Scarlet Letters

The not-so-private thoughts and rants of Elizabeth Donald, journalist/author and founder of the Literary Underworld.

Monday, October 31, 2005

How To Survive a Horror Movie

I have learned my survival skills from horror movies, the residents of the Stephen King Bulletin Board and my own father, Dr. Ralph Donald, who once wrote a tongue-in-cheek article applying the laws of Darwin to horror flicks: i.e., the stupidest die before they can reproduce.

Therefore, I bring to you the 2006 edition of THE RULES: What You Can Do to Save Yourself and/or The World.

First off, JUST WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, ANYWAY?

If your name isn't one of the first two in the credits, you WILL die.

If you have the biggest boobs, you WILL die.

If you're stupid enough to investigate that strange noise, you're deserving of a particularly gruesome death.

If you are the one playing hard to get and don't bump uglies, you will probably be safe.

Chances are, either the hitchhiker or the driver is criminally INSANE. If you're the sane one, get out of the car. Even if it's moving.

If you are the CEO of a corporation that has polluted the water/soil/air of a small town and created an eco-monster, you're toast. Stomping around and muttering about the bottom line will not save you. Denying responsibility will not save you. Nothing will save you.

If you're a lawyer, the dinosaurs will eat you first.

If you're a cop, you will not believe in the monster until it eats you.

If you're a doctor, you're toast before the final reel. The teenagers will have to save the town without you.

If you're a teacher, same thing. Unless you're mean to the kids. Then you're toast in the second reel.

If you're a principal, you're toast in the second reel no matter what.

If you own a store, you're the second one to go. Unless you employ a teenager who's a hero. Then you get to live to the third reel.

If you live alone and nobody comes to see you, you're the first to go.

If you're a member of the armed forces, especially if you're a Crusty Old Retired General, you are obligated to sacrifice yourself to save the others. No excuses.

If you're a politician, you're toast. No matter what. And everyone will cheer when the monster eats you.


So how DO you survive? Here are 70 tips!

1. If the house in which you are living tells you to "GO AWAY," do so.
2. If you're a virgin, stay that way.
3. If a killer with a knife is chasing you around the house, do not go upstairs. Go out the front door.
4. For God's sake, turn on the lights.
5. Never split up.
6. Never stoop over to see if the killer is dead. He's not.
7. Never get naked in front of a window.
8. Avoid the following geographical locations: Amityville, Elm Street, Amity Island (or any other place named Amity), Crystal Lake, Transylvania, the Bermuda Triangle, Midwestern towns surrounded by cornfields and any small town in Maine.
9. Never pick up hitchhikers.
10. If the small town off the highway is deserted, it's for a very good reason.
11. If your speedometer suddenly starts turning backward, trade the car.
12. Never dig up strange-looking objects in the woods.
13. Never bury pets or loved ones in old Native American burial grounds.
14. As a general rule, do not solve puzzles that open doorways to Hell.
15. Find out what your parents were up to when they were younger. You never know if they set a serial killer on fire, had a mysterious other child, are not your real parents, or opened doorways to Hell.
16. Ask yourself seriously, "Do I really want to float?"
17. If there is a knock on the door in the middle of the night, but no one appears at the peephole, do not open the door and step outside to see who's there.
18. Never assume it's your naked boyfriend/girlfriend under the sheet.
19. Do not mess with DNA. For any reason.
20. No sex in graveyards!
21. Keep your car filled with gas, tuned up, and for God's sake keep the keys with you. P.S. A mechanic should not have a rabid St. Bernard for his alarm system. I'm just saying.
22. On Halloween, there is no such thing as "coincidence."
23. For that matter, there is no such thing as "coincidence."
24. Do not stay overnight at the old house at the end of town that's supposed to be haunted. Let them think you're chicken. Even if the prize is one million dollars. It's not worth it.
25. Pig's blood does not make for a good practical joke.
26. The guy conducting the "insomnia study" in the spooky old mansion is not telling you the truth.
27. Watch out for the guy with the accent in the ruined abbey next door who works the night shift.
28. If you're alone in the house and something calls out your name, leave immediately through the nearest exit.
29. If there is no exit, make one.
30. When you've shot the monster six times to no effect, do not bother throwing the gun at it.
31. Do not answer distress calls from deserted planets that never see daylight.
32. Don't touch the TV that calls out your name.
33. When the power goes out, do not go into the basement armed only with a candle to check the fuses.
34. Reasons to consider moving out of that great house that was such a bargain: bleeding walls, disembodied voices, too many flies, a room in the basement painted red that wasn't on the blueprints, phone service that seems to come and go, windows that look like eyes, finding out murders were committed in the house, secret passages behind bookcases, all your neighbors looove to cook and do housework.
35. In fact, when these things start happening, just set fire to the house. It always ends that way anyway and you'll save time.
36. There is no good reason why anyone's eyes should glow red.
37. The crank caller breathing heavily into the phone is already in your house.
38. There is a boogeyman.
39. If the kid says, "I see dead people," believe him.
40. If you just ripped your phone out of the wall and it rings anyway, DON'T ANSWER IT!
41. Clothing to avoid: capes, high heels, ancient amulets you don't understand, any kind of elaborate jewelry or scarves around the neck.
42. Never break quarantine.
43. Anyone wearing a hockey mask should also be wearing skates.
44. The crazy old guy knows what he's talking about.
45. Leprechauns do not want to grant you three wishes.
46. Elevators going up and down by themselves have something wrong with them that a maintenance man can't fix.
47. Do not attempt to kill your spouse for her inheritance/life insurance/to marry your secretary. You will not get the results you seek.
48. If everyone around you starts to display flu-like symptoms, move to the mountains quickly.
49. If your companions exhibit uncharacteristic behavior such as hissing, biting, thirst for blood, howling, glowing eyes, unnatural hairiness, marked resemblance to demons, excretions of ectoplasm or other forms of gelatinous goo, flaming appendages, extra appendages etc., get as far away from them as possible.
50. If the statues in the wax museum suddenly start looking like your missing friends/lovers/relatives, a quick trip out of town may be warranted.
51. If little kids are jump-roping and singing songs in slow motion, all the while staring at you, leave town or ask for last rites.
52. Never open the locked door.
53. It's not safe to go back in the water.
54. Pay attention to dogs, cats, horses and other more intelligent creatures. If they're nervous, scram.
55. Do not try to teleport yourself or anyone else.
56. Don't mess with the gypsies.
57. Never repeat any names while staring into the bathroom mirror.
58. Skip the shortcut.
59. Never take anything from a clown in a sewer.
60. If you have inadvertantly set loose a force of destruction that could destroy the world, do not attempt to handle it yourself. It is NOT "between you and the vegetable." Call the marines.
61. If the guy/girl you just married after a whirlwind courtship brings you to his/her ancestral home and it's a large, spooky mansion, get an annulment, quick.
62. Do NOT consummate the marriage.
63. If a hunchback named Igor meets you at the train depot, take the next train out.
64. The police always take forever. Even if you live two blocks from the police station, the police will never arrive before the psycho makes his appearance.
65. Don't pick on the miserable geek or the ugly, unpopular girl. You'll get yours.
66. Babysitting on Halloween isn't worth the extra dough.
67. You won't be right back.
68. You do not need to preserve anything for science.
69. The aliens are not friendly.

And finally...

70. No, it's not your imagination.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Venerating Our Symbols

I love the Onion. Parody news is barely distinguishable from real news these days, and the Onion skewers everyone with equal fervor. After all, when CNN runs stories about a cat with two tongues and the internet is abuzz because Camilla wore one of the Queen's tiaras... You get the drift.

