hth: recent b&w photo of Gillian Anderson (Default)
What I dithered around and took three hours of writing to almost say the other day, the Rude Pundit actually got around to in a few paragraphs.

But I know a shit-ton of people down South and in the Midwest, working- and middle-class whites, most of whom never went to college, some not even graduating from high school, who think Donald Trump is a fucking hateful fraud, a showboating pissant, and a giant talking turd. When you try to "figure out" what drives Trump supporters and think that those of us who say, "Yeah, fuck them" are smug coast-clinging liberals, you are insulting the fuck out of the millions of people in Trump country who grew up in similar circumstances and decided that being racist, sexist, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, and conspiracy-theory-loving jerk is wrong

Right, that.

I don't fully agree with him on the best response to the Orange County firebombing incident -- which by the way, happened while I was at a party about five fucking miles from there, so that's fun.  I think being "better people" is a necessary strategic move.  Ten thousand dollars, give or take, is pocket change; the Republicans have raised millions of dollars for this election; a few bucks ain't gonna mean you've single-handedly re-elected McCrory, but maybe it does mean that we can credibly claim we're holding the line against political violence.  You can't just say you condemn it; everyone says they condemn that kind of thing, and the difference between "I actually condemn fighting this battle with Molotov cocktails" and "Officially of course I condemn this, but c'mon, basically they deserved it, we all know this," is whether not we *do something.*  This little bit of money is a sheerly symbolic something, but it's an action.  I learned from the anti-choice movement that if you say you condemn something but don't lift one finger to oppose it, people will rightly assume you don't actually condemn that thing at all, no matter what you say.

And I think it's important to condemn this, not because I like my moral purity -- though it's definitely not a *great* look to spend a week clutching our democracy pearls when Donald Trump says "special prosecutor," but suddenly find our cuticles extremely enthralling when campaign volunteers are intimidated by violence -- but mostly because my team is not equipped to win a shooting war if one gets underway.  So I'd really like to prevent one, if at all possible.

Anyway, if anyone's curious, I'm 100% sure I know who's responsible.  There's a horrible nest of self-righteous anarchist assholes in Orange County who are a perpetual thorn in the side of anyone trying to protest or demonstrate in this area.  They always show up, they try to gin up conflict, they set the cops on edge, they break shit, and they vanish and leave the damage and the retaliation for the POC community to clean up.  They're fucking insufferable, and I hope they go to jail for this, every damn one of them.  Mary once got in a confrontation with a couple of them who were trying to topple a large Durham city dumpster into the street during a protest of the Freddie Gray verdict.  Their self-satisfied, strategy-free black bloc white-savioring is something that Black Lives Matter, among other groups, has actively had to figure out how to work around.  This shit has their fingerprints all over it, especially if reports are true that the county Democratic headquarters was vandalized the same night with "Death to Capitalism" graffiti.  (Local news is reporting that people "claim" it was, but it's not clear to me yet if there are photos or evidence.)

Days of Rage is a really great book, by the way.  I read it last spring, and it's given me a lot to think about since then.  Re-litigating the 90s is unfun enough, y'all.  Let's not do the 70s again.  Nobody ever liked the 70s.

hth: recent b&w photo of Gillian Anderson (Default)

Today is my day off, and I spent a lot of it, like I usually do, reading about politics, including this piece by David Wong, which at first I liked, and then the more I thought about it, the more I disliked it. I was still in the process of sorting that out when I got hungry and decided to get a grilled pimento cheese and onion rings at the dive BBQ shack up the road from me.


To understand the point of this story, first understand that I live in North Carolina – yes, the very one you've heard so much about lately. We're a “swing state,” which really means, as Wong understands intimately, that we're profoundly culturally divided between our urban I-95 corridor and the rural rest of the state. I live in Durham, a city I love profoundly, passionately, a majority-minority city heavily influenced by, on the one hand, the sometimes outrageous wealth and privilege of the Duke community, and on the other hand, the fact that it's (for now) the affordable part of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle and therefore the part that's become home to a large population of non-wealthy but culturally urban artists, activists, and assorted odd ducks for whom Durham is a liveable option, cheaper and friendlier than moving to a huge city, progressive enough and diverse enough to build a life in. For ten years, I've lived in Durham. A city I love profoundly.


Two years ago, though, my partner and I had to give up our apartment in south Durham, with its cool location across the street from the gelato place and around the corner from our local coffeeshop and easy driving distance to downtown Durham and Chapel Hill and even Raleigh, if we wanted to go to Raleigh (we rarely want to go to Raleigh). The stars were in alignment, the time was right, and we bought a house. Our house is technically in Durham County but just ouside the city, not too far from anything, but not too close to anything, either, and what it is close to is two public schools and two small strip-malls – really, they're too small to be called malls, but strips of stores – that are pretty desperately downmarket. It's just outside the Durham city limits, but it's a very Real America neighborhood – quiet, slightly shabby, working class, keeps itself to itself. I expect it to be very different in ten or twenty years, as the city spreads outward, but right now, it is what Durham would be without Duke money and without millennials, which is to say, it feels like an old neighborhood in more ways than one.


A few streets over, on the other side of the high school, there's this BBQ place. It's a busted-up old place, a renovated house with a gravel parking lot, a window air conditioner that barely works, and a rickety ceiling fan. The menu is just printed sheets of paper stuck in the kind of plastic sleeves you put in three-ring binders, one set taped up over the kitchen window, one set on the counter. In a city that prides itself on being The Foodiest Small Town in America (as selected by people who live in the kind of places that consider a city of a quarter million people to be a small town), it will never be written up approvingly by food critics. It's various kinds of meat, smoked or fried, on white buns or on a platter with the usual sides. It's closed on weekends, and after 7 pm. It's mostly kept alive by the breakfast and lunch business of Real Americans still caked with the grime of the Real American manual labor they're taking a break from. The girl who's always working the counter is white. The guys in the kitchen are all black. The people eating there off the checkered vinyl tablecloths are usually about half and half. It's greasy as fuck, and a weird place for a vegetarian to frequent, but I love their pimento cheese and their onion rings are the fucking best I've ever had. I eat there about once a week. It's by no means the best BBQ in Durham, but it's The Place Near Me, the one up the road, around the corner from the high school, the one where people always ask me what I'm reading, not because they want anything, but because they're Southerners and they haven't yet fully internalized the new laws about not talking to your neighbors.


So today I was thinking about this Wong piece, and I took my tablet with the e-book I'm reading about food justice, and I went to eat at this BBQ shack next to a junkyard on a back road out of Durham. About halfway through my meal, a white family came in – parents probably in their early 60s, a son in his mid 30s. They asked someone else directions to a nearby nursing home, so I'm guessing they were in from out of town to visit Grandma. Dad and son went into the back to order; Mom sat down at the table next to me. This was as straight-up a Real American family as you could get, all of them wearing plain colored t-shirts, the men with trucker hats, Southern accents so heavy you could beat down a door with them.


“Where do they post the sanitation score here?” Mom asked me while she was waiting alone at the table. I couldn't tell if she was joking or not – I think she was joking-not-joking. I laughed and said I wasn't sure, but I ate here a lot and I was okay. “We just saw this place on the internet,” she said. “The reviews were good.” I told her it was a good place. I went back to my book, and tuned the world out a bit until I was ready to go.


They had their food by then, and they were all eating in somewhat strained silence. I might not have noticed or thought about them again if I hadn't heard the son say, “That first debate scared me, though.”


“Let's not talk about politics,” his father said grimly, and they went back to silence. I was clearing off my table by this point, and I figured with that line of conversation shut down, I'd never learn why this was not a family that talked politics for fun.


“I just think he could really make the country into a mess,” the son finally said.


“The country isn't already a mess?” said his father.


After a few beats of silence, the son said, “Lot of that goes back to George Bush. The oil, the gas-- “


“Let's not talk about politics,” his father said. And as far as I could tell they didn't anymore, or at least not til I was out the door.


Mom never said anything. I suspect by now she'd learned it was a waste of energy to interfere.


