Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SPOILER ALERT: The Walking Dead and Hart of Dixie

So just how much ground are the folks in The Walking Dead really covering? That's a question that I've been asking myself quite a bit since - SPOILER ALERT - they scattered in the aftermath of the prison/Governor showdown (part II). In one of the earlier episodes of this season, many characters seem to be overlapping or looping in their paths, never actually meeting up, but seemingly walking just a little faster, slower, to the right or to the left, of their comrades. Or purposefully turning away from the tracks of their former prison housemates and wandering within packs of zombies, in Michonne's case. Throughout the most recent episode Tyreese and Carol, along with young sisters Lizzie and MIka and Rick's baby Judith, watch a plume of smoke go from black to white in the distance. They are generally right to think that the fire is far enough away that they're not in danger of flames coming their way, though the whole 'where there's smoke, there's fire' line would easily be adapted to this zombie-filled world by being changed to 'where there's smoke, there will eventually be a hoard of smoking orc-like zombies to contend with.' I assume this is the fire that Darryl and Beth started in a cathartic-but-not-altogether-sensible scene from a previous episode. I would guess, without being a particularly good cartographer or spatial relations expert, that the fire was perhaps 5-10 miles away from 'The Grove.' But just where is this grove in relation to the prison itself? And how many miles away was the prison from the Governor's idyllic (now destroyed) town? On foot, just how many miles can any of these people truly walk in a day? 10? 20? And how many miles can you really walk if you're rather seriously injured and have at least a few broken ribs? I'm especially referring to Rick and Carl's walk to the quaint, almost 'To Kill a Mockingbird' town where they find emotional catharsis, plenty of chocolate pudding and a nice group of psychopaths. I just feel like Rick couldn't possibly have walked more than five miles in that circumstance? I know these folks are tough, but my god. Also! How is it that Carl and Rick so easily find a whole tree-lined, Mayberry-like street but Darryl and Beth seem to be running through woods and fields for days and days and days before coming across anything with a roof? And how many miles were they running?

If they were all heading in different directions, then why does it still feel like they're all in some little three mile bubble and eventually they're going to meet up. Three miles is just not that big a stretch of land. And seriously, are there really that many train tracks in such a concentrated area? And just where was Carol? How far away from the prison was that suburban neighborhood where Rick left her? And just how many small towns can there be in such a relatively small area? Am I crazy to begin to feel like the world, for all its moody shocks and beautiful angles, is just a little too small? Also, what about all these different houses they come across. They seem so remote, so off the grid in some instances, that I am not quite sure I can wrap my head around a)who actually lived there in the first place and b)how they didn't manage to still stay alive. How did that old man walker in 'The Grove' house die? He had plenty of pecans and deer, apparently?

And lets talk about the gruesome stuff going on in that country they still had a little booze and maybe food? But they did a big mass suicide thing? Who defamed that one corpse? And what the gosh darn heck was exactly the scene that Michonne and Carl find a few weeks ago? The parents and children all dead in a house still chock full of food? I don't get it really. If you can still eat without leaving your house, why bunker down in a terrifyingly pink bedroom and kill your children and yourselves? I'm  not saying I don't understand the overwhelming dread and doom and depression that would probably invade many a mind in such circumstances, but I've always figured that I'd go with trying to survive as long as food and water was taken care of. If not for the secret murder in Carol and Tyreese's collective past, I would have definitely rooted for them to stay at that place. Tyreese could lean back in his easy chair, Carol could bake pecans as penance. Of course it's hard to want to stay in a place when a mentally ill 11 year old kills her sister so that everyone will understand that zombies are friendly (What exactly was her big thought? That if Mika was a zombie everyone would see that she was friendly?). I feel as if we're kind of supposed to clue in to the fact that perhaps Lizzie's loose grasp on reality, sistericide and desire to feed and befriend zombies is not entirely an outcome of the world in which they now live. The way Mika comes to comfort her sister when she gets worked up, telling her to look at the flowers and count to three...that seems like a ritual those girls have done before, for years. Years that would certainly include the zombie times, but which would also pre-date them. Did Lizzie have some kind of mental illness? Those relying on medication for mental illnesses would quickly find their drugs depleted. I guess, in a way, it's actually surprising that there aren't more 'crazies' running around in the woods, slowly losing any semblance of normalcy in what is an increasingly shattered (though still so very pretty) world.