I personally believe the White House should have much more important things to do than bug the Onion about using the presidential seal. I mean, we've got an unwinnable Vietnam - er, Iraq, a hopelessly unqualified Supreme Court nominee, plummeting approval polls, ghastly gas prices while oil companies post double-digit profit margins, those pesky grand jury investigations of the Vice President's office and half the Republican leadership posing for mug shots. By the way, there's terrorists on their way to kill YOU, and remember Osama bin Laden? The guy who blew up 2,000 Americans?

Of course not. Nobody else does.

There's also First Amendment issues. I do not believe our symbols should be venerated in law, for the same reason that we should not ever outlaw the burning of the flag. If a symbol needs a law to protect itself, it is no longer a symbol worthy of respect. If the Onion truly wants to use the presidential seal in its radio-address parodies, it has every legal right to do so.

That said.

I believe it is wrong for the Onion to use the seal, and I hope they quietly discontinue the practice. They can make up their own look-alike seal, like the hilarious one making the rounds on the net as the Official Seal of the Republican Party (showing hands in handcuffs).

I have no respect whatsoever for the Commander in Thief or his flying-monkey minions. I have seen very few proposals or actions coming out of BushCo that I would support if you put a gun to my head. But disrespect for the man is different from disrespect for the office.

Legend has it when Eisenhower was on his way to be inaugurated, he refused to enter the White House for the traditional pre-inauguration tea with Harry Truman. He said he did not want to enter the White House until he was the president. Truman threw a fit. "He can disrespect me, but he cannot disrespect the President," Truman said.

Truman got it, one of the few to really understand the difference between the President and the man. The office has survived great men, weak men, misled men and downright criminals. The office is something greater than the man (or someday, the woman) who holds it. Every resident of the White House is a renter, every President a temporary employee of the United States.

While the Onion is quite funny, using the presidential seal on a parody is disrespectful to the office. Disrespect Bush all you like - and they do - but the office itself must be venerated. Not by law, but by history and tradition. We honor the symbols because they stand for something more than the current state of affairs and the current officeholder. When we disrespect the symbols, we lose ground with those who value those traditions.

You know who else knew this? Osama bin Laden. His choice of targets unerringly went after our symbols. The World Trade Center stood for American economic might. The Pentagon stood for American military might. And the third plane was headed for the Capitol, as I recall. Our government, and our history. Symbols, all.

I hope the Onion will take the high road. Call it a symbolic gesture.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Leggo My Ego!

The following is an essay written for the Writers' Circle, a group to which I have belonged since 2001. It was my turn to inspire them. Poor souls. Note: the group is based on Writing.com, a writers' community online.


LEGGO MY EGO!

I'm sitting in front of my laptop. It mocks me with its cool white iMac grace. It's ready to receive my brilliance and disseminate it to the universe.

Meh.

Instead, I turn to iChat and dial up my dear friend Frank Fradella. Frank is the author of VALLEY OF SHADOWS, SWAN SONG, DEAD THINGS and other terrific tomes. He's the publisher of New Babel Books and CyberAge Adventures Magazine and has his fingers in all sorts of interesting pies.

He's been slugged by Harlan Ellison, man. That's a quasi-elite club.

ME: It's my turn to write an inspiring essay on writing for the Writers Circle, and I'm empty. I already used my Mozart speech on them the last time.

FRANK: Talk about the importance of ego.

ME: Mine or theirs?

FRANK: Theirs. To be an effective writer, you have to be able to sit down with the belief that you have something worth saying that has either a) never been said in quite this way before, or b) is so ground-breakingly original that people must read it at once.

ME: So when they don't have that confidence in themselves, how do you spur it on?

FRANK: Find a way to make one of those two things true. Because really, if you're sitting down with the intention of just churning out crap, I'm not inclined to help you get better at it.

ME: I think most new writers suffer from the secret belief that everything they write is crap and no one will read it. God knows I did. But suppose they want to make it good, as well as sell it. Where do they look for the ego to put it out there?

FRANK: That ego already exists if they're writing. Writing isn't something that people encourage you to do. It's often quite the opposite. People always tell you to get a day job and pursue your "hobby" on the side. If you sit down to do this anyway, chances are you already HAVE the ego necessary to do this well. You just have to find a pair of balls to go with it.

ME: So to speak.

FRANK: So to speak.

ME: So in short, we should all quit whining about how our stuff isn't good enough and work on making it better instead?

FRANK: You have to believe in yourself more than anyone else. Because, honestly, if you're just aiming for the middle... well... get the [CENSORED] out of my way. You're clogging up the slush pile. If you don't have every intention of beating me to the bestseller list, go do something else with your spare time.

Frank Fradella, ladies and gentlemen. He's actually a lot more easygoing in person.

When he said we should have an ego, the first thing I thought was, "Is he kidding? That was the first thing to go!" And it's true, the rejection letters or (worse) utter silence from those to whom you send your stuff will crush your soul like an empty eggshell. How's that for encouraging words?

But Frank's not talking about the kind of ego that made Harlan Ellison smack him one, knowing full-well he won't be going to jail. That's the kind of ego that some writers (not naming any names, but Harlan ain't one, and neither is Frank) decline editing of any kind, insisting that every word be exactly as she wrote it. That's the ego that can kill the work as efficiently as a crashed computer drive with no backup.

What you need is the kind of ego that pushes you forward through the story, because you just know there's something really cool around the corner. It's the kind of ego that fills up your chest with a happy rush not unlike that achieved with dark chocolate-covered espresso beans, clicking SAVE with a half-grin on your face, knowing that they're just going to LOVE this one.

The question is, who is 'They'?

'They' should be more than your immediate family and close friends. 'They' should be more than your writers' group, even a large one. Save me from sacrilege - 'They' should be more than Writing.com.

The ego comes from knowing what you've done is the best your muse and your brain could distill from the ether, and it's worth Their time to read and enjoy it. There may be nothing new under the sun, but those of us who love books know that there's always something new on crisp pages beneath a really neat cover.

Bolster that ego. Trust that satisfied feeling between your heart and your gut that says, "This rocks, babe." When you can't wait to keep writing because you want to see how it turns out, your excitement shows through to the reader - and They will love it as much as you do.

Eventually, They will even pay for the privilege. Shocking, I know. But They pay for Frank, and They pay for me, a fact that continues to astound me and feed that ego, in a healthy way, I hope.

They'll pay for you. So buck up that ego, and send your stuff out to the universe.

Or I'll let Frank smack you.

P.S. I apologize for the pun in the title. I couldn't help myself. It's a sickness.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Supernatural, episode 1:2

SUPERNATURAL episode 1:2

Previously on Supernatural, the whole series happened. Da Boyz had a mom and a dad, only something killed Mom in a burst of flame and Dad went on a decades-long crusade to find out what, only now Dad’s disappeared. Also, the younger brother’s girlfriend died in a burst of flame Just Like Mom. The younger brother looks like Ashton Kutchner, so that’s what I’m calling him. The older one is played by the actor who played Tackling Dummy (a less-than-bright assistant football coach) on SMALLVILLE last year.

We are now in Lake Manitoc, Wisconsin. I happen to know this episode is being aired out of order, so we’ll give the WB an honorary Fox Award for stupidity and pretend that the itinerary for the Brothers Grimm makes sense.

Oh, come on. It was that or call them Sculder and Mully.

We’re in some Wisconsin house, and either my VCR has taped this really badly or it is super-nasty-dark. Considering this is a cheerful, well-lit kitchen and I know how dark this show gets, we may be in for a fun recap. “Right now… something’s happening, but I can’t see it!”

