Tag Archives: television

Restaurants, Foodieism, Obesity, First-World Whining (My Own)

Yesterday, while chatting with my friend at the park about the need–again–to think up something for dinner that wasn’t sucky and wasn’t boring and wasn’t lame (I have the most trouble with vegetable dishes, and I was tired of frozen vegetables and leafy green salads), I had an Actual Thought about Society. I haven’t had one of these in a while, and I’m not sure why; maybe it’s because my exposure to news is so limited, or maybe because I am behind on my podcasts, but whatever it is, this Actual Thought sprang out of my head fully formed like the goddess Athena. It Made a Connect between seemingly disparate things, and even if there is absolutely no data available to support my thought, and it could be one of those random collections of observations that–should I be lucky enough–graduates to the status of Factoid and/or Urban Legend, I’ll be pleased.

I never did find any nice pictures to break up the wall of text that this blog post became, but I helpfully bolded key terms so you can skim the damn thing and more or less catch the gist of it. Meanwhile, enjoy this video clip that I promise is relevant.

The beauty of this is its simplicity. Once a plan gets too complex, everything can go wrong.

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Babylon 5–Season 2, Episode 10: GROPOS

You have no idea how fervently I count my blessings every day that I didn’t take upon myself the task of blogging about Lost. Christ, that show is complicated! It’s not helping me, either, that everyone’s name starts with the same frikkin letter. Don’t get me wrong–I’m loving it–but I’m just riding that wave. I have no original insight, and I never predict anything correctly, and mostly I just want to go to Hawai’i. And figure out what brand of eye makeup Richard Alpert uses so I can get it, too.

But I am blogging about Babylon 5, however sporadically, and there my responsibilities lie. I’ve stumbled on another episode I didn’t particularly care for, but rather than let it throw me off for weeks, I want to write it up and move on to the next one. GROPOS was OK; I didn’t hate it, and I did like it more than the Spiderweb one, but it was all function and very little plot or character. It had purposes to serve, and I appreciate why a story this intricate needs to pause for a moment and do some explicit storytelling (especially when there are events happening at the galactic scale and we really only ever see one station’s perspective). But it felt like an obligatory episode, and I feel like this is an obligatory write-up. Mostly I’m keeping things professional because I just found out from my mother that my aunt discovered this blog and sent her the link. I am already afraid of getting in trouble when she figures out how much time I spend writing this damn thing, and I have my fingers crossed that I haven’t said anything bad about my family on any of its pages. I don’t think I have. My brother might be annoyed at that bit I wrote about him and his old stuff, and the part where I copied and pasted from an email he sent to me, but he’s probably annoyed at me for other things. I think, anyway, that his girlfriend would laugh.

The GROPOS, I finally figured out, are the ground pounders, or the general infantrymen that run around and make a lot of noise with their feet. One of them is a kick-ass chick. Four of them die in an ill-fated attack that anyone could have seen coming, except the obstinate, arrogant, warmongering generals back on Earth. Well, more than four of them die, but we only get closeups of the good ones, the chummy ones, the ones with steel exteriors but hearts made of honey and love. Jumping to the end of the episode, I did think the scene where Garibaldi and then that other guy were reading the casualty lists was vaguely reminiscent of that scene in Gone with the Wind where the Atlantans are hanging out in carriages in the heat of the day waiting for the death lists to come off the telegraph from Gettysburg. It’s a terrible, sad situation, and I thought it was filmed well, at least so long as they were on the station. The gathering of people to witness a horror is a very universal experience, and the reactions of Garibaldi and the other guy (I am so sorry that I can’t remember his name; I actually don’t think I even know it) were very well played. Garibaldi really didn’t know Dodger, and the other guy had some rollicking good times with those fellows but they weren’t really friends. It’s sad to think of lives you’ve touched being extinguished, but the relative lack of grief for these people reflects how easy it is to be distanced from war–and thus how easy it is for conflicts to escalate far beyond what is necessary. It is a shame these vibrant people died. It’s a shame in theory, though. These were anonymous numbers sent far away to do some unpleasant stuff that no one really wants to talk about. So they let it go on.

Compare these scenes of mild disappointment (I am not criticizing these men) to the scenes of G’Kar’s balls-out anguish and hysteria. I don’t know if the producers of the show were trying to make a statement about the general public’s lack of understanding of the horrors of war–the blase’ attitudes people can take–but it was a very sterile treatment. I mean, the people of Babylon 5 were upset about it, but they made I-told-you-so predictions. No one is feeling it yet. They assume that bad things will happen because of it, but they aren’t viscerally anticipating them. Say what you will about G’Kar, but he thought his assassination plan through. He knew exactly what would happen. Babylon 5 is in a tricky position, and can’t really put up more of an argument against the troop deployment than it did, but they are still detached in a way that will take them further down the road than they mean to go. I am starting to speak in generalities, and I don’t have a firm mental hold on what my thoughts are, but there just didn’t seem to be a lot of personal involvement in the fate of those ground troops. My feeble predictive powers tell me that things will get worse before they get better, and hindsight will be 20/20, and regrets will happen. I am unhappy with my inability to get at my feelings and impressions better.

So I’ll stick with the simple stuff.

1. We learned that the doctor is a man of principle. We already knew that. Redundant. There was no reason to make the general the doctor’s father, unless down the road the doctor will have to choose between family and duty or something. We didn’t need the character development. And who was that actor anyway? He was like a poor director’s James Earl Jones.

2. We learned that the Earth government is arrogant and ignorant, and makes bad decisions.

3. We learned that war is hard.

4. We learned that Garibaldi is a sensitive man who takes women seriously, and who is capable of forming serious romantic attachments. We already learned that Sheridan was a worthy, eligible bachelor. Garibaldi has been sort of the bumbling fellow who doesn’t appear romantic, so this business of respecting the woman too much to want to hurt her (and this business of being completely unaware of what a woman wants) sort of plays against character (and sort of doesn’t). It’s a complexity, people! But we also hear quite a few unnecessary (to Dodger) details about his past attachments, and it’s not the first time we have heard of the woman who was swallowed up by Mars, so this sort of was a vehicle for getting us to think about his past and maybe–feeble predictive powers at work–learn what happens to her in a significant way. A little bit of bad Earth government, a little bit of Mars reminder… stuff is going to combine. I feel it!

5. We see an early version of the kick-ass sci-fi chick. They are a dime a dozen nowadays (Starbuck being a prime example), but I’m not sure when they first made their appearance. Well, there was Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in Alien, but I think there was a long dry spell after that. Not that I’ve watched a ton of sci-fi, but the kick-ass chick is a fairly new phenomenon. So this was sort of a groundbreaking character as far as I can tell. I guess Dodger also was the lesson that war stresses people out and that women and men can be the same. The one thing that saved her from being totally cliche was her quick leap to the defense of Delenn. I don’t know exactly how badly Delenn was going to be hurt, but I really got the impression that something very bad had happened to Dodger in the past that made her ultra-sensitive to what those men were capable of. She sort of reminded me of the Susan Sarandon character in Thelma & Louise–that kind of history. But her character was way overwritten and the actress seemed too old to be playing a grunt. There was absolutely no reason for her to be plain old infantry–she could have been given age-appropriate responsibility without changing any significant plot points. The disconnect sort of was distracting, and detracted from her character. I dunno… maybe that was just the hair and makeup aging her. It doesn’t really matter.

6. We see that there are now two major conflicts involving Babylon 5, or the Earthlings, which is bound to cause problems. As the characters pointed out in the show, Babylon Station will lose credibility on one front if it arms itself too powerfully for another.

I don’t want to call this episode filler, exactly, but it was far more function than fun. 1440 words may contradict the next statement, but I don’t really have a lot to say about this episode. But I watched it, and I wrote about it, and I accidentally learned a minor spoiler while researching Marie Marshall’s age (and which I never found), and now I can move on.

I ate a lot of popcorn tonight, which means there’s a lot of salt in my system, and I am thirsty. This is as good a stopping place as any, I suppose.

/blogging

Mad Men–Season 2, Episode 6: Maidenform

Well, this episode was profoundly depressing to me, and I really have no interest in watching it again for a while, so I am going totally off memory without even DVR to fact check. I will probably get stuff wrong and for that I apologize.

