Thursday, October 29, 2015

4,722 Hours (Agents of Shield)

Being with a show from the beginning is kind of like watching a kid grow up. They take their first steps, they fall down, they make a mess that everyone runs away screaming from, they get older, they learn to talk, to run, to leap, to paint pictures... and then suddenly they're an adult, amazing the world.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't an adult quite yet, but it has certainly grown up a lot over the past year. Last night we got our first really unique episode. It's the daring type of episode that a baby show can't do, but a show in its third season can and should try.


The actual storyline was not, perhaps, the most revolutionary. Two humans struggling for survival. No crazy aliens (except one, maybe sorta), no weird planet (it's just always night), no terribly surprising twists... but even a fairly basic plot like girl meets boy, girl and boy survive crazy desert together and fall in love, girl and boy get separated can be deep and absorbing when executed properly. And I'd say that this was executed superbly.

Jemma has been the weakest member of the team for awhile, with the greatest 'annoying' factor. In order to keep her relevant and likable, the writers had to do something drastic to her this season - and wow, did they ever pull it off. They threw her into an absolutely horrible situation, and had her react to it, and she changed but not completely. Yet, though some of her annoying quirks are still there, she has changed enough and our perception and affection for her has changed enough that suddenly we see her differently - we like her more, there is a new fondness and understanding there. They stayed true to Jemma and brought out all of her potential in one beautiful and devastating episode.

Like I said, the actual plot was not revolutionary. It was only surprising, perhaps, that it was another human there rather than some alien. I was expecting her to meet aliens, or at least descendants of some of the inhumans that passed through the monolith in the past. So finding just a stranded earth astronaut was a little anti-climatic at first... but they took that simple story and made it deep and clearly it is going to have enormous ramifications on the Fitzsimmons dynamic going forwards. I mean, whose heart didn't break at the end? There is no happy ending to this love triangle. Fitz, or Jemma, or Will; one of them is going to be left alone at the end of this - or Will is going to die and that is going to cause seasons of angst for Jemma and Fitz.

It's a little ironic. I've been loving this whole season so far, but I haven't been at all motivated to blog about it until last night's episode, about my previously least favorite character. So that's a strong testament to what they've managed to achieve.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Chronically Ill and You See Us Smiling...

The thing about being chronically ill, is that sometimes you have good days. And you treasure those good days, and are so happy for them, and, of course, those are usually the days you feel up to seeing people. So what happens? People might notice that you're not at your best, but they see you smiling.

"Wow, you're holding up so well!"

"Wow, I'm amazed at how upbeat you are!"

Yes, I'm upbeat because I'm feeling well enough to see you. I'm so happy because I'm not dying of a headache or nausea or fatigue or any of the other symptoms chronic disease can bring. I'm thrilled and elated to sit up and see a face besides my own in the mirror, and actually talk with you, and think about something other than how miserable most of my days are.

You ask me how I'm doing, and I pause. This brings me out of the happy moment. I have to think about the truth. "Well... not so good... but I'm able to see you today, so that's good." I don't want to think about how bad it really is. I don't want to waste a moment of my precious time with you complaining.

Yeah, it's half faking, half ignoring. It's true that I'm better that day, and I'm so ecstatic to see you. That happiness is real. It's also true that I will probably pay for it tomorrow - but unless it lands me in the ER (which has happened three times in the past three months and makes me even more wary of doing anything) I will still consider it worth it.

If you read my blog, you see posts like this one and you get a better idea of the reality. You're still not getting the full picture though, because the blog has to stay reasonably upbeat to stay alive. I refuse to turn it into a dumping ground for negative emotions. That's not why you are here.

So when I write about my sickness, I try to have a point to it. My point today is: don't judge how a chronically ill person really is by what you see when you're with them. Unless you're living with them (or their parent), chances are even the negative news you're getting is only the tip of the iceberg. And this is all even more important to remember when someone is suffering from depression or anxiety, because you're already in a pretty trusted circle if you actually know they have it, but you probably still don't know how very bad it really is, unless you've gone through it yourself.