I come from a Real American family. My parents were born in the first two years of the Boom, right after the war. My mother's parents were college educated – her father on the GI Bill after fighting in the South Pacific, her mother decades later when her kids were grown and she decided she wanted to be a teacher in the second half of her life. My father's parents were not; his father left an abusive home in the Ozarks at 13 to try his luck in the world and ended up entering the new mid-century middle class as a traveling insurance salesman, his mother was a housewife from an immigrant family who worked on the railroad, back when that was a career you could have. When I was growing up, the extended family on both sides was a mixed bag of people who'd made it into the American Dream – not wealthy, but safely employed and homeowners – and people who still lived on the family farm. My parents went to college in the early 60s; my father became a preacher and my mother an elementary school teacher, careers they had their entire lives until retirement with pensions. I grew up in a university town, only 60,000 people, but with the kind of culture a big reasearch institution develops, with lots of theater and art and international food. I'm sometimes accused, here in the South, of being Not From Around Here and bringing in my funny liberal ideas from Elsewhere, which I always find hilarious, because, sure, it's true, I'm from the socialist paradise of central Missouri – but there's the slightest grain of truth to it, in that all Red State college towns are oddball little bastions of Blue State culture. So I had that advantage, but for the most part, I belong culturally and historically to a highly pure strain of solid, German Protestant stock, midwestern churchgoers, stay-at-home sorts, a family who raised me no more than a hundred or so miles from the location of every family story we knew. And a family of Democrats.


My people were working folk, and on both sides they were New Deal Democrats, fiercely pro-working class and pro-union. My grandparents, born between 1907 and sometime in the early 20s, doubtless did have their prejudices and resentments, some of them more than others (my paternal grandmother was particularly open to change and free-spirited; my maternal grandmother was particularly...not as much), but they were not among those who abandoned the Democrats over Civil Rights. Their politics were largely Kennedy-esque, and fully anti-segregation. They were certainly of their times, but none of them were Archie Bunker types; in their limited, small-town, midwestern way, they were patriots and boundless optimists who believed America was getting more fair-minded over the years, and envisioned a future history that would go on that way into infinity – Roddenberry Democrats, if you like. They were puzzled and not wholly approving of the youth culture of the 60s, which they saw as decadent, but they felt the same way about the “conservative” Reagan yuppies; they were Depression-era people who didn't understand why people didn't value modesty, hard work, and simple pleasures anymore, but I never really saw any of them express anger about it, and certainly no sense of personal aggrievement or persecution. The world changed, and if maybe someone grumped sometimes about how there was too much sex in the movies these days, they were mostly not just resigned but pleased that the world was changing. On a fundamental level, they believed it was supposed to.


David Wong defends his Real American friends and family with passion and eloquence, and I don't take issue with anything his article says, really. What I did find troubling about it was the sense of fatedness: that people in Red America will naturally grow into Trumpists, that he would certainly have been one himself, if he hadn't moved to Blue America and been re-educated by Blue Americans. He left home and he learned better, and now we must understand that not everyone can leave home, and not everyone will learn better. He finesses that a little more than I just did, but at rock bottom, that's what he's saying.


But ultimately, as much as I appreciate that people are born into systems that shape them and build the narratives they live under, I balk at the determinism of it all. Yes, my family was able to be happy and successful and open to change as they were because they lived at the height of American wealth and security. Yes, people's lives now are in many ways more marginal and the future more frightening, in those parts of the country where I come from, and where I live now. But the answer to that can't be, “you have to expect fascism, from people who don't have the Advantages of city living.” The answer can't be that, because I refuse to believe my “way of life,” the culture and the world I come from, is impossible to maintain.


Yes, cities are always the vanguard of change and progress, because they're where things and people meet and combine and create new things and new kinds of people. That's always been the case. But there's a Red State way of life that isn't toxic and violent. There's a kind of traditionalism that used to understand that rich, gaudy playboys who cheated their workers were villains, not heroes, and that loyalty and decency and fair-mindedness mattered, and most importantly, that you don't fucking throw bricks through America's windows. Part of the reason I like Hillary Clinton so much is that when she talks or writes about her working-class Illinois family, I see my working-class Missouri one. She was raised Republican, of course, but I think her parents and my grandparents come from a time when there was far less polarization, and midwestern working-class values were more alike than different between party lines. She certainly grew up to have politics almost identical to my parents' politics, and while people seem to assume Wellesley somehow did that to her, the truth is that my parents came to the same place attending college in Warrensburg, Missouri. I think it's not simply a matter of escaping the backwardness of middle America and turning into East Coast Elites. I think the causality runs just as much the other way; I meet a lot of people just like myself here in Durham, people who became liberals in Red America and moved to cities because of that, not moved to cities that then taught us how to be proper liberals.


I hate the devastation our economy has created in rural and small-town America; I think it has many causes, some of which were probably inevitable and some of which weren't. I hate that towns like the ones my parents and grandparents grew up in can no longer sustain the kind of lives my parents and grandparents valued, good and honorable lives, lives that value children and education, lives that produce people who are secure enough in their ability to stay afloat that they can afford to be curious about the world and care about people other than themselves. I know it's easy to say, Democrats and Republicans abandoned these people, Democrats and Republicans are to blame. It's easy to say, and it's not devoid of truth. It's so easy to hate politics for failing us, even though I suspect a lot of what we punish politicians for is their inability to do the impossible. The urbanization of the economy is global, and it's a necessary feature of the world we say we want, the world we vote for with our money every single day.


But while the 20th century isn't the Era of American Greatness that we need to rewind back into, I think it's also wrong to say that only the cutting-edge values of the cities can save us from the regressive nightmare of the rural past. I know some of the fun of Captain America fandom right now is the opportunity for people to discover or rediscover a lineage of American progressivism, to tell us that we come from somewhere, that there were people before us who believed in what we believe in. But I'm not a Steve Rogers progressive; I'm a Clark Kent progressive. I have a lineage and a tradition and a way of life, too, and while it was forged in a different time, I don't think we have to betray and abandon it just because the world got harder. If you abandon your beliefs because they got hard, who are you? How can you seriously argue that you've earned the right to run the place?


When we watched the Democratic National Convention, I know there were a lot of people who saw it in strategic terms – that the Democrats were trying to pave the way for more Republicans to come over, that they were stealing Republican thunder by stealing their talking points. I heard lots of comments from both parties along the lines of “That was the convention that Republicans would normally run.” But to me it didn't feel like bipartisanship; it felt like seeing my home, my people, my tradition for the first time in a long time – hell, maybe for the first time since Roseanne went off the air. A homey, practical, honest kind of liberalism, a corny, true-believing one that cares about families and fairness and all that Smallville stuff, that believes life doesn't have to be as hard as it is, that we can make it better for each other, that we don't have to be cruel or frightened or suspicious, because hard times come and we get through it.


I think a lot of us come from that; one way or another, that's the tradition I think the guy I listened to at the BBQ place was speaking out of. Hey, we don't have to throw bricks; there are other ways; just because America has problems, it actually isn't okay to say, hey, fuck it, burn it down. Trump and his people are saying exactly that. He's running on, Everything sucks, fuck it all, I'll rebuild it my way. Even out here in the Red State parts of our red states and our blue ones, not everyone is like this. Not everyone reacts to hard times with this kind of rage, and I think the prevalence of it isn't circumstance, but design. There has been a concerted effort for thirty years now to pour resentment and fury down the throats of Real Americans, and of course the history of that has been told and is being told. It's going to be hard to undo all that, but I think we can at least start by getting rid of this framing device that says that backwardness and hate are the normal and natural state of people who weren't lucky enough to get good jobs and move to the city. It's not normal or natural. It's not inevitable. It's not universal.


And it won't be cured by treating Blue State people like they're all sheltered trust-fund assholes who need to have Real America explained to them – as though there aren't plenty of liberals exactly like Wong, who already know this because they lived it. He writes as if he's translating between two unconnected civilizations, and only he speaks both languages. And he lives in Los Angeles, what do I know about Los Angeles, maybe that's the case in his circles. But the country contains millions of liberals who grew up outside of cities, who have family and friends outside of cities, who aren't by any means speaking about an alien planet when they speak about Republicans. The problem is not, by and large, like we've never met the right-leaning segments of the population. Solving the problem is not going to be about introducing us like we're strangers.