First, how sucky is it that Peggy showed up in Peter Pan collars when I had convinced myself that she was done with them? It is small comfort, too, that she shows up at the Tom Tom all glammed out, because she really doesn’t know what it means to be an adult. She can look gorgeous and ten years more sophisticated (but not older), but she ends up all giggly in the client’s lap just like one of the strippers. I was happy to hear Joan give Peggy Bobbie’s advice (but bluntly) but Peggy still isn’t hearing it. She is hardly going to be taken seriously rubbing her fanny in the laps of her accounts. I really, really thought she was learning about business, but all she can do is repeat that she has a good ear for slogans and a good eye for models. Which she probably does, but talent is never enough. You have to supplement that with ambition, or savvy, or personal connections, and until she does something proactive she’s going to stay a worker bee. You kind of get a sense now for part of her sister’s frustration with/about her after seeing her move through this episode sort of like a spoiled brat. She does have some expectations that people will automatically recognize her importance without her having to speak up, and when she does speak up, it’s to Joan, who really can’t help her with the office part of it but who has the kindness to make what suggestions she can, however snappy her tone. Peggy is exasperating, though. Even I wanted to smack her for that gray jumper combo. It doesn’t help that she is a woman (overlookable) who used to work as a secretary (overlookable) for the 1960s men who are really (quite innocently) forgetting that they work with her.

On the other hand, how interesting were Peggy and Pete? Pete is another guy who sort of seems disappointed that people don’t automatically understand how talented he is, but perhaps it’s because he’s from some kind of prestige or position and perhaps because he enjoys White Male Privilege and perhaps because he is Pete but he doesn’t fail to step up and seize opportunities when they arrive and make them when they do not. What’s weird, and what I don’t fully understand, is why Pete needs Peggy to be infantilized or prudish and why Peggy cares. I still can’t shake this feeling that they know each other from before (and I still worry what’s going to happen to Peggy’s baby when Pete finds out about it).

Duck was a huge disappointment. I don’t take any pleasure out of seeing someone hit rock bottom–again. At least he does it with his eyes wide ope en and with full cognizance. I can’t bring myself to write about more than that.

Now, Don. Where does Don get off lecturing Betty, who looked absolutely adorable in her tennis outfit and in her bikini? Betty is not desperate. Don is projecting. Don is a prick. Don is driven by his prick and Don deserved to find out that Bobbie has been using him for sex because all the gals she’s in with talked him up good. When Don sort of crumples onto the toilet seat while shaving, I had the fleeting thought that it was the REAL Don Draper with the reputation at Random House, but of course that doesn’t make any sense. Don has just had his ego shattered and I think that it’s not entirely undeserved. It’s true–if Bobbie had kept her mouth shut like Don had told her to, then she wouldn’t be in some sort of Gerald’s Game scenario, but if she had kept her mouth shut Don wouldn’t have learned just what women are saying about him. Clearly he’s been around, and women think of him as some stud, and he’s the one that pretty much seems desperate now. I mean, the audience has clued into the fact that he is searching for something he has lost or never had but wants, but that’s not something Don is admitting to other people. And for Bobbie to bring it up in such a casual way at such a moment… it was like a perfect storm of psychological confrontation. But being Don, with Don’s tricks and talents, I’m sure he forgot all about it by the time he got home. That is, until his daughter brought it all back. To his credit, all he did was ask her to leave the bathroom, but that last scene of Don naked and slumped on a toilet without any energy to shut the door and make his breakdown private… that is a downer if I ever saw one.

I am hoping that this is about as low as the season gets. We are at the halfway point; maybe, if I’m lucky, episode seven will be the one where the fallen reassess themselves and their situation and the next six episodes will climb to a high note. I am also hoping that Betty wore her bikini to the pool anyway.

I guess there’s multiple layers of significance to this title, too. Here’s my cursory analysis, to make up in quantity what I lack this time in enthusiasm. Obviously Maidenform represents a goal and a transformation; the client was Playtex but they were kicking around the idea of shedding their image to pursue another one. Maidenform also refers to underwear in general, and the public selves that we hide beneath our public ones. It was also a good excuse to open the show with shots of three different beautiful women in their unmentionables, before having all the men at the office mention it to them. The title also refers to the form that Peggy will adopt for herself; will she choose Marilyn or Jackie or will she actually be able to pull off an Irene Dunne, an actress who did some very interesting and powerful things. Peggy will have to find her sense of humor first.

Peggy, Don, Duck… Pah! All of you. You made me sad.

Mad Men–Season 2, Episode 5: The New Girl

As usual, I have no idea where to start. This time I’ll dissect the title and see where it leads me. I definitely will be ending with things I have to say about Peggy.

So the “new girl” is Don’s new secretary. She is a Jane among the Tarzans, and she comes in with no doubt in her mind what a college degree permits her to do. She is husband-hunting, but that was obvious from the outset with her reaction to Joan’s wedding ring and her assumption of equality with Joan by leaning in to give her psychic advice. She believes that she and Joan have the same goals. It’s an assumption that causes her a bit of grief later, when her education is trumped by authority and experience, but it pretty much establishes what kind of girl she’s going to be and how she’s going to stir up the office boys. I feel some Ken Cosgrove storyline coming on.

Now, the next time we see her, she is really tramping it up. I mean, yikes. This is trampy for even some of the offices I worked at with no men in them at all. Her shirt was unbuttoned to the midriff. I don’t care that she had a full slip on underneath… it’s the exposing and not what is exposed that is vulgar. Joan’s appearance at this moment was the entertainment highlight of the episode for me. First, she carried off the contradictory need to chastise and permit suggestive displays with one fell swoop. Second, her shooing of the men and their tent poles from the dead clients file cabinet was brilliant. Yeah, go pitch your tents among the uneducated masses, guys. It’s obnoxious to stand around and gawk, but it’s also of vital importance that this girl doesn’t leave (out of disgust or by marrying)–Joan really doesn’t have time to replace her. Again.

Ironically, the final scene with Jane, where the older copywriter guy (who I want to call Rumsfeld but won’t and whose name I can’t readily check because he isn’t listed on IMDb for this episode) comes out and plays Mozart for Jane and Ken on his zipper is probably the least sexist and patronizing thing that has happened to her. It’s shocking, true–no one ever expects to see that at work–and it is stupid, but it is harmless and goofy and equal-opportunity offensive.

Moving on.

Those crafty writers, however, have picked a clever title that could apply to any of the women, really. It’s nice to see a new side to Betty… the not-taking-crap-from-Don side of her. This is different from the hen-pecking side. Don is giving her stupid crap and Betty is dismissing it and refusing to be distracted by things he’s trying to distract her with. He should have called her. Period. Whether or not she would have been able to come get him. She doesn’t care about the car. Period. He promised not to tomcat around at night anymore. Period. I love when he tries to dodge the infidelity question by moving on to the high-blood pressure issue. That blows up in his face; I don’t think he expected her to have knowledge about it or experience handling it. She absolutely has all the power in this entire scene. Of course, she has the luxury of not being injured, ashamed, traumatized, indebted to Peggy, and a little hung over. It’s a lot easier for her to take charge because she has the presence of mind to do so. But Don’s not ever going to accuse her of acting like a little child anymore.

The new girl is also Bobbie. I wasn’t really sure that I could call their relationship a love affair, or even a sex affair, but then here comes Rachel Menken Katz. So I guess Bobbie is supposed to be the new Rachel, seeing as how they are both women with their own agendas in a man’s world. I was a little disappointed, sort of, to reunite with Rachel in this way. Not in a Mrs. Dr. Katz way, not in an in front of Bobbie way, but in such a shallow way. But that’s how these things go in real life, and there’s no way that I would have been happy to have a rehashing right there in the restaurant. I do wonder if Rachel is still managing the department store. She’s got to be, right? Her character may have been conflicted about her desires but she was always quite clear about her goals.