Skinny blonde in track suit is getting some PowerAde from the fridge, preparing for her workout. Her Neanderthal brother tells her that guys don’t like buff chicks. Skinny blonde retorts that girls don’t like guys who still live at home. Point to skinny blonde, even if she wears a low-cut jogging suit. Duh-Dad monotones, “Be careful,” as Skinny Blonde goes out, so we know she’s toast.

Skinny Blonde is swimming in a lake. There’s an underwater shot that I will pretend is an homage instead of a direct JAWS ripoff, and another one that focuses unnecessarily on her crotch. She seems to hear voices, then something yanks her underwater. What did I say? Toast.

Café somewhere. Tackling Dummy, or TD for short, is happily circling obituary pictures of pretty girls. Make your own disgusting, insensitive jokes. Or wait for the show to do it for you, as a ridiculously attractive blonde in an insanely tight spaghetti top leans over TD and says, “Can I get you anything else?” TD gives her the lech-grin before Ashton (sorry, that’s who he looks like) drops by with his mopey face and she scurries off. TD reminds Ashton that they can still be lecherous pigs, and Ashton’s mopey-face reminds TD that his beloved-yet-mindless girlfriend was fricasseed in the last episode and P.S. TD is an insensitive cretin. But cute.

TD fills him in on Crissy the dead swimmer, whom I have named such after the dead girl in JAWS. Why do I have to come up with nicknames? Because I don’t care enough to rewind for the one time this episode people get real names. Crissy’s the third drowning this year. The Brothers Grimm go on yammering about how dumb it was for Crissy’s family to “bury” her when they didn’t have a body, but my brain stopped working because I saw Amy Acker’s name in the guest star list. No, I didn’t like her in ANGEL until they killed Fred and let her play a demon, but I don’t care, because it’s a little scrap of the Whedonverse and I’m happy happy happy.

Sorry, Ashton’s still whining about Dad’s cold trail. TD rightly calls him on his whimpering, especially considering that TD was actually hunting while Ashton was being an upwardly mobile young collegian. Besides, nobody likes a pretty-boy whiner.

Cabin by Lake Ness. Bwahahaha! TD introduces them to Neanderthal Brother as Agent Ford and Agent Hammill with the Galactic Rebellion! Okay, they left off the last part, he’s pretending to be Fish and Wildlife. But damn! If this bit with amusing names is a running gag, I might start to like this show for real.

Neanderthal Brother says Crissy got dragged out 100 yards into Lake Ness, and she couldn’t have drowned because she was a varsity swimmer. I’m distracted by TD’s really cool leather jacketv – I want! – and so I don’t care about Monosyllabic Dad mooning about on the docks.

Sheriff’s Department, and the sheriff doesn’t even look at the Jedi Twins’ fake IDs. I’m still chortling. It takes so little to make me happy. Andy Griffith wants to know why Fish and Wildlife cares about a drowning. They dragged the lake, they did sonar, there’s nothing down there. Kudos to Andy Griffith for appearing to actually care about his people, but TD blows it a minute later when Andy mentions the dam being shut down and TD covers very badly. How often has he gotten caught at this faking-out-the-authorities bit? He has no poker face.

Fred (Amy Acker) sticks her head in. She’s Andy Griffith’s daughter, and still so skinny she disappears when she turns sideways. A grandkid named Lucas appears, but refuses to speak. There is trauma. I get the feeling Andy Griffiith’s family lost somebody important to Lake Ness.

TD stupidly asks Fred to show them to the motel two blocks away, and tries to chat her up with, “Kids are the best.” She agrees, and once they arrive, she earns my love by saying, “It must be hard, with your sense of direction, unable to find your way to a decent pickup line.” Amen, sister! If the real Fred had had that much spunk, I might not have hated her.

The Brothers Grimm are using the Plot Device Computer to dig up records of Lake Ness. Ashton complains that with most deep-water critters, there are multiple sightings, but no one’s ever seen anything in Lake Ness. They find out about Fred’s husband – he took Lucas swimming, but “drowned,” and Lucas was left floating for two hours before he was rescued. Well, that’ll give you a nice chunk of therapy.

Speaking of which, TD is suddenly serious. “Watching one of your parents die isn’t something you just get over.” Ow! Stop dropping anvils on me! I remember, okay? It was just last week that we saw Little TD watch his mom get fried. We are watching the show and we have attention spans longer than houseflies. Thank you, Reannon.

Park. The Brothers Grimm drop by to talk to Fred. Ashton reassures Fred that TD isn’t really after her. Whatever. TD tries to chat with Lucas, who ignores him while drawing. “Chicks dig artists,” he says, and Fred bounces pea gravel off his head. Or not, but I would have. TD tells Lucas he will listen and believe him, blah blah, and the sappy piano tells us this is TD’s emotional-growth episode. He draws a picture of his family, omitting Mom’s flames.

Fred tells them Lucas has PTSD. You think? Fred still looks about fourteen, not nearly old enough to be Lucas’ mom. Lucas brings a picture over to the grownups and hands it to TD. It’s a picture of a house.

Crissy’s House by Lake Ness. Monosyllabic Dad is now damn near Comatose Dad. Neanderthal Brother tries to start dinner, but has him some plumbing problems – the sink fills up with icky lake water. So he sticks his hand into it. I wouldn’t. The plug comes out, but there’s one fuck of a hairball or something, so he keeps fishing until the lake water grabs him and holds him in the water until he drowns. This happens in thirty seconds, of course, instead of the five-plus minutes it really takes a person to drown. I guess it’d be boring to watch him drown for five minutes, but they could have cut away with him still struggling or something, so we don’t think, “I can hold my breath longer than that. Wuss.”

Commercial! Notice that there’s no credits? Did I miss something? Never mind, I’m watching the SERENITY commercials. Shuddup.

Motel. Ashton tells TD about Neanderthal’s drowning. They catch on to what we figured out ten minutes ago – the draining of the lake is making a water spirit or something mad. Monosyllabic Dad has now lost both his kids to Lake Ness, and by the way, Fred’s dead husband was MD’s godson.

Lake Ness. The Brothers Grimm try to interrogate MD, who is a little lost in grief and can’t speak much. They give up, and TD notices that the lake house is the same as Lucas’ drawing.

Fred’s place. She doesn’t think chatting with Lucas is a great idea. TD talks her into it. Lucas is playing with his little army men and drawing. TD tries to get him to communicate. He tells him that once he saw something bad happen to his mom, but he knew his mom wanted him to be brave. Okay, TD’s acting here, so I’ll be nice to him. Until he brings Lucas’ dad into it, and I want to smack him. Lucas looks up for a second, then gives TD another drawing.

Car. TD is getting snappish. They try to analyze the picture. Then Ashton starts to analyze TD, tells him that he never knew the stuff TD told Lucas about how his mom’s death affected him. “No big deal. We don’t have to hug or anything, do we?” I like TD more and more. He has some depth without being emo or whiny, and keeps himself to himself without being an asshole. Most of the time.

They find the place in the second picture and interview a grandma-aged woman. Peter was the boy who disappeared from there. Poor Grandma. The grief quotient in this episode is getting high. We see the little toy soldiers, and then Grandma says losing her kids is worse than dying. Hmm, that’s just what Monosyllabic Dad said a while ago. Little Peter was best friends with MD, by the way.

Monosyllabic Dad is no longer monosyllabic, but he’s talking to the lake. Oookay.

The Brothers Grimm try to work this out. Everything’s tied to MD. Did MD kill little Peter? What is he being punished for?

