Doctor Who S5E02: The Beast Below

This is a strange episode to write about, mostly because it falls squarely in the middle of the quality spectrum, at least for me. This episode, like the one that follows it, serves a function–it lets us get to know the new Doctor and new companion in different ways. However, it’s pretty clearly the least among Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who stories. It doesn’t have the same glitter and glint to it. While the dialogue’s sharp as always, the story kind of meanders and makes only a little sense.

That doesn’t make me hate it, though, but neither does it make me absolutely love it. Nevertheless, this is not an episode I’ll always skip. There’s some good stuff here, mostly in the climax, but little things like the Star Wars references make it fun in rewatches. The cinematography is also top-notch, carrying over from The Eleventh Hour with long takes and beautiful compositions. Matt Smith continues to dazzle as the Eleventh Doctor, and Karen Gillan begins to show a bit more range outside of the feistiness we got in the premiere.

I really wish I had more to say about this episode, but I honestly can’t think of anything? It’s wholly unremarkable. It gets in, gets the job done, and quietly exits stage right. The comparisons between the Doctor and the star whale are a little on the nose, but it’s not like the show hasn’t done on the nose before.

Actually, I do have a little tiff with the fandom on this episode, in particular a scene near the beginning where Amy says, “One little girl crying. So?” It seems that a lot of people have interpreted this to mean that Amy doesn’t care about the girl crying and therefore doesn’t have a lot of empathy. Which is frankly incorrect. We see her getting a bit dewy-eyed at the very start, when she’s watching Mandy through the scanner. She even remarks that it’s kind of cold to just watch and not do anything. The line above is in reaction to the Doctor’s previous line that there is a police state on Starship UK. Amy doesn’t see how one little girl crying is evidence of a police state, and the Doctor goes on to explain it to her. Is this nitpicking a bit? Yes, frankly. Also frankly? I don’t care.

If anything, this episode is meant as a reassurance to the viewer. Everything about Doctor Who was new with Series 5–new showrunner, new Doctor, new companion, new look, new TARDIS, new EVERYTHING. The Beast Below reminds us that for all his wailing in The End of Time, the Doctor is still the Doctor. He eschews the “observe only, do not interfere” mandate of the Time Lords, he helps when he sees children crying, he tries above all to be kind. He’s the same man, through and through.

The episode also shines more of a light on Amy, who at the end of The Eleventh Hour was running away from her own wedding. We find out that she’s a little afraid of her impending marriage and what it might mean for her, as evidenced by her talk with Mandy and her interest in her marital status in the voting booth. She comes close to confessing what she’s done to the Doctor at the end, but gets distracted–whether inadvertently or on purpose, we might never know. But we are starting to see that under the layer of toughness and feistiness, Amy is scared of a lot of things. She said in The Eleventh Hour that she’d grown up, but it seems here that that’s actually what she’s afraid of.

As I said before, The Beast Below is an episode that gets the job done. It takes us by the hand and leads us slowly on, reassuring us that nothing has changed in the core of the show, it’s just the outside bits that are a little different. We begin to see into the heart of the companion, and find out the Doctor is nearly the same as always. It’s a gentle pat on the shoulder and a quiet voice in our ear: this is still Doctor Who.

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What’s Coming, What’s Going, and What I’m Doing About It

(By the way, let me know if these overlong post titles are getting a little too twee for you.)

Since my last post:

I have been doing fairly well overall with the schedule. It’s helped me get a lot of things done–I’ve finished a few books, and written at least 750 words every day (even if it’s more journal style writing than fiction writing). I’ve made progress on the afghan for my brother and SIL. Everything has been going well, and I’m happy with what I’m doing. I can’t say that I’ve managed to totally get my crap together, but I’m making a decent stab at it.

What’s Coming:

Remember that lonesome review of the Doctor Who episode “The Eleventh Hour” that I posted back in January December?  Well, it’s hopefully very soon going to have some company. I haven’t yet written anything on further episodes, mostly because I need to rewatch them. But I am hoping to get that out of the way by the end of the weekend, and then I’ll settle down to review everything and carry on with what is probably my signature project at the moment. With Steven Moffat’s tenure on Doctor Who coming to an end in December, I might as well get this overview of his time on the show completed, right? It’s just a matter of sticking to it. My schedule may need an edit to fit episode watching time in there.

