Veronica Mars -- Postgame Mortem

Whee, this show is rocking so hard. They haven't been in this strong of a groove since season one; it is making me SO happy.

I totally loved the little eleven year old girl and Logan thing. I realize that it was a little contrived and a little trite, and I wasn't a huge ginormous fan of the oh, she does know something about love and loss because her parents split up "twist", whatever, my parents split up when I was that age, doesn't mean I knew anything about love and loss, necessarily. But the actress was adorable, the interaction wasn't too cutesy, and the elevator scene made me squeal very loudly given that I was in a faculty computer room.

As a side note, regarding that, how much is Logan the girl and Veronica the guy in their relationship? My god. It's not a bad thing, I like how they reverse the stereotypes -- I'd definitely be pissed if it were Veronica mooning around among room service trays. But you know. A little ... noticeable. But then, now that I think about it, not altogether different from many of the relationships I saw in college.

Also, Dick is continuing his scary and nerve-wracking run as nearing the territory of likeable. Oh, he's got a few more light years to go, but the fact that I don't hate him is makding me so nervous, I can't tell you guys. What's next, virtuous members of the KKK? But I can't help it, he was hilarious this week.

So that subplot was all to the good. The coach's murder... I really wish there had been more Wallace. What the hell? You can't give the guy a little more screen time, if you're going to feature him at all? But the murder itself was interesting, I really like that it wasn't solved yet by the end, I kind of think it was Josh, but I don't have any evidence about that. But it's been good and twisty, I love having two murders going on at once -- god, do you think it's the same guy, and someone is going around killing the faculty? Because that would completely rock, I'm so serious. I mean, I'm really glad it didn't happen at my college, but fictionally it would rock.

I'm trying to think of other notable things about the episode, but mostly I just really liked it. I liked all the storylines, I thought the dialogue was good (although not crazy-memorable); the breakfast bit was good, although when is Veronica going to learn to check for clients before she starts talking to her dad at the office? Bah. The dean's letter did nothing for me, and Landry continues to annoy, although I don't think either he or Mindy was the killer. I'm still leaning towards the kid (Cyrus's kid that is) or else some kind of faculty and staff serial murderer.

Okay, I have obeyed my own rule, now I've got to go watch the next one!


More Vienna

Whew; now safely back in France, and it is time to describe my Vienna and Prague trip. And my unexpected detour to Slovakia; that was fun.

So on Wednesday I shook off my legarthy and actually started sightseeing in the city I picked for myself to visit. I know, I don't know how I do it, either. I've been getting very late starts, and it's sort of against my personal belief system to force myself to get up early while I'm supposedly on vacation for my own pleasure, so I do most of my wanderings between the hours of noon and 6pm, at which time it gets dark and everything except the bars starts to close down, and I start to get hungry and tired and cold and paranoid.

Wednesday, I spent the timeframe at the Wittgenstien-Haus and then the Tiergarten. For anyone who's never been to Vienna, you can translate those respectively as Empty-Shack and the Zoo.

I wanted to go to Wittgenstien's house not for any architectural significance I am told it has, but because Wittgenstien caused me a great deal of grief for a good six or eight weeks senior year of college and I wanted the option of spitting on his piano or something. He's one of those people -- like Kirkegaard, Homer, and Anselm -- who I wrote a bad paper about, trying to understand what they were getting at, and failing completely, because while I find them interesting I do not understand their way of thinking at all, and a paper doesn't change that, only exposes my ignorance for a tutor to see and criticize. So on the one hand, I have very bad memories of this guy, and would sort of like to see him burn in hell for causing me that grief. But on the other hand, I don't exactly blame authors in this category. I mean, I totally blame the guys like Kant and Hegel, Goethe, Marx, who I just straight up hated, didn't understand, and disagreed with on principle. Them I would totally spit on (or at least point and laugh, in an attempt to fill them with shame) if I saw them on the street. Wittgenstein, though... I mean, it's not exactly his fault that I couldn't get a handle on what he was saying at all, just like it wasn't exactly Kirkegaard's fault that I tried to write a paper on him in six hours and it turned into a five page failure. I blame him a little, because other six hour papers that I wrote turned out okay, (uh, just ignore that sentence, Mom), but I know plenty of people who devoted sufficient time to a Kirkegaard paper to have it turn out well.

Anyway. I did not spit on his piano, although he had one; the house is very cool architecturally, but also kind of empty and boring. It wasn't on my map, and I think I spent more time wandering around looking for it -- asking people for directions, going the wrong way, trying to read street names in German, stuff like that -- than I did actually in the house. There are lots of stairs, circling themselves around an elevator, which is the coolest thing. There are also a lot of paintings, but since I don't know German I don't know why they're there or if they have any significance, and since I'm bone stupid when it comes to art I don't even know if they were good paintings or not.

Anyway, after that was the zoo. I wasn't sure about going, since I virtually never go to the zoo anymore, but what the hell, I figured, asking for advice, receiving it, and then not taking it makes you look like a very stupid main character in a novel of some sort, and those kind of people inevitably come to bad ends. So I went. And I'm really glad I did, because the koala bears alone were worth the price of admission. Seriously, they were completely and totally adorable. There were also pandas, who I wanted to hug, giraffes, giant turtles, little mini penguins, lions, tigers, and cheetahs, and fish. The best part though, was that since it was February in central Europe, all the animals (almost all, anyway) were inside. So you'd walk into a room, and there would be giraffes standing there, eating out of a high trough on the wall. It cracked me up. That renewed my zest for life.

Trying to get out of the public park where the zoo is and find public transportation then killed my zest for life, but it was renewed for awhile, so you know, take what you can get.