Lake house. MD is out in the boat. The Brothers Grimm run out on the dock, shouting at him. MD ignores them. His boat is struck by an enormous force and flies up in the air in a badly-edited shot that must have saved them a fortune in special effects and stunt costs.

Commercials.

Sheriff’s office. Andy Griffith is displeased that Fred is on a first-name basis with TD. Lucas freaks out and starts grabbing at TD, who for once acts like a human and tries to comfort him. Fred takes him home, and TD has the freaked-out face.

Andy calls them on their bullshit – he’s finally checked them out. And he’s very, very angry. I’m impressed. He tells them to hit the road, Jack, and dontcha come back no more. What did I tell you? TD is so lousy at playing official. I think they’ve been caught by the cops in every ep so far.

Nighttime. Lucas is drawing dark circles. Fred tells him to go to sleep. The picture is very dark. Like my TV screen.

Brothers Grimm turning back. Oh, like they were really leaving.

Fred is taking a bath. Of course! So we can see her half-naked.

Grimmmobile. Ashton is trying to understand what crack TD’s smoking, since they’re likely heading back to handcuffs. TD says he wants to make sure Lucas is okay. “Who are you and what have you done with my brother?” Ashton says, and now I hate him instead. These guys just take turns wearing the Insensitive Hat, don’t they? TD tells him to shut up. Ah, brotherly love.

FredBath. Yep, half-naked scene. Sorry, boys, barely a shot of the derriere. Ew, lake water starts mixing with the bathwater, and Fred doesn’t notice the temperature change or water quality, clearly having lost control of her sensory system. It attacks her, and we get excessive leg shots as she fights it. She screams, and Lucas pounds on the door.

The Brothers Grimm arrive, and Lucas lets them in. TD kicks down the door – quite impressive – and Ashton hauls a naked Fred out of the lakewater. Less impressive.

Commercials.

Fred’s Place. She can’t tell Ashton what it was. TD is nosing through her personal things, while Fred cries. She heard a voice, saying “Come play with me.” Fred’s basement has a scrapbook of the Explorers – read “Boy Scouts.” They think there’s a connection to Andy Griffith now. Lucas leads them out to a soft spot in the back yard. It’s now light, by the way, and Andy Griffith still hasn’t come home.

The Brothers Grimm dig up the soft spot, which hasn’t toughened at all in 35 years. Of course, that’s when Andy Griffith shows up and points a gun at them, so TD uses all that brilliance he acquired in football practice to tell Andy they’ve figured it out, Andy and MD killed little Peter and now there’s revenge by the lake spirit or whatever. “You can’t bury the truth,” TD says, though that’s clearly a lie.

In the house, Fred sees what’s going on, and sends Lucas to his room.

TD and Ashton say to set the spirit at rest, they have to salt and burn the body. Fred pleads with her dad to tell her the truth, and he can’t lie. I mean, lousy poker face, almost as bad as TD’s. Andy confesses that they used to bully Peter, holding his head underwater, but they held him under too long and he drowned. They let the body go into the lake and it sank.

Lucas is out at the lake, of course, and it takes him under. Ew, creepy! Dead Peter’s little head pokes up and glares at Andy, who freezes in horror. Then the Brothers Grimm dive in after Lucas.

Andy walks into the lake, begging Peter for forgiveness, asking him to take him instead. Dead Peter drags Andy down into the lake. The Brothers Grimm dive again, and Fred screams soundlessly until TD comes back up with Lucas.

Commercials. That was a predictable but well-done scene. Points for the soundless screaming and creepy dead-kid face. Quite good.

The Brothers Grimm get into the Grimmmobile. TD is having a rough time with it, it seems. Fred and Lucas deliver a lunch for them. Lucas speaks! Fred tells them they saved her son and that should be enough.

Aw, bonding moment. TD has taught Lucas a phrase: “Zeppelin rules!” Heh. Lucas, while cursed with a terrible haircut, is quite cute. Fred kisses TD goodbye, and TD is suddenly shy. The Brothers Grimm roll off, and I bet we haven’t seen the last of Fred and Son.

Next time: The Brothers Grimm exorcise demons on an airplane. Gotta do something to avoid the in-flight movie.

Veronica Mars 2:1

VERONICA MARS, Episode 2:1

Previously, everything happened.

Veronica is hostess at a coffee shop. Okay, why does a coffee shop need a hostess? I mean, she’s showing the nubile teens to nearby couches. I’ve never seen such a thing. Veronica Voiceover is telling us she’s been working on having a normal life. Uh huh. That’s gonna happen.

A yutz comes up to tell her he failed the drug test and he’s off sports, but he’s been clean 10 months. Veronica says she’s retired from the snooping business. Yutz snips at her that she’s back with the ‘09ers. She glares, and he slinks off.

A slinky brunette tells Veronica her father is on TV. He’s written a book about Lily’s murder with a New York Times reporter. Brunette says, “Your dad’s hot,” and Veronica gives her an Oedipal stink-eye.

Flashback to the big night. Veronica opens the door, and says her line: “I was hoping it would be you.” But Logan (I knew it) is standing facing away from her, and he’s in shadow. Her face changes when he turns around, and it’s left unclear whether a) Veronica was happy it was Logan and is distraught about his injuries or b) she thought he was Duncan. Logan has been beaten within an inch of his life. Instead of taking him to the hospital, she lies him down on the couch in an oddly-composed shot that makes either Logan look huge or Veronica look tiny, as she cleans off his face.

Flashback within a flashback! Logan on the bridge, egging on Weevil. Logan knocked out Weevil with one kick (uh huh), and the others all jump him and beat the fuck out of him. When Logan wakes up, he has a knife in his hand and Felix, one of Weevil’s flunkies,is dead. There’s a witness. Because Logan has no knowledge whatsoever of the best way to avoid misunderstandings in prosecution… oh wait, he does! So instead of explaining his obvious self-defense to the police, he chucks the knife in the river – in full view of the witness, apparently – and takes off. Brilliant. No one ever accused Logan of being Mensa material, but this is dumb even for him. Also, the witness is just standing there, saying, “Duh, buddy, I’m right the fuck here.” Something smells.

Flashforward to the flashback, and Veronica doesn’t have to tell Logan about Aaron Echolls and Lily – he knows, and kudos to the actor for a heartbreaking face. Deputy Mumbles shows up and arrests Logan.

Flashforward to present day. Wallace! We’ve missed you. He tells Veronica he failed his drug test. Miss Mars is on the case, with a GODFATHER PART III reference that makes me smile.

Credits. There’s a new girl in them.

Lunchtimee. Ha! Wallace didn’t sign up for another year of office aide, because he is no longer Veronica’s lap dog! Except he did swipe a master key and passwords. Onward with the mystery of the week: who made the starters on all the teams flunk their drug tests, including Meg the only decent ‘09er?

Flashback to this summer. Veronica talks to Duncan, who’s living all alone at a hotel to finish his senior year because his parents have fled to get away from the publicity, and also to run for president. What, like I’m not supposed to notice that Kyle Secor is now on COMMANDER IN CHIEF? Okay. Whatever. Logan shows up, and Veronica shows the first lack of class I’ve seen from her by kissing Logan in front of Duncan. Rude. You say hi, you squeeze a hand, but you save the PDA for when you’re out of sight of your ex-boyfriend.

Flashforward to the present, and Veronica’s Voiceover tells us that Logan and Duncan don’t speak anymore. Because a woman is property and can be stolen. Meh. It’s a guy thing, I know.