I am also, bit by bit, getting ready to write more seriously. I do still have fanfic on the table, because I am not cruel enough to leave people hanging, but! I have been doing some research and reading on writing short stories, a format I have struggled mightily with in the past. I am hoping to have a short story of some kind or another completed by the end of October, whereupon… something. Will happen.

But for the time being, I am trying to set up a professional profile online. To that end: a Twitter! It’s set up under my real name (which is also on the About page of this blog if anyone’s ever cared to look there), and will hopefully be a landing spot for… things. I don’t know yet. Probably a lot of self-promotion is in my future.

Anyway.

What’s Going:

Well, depression, hopefully. I am doing much, much better in the mental health arena this week. I am hoping things will continue to improve, though my quality of sleep lately has kind of fallen. Luckily I’ve got an appointment with my meds manager in about a week and a half, so hopefully we’ll be able to sort something out.

Nothing much else other than that, though.

What I’m Doing About It:

I’m making schedules. I spend about every day ranting in 750 Words about what I’m going to do. I need to start putting my money where my mouth is and commit to getting things done other than reading and knitting and basically journaling. I am hoping to have a decent output of words in September. I will try to keep you all abreast of what’s happening in that arena, if nothing else.

I’m going to sit down and watch Series 5 of Doctor Who this weekend. I’m going to take notes and write reviews and get things ready for a flurry of posting in September.

I’m going to, in short, get my shit together. Won’t you join me on this magical journey?

How to Get Your Sh*t Together in 10 Days or Less

Technically that’s “10 Days or Fewer.” I’m an English major, what can I say? By the time you graduate, the pedantry is well and truly ingrained.

Also I will own up right now that that title is misleading. It has not been ten days since I decided to get my shit together, so I can’t actually tell you if my method (such as it is) works or not. But it has been a while since I last posted–most of a month, in fact–and a lot has happened. Or more accurately, very little.

At the end of July, I finished tapering off Abilify, on my meds manager’s advice and with my consent. I wasn’t sure how much the drug was helping me, and she felt like I needed to get off at least one of my meds, since I was taking five different ones to treat my anxiety and depression. I’d also gained quite a bit of weight in the months since starting Abilify, so there was the possibility that it was contributing to that as well and that if I went off it, I might start to shed those pounds. So we agreed to try tapering me off it.

The initial taper, from 15mg down to 5mg, went pretty well. I had some withdrawal symptoms, like increased depression, but those went away eventually. After a couple months, I started tapering off the 5mg as well, and as I said, I took the last one at the end of July.

And everything was fine for a while. I wrote 6k of silly fanfic and was feeling pretty productive and generally quite good about my life. I mean, there was the part where I still didn’t have a job, but that wasn’t weighing on me very heavily, and anyway, I’d just put in three applications. It was bound to turn up something, wasn’t it?

Unfortunately, depression decided to turn up first.

Depression is kind of insidious. At first, it just seemed like I was having a few bad days, but as those days lengthened into a week, I started kind of hating myself again. I wasn’t getting anything done. My burst of productivity at the beginning of the month–reading books, writing fanfic, watching movies–evaporated. I spent my days trawling the internet, and many nights staying up until 3 and 4am, just because I wasn’t tired.

I realized I was probably having a Major Depression episode. That didn’t help. My next meds appointment, with a new meds manager, was two weeks away, and my next therapy session even longer away than that. I just kept stewing, and knowing that my brain chemicals were acting up did not help me feel better. If anything, it made me feel worse, since if I was just a Better Person, I would realize I was being irrational and stop being depressed.

If only it were so easy.

It only got worse when I found out that I did not get any of the positions I’d applied for. At two of them, I didn’t even get a call for an interview. I got pretty low, and a week before my meds appointment I ended up calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Talking to someone without a dog in the race helped a bit. I managed to claw myself onto a ledge just above the bottom of the Pit of Despair, and held myself there until my appointment.