After that, I broke with tradition. I've traveled enough to have certain habits at this point, one of them being ignoring guidebooks. This is not a smart thing to do, or a particularly good idea, or something I'd recommend, but nevertheless, I hold to it closely and rarely deviate. Consequently my preferred method of finding a restaurant is to wander around until I am so hungry that I am no longer picky about what I eat so long as I eat something, and then I go into the first restaurant I see, order something that looks vegetarian, and quietly try not to faint. Shut up, it generally works just fine. But Wednesday night I actually consulted my map for a restaurant recommendation, took public transportation over there (gotta love the Vienna card) found it, and ate there. It was a new experience. Not bad, although not quite up to the hype the map gave it. And I had a pear cider, which was stupid and gave me a wicked headache. But I deserved it for drinking pear cider, so it didn't upset me too much once it was gone by the next day. (Big internet thank yous to the girl who was staying at the hostel with me and gave me an Advil when I needed one, since I hadn't packed mine.)

That was Wednesday... stay tuned for the House of Music, Prague, and my unexpected trip to Slovakia. And some Veronica Mars reviews should be up soon, talk about renewing my zest for life.


Vienna, Day 1

Four Things That Are Annoying:
1. That each country in Europe feels the need not only for a different language, but a different fucking keyboard contraption. In England and America, you have QWERTY keyboards. Okay, I complained about them when I was young and learning to type, but now I know how to type and they work fine. In France, you have AZERTY keyboards, which are annoying but which I have gotten used to. NOW, in Austria, they have QWERTZ keyboards. This is driving me completely insane. There are, like, ten letters that I can count on to be there when I need them. Don't even get me started on punctuation marks. Typing now makes me want to cry.
2. My normal February cold, which arrived promptly on schedule the day I was supposed to be leaving for Paris, and which now keeps me up for two hours at a time every night coughing my lungs up. Shut up, stupid cold. I'm tired enough without your influence, and now all my hostel roommates want to kill me.
3.The book I finished on the way here, Andre Norton's Wheel of Stars. Dear Andre Norton, Since you are neither Madeleine L'Engle, nor Ursula Le Guin, nor Robin McKinley, I must insist that you stop pretending you are, and therefore stop writing books which feature the end of the world because of the stupidity of mankind, the joyous reuniting of two identities into a whole person, or a perfectly normal young woman who suddenly discovers that not only does she have magic powers, but she is some sort of last true hope for mankind. Look on the bright side, Ms. Norton: you are also not Mercedes Lackey, so perhaps if you set your sights a little lower, you can write lovely, decent page turners set in an entirely fantastical environment. Play to your strengths, my dear. Love, petitechica.
4. The fact that it apparently takes four hours to get to Prague from here. I refuse to believe it is that far away. On the map it looks like it should be two or three hours, not four. Now it will be much more of a pain in the ass to take a day trip up there, but I shall go anyway.

Four Things That Are Awesome:
1. The shopping in Vienna. The shopping in Vienna is totally fantasic, and if I had had any money yesterday I wouldn't have it anymore. All the bookstores have a nice, relatively big English language section, the clothing and shoe stores are fantastic, and the souvenir shops don't annoy me as much as usual because lots of them sell Mozart CDs. Also the downtown area is completely gorgeous beyond all reason, it's like you walk along, la de da, and suddenly there's this completely beautiful building right in front of you. Not every building is beautiful -- lots of it is just very commercial, it reminds me of downtown New York -- but that makes it all the more startling when one does suddenly pop up.
2. The St. Stephen's Cathedral, which I randomly stumbled into yesterday. This has to be the most Gothic building I have ever seen in my life. It's all dark and broody and archy and full of gargoyles. I had no idea it was there but now I think it is extremely cool and one of my favorite cathedrals.
3. The movie Hollywoodland, which I saw last night, in English, because Austria loves me. Damn, that movie was completely excellent, and everyone should go see it immediately. Adrien Brody is gorgeous, but more than that the acting is really good, the camera work is really good, the story is suitably twisty, it's just all around awesome. I have to say, the noir genre is completely growing on me. The mystery genre in general, really, but particularly the subset that is noir. I blame Veronica Mars, and also all the Bogart movies I got for my last birthday. I know I like the mystery genre because the detectives are usually so cool, and they have a way of making me feel both really smart and totally in awe of their intelligence at the same time, which I like. They can even be a little smug, and that's okay, as long as they're smug in the direction of people around them instead of in my direction. Julian Kestrel, Veronica Mars, Philip Marlowe, I even picked up a Thursday Next novel yesterday and was liking her. (This means I'm going to have to check out both Lord Peter Wimsey and Sherlock Holmes books again, now that I sort of like mysteries; this genre has been growing on me so totally slowly that it's hard to know what I'll like or won't like at any given time.) Anyway, Adrien Brody as Louis Simo definitely goes on the good list.
4. My hostel, which has cleanliness, relative privacy, and free lockers that come with your room. One of the best hostels I have stayed at, so I really hope they don't hate me for coughing so much.


My Twenty Four Hours of Zoom

So I made it safe to Vienna, through, well, neither rain nor snow nor sleet, but through feet, trains, metro, hostels, airplanes, buses, trams, and more feet. (I have actually used all of those within the last twenty-four hours. I'm considering taking a boat and/or taxi ride tomorrow, just to round it off.)

But as much as I could complain about all that, that's not what I want to write about. (Okay, I am going to complain very briefly about the woman who had to cut in front of me in line at Charles de Gaulle, with her high heels and her daughter -- I assume it was her daughter, it could have been some sort of theatrical prop -- and her tiny puppy, and her NOT GETTING TO THE AIRPORT ON FUCKING TIME so that although we were on the exact same flight she had to CUT IN FRONT OF ME, because she had a small child and a dog and was traveling first class, and was also clearly an IDIOT, because if you have a small child and a dog, you arrive at the airport TWO HOURS before your flight, NOT forty five minutes, and she is more of an idiot, because I still made it onto the plane before her because she stopped and bought a slurpee. Bitch. Anyway.)

