Saturday, December 31, 2011

Being Human U.K. Season Two Episode Three: Long Live the King

This episode begins with a flashback to Bristol 1665.  In an underground tunnel some religious men travel with torches until the run into what looks like a group of people living underground.  A man opens a scroll and says, "Demons, blood suckers, incubi, spreaders of the great great pestilence, you have been tried in front of God and this country and found guilty of witchcraft, heresy, satanic ritual, collusion with Beelzebub and of bringing disease and pestilence to the land. You are to be destroyed so that our kingdom might be cleansed of your devilry and the plague will be washed from or soil and taken from the air. Is there an order?  Should we start with the infants?  Your teeth will be smashed from your skull, and your head will be removed from your body."

In present day a woman is jogging in the park, and she stops when she comes across a shoe.  On the grass their are signs that someone has been dragged in their own blood and she follows the trail until she sees a young man and a young woman lying in the mud covered in blood.  At the hospital Lucy and the orderlies are rushing one of the victims down the hall, as Mitchell is mopping the floor. The police later announce that there has been a brutal attack on a young couple leaving one of them dead.

Mitchell walks into the room to the hospital room to see that the young man is unconscious and hooked up to a ventilator.  He imagines unhooking him when Lucy walks in and asks what he is doing.  He covers by claiming to be praying.  Lucy says, I suppose the bad conditions in the hospital has lead you to believe in a monethestic deity.  She tells him that the victim was a student and that this is murder inquiry because no one asks to have this done to them.  She gets paged and says that she has to go because an anal abscess burst in geriatrics.  Before she leaves, Lucy asks what happened to her drink and Mitchell tells her that he is busy tonight.

Back at the house, Annie brings George a cup of tea and opens the blinds. When he takes a sip he spits it back into the cup and asks what the hell is this. She tells him that there is no coffee, tea or milk in the house but that there is a shower. When George asks why no one has gone shopping Annie responds, "I don't know if you've noticed, but I've been struggling with the whole ghost thing the last couple of days.  Strangely, being invisible, makes purchasing pyramid tea bags a touch awkward."  When George asks where Mitchell is, because apparently, it's his turn Annie answers, "He hasn't so much as purchased a pint of milk in weeks. I can't remember the last time he washed up and as for cleaning the bathroom George, I don't think he's ever cleaned the bathroom."  George tells her that he will handle it and Annie asks him if he wants to talk about Nina dumping him.  George says that all he needs is tea.  Annie tells him that he is depressed and that he needs to let out his emotions but George tells her that she has no idea what she is talking about.  

They hear a knock on the door and when Annie looks out the window he sees Hugh.  George goes downstairs and tells Hugh that Annie is gone and that she left a note saying that she is never coming back.  He tells Hugh that Annie said that it was not his fault.  Hugh says that this is exactly what happened with his ex girlfriend Kirsty.  Hugh asks, "what's happening with me George?  Why does every woman I love run a mile when I get just a little bit serious?"  

Mitchell is underground at what looks like a tube station and sees Cara the woman that used to work at the hospital cafeteria.  He asks what happened and where everyone is, and she responds that she is an orphan now that his pet, meaning George killed Herrick.  Mitchell tells her that the two people were attacked by the waterside and that the killing has to stop because they cannot cover it up right now because there is no process anymore.  When Cara says, "so," Mitchel responds, "so they'll find out about us. They'll come after us."  When Cara says that she thinks that she would like that, Mitchell tells her to round everyone up at the old church.

Back at the house, George is sitting on the toilet when Annie barges in saying that she has been thinking about what happened to Hugh and has decided to get him back together with Kirsty. When George tells her that she cannot go interfering in peoples lives like that, Annie tells him that this is a regime change and that he is essential to her plan because he is another broken, rejected man. She tells him that he is the only one that can understand what he is going through.  When George tells her that he is glad that his misery can be useful, Annie tells him that they are going to come from her, the men from the other side and that she has to be of some use and make the most of everyday that she has left.  She tells him that after everything that happened with Saul that she feels cursed, or tainted somehow and George answers that he knows how she feels and so Annie proposes that he needs this too.