So I have some questions about the Walking Dead. And that geographical one really sticks in my craw. I want a map. I want a map I can believe in that places everything in relation to one another...with a legend that clearly notes just what the scale is. I want that so bad...but I bet the writers are afraid of such a map. I'm not interested in the actual locations of the various scenes. I want a map that reflects the fictional world.

I have a similar issue with an entirely different show, which I don't think many folks really watch. And that show is Hart of Dixie. Another show that purportedly takes place in the south...but with an entirely different tone and style and premise. A 'fish out of water'/'city mouse, country mouse' soap opera with strange comedic beats and entirely outlandish characters and plots, this show is so strangely committed to its world that it's hard to hate it, even as its basic geography and many of its characters make no real sense. I want a map for Hart of Dixie too. I especially want to nail down just where in the hell the Rammer Jammer is...the swamp/lagoon bar restaurant, which always seems tucked away in the middle of nowhere seems like - and has sometimes been presented as - it is most certainly a ways away from the town of Blue Bell's center, which is cute as can be with gazebo and a variety of quaint storefronts...and a cabaret because...of course it does. At times it seems like the Rammer Jammer must be at least five miles away from the town square. And yet at other times characters seemingly walk from that gazebo to the Jammer in a matter of minutes. But how! How can that be!

Just some thoughts I have about how worlds are made in the realm of television.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Veronica Mars

In honor of the recent/imminent release of the Veronica Mars movie, I thought I'd post the essay I wrote with its plot and characters doing a lot of heavy lifting in the rhetoric. I wrote this 7+ years ago and of course many of the data points about my own life are now entirely obsolete, but I think that this essay still kind of stands up, and that Veronica Mars is still a great show and I am very excited about seeing the movie.