I don't know how to fix things, but I know what won't work. Hoping the 20th century reverses itself and brings steel mills back to Ohio won't work. As Wong says, calling people ignorant savages won't work. The battle for the soul of Red America has to be fought from the inside; it has to be guys like the one I sat beside today, who keep quietly talking sense to people in his life, who keep saying, This is the wrong way, let's not go down this road, it's not too late to go back. And I think it has to be fought from a position that respects the terms of the argument: that there is such a thing as a way of life, that there is value in having roots, that the American Way matters – and that defending the American Way means something very much like what Democrats are offering, and nothing at all like what Republicans are offering. Our narratives and our mythology are, for humans, more powerful than almost anything, and with the best of intentions, what Wong does in this article is reinforce what I think is exactly the wrong mythology.


Smallville matters. And Jonathan Kent wasn't a worse person than his son just because he stayed there his whole life. Bedford Falls matters. Lanford, Illinois matters. These places aren't better or worse than Brooklyn by nature; I mean, they are now, but they don't have to be. If we can't create a world where we have better advice for people who are struggling than “Move out of your shitty town to my awesome city,” then we can't claim to have anything figured out beyond “The more people are like me, the better off they'll be,” which is exactly the mindset we say we oppose on the left.


I think I'm rambling now, but thanks for reading all the way through, if you did.



hth: recent b&w photo of Gillian Anderson (Default)
 Look, I'm pretty into politics, but I'm largely not into arguing about politics on the internet.  It doesn't bring out my best self, and it definitely doesn't help me live my, as the kids say, Best Life.  So this is my one and only public statement on why I'm not really much of Bernie person, really just to get it off my chest and not because I think anyone's mind is going to be changed.

First of all, some of my best friends are Feeling the Bern.  Hell, most of them are.  My partner is very much in the bag for him, and it annoys her to no end that I once was and have pretty much changed my mind entirely at this point; we can discuss it civilly for about 3 minutes at this point, and then we either have to change the subject or settle in for a fight.  So believe me, I'm not unaware of the glories of the Way of Bernie, nor am I saying these things to somehow spite Bernie stans.  So there you go; I think Bernie supporters are making an unwise decision, but I have nothing against them as people, by any means.  And I'm actually glad he's running: I think the democratic process *needs* hard-fought primaries.  We'll come back to my love of primaries in a minute, actually.

On the issues, I pretty much agree entirely with Bernie Sanders.  But here's the thing: I don't really care about that so much, and it's not because I'm a cynical party stooge who hates hope and progress and likes to keep my goals nice and low.  It's really just that I think the job of President of the entire goddamn nation is not solely, or even mostly, about being the Person Who's Most Right About Stuff.  You know who else I agree with pretty much entirely all the time?  ME.  Would I vote for me for President?  OH, GOOD CHRIST, NO, never ever, and nor should anyone else.  I'm not qualified.  I'd be bad at the job.  Because it's not just about being right about stuff, and it absolutely is about having the skills the job requires.  To get stuff done.

People talk about this a lot -- who can Get Stuff Done, and how much that matters.  I think the conversation gets a little confused because a lot of us who support Hillary for the nomination are squeamish about saying exactly what we mean.  The thing is, it's not about who can create some kind of imaginary bipartisan/"moderate" support for bipartisan/"moderate" policy platforms.  Guys, we've been doing that for 8 years, and it doesn't work very well and we know it.  Year by year, Congress does less and less, and it's a deliberate work slow-down so that Republicans can go forth and run on how "ineffective" Democrats are.  We know this.  It's going to be the same no matter which Democrat takes office.  A Democrat could win with 70% of the vote, they could beat Ted Cruz's ass like he's the rotting corpse of Walter Mondale, and no Republican will ever believe there's a mandate for the Democratic agenda.

Okay, so here's where the Bernie supporters usually say "fine, so if a more moderate agenda doesn't win any friends, why shouldn't we do what the Republicans do and throw some real red meat to the base, so at least we have a strong voting block among progressives and especially young progressives?  That's how the Republican party got driven right, so there's no reason we can't do the same thing and drive the Democratic party left."  Sound theory.  Wrong for one big reason.

The reason Bernie would be a *less effectual* President than Hillary isn't that Republicans hate socialists.  Republicans hate everyone, it's their mission in life.  We're writing them off right now.  The reason is -- and I really feel like this hasn't been discussed enough out of a misguided sense of diplomacy -- DEMOCRATS DON'T LIKE HIM.  And I mean the party, not Twitter.  I mean -- gasp! -- The Establishment.

I know, I know, we all hate The Establishment.  The fact that they don't like him is Bernie's big selling point!  Because they're bad and corrupt and wrong about stuff, and they're scared that Bernie is going to clean house.   This is the exact wave that Bernie is riding, and in that sense he resembles no one as much as (God help me) Donald Trump.  The entire Republican Establishment has come out and said "do not under any circumstances elect this man, we hate him and everything about him," and voters are hearing that right now as "Trump's got 'em on the ropes now!" because Republican voters hate their party as much as Democratic voters hate ours.  Yes, Bernie is better qualified and a better human being than Trump (by magnitudes of magnitudes), but essentially the dynamic is the same.  "Nobody else in the entire party likes or wants to support this guy?  That's good enough for me!"

Stop this.  Stop this right now.  This is sheerest insanity.  When President Bernie Sanders gets to Washington, he's going to face an obstructionist Republican party, *and also* the very same people he spent his entire campaign yelling about being corrupt and ineffectual.  He's been in the Senate for 40 years and he has like two fucking endorsements.  They don't want him to run, they don't want him to win, they don't support him and *they don't like him.*  It doesn't matter if he's right and they're wrong.  Like any profession, politics is about relationships.  Like *any human endeavor,* politics is about relationships.  People will go out of their way for you if they think you're a friend and you'll do the same for them, if they relate to you, if you're one of their own.  Otherwise they'll do the bare minimum required.

This is what the Bernie Sanders Generation is not grasping, in my opinion, about politics.  The system is designed -- thankfully! -- to make it impossible for one fluke election to change much of anything.  The 20th century saw two Presidents who were "transformative" -- FDR and Reagan, and what people don't realize is that they weren't catalysts of anything.  They were the end-point.  Roosevelt had the power to do what he did because of *decades* of labor activism, which included actual facts shooting and dying, and he also had the power of the absolute terror the plutocrats of his era were feeling in the wake of particularly the Russian Revolution, a genuine fear that these crazy poor people who didn't even seem to mind getting gunned down would literally overthrow the government.  Nothing at this moment is analagous in the US.  The Reagan Revolution was less dramatic in many ways, but it sure as hell wasn't about Reagan, who was just an old, grandfatherly weirdo who was medically incompetent for most of his presidency.  He was a symbol and a rallying point for an organized and effective bloc of anti-Communist and anti-Great Society and anti-Civil Rights forces who played the fucking smartest politics of the century when they spent their energy packing courts and school boards and state legislatures during elections no one gave a shit about.

Bernie Sanders is only an effective President on the back of the Bernie Sanders Revolution.  And guys, I'm sorry, but that Revolution -- which I want! like lots of people want it! -- will take time.  Will take years.  Will involve coalition-building and stacking lower offices, then eventually stacking Congress.  The party as it is, right now, hates Bernie as much as he hates them.  He's spent decades as an independent, making no effort to come out and campaign for Democrats, making no effort to show that he's part of the same team -- he literally *hasn't been* on the same team until this very minute, when he decided that Independent was good enough for Vermont but *now* he needs the DNC's money and megaphone to promote his candidacy, so *now* he wants the Democratic nomination, so he can rally a base to agree with him that the Democrats suck.  OF COURSE THEY HATE HIM.  Why in God's name wouldn't they?

So right now, with the Congress we have, with the state governments we have, he's useless.  You don't start a fucking political movement from the top!  Come on!  That's not how this happens.  I get the Bernie hard-sell a lot in my very liberal urban enclave of North Carolina.  I admire the passion, but guess what, there's also a Senate race happening on that same primary ballot!  And not a goddamn one of the kids who want to proselytize to me about the Bernie Revolution and how "excitement" for him is going to get young people to the polls can tell me which of the four Democratic candidates for the Senate they support. 