Now my complaining is over. Other than that -- and the slight mishap when I was freshly arrived in Vienna and got off the bus at the wrong stop and had to figure out how to get across town with no map and a German vocabulary of fewer than ten words, not including the numbers one through twenty -- my trip went very well. And one of the reasons was the lovely Swiss airline I took.

Seriously, you guys? Everyone should ALWAYS fly Swiss. I luuuurve the Swiss. I was only in Zurich for less than five hours, and I still love the Swiss. (Switzerland, out the window, looked very pretty too.) Their seats are nice and big and nice leather, plenty of butt-room, and I had no one sitting next to me either of my two flights, and forget peanuts, they totally pass out sandwiches and Swiss chocolate. And that is actually a pretty brilliant move on their part, since as soon as I got to the airport in Zurich I bought like three or four big Swiss chocolate bars, because Swiss chocolate is delicious. Yum, Swiss chocolate.

So that is the lesson I have learned thus far in my travels. I'm not sure at all what I'm going to see in Vienna, except I'll probably head over to the Sigmund Freud Museum at some point, because I thik it is awesome that they have a Sigmund Freud museum. (I can't imagine what's in there, though. A couch? A cigar?) And the music hall, too probably. Email me with suggestions, everybody, or leave them as a comment. I have no guidebook, I am counting on you guys.


David Sedaris -- Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

This shall have to be tres vite, because I have many things to do before I leave for Paris in three hours. Which will probably be refreshing. The short entry part, not the leaving for Paris part. The leaving for Paris part will be kind of dirty and tiring and a hassle. Which reminds me that I shoud find a hotel for tonight.

Dad has been telling me to read this book for a couple months, and I found it at a store in Rennes for like, three euros, and figured hell. And it was totally worth it because it took me under 24 hours to read (under 24 normal hours, which include sleeping and eating and traveling and being on the phone, not 24 uber-hours like La Short Stuff with a new Harry Potter), and it's really funny.

I especially liked how self-aware Sedaris is about himself and his life; often that can get obnoxious (I find it continually obnoxious how oddly self aware I am of my own life, for example, and how completely stupid in other respects; but more than that, in books if the person is too self aware, and knows it, or not self aware enough, or not funny enough about it... it's really easy to mess up. Du Maurier's Rebecca being the Platonic form of that) but he does a good job being funny about it, and being sort of okay with his neuroses, not getting defensive. I liked that.

The order to the stories/essays was sort of weird, they weren't chronological and didn't seem to follow any particular pattern. But I really enjoyed the stories themselves. "Six to Eight Black Men" especially had me just cracking up.

Plus, it is totally awesome that this guy lives in Normandie. (I find living in Europe is bad for my inner fangirl. As if being an American in France were some sort of special condition, like being a member of the same fraternity or something, that entitles you to certain bonuses. I've been to LA a ton of times in my life, and while I might sometimes get bored and check out the drivers of other cars to see if any of them are drunk celebrities, but I've never wanted to go to Beverley Hills and camp out there hoping to spot one. Whereas here, in France, anytime I hear of a famous American out here I want to go swap crazy cultural stories. I found out Olivia de Havilland lives in Paris and I want to stalk her. I find out David Sedaris lives in Normandie and I want to invite myself over for tea at his house. It is so bad.) In that vein, now I really want to read his other book about learning French. I love reading about other people struggling with French, it makes me feel normal instead of bone stupid. I envy all the viewers-at-home who can read those kind of books and chuckle and titter comfortably, secure in the knowledge that they have never had to give up on pronouncing a word and perform a short exercise in the art of mime in order to find Q-Tips in a damn drugstore.

Back to the book. This is difficult, as I didn't really think about the essays in depth. So I don't have a ton to say about it. It's very funny, I enjoyed it, it's a quick read, I recommend it.

I liked the stories of his own adult life better than the stories of his family. I get very paranoid about writing or reading anything very personal about real people who are not famous. Famous people are fair game. But to Sedaris's credit, he talks about that, and the consequences it has for his family life, and I like that. I couldn't do it, and I liked the essays better that were about travelling, or movie reviews, or cleaning apartments in New York (which was an AWESOME story, by the way) and his boyfriend and stuff like that. But I certainly didn't have a problem reading the rest of it.


Mont-Saint-Michel, Château Fougères, & Rennes

Whee, the week of traveling around northern France! It's too bad I can't just say Normandie or Bretagne (pronounced Bret-tanye; anglicized Brittany), but I was in both and they each have cool things, and you are not allowed to get them confused, at all. If Normans are like the Californians of France, then Brittany is the Texas.

So! The Mont-Saint-Michel. It is definitely justly called a wonder of the world. There are three very stunning things about it, which all work in stunning harmony; it is just full of stunning, especially considering that from a distance it looks like a large stone wedding cake.

The first is the bay, and the way the tides flow in and out around the island (-ish thing... what do you call it when it's an island for half of every day and a hill for the other half?). The Abbey stands at the top of the hill-island hybrid, which henceforth shall be known as the hisland, and the tides come through the bottom. They used to surround it more completely, but the water has been dumping sediment around the base for thousands of years -- the causeway didn't help either -- and now it's very sandy. (Also I was there at low tide.) The people there are very big on the Mt-St-Mich being "where sea and sky meet," and they're less than pleased with this development, because "where sky and sand and some rivers and also sheep meet" sounds sort of like a really bizarre hippie dating service. So there are efforts underway to move all the sand back out, including, as I understand it, the construction of a very modern dam-like structure and the conversion of the causeway into an actual bridge. The bay itself is awesome, though, and added to the prestige of going on a pilgrimmage to the Mt.-St.-Mich is that it's a) totally full of quicksand, and b) at times completely impossible to navigate because of quick moving fogs. They tell you all this at the museum, because idiot tourists still die. (I'm willing to bet it sounded better four or five hundred years ago, when they got to call them unworthy scum and say that God was sending them a message.)