My new meds manager agreed that stopping the Abilify is probably what brought about the episode of depression. As of a week ago, I am back on it, and to be honest I’m feeling a lot better for it. I can’t tell if it’s actually helping at this point, or if I’m just experiencing a placebo effect, but I’m definitely closer to the top of the Pit of Despair than the bottom. I can see the sun shining, and it’s just a matter of getting high enough to let it shine on my face.

Which brings me back to where we started: getting my shit together.

I decided yesterday that I am done with sitting around and doing nothing. I have a ton of books to return to the library. I have a less-silly fanfic that needs updating and more importantly, finishing. I have an afghan for my brother and SIL to knit. Among many, many other things. So I sat down with a notebook and wrote up a plan.

Well, 12% of a plan.

Most of it comes down to a schedule. Having a set time every day to do certain things, so I can start reaching my goals and making progress. It’s only day 1 of the schedule, but I think it’s going pretty well. I think I will probably report back at the end of the week to tell you all how it’s gone. As important as the schedule is, however, I also know it’s important not to treat the schedule as the be-all, end-all of my day-to-day. Flexibility is important, so if things don’t fit the schedule, it’s all right. Just go with the flow. Get done what you can. That kind of thing.

I think, so far, it’s working. I didn’t do as much writing as I needed to do today, for example, but there’s always tomorrow. There is always and forever tomorrow.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: No One Actually Cares If You Don’t Shave Your Legs

I am a woman living in Western society, which means said society dictates that in order to be socially acceptable and more attractive, I must be as hairless as possible. Some people couch it in terms of hygiene–having all that hair in all those places gives bacteria places to grow! Isn’t that disgusting? Don’t you want to be the opposite of disgusting?

When I was younger, I let this dictate how I dressed, especially in the summer. I hated shaving my legs (still do), so I’d spend the hot Kentucky summers wearing jeans most of the time. Society had made me self-conscious of how I looked, and it wasn’t until some time later that I learned to stop giving a damn.

For one, the hygiene argument is patently ridiculous. I can’t believe I let my middle school health teacher con me into thinking that was true. As long as you bathe regularly, having hair in, say, your underarms is not going to make you more gross or smelly or whatever. And anyway, if it is such bad hygiene, why exactly are men allowed to have as much hair as they like in their armpits? Shouldn’t they shave as well, to be less gross and smelly and disgusting?

(Double standards: the bricks on which the patriarchy is built.)

The same double standards applies to the hair on our legs: men should have hairy legs because virility and etc., but on women??? GROSS. There is literally no difference between men and women’s hair. It’s just keratin. We’re supposed to be hairy; we’re mammals for crying out loud! From what I’ve read, women only started shaving their legs when skirts got shorter in the early to mid twentieth century, and that was mostly because advertising companies convinced them that such hair (on the legs and the armpits) was “objectionable.” To who, exactly?

And really, in this day and age, who cares? It’s just hair. It’s keratin. It’s exactly like what’s on our heads.

I could certainly expound on how it’s rather creepy that society (i.e., mostly heterosexual white men) wants women to look as prepubescent as possible, but instead I’m going to talk about my personal experience this summer.

As I said above, I hate shaving my legs. It takes forever, it’s a pain in the ass, and I always, always miss a spot or three, which nags on my perfectionist tendencies. For a long time I just haven’t seen the point. As I said before, my laziness and distaste for the whole process had led me to mostly wear jeans in the summer, or wear shorts for a week at a time until the hair was “visible” enough that I felt uncomfortable wearing shorts.

This year, I finally decided to stop giving a fuck. I have worn shorts almost all the time since late May, I would say? And I’ve only shaved my legs maybe three times. I shaved them today, for example, and they were quite hairy. I wore shorts yesterday, out in public, and no one cared.

In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time I shaved my legs was at least two months ago, and I’ve worn shorts nearly every day. No one has walked up to me to say that I’m disgusting, or that I’ll never get a man, or anything like that. No one cares.

I know I’m making it sound kind of revolutionary, but to me, it kind of is. In high school I was asked by a bunch of… well, preppy girls how often I shaved my legs. I admitted that it wasn’t all the time, and they laughed. I tried to shrug it off, because I wore jeans all the time even then and no one ever saw my legs, but it still hurt.