It's a simple question.  When all these excited young people come out in 5 weeks, which of these four candidates is going to *help Bernie* enact his revolutionary agenda?  Because I'd think you'd want to punch a card for that person, too, but nobody seems to know who they support for that.  I guess they're not "excited" about the Senate race.  Christ, we have a disastrous Republican governor in this state, and no one from the Bernie Generation seems too "excited" about the gubernatorial primary, either.  That should matter a fucking lot!  Remember that Medicaid expansion that wasn't, because it got scotched on the state level for political reasons?  The federal government can't operate effectively without state buy-in, so we can't just flip the Senate and ignore our reactionary state governments.

This is why I don't trust or believe in the Bernie Revolution.  These kids aren't going to *keep showing up.*  They're not going to roll up their sleeves and campaign for Deborah Ross.  (Who?  She's who I like for the Senate seat.)  They're not going to get smart about the importance of flipping local Sheriff races and judicial races and learn who has whose back on the state level, let alone in Congress.  You know who has the job of caring about all that?  The Establishment.

If progressives think we can do a better job, then okay!  But right now there's no evidence of that, and several years of evidence indicating that Millennial voters don't turn out for half-time elections, *let alone* for primaries.  It's all "we don't do it because the party sucks!" and zero acknowledgment that if the party sucks, you *flip the party.*  Election after election. Year after year.  You find the progressive candidates.  You raise money for them, you hammer your Facebook friends with their names, you fucking *vote for them.*   You drive established politicians left because you actually give them something to be scared of by saying "be our friends on this issue, or we will make your re-election hell."  An off-season local election can *absolutely* be flipped by a couple hundred passionate voters.  Conservatives do it all the time.  *They* show the fuck up, every election, every single time, and they know who they support, and they hold their elected officials' feet to the fire with real-world consequences.  Progressives don't.  Want to start?  Great, start!  Start now, start immediately!  But don't think you're going to start with the fucking Presidency, because I really hope you learned in civics class that it doesn't work like that.  Presidents don't go it alone, and right now you're setting Bernie up to potentially win a presidency and have to go it alone.

That will be a monumental disaster.  I can't even express how damaging that would be to the party in the long run.  And no matter how much you hate the party (and I feel you on that), it's insane to think that if you show a progressive President unable to get any traction with his own party, you'll somehow be proving the righteousness of progressivism.  You'll be proving that it's toothless, because right now it essentially is.

Someday we get our progressive President.  The person is out there right now, in the DA's office or working in the Department of Labor or thinking about running for the school board.  *Find that person.*  Back their candidacy hard for city council or Attorney General.  Bernie Sanders is a crotchety old weirdo who doesn't appear to like anyone, but somewhere out there is your RL Leslie Knope, who's winning and charming and passionate about all your favorite issues, and that person needs this so-very-excited generation's help to get established.  In ten years that person runs for Congress.  In twenty for the presidency.  If you don't want that person to win the old-fashioned way, through PACs and corporate donations and relationships with the party elite, great, give them a second option.  Make sure they know they owe it to the base, and make sure they're coming up through the system surrounded by colleagues and allies who also owe it to the base.

But it can't be in 2016.  The work hasn't been done yet, and tipping one election -- if Bernie supporters can manage it, which I honestly hope to God they can't -- doesn't constitute the work, not if everyone still knows that his supporters won't show up for any other candidates, not this year or next year, not for another four years.  Elect him now, and you're stranding him completely helpless in the middle of a system that is designed to resist structural change and surrounded by people he's insulted and alienated.  He's had a great Senate career.  He's a great Senator.  I beg of you not to do this to him.  This is not how he deserves to go down in history.

Okay, that's it.  I don't have a lot more to say about the 2016 primaries.  Please vote.  Please vote every single time, forever and always, until you die.   Too many people *did* die to get us to universal suffrage, and the Other Guys are still trying to roll it back, because they know that if every single person in this country really cared about politics and really participated and voted every single time, they would never, ever win another election until the heat death of the universe.
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So last week I saw The Maze Runner. I skipped it when it first came out, because it was another one of those dystopian YA books I hadn't read starring some guy from the CW or something that I couldn't identify. But now I've seen it! And it was fine, but it started to get really good right at the end, which was handy for me, because I only had to wait a week to see Scorch Trials.

I've done that now, too. And I have some questions I'm hoping someone can help me with. (And no, the questions don't include "Why is Aiden Gillen even sexier as a sociopath in 2015 than he was as a mere narcissist in 1999?" I'm content to leave that as one of life's delightful little mysteries.)

Now, I realize the questions can be answered one of three ways:

1) This will all be explained in the third book/movie! Hang in there, kid!

2) There is absolutely no explanation. These books were probably written in five weeks to get in on the Hunger Games wave, and none of it really fits together. You only saw it for Dylan O'Brien anyway, so don't get greedy now.


If it's #2, so be it. If it's #3, great! Someone smarter than me, please catch me up in the comments! If it's #1, please be aware, I'm not looking for spoilers! You can just tell me, "It's #1," and I'll be happy, knowing that eventually everything's going to come together. I just hate waiting for things to come together if they're never going to. I want to know whether or not to abandon hope, is what I'm saying.

My Spoilerful Questions about Maze Runner )
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It's been an estimated 11ty Billion years since I've cared enough to watch a tv show as it aired, and I am fully enjoying this flashback to my misspent media-fan youth.  I've got beer and hummus!  I have figured out how to turn Dr. Roku's Magnificent Videotronic Machine back into a television!  Let's go, I'm ready!

Two hours and twenty minutes, you say?  Oh, broadcast television, you magnificent bastard.
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I've been a reader of the books for literally almost two decades now (wait, what? how is that possible? what even is time???), but I quit watching the show after the first season, due to various misgivings and some casting disgruntlement (NO, that is not Jamie, are you fucking kidding me with this? NO.) I think my Game of Thrones tag has one previous entry. I wasn't real happy then, either.

My decision not to make myself watch out of some weird sense of creator-loyalty has been handsomely repaid. Martin is fine; he doesn't need my support. I bought his books, so I think we're even-steven. I do, however, derive a weird pleasure from watching the rest of the internet lose its mind periodically over Game of Thrones. I recognize that is, at best, an eccentric hobby, but I can't stop. I *love* listening to other people bitch about this show that I don't even watch. Live for it.

So that being said, you can trust that I come from a place of some expertise in the field of frothing-mad-commentary-on-GoT when I tell you that this is probably history's best frothing-mad GoT mic drop -- and not even because the author agrees with me that Jason was the last thing on it that was fun to watch. It's just a crystalline thing of beauty in the scope and magnitude of its frustration and contempt. It is delicious. It is sublime. I want it tattooed across my back, Mad Max-style.

God, seriously. Fuck that show.
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Allow me one final opportunity to say how much I love Dr. Deaton. I like that he's a gentle, unassuming man of science who is also a fearless samurai druid, and that he's so perfectly composed and self-possessed that he's a tiny bit terrifying – even knowing enough by now to trust him completely, it's hard to shake the slight creep-factor that had us wondering if he was safe in season 1. I totally want to watch the TV Movie Event about his doomed love affair with Talia. I need to know so much more about that!


Although I think it's sweet that Derek's reaction to getting the money back is, “Don't be so hard on yourself, kiddo,” that does make the entire season's harping on money issues and the ongoing drama of the stolen bearer bonds end a little anti-climactically. Like, why was that there at all? I mean, in life things just happen sometimes, but someone obviously wanted that plot arc in this season, enough to bring it up in like five straight episodes before it just wraps up in...nothing, really. It feels a little like my time has been wasted with this now.


I hope when Derek goes away, they get to keep the loft as a permanent pack den/orgy site. Hey, he owns the place! He could leave them the keys! These kids' parents have been extremely cool; they deserve to be spared the discomfort of knowing their prematurely traumatized offspring are having the Healing Sex in their childhood bedrooms.