Ironically, I'm not writing this because I'm feeling judged - rather the opposite. I've been extremely blessed by how understanding my community has been. If there was an upside to the horrible migraine I had on my wedding day, it was that it put me visibly in the front of everyone when I was feeling at my very worst. It should have been the happiest day of my life, but I only got up that aisle with a lot of help (including both of my parents walking me down). Since that day I have seen a definite increase in sympathy and understanding, even from those who already had a pretty good idea of how bad my sick days could get.

Still, I want to acknowledge that I'm not always upbeat because people admire me for seeming that way all the time. In fact, there are a lot of days when I am the exact opposite of upbeat. I know that, over all, I do probably remain more positive than most chronically ill people, but that's not the full picture, and I know if this is the way it is for me, it probably is also true for a lot of others who aren't able to communicate this truth to those in their lives.

And remember, my health issues might be super hard, but if I am well enough to see you, than my smile and happiness are genuine, and your smile and presence will set me glowing, so that, for a few hours, I feel even better on an already good day.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

If you ever wanted to know about being deaf...

Jansina Grossman (of Rivershore Books) and I putting are together a little ebook of some of my posts about being deaf, and I wanted to include some exclusive content. Could you help me out by letting me know what you'd like to see in the book? What is a question you've always wanted to ask me about being deaf?
I've never been offended by people asking me questions about being deaf. There have been other hurtful circumstances, but I've always been happy to educate my friends about my disability, so don't be shy! I should mention, however, that I communicate orally, which means I do talk and read lips rather than utilize sign language (I know a little, but not much, and when I do sign it is SEE not ASL.) Also, my experiences won't be the same as every other deaf person, as everyone feels differently about their disabilities. This is just one woman's thoughts on being deaf.

If you want to see what I've already written about being deaf (and what is being edited into the book!) you can check out some of the posts below (but you don't have to read the posts before leaving questions, I won't be upset if you ask something I've already written about, it just shows there's a need for this ebook!)

A Guide to Eating with a Lip Reader:
The Care and Keeping of Deaf Ears:
What Texting Means to the Deaf:
American Girl Dolls Get Hearing Aids:
Being Deaf Is . . . (This could be the title, perhaps):
Celebrating Disabilities in Fiction:

This is a very little project, meant to test the waters as I try to get back into writing. These days, with my health issues. it is hard to keep a whole novel in my head even when I don't have a headache, so editing M&U is unfortunately on a backburner for now. 

If you leave a question, I will accept that as permission to reproduce it in the book. Please give me a first name I can include with the question, so you can see your name in print! (a nickname is fine.) 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

OUAT Bromances, Mad Kings and Marriages

(This is a review for 5.3 and 5.4 of "Once Upon a Time and includes spoilers for both. Read at your own risk.)

Husband and I have been watching a lot of Psych lately, which is kind of the ultimate bro show. Seriously, Shawn and Gus are just the best.

OUAT is not, of course, Psych. It's actually pretty opposite, being one of the most intensely female action-driven shows since Buffy. It's not only got great lady characters, it has great lady friendships, which is super rare outside of teen shows.

In fact, it's been so marked, that a lot of us have complained from time to time that all OUAT does with young male characters is kill them off. Which is a pity, because they write their guys pretty well too. Charming, who has been the only young male to make it through all five seasons so far, gets sidelined a lot. Thankfully, they've written this into his character arc, giving him angst about his seeming uselessness amongst all the high-powered females (and, y'know, Rumple). This has led to some half-hearted hero acts in the past, but last week in 5.3 "Siege Perilous", we got not one but two awesome bro-ventures with King Arthur and Prince Charming, one in the past (creepy lake!) and one in the present (pick-up truck jousting!!!) On a smaller scale, the other funniest moment of the episode also went to a guy scene, with Hook hilariously misconstruing what Robin meant by his description of a sonogram.

This week's episode was a little more subdued in the 'awesomeness' factor, but "The Broken Kingdom" tackled another sidelined topic - marriage. In the episode we see the contrast of Arthur/Gwen's crumbling marriage, and Snow and Charming's marriage which can not only weather big fights, but grow through them. Marriage, not just romance, has always been a key underpinning of "Once Upon a Time" but last season it was a lot more about a broken marriage (Rumbelle). It's awesome to see the focus on the power-team Charmings again - and not in the annoying "it's an affair but it's not really" way from Season 1.

