Random (but not really)

Monday, April 30, 2007

Storytelling

As anyone whose perused the book portion of my website has noticed, I’m a big fan of storytelling. I love a well-written book, where the story pulls me and it’s nearly impossible for me to put the book down. (Okay, I like the stories, although not the consequences of staying up too late reading.) I love stories that stick with me long after I’ve put the book down. Stories with characters I think about long afterwards.

And although I’ve never been a huge fan of the medium, there are also TV shows with good storytelling.

The funny thing, however, is that even I can’t predict what stories will stick with me.

But following a long virtual discussion with Jedi Jawa (no offense, but I have a hard time writing that and taking it seriously.) I started thinking about what–to me–makes a good story, and what are the stories that stick with me long after I’m done watching them.

There are two shows that are at the top of my list of all time favorites: Deep Space Nine and Firefly. I can watch these shows time and again and still they thrill me–hell, sometimes they’re even more enjoyable the better I get to know them (to paraphrase Michael, “would you stop laughing in advance!”)

What surprised me, however, was that Farscape stuck with me far more than Babylon 5 did. Now I have to admit that some of this was coming up with ways to fix some of the more problematic episodes (Take the mini-series, Peacekeeper Wars. I decided that if I ignore the entire Arin pregnancy thing, I quite liked the story.), but that’s not all of it. There’s something about the characters, the way they were written, and they way they were portrayed that crawled into my brain and took up residence.

But as much as I loved the storytelling of Babylon 5, for the most part it just didn’t stick with me in the same way. As much as I wanted to find out what happened, as much as I loved the twists and turns and the way everything tied back upon itself, I didn’t give the characters much thought once I was done watching. (With the notable exceptions of Ivonava, Marcus, and Vir.)

Which makes me wonder, what is more important in a show? Good writing or good acting? Or is it an individual thing? Obviously, when both come together (such as in Firefly) it is a wonder and a joy.

Which is a really long way of saying, holy crap I really love Six Feet Under and how come no one told me it was this good? I mean, there are no space ships, nothing gets blown up, and there’s lots of boinking… I should be hating it, but I’m not. And boy do I hope that there’s not some point where everything goes off in some direction that just pisses me off (i.e. the first half of season 6 of Buffy).

Written by Michelle at 10:07 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Sunday, April 29, 2007

F.I.N.E.

I tend to mull over touchy subjects for awhile, before I write about them. I didn’t used to do this, but when I started writing here five years ago, I think Erin was the only person reading, so it didn’t much matter what I said.

But now I must consider that what I write may well be read by current and future employers, which makes certain subjects even more difficult to write about than they are already.

At the top of that list is the subject of mental illness.

The Virginia Tech shootings have brought the subject of mental illness back into the spotlight, and in the most negative light possible.

Now I admit that I am lucky in that my depression and obsessive compulsive disorder are relatively mild, but despite that I have at multiple times in my life seen psychologists and psychiatrists and been on a variety of medications. And through those times I have typically feared discussing these health issues with others.

At the root of that silence is a sense of shame and embarrassment.

Consider the phrase “it’s all in your head.” Well, yes. It is all in my head. But that doesn’t mean that I can control it, no matter how hard I try. During our pre-marital counseling, we were asked whether we had a history of mental illness, when I responded yes, I suffered from depression (I was still in denial about my OCD at that point) the response was basically, “no, I meant a real mental illness.” As if depression were something I could control. As if my depression were something that did not affect my relationships and my life.

Consider the attitude most people have about mental illness. I had a direct supervisor who repeatedly referred to one of the local mental health facilities as “the nuthouse” and constantly used other disparaging terms to refer to those who suffer from mental illness.

Now, as I again consider therapy and medication to help me deal with problems that are slowly spiraling out of my control, I am afraid let people know what is happening in my life. Afraid that they will think less of me for an inability to control something that’s “all in my head.” Afraid that they’ll see me as a threat and a danger.

Which brings me to the disclosure of the mental illness of the shooter. There is now a discussion about the treatment of mental illness.

It is possible this could be a good thing–that treatment for mental illness will be easier to receive, and will be better covered by health insurance companies.

But it could also lead to a greater ostracization of those who suffer from mental illness. That mental illness will become grounds for losing your job or being kicked out of school, for the “safety” of other students or co-workers. That it will become easier to commit someone with mental illness against their will.

And that most people won’t see a problem with either of those things.