ASIDE There’s a whole term paper waiting to be written on the significance of “Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Spartacus,” and the foreign film that Bobbie mentions in the car, the title of which got by me but which I bet identifies the film Don went to go see at the beginning of this season and the contents of which are probably relevant in some way, too. But, alas, film analysis and Sondheim are beyond the scope of this blog post. I just want the record to show that I identified this source of a layer of meaning but decline the opportunity to pursue it. END ASIDE

Abrupt jump to Pete Campbell. God, I love this character! I hate him and I admire him and he is a jerk who is oblivious to everyone else’s feelings but he is very, very good at cutting to the heart of the matter and seeing through bullshit. His private interview with the infertility specialist is interesting. He’s playing up the bravado, but he is undergoing an experience he does not want to be having because his wife asked him to. And then he drops this line about worrying about the bomb. I think Pete does wish he could have children (he’s brought up the subject before, to Peggy of all people!) and is a little frightened of the idea, but I don’t think it’s because he’s worried about the crazy world around him. I think that is sort of a political answer to the doctor (he works in advertising; he knows what people are saying) but I don’t know if he can articulate his problems to himself, much less a medical person (who was probably not trained at the time to handle psychological aspects of medicine in any in-depth way). His obtuse glee in his sperm motility at the end of the episode was revolting, but I did sort of side with him against Trudy on this. She wasn’t being forthright with her feelings at all, and she was going to stew about them for a long time. He treated her with just as brutal an insensitivity that you can get, but he did get the topic right onto the table (the table they symbolically fled from later). She had to expect this possibility. She couldn’t explain why she wanted a baby. She wants it because everyone expects it? Because she’s keeping up? Because of the stuff? Just when you think she is actually expressing a sincere desire to be a parent, she invokes all the material possessions she and her family paid for, and then had the balls to ask Pete to justify the expense. His questions to her were fair and appropriate, if his approach less so, and he held up amazingly well considering that she pretty much invalidated his entire participation in the marriage in the first place. She should have known that her balls were not going to be up to the challenge when it had just been medically established that his balls were superior.

But then there’s the magazine that Pete chose to whack off to. I don’t know what contemporary slang “Jaybird” is supposed to be (jail bait?) but there’s no getting by the cover art. Nice shout out to the martyr St. Sebastian!

Poor St. Sebastian. He was tied to a tree and pierced by the pricks of a thousand arrows, but didn’t die until he’d performed some miracles, been nursed back to health, and then was beaten to death and thrown into a latrine. Plus all that homoerotic stuff going on in all those paintings of him. Here’s your next term paper project: Is Pete attracted to this magazine because he likes seeing powerless women or because he too feels the stings of a thousand pricks? You decide!

I have again been all antsy this whole blog just waiting to get to the Peggy stuff, and now I feel too tired to really delve into it. The New Peggy is the real new girl of the title, don’t you think? I’ve got to pick up a theme I noticed a few episodes ago (again, I am too lazy to go back and check): Generations of women succeeding. If Joan has been watching how women like Bobbie get ahead in the business world, then she’s riding on being young and beautiful, which is classy but stalls. Joan is getting older, and she’s in a dead end job, and young and beautiful are accidents. Joan has risen to the top of the career she ended up in, but has not created any opportunities for herself. Bobbie has perhaps gone down a more unsavory path, but when she tells Peggy to act like an equal and act like a woman, she is giving her excellent advice. Female and equal are not something that any woman has to leave behind. I don’t get that Bobbie was telling Peggy to sleep up, and I don’t expect Peggy to hear that she should be sleeping up. Bobbie reminded Peggy that she is the person who made herself a copywriter. Peggy owes Don a lot for snapping her back into reality and out of the psych ward, and she may be eternally grateful for being recognized and promoted, and she may know all about favors and resentment from her own life, but if Joan was her role model for success, then she was going to top out, too.

ASIDE Peggy was deliberately not participating in psychology because she did not want to admit to the baby. Or the Peter part. Or the promotion. That’s what was holding her back in treatment. I think Don’s advice was spot on, frankly. Not the avoiding treatment part, but the facing up part. Just get it over with. Who cares about all the Catholic stuff. This is probably when she dropped the church, too. Purposefully, I mean, instead of just paying lip service and confessing afterwards. END ASIDE

I know Peggy hated missing work and was probably gossiped about for being absent (and then Don slammed her for it in front of her coworkers), but that day or two away set her so much further ahead than working hard and impressing people (if they noticed) would have. Go, Bobbie! I forgive you for being such an intolerable presence in that canceled show that I liked!

And did Peggy’s outfit say notice me or what? Before she even called Don by his first name, she dressed herself in a gray skirt evocative of the men’s suits, and a power blouse in vivid jewel tones. Remember those Peter Pan collars? Edged cardigans? Puffy skirts? Gone. Pointy collars and vertical pleats project height and attitude, and the row of buttons between her breasts emphasizes them and screams to be unbuttoned. And that’s about all the clothing analysis I am qualified to do. Mostly I just thought that shiny teal was gorgeous. Maybe Joan will learn something from Peggy about ditching young and beautiful for female and capable. She’s obviously female and capable, and not young has been established as an issue already. Furthermore, she’s expressed a desire to keep working, but Roger predicts that she’s going to “move on.” He means to motherhood, but it could be a promotion. Somewhere else, perhaps. Here’s to Peggy and Joan forming some kind of alliance, even if it’s an unspoken one.

RANDOM THOUGHTS Love that Don fell down the stairs when he’s talking to his subordinates but has an old football injury when he doesn’t know what Jimmy Barrett wants. I like Bobbie Barrett, but this last scene sort of seemed like a send-off in a way… a passing the torch to Peggy and passing with Jimmy to a show of his own. Mongoloid is a terrible term that just sounds so funny. It’s terrible how much delight I took in hearing the word. I had put out of my mind entirely that meatloaf has ketchup baked on it. I hate ketchup. I hated meatloaf because it was served with hot, gooey ketchup. I made it out of desperation one day and put barbecue sauce on it instead. Why was ketchup the default? Was barbecue sauce so exotic, or rare, or expensive? The cop lecturing Don reminded me of the Malibu cop from The Big Lebowski. Stay out of his beach community, Don! And stop treating objects like women.

Sorry this took so long. I kept getting interrupted all frikkin’ day. My thoughts were a lot more coherent and concise at breakfast. And I think I hate the stupid black shoes that Heidi Klum’s legs wear during the promos to Project Runway. They look bad from the side and the front. Says the girl who knows nothing about couture anyway.

Mad Men–Season 2, Episode 4: Three Sundays

I knew that watching the fifth episode before writing about the fourth one would mess me up. Darn it! Now my thoughts are all muddled, and because I cannot allow myself to take the time to watch “Three Sundays” a third time, I have to go on fuzzy memory. It bugs me now that my impressions of this episode are going to be colored by what I’ve seen in the next one, but what can you do?

You can keep up, that’s what you can do. I have a long explanation for why I am at this point, but considering that blogging anything is a vanity project for me in the first place and that my audience of forty probably never stays to actually read the posts, and it will end up being a tale with a non-surprising ending, why go into detail? I’ll just skip ahead to the salient part: I had work for money to do. A fair argument to make would be that if I’d done work for money in the first place instead of worrying about this blog, then I wouldn’t have had to put off the blog for work for money, but that kind of circular reason never goes anywhere.

So anyway…

Three Sundays: Sunday, Palm Sunday, and Easter. I think I am just going to ramble and associate, starting with Don, even though it was totally Peggy’s story–and her sister’s. So might as well start with Don’s big reveal: victim of child abuse.

It is an amazing admission for Don to say that aloud, I think, but we learned far more about Betty in this episode than Don, I think. I am trying hard not to villainize her because we very rarely see her interact with anyone but Don, who dismisses her most of the time, but she really is out of control regarding the little boy. And could the producers have selected a cuter little boy to tug on our sympathies? It’s obvious to me that the kid is trying to manifest some real talent and interest in the way things work, what with the art project/tracing paper scandal (I think he was drawing well from memory) and his interest in mechanical and chemical processes (it was totally the bubbling of the pancakes that attracted his attention to the stove). Betty has decided for some reason to turn against her son, and I can’t figure out why. It’s not like there haven’t been men in her life–she has a brother and a father she visits and worries about. I think what she’s doing… AT BEST… is exaggerating the little boy’s wickedness (I really should look up his name) to get Don’s attention, which is what she wants. I don’t know how psychologically stunted she is and how much of an act she puts on (I think she’s more self-aware than she lets on), but she wants Don to treat her like a partner and to check back into the family. Men doing the discipline thing probably seems like the most logical place for him to start. However nutty Betty’s mother might have been, I don’t think she was hit or spanked as a child and really doesn’t think about what she is asking Don to do when she demands corporeal punishment. It seems to me that she is trying to reconcile her position as housewife instead of professional person, and needs other people to play the Father Knows Best role so hers has some meaning. Of course, the minute Don makes it clear why he isn’t that angry at the little boy and why he isn’t going to hit him, Betty drops it. I am wrong with every prediction I make ever for TV, but I like to think we’ve seen the last of Betty hounding her boy and punishing him as a scapegoat for Don.