So! Awesome thing Number Two is the architecture. I know nothing about architecture, but I can tell that this was wicked cool, because you don't usually see gothic ceilings required to moonlight as supports for even larger gothic ceilings. Because of the way the hisland is shaped, half of the rooms are sort of halfway dug into the dirt and act as supports for the other half. The view is also completely incredible.

Awesome thing Number Three is the history associated with the place. I've discovered that although I enjoy the longish historical backgrounds associated with French monuments, the things I really love are always the convoluted stories of someone's crazy life, like the Princesses at Versailles. In this case, it was someone's crazy death, namely one of the Ducs or Comtes or whatever of the hisland -- I think he was a duke, but I could be making that up. Anyway, he and his wife lived in this sort of mini castle type thing, and they were very in love. So he died while on a trip to the south of France, but he wanted to be buried with his wife. So his followers, get this. They set up a fake (empty) grave in the south, where he died. Why this was necessary, I'm not sure. Then they start carrying him on horseback up north. Over the course of this long trip, he starts to smell kind of ripe. So they take out his entrails and bury those in a second grave. That works for awhile, but they trip takes a long time, and he starts to smell again, so they take out -- I think -- his muscles and skin and burn those and spread the ashes. Then, they finally get to Brittany and bury his heart in the same grave as his wife. But he is so well known (or something) that they eventually inter his bones with those of the kings of France, in Paris. FIVE GRAVES. Tell me that is not AWESOME.

They also have a real live PIRATE CHEST. Sometimes I totally love France.

Anyway! So, those were my impressions of the Mt. St. Michel, and also that the person who took me there, for whom I have not yet invented a clever pseudonym, is AWESOME also and deserves lots of props and snaps.

So, then on Wednesday, I was on the way to Rennes with my tutor, who is also awesome and who also doesn't have a clever pseudonym yet, but I think when she gets one it will involve the word 'super' in some way. We stopped at Fougères to see the Castle and the church there. The castle is totally fantastic -- picture the ideal locale where you would like to be sitting while reading Ivanhoe, in the way that Kennsington Gardens in London is your ideal setting to be reading Peter Pan and the Alaskan tundra is the perfect setting to be reading White Fang, not that I ever have, because Jack London is my own personal insomniac remedy. But! The castle! It has a keep, for reals, which English castles never do, and holes in the walls to pour out boiling oil or lead or whatever (or cold water, like the Psammead children), although they didn't use boiling oil because olive trees don't grow so far north, no joke. And crossbow openings, and seven foot thick walls, and a totally awesome moat with a waterfall.

The church roughly next door is Gothic on the outside and Baroque on the inside, which means I know not what, but seems very cool. The best part about it is the stained glass windows which actually recognizably depict scenes from recognizable sources, unlike certain other stained glass windows that I have no shame in pointing out belong to the Sainte Chapelle in Paris.

Rennes was very cool too; it's like three Berkeleys put together, each with its own university. There was shopping (I got three books in English for ten euros, which is the price of ONE English book around here, so that was awesome); there was eating (yummy crêpes, and the new and exciting knowledge that noix st.-jacques, though the word noix means nuts, are actually clams); there was going to the movies (a university presentation of O Brother Where Art Thou? and a French film called La Môme at the cinema); there was much talking and hanging out and fun. There was the university library, too, where I started a literary criticism book and came to the uncomfortable realization that there is a part of me that wants to write essays again. I know. I checked for a fever directly I realized it. But I sort of want to sit down and reread Jane Austen and write critical essays about character development. I am very disturbed.

So! That is my travelogue for today. Stay tuned for thoughts on Life, the Universe, and Vienna and Prague next week, though sadly no Veronica Mars reviews until I get back to school. Whee!


Up Up And Away

Whee! So in my hot little hands (actually my hot little inbox, but whatever) I have the tres shiny ticket to Vienna, pas cher du tout, which was very exciting given that I didn't buy it until today. Hurray, I leave Sunday, I shall NOT spend two full weeks out here with nothing to do, I shall go see ... I don't know what I shall see but it will probably involve Mozart in one way or another.

Anyway, for the three of you who follow this, posting will be sporadic for the next couple of weeks since I will be going to the Mont St.-Michel and Rennes this week and Vienna and probably Prague next week. I'll post and write whenever I have access.

Feminist Thoughts About the Movies

So I made it all the way through Breakfast At Tiffany's last weekend, for the first time since I lived in Anderson. I didn't love it then, and I like it a lot better now, possibly because I find Holly sympathetic instead of ditzy and annoying. But there is one part of that movie that I just cannot stand, and it's the romance between her and George Peppard's Paul.

I know this is supposed to be one of the huge romantic movies of the century, like Casablanca or Gone With the Wind, and it's not that I blame Paul for finding Audrey Hepburn fetching -- she is fetching, she's a size negative two, she dresses great, she's very charming. But while Audrey Hepburn manages to convey a certain amount of depth of feeling, and control, and sense, George Peppard acts like he just figured out he wants to take a swan dive into her pants. Once her ex-husband shows up, he starts acting hurt and put out whenever she talks to other men, even though he hasn't yet broken it off with his 'decorator.' There doesn't seem to be any depth of feeling in his side of the relationship at all, and then suddenly it's "you belong to me."

Okay, I think my real complaint is that the relationship seems to have two elements -- comfortable friends and crazy obsessives. Like, they're walking around New York stealing masks and goldfish, getting crackerjacks engraved, and it's kind of cute and adorable and you could do that on a date or with a big group of friends and it would remain sort of cute. And then there's no middle ground, where they both sort of want to change their lives to be together, no, from there it's straight to the whole, engaged powder room wham bam thank you ma'am aspect of the movie.