Veronica asks Yutz who might hate him. He names a geek he pantsed in gym. Veronica interviews and photographs the victims, including Meg who acts bitchier than I’ve ever seen her. So the ownership of others extends to women – Meg is pissed at Veronica for stealing Duncan! Sigh. But it’s high school. I guess that sort of thing did happen. I don’t know – the only time I dated a friend’s ex, the friend SET US UP, so I guess my experience isn’t typical.

Flashback, and Logan got off on Felix’s murder because the witness left before the cops showed up. The town went crazy.

Flashforward. Wallace admits he and all the others were laughing at the geek’s pantsing, and suddenly I have to call bullshit. Wasn’t Wallace the kid who was tied to the flagpole in the pilot? Doesn’t it stand to reason that he would be more likely to take the side of the abused than the abusers? Would a kid stripped bare and and tied to a flagpole really find a kid humiliated in gym class fun-ny? I don’t buy it. It doesn’t gibe with what we know of Wallace. It’s the first continuity error I can find in this show, and it disturbs me greatly. If this is signaling a major personality change for Wallace, I hope it goes somewhere important.

Daddy Mars shows up. He amuses me with smartassery that also reveals he and Wallace’s mum are still together. Yay! I loved them as a couple.

MARS: So, senior year. How was the first day?
VERONICA: Great. I beat up a freshman, stole his lunch money and then skipped out after lunch.
MARS: What, no premarital sex?
VERONICA: Yes, but don’t worry, Dad. I swear you’re going to like these guys.
MARS: That’s my girl.

And that’s the father-daughter relationship that makes sense and rings of truth and love. This is the first TV show I can remember that gets it right. I forgive them the brief mangling of Wallace’s character.

School. Veronica goes to see the geek, who has a hell of a lot of attitude. She accuses him, and he reveals that his dad is the vice principal.

Commercials.

Nighttime, and Veronica and Wallace are breaking into school. Which has metal detectors but no alarm system? Okay. Veronica breaks into the files while revealing that Principal Junior must have screwed with the file. But there’s no sign of alteration. Wallace reveals that someone gave them boxes of cookies on the first day of school, and he ate six. Somehow that must have screwed with his test.

There’s a slightly clumsy bit where Veronica asks Wallace to meet her at her house, and he says he’ll follow her because she shouldn’t go out alone, because that’s our segue into another flashback…

This time Logan and Veronica are making out in Logan’s bright-yellow SUV. She whispers to Logan that her dad is probably watching them through a telescope – mounted on a rifle. Hee. He would, too. Aw, Logan tells her he loves her. She smiles and says, “Aw, the things guys’ll say to get past second base.” Which is cute, and neatly skirts saying it back. Hmmm. They keep kissing, and someone shoots the car. No, really. As soon as they get horizontal, bam. It was Keith! He really was watching them through a rifle! No, we’re supposed to believe it’s one of Felix’s buddies, still pissed that Logan isn’t in prison. But my money’s on Keith.

Flashforward to Wallace’s home drug test. Veronica knocks on the bathroom door, and poor Wallace tells her to leave him alone already! Daddy Mars shows up, and Veronica lies to him for the first time this season by saying it’s a science project. He makes a crack that I won’t repeat but makes me giggle helplessly and totally squicks out Veronica and Wallace. These folks are going to make a hell of a family someday. Though Veronica’s mom will probably crash the wedding.

Wallace’s drug test is clean, and he says everyone on the out list is a starter. Just gonna say it once – Wallace is Veronica’s height and skinny, and he’s playing football. As what, the goalpost? There’s dozens of sports that don’t require the athlete to be large and overly muscular, and they chose the one sport least suited to the actor’s physical type. Nitpick over.

They bring Daddy Mars in on the plot. He steps over to the Plot Device Computer, and it turns out all the parents of the replacement starters are the stockholders of a company and I really don’t care because we’re all about the real mystery coming up fast.

Commercials.

Aha, journalism class. Scarcrest is right – this is the Defense Against the Dark Arts position. Never to be filled for long. Afterward, Veronica passes Weevil and gets the evil eye.

Which sends us into a flashback. Again. Logan says Trina, a.k.a. Willow, is trying to negotiate to play herself in a TV movie about Lily’s death. The Casablancas are here. I was hoping they’d vanish, but I saw them in the credits and it looks like we’re stuck with them for the whole damn season. Seems Logan and the Casablancas were going to kill grass in their rival school’s field in the shape of an insult. But surprise! They contaminated the community pool, which was shut down for the rest of the year. No big deal for the rich kids – they have pools. Good job there, boys.

I do like this classism divide they’ve got going, and how weird it’s going to be for Veronica and Wallace as poor kids on the outskirts of the ‘09er lifestyle.

Logan hangs out at the pool with Dick and Beaver. He hasn’t come to school yet. Um, is Logan 18? Because with Mom dead and Dad in prison, he should be a ward of the state. But it doesn’t matter, because here comes today’s Whedonverse refugee, Charisma Carpenter! Ha, she’s playing a bitch, Dick and Beav’s new stepmom. In a string bikini, and okayfine, there is no way that woman has had a child. God hates me. Enjoy, gentlemen. Yes, she shall be called Cordelia, in honor of the bitch-queen of Sunnydale High who was unfortunately co-opted into sappiness before her death. Extra amusement that Cordelia “was a Laker girl” – as was Charisma Carpenter, or something similar. Hee.

Coffeehouse. Veronica has lured the bad parents to the coffee shop and bugged the table. The principal is listening to the bug. Fortunately they’re stupid and talk all about fixing the drug tests. Good, all that’s out of the way. I really didn’t care about that whole subplot – there were other things we could have done to draw Veronica back into Nancy Drew mode, like, say, the big thing at the end of the episode. But I get that they were trying to bring in new viewers, and if it keeps this show alive, more power to them.

Brunette tells Veronica her boyfriend’s here, and was I supposed to be surprised that she goes to kiss Duncan? Because she and Logan could not possibly have lasted. I knew it.

Commercials.

Veronica and Duncan are going on a field trip with the journalism class. Logan and Duncan toss a few quips at each other, which amuse me because they’re WEST SIDE STORY references. Heh. Logan is skipping the field trip. Then Logan gives Veronica a Look and says, “I’m gonna miss you.” Which is such a red herring. Oops, am I giving away the ending?

Flashback to the breakup. Veronica is breaking up with Logan because he and the Idiot Squad keep cruising around ratcheting up the tension between the Haves and the Have-Nots in Neptune. A lot of people have said it was hypocritical for Veronica to break up with Logan for his inability to get past the last season’s fun and games, since she spent last season the same way. But Veronica never tried to hurt people, never hatched plots against innocent bystanders, never adopted a scorched-earth policy. She sought the truth for herself and Lily, and once justice was served, she moved on. Logan is being an asshole and refusing to recognize that there’s a problem, and I don’t blame her at all for not being able to handle it.

Logan flips out quite a bit. He breaks a lamp and screams at her. Daddy Mars strides in and in a great bit of continuity uses a classic cop’s move to pin Logan against a wall. “You don’t talk to my daughter that way. You’re leaving now and you’re never coming back,” he says. Good job, writers. Good job, Enrico. And to those who said it was overblown – you’ve never seen a cop flatten a guy who seems about to do violence, and this is his daughter.

Flashforward. I can never remember which Casablancas is which, but I believe Dick is the dick and Beaver is the smart one. So it’s Dick who complains that the bus stinks “like someone died.” Think that’ll be important? Maybe it stinks because someone DID die and is jammed in a compartment? Or because something else is going on? Dick also notices a shy girl we’ve never seen before. Gee, I wonder if she’ll be important.