Dialogue of Note: Carla isn’t there to raise their children. I was happy to hear Betty say that aloud.

This is how my sad, little, white privilege mind works: Speaking of Carla reminds me of Sheila, which reminds me of Paul Kinsey talking to Little Girl Draper (still too lazy to look it up) about his girlfriend. I found the contrast between how Paul interacted with Don’s daughter and how Joan interacted with Don’s daughter interesting. Paul really didn’t seem to mind the girl’s company and was quite at ease with her; it wasn’t until the sex talk started that he ducked out of the conversation. Joan hated every minute she was with that girl. I think first she was annoyed as hell that she was stuck with some domestic charge that really should have had nothing to do with her when it was clearly such an important business day and there really was so much to do. But I also think she doesn’t quite know what to do with kids. She can make nice to Roger’s teenage daughter about hair salons, but little girls? Especially little girls talking about boobies? Especially the boobies of the boss’s wife? It is a trying day.

I thought it was funny to see all the employees in their Sunday fun wear. The actual challenge of designing an ad campaign concept in a hurry wasn’t as interesting to me as the snapshot of what everyone else really had planned on doing instead. I am amazed that so many people were found so quickly and brought in without cell phones and answering machines, and I would like to ponder that more (but won’t). I was shocked by how bad Salvatore looked. He was sick or panicked or something; perhaps that is some artifact of my imagination but he looked more out of place than Peter in his tennis gear. Later I wondered, on Presentation Day (which was also Good Friday) if it was a coincidence that both Joan and Peggy were wearing purple. It seems like too much of a coincidence for the characters to be expressing religious sentiment in that way (especially those two characters), but I’ll leave the socioreligious analysis and commentary for someone else to perform. It just really, really caught my eye is all. The conversation about new business and old business and Duck seemed perfunctory, but the tension probably did need to be spelled out for the audience; I certainly wasn’t thinking along those lines until the script made me do so. It’s serviceable foreshadowing.

There! With all the Mad Ave Mad Men stuff out of the way, I get to talk about Peggy! And Father What a Waste! It was nice to see Peggy get a little flirty with a guy, even if it was a guy so safe as to be boring. At least he has his own car, has been to Rome, and a good sense of humor. And he recognizes talent when he comes across it. I am happy that Peggy and he “collaborated” (to the extent that it was a collaboration) on his sermon. I am also happy that Peggy found a way to avoid being in a photograph with a priest without making a fuss over it.

I am not at all surprised that Peggy’s mother and sister know exactly what she does at work, even if they are making like they don’t get it when Peggy’s the person they are talking to. I suppose it is a shame the way the mother goes on and on about how beautiful/smart/successful the younger daughter is, and it’s not really surprising that the older sister is jealous of her sister, but the overt displays of resentment make me sad. To her credit, she saves the worst of it for the confession booth, and takes up her problems with how the mother treats Peggy with the mother and not with Peggy. You can’t help what you feel, I guess, only how you react to it–and she is handling herself in public in a mature and reasonable way. I wish she wasn’t internalizing it so much. She is so clearly disappointed by something in life (it could be anything; we really don’t know her) but she is not addressing it. She’s picking on Peggy instead.

I am about to get artsy-fartsy film criticky, probably without reason, but this episode seemed to have an awful lot of doors in it: doors opening, people framed in doorways, shots through doors to other rooms… it made me think about how some people are traveling through doors and how some people are stuck inside rooms. Of course the idea that open doors represent opportunity is at the top of my mind, and all this door business only underscored how little opportunity is presenting itself to Peggy’s sister and how little effort she seems to be making to seek it out. I am convinced that she knew exactly what priest was going to be in that confession booth with her, and I’m positive that she dumped on Peggy in the booth to malign her to the priest who was openly admiring the wayward sister instead of the one who actually stayed home and cooked dinner (dinner that the priest couldn’t be bothered to stay for, either). I also think that in real life the sister would have answered priestly Latin with Latin and that the English was just so the audience would be able to follow the conversation.

Dialogue of Note: I can see why Betty wouldn’t want to bother Francine on a Sunday morning with unexpected babysitting, but is Palm Sunday that important? Seems like this was a big detail to have about Betty or Francine or the times, but I can’t figure out what. Was it just that Francine was planning an event that day or is the holiday that religiously significant?

Random Thoughts: OK, it’s Good Friday when the American Airlines deal sours, but I don’t see where a resurrection is happening (and not to be spoilery but it isn’t carried through in the next episode, either). Haha… Don doesn’t care that his kid is passed out drunk–those were crazy times! It seems important that the sister knows that Pete was a married man when Peggy was boinking him; I’ve got this theory that Peggy and Pete knew each other from before and it’s fuzzy and undeveloped and completely without textual support but this tidbit of gossip feeds into it somehow. It’s interesting that even though Peggy’s family is generally supportive of her job they lie to the priest when he asks why she’s absent… or did Peggy tell them that she was sick and not that she was going into work? Maybe that’s more likely. I am fascinated that Don knows how to make such beautiful, fluffy pancakes. I hope the President or Owner or CEO or whatever the title is at Mohawk Airlines derives some satisfaction out of this debacle. I’d use that German word for it if I knew how to spell it. You’ll just have to trust that I know how to say it and I’ll trust that you know what word I mean.

Babylon 5–Season 2, Episode 3: The Geometry of Shadows

I really liked this episode. I missed that G’Kar wasn’t in it, because I’m all into his character after the last episodes revelations about him, but I thought there was a very good balance of wrapping up old story lines (like Garibaldi), advancing new ones (like toppling empires and malevolent presences), and character development (like Ivanova’s promotion and Sheridan’s temper). Plus the Drazi stuff with the sashes was just funny. It really was.

I’ll start with Garibaldi, because he opens the show and because it’s a straightforward conclusion to the season one cliffhanger. He gets better–fully, apparently–and resumes his post. There’s the nagging doubt and embarrassment and perhaps touch of fear that serves as suspense before he dons his uniform again, but then there’s a flash of insight and a great show of experience and competence that saves the day. Of course, that he comes to the aid of Ivanova fuels my little fantasy that they are being set up for each other. The actor also suddenly looks much thinner than he had. True, in the show he’s been in a coma for a while, but there’s also a television habit of sprucing everyone up second season. Delenn with that hair, Ivanova ditching her braid, Londo getting a personal stylist… the colors have seemed toned down, too, and in this episode I was struck suddenly by the opulence of Londo’s suite. I think the set has been overhauled. Of course, it’s timed perfectly with a new captain, kind of like how all the First Ladies get to redecorate the White House.

Ivanova’s promotion was well-deserved, and her bumbling around with unreasonable people was hilarious, especially with their stubby English, but it was mostly comic relief. We did get one important reveal about her character, though: She is not successful when she denies her own impulses and acts as she thinks others would do. It wasn’t until she caved into her temper and just grabbed the damn sash from the leader and took over their faction that she solved the problem. Garibaldi saved the day following such an impulse. If Garibaldi and Ivanova only ever become a professional alliance because they have the same style, that will still enhance Sheridan’s prestige as an innovative diplomat with a style all his own. I’ll stop predicting romance now. I don’t particularly want Ivanova and Garibaldi to end up together, but coupling off characters is sort of a cliche and it sort of happens in most shows. I just want the world to know that I saw it coming if it happens. And if it doesn’t, I’ll applaud the producers of the show for breaking with tradition.