Aw. Poor Malia looked so disappointed that she can't even have special-occasion deer. If Stiles doesn't find somewhere in northern California that serves venison by their anniversary, I will have lost all respect for his boyfriend-fu.


So now Scott is Actaeon, which can I just say, I said in the very beginning that the operative metaphor for Scott's whole journey is that he's fundamentally a deer who is transformed into a wolf. I think you can excavate layers and layers out of Kate's choice of myth there, and the idea that Scott will end as the prey animal he was from the beginning, taken down by the hunting dogs that he controlled for a time. I really do find it fascinating how many ways s4 has found to retrace and revisit s1 – not just in obvious ways, like Kate and Peter reprising their roles as villains, but in setting up the resonances between Liam's fear and Scott's when he was a new wolf, in playing with the roles of hunter/hunted, following the blossoming of a new relationship for Scott, returning to school not just as a shooting location but as its own site of conflict and obstacles, academically and on the lacrosse field, and many other ways I'm now forgetting, I'm sure.


None of which is to say this is a very good episode, because it's really not. It has no real purpose other than as a bridge between the end of the Benefactor plotline and the end of the Kate plotline, because one thing this season has not replicated like I wish it had was that ability to bring disparate plotlines together in one big grand guignol of conflict and cross-purposes. Other than both of them being sort of connected to Peter (in ways that still aren't totally comprehensible to me), the two major strands of danger our gang faces never really have much intersection at all, let alone impact on each other.


The last scene is pretty fucking unsettling, though. We'll talk more about the purpose of Scott becoming a berserker tomorrow, when I try to make some thematic sense out of a seasons that exists in a non-Euclidian universe where cause and effect mean nothing!




s4 ep11: A Promise to the Dead )
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Aw, that's a really cute fake-out there with the werewolf diving down on the fallen girl to pick her up. I have no memory of this sequence, and in fact I lost the thread on a lot of the end of s4. I remember that Meredith is – not? – the Benefactor, or she is, but also Peter has more to do with it than you'd think? Or something? Let's find out!


I really love that the show has given us an Everyman character who really is an Everyman in Liam – someone who bucks protagonist logic by just really, really not wanting to fight monsters, and not in a hilarious comedy-relief Shaggy-and-Scooby way, but who is just scared to die and it's not played for laughs at all. And I love that Scott, who has had reason to grow accustomed to people joining in with his borderline idiotic stunts, is completely understanding about someone who just doesn't think he's up to it. Scott wouldn't be volunteering for this stuff now if he hadn't learned that he could do it after being forced the first few times; I bet he rightly suspects Liam would also grow into the role, but Scott's not going to be the one to force him.


Wait, have Scott and Satomi really not met til right now? She knows everyone else he knows. I guess I'm going to take their word on this, though, because I certainly can't keep track.


Okay, Chris just did a thing where he hit something in the face with his gun without looking at it, and I have a lot of feelings about that. Pants-feelings.


Yeah, so no wonder I couldn't figure out the Peter connection. It's pretty bizarre, even now that I'm totally awake. I mean, I think it's actually a pretty neat idea, that Meredith is acting out the rambling revenge fantasies that Peter doesn't even remember having, but it's still a little opaque, watching Lydia watch Meredith watch Peter's fugue state.


Right, so that whole “bullet between the eyes” bit that Stilinski is trying to pull off – this would be a great time to introduce him to our friend Braeden, who can explain why pointing a gun two inches from someone's face is a great way to lose your gun. I'm sure he feels really badass, but let's be real, the only reason Peter didn't take the gun and then eat his face off is that he doesn't really want to fight his way out of the station and then be a fugitive.


This is getting more incomprehensible by the moment. The dead pool is being disseminated by a bank of antique computers walled up inside Lydia's lakehouse? Has that been running since the room was built, or did it just get switched on this season? And the key is inside a bottle of wine that is...not wine, that is like the one that Lydia opened at the party – or is the same one, but then it would be already open, so... didn't she drink some of the wine, and I... What. The. Fuck. Is happening in this episode? What the actual fuck?


And unfortunately between the impenetrable reveals on the mystery plotline and the overkill on the gunfire in the fight scenes, the climax of the plotline about Scott's fears of turning into a monster gets a little lost in the shuffle. (Nice of those hired killers to check their messages in the middle of a shootout, though, so they could receive the Benefactor's status update.)


There is nothing about the resolution to this that makes the slightest bit of sense. I don't even know what else to add about that. I really thought this time I'd track all the pieces and figure out how they were connected, but nooooope.



s4 ep10: Monstrous )
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Okay, this opening scene is disturbing as fuck, even now that I know it's not the End of Parrish. I think I've mentioned before that I have a visceral reaction to people being forced to beg for their lives. And Parrish is just such a sweetie! It seems crueler than usual. Like setting kittens on fire.


Also, though, seriously, Haig? You're going to use your work computer to confess to murder? You're the worst on every possible level. Harris was a more competent villain than you, and I don't say that lightly.


He was shot at work! In the line of duty! He's got a government job! This surgery has to be covered, it's insane to think that it wouldn't be, even in America. But that's not the point of this scene, I realize. It's actually a really good scene, and I think it's been a long time coming, with Stiles being all over both sides of the line in terms of appropriate and wildly inappropriate responses to his self-imposed responsibility to be his father's new life partner. It's a sweet impulse, but also super dysfunctional, stemming from his deep-seated fear of abandonment and the way that meddling in other people's lives has become Stiles' response to what must have been a terrifying and traumatic sense of powerlessness as a child watching his mother's mind slip away. I'm not sure yelling at him is the way to fix that, but I totally relate to the Sheriff's feeling that this is fucked up and that he doesn't know what to do about it now.


I suppose the burden of the alpha is that every party is an opportunity to patrol the perimeter. I also love that Scott is the rare kid who is both trusted by teachers to maintain some degree of order and liked by his peers. You know you're a true alpha if you can make that balance work of your, I guess.


They've been waiting all season to set up that “How'd you break your nose?” joke for Braeden, haven't they?


This is your daily reminder that being Lydia is the worst. Seriously, just the absolute worst.


Oh, yeah, listen to Haig's advice. He's great at this.


Also, speaking of Haig (tangentially), I think it's pretty great that Brunski chose a very bad day to try psyching Parrish out. I mean, maybe that would've worked, under ordinary circumstances! But I feel like being set on fire by a co-worker and healing within hours would go a long way toward putting you into “oh, fuck this” mode.


Satisfying twist, I feel. Four stars, would startle again.


(Also, Parrish-able? Really? This show and its punny episode titles, oy.)


s4 ep9: Perishable )
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Excellent callback to/reminder that Stiles is a big liar about the spooning. This scene works well as a little metaphorical encapsulation of their relationship, jostling awkwardly to get comfortable, Malia a bit impatient, Stiles a bit overly fussy, but eventually settling into something that feels cozy.


I can't tell if it's an intentional parallel or not, but I find it interesting that McCall uses the same language the Argents do – of being without emotion, like Allison remembered Victoria saying during her “Frayed” freak-out, and of “compartmentalizing” in order to deal with death, which I'm fairly sure was the exact wording Chris used with Isaac. I really like how consistently they've run this through-line in the series about Scott's – I don't want to say “frailty,” because that sounds far more pejorative than I mean, but this gentleness to his character that keeps him at arm's length from most of the Older Male Role Models in his life – his father and Chris and Derek, all of whom are more traditional proponents of the whole “his anger makes him strong/dangerous” and “I'll do what I have to do” schools of action-heroing. Four seasons on and a pack of his own, Scott still isn't that guy, and it's interesting to watch him struggle with the fact that they don't have any advice he can really use to deal with his problems, so he's on his own.


Aw! I don't think I clicked when I first saw it that the doctor who “fails to resuscitate” Scott is Liam's stepdad, and I definitely didn't catch that he's almost in tears while he's rallying himself to tell Melissa. Does that guy have a name? I like him. (Also, is it just me, or does that flashing “Asystole” on the monitor look like a flashing red “Asshole” to other people?)


I was all geared up to be so pissed at all of them for not telling Melissa, but happily that turned out to be a waste of effort. I bet the whole thing was cathartic for Melissa, actually. She's been spending a whole year trying really hard not to just start screaming her head off, probably.