Somebody threw a bottle through the window of my car (a blue 1991 Volvo sedan by the name of Lola) at some point after five o'clock Thursday evening and before eleven o'clock Sunday morning.  I discovered the vehicular violation when I got into the driver's seat of my car and looked in my rear view mirror to pull out into the narrow alley behind my apartment building. The hole, in my back window, is about the size of an eighteen-month-old baby with jagged, rectangular edges where the glass shattered but did not fall. At first I assumed the hole was a result of the windy, snowy weather we've been having here in Chicago. Lola is parked under a tree and it wouldn't be impossible for a limb to fall and do some damage. But I found a completely full bottle of Ning Xia Red, a dietary "supplement" drink the color of rust that I've never heard of; I keep my supplements limited to a once-a-day vitamin at bedtime. The bottle was on the floor of my backseat and it, most certainly, doesn't belong to me. Though it could have been, the weather was not responsible for my car's gaping wound instead it was, in all probability, a human being.
            If I were Veronica Mars I'd take the bottle and bring it around to all the local convenience stores and ask a) do they carry this beverage, b) do they remember selling this beverage to any person or c) do they have surveillance cameras? Then I would get a description of the person who bought the beverage and get a sample of their DNA (or maybe just a fingerprint) and compare it to the DNA (fingerprint) on the bottle and then I would taser them and bring them to the police station where justice would rain down on them with the help of a trusty deputy and impassioned DA. Then Logan and I would have a fight but I'd realize I couldn't live without him and he'd realize that I had made him a better person and he couldn't go back to his bum fighting/hard drinking/married woman sexing ways.
That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.
Every life has mysteries that have dots that need connecting. Some mysteries never get all the dots connected and remain, forever, unsolved. In my own life there was The Case of the Maybe Unfaithful Boyfriend of the Owner Whose Dogs I Sometimes Watch. I have tried, in the past, to write about the series of events that led up to my sometime employer google-chatting me and asking whether I knew if her boyfriend had sex with someone else. The barest of facts are as follows:
1. The guy told his girlfriend that he, too, was going on a weekend business trip thus my services were needed to watch the dogs.
2. He never left, but did encourage me to stay in the apartment and act as if he wasn't there.
3. I woke up to the sounds of drunk people crashing around the kitchen and laughing too loud (at least one man and one woman) in the especially early hours of the morning.
4. The dogs were anxious and hanging out exclusively by the master bedroom's door.
5. I heard people having sex. In fact I heard a woman ask 'is this your side of the bed?'
6. A cell phone, other than my own and located in the master bedroom, rang throughout the next day and was, eventually, picked up by a woman who asked me if I was the guy's "roommate."
7. The guy told his girlfriend he slept on the sofa and it was a buddy and his girlfriend in the bedroom.
I will never know if my interpretation of these events is accurate. My interpretation being that the guy is probably an asshole and a liar. I was extremely diplomatic in the chat with my employer, leaving certain facts out since they were, in any court of law, circumstantial. The problem with most mysteries of this variety is that the person who could, potentially, reveal the last few dots would rather not (or you wouldn't believe them even if they did). And without the last few dots you can't be entirely certain that you know what the final picture will really look like. 
If I were Veronica Mars I would track down the contractors of the buildings on either side of my own that are currently getting condo-ized. I would ask them if they have surveillance cameras for their property. If they said yes, which is not all that likely, I would ask to see the footage for Thursday night through Sunday morning. Perhaps the jerk that threw a bottle through my car window passed by a camera and could be tracked down via that image. Then, if I were Veronica Mars, I would make a superbly designed flier with stills from the footage. I would put them up all over a six-block radius of my apartment. I would talk to bartenders, taqueria cooks and homeless old ladies. I would even inquire at the CTA kiosk and ask if anyone rushed through the turnstiles in a suspicious fashion. There would be a series of clues and false leads but ultimately I would track down the culprit. There would, most definitely, be revenge. The vengeance could come in a number of forms depending on the suspect. Veronica Mars' retaliation could be airing video footage of them doing or saying something that they would rather keep secret; for another it could be a damning fax to border control, keywords: steroids and smuggling.
That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.
Vengeance isn't really in my nature. I let things go most of the time. And most of the time there isn't that much to let go. Friends and colleagues don't go out of their way to frame me for drug use, plagiarizing or murder. I'm not even sure that they bother talking about me behind my back. Those in my life who have died weren't murdered. I have never been trapped in a refrigerator that is on fire nor have I ever been dosed with GHB, let alone three times. My boyfriend doesn't sleep with my nemesis and then lie to me about it. In fact, my boyfriend doesn't even live with me. When we did live together, my boyfriend's biggest offenses were disapproving of my watching any television,
disappointment in my lack of enthusiasm towards walking and making me brush my
teeth and wash the dishes without the water running. And, actually, when I think about