Now, at the surface, the Londo storyline isn’t particularly insidious. If the Centauri are running a monarchy or empire or something that needs a strong leader to hold together, then it’s not immediately villainous to plot to take over power when the leader dies. It could certainly be interpreted that way, and the presence of a skinny man with an accent dressed in dark clothes broaching the idea to Londo reinforces it, plus the fact that Londo is complicit in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands (whether or not you agree that he’s blame-able). It does seem shady, and it’s obviously a dangerous idea to discuss aloud. Still, succession is spotty and a good case could be made for stepping in to prevent the toppling of a government structure, especially if you are trying to preserve a culture. The whole scene with Lord Refa actually reminded me of the part in Shogun where Toranaga and Blackthorne are discussing the mitigating circumstances that make rebellion against a liege lord acceptable: If you win. Londo is right that the winners will write the history. And he has shown himself to be a master politician. On paper he could be the very person to lead the Centauri to new and glorious heights.

That said… he lacks mad intrigue skillz. He can persuade and lead, but he cannot plot. He is either naive or unimaginative, but he is pretty easy to manipulate. Perhaps he believes in the inherent good of people (the demonized, faceless collection of Narn being the exception). His dancing girl certainly worked him over, though, as did Winnie Cooper and her boyfriend, and the guy that took him through the hedge maze and masterminded the genocide, and the technomage–twice. I’m not saying that I think Londo covets power for its own sake, although I think he appreciates and desires the material trappings of power. I do think he believes that he would make a good leader of the people and that he acknowledges the unsavory underhandedness in which he would have to engage to achieve that position. What he cannot see at all is how easily he can be played. He’s just not as smart as he thinks he is–if he even analyzes it, which I don’t think he does at all. He is not really self-reflective and he isn’t even lying to himself about his chances. He’s just oblivious. Even if he overthrows the dynasty, he’ll only ever be a puppet. He can’t even disentangle himself from this Warren Keffer business. Granted, he’s not trying very hard–even though the threat has been made aloud to him about extincting the Narn for once and for all, and even though Londo heard and reacted to it.

I wonder, suddenly, just what’s going on in Vir’s head. He plays kinda dumb and obsequious to Londo and he does his hair and his bidding, and he’s got one of those round faces that is supposed to indicate that he is innocent and trustworthy, but the mere fact that it was stated aloud by Londo to Lord Refa that “he can be trusted” seems like he cannot be. Of course, the real question is trusted by who? If Londo is entangled in a genocide and has stooped so low as to place a clumsy bug in the captain’s room (wouldn’t that bug have been spotted the minute Sheridan went to load the dishwasher?), and if he’s plotting to take over his government, if Vir betrays him does that make Vir untrustworthy or trustworthy? Vir did put on a good show of quaking and trembling in front of the technomage dragon, but he stood there long enough to get Elric’s attention and to pass along a coherent message. Plus he’s getting opening credits billing with a close-up now, too. He definitely represents the ordinary Centauri viewpoint. They can’t be a monolithic mass of Narn-hating Narn Haters. And who better to blow Londo’s insidious plans sky-high than a peon from the inside?

This man wants to save your people.

This man wants to save your people.

Elric the Technomage was more plot than character, I think. He was obviously a stand-in for a mythology, a race, a prophecy, a skill set, a conflict (between Sheridan and Londo) and a mystery. It’s good to have independent corroboration of G’Kar’s fears, and I found the conversation about advanced technologies being indistinguishable from magic intriguing, if underdeveloped. It seemed out of place to have Sheridan invoking the Wonder of God, but then you could say that Elric undermines the concept of a deity by almost claiming the position for himself and his brothers. The word “brothers” also makes me wonder if this is a league or a race of people fully committed to sexist language. No women? Are they eternal and in the shape of men for the advantage it gives them right now in a patriarchal television society?

But for all that Elric is just a plot device, he’s a great one. I’ll have to look up the symbolism of oranges later, but a great show was made about orange juice and its pulp early in the episode with a great show made about the magic orange blossom at the end. Just by saying that Sheridan should not inquire where they are going turns their destination into a place of supreme interest and importance. And you know that he only accepted Londo’s “hands of friendship” for the chance to engage in extended physical contact in order to do something. The prophecy he made about millions of people calling out Londo’s name was chilling, but I don’t know if that’s what Elric got from the arm holding or if he’s gleaned/enacted something else that will show up later. Maybe it was just a chance to distract Londo long enough to look for the recording device and blow it up. But if they can see such things and know such things and gather only to flee a place for good, I totally understand why you wouldn’t consider it lucky to see more than one at a time. I assume, too, that a prophecy made in a show like this will have to come true. The interpretation, however… that’s the real fun of drama and literature. Interpretation! Will Londo be a hero? A villain? Or will the writers surprise us with an unexpected, amazing third option? And what exactly does he mean when he says that the technomages are dreamers, shapers, singers, and makers? I feel some fabric of the universe coming on. We’ve also got four things to watch for in future episodes.

So I sneaked a peek at IMDb to look up a name and saw that people consider this episode sort of filler. The Drazi stuff was the least significant, but it did give us information about Ivanova and the rest of it added to specific plot lines and introduced new developments. Like I said, I really liked it. And I hope we’ve all learned that we must never, ever trust skinny men in black.

Unless they show up wearing masks, of course. In that case, we should marry them.

Mad Men–Season 2, Episode 3: The Benefactor

“I don’t want to do this,” says Don.
“It doesn’t feel that way,” says Bobbie Barrett, with a crotch grab the likes of which we haven’t seen since the beginning of Pretty Woman. (Except that I totally missed it watching it the first time.)

“You’re profoundly sad,” says Arthur.
“No, it’s just that my people are Nordic,” says Betty. (LOLWUT?) And then Arthur tries to kiss her after she says no; he says he always gets what he wants, except one slender gloved hand stops him and it turns out he doesn’t. Betty and Don are really being thrown against each other as characters (not really in conflict). The Season 2 suspense for me at this moment is which side of Betty will prevail when the crisis between them arises (whatever the crisis turns out to be).

Don is ugly in this one. That scene in the restaurant, where he groped/penetrated her… This is some game. She sexed him up first, and probably thought she was in a position of power, but he showed her. Of course, I didn’t really like the actress when she was on Journeyman, so I can’t shake this tiny buried feeling that she had it coming and that the bitch probably even liked it. You know, because she met her match and he tamed the shrew. (I don’t think she’s actually a bitch on this show–those are just malicious, soap opera-inspired cliched thoughts.) She’s the predecessor to Joan and then Peggy; it is interesting to see three “generations” of women “making it” (or not) in a man’s world. That Bobbie Barrett uses an ambiguous first name is not a coincidence; it got her into business meetings to which no one would have invited Roberta. Her telephone conversation with Don seems like a racy, “let’s have an affair” affair, but I think sleeping with Don really was part of her work day. She really does enjoy relaxing at home when she’s home. Just like Don really doesn’t seem impatient or annoyed when he’s with his kids. It’s irritating to me that he called her, though. Maybe this isn’t a new low–I do tend to forget details of programs–but coming off of firing Lois, even though she probably didn’t belong there, he was just coming off like a Class-A Prick in this episode.

The argument could be made that he’s always been a Class-A Prick. Just compare how he handles Bobbie in the restaurant to how Betty handles Arthur in the stables. Betty says strange things and lashes out when she is in a position of subordination, but she is graceful and assertive from her seat of power when she assumes it, and ends conflicts with panache. (I still love that scene of her with the gun and the pigeons from Season 1.) Don comes off petty and cocky–haha! I said cock!–and not really in charge. Of all the people at that table, Don did the least to make the meeting successful. It wasn’t really even his idea. I mean, yes, it was, but the ugly incident had to be brought to his attention in the first place. He can’t even competently choose an appropriate secretary.

Sorry for all the phallus puns.