I am cribbing this observation from a friend who has older siblings, but she's so right: Derek's “You cheated! That's cheating!” is an extremely little-brother-in-a-big-family thing to say. How many thousand times do you think he's said that, in that exact tone of voice, to Peter alone?


Scott's nightmares are just Scott's nightmares, really, but I think he is probably onto something about the “becoming more of a werewolf.” I know the rules don't seem to be standardized in this universe, but the creature that Peter shifted into in s1 wasn't startling to the Argents, and the fact that they could easily visually distinguish between him and the betas implies that his form was a, if not the, recognizable alpha-form. Presumably Scott will continue to take an increasingly Wolfman-like shifted form, graduating from funny sideburns to whatever the hell that thing was as he levels up. Which I could see being even more than usually disturbing, since it would both disrupt his sense of his own humanity and on top of that, feel like a connection to Peter. And no one wants that.


I'm not an expert on guns, but I know enough to be pleased that they got this tactical advice right. Attention, people like my mother-in-law who insist on keeping a handgun in your purse for “protection”! Unless you plan on identifying a deadly threat while he's still across the street and taking a shot at him, you cannot use that gun to defend against an attacker, because it is not a close-range weapon! You will get beat down and get your gun took, as we say here in the South.


You know, Derek, it's really a sad commentary on your life that “amoral hired killer” is such a huge step up for you, but nevertheless, it is a huge step up for you. So congratulations on finally banging someone who's more likely to kill your enemies than your friends, marginally!


And once again, Stiles is the biggest fucking badass on this entire show, because he steps toward Kate. Toward. Just roll that around in your head for a bit.


Pretty good episode, all in all. I appreciate that one of the other ways this season has rolled back around to resembling s1 is that there's more Scott in it than 2 and 3. I mean, obviously he's around a lot in those seasons, but I feel like they didn't hinge very much on his conflicts and his choices; he serves as more of a rallying point for this dysfunctional extended family to crystallize around. But at this point he's back in the protagonist's role, coming at the same basic question of s1 from the position of an alpha instead of a child: what kind of werewolf is Scott going to be?


s4 ep8: Time of Death )
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So I've been watching this episode for like three minutes, and two things that I already knew are abundantly clear: Dylan O'Brien is an excellent actor. And Tyler Hoechlin is a dreadful actor. I mean...bless his heart, in certain scenes he manages himself all right, especially when he's acting opposite Bohen, with whom he seems to have a nice, kicky sort of rhythm that suits him. And when he's called upon to act as though he's sad, he can do puppy eyes all right, and his habitual lack of expression comes in handy when he's supposed to be suffering torture stoically. But “She's been shot! I think she's dying,” is a pair of lines that any mostly competent dinner-theater actor should be able to infuse with something like genuine fear and pathos. It doesn't call for any complexity or nuance or any special artistry; it's just “pretend you're super worried and you need someone's help.” And he just botches it so badly that it's almost hilarious, and then I feel bad for laughing at him, because I'm sure he's a lovely person and his mother is so proud that her son is a real actor getting paid to be on tv. I have seriously been at D&D tables where the quality of the acting was better, though. He's really just hopeless.


I try not to stress the timeline on this show too much, because I don't think the effort will pay dividends, but – isn't the core cast in the second semester of their junior year, though? Season 1 began with the new lacrosse season, which seems to happen spring semester, and Scott was a sophomore. Season 2 began immediately afterwards, more or less finishing out that semester. 301 begins when they head back to school, after Scott's summer of Be a Better Scott McCall, happens at a quick clip, and 302 begins just before Halloween – junior year. Season 4 begins with the lacrosse season again, and in fact they take the trouble to mention that Liam is new “this semester,” having transferred in, not entering with the rest of the freshmen class. So they are definitely hovering somewhere around spring break of the gang's junior year of high school, and unless things have changed a very great deal in the two centuries since I was in high school, that is when you take the actual SATs, not the PSATs. When do they plan to take the SATs, if not during their junior year? You apply to college with those scores, and most deadlines are coming up fast for them. Freshmen and sophomores take the PSATs; everyone else needs to start getting serious.


(Okay, I just bothered to Wikipedia this information, and it says that every year 1.59 million sophomores and 1.55 million juniors take the PSATs, rendering everything I just said entirely false and pointless. I'm leaving it in the recap for the sake of transparency, and so you experience a tiny slice of my everyday life, getting overly agitated about things that turn out not to be true at all. It's fun, right!? In fairness to me, I, like Lydia, definitely took it my freshman year, because I'm a genius.)


I really like that Malia takes school extremely seriously. I mean, it's probably not good for her, because she always looks like a huge ball of anxiety when tests and homework come up, but I do think it's sweet that she wants so badly to be able to keep up with her friends, and that she drives herself to do it. I don't know if she worries that they'll go to college and she won't be able to and she'll be left out, or if she feels like being successful at school will help resolve some of the tensions between her and her father (which we don't know much about, but “Echo House” happened, so yeah, there must be), or what. Maybe she's just embarrassed and worries people will think she's stupid because they don't understand why her grades are what they are. But I think it would be easy with that character to go with “Malia is tough and cool and doesn't really give a shit about all this boring mathy stuff,” and I like that they let her have so much vulnerability around it.


So Ms. Martin is awesome, and that's why she's close enough pals with Finstock to know he's fifteen years sober, I totally get that. I do think it's interesting that he's apparently in recovery, given that he's frequently said things like, “This is why I drink every night” and the like. I wonder if he and Douglas Richardson attend the same AA meetings, where they sit around and don't drink but insist that they do.


Holland Roden is also a good actor, and I know I've said this before, but damn, being Lydia is the worst. I really hope something nice happens to this character at some point in the future. Like, at all, ever.


I realize Kira thinks Malia is onto the truth about her and Peter, but she really, really looks like she thinks Malia is trying to tell her Scott and Stiles are having an affair. And of the two things, Malia is far more likely to guess the latter than the former, just based on evidence.


The Hale house had an escape route? Stellar design job on that. I hope Laura was living all those years on the money she won from their contractor in the lawsuit. (I would've said Derek, but it's clear from having met Derek that he was living all those years under an overpass without human contact.)


Sell the house! Jesus, Melissa, sell the stupid house, it's too big for you!


Look, I'm just going to go ahead and admit this now: this episode really worked on me. I mean, I knew that nobody was going to die in that vault. Obviously. But they all looked so miserable and weak and uncomfortable, and there was an instrumental theme playing when Stiles and Malia's fingers pulled apart, and the whole thing just felt drenched in despair, and – I wouldn't say I was worried, but.... Fretting. Let's say I was fretting a little.


I mean, I did realize they were going to be saved, but I underestimated the sheer dumbness of the unbelievable, accidental way they got saved. Someone mentioned a mushroom for no real reason, which is a “remedy for sickness,” which explains her immunity, which is great because there's a bunch of mushroom in the dusty vault that no one ever goes into! Problem solved! Look, I know all shows need to grease the wheels with a little uncanny coincidence now and then, but this is just beyond.


Okay, though, I ain't mad. It's ridiculous, but I still treasure this episode, because it is my pick of the litter for Sciles-shippy deliciousness. Of course Stiles is going to take a bullet in the face rather than give up Scott! Oh, sure, you say, also his girlfriend and his other friend, so okay, you can have that one if you must. But come on! The other scene! With the door! With both of them plastered up against opposite sides of the door, and Stiles just completely freaks out shouting Scott's name and batters himself against the stone wall until he falls down in despair, and if this is not the exact shit that you live for, then you and I clearly just do fandom very, very differently. And then there's lilting piano music while they shuffle around on the ground, both still all sickly and full of feelings. Whatever, they could've solved this plot by having Kang and Kodos beam the antidote into the vault in the form of a mountain of cotton candy and I wouldn't give a shit, THIS. EPISODE. OMG.


It's also convenient that the mushrooms are effective in airborne form, because I can only imagine it would've been unpleasant for our heroes to have to swallow all that glass while blindly eating decade-old bits of dried mushroom off the dirty floor.