I really should have guessed earlier that Gwen was under a spell. I mean, this is a show that abounds in magic of every kind. However, like much of tumblr I just thought that the weird "off" feeling from Guinevere was because she was evil/plotting... not because Arthur had pulled a "Midsummer Night's Dream" on her.

On that note, Arthur is definitely crazy. At first I thought maybe he was just really misguided, but 5.4 showed that he is certifiably insane. His intentions are more or less good, but his method of accomplishing them is totally screwed up. Personally I've never been a huge Arthur fan, so this doesn't bother me too much - and besides, OUAT already broke my heart and my expectations for canon characters when it destroyed Peter Pan. However, I would encourage Camelot fans not to give up hope completely; there is plenty of room for Arthur to be "cured", certainly more than there was for Pan, and it definitely is OUAT's favorite methodology. Although I find it more interesting if they don't' redeem all of their villains, I have to agree that writing Arthur as irredeemably evil/crazy would be a sour note in the show - which is too bad because my only other complaint from this season so far is NOT ENOUGH ROBIN HOOD!!!

However, our other favorite archer is back this week, with Emma demanding that Merida make Rumple like herself... "Brave."

(What about the awesome costumes? I have stuff to say about them here.)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

"Under the Lake" and "Before the Flood"

I haven't been so happy with a Doctor Who episode in quite awhile. Maybe it's because my emotional state has been all over the place and I was just in the mood to really love something today, or maybe it's that I went back and watched some Matt Smith episodes and that sated my Eleven cravings and gave me new appreciation for Twelve at the same time, or maybe it was something awesome about the actual episodes that I will reference in a minute,  but anyhow, I adored the 9.3 and 9.4 two parter story.

We are late on the scene with this one because I've had a rough couple of weeks and wasn't up to handling anything spooky until today. Which turned out to be a great decision because we got to watch the whole story without a break, which was really cool.

Prepare yourself for lots of ALL CAPS.




If you know me, you probably have already guessed my favorite part of the episode.


The moment the ghosts appeared and were inaudible, I knew that her deafness was going to be the key to communicating with them. For the record, I tried to lipread them myself, but there were no clips long enough and clear enough to make it out until Cass interpreted. Pretty sure they did this intentionally so no lipreading viewers would figure stuff out faster than any of the characters.

It's really hard to put a disabled character into a story. It is especially difficult to put them into action stories, because how do you make them team members and not the weak link? It takes a skilled storyteller who really understands the disability to do what Toby Whithouse has done here and make that disability a vital part of the story. Yes, Cass has vulnerabilities because of her lack of hearing, but she has learned how to compensate. The scene where she can't hear the ghost, but feels the vibrations was AWESOME. AND she even got a love story!!!

My signing skills are pretty basic; I use hearing aids and extensive lipreading to communicate. However, when watching ASL I can still pick some stuff up. This is the second time I've seen non-ASL signing used (Call the Midwife did a deaf storyline last year) and it was more jarring this time not to recognize any of the signs, even when I normally would. BUT it is cool to be reminded that the deaf and hard-of-hearing in every culture around the world have developed their own language, just as their hearing counterparts have. Anyhow, my main point here is that I didn't have any extra "insight" here, because the sign language was just as foreign to me as to most of you! (I'm sure the deaf over in the UK had a blast, though!)

ANYHOW. The other major geek out moment was when MARTHA was mentioned by name. We've heard other companions referenced before, but to the best of my memory, this is the first time anyone in Steven Moffat's reign has referred to Martha by name. As you may know, she is my favorite New Who companion and I had to stop the show and explain to my husband why I was freaking out.

So often the "trapped on a station with a group of new actors" DW episodes can be the weak ones. Sometimes, like "Silence in the Library" they are awesome, but a lot of times they can be a little overwhelming with characters and underwhelming with plot. This one did a good job of setting up the distinct characters, and pulling some really cool timey-wimey stuff. I also have to say, I am really digging the rock god vibe Capaldi's Doctor is incarnating. It works tremendously well. I said to Nathan, "They put the young actors in suits, and the old actors in rock clothing, and that's what makes them the DOCTOR."

Guys. I'm excited about Doctor Who again. I loved this episode, it made me so happy the whole time. I can't wait to watch the next episode when it gets online in the US tomorrow.