Mitchell meets Chief Constable William outside who greets him saying, "I see you're the new Herrick."  Mitchell says that he is not the new Herrick and that he is not even standing in.  He claims only to be a representative. Mitchell goes on to say that they have a situation and that he hopes that they can come to a similar agreement like the kind he had with Herrick.  William responds, "I need to know that the people I'm deal with are reliable. Herrick was a despotic ginger ass but he had backbone and I don't see that in you."  When Mitchell asks what he intends to do, William tells him that maybe it's time to start rounding up all of the vampires.  Mitchell counters by reminding him that he is implicated already.  Not one to be easily defeated William responds, "I'm chief constable.  I'm on a first name terms with shitting home secretary and you're a bloody monster. Who the fuck is going to listen to you? No, if you want this deal work, you're going to have to come up with a lot more than you're implicated.  You boys have access to money don't you?"  Mitchell responds that they made some good investments in the 1800's and William tells him that not only is he going to need it, without coroner Quinn, that this is all academic and he walks away leaving Mitchell alone.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Being Human U.K. Season Two, Episode Two: Serve God, Love me and Mend

The episode begins with a flashback to Vienna in the year 1999. Mitchell is tied to a chair.  It seems that this is the beginning of him coming off  blood.  He asks how long drying out is going to take, and Carl tells him that to do it properly, maybe six months. 

At the bar, Saul and Annie are flirting.  George walks in, and Annie introduces him to Saul and Hugh. Annie and Saul are clearly focused on each other, and from the way that Hugh is looking at Annie, it is clear that he is very interested in her.

Back at the hospital, Mitchell is in an elevator with Lucy, the woman he is interested in. He tells her that he does not know how to talk to her and that he knows he came on too strong the other day.  Lucy assures him that the goldfish was the perfect gesture, and that this is the speed that she is comfortable with.  Lucy asks him to go for a coffee, and he says that he is a huge fan of coffee.  When he asks where she is going, Lucy tells him that the paramedics just brought in a body, and that she has to go and declare it.

At the body, Lucy notices that there are puncture wounds on the neck.  The cop in attendance says that it is probably a gay thing. Once again, I see that we have returned to homophobia on the show.  Mitchell listens as he hears that the body has been drained of blood, and Lucy says somewhere in Bristol there is a gay vampire as the cop laughs saying, "I bet he would like to see my full moon."

Back at the house, George brings Nina breakfast in bed.  He brings her a large selection of food and a cigarette, because he has given up the fight on that one.  He gets up to leave, and she asks him to stay because she would feel weird sitting there eating on her own. 

In his home, Saul walks in and turns on the television.  He starts to feel out of sorts and takes some medication.  He hears his name being called and it turns out that, Sir Terry Wogan is talking to him from the television.  He says that he needs to talk to Saul, because he thinks that he and Annie make a smashing couple. When Saul suggests that there is a hidden camera somewhere, Sir Terry Wogan tells him that it is about the corridor.  Sir Terry Wogan says, "Until you had your little accident, I can't say that I paid too much attention, but the minute you walked into that pub, and saw that lovely girl, I knew I had to lend a hand.  Terrence I thought, lend a hand.  And I'm saying tell her about the accident and all of the interesting things that you saw.  It will make you seem special and vulnerable. The ladies go potty for that. Your face, you look like you have seen a ghost."

Back at the house, Mitchell is looking for George. The scene then switches briefly to a recording room where someone is clearly listening to every word that is being said. Mitchell tells Nina, that there is stuff that they can teach her, and she says that she is fine and is just going to move onto plan B. George tells her that he is making sheppards pie, and Nina responds saying that she won't be home 'till late and he answers that it is not a problem, and that she should just pop it in the microwave.  

As soon as Nina leaves, Mitchell tells George about the dead body that came into the hospital that day. "The thing is I know him", Mitchell says. "One of the times I tried to stop drinking blood properly, I was living with this vampire, Carl.  He's been clean for like twenty years".  George being George, immediately gets fussy because Mitchell has lived with someone before him. "Of course I've lived with other people," Mitchell says. "Do you think I've waited the last eighty years for you and your three different types of upholstery cleaner to show up? Anyway, after me, he lived with this other guy, Dan a human, and that's the body that came in." George asks if Carl killed Dan, and Mitchell tells him that Dan and Carl were lovers, and that he does not believe that Carl hurt him.  Okay, I have to take a pause to point out that it only took Being Human U.K.,7 episodes to finally getting around to introducing a gay character.  The writers had no problem with including all sorts of homophobia before this, so this latest addition is hardly something to celebrate, especially considering that it begins with the death of a gay man.  Mitchell tells George that Carl has disappeared, and that anyone could have killed Dan.  George wants to know how it got to the point where there is a body.