It seems to me like they've rushed this Malia revelation a little, or her reaction to it, or something. Seeing her name written as a Hale should be – mostly confusing, right? I guess she definitely knows that they knew something was up and hid it from her deliberately, but that still seems more like grounds for, “Guys, seriously, what the fuck?” rather than “You are all dead to me.” It's not like she knows it is specifically Peter, which admittedly, is terrible and traumatic news. But the Hales were a big family, seventeen years ago, she could be related any number of ways. Or it could've been some kind of mistake! I just feel like she'd be interested in answers, and it's played like she suddenly understands everything, because she saw a thing typed. It's another good song, though, and I enjoy a slow-motion angry-walk as much as the next person.


s4 ep7: Weaponized )
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So I'm catching up on my I09 Morning Spoilers, and on Monday they had these not-very-spoilery spoilers.  Reproduced here with minimal but highly authoritative comment.

  • Long-suffering Lydia fans, especially those lamenting the scene-stealer’s lack of meaty material in seasons past, will love what the premiere has in store for everyone’s favorite banshee.
Sounds good!
  • At least one new ‘ship will likely be born when fans watch the premiere — while another existing ‘ship will get some much needed wind in its sails.
  • Derek may be gone, but he’ll never be forgotten. He of the Legendary Eyebrows is mentioned several times throughout the premiere, along with another fallen favorite.
  • Cody Christian fits effortlessly into the world of Teen Wolf, though it’s unlikely your final opinion of his new character will be formed by the end of the hour.
  • Lastly, as always, pray for Stiles.
CHALL-- Wait, what?  That's...ominous.  Was I supposed to be praying for him all this time?  I've fallen down on that responsibility, I'm afraid.  I'm a polytheist, so I'm not even entirely sure who I'm supposed to be petitioning, here.  Athena,maybe? She liked Odysseus quite well, and Stiles is rather Odyssean.  Acca Larentia?  Chernobog?  How about Tyr?  There's a man who isn't afraid to hang with wolves.

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I enjoy having Kate back again. I don't like Kate in the same way I liked Jennifer – the way where I kind of actually liked her and harbored the hope that she'd be to some degree rehabilitated a la Peter Hale, rather than killed off – but I like her as a big, showboaty villain. She's a sadist and a sociopath, but some seasons, you're kind of looking for that. Not that I don't appreciate that weird Teen Wolf dynamic where the same guy who is shoving a gun into Scott's forehead later on becomes a beloved father figure, but it's nice to just take some time out from that kind of thing occasionally and just embrace Kate “Please, I'm bleeding to death” Argent.


So this may sound a little harsh, but I don't mean it to be at all judgmental, really. I just find it difficult to get super worked-up about Melissa's financial problems, because there's a pretty simple solution to this: sell the fucking house. That house is huge. It's vastly more square footage than a single woman with a nearly-grown son about to leave home could ever possibly need. Sell the house. Get an apartment. Pay off the debts, take the money that's now left over from not having to pay a giant-ass mortgage and outrageous utility costs, and use it to help your kid get out of college without a small nation's worth of debt. I realize that it's usually flippant and just a really bad idea to look at someone else's financial situation and be like, “That would never be a problem for me, because...” But. Is she really planning on keeping that house once she's alone in it? It's a huge house. She and Scott are both gone a lot; I feel like a nice two- or even three-bedroom apartment would be more than enough space for their needs. Presumably she feels an emotional attachment to it; it's the house Scott grew up in, it's probably the house she and her husband bought together during happier days, etcetera. I'm not discounting that there would be sadness involved with giving it up, but I honestly can't fathom that working constantly and still having months of bills piled up that you can't pay would ever feel better than just closing the book on that part of your life when you were a young family and moving on to something that meets your needs now.


This is an extremely quip-heavy episode. Malia guilelessly offering to try catching her friends' scent to help with roll call, Parrish briefly concerned that someone would try to assassinate him for five bucks, Lydia stressing that she only almost broke another banshee, Stiles' radiant delight at learning some shit about Brunski. The dead pool plotline isn't all that enthralling, but it provides a serviceable framework to hang jokes on, and I'm easy to please.


How do the berserkers not leave tracks, by the way? It seems like they'd be really heavy, with all that exoskeleton.


I find Satomi's pack really interesting in its implications. It's hard to see, but it looks like about eight dead bodies in the woods, plus Demarco and Carrie and Brett – so we're talking about twice the size of any of the three packs we've seen until now. We know they've been trained for control by the mantra method, only superficially different from the one Talia Hale used, and we know that they shared Satomi's ability to mask their scent. They're not new in town by any means; Scott knew Demarco, and Liam knew Brett, so they've been around long enough to have established histories in Beacon Hills. We know Satomi was in the area as a prisoner at Oak Creek, and there's every possibility that she never left, which means her pack was so flawlessly concealed that even the Hales were never aware of them. I don't know, it's just really interesting to me! All this sturm und drang has been going on for two years now, and here are these ten or twelve quiet Buddhist werewolves, minding their own business, never making themselves a target for Deucalion or for the Argents, peacefully congregating in the woods like an entire alternate universe from the non-stop gore and vendettas that have made Scott's life a tsunami of PTSD.


I realize that “I'm going to save everyone” is the kind of moment you can only have when you're a teenager or you are the lead on a tv show, but that's exactly why being young is kind of great and fiction is kind of great. There are types of realism that I value in fiction. I really hate it, for example, when you say, Well, why didn't the character just do X obvious thing, and someone responds, Because if they did that, there wouldn't be a story. Well, then it's a shitty story! Tell a different one, less full of stupid people! But there are types of realism that I think the world really just doesn't need any more of, like pretty much any type of fantasy fiction that's floating around now patting itself on the back for how grown-up and realistic it is. We know. We know power replicates power, people are endlessly inventive when it comes to ways and reasons to ruin each other, no one ever really saves anyone else, and our anger and our sadness are the poisons we drink hoping to make our enemies sick. We're all grown-ups; we know. And there's really nothing more futile than talented people frittering away their talent preaching to the choir, telling their audience everything they already know and congratulating everyone involved on being so clever. That is a recipe for a shitty story, too.


If you happen to have talent yourself, I humbly ask this of you as a favor: tell a less shitty story, one we don't already hear every day. Tell us one where no one else dies.


s4 ep6: Orphaned )
hth: recent b&w photo of Gillian Anderson (Default)
I will be finished with this after midnight!  I might even sober up beforehand!

UPDATE: I never sobered up.
hth: recent b&w photo of Gillian Anderson (Default)

I don't know if there's any way to deliver “Someone young. And male,” without sounding like a creepster, but if there is, Derek is not finding it.


The whole first act of this episode is just fantastic; I can't say enough nice things about it. It's great to see Our Heroes put back out of their depth – and I know earlier I said it was great to see them getting more competent, but that's the thing this show is getting right that so many others get wrong. It's great to get your characters all wrong-footed, but you do that by giving them something legitimately new to deal with, not by making them spontaneously suck at things they appeared to have gotten a handle on a season ago.


This sequence with Liam is just so praiseworthy. It's played for a certain amount of humor, but it's just fucked-up enough to make you feel bad for laughing, because holy fuck, they have a fucking child kidnapped and duct-taped in the bathtub. But really you're laughing in pure shock, because it's such a Coen-brothers level clusterfuck, and everyone is disintegrating rapidly to their worst possible habits: Stiles is running off at the mouth, Scott is too squeamish to take charge, and Liam is a fucking child. It's so startling when he begins to cry because you never see a character you're meant to like on tv crying from fear, and then suddenly you realize how weird that expectation even is, because this is totally something to cry about. And then the world's goofiest chase scene ensues, which really should not work, but it just does.


I didn't remember Peter taking a pickaxe to the sternum! So that was a fun surprise.


Kira's dad the World War II buff is probably pretty embarrassed that his daughter thinks the Enigma Code was an Allied code. Did nobody on this staff see The Imitation Game? Of course, to extend the benefit of the doubt, she does say the Allies “used” it, not that they invented it, which I guess is sort of true.