And the movie sort of goes on too long in general -- I watch it in sections, usually -- but the relationship between them is just paced wrong, and messy. I heard from the Divine Dictator once that in the original Truman Capote story, Paul is gay, and I have to say that makes a lot more sense to me. The relationship would seem much more equal, if they were friends and did their wacky zany adventure type stuff and he wasn't trying to get into her pants. She could get him restarted on writing, he could get her out of jail, it would be sort of sweet. But then I thought about it more and decided it's okay if he wants to get into her pants, if it happens more gradually. It's the immediate leap that drives me nuts and makes me not like the romance.

(God, and you know what else has a horrible romance that made me cry? The new Charlotte's Web, which I saw in French last weekend. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Fern supposed to be, like, NINE? Regardless, Dakota Fanning looks about SEVEN AND A HALF, so giving her this TWELVE YEAR OLD GUY to squire her around the fair and hold hands with her on the ferris wheel is SICK AND WRONG. And DON'T GET ME STARTED about how she makes her mother so proud because she was in jeans the whole damn movie and then suddenly, through the magical influence of Ferris Wheel Boy (who has seen her keep a baby pig in her desk, so he can't be THAT particular) she wants to wear a cute yellow dress and ribbons in her hair. GIVE ME A BREAK. I mean, okay, yes, it is fine to want to look pretty to impress people, whatever, but not that young, and not that drastically. The producers seemed to think it was funny. Whatever. Shut up and go back to the fifties.)

And actually, you know, as long as I'm rambling to an un-captive audience, if I were back in the fifties, do you know what I would want to do? If I had the means, I would totally become one of those female sugar daddies like the decorator in Breakfast at Tiffany's, or Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Think about it! Wouldn't that be completely awesome? You could stylishly lure struggling young writers into your web of deceit and your huge bank account, you would call the shots in the relationship because you write the checks, you'd get great sex no matter your own age, and then, when you started losing interest in the young earnest writer type (as you inevitably would, they're all the same) you could pull some strings and have him meet a doe-eyed young thing, preferably engaged to someone else, who would make him feel like he still had balls, and then he (thinking it was entirely his own idea) would leave you and you could find another one, and lather, rinse, repeat! And once that started to get tedious, as it would after a couple dozen, you could liven things up by shooting your last one into your swimming pool and going insane! See, I'm totally right, that would be fantastic.

Now, after that whole entry, everyone is sort of looking at each other all, "Damn, no wonder bitch is single, the bitter old hag," but there are plenty of functional and adorable relationships -- fictional and real life -- that I think are awesome and give me hope for the future and all that jazz. And it's easier to find them in more modern movies, sure, but there are plenty of old movie couples who do great. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are always awesome. Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Gene Kelly is kind of a dick, but I don't really have a problem with his relationship with Debbie Reynolds in Singin' in the Rain. Audrey Hepburn does just fine as long as she's opposite Gregory Peck instead of George Peppard. I mean, yeah, they're old movies, so you generally get the hero teaching the heroine some Important Life Lesson that your average five year old has already got a pretty good handle on, but whatever, evil villains often act like five year olds too, you can overlook it. As long as it's not the BASIS of the relationship, like it is at Tiffany's.


Veronica Mars -- There's Got to Be a Morning After Pill

Seriously, this show is KILLING ME. YouTube is one of my personal deities.

Okay, I totally forgot in the last four years or so what it's like to be obsessed with a show that's actually on the air. And you can only watch one episode at a time. And now I am having flashbacks to being fourteen years old and I am SQUEALING in the staff computer room of a French middle school, because goddammit, Veronica, you do not ERASE messages before you have listened to ALL of them. And it's not like I enjoy it either but TV taught me many years ago that you have to listen to all of them ANYWAY or you look like an IDIOT and become a HORRIBLE PERSON.

You see? I told you. Fourteen.

Also, is it me, or does Veronica actually getting Weevil to bash in Madison's car remind anyone else of asking Anya (from Buffy) for a wish? It's like, yes, it is always tempting to imagine your ex-boyfriend with no balls, or the girl he cheated on you with or whatever living on the street in a cardboard box. And imagining those things is just the sort of thing that you do when you're moving on from a breakup (not that, uh, I've ever thought like that or anything). And then you meet someone else and let it go except when your old friends email you to tell you something stupid your ex is doing now that you're not there to keep him in line.

But it's so much less cool to actually knowingly take steps to go through with that. I hate to have a TWoP link in every review I write, but I'm almost positive they said something very similar -- I think I'm copying them, actually -- in a seventh season Buffy recap when Anya was trying to mutilate Xander in some way. Like, it seems justified, especially when it's Madison, but then your boyfriend's psycho ex stalks you, and you're all, "move on, lady, get a life, it's over." So I'm glad Veronica didn't go through with it. I mean, I don't think I would have stopped watching or started hating her or anything, so I hope the network didn't force the creators not to do it for that reason, but it seems much better to have her walk the line -- have her really seriously consider tracking Logan -- and showing us that she's serious by actually setting up the device -- and then backing out. It illustrates the line that Veronica is constantly walking as a PI, because in some ways, of course she does want to use her PI skills in her personal life. That's what solved Lilly Kane's murder, that's what let her figure out who raped her, that's what she does, and does well. And it's a strength that she can care personally about her clients, even when they're monkeys; otherwise she wouldn't do her job as well. So then it obviously does become very difficult for her to find the line between when she should be investigating, and digging, and blackmailing and avenging, and when she shouldn't. I thought this episode especially does a fantastic job with that.

Really, this is my favorite episode of the season. Despite the Logan/Veronica stuff, and it wasn't as funny as last week, but it highlighted a couple of things this show does really really well, aside from, like, witty dialogue and intelligent storylines. One of them being, obviously, Veronica's line-walking, but also the show's willingness to really deal with issues and present a variety of viewpoints without getting especially preachy.