Written by Michelle at 10:08 am      Comments (5)  Permalink
Categories: Depression,Science, Health & Nature  

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Recent Reading Recommendations

As previously mentioned, between episodes of Babylon 5 we’re watching with my grandmother, I’ve been reading a lot. Some recent recommendations:

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher, where I finally get to stop being so annoyed with Harry Dresden.

Unshapely Things by Mark del Franco, which is an excellent urban fantasy that isn’t cluttered by with boinking.

I had mixed feelings about Shadows in the Darkness which scored very high as a mystery, but also managed to do some of the things that really annoy me.

And I didn’t much like Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth. It has lots of glowing reviews, but I’m not quite sure why, since I found the book to be very uneven.

Written by Michelle at 10:16 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Mr Pissy

For a variety of reasons, mostly to do with the fact that we have new furniture, Kit (the small, evil, secondary cat )was sent to get declawed this week. We tried the kitty nail covers, we tried double sided tape… nothing.

So before she destroyed the new furniture, we got her declawed. She came through fine–better that I had expected actually–and was gone for a day and a half, but now that she’s back Kat (the large, not extremely friendly, primary cat) no longer recognizes her.

Never mind the fact that the whole time she was gone he moped around the house. Now she’s back, she smells like the vet and so every time Kat sees her he hisses and gets a big fat bushy tail.

Of course, now that I think about it, he WAS freaked out by a doorstop.

We’ve made sure she spent lots of time lying in the window seat, where the two of them would cuddle together. No dice.

Hopefully he gets over it soon.

Written by Michelle at 8:30 am      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Uncategorized  

And I Thought Those Fake Cats Were Eerie…

A toy black leopard left lying in a footpath sparked panic in a Chinese city.

(via my brother)

Written by Michelle at 8:28 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Baking = Relaxation

So what have I made with my time off?

Apple pie
Bittersweet brownies
Chocolate biscotti

So I’m feeling better than I did last week, but I could still stand a little more relaxation.

Because you can never have too many chocolate baked goods.

Written by Michelle at 7:50 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Monday, April 23, 2007

Unclear on the Concept

I set down the book I’d finished and was thinking about the review I was write when I suddenly woke up and realized that it was 3:30. “Oh man,” I thought, “I just wasted the afternoon napping.”

Guess maybe I’m not really clear about the idea of taking time off from work to relax.

Written by Michelle at 4:33 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Saturday, April 21, 2007

How Does Your Garden Grow?

It’s hard to believe that it’s already 21 April and this is the first time I’ve gone out to look at my plants and flowers, but it’s true. This is the first weekend that we were home that was nice weather (the previous nice weekend was when we were in Cincinnati, which was probably more than a month ago).

I knew that the cold and freezing weather coming so late were going to cause problems, but I was still surprised to see the amount of damage. My bleeding hearts look horrible, most of the roses needed pruned back hard, and the two hybrid tea roses are dead. The Japanese maple looks rough, as it was just coming into leaf when the snow came. But it looks like it is putting out new buds, so it may come through okay. Several other shrubs–including my favorite, the broom–took damage, with most having several inches of dead branches or stems.

Combine this with the fact that in order for my grandmother to fit into the house, I gave away or composted a lot of plants in the fall, and things are looking pretty barren.

On the bright side, however, this means that I can get all *kinds* of annuals this year.

Just to fill in the bare spots, you know.

After all, it’s not like we had anything else planned for our disposable income.

Except books.

Written by Michelle at 4:37 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Today’s Word

deus ex machina \DAY-us-eks-MAH-kih-nuh\ noun
: a person or thing (as in fiction or drama) that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty

The New Latin term “deus ex machina” is a translation of a Greek phrase and means literally “a god from a machine.” “Machine,” in this case, refers to the crane that held a god over the stage in ancient Greek and Roman drama. The practice of introducing a god at the end of a play to unravel and resolve the plot dates from at least the 5th century B.C.; Euripides (circa 484-406 B.C.) was one playwright who made frequent use of the device. Since the late 1600s, “deus ex machina” has been applied in English to unlikely saviors and improbable events that bring order out of chaos in sudden and surprising ways.

The reason today’s word is appropriate is that it’s the working title for the story I was writing. Was, because a bout of depression threw me out of it, and I haven’t been able to get back in. So here’s a reminder for me to try and get my ass in gear.

Written by Michelle at 8:21 am      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Depression  

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Arthur Penhaligon Double?

Is it just me, or does the teen on the cover of the Garth Nix “Keys to the Kingdom” series look eerily like a younger Neil Gaiman?

sir_thursday.jpg
(click through to find a larger image on the Amazon website.)

See also Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, and Lady Friday

Written by Michelle at 10:02 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Uncategorized  
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