I don't think I have laughed harder at anything in this entire series than I did at Scott's shitty Derek impression on “We're brothers now,” and “The bite is a gift!” And Stiles' dismay watching him fail is also pretty priceless, although it's awfully rich coming from Mr. “Possibly You Won't Die.”


I bow to the humor value of Kira failing to be a vixen, but I can't quite understand why we're supposed to think Liam was instantly entranced by her. Don't get it twisted, Arden Cho is a knockout, but...that's exactly what she always looks like, right? I mean, she's in a pretty modest blouse, a miniskirt, and sheer tights. This school is full of girls who wear miniskirts. Lydia hasn't been able to pick anything up off the floor since the ninth grade. Can Liam hear the music? Is that how he knows he's supposed to look?


I like Derek's dubiousness on “How does a guy with no mouth say anything?” Um, WITH FUCKING MAGIC, Derek? Where the hell are you from?


I don't suppose it's worthwhile to ask why it's full dark and neither Liam nor Malia are showing significant signs of wilding yet. Didn't it used to happen at sunset? Lalalala.


Okay, there's a moment here that I think is very easy to miss, and if you've missed it, I want to encourage you to dial this episode up just to watch it. When Stiles is trying to get Malia downstairs and telling Lydia to treat this like an actual party, he makes a very Stiles gesture and expression, throwing his arm out and kind of looking like “Why are we still talking about this?” The great thing, though, is that with her fangs out, Malia also throws her arm out and makes essentially the exact same expression. It's pretty fucking priceless.


Since when does Stiles have the kind of social anxiety that makes him hate parties? He practically took a cattle prod to Scott to get him to Heather's party, and that was full of strangers from, I guess, Rival High. He didn't seem to put up a fuss about the black-light party, either. Maybe he's just trying to convince Malia not to worry about him? There's some weirdly inconsistent characterization with Stiles' anxiety, though, where they mention it a fair amount, but we've seen him in ten thousand and five stressful situations, and he's seemed overwhelmed/experienced a panic attack exactly twice, once when he thought his father was about to be murdered and once when he was legitimately losing his mind. Those seem like situations that would test someone without a diagnosed history of anxiety disorders! But for the most part, he's kind of jaw-droppingly fearless. I can't figure out if they're trying to say that Stiles has grown out of his old issues and hasn't fully realized that himself, or that he never really had as much anxiety as he remembers having, or if it's just a sloppy attempt to integrate what the writers' bible says about him with how they actually want to have him act onscreen, or what. It's odd, though.


I kinda liked Demarco. For whatever that's worth.


This whole thing about the Martins desperately needing money feels a little out of nowhere. Her mother didn't even seem that stressed about letting the kids hang out in it; even mentioning that she's holding Lydia accountable for damages seemed pretty off-the-cuff, and she mentioned that there were damages last time (from the “wild animals”) like it was no big deal. I'm not sure it makes sense to go from that scene to Lydia hyperventilating about the carpets, but I guess they figured if they were going to duplicate the Money Problems subplot between Scott and Stiles, they might as well file that sucker in triplicate.


The soundproof room has an interesting aesthetic. It's just late 70s enough and has those blocky square patterns that you can see when the camera pans it to make me think they were evoking The Shining. That's just a gut feeling; it isn't an obvious homage, it just...feels that way.


Hey, Scott, far be it from me to tell you how to do your job, but there's something not very alpha-ish about seeing a maddened baby werewolf about to go on a rampage at an inaccessible party full of kids and, you know...diving out of the way, then standing at the window with that kind of “Oh...huh,” look on your face. For a guy who's supposed to be Werewolf Jesus, that doesn't seem like best practices.


You know, I watched all of 302 and never really made that connection between Stiles' experience being inhabited by the nogitsune and what it must feel like to be a werewolf. I feel slow now. And with that in mind, it makes even more sense to me that he releases Malia – not really because “control is overrated,” but because he does want her to have the chance to assert her power to put limits around the werewolf and say no to it. He wants to spare her the complete helplessness he experienced – and let's face it, going through the full moon in literal chains is pretty complete helplessness. Whether or not it's necessary, it's inherently dehumanizing, and having had his own humanity stripped away, he's willing to err on the side of not doing that to someone else. I feel like that makes it work for me a bit more than Stiles just being a cockeyed optimist, and has the bonus of making it fit in with this through-line of the whole season, about what it means to be monstrous, to see yourself or be seen by others as a monster.


I don't know why “I got your text” is exactly the perfect line, but it is. I guess because Chris, that's why.


s4 ep4: The Benefactor )
hth: recent b&w photo of Gillian Anderson (Default)

De-aging plotlines, in my humble opinion, don't really belong in canon. That's the sort of shenanigans that's all in good fun in fanfic, but “your plot sounds like some fanfic shenanigans” isn't really a compliment.


I do find it interesting that even though Derek told us that Peter taught him how to control his shift through anger, but this episode adds some fascinating detail to that. We see Peter attempting to use the Hale-standard mantra, although it seems clear that ultimately it didn't work. So it looks like anger is the back-up method when modulating your emotions doesn't work, in which case it's interesting to me that – unlike Peter – Derek used it as a first, not last, resort when he tried to teach his own betas. Derek: not that great an alpha, as I and many others have mentioned in the past.


I love Scott for his keen reflexes.


So...we won't be using the Hale house set anymore, I guess. I stand by my fondness for it. Goodnight, sweet burned-out shell of a murder house. You had a sweet-ass staircase.


Hey, look, a police force where you can lay hands on an officer and don't just get the absolute shit kicked out of you and a criminal record! I love supernatural shows.


This scene in the Sheriff's office is a definite contender for funniest of the series, I feel. Between the Sheriff gearing up to give them a stern talking-to about time travel (“I need you to be absolutely and completely honest with me...”), Stiles having the gall to act as if that's crazy talk, and just attempting to brazen his way through the story (“ Mexico”), it's a very brief and highly concentrated dab of awesome. (Extra credit for the following scenes, with Stiles' “that's your plan, huh?” face and his sanguine feelings about Scott's ass. The tone of this episode really does remind me of something that would have fit in s1 – which is a compliment.)


At least someone on this damn show speaks Spanish! They live in California, and the only person we've seen not look terrified at the prospect of speaking Spanish is Lydia, who managed to get through a few sentences in the last episode, albeit with a heavy enough American accent to knock down an oak door. Good for you, Derek.


“Can't someone in this town stay dead?” Well, Allison, apparently! And Aiden. Boyd. Erica. Pretty much anyone you might theoretically want to be alive, yeah.


I always thought it was an odd choice to cast an actor to play young!Derek who's – no offense to whoever he is, but he's pretty doofy-looking, as well as looking far younger than the other ostensibly teenage characters on the show. And I have no idea if this was ever in anyone's mind during the casting process, or if “Visionary” was supposed to be a one and done for him, but this scene really pays off the choice of actors in a big way. Having Kate be seductive with this doofy-looking child really drives home that her motives were never sexual in the slightest; oh, she's totally capable of perving on teenagers, but teenagers who look like Jackson. This kid she's not perving on. This kid she's manipulating. Seeing these two actors together – even given that years ago Kate would've been years younger herself – really drives home how overtly predatory their relationship was, and strips out any misguided sense of romance anyone might have been tempted to project onto it.


I like the shot of the berserker chasing Scott and Malia up the stairs. Actually, I like the berserkers in general; they have good henchman physicality, and the weird combination of almost mechanized-looking armor plating and the bones. Good combat in this episode.


Well...hang on, now. Wait. Somebody planned the heist, but – who could that possibly be? Kate gives no indication that it was anything other than her idea; she's the one who was seen in the temple, she's always the one who has controlled the berserkers, she's the one who knew Derek and could reasonably have come up with this plan. So Kate had to be behind the heist...right? And yet she really, really seems to be upset about the triskelion; she doesn't react at all to that like it was a red herring, or like it was all part of her plan. She seems panicked about losing the thing she's pinned her hopes on. So she planned the heist but expected to get the money and the triskelion, too, right? I mean, I think that's what had to happen, but we also know there's a Benefactor, so.... Basically, bzuh? It's only ep2 and I'm mad lost, y'all. This doesn't bode well for the season.


s4 ep2: 117 )


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