Because that was another really well done thing this week, and it's a direction the show is taking this season that I really like. The first two seasons with the rich kids and the biker gang were also really well done, but I think the fact that they've been willing to deal with gender issues this season is fantastic. It's a good time for it, in the show, first year of college, and they're doing it really well. Okay, the rape storyline got a lot of shit, but this episode actually makes me like that storyline better in retrospect, I think because they handled this issue sensitively; it's like there are more layers than I thought in the other one too. Okay, I'm not sure exactly what I mean by that, but it left a good taste in my mouth, for what it's worth.

I especially liked them showing the double side of the religious extremists' reaction, and that that element wasn't cut and dry. That was really well done, and there are a lot of shows that wouldn't bother showing both sides of that, by a long shot. And I liked the roommate's reasons -- I mean, I don't approve of what she did, obviously, and it is of course not her choice to make and offensive that she made it. But she did point out some things, that having a kid at that age is a big deal, etc., etc., that the show presented a lot more sensitively than I'm able to.

Oh, and it helps that I totally didn't see it coming until right before the reveal (which is, of course, the best possible time to predict the ending, unless you're me when I was reading Ender's Game) and that was one of my complaints a few episodes ago, that the show was getting too predictable, so it's nice that I got to be surprised.

Mopey Logan -- well, I've enjoyed it up till now, and obviously I'm still totally invested in that relationship, but I do miss how snarky and fun and evil he can be, especially back when he and Veronica were sort of dodging around the fact that they really liked each other. Sadly that interaction seems like it won't ever make a comeback, but I'd still like to see him being snarky to other people.

Oh, and the apocalypse should hit in half an hour or so, because I did not hate Dick or think he's a waste of space or want him to fall off the balcony or get his head squished like a grapefruit or wish he wasn't taking up so much of the other characters' oxygen and screen time hardly at all this week.

Anyway, all in all, a really really good episode. My biggest complaint is that Mac didn't even get any screen time for her birthday? Good god, writers, throw her a bone. I know she's on other shows too, but Mac is cooler than whoever she plays on them.

Current Dean O'Dell prediction: Gah, I keep trying not to pick whoever the writers throw in my face week by week (this has been a failure, clearly), but this week, I think it actually might possibly be Ex-husband Whasisname or one of the kids. With a twist that I don't know about, sure, and it doesn't make much sense at the moment, but the timing is right. Anyway... I am a complete failure at guessing, I shall never complain again about the big mysteries being too predictable.


A Sense of Control in a World Full of Chaos

Today I got downstairs and walked into horrible wet slushy snow. Not fun, sticky, cancel-school snow, stick-to-you-and-melt-down-the-back-of-your-neck snow. Therefore, I think this is a good day to mention how much I completely love my boots and my coat.

Seriously, they are the best clothing items ever in the world. My feet are never wet, and my torso is never cold. I love my boots and my coat. If anyone is ever planning on coming to Normandie, pack those before you bother with underwear or a French dictionary, seriously.

Okay, I am a little hard up for things to write about today, because I am depressed. But it is also true that I thank God and my parents every day for my boots and my coat.


New Heights of Geekitude

Sometimes I am so much of a geek that I amaze myself. For example, right, when I was at home over Christmas I downloaded a bunch of free computer games and suchlike of various Mac-sites. I figured approximately 50% of the ones I downloaded would actually run on my machine, and of those about 20% wouldn't suck, so if I downloaded at least ten games I could probably find one that was slightly more addicting than my previous favorite, Einstein.

And it totally worked, so I'm not complaining or anything, but the game I got addicted to makes me more of a geek than ever before. More of a geek than doing theater all through high school, more of a geek than spending my free time in my geometry classroom goofing off with computer nerds (hi, guys!), more of a geek than being a philosophy major, possibly more of a geek even than when I spent my time writing X-Files fanfic. Which I DON'T DO ANYMORE, so you can just SHUT UP.

Wow, looking at that list sort of makes me want to hide under a rock. Anyway.

So this game I am addicted to? All the best of fantasy novels, computer fighty games, and little CGI love. Seriously. I am some sort of human shaped prince-type, whose evil aunt or second cousin or some such has killed several close family members and exiled me and is ruling. You know she's evil because she attacks me with orcs and trolls and suchlike. And I have this wise Dumbledore/Gandalf/Merlin type who follows me around, (I think his name is actually a conglomeration of those), saying wise things and occasionally frying my enemies with magical lighting. More recently I have picked up this high elvish lord type, and I'm not sure why he follows me around too, but if he dies I lose. And I can recruit elves and dwarves and wizards and Riders of Rohan (or whatever) and I keep having to fight of demon hoards and undead wretches and suchlike, and it's way more fun than it ought to be.

Most recently, I have picked up a princess, who is evil, and whose ass I have already kicked, but who I think I am going to marry later because she has very long blonde hair and my little CGI prince says extremely stupid things when he's around her, which he always is, because if she dies I lose, too. You see? It is so completely deliciously derivative that it actually makes me want to go back and read some very stupid fantasy books where long lost princes fight evil goblins and marry snarky princesses.

And of course it was all a free download (I live in fear that when I am about to recapture my crown or whatever a little box is going to pop up demanding a fifteen dollar shareware fee, and for the first time in my whole life I will have to pay it); but what that means is that I am not even a legitimate intelligent computer geek who is hooked on, say, Final Fantasy, no, I am the sort of geek who is hooked on the fantasy game where the characters move on a hexagonal grid.

And despite how guilty this pleasure is, I seriously played it for like two hours last night. I tend to take it really personally when one of my little men dies, or gets knighted, or misses his enemy.

I think I need some sort of real project. Or internet access in my room, one of the two. At least I would think that, if I didn't know that I probably would have gotten just as addicted to this if I had encountered it in college, so it's really just as well I didn't know about it until after my thesis got turned in and I have my degree.