Logan arrives at the Casablancas’ house and gives Cordelia a line I can’t believe got past the censors: “Can Dick and Beaver come out and play?” Because Cordelia is dropping the robe, and ew ew ew. Logan, you baaaad boy. This signals very bad things for Logan’s character development.

Ballpark. Steve Guttenberg! I’ve missed him. I actually had a crush on him as a young lass. I thought he was the cutest one of the three in THREE MEN AND A BABY. Shaddup. He is running for mayor – don’t suppose that’ll be important or anything – and makes a spectacle of his daughter, the shy awkward girl from the bus. Name of Gia. She goes on this unpleasantly ditzy spiel about her clothes. I hate her already. Dick is macking on her but good. Honey, run away. Gia has transferred to Neptune High because her father is running for office and it’s bad for his daughter to be in private school. Hold the phone. There’s a private school in Neptune, but all these uber-rich kids go to a public school with metal detectors and murders? The hell you say. Also, nice for Mayor Guttenberg to admit he’s sabotaging his daughter’s education as a political stunt. The reporter in me is scribbling down his words. Dumbass.

During the food portion, Veronica is hanging on Duncan’s arm. It bothers me. It’s not Veronica. But then we didn’t get to see normal, happy Veronica last season – maybe she’s always that clingy. It’s common in high school. Not that I remember or anything.

They see a star baseball player named Terrence Cook. This is the tough part about a season premiere – what’s going to be important? Terrence Cook looks unhappy to be there and argues with Steve Guttenberg, but is gracious enough to the kids.

Dick offers a limo ride back to Duncan and Veronica. Meg declines the limo, and Veronica says she’s going to ride the bus and try to talk to Meg one more time. Duncan rightly points out that Veronica owes Meg nothing. I agree, but maybe DUNCAN owes her something? I wonder how he broke up with her. Knowing Duncan, it likely wasn’t gentle and kind.

Veronica then turns to Terrence Cook and tells him he’s Daddy Mars’ favorite baseball player. But Veronica likes another one who is cute. Hey, it’s really hard to tell what’s going to be important later on, okay?

Bus. Veronica tries to talk to Meg, who continues being a bitch. It sends us into another flashback, which is a musical montage of Duncan stalking – er, hanging out with Veronica at the coffeeshop. He had broken up with Meg, and she was faithful to Logan. Then after the breakup, Duncan left her a fortune cookie. We don’t get to see what it says, of course, because the people who write this are evil. But it makes her run to kiss Duncan.

How big is Neptune? Does the bus really need a gas stop on the way back to the school? Well, apparently it does, and the teacher lacks all common sense by allowing the kids a pit stop. Coming out of the convenience store, Veronica sees the Ghost of Lily run around a corner.

Hold the phone again. I thought the Ghost of Lily was a representation of Veronica’s own thoughts. Why is she seeing it now? I sure hope we’re not going the PASSIONS route here. A little ghost goes a long way. It doesn’t make any sense for the ghost to be, y’know, a real ghost. Otherwise, she was being awfully vague all last season while poor Veronica was tracking down Aaron Echolls.

Veronica follows the Ghost of Lily to see the other person who hates her: Weevil. Just as sexy as ever. Mmm, Weevil.

On the bus, the DADA teacher asks if everyone’s here. Meg sees Veronica talking to Weevil and lies that they’re all on board. Bad Meg.

Weevil throws meanness at Veronica: she’s back with the ‘09ers, she’s giving it up to the richest boys in school. He thinks Logan killed Felix and got away with it because he’s rich and white. Poor Weevil. His face when Veronica tells him about the shotgun blast that nearly killed her and Logan tells me he’s not king of the block anymore. Ouch. Knocked out by a rich white boy, losing control of his gang AND the girl he loved is dead. I hope they give Weevil something more to do than be Veronica’s conduit to the dark side of Neptune.

The bus leaves her behind. Weevil starts to drive off, and I start cursing the writers, but then he comes back and gives her a ride. That’s my Weevil. He’s my lust object. Even if he’s clearly there to be a red herring in the Big Mystery. What? He is NOT the killer. Not my Weevil. Rowr.

And here we are. The limo is pulled over to the side. The bus went over the side into the ocean. Survivors include the Asshole Brothers (unfortunately), Gia the Twitterbug (unfortunately), Duncan (yay!) and of course Veronica. Duncan comes running over, clearly happy to see Veronica wasn’t on the bus, though a second of seeing his reaction to the thought that she was on the bus might have given the actor the chance to set all those fears about his woodeness to rest. As it is, he might have been happier to see her alive. Hmmm.

Next week: We meet the bus driver’s daughter, there’s shootings and more naked Cordelia. It’s off to the races, folks.

Our Town

Wednesday was Our Town's homecoming parade, and my son and I were there, along with half the town. His former principal waved happily to my boy - calling him by name, for heaven's sake. Is it a good thing that the principal can remember his name? My son was jumping up and down with excitement when the marching band's drum corps came by. The superintendent waved to me - he knows me pretty well, I've harrassed him often enough on the job.

And how can you not love a public high school with an Anime Club?

It's always in October that I am reminded of how lucky we are to live here. It starts with the homecoming parade, and the folks setting up their camp chairs along Main Street to cheer on the teams that seem younger every year. ("They're not getting younger, I'm afraid. Something else is happening there," said The Tenor at church this morning, with an evil wink. "Shush. I'm in denial," I replied.) It's not so much that any of us care about who wins the football game, though there's plenty of that. It's that we all live in this town and all our kids go to these schools

Come Saturday, and my son and I have a whole day. The school sent home a notice - Open House at the Firehouse, come ride a firetruck - so off we went, with my boy in his new Cub Scout uniform. I expected to be there about half an hour - c'mon, open house at the firehouse?

Teeming hundreds. The smokehouse was highly popular, as was the 25-minute line to ride the fire truck. My boy rode in front and blatted the horn. Popcorn and balloons, knocking down the "fire" in a cardboard house with a firehose, learn about fire safety - and tables full of safety reminders for parents, such as the new child seat law and the importance of carbon monoxide detectors and so on.

Finally we walked up Main Street to a little tavern we hadn't visited before. What's that? Taking a child to a tavern? During the day, you can do that here. The best food in town is in the taverns, and they're kid-friendly. It being a Saturday, there was a live jazz band jamming for a few hours, preparing for the night set. My son's eyes were goggled as we ate good food and listened to good music as the sun shone down on the farmer's market, just one block up the street.

Hey, I'm not saying it's perfect here. You know, sometimes it's hard to find a good parking space.

We still had some time to kill before Cub Scouts. First we went to the library to drop off our seriously overdue books. It's a hell of a library. Everything you can imagine, from a genealogical research room to manga in the children's stacks. Originally a Carnegie building, it's been expanded and renovated to be one of the best libraries I've ever seen.

Then it was off on an adventure. Just a little one - about a fifteen-minute drive to the Lewis & Clark Museum, the next town over. It's the spot (more or less - don't get them started on that issue) where the Lewis & Clark expedition wintered before setting out on the Longest Walk Ever. We went through the museum, looking at all the cool stuff they had to take with them, and watched a ten-minute video on the expedition's stay in Illinois. The boy was less than thrilled with the video, but then I took him outside to the replica Fort Dubois, constructed according to Clark's methodical journals.

There was a man inside in full period costume. He showed us the sleeping quarters, and explained to the Kiddo that in the bitter-cold Illinois winters, the fire pit was all they had to keep them warm - that, and the bodies of twelve men jammed into six bunks without room to turn over. He showed us the medical supplies, surveyor's compass, the officers' swords carried by Lewis and Clark as co-commanders, and the flag fluttering in the light October breeze - fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, of the United States of America circa 1804.

