has Gone Before. Yesterday I watched Lonely Among Us, Justice, and The Battle and, guys, these early days are just... so... weird.

Every Trek suffers a little from an identity crisis when they premier. Who are we? What are we? What makes us different from the Trek that went before? And, of course, Next Gen would have the greatest problem with this. Star Trek wasn't so much a dynasty yet and Next Gen wasn't the legendary SciFi pilar it would become. It was more like an upstart kid with a famous parent. Naturally, TNG was informed by TOS. But, like any kid trying on its parent's shoes, it awkwardly stumbled--it's not that the child can't walk, just that the shoes don't fit.

When TNG first began, I was a little kid and my parents were still getting their start in life. They'd watched TOS as children and (I didn't know this until I started this blog in 2013) my mom actually considered not watching TNG. She felt like it was, in some way, a betrayal of the crew she'd grown up watching with her brother. Still, she sat down and tried it. And my parents fell in love--with the show (their marriage was already falling apart by TNG's premier.)

But I'm sure when TNG began there was a lot of back and forth between the network, the studio, the show runners, and Gene Roddenberry about what this show would be, who these characters would be, what did they want it to become, what about the costumes, the music, the sets, the relationships, the mission, how big is the space they're exploring?

Watching these early TNG episodes is like looking at old pictures and being reminded of the weird stuff you used to be into--the person you were before you figured yourself out. It's weird that Westley is such a huge part of this show. It's weird how non-scientific the medical and exploration side of things are. It's weird that the chief engineer isn't Geordi--that Geordi is clearly the science guy but he's pretty much just driving the ship. It's weird how the score could be plunked down in TOS and you wouldn't notice the difference.

Honestly, a lot of what holds TNG together at the beginning is just that it is Star Trek and that the performances are, all around, good. Even if the dialogue is clunky or dated and no one knew who anyone was yet or what their job on the ship really entailed, the performances are solid. The Battle is a good example of this. Even though the Ferengi are basically just nouveau-Klingons with more malice than sense and even though they somehow have the technology to influence thought on a level so sophisticated it seems like magic and even though Deanna Troi's whole contribution in this episode (as in many, for a long time) is being beautiful and having feelings--The Battle still sticks together and works because of the performances. Of course, the bulk of the credit here goes to Patrick Stewart whose return to The Stargazer is legitimately poignant and it helps to set this captain and this show apart from Kirk and The Original Series. This episode's outline and maybe even complete script (with a few name changes) could have been pulled straight from TOS but it's Stewart's performance that completely sells him as a new captain, a different captain, in charge of a new and different ship.

The next generation might be stumbling here, in its first season, but it's beginning to get the hang of it.

On a personal note:
I'm hoping to get back to writing about individual episodes ASAP. I've been coming to terms with this whole Ehler's Danlos thing and that's had its ups and downs. I've been catching up on my other work but my desk is beginning to clear and I can't wait to get back to being here more often!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My (Faulty) Human Suit

Alright, alright. Originally there was a very, very, very--honestly just way too long--post here about me and my health and my history and all of this business but it was too much.

It involved the following gifs:

And it involved lots of feelings. And, not that there's anything with several thousand words about my feelings but, honestly, it really was too much. I've copied that text out and moved it to a document where only I can be tortured by its rambling, potentially incoherent length.

Here is the essence of the post:
I've had a lot of weird, unexplained health problems for a long time. I happened across a lightbulb-inducing article about a medical condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and suddenly all kinds of things in my life started to click together. I went to the doctor and asked her about it and she, having another patient with EDS, said, "Yep. You got it." And referred me to a specialist (I have yet to visit) regarding an official diagnosis.

I am currently dealing with the emotional and physical implications of this preliminary (but, let's be honest, everything--everything--fits too well for it to not be this) diagnosis. If you're interested you can read about Ehlers Danlos on the EDNF site or in this Buzzfeed post which, if I'm honest, I don't like the tone of but the information is condensed and arranged for easier digestion. And here's a nice, well-organized rundown about it from a blogger in the UK. Ehlers Danlos presents in all kinds of different ways and, while my body is a ridiculous mishmash of weirdness, I don't seem to have this to any really serious or severe degree and that's good news. Basically this diagnosis (there's no cure) means that I understand my body, my history, my limitations, and my potential better than I did before and, in the end, that's a good thing.
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