Veronica Mars -- Poughkeepsie, Tramps, and Thieves

Latest Veronica Mars... whee, so I don't post on the weekends but then it's a two review Monday. So it goes. I'm only doing this today so that I can read the TWoP recap with a clear conscience.

Anyway, the script for this episode was brilliant. I especially loved the scenes between Veronica and Keith -- hilariously written, well-acted, really funny and cute. In general the writing was really strong this week. Lots of nice snark, everybody very in character, good character development. The scenes between Veronica and Logan were also really good. Although I'm starting to miss Wallace and his fun interactions with the cast.

The storyline was also strong, although I think the first half was better than the second half. I liked the whole premise and setup, the roommates, the hooker, I thought all that was really good. The actor playing Max I thought did a fantastic job. On first viewing, it felt weird that he suddenly couldn't get over being a hooker, but on repeat viewings, there were plenty of awkward moments leading up to that, and it made a certain amount of sense to me that he could ignore it while he was working on getting her out of it, -- as in, he could tell himself that soon it would be over, and it wouldn't matter anymore -- but then actually trying to live with her, knowing that, was really difficult for him. ("Never fall in love with a woman who sells herself! Always ends bad!" "Roooooooooxaaaannnnne!")

Speaking of (well, sort of) I was really happy with the Logan/Veronica stuff, again. I liked seeing her being sort of able (or at least willing) to deal with the what-did-you-do-while-we-were-on-a-break conversation. Not a good conversation to need to have, but nice that she could deal.

I always like it when we learn more about Veronica through her cases -- the last one that I thought did that really well was Of Vice and Men -- and this episode also did a stellar job with that. It was interesting to me that Veronica really sees blackmail as the thing to do. I mean, not surprisingly, but usually it seems like she and Keith enjoy holding themselves above that kind of thing, as opposed to Vinnie van Lowe and so forth. She has used it on a smaller scale several times before -- against the evil boyfriend in M.A.D. and against the evil TA in Ain't No Magic Mountain High Enough -- this is I think the first time we've seen her blackmailing someone who is not necessarily evil, just sort of wrong place-wrong time.

Also, Veronica? If the guy who used to set fire to swimming pools thinks maybe you're going too far and you should back off, please listen.

And the mystery itself wasn't exactly a mystery, but still felt very noir to me, very twisted identities. I could have done okay without the whole bruised hooker and limousine part, but part of that is that I can never recognize the guest stars of the week when I watch these things on youtube. The lady in the middle of the limo -- was she the same lady who was the bruised hooker? Anyhow, it felt a little odd, not quite linear, like some of the pieces jumped around a little. But I can't really say more clearly than that what I mean, and I can't give an example, so possibly this is all in my head.

So the mystery was pretty good, and the episode was just full of really clever little moments that I really enjoyed. The winner, of course, was Keith's salute to Lamb, but there were a bunch of good ones. The end -- the last third or so -- wasn't as good as the first part, but the whole thing was strong.

Oh! And Sense and Sensibility! It makes me so happy that they were watching that. They should watch Emma Thompson's commentary, it is much superior to Ang Lee's.

Oh, and my god. The ending? In the lingerie store? Way to twist the knife so you can make sure you get the vitals, Madison. Wicked good scene, although I'm going to hate the fallout.

Current Murderer Prediction: Um. Aaron Echolls? Seriously I have no idea. Maybe ... God, do I have to say somebody? Bronson-Mac's-boyfriend. Or Nish.

Choderos de Laclos -- Les Liaisons Dangereuses

I totally told you I'd finish it this time around, and I absolutely did. The ending was worth it, but I won't give it away.

The thing about this novel is, of course, that the main characters are all completely evil. I gather there was a lot of freaking out when it was published, and people thought that Laclos was glamorizing an immoral lifestyle, and things like that. I can definitely see their point -- the evil characters end unhappily, and get punished for their misdeeds, but so do most of the good characters, so you can't really go by that. And it is true that these horrible evil people live very glamorous lives and are easily the most intelligent and witty people in the novel.

But I think Laclos actually does a pretty good job with them, in that their actions never seem anything but evil, and depraved, and not justified. So their lifestyles might seem glamorous, and they get away with much much more than they should, but I would argue that they're never presented as good people, or as people you would want to emulate or become close to. The people who do emulate them end badly, for one thing, and they emulate them only because they don't know any better. As readers, we are given all the tools to know better. It's subtle, but I don't think the author was trying to tell us either to be like these people or not to be.

In hindsight, I think that's probably what people objected to the most strongly; aside from the ending (which I need to just stop mentioning), there isn't a moral judgment on these people. They really do work the system to their own advantage, they manipulate people, they ruin people, they totally screw people over, and for a very long time there are no consequences to them. And that can be kind of scary to read about, because, to quote Oscar Wilde, "The good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means." It's sort of difficult to take three hundred and fifty pages of these horrible evil people just getting away with everything and being well liked and respected and evil.

Laclos does a really wonderful job with that, actually, both making the characters walk the line between believable and over the top. They're completely consistent; they each have a distinct writing style; they very believably interact with one another; they believably grow and develop throughout the book. Which I imagine is another thing that made people in the 1780s kind of uncomfortable, you really don't like feeling like you know them personally.

Anyway. That, I think, is the book's strongest point. Telling a story in letters and papers looks kind of dated, now, although I know it was a big thing from like, 1770 until 1810. (Of course, it was in vogue in my preteen years to tell every teen story through diary entries, and that got a little old, too, not least because I know of no one ever in the world who records long conversations of dialogue into their journal verbatim.) It feels a little odd, not quite linear. But Laclos really makes it work for him, because he can give everyone their own writing style, and use it to make the book feel more intimate, rather than less. Which I think is a huge accomplishment, and something other writers could learn from (in my brain I am staring very hard at Bram Stoker, hoping he will get the hint despite being dead).