So it IS a revelation: NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR HAIRY LEGS. If you think it’s going to repel future partners, worry not! Remember that phrase, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best”? EXACTLY THAT. As far as I’m concerned, people who put so much stock into the stupid subtleties of physical appearance are not worth my time.

So yeah. I’ve stopped caring about my body hair, because it turns out no one else cares, either! Most decent people in the world have bigger things going on in their lives than some random lady’s hairy legs. And that’s just the way I like it.

Let the Sweet Nice Things Be

I watch cartoons. I know that’s a bit of a weird thing for a twentysomething to admit, but I’m not ashamed of it. “Grown-up” television just doesn’t appeal to me as much, if I’m honest, and the “grown-up” shows I do watch tend to have elements of the fantastic that are present in the animated shows I love as well.

One of my favorite cartoons at the moment is Steven Universe. It’s a sweet science-fantasy show with a diverse cast, incredible worldbuilding, and excellent character development. It’s maybe only one of the mainstream cartoons on today where there are more female characters than male characters, and even though the main character is a boy, he eschews many of the traditional tropes of boyhood seen in such cartoons.

The thing that most sticks out to me about SU, though, is its fundamental kindness. Scary, sometimes dark, things happen. One of the current overarching plots involves the murder of a powerful Gem by Steven’s mother long, long before he was born. But always, every time, the show resorts to kindness and compassion first and foremost. Steven’s mother, Rose Quartz, is often talked about in tandem with love—love for the planet Earth, love for her friends, love for all living things. That love is evident in Steven’s character as well, and it colors almost all his actions. Love is a powerful force in all the characters’ lives, and its importance is one of the bedrocks of the show’s themes.

Steven Universe is, in short, a sweet, nice thing. It never gives in to despair. Even the antagonists have more to them than meets the eye.

So what I don’t understand is people who insist that all that is just a facade for a darker, nastier story.

I saw a post on tumblr today with a theory to this end: it held that Rose Quartz was abusive and manipulative towards Pearl (one of the show’s main characters, who is in love with Rose as well). It said that Rose manipulated Pearl into committing the aforementioned murder, and that Rose had Steven to escape the mess she made. (I should note here that Rose is an alien who could only give birth to Steven by giving up her physical form.) And while the show is dealing with the consequences of Rose’s past actions in many ways, it has never posited something like this.

What I’m driving towards is a larger point: why do some fans insist that sweet, nice shows (many of them made for children) are actually dark and unpleasant and mean? What drives that cynicism, that something kind is actually a lie?

Cynicism is not a foreign concept to me. I live with dysthymia and I’ve had major depression in the past. I understand thinking nice things are lies to cover up nastier things. But when I find something good, and sweet, and kind, I have never immediately jumped to the conclusion that it’s all a lie, and the REAL story is much darker. When I find nice things, I want to keep them, because sometimes my life lacks those kinds of things.

I suppose some of it comes from young people who want to seem mature. The person who wrote that theory I mentioned above wasn’t very far out of their teens. I had a lot of story ideas about people dying or being traumatized and such like when I was a teenager. I thought the edginess made me seem older, I’m sure. Darkness and edginess and cynicism are seen as “cool” in some ways: you’re grown up because you can see the world as it really is, you think.

But the world isn’t just dark and cruel, though in times like these it certainly seems so. Good things happen just as often as the bad ones, and there are more kind people in the world than nasty ones. That’s what I believe, anyway. We need more things that see through to that kindness and bring it into the light. Making them dark because it’s “cooler” invalidates everything they stand for, in my opinion.

Kindness and compassion are brave, not childish and pointless. Steven Universe underlines this again and again, and I hope as the show goes on that more and more people will realize this.

On the Virtue of Letting Things Be Things

So a trailer came out for Guillermo del Toro’s new movie:

Needless to say, I am pretty excited. Del Toro always has such great monsters, and already this has the feel of a non-traditional fairy tale. December is a long time to wait, but I’ll make it.

But then I perused the comments of the video.