Saul returns to the bar and he tells Annie that he almost died.  He says that he had a car accident and that he fell asleep at the wheel. Carl says that he was the only one who was hurt - in fact, he was technically dead for almost 6 minutes.  He tells Annie that when he died there was a bright white corridor and that it was frightening.  He says that there were men with sticks and rope.  Annie tells him that she saw it a few years ago when she was attacked.  He takes her hand and she says, "For years I have wanted to talk to someone about this. What on earth made you tell me?" Annie leans forward and kisses him on the cheek and he smiles. 

There is a knock at the door and its Carl. Carl tells Mitchell that he had been dreaming about blood and it frightened him.  He says that Dan didn't even look frightened, he looked disappointed. Mitchell tells him that this is going to take a bit of handling, and offers to let Carl stay at the house.  George asks why he didn't recruit him, and Dan says, "because he was kind, and if I had, when he came back, he may not have been kind anymore."  George tells Mitchell that Carl is not staying because he is trying to create some semblance of normality. "Mitchell it's not just your house, it's not just your decision", George says but Mitchell tells him that it won't take long.

The mysterious Kemp is kneeling in prayer, when Mark the technician walks in holding a transcript from the house. Mark tells Kemp that there is something that he should look at. They now know that Nina is not just a sympathizer, and that she is in fact a werewolf.  Mark wants to know why they have not been contained. Kemp says this is an opportunity to study them, and that this the first time a ghost, werewolf and vampire have cohabitated.  Kemp still believes however that beasts should be put in cages. Mark points out that the next full moon is in 20 days, and that they don't have a type 3.

At the bar, Annie is going on and on about Saul.  George asks her if she is being careful, and responds  that she is a bit old and dead for contraception concerns. George points out that she already has two blokes chasing after her and that this could get messy. Annie asks George what he means when he says two blokes, and he responds Hugh and Saul.  Annie tells him that Hugh is like a brother to her and George responds, "Oh promise me you won't ever tell him that. Why not just stab him in the face. A brother, Annie, the only man who would want to hear that is your actual brother." Annie denies once again that Hugh sees her that way, and George concedes the point saying that Saul clearly does. Annie tells George that she and Saul have a lot in common, and that she cannot spend the rest of eternity spectating. Is there anyone George will not control?  Annie asks again if he is sure about Hugh, and George responds, "I know that look. I've given people that look, usually while they are giving that look to someone taller." Annie smiles and says to herself, "I've still got it."

Nina walks in and Carl is eating the shepherds pie.  He tells her that he is a friend of Mitchell's and that he is going to stay out of her way.  Carl asks if Mitchell told her why he's there and then says that she is not in any danger.  "You've killed someone, it sounds pretty dangerous to me", Nina responds. He tells her that she doesn't understand, and then adds don't be too hard on George. Nina stops him, asking how this became his business and Carl admits that it is not. Nina says, "two months ago I lost control, the worst that could happen was (she sighs), but now, we shouldn't be in houses, in streets where there's children". Carl tells her that there are safe guards that you can put in place, but Nina says that, "things go wrong. Christ knows that we're both proof of that. I'm radioactive now, that's how that feels". Carl continues to eat and says, "trust me, he knows what he's done."  Nina sits at the table with Carl and they finish the sheppards pie.

Review: Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Book 1 of the Were Hunter Series

The Kategari are a race of creatures born as an animal but able to shift into a man. The Arcadians are a race of creatures born as a man but able to shift into an animal. Both races are gifted with incredible magic powers and both races loathe the other and have been fighting a long genocidal war with the other without rules or mercy since ancient Greece.

Verne’s mother was an Arcadian and his father a Katagari. Both loathe him and want him dead, along with his siblings and after the death of Anya, his sister and Vane’s actions protecting the Dark Hunters, his father has a perfect excuse to order his death

He’s now on the run, grieving for his sister, worried for his comatose brother and fleeing the attention of his father’s pack – and even his mother launching attacks across time.

And then he meets Bride, a woman with whom he is destined to mate – and if she doesn’t accept the mating in the next 3 weeks, he is doomed to a life of celibacy. But is avoiding this fate – and being with the woman he loves – really worth risking Bride’s life; a human who knows nothing of the supernatural world.

He now has the uphill battle of protecting Bride, adapting to human society and introducing Bride to the hidden world, all under fire from his parents – and deciding whether to truly try and make a life with Bride or not.

I think this book set a new record for a Dark Hunter’s book for speed in which the relationship was established. There’s Vane, walking down the street, worried because his brother’s in a coma, worried about his dad and pack leader who wants him dead and grieving for his dead sister Anya. And then he sees Bride! The most beautiful woman in the world! And she is sad! There must now be hot/hard/sexiness and then kissing then making out and then the hot monkey sex! HUZZAH!