TANGENT: I know more than a year has gone by, but once-a-switchboard-operator Lois seemed too inexperienced to ever have been placed at Don’s desk. I know that Peggy was placed there probably in her first job out of secretary school, but she had formal training. If Lois came up through the secretarial pool to Don’s desk, that is telling. Either the company can no longer attract good secretaries or there’s something remarkably awful about working for Don Draper. He is getting spacey and taking great liberties lately–maybe no one else was willing to try. END TANGENT

Sorry. Segueing from Bobbie to Joan. Joan is a younger woman who also may have slept her way to the top, although probably less overtly. Joan isn’t Roger’s secretary, after all. I think she must have worked for Don for a while and then stepped into her current role; he seems important enough to have a secretary skilled enough to take over the department. Of course, Don could have been much lower on the totem pole ten years ago (and Joan’s probably been there more than ten years); maybe she did sleep with Roger when she was his secretary or something and then he put her in charge of the women. But I don’t think so. I think Joan really did like Roger, if only because she was the Chieftress and he was Partner and the only appropriate match. That fling with what’s-his-name bearded guy from last episode (totally blanking, too lazy to check) seemed like a romantic impulse. He certainly hasn’t demonstrated that he was rising like cream and I don’t think that interlude had any professional motives. I’m just going on hunches here.

But from Joan to Peggy! So Peggy is this secretary sleeping with a higher-up, but it is completely independent of her job. When she turned to him, it was for advice on work she was doing–not to ask him for favors. Peggy earned her position as a writer by writing. If she advances, it’s because she’s got talent. I don’t know that the writers were aiming to provide a picture of Woman in Transition, but we’ve got three nice little snapshots of women making it after all. Ten years later, Mary Richards from the Mary Tyler Moore Show is glamorous but not really far-fetched. I think it’s far to say that Joan:Peggy::Peggy:Mary.

Really, though–that was a horrific apology. I have no doubt that Mr. Utz gave Mrs. Utz the equivalent of the speech that Don gave to Betty before that dinner. Everyone was acting fake and going through the motions to save face. The only difference is that Mrs. Utz probably had clothes already on hand. She was resplendent. Analyzing her wearing cream as the innocent victim and Betty wearing pink as the tramp/accomplice is probably taking the scene too far.

The Harry Crane stuff was interesting in a cultural/chronological perspective kind of way. I’m not that interested in his raise for its own sake, but the television show/television division development shows that at least Sterling Cooper has an idea that it is behind the times. I thought the Crane Marriage and the Crane Wife presented an interesting counterpart to the Barretts and the Drapers; Crane Wife seemed like a bossy harpy at first, but she was right: it would have been foolish for Harry to not even try to stick up for himself. I really get the feeling that she’s a partner, not a showpiece, a subterfuge, a client, a mother, or a punching bag. I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that she’s the wife with her own career. That it was an abortion episode was just cultural placement, and the Peggy watching the abortion stuff kind of obvious and kind of whatever. I guess they don’t want us to forget the baby. I found it heavy-handed.

Either that Nordic explanation from Betty means she’s on a completely different plane of existence than everyone else in the show or it refers to some Viking mythology thing that everyone well-bred knew about 45 years ago. Maybe in opera form. Shamefully, what little I know about Norse myths I learned from the etymology of the days of the week, The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and Maelstrom Adventure Cruise, the ride at the Norway Pavilion at Epcot Center that has you chased by trolls and spits you out under a reproduction of an off-shore oil drilling platform.

Profound sadness hasn’t really entered into it for me before now, except when I have thought about just how expensive it is to eat at one of those fondue restaurants and just how bland and disappointing boiled meat is–especially when you have to boil it yourself.

(Paul Kinsey is The Pretentious Bearded One! And I wonder if Ken Cosgrove is making all that money because he’s a published author. It does give one a certain cachet…)

Mad Men–Season 2, Episode 2: Flight 1

“Joan! I want you to meet someone–my baby, Sheila.”
“Sheila White.”

Ah-hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Meaning no disrespect to Miss White or the actress, of course, but that’s a little gem that got by me the first time.

But let’s cut right to the chase of the opening party scene:

1. Is Paul not the most perfect pompous ass you have ever seen? I mean, ever?

2. Kudos to Peggy for clarifying that she works “with those guys,” not for them. And to Joan, for insisting on the title of “Office Manager” instead of “Senior Secretary.” These are important differences, and if the men seem to blow them off, well–the women are aware now. I don’t want to get into any speculations about proto-feminist demands because, frankly, I know jack about the timeline and I can’t use the political and philosophical vocabulary. But hell–The Feminine Mystique is only one year away.

3. Kudos also to Peggy for not letting that guy take advantage of his position standing right next to her by explaining that he is a friend that she just met five minutes ago.

4. Poor, poor Joan is looking tired. The big reveal at the end about her age explains it in part, I suppose, but this party has to be a drag. At least Peter and Peggy have something to gain by appearing, like putting on a good show for coworkers in a professional networking, looking ahead kind of way. But Joan has maxed herself out and I think she is depressed. In her mind, at this moment, is the realization that the most she can hope for is the same job at a bigger company, if they would ever hire someone from the outside who didn’t know all the little tricks to soothe and satisfy their executives.

5. Poor, poor Joan has to be nice at work when men waste her time by flirting and overexplaining, and here she is at a party and Paul won’t just say what the wine is without some long story about a shipwreck. At least she doesn’t have to smile about it.

6. Salvatore is married. He seems like he’s having fun inside his living a lie. I doubt their story arc will include exploring how much about Sal the wife knew before marrying him, but they are having a good time together. At least at this stupid party.

I think I know why Joan is being such an outrageous, well, bitch to Sheila, and I don’t think it’s because of racism (except in the more generalized way that allowed white people to patronize black people about the future). If you will indulge me in another numbered list:

1. Joan is mad that her doctor boyfriend couldn’t come to the party with her.

2. Joan is mad that her ex-boyfriend Paul isn’t going to fawn all over her as consolation, because he has a cute…

3. young thing on his arm.

4. This cute young thing is working at a company that just sells stuff that people need, instead of selling space and persuasion.

5. This girl has her whole career ahead of her still. And most if not all of her twenties to catch a man.

6. This untried, bright-eyed little girl matches Joan for grace, tact, and pride, even when basically directly insulted.

Back at the office, the plane crash is only moderately interesting to me as a plot device. Sure, it exposes Sterling Cooper as a cutthroat, glory-bound agency rather than an old reliable, but ditching Mohawk for a shot at American Airlines isn’t that surprising. Pete’s father dying in the plane crash, however… what an amazing chain of events that kicks off! First of all is his discombobulation after receiving the news, and then going straight to Don. Peter sees Don simultaneously as his equal but also is overtly patterning himself after Don. He has a human need to say something to someone he respects, but he also wants to make sure that he behaves properly. I do think Don was horrified and sympathetic, and really did want to help Pete. His advice was non-judgmental and sound, and it wasn’t until Pete asked him point-blank if going home to his family was what Don would do that Pete did it. Of course, it’s not what Don did–when Don found out his brother died he did not turn to his family for affection and support. And the scene cuts before we really learn what Pete decides to do. We see him leave Don’s office, but go straight to a meeting with Cooper and Duck and Sterling. We next see Pete with his family, but there’s no guarantee he went home immediately.

And what a family! One ALMOST wishes that the mother had been on that plane, but what was up with Bud’s wife? Defending him against her mother-in-law: applause! “I like to offer a nice bouquet of thoughts”: smite! Way to ensure that no one will interpret your remark as sincere! I get the idea that Bud is sort of considered dull, and maybe his wife is evidence of that; she’s sort of dim. (We may despise Trudy for her Daddy’s Girl ways, but she isn’t stupid or graceless.) Although Bud seems pretty competent despite his mother’s misgivings, maybe he chose a dim wife to make himself look better. Or else maybe his wife is a perfectly normal person who is trying to impress the family, in a marrying up sort of way. Remarks as formal and stilted as hers are obviously straight from an etiquette or manners book. Besides, Pete doesn’t seem to be looking down on his brother (and it’s very interesting that he had nothing to inherit). Let’s blame the mother for all the problems! The father is dead and therefore untouchable.

As is Peggy’s father. And Peggy’s mother is a playing-favorites manipulator, too. I was pretty relieved that the vacuum Peggy had brought to the office was in fact for someone’s actual house; I was getting nervous that no one was tidying her office at work and she had to do it, even though I couldn’t imagine a pretense even Joan could contrive for why that would be. It’s sad to hear that she was institutionalized after being pregnant. It is pretty shocking that she could have denied being pregnant and maybe she denied having the child in the first place, but this hinted-at episode hints at the unpleasant fact that women were not in charge of their own mental health. I can’t believe that ignorance of a pregnancy–even your own–was enough grounds to be considered incompetent, so I wonder if she was considered crazy for not wanting to keep the child. It’s obvious she isn’t happy that the baby is being raised by her sister, not one bit. I can go with that. It’s why she deliberately shows up late for dinner–she doesn’t want to see the baby awake or interact with it at all.