The other thing that Laclos really makes work for him rather than against him is the non-linear nature of the device. I got a little frustrated seeing a letter and not getting the reply to it for several pages (several sometimes means fifteen) but it was no worse than Tolkien, or anybody else who tells a story through diary entries or whatever.

The book does suffer from the major problem of letter writing books, which is that the author has to put something in about how all of this really happened, dammit, and he found these papers under a floorboard in his garret half mouse eaten but still perfectly readable. Okay, he doesn't say that. But he does have to explain how all of these letters came into the publishers possession, and where you can find the "real" copies, and so forth. And I wish he wouldn't. That kind of stuff drives me crazy. On the one hand, he gets all that out of the way much more quickly than Stoker does in Dracula; Stoker actually stops the plot moving forward for a good twenty pages in the middle so each of the six main characters can explain that they have all read each others' accounts, and made copies, and put them in order, and put them in a strong box, and they're going to recopy everything else that happens to them and put that in a strongbox too, etc., etc., etc. To his credit, Laclos gets this whole thing out of the way in about three pages. On the other hand, Stoker's characters wanting to make a record of these events and save them is understandable, assuming the events happened. All of the letters in Laclos's novel being found is completely unbelievable, since even if most of them were saved for sentimental reasons or future blackmail opportunities, all of them being given together into one collection strains credibility. As a reader, the device feels completely unnecessary -- I'd much rather choose to believe that I am magically getting to read the correspondence as it's happening.

The novel is really the story of the friendship between Merteuil and Valmont, and their letters to one another are the most interesting part of it. The letters to and from the other characters are good, and make the book feel much more intimate and detailed, but most of the good ones are between those two. If I were turning it into a play, the clicker, the turning point, would have nothing to do with the two women they set out to ruin, neither Tourvel nor Cecile is very interesting on their own. But the ups and downs of that relationship, and how it really was necessary to both of them, although they didn't want to acknowledge that, is what makes the book so readable.

In the end, the best part of Les Liaisons Dangereuses and the worst part are the same; the intimacy one feels with the characters. Achieving that sort of intimacy through their correspondence -- and therefore necesarily at a distance, since the characters think and plan before they write anything down -- is amazing (and I bet the French is even better). But it also makes the book difficult to read, and a little difficult to enjoy, because you don't want to be intimate with these people, and you feel dirty, and writhe, after reading it, and not in a comfortably delighted way. It took me a long time to read (a couple of weeks) because I could only get through a few pages at a sitting.


Two Things I Love About France

1. CAF. I want to marry CAF. How much does it cost to live in my room, in my Foyer, every month? 280€. How much do I actually pay every month? Less than 40€. Why? Because CAF (French welfare, basically) pays the rest. Oh, and am I a real French person? No, I am essentially a Resident Alien on a work permit. It is going to be so hard when I get back to the States and actually have to pay my own rent, because if I don't I am a lazy druggie commie pinko.

2. The Litchi-flavored liqueuer I found at the Champion yesterday. Suddenly I am back to lounging on the grass at the library, reading plays aloud and stacking up litchi-candy cups into odd sculptures. Except with alcohol. I really want to send a bottle to the Divine Dictator.


So Confused

Okay, I am completely weirded out by something. So, I went to a concert last night, of a sort, since one of my friends' kids were performing in it. (Is that the right punctuation? She is one of many friends, and she had two kids performing last night.) Anyway, this is the second similar sort of concert that I've been to, and I am completely perplexed.

In both of them, the main event was the songs. I mean, they had a full chorus, on stage, for the entire show. So the point, right, is the chorus. They keep breaking into song. It's really all about them. But in both shows, the producers or directors or writers or whomever felt the need for a sort of story. Like, in between every song, there would be 2 (or 3 or 5 or whatever) people, saying a few lines of dialogue, and which would lead into another song.

And they weren't introducing
the songs -- music by this person -- or anything, they were tying the songs together into this totally bizarre story.

Now, obviously, my French isn't that great, so I don't know how good or appropriate the stories are, since I get about 30% of whatever's going on in a situation like that. But it seems like a really odd way to tell a story -- a really silly way, actually -- and it makes my director sensibilities itch and burn. Why don't you just have a concert? Grade five through senior year of college, that was good enough for everyone I knew, at least in the States. Okay, I was only in an actual chorus myself once or twice, before everyone in the whole world wised up that that is a horrible idea, but I went to several concerts and recitals and whatnots of this type, and usually it would be, chorus sings one or three or four songs that they know pretty well, you maybe have some soloists, you maybe have a band or some piano players doing solos, etc., etc. You don't have dialogue.

And it's not like a real play, even a musical play, either, with which I do have a fair amount of experience; if you're really trying to tell a theatrical story, you don't get a fricking chorus in there to muck things up. Okay, I'm being a director snob. But you just don't. You don't want superfluous people on stage, because everyone on stage needs to be in character and have a purpose, and even in a regular play, having ten or twelve people on stage -- even if they're all speaking, all involved, all professional -- is a fucking headache. Even if you're doing a musical, with plenty of people who are only there to sing, you generally make them dance, you generally put them in costume, you make them essential to creating the mood of the story.

So I am so confused about what these people are trying to do. Do they feel like they need the story to justify the songs? Why don't you have "A Night of Songs About Animals, Sung by Chorus Bladdyblah"? Or just a regular recital or concert? Do they feel like they need the songs to justify the story? If that's the case, don't write the story yourself, do one that's already justified. Come on, you live in the land of Racine, Moliere, Anouilh. Do they want to do a musical and don't know how or don't have time to put one together? Because this just isn't the way to go about it.

Now, is this a French thing? Do people in the States do this and I've just never seen it? Is it because I live in a really small town? I know I'm being a total theater snob about this, but really, I am so confused. It seems like such a backward way to do something.

With all that said, the kids were completely adorable and did an absolutely fantastic job.