And there is Bride. She’s sad because her arsehole boyfriend dumped her  - but then she sees Vane! And he is so hot/sexy/awesome! Bring on the kissing and the making out and the hot monkey sex! HUZZAH!

As far as complex romances go it’s not exactly the most nuanced or complex of beginnings. 2 people see each other. Think they’re both hot. Sex happens, magic steps in to firmly stamp Twu Luv on things. They have 3 weeks to decide to bond in metaphysical marriage or Vane will be forever celibate. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review of Curse The Dawn by Karen Chance Book Four in the Cassandra Palmer Series

I think that I have a love/hate relationship with this series.  At times, the characters, world and plot are absolutely fascinating, and at others, I struggle not to roll my eyes and toss my ereader across the room.  Curse the Dawn turned to be more of the same. 

At this point, Cassie has been the pythia for one month, but she still has not been crowned, because the circle refuses to acknowledge her right to fulfill this role, though the power clearly chose her.  At every turn, Cassie is being manipulated because if a group does not want her dead, they want her under control because of the strength of the office that she holds. I must say that I like the fact that Cassie is particularly resistant to being used and continues to hold onto her moral beliefs despite the fact that everyone around her continually encourages her to put them aside.  Even when she is under attack, the one thing that Cassie clearly respects is life and she will go to extraordinary lengths to protect it.

I wish that I could say more good about Cassie.  She is clearly devoted to doing what she thinks is right however unfortunately this too often takes the role of spunky agency.  She does not think through her decisions carefully and continually runs head long into trouble that in most cases could be avoided with a little bit of forethought. This makes the fact that Mircea keeps her in the dark about his plans perfectly acceptable.  It is hard to be upset with fact that both Mircea and Pritkin are condescending and paternalistic because at times, Cassie clearly needs to be lead around just to keep her head attached to her neck.  This of course takes away from the whole strong kick ass protagonist thing that Chance has going on.   Having a strong female character should mean that the majority of the time she uses the brain God gave her rather than continually rushing brashly along from one crises to another.

With Pritkin the war mage by her side, Cassie travels through ley lines and battles war mages in an attempt to save the world from the return of Apollo, who wants to reassert his power on the earth, by any means necessary.  At one point in the story, Pritkin and Cassie change bodies, which leads to some of the most hilarious scenes in the book.  How does a woman suddenly transported into a mans body suddenly deal with waking up with an erection that is demanding to be satisfied?  Even though this new male body is filled with strength and the ability to heal, it is still male and things like leg hair just don't feel right.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wednesday Reboot: Blade II

I think that Blade II falls into the typical action movie but with vampires.  There is nothing about it that stands out.  It's true that the Blade trilogy is the only movie in the urban fantasy genre that I can think of that has a Black protagonist but there is nothing about Blade that particularly reads as a man of colour except the the colour of his skin.  All of the characters are decidedly straight and there is no attempt to move beyond the typical heterosexual male testosterone violent action theme.

I know that for some, just the fact that Blade is Black makes this movie progressive, but for me it's not enough.  In some ways he is exactly like Bonnie from The Vampire Diaries - a White man painted Black.  Though Whistler found him when he was a young man, that does explain the absolute absence of any cultural markers.  This, combined with the fact that the female protagonist changes from a dark skinned Black woman, to the Chilean Lenore Valera, who played Nyssa, tells me that the creators weren't heavily invested in making a real racial statement.  I am thankful that they didn't have a White female lead, but what does it say that with proof that the series was in fact bankable, that the writers, directors and producers, felt comfortable moving away from a Black woman?

I have never been one for action flicks.  They don't challenge the mind, or add anything new to discourse.  More hypermasculinity is not what the world needs, and when it comes to Black men, the fact that this is considered the natural state is problematic.  I will say that White male hypermasculinity is very normalized, while Black male hypermasculinity is often construed to be a threat and so twisting this to be a good quality in a Black male is new.   But rather than legitimizing any form of hypermasculinity, we should be attempting to eradicate it, rather than constructing it as honourable or noble as the writers of Blade II attempted to do. In terms of gender it is reductive and limiting.  It places Blade into a position where he must always be the hero and violently save not only the day but the female protagonist. For as strong of a character that Nyssa was, Blade still saved her life twice, thus reinforcing traditional gender roles.

It is further problematic that Whistler was brought back from the dead.  Sure, White people adopt Black kids, but in this case, Whistler becomes a paternalistic figure.  Having him die and stay dead, would have given Blade a sense of independence but in the end, Blade continues to be beholden to a White man, regardless of his skill set.  If that were not enough, Whistler ends up saving Blade's life asserting the idea that Black men are always beholden in some way to Black men. 