You get the impression that she was declared unfit to make decisions, and her mother got to decide what to do. It’s going to turn out badly, I’m afraid. Not for the baby–I am sure it will grow up happy and healthy and loved, if perhaps tending towards asthma–but for Peggy. If a bad situation has been alluded to in previews or promos I am unaware because I don’t like to watch those, but a dangling baby is not a good thing to be connected to. And if it breathes, and with her showing up at church reminding people she’s around, and her mother talking up her work that appears to mass audiences, someone is going to make the connection. I hope that she really, truly, deep down inside isn’t denying that she was pregnant or that the baby is hers. Crazy isn’t an appealing turn for her character.

An online friend, mtt, said a few days ago that he thought Betty was quite remote, but I don’t quite view her that way. I think she’s downright hostile. In the first five minutes of this season she compares her children to horse manure; she evokes the image of a dead child to cow her daughter, and she calls her son a liar without bothering to investigate further–even when an inconsistency in her version of events is pointed out to her. Her children are the quietest peeps you ever heard, and if you want to get annoyed at a boy sneaking candy past bedtime, fine, but to maintain that they’re loud is just silly. Her remark about knowing what little boys are like struck me as some kind of crack about Don, and if her son is seeing ghosts in the house she’s it.

Random Thoughts
If Carlton (Mr. Francine) can become any more disgusting I’ll be surprised. At first you get the impression that Don doesn’t want to play cards because he is generally remote and uninterested in his family, but it’s really because Betty and Francine disappear together and he has to entertain the most offensive lout of all the louts. And what game exactly are they playing? Pinochle? There are two queens of clubs and some bidding, but I thought bridge was played with one deck. Yeah, yeah, I’m a Google search away from finding out.

When Peter decides after all to accept the opportunity presented to him by Duck to head the American Airlines pursuit, he does take part of Don’s advice: Work is work and life is life. I can’t decide if it is despicable or pathetic for Peter accept the role but I’m pretty sure it’s horrendously mercenary and exploitative on the part of the company to ask him to participate. But life is life and business is business. It’s a shame, though, that Don wasn’t in the mood for confidences when Peter stood at this crossroads.

I am very glad to see Joan confiding in Peggy at the end of the Driver’s License Debacle, even if Joan would never agree that’s what she’s doing. I’m thinking that Joan is relieved there is another woman to talk to who is not near her on the org chart. I am a little dismayed that this driver’s license gave her weight as 140. Really? Don’t get me wrong–she’s gorgeous and I want to look exactly like her, but that seems quite low. I have a friend who is 5’8″ and we were just talking a few hours ago about weight and weight loss and trying to guess what Christina Hendricks weight! Did they get this number from some Hollywood scale or am I clearly unable to visualize what 140 actually looks like?

Technically, the song playing at the restaurant where Don sat after Mohawk Airlines stuck it to him ten ways from Sunday–Sukiyaki, by Kyo Sakamoto–wasn’t released in the United States until 1963. It was already recorded, though. Does that make it an anachronism? The lyrics are available at Wikipedia (hence the link) but I can’t find anything strikingly relevant to the scene or the episode. And am I stupid, or does everything in that restaurant scream Chinese? Are the references to Pearl Harbor and this Japanese song just representing an indifference to the cultural distinctions?

Have Duck and Peter formed an unholy alliance to take on Don Draper, who clearly doesn’t equal Sterling Cooper anymore even though he used to say so?

In conclusion: Kids? Need a popular culture thesis topic? Examine the significance of the fact that the last conversation Peter and his father had was an argument about what specific type of highly inbred fancy show dog their family associate was breeding.

I have said too much.

Babylon 5–Season 2, Episode 1: Points of Departure

So season 2 begins with a new opening sequence, a new voice over, and some secondary characters bumped up to opening credit status. I don’t know if I like the voice over particularly; it’s probably a matter of being used to the old one, but with so many words and phrases exactly the same but in a different order, I don’t see the point of changing it. Changing the voice, sure. The pictures behind changing don’t bother me at all. In fact, I appreciate when shows use shots from the current season to introduce characters instead of shots from the first season, especially when people are going to look so different (like Delenn and her tresses). I’ll have to listen closer next time to the opening credits to see if there’s a difference in meaning or significance the way they are played in the new season. It’s probably just a move to freshen up the show and create interest.

I suppose the goal of a season opener is to establish changes that have occurred since the last season ended and lay the foundation for plot and character developments. Fans who have seen all the shows more than once may not like my saying this, but this episode was kind of thin on plot. It’s mostly backstory through character speeches, with one big reveal (the Minbari souls thing). We learn a few more things about their universe, like hologram mail and that rule that the Minbari have about not harming each other (which I don’t remember from season 1; I think that’s new), and there is a battle scene that probably goes too long, with other scenes extended further than they might have been. I am not criticizing the episode–I really did like it–but it would be pretty easy to summarize. The character and story parts, however, I can find plenty to say about.

The episode opens with Ivanova firmly in charge. She seems frazzled, true, but not overly so. In fact, she presents quite a confident and assured air, and certainly seems to have established a presence of being in control. If things are hectic and crazy, well, it has nothing to do with any lack on her part–it’s totally the circumstances of Sinclair missing and the president dying and Garibaldi being sick. Yet the way the officers above her (General Hague?) were treating her seemed to be an attempt to put her in a flustered role, and the scene where she waxes somewhat nostalgic for her days beneath the command of Sheridan undermine her position of authority to the audience, I think. Maybe it’s because I watched the finale not that long ago (as opposed to waiting an entire summer between seasons) but I remember distinctly that scene where Sinclair tells Garibaldi to look after Ivanova because she has her whole career ahead of her. Because I had forgotten all about Sinclair’s involvement with Catherine, at the time I read it as a protective, love-interest kind of request between friends. But now, with this I’m-so-happy-to-have-my-mentor stuff, it really seems like the writers are going out of their way to juvenilize (I know that’s not the right word but I can’t think of a better one right now) Ivanova. She’s all business and competence, but then she’s all vulnerable and unsure. This could be an example of the actress portraying a different interpretation of the character than the script is calling for, but more likely I can blame it in an indignant way on men running Hollywood etc etc and being unaware of the presentation of the politics of power and gender etc etc. It’s probably really just a matter of needing a way to give some backstory for Sheridan via lines from Ivanova that provide locations and dates. Still, I didn’t buy it. I’ll chalk it up to plot inconsistencies.

But I do have a new story arc to predict! I am getting a whiff of some sweetness and light between Garibaldi and Ivanova that could grow into a romance, if this turns out to be the kind of show that must pair single women with someone. In this context, Sinclair’s request to Garibaldi to look after her could be interpreted as the commander granting his permission/blessing/encouragement for Garibaldi to pursue some unspoken interest they’ve both (Sinclair and Garibaldi) been aware of. Garibaldi and Ivanova were dates for New Year’s Eve. Ivanova has been visiting Garibaldi daily at 2:45 PM without fail. I think it would be a little icky if they hooked up, as kids these days like to say, mostly because of the purported age difference, but because she seems much older than other people have been treating her, it wouldn’t bother me so much, I guess. Maybe Garibaldi is young but aging badly.

We got nothing from Doctor, Londo, G’Kar, Kosh, the psychic, or their associates. Lennier seemed awfully forthcoming with Sheridan and Ivanova, but the writers needed him to be so whatever. Of course, like Ivanova has been running the ship, he has been running Delenn’s diplomatic station while she’s in her cocoon, so perhaps he has settled into his authority. He was certainly a lot less dorky and naive than in the motorcycle and the barhopping episodes.

Transplanetary alien reincarnation is just about one of the most creative things I’ve ever heard of, and I dig this storyline. The idea of a splintered, declining race is interesting as well. It would be very comforting to develop a mythology that enabled the belief that your people were just as strong as they’ve always been, but they are getting born somewhere else. I wonder if we’ll ever learn that the lack of association between the priestly caste and the warrior caste is a relatively new phenomenon. If so, that could explain the dwindling population. I’m also guessing the hole in Sinclair’s head could indicate that he was born only with a part of a Minbari soul, or that they took a piece of his soul during the scan–that could be where his memories went.