About every other one was seizing on two things:

  1. The fishman in the trailer is played by del Toro vet Doug Jones.
  2. Del Toro previously directed the two Hellboy films, which feature as part of the cast the character Abe Sapien, a fishman played by Doug Jones.

This, to many of them, clearly meant that the fishman is somehow connected to Abe Sapien, and that therefore The Shape of Water is a prequel or otherwise connected to del Toro’s Hellboy films.

You hear that sound? That was my eyes rolling out of my head and across the abyssal plain of the oceans.

I sort of understand this compulsion to connect things up. Humans are good at seeing patterns, and many times we will see patterns where there actually aren’t any. The past decade’s spate of cinematic universes and extended universes and so on hasn’t helped things. People can and do and are encouraged to pick up on the slightest detail and demonstrate how it connects to something that may in some ways be unrelated.

But I think we’re losing something when we do that. I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I think it’s fine and dandy for what it is. But not everything has to be connected.

It is okay to just let things be things.

Let things exist on their own. They don’t have to be connected to an overarching universe to be good or interesting or worthy of our time and attention. Original stories are not bad. They’re actually very good, and del Toro is one of the few directors today who’s interested in providing those kinds of stories.

Another example of this ridiculous “everything is connected” nonsense is the people who insist, loudly and at length, that all the Pixar movies take place in the same universe. This because, for example, Pixar has snuck the Pizza Planet truck into all their films in some form or fashion. A signature reference is somehow proof that there is an overarching universe.

If I’m being honest, I’m not totally up on the Pixar Universe theory (I’d love to see how they justify The Good Dinosaur’s existence in this universe, since that film is pretty clearly an alternate history of Earth). But I despise it to the core of my being. Pixar makes amazing films (more of them could stand to be about girls and women, but). Why can’t those films exist on their own and stand on their own merits? Why do they have to be connected? What’s the point, other than the fact that it allows people to feel smug about “putting it all together”?

I don’t think I fully understand the mentality that leads people to do things like that. I believe there are similar theories about the Disney princesses’ films and it’s just… it boggles my mind. If anything, the show Once Upon a Time is proof of how ridiculous and messy things can get when a million stories all exist in the same universe.

There’s nothing wrong with letting original stories stand on their own. Absolutely nothing. I just wish I could get other people to understand it, because it feels like people are missing the trees for the sake of insisting there’s a forest.

One of These Days I’ll Learn Consistency: A Depression Story

So. I’m still alive.

The only surprise here is how bad I am at keeping up with this thing. When I started the new blog, I had all kinds of lofty ideas about keeping up with it. I’d do my Doctor Who reviews. I’d talk about movies. I do all KINDS of things. But here we are, nearly halfway through the year, and I can about count the number of entries I’ve made this year on two hands. At least that’s how it feels.

There aren’t any really acceptable excuses. Especially since I’ve been out of work for three months. And I can’t make time to write a blog post every week? Really? It makes me feel kind of pathetic, but I’m trying to work on not beating myself up about things anymore. Specifically, about not doing All the Things. It’s okay to not do everything you set out to do.

And yet I continue to hold myself to impossible, lofty standards. I wish I knew where to stop.

I feel like I should just give up. No more blog, no more nothing. Just sit around like a lump, because you’re not good for anything else.

Which is a lie depression tells me. I have to remind myself of that. It’s hard, though.

I have all the time in the world, but I don’t use it wisely. I just sit around refreshing the internet so I can consume more content, instead of making something for a change. This is something I say to myself a lot, but don’t do anything about. I could make things, but I choose to just consume them. But at the same time, I’m not acknowledging that making stuff can be hard sometimes, and that it’s okay to take things in. That’s what books and movies are all about, and I can’t imagine my life without those.

I just wish I could make more than I take in. I wish I could post here more often without feeling like an awkward cad. But it’s all a matter of consistency, which is something I’ve proven to be very, very bad at.

Oh well.

Forget it, Jake. It’s the internet.

Well That Was an Adventure From Start to Finish: The Joys of Temporary Work

This week started out on a hopeful note: I got a call from the temp agency telling me I’d been selected for a new position at a distribution plant in town. I had to go in and update my paperwork and take a drug test, but I had a job again! That was great.