Review of 'Nightwalker' By Jocelynn Drake, Book One of the Dark Days Series

Though this book was written in the first person, a style I really don't prefer for a story, it had a very large world.  Drake takes care to include lycanthropes, vampires, witches/warlocks and the fae.  The fae in this story are called the naturi and as a group from the antagonist, though they are split into several different clans like animal, and earth for instance.   Nightwalker is essentially the story of an ongoing war between the fae and all other supernatural creatures.  The fae have the ability to control lycanthropes essentially turning the into slaves and there goal is to open a door to a dimension that was previously sealed by the vampires.  Their goal is to rule the earth and eradicate the Nightwalkers.

Mira is alone in her own kingdom ensuring that the vampires obey the rules and keeping peace between the vamps and the lycanthropes.  She is 500 years old and is the oldest vampire in the Americas.  What sets Mira apart from all the others is not only her age, but her ability to start a fire with her mind.  As long as she can see someone, or an item for that matter, she has the ability to incinerate it.  Mira is also one of the few nightwalkers to win her freedom from an ancient.  Her fragile world is ripped asunder when a hunter named Dannus enters her territory killing vampires, and bringing the news that the Naturi are back.  

Having once been captured and tortured by the Naturi, Mira suffers from PTSD.  It manifests in things like night terrors.  I think that this is key, because far too often in urban fantasy, characters suffer absolutely traumatic events and then walk away as though the event itself was as harmless as taking a nap.  Drake does an excellent job of making the reader feel Mira's pain and her fear.  There is no rising above to conquer the past, it is simply something that Mira must negotiate throughout the story.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review: Generation Dead by Dan Waters

Generation Dead by Daniel Waters was recommended to us by one of our readers, and after enduring this book, I have no idea what this person was thinking.  As you may have guessed by the title, Generation Dead is a zombie story.  In the movies the zombie is usually the antagonist, who spends most of its time trying to eat living humans; however, in Generation Dead, the zombies are trying to integrate into society.  At this point the only zombies are teenagers, who come back after dying.  Science cannot explain why they come back to life or why some of them are more animated than others.

As you might expect, there are some who are happy to have their loved one back and others who quickly abandon them out of fear.  Preachers are actively saying that the dead are a sign of the coming apocalypse based in the idea that zombies are unholy.  Because zombies have been declared dead they have no rights and this means that killing them is not a crime, nor is discriminating against them in many forms.  

This is a book primarily about discrimination and prejudice. I don’t think it’s especially a love story (though there are elements of that) or even a YA school story - this is about discrimination, how people deal with bigotry, how bigotry affects people and the different forms of bigotry.

I’ve said before that the whole “fantastic” prejudice theme is overdone - and it is. But I’m not going to slam a book for that because I also think it can be a decent way to explore prejudice if it is done right.

Sadly, I don’t think this book did that.

It touched on many issues but didn’t really explore them. It’s also a book about prejudice told entirely through the eyes of people who don’t experience the prejudice - and oh boy have we seen them before. But it also covers a lot of issues very shallowly

It touches on reclaiming slurs - but encourages the living (i.e. people who aren’t zombies) to do it as well - and the people urging the reclaiming are also not zombies. It talks about using slurs not mattering without the negative intent behind them (yay! Magic intent!) and how it wouldn’t matter if friends used them (a note to my friends: Do. Not - not unless you wish me to apply a large, wet fish to the head, repeatedly). Their friends make frequent tasteless jokes that are supposed to be completely ok - and feel its perfectly ok to ask them what should be very personal questions

We poke at how the living guy selling merchandise for zombie rights and earning lots of money off it is a little skeevy - but never outright call him out as the arsehole he is

We touch on the nature of being a more societally acceptable member of a marginalised group - and even how that’s not easy because privilege people expect you to conform to stereotype and how not doing so can make people aggressive - but completely miss the internal policing and shaming and rule following the come with “aiming to please”. We even touch on using privileged people to be spokespeople because more listen to them - but never cover how silencing this is, especially since the story is told through the eyes of the living, again.

But more than any of this, there’s a great big elephant in the room crapping on the carpet - Waters uses this premise to compare zombies to historically marginalized people in a manner than can only be called an appropriation lalapoloza.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Hello everyone, Paul and I just wanted to take this time to wish everyone a happy holiday.  May the booze pour freely and your turkey not be dry. May no one pass out drunk in the mash potatoes, and may nothing end up on fire.  Have a happy holiday season everyone.

Paul & Renee