Death, honor, rogue warships, Klingons, suicide, whatever. There were a few parts of the episode that seemed completely cliched and downright Red Octobery, but it was a necessary element to get the soul talk started. It was our second interaction with the warrior caste, and I wonder if they’ll ever be developed as their own line of characters or if they’ll always just show up as plot devices. Right now I think it could go either way. One part of that story did make me laugh out loud, though–the tooth with poison in it. As I admitted before, I sometimes watch this show while I am occupied with chores so when I saw this on the screen…

I did a double take. Remember that gum that had a brightly colored liquidy center?

Honest to god I thought he was chewing gum in the interrogation room until Sheridan got back. But my second thought was that he was taking poison. There’s no way they didn’t use that gum as a prop, though. It was exactly that bright blue color. I remember the pink stuff, too. That, and Big League Shredded Gum and Hubba Bubba Grape. Good times. Oh, and he died.

Final Thoughts
The twice-interrupted speech was the episode’s version of introducing a gun in the first act of a play, I suppose. I don’t see how that could possibly have been a thirty-minute speech, especially to your crew on your first day, when you show up in the middle of work eight days after a galactic crisis. I was nervous by how close to the cocoon Lennier was putting the oil lamps, but nothing bad seemed to come of it. I was not surprised at all that Delenn 2.0 would be poking her fingers out of the cocoon at the end of the episode, although that reminded me of Dana breaking herself out of the demon dog in Ghostbusters, which also made me laugh. I am very glad that Garibaldi did not also wake up this episode, and I wonder if that speech the doctor made about comas and the brain will have later significance, like if Garibaldi has visions. I don’t think so–I think it was just to add suspense–but I wasn’t paying that close attention. The vibe showers that most of the people on the station undergo made me think of a novel I read as a child about a girl who goes to live with her parents on a moon colony. The primary drama was about the school play of “Our Town,” I think, but she complained at one point how she missed real showers with water and didn’t find the vibration showers that satisfying. I’m not joking when I say I read this at least twenty-five years ago. It’s made me want to track it down. I hate to predict a pattern from two instances, but could vibe showers just be one of those scifi things that scifi writers all know about and scifi audiences understand? I personally can’t understand how it would work. Wouldn’t the frequency of a vibration that can bounce dirt and oil off of you also disrupt other particles inside your body? Hopefully they won’t build an episode around the vibe shower so I won’t have to fret about it.

Perhaps one of you skeevy pervs will write some fan fic about Ivanova and Delenn and explain it all.

Slow News Day

Yeah, kind of a slow day. I balanced my checkbook to the penny the first try! That’s less than of an accomplishment than it used to be, since Excel does all the adding and subtracting. Usually when I go wrong it’s because I forget to include a transfer of funds from one account to another or somehow copy a formula into another cell. Logging on to the Sallie Mae website was the usual headache. I mean, thanks for protecting my financial secret and private information and all, but this security checklist is just too complicated. This is the third time I’ve had to change passwords and they don’t let you use any of your PAST FIVE. The security questions they ask you always screw me up, in good part because this is actually Husband’s account and they are all related to his life experiences. Fine. How hard could it be? Pretty hard, actually, when sometimes he remembers his first car as one make and model and then later counts the car his brother had as his first car, or waffles between which job he held first.

I used to pay Sallie Mae through the bank’s bill pay website, which was great, until they turned our name over to collections because they’d been taking our payments for two accounts (I don’t know why Husband has two loans for the same education, but those were crazy loaning days!) and applying them to one and assuming that we were completely delinquent on one and paying extra principal on the other. It’s not a game I care to play again. I think I’ve got a medical bill overdue right now that’s probably in collections, but I can’t for the life of me remember where the statement is, who it’s for, or how much it is. I know it is a smaller amount than it used to be, because insurance was refusing to pay any of it (Filly’s birthdate had been entered wrong so the company was rejecting her claims from the doctor’s office.) I haven’t seen a bill in a while; maybe it’s a quarterly request. I certainly haven’t gotten a phone call from a collector yet. Maybe it’s all been taken care of! I’ll just wait. Screw my credit score. We aren’t going to be buying a new house any time soon… I’m sure I can bring it back up.

For all the leftover chicken that’s still in our refrigerator, none of it got eaten today. I’m afraid we’re going to lose an entire pound of breaded breasts and I am seriously hard-put to care. I ate the last of the bean soup for dinner (so that didn’t go to waste), and Husband had Carl’s Junior for lunch which eliminated the need for him to eat dinner at all. Fella and Filly didn’t really love the chicken so they got to eat the last of the turkey kielbasa, which they like. That’s two nights in a row that I got out of cooking, and I only had to put out one of those nights. I am definitely getting the better end of this bargain.

I watched an episode and a half of Project Runway: Season 5. The only season I’ve seen was season 3 (I think–with Tattoo Neck and Pregnant Redhead and Michael and Miami Miss) and I loved it! I tuned into season 4, but the Tim Gunn podcast was gone and the Bravo website is too buggy to tolerate and I can’t handle reading the blog. That podcast made the show amazing, and I just don’t know enough about fabric and design and dressing myself appropriately, much less stylishly. Without someone telling me what to look for and analyzing the designs, it’s just another reality show about stress and gossip. Some of my friends at the Northern Attack website are watching it; if they end up discussing it in detail I might keep up. It is a reality show that creates real items, at least. My sister in law–who is an actual seamstress and who actually designs clothes and who has a store idea that I’ll actually plug if she actually gets started–was watching it and I’d talk about it with her, but she doesn’t get cable anymore and has a slow internet connection, which means that she can’t even access the program from the gray markets of cyberspace. So that’s that. I did love that skirt/blouse combo inspired by the tree planter grate, with the scalloped layers. A lot more than the blue/fuscia dress that one, but again… I have no sense of style.

The book Vellum is getting better.

I didn’t fold any of the laundry today. I was going to fold it while watching Pride & Prejudice but I didn’t. I did wash my hair and shave my legs, though. And I took a ten-minute video of Filly running around the dining room, making herself dizzy and throwing her snuggle bear to and fro before sitting down to read a book to it. We went to Grandma’s house for lunch and played with some Grandma toys and then went next door to visit the new baby and then watched Teletubbies on demand. It was the one where they’re all trying to eat Tubby Custard, but when Po works the machine she can’t get it to turn off, and it floods the Teletubby Superdome with Tubby Custard, forcing them all onto elevated surfaces until Po just pulls the plug on the machine and the NuuNuu comes and slurps it all up. That pretty much took us all the way to Time for Tubby Bye-Bye. We all needed a nap after that.

I also watered the tomato plants, which I have mentally disconnected from. There are quite a few green ones half-grown on my vines, but no more yellow flowers. One got pretty big, but it’s not turning red. In fact, there are two scary spots that look like they might be squishy and rotten if I touch them, so I won’t. I’d transplanted the mint into a bigger container and killed one of the plants, but it seems to be bouncing back and it’s an invasive species, so I am sure the thrivinger plant can pick up the slack. I am letting the basil flower because it is in the same container as the tomato plants and I have mentally moved on to next year when I can try it all again, but this time with fewer plants in one container and more fertilizer.

I scheduled a vet appointment for two cats without arranging for childcare. I am honestly not sure that I can get all the small mammals into the building. I asked my friend to come with us but she has to wait for the phone guy (she just moved). She said it was no big deal to reschedule but I would feel bad if she did, yet happy. Because if she comes, we’re going to Los Primos Taco Shop for lunch! I’ll get the rolled tacos and not worry about it, because I weigh myself in the morning and have a whole week to deal with the salt and the fat and the guilt.

No, there won’t be guilt. I am dieting very successfully. Here I am, after all, at the end of the week with six extra flex points that I am not even going to try to eat. I was going to drink them away, but red wine just isn’t going to suit my mood and I’m too thirsty for a beer. Maybe I’ll just try water. I do like water.

I do like rolled tacos. And just because it’s been a slow news day doesn’t mean I can’t say a million things about it.