Less great: the actual job. I made it through orientation all right, but then we (there were three of us temps starting that day) were thrown into the work. We were put in order consolidation, where the orders are put together for the packers. We were given some very basic training that I don’t feel adequately covered everything? But I’m one to talk. It didn’t help that there were lulls between the pickers arriving with the product to consolidate, and if there is anyone worse at looking busy, I would love to meet them, because I am terrible at it.

So that, coupled with the fact that I still wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to be doing, meant that I spent the first half of my shift having a mini panic attack. I probably should have taken one of my anxiety meds, which I had brought for the express purpose of staving off a panic attack, but it’s surprisingly hard to think about such things when you’re panicking. I still didn’t do all that great with the second half of the shift, either.

It was no surprise, therefore, when I got home and checked my phone to see that I had a message from the temp agency. Telling me that the company did not want me back the next day. I had a feeling I hadn’t done well generally, and it stung a little, but it wasn’t surprising. I’m not very quick on the uptake. I’m shy and sometimes afraid to ask questions. And I’m prone to panicking when I don’t know what I’m doing. Those things do not combine well with a fast-paced work environment.

So yes, that was an adventure. Not a great one, but it happened. I’m back on the list of available people at the temp agency, and hopefully something that’s more my speed will come up. I’m beginning to doubt it, but I live in hope, I guess.

May 2017 Goals

A day late, but hopefully not a dollar short, here are my goals for the coming month:

  1. Keep up with 3 soda days/week.
  2. Exercise. Go walking at the park or SOMETHING.
  3. Writing: at least 2k on various projects.
  4. Reading: finish reading Protector of the Small. Maybe read more if there’s time left in the month.
  5. Movies: watch 5 movies, new or old.
  6. Get out of the house for an hour or two at least every other day.
  7. Baking: bake cookies at least once. Maybe bake bread?
  8. Fiber arts: get the baby blanket at least 2ft long. Spin the rest of the white fiber.
  9. Video games: maybe start playing Trio of Towns again. Maybe.
  10. Blogging: post of blog at least once per week.
  11. Dreamwidth: keep updating. Keep up with tron_comm and gauge interest in an event or events for TRON’s anniversary in July.
  12. Bullet journal: seriously keep up with it. Stop leaving blank days and catching up after the fact.

I seem to be aiming ever lower with each passing month, but I’m kind of resigned to it at this point? I am not a great accomplisher of Things. I should just aim high enough that I can make it and maybe feel good about myself in the process. I want to stop feeling like a failure every month.

April: Goals Round-Up

So, to refresh, these are my April goals:

  1. I fell off the wagon with 3 sodas/week. Get back on it.
  2. Exercise 2x/week. Just do it.
  3. Eat better food. Somehow.
  4. Writing: write 1000 words for Camp NaNoWriMo.
  5. Reading: read the Protector of the Small quartet. Plus at least 2 other books.
  6. Movies: watch at least 10, 5 new to me.
  7. TV: catch up and keep up with Doctor Who. Ditto Steven Universe.
  8. Video games: get married, get all towns to S in 3oT. Try to get off the plateau in BotW.
  9. Baking: make and decorate cupcakes for Liara’s birthday. Maybe bake cookies while visiting Lia.
  10. Knitting: work on the baby blanket for Evelyn.
  11. Blog: post once or twice per week.
  12. Set up payments on my student loans.
  13. Have fun on my trip to visit Lia!

And this is how I did on them:

  1. Miss
  2. Miss
  3. Miss
  4. WROTE 7K SUCKAS
  5. Well I read half the Protector of the Small quartet. Does that count?
  6. I watched three movies I’d seen before. Whoops.
  7. Well I did not catch up on Doctor Who, but I started watching the new series anyway. BILL POTTS = LOVE
  8. I suddenly stopped playing video games this month. What even.
  9. HIT!! I made delightful cupcakes for my niece’s birthday party AND baked cookies with my friend while I was visiting her.
  10. HIT!
  11. Miss
  12. HIT!
  13. HIT!!

So that’s how my April went. I’ll try and have my May goals up asap, and will hopefully update you on my general life situation soon.