Time was up: off to Cub Scouts. For our first gathering, Den 3 took over the two-acre property belonging to one of the families. A bonfire was already underway, and the boys horsed around while we set up the flag - the proper 50 stars and 13 stripes this time. Call the meeting to order, and six boys stood in their blue uniforms and orange neckerchiefs to practice saying the pledge: "I promise to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people, and to obey the law of the Pack."

The house sat on the edge of the woods, which are deep and plentiful all around Our Town. We have a county network of bike trails through the town and into the woods so extensive and remarkable it's considered one of the best in the country. We didn't have to go far into the woods before the boys found leaves from several different varieties of trees for their leaf-rubbings - required for the first Achievement toward the Tiger Cub merit badge. I had brought my camera along and thus was instantly deemed the Den Photographer, forever and ever amen. That's how these things happen when you're a parent. You've got to be careful. :)

The Akelas (adult partners, four fathers and me) gathered around the campfire while the kids cavorted in the deepening shadows and the den mothers talked in the kitchen. We talked about the Cardinals in the playoffs and how much Our Town is growing. We talked about the school our kids attend and how excited they are about Cub Scouts. We talked about how crazy it can get when the kids get involved in sports, and the hard part about balancing work and family and still finding time to breathe. We all want the same things for our kids, and we all speak the same language.

I drove my boy home in the dark, through downtown, where the taverns were waking up with live bands and the guitar jam sessions were getting started at the coffeehouse. I drove past the silent churches, waiting to reclaim our souls the next morning with cheerful acceptance and friendly cohabitation. I drove through brick-lined boulevards full of history and clean streets lined with quiet houses, past the YMCA's brick fort and the park with a huge wooden castle for a playground, built by volunteers and fundraising. I drove to our little apartment complex, where the college students lounged around the embers of their tiny barbecues and smoked cigarettes, watching the stars come out over the bike path that trails off into the woods and making bets on the number of raccoons that will hit the trash tonight.

I tucked my son into bed and kissed his cheek, and I remembered why I live here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Commander in Chief, Episode 1:2

It's a brand new season, folks. Time for the recaps! Not quite TWoP-worthy, but my personal thoughts while watching the best (and some of the worst) TV has to offer.

COMMANDER IN CHIEF 1:2

I was running a little late, so I missed half the eulogy for the late Prez. It was given by Speaker Bastard, so I’m not crying. He skates right up to dissing Mac, which is what I’m calling President Mackenzie Allen. I reiterate my wish that The Bastard wasn’t quite so obviously a black hat, but since he’s a SMART black hat, he’s an entertaining black hat, and therefore he can stay. He’s not quite up to Lionel the Magnificent Bastard of SMALLVILLE, but then this show also lacks the HoYay. And Kryptonite.

Limo. The First Fam talks about which Veep to appoint, and the First Gentleman tells the kids they have to keep family business private now. I know he’s the First Gentleman because the subtitles told me, and that’s going to get real old, real fast. The subtitles, not his amusing title as First Gentleman. His name is now FG.

The Bastard meets briefly with the Chief o’ Staff, who refuses to leak info and really needs a nickname. Chief o’ Staff tells him Mac wants to pick her own Veep, thanks. Bastard: “You tell the girl…” I hate. So. Much. That I miss hearing the rest of his sentence. She’s an adult woman with teenage children and the President of the United States. She is not a girl.

Limo arrives home. The big house. Somewhat cream-colored, excess columns. Becky the Whiniest Teenager in Washington bitches aboutt how long they’ll be. The First Gentleman is already freaking a little, but holds it together to pull them into the House.

Press gaggle. The Press Secretary brings up the War Powers Act, which strikes me as a bit of a problem.

Annoying Blonde introduces the family to the staff. She’s the first of a disturbing number of skinny blondes in this episode, and most of them get on my nerves. AB… Abby. Okay, we have a nickname. You’ll remember her, she’s the one who spent all of last episode dissing Hillary Clinton for having a brain and using it while being First Lady. Yes, it was funny, and yes, it established that Abby is a conservative flunky and not exactly devoted to women’s liberation, and that this show is trying VERY HARD not to be that damn librul WEST WING. We get it already. Independent. Gotcha.

Hallway. The Chief of Staff yells at the Press Secretary for being a bastard to the press. “I need to know the President has your loyalty,” he sez, and the Press Secretary says, “The President is dead.” Whoops! He’s also resigned. Let me get this straight – he resigned, THEN did the Gaggle? Hate. You’ve got to wonder, with all this hate for Mac in the dead Prez’s staff, what role did she really play? Honestly, these people are acting like children, not trained political operatives. Oy.

Residence. Abby gives a history lesson. No one cares, because they’re all too freaked already.

Sitroom. The flunky following Mac can’t go in. This show moves too fast. I must type faster.

Hill. The Bastard is freaked about “Warren Keaton,” whom his aide named Jane tells him is Mac’s pick for Veep. He plans a deep-background bullshit on a Tucker Baines as Veep. And this, children, is why we should never use not-for-attribution quotes without a second source. Let this be a lesson to you.

Chief o’ Staff tells Mac he had to encourage the press secretary to resign. She takes it in stride, and reminds him to talk with her before fiiring anyone at this level.

MAC: This business where I’m not sure what I’m doing from minute to minute, I should just get used to that, right?

You and me both, Madam President. My fingers hurt.

Residence. The valets moved them all into their rooms, but Becky is freaking out because of it. She’s searching insanely through the drawers.

The Democratic caucus presents their suggestions for Veep. Mac holds the line at telling them graciously to go to hell. Goood thing they’re venal too. Note to the writers: If we wanted to watch that damn librul WEST WING, we’d…. go to the shelf and pull down the Season 2 DVDs. In-de-pend-ent. Got it.

Mac chats with Jim. Jim! The Chief of Staff has a name. Good, now I don’t have to come up with an amusing moniker for him. Jimbo says Keaton doesn’t want the Veep job. Mac still wants him, even though he apparently hates Mac’s guts. Keaton won a war without losing an American life and is an economic genius. So, who is he supposed to be? I’d say Colin Powell or Schwarzkopf, but neither was an economic genius.

Residence. The Littlest Daughter says she doesn’t think the furniture is the sort you sit on, which makes me smile. Becky is still freaked andd tells her dad there’s soomething missing from her room, CDs or something. Dad asks a question, but she walks it back, and we know what’s missing because we saw the promos. Dammit. Stupid promo people.

Oval Office. After a quick chat with the Russian Prez, Mac asks someone I don’t remember seeing before to be press secretary. She’s a speechwriter, another skinny blonde, and she’s taking the job. She walks right out into the gaggle. Please, don’t let her be milquetoast. She gives housekeeping, then they start jumping all over her. It’s not dreadful, but poor Press Secretary is somewhat outmatched. I miss CJ badly.

FG’s office, and Abby is going over his wardrobe. He really wants to be involved in policy, having been chief of staff until three days ago. Abby reminds him he’s only allowed to wear American designers. Hee! A friend drops by to suggest a Veep, and at FG’s hesitance, asks the dreaded question: Exactly what the hell does the First Gentleman do when his wife is running the country?

FG sneaks down into the kitchen to chat with Jimbo. “You are the first spouse, people will try to take advantage of you.” He tells him to stay “in his lane.” Jimbo does not have a future in motivational speaking or career counseling, people. Poor FG.

Quickie scheduling meeting, and Mac yanks Jimbo out to tell him she always has dinner with the family. I like that they’re trying to establish her as a committed mother as well as Prez, but let’s face it – dinner with the family often isn’t possible when you work in the news business, much less leader of the free world. Still, I’m glad she actually has a family and cares about them, unlike the excess-baggage treatment poor Murphy Brown’s baby received.

Not-CJ comes scrambling in with The Bastard’s backgrounder on Tucker Baines. Mac is pissed. Not-CJ apologizes, and Mac reassures her it’s not her fault. Of course it’s not – she’s been on the job twenty minutes. Oh, and Keaton canceled the call. Not-CJ says they didn’t ask for confirmation, and I call BULLSHIT. Yes, they run with rumors in Washington, but they ALWAYS call for confirmation as well. Nonsense. There’s no way a story like this hits TV without them at least calling for a reaction quote. Once again, a major political show has zero reporters among their advisers. P.S. I’m available.

Commercials. Geez, first quarter and I’m already on page three. Yikes.

Jimbo says the General has yanked out for real. Mac ducks out of the meetingg to say goodnight to the family. She kisses the Littlest Daughter, who has had an ice cream sundae courtesy of the 24-hour room service. Heh. She bumps into the teenage son, who is my favorite kid so far and whose name I keep forgetting.

Lawn. Becky is freaking out, trying to get someone to come get her – like she’s that dumb? - and tells her Secret Service agent that her diary is missing. We knew this was coming because we saw the promos. Stupid promo monkeys.

Mac and FG say hi. He encourages her to kick the staff home, and she gives him a rundown of the ugly day. He says Keaton will be a nightmare confirmation, so they should go with the Republican list. He also encourages her to play hooky and rest. I don’t like his work ethic. She leans back and is instantly asleep – then the phone rings. We can’t hear what’s said, but gets downstairs in a hurry.

The staff tells Mac about the missing diary. They’re concerned about sensitive information in it, and Mac says “there’s only one place to go.” Well, duh.

Commercial.

The staff is grilling Becky. They want to know about sex, drugs, embarrassing things about her mother. Slight problem – Secret Service isn’t in the business of political control, they’d be concerned about protection details, security breaches, not political cover, but who cares? Becky is increasingly freaked at the barrage of questions, and continues to duck specifics. Mac steps in and tells Becky to be completely honest – and not a word will get back to her. Good for Mac. I like that she recognizes the rift between her and her daughter, and accepts it without ignoring it. I like that she still manages to be a good mom despite her daughter’s general teenagerhood.

Press Gaggle. Not-CJ screws up and tells the press she did not leak the Veep name. Outside, FG consoles her with the pep talk. Another flaw – the crew is a little too perfect, but I’m sure their hopeless mistakes will hit us soon. Also, they need a Toby. No grouches on our team!

The Bastard meets with yet another skinny blonde (the one who told him about Keaton in the loooong teaser) and Oklahoma Governor Tucker Baines. I know because the subtitles told me. They talk up Baines, blowing smoke up his ass. Bastard hints that he’s in with Jimbo. “Good man, one of us.” Uh, no he’s not. We like him. Skinny Blonde, who we will find out is named Jane, moves them along.

Jane meets with Jimbo. He’s pissed. He doesn’t take ultimatums, and Jane pushes him toward Baines.

Commercials.

Jimbo tells Mac for the ninth time that Keaton is a lost cause, and Baines is a solid choice. Mac wants to know why Bastard wants someone who is clear competition in the next election. That’s because Mac is smarter than Jimbo.

Becky tells her twin brother that he’s in the diary too. He’s furious. “The next time you want to bitch about your life on paper, bitch about your life, not mine.” She says she’s sorry. So, what was in the diary about Twin? My guess: he’s gay.

Press Gaggle. Not-CJ is asked about the rescue of the Nigerian woman, and as always, the press is harping on it as a woman’s issue. Not-CJ finally stands up for herself by detailing the torture the Nigerian woman would have faced: “The president wasn’t acting as a representative of women. She was asking as a representative of the human race.”

The Post reporter- who is redhaired and is therefore Danny, despite being a Hey It’s That Guy – says there was an out of-court settlement Baines was involved in. Dammit! I knew they should have smacked him down right away. And yeah, I should have seen it coming, but I had only a brief thought of it. And see? Danny asked for a comment. Danny’s cool likee that.

Grace and her son? Grandson? Are running around the halls. I wonder if there’s a point to keeping her on for a while? She serves no purpose.

Not-CJ and Jimbo say in his first year as governor, Baines settled a sexual harrassment suit. Oops. Man, The Bastard is good. Mac is pisssed beyond all recognition and picks up a phone. “Call General Keaton. Tell him his commander in chief is calling.” Damn skippy. Keaton better be good or I’m gonna kick his ass myself. Also: Go Mac.

Commercials. Damn, I am more emotionally involved in this by the second episode than I am in the Santos-v.-Vinick nonsense STILL being dragged out by WEST WING ad nauseum.

Morning. Little One gets a doughnut replaced with an apple. HA! After some silliness, we find out that she had the diary. And declares that Becky is a virgin, and wants to know what that means. The guys scramble. Hee! Mac first scoolds Little One for reading the diary. Damn, we don’t get to see Mac explain what a virgin is.

Keaton is obnoxious with a Palestinian aide, speaking in Arabic. Damn. I hate him already.

Oval Office flashback to a debate. Keaton is obnoxious, patronizing, dismissive of the American people and generally not what I want.

Keaton starts off with, “This is not going to happen.” He opposes her on Israel, school vouchers… and being Veep. “The vice president is chairman off useless.” She calls him on his bullshit and points out that they complement each other. I like that she stands up to him, but I’m not sure why she liked this guy. He lacks charm.

Gaggle. They stand up for Mac. Good for you, folks. She introduces Keaton, and I hope he’s less of an asshole for the rest of the series. HA! The Bastard is pissed as hell. He’s going to keep Keaton from being confirmed. Yeah, give it your best shot, Deep Throat.

Later this season: The kids misbehave. Mac says, “What a town. You can’t even trust the backstabbers.” HEE.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Contest!

Okay, folks, let's suppose that an anthology of my short stories could possibly be coming out soon. Like, next year.

What should said anthology be called?

The short stories were all written in 2000-2003, and share a Twilight-Zone type of fatalistic tragedy. None have truly happy endings; most have fairly tragic ones. If you've come to my readings at cons, you've heard the lead story, SISYPHUS.

What? The contest part? Here's the catch: You have to be a member of my YahooGroup. It's easy and free: go to groups.yahoo.com/group/elizabethdonald/join and sign up. I won't be offended if you go for the digest or special-notice format - we're a fairly low-mail group, but I understand how spammed you folks can get.

Suggest a title on the Yahoogroup. Of the top five (decided by me), I will run a poll. The winner will receive a free comb-bound copy of A MORE PERFECT UNION, or may elect to wait and receive a free copy of the anthology when it is published. I can't promise that the winning title will actually be the title of the anthology - the publisher and I will need to work that out.

But without your help, it's going to be called SISYPHUS AND OTHER TALES. Yawn.

The titles of the stories likely to be included are:

Sisyphus
Silent
Deep Breathing
I Live With It Every Day (Co-written with Jason R. Tippitt)
Jesus Loves Me
The Puzzle
Vertigo
Wonderland
The River
Prisoner’s Dilemma

Other stories that may or may not be included are:

Memory Lane
Falling Down
Memoir
Symphony of the Night Woods

Go to it! Suggestions must be received by midnight CST Oct. 9 to be eligible.