it, I'm not sure that I have a nemesis with whom he could sleep regardless of where he lived. It's good that none of these things have happened to me but it does leave me feeling a little empty. I mean, every time Veronica gets into a scrape someone helps her out of it. You know who loves her because they always save her. How am I to figure out who loves me if I never need saving?
If I were Veronica Mars I would contact the new age spa down the street, whose glass door was similarly smashed within the time frame of my car’s vandalization. The women, because men don't work in new agey spas, would be strange and quirky and have some sort of forgiving and karmic way of looking at the damage to their property and I would suspect one of them of keeping a secret. Perhaps she had a less enlightened boyfriend, or she moonlighted as a prostitute and her pimp came around looking for his money. If I were Veronica Mars any person I spoke to would somehow lead me to the perpetrator, to the asshole who threw a bottle through my car window and then didn't even have the decency to steal something.
That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.
There wasn't much in the car to steal: a transportation pass and graduate school ID, an unused, oversized sponge, maps for Southern and Eastern states, a collection of easy word puzzles, many empty cigarette packs, a non-functioning car radio, and about eighty five cents (mostly in nickels and pennies). If they had managed to get into the trunk, well, they could have helped themselves to paintings I made when I was sixteen that my mother gave me three months ago.
            My day was easily ruined by the vandalization of my car. I had plans. Plans to work on my novel and plans to eat dim sum with a friend. Instead I called auto repair stores and the police. I quickly found that auto repair stores are never open on Sunday and that the police will not come and investigate what they consider a mundane crime, even if you have evidence that could lead to an arrest. I made an attempt to tape some garbage bags over the window's hole so that the snow and precipitation wouldn't soak the back of my car. I kneeled lightly on the backseat, aware of the shards of glass under my kneecaps and stretched the bags oh-so-carefully to the edges of the remaining window.  But each time I pressed the tape to the glass, more sharp splinters would fall. Eventually I got the top of a Rubbermaid storage container and propped it up in front of the hole and stuffed bags around the edges. After finishing the incredibly makeshift cover, I returned to my bedroom and watched Veronica Mars for the rest of the day. Until Tuesday morning, when two young Latino guys drove up in a white truck and replaced the window while I puttered around the house, I was always surprised to find my car still in its parking space. It seemed like the car was destined to go missing, how could it not with such an inviting opening?
If I were Veronica Mars there would be a reason that some jerk threw a bottle through my car's rear window. The ruined window would be a warning to get out of someone's personal business … or else. If I were Veronica Mars there would be obvious suspects and less obvious suspects with motives and reputations preceding them. There would be Weevil, the Hispanic motorcycle gang leader (with a bit of a golden heart, maybe just the left ventricle) or, perhaps, a member of the Fitzpatrick family (the local Irish gang). Then there would always be the father of my murdered best friend. The suspects could, at times, include a love interest or two, often with a fear that one of them (Duncan Kane) was my half-brother and the other (Logan Echolls) was a murderer.
That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.
I want to talk about, just for a second or more, Logan and his love of Veronica. In the beginning of the show he was a pretty big asshole with a low dose of psychosis and an abusive celebrity father. His only soft spot was for Lilly Kane, his dead girlfriend*SPOILER SENTENCE* (who was fooling around with, and ultimately killed by, Logan's father).  But at some point he began morphing into a less psychotic version of himself. Suddenly his face contorted into puppy-dog pouts and soulful gazes and, though it was strange at first, Logan turned into a pretty decent (if incredibly flawed) guy. But, then, he does go through a heck of a lot for a 17 or 18 year old (I'm not even getting into the story of his mother or the beating he took on the bridge). His love of Veronica is enviable. He perpetually has that look that most of us only get in the early stages of a relationship and, even then, usually after sex. The main problem, as I see it, is that he wants to protect Veronica more often than she needs protection and can never see when she, in fact, is trying to shield him from danger. But the moments when he comes through for her, whether it's punching an undercover ATF agent in the face or saving her from being raped and having her head shaved in a college parking lot, are epic, complete with stirring music with emotional vocals and, in most cases, a passionate embrace. When I found my car damaged I called my boyfriend in Georgia and, though sympathetic, he wasn't much of a help. How could he be? Living 979 miles away like he does.
There was a Bard College sticker on my car. If I were Veronica Mars I would explore that avenue of investigation. I'd procure the names and addresses of all residents in a three block radius and cross-reference them with some database of college alumni. I'm not exactly sure how Veronica would do this; she would probably use the internet and one of the many fake accents she has at her disposal. But she would find out that some gal lived two blocks away, went to Bard's rival school (which, technically, doesn't exist … unless you count Vassar) and had ample opportunity to pick up some weird supplement drink and hurl it directly at the sticker and then on through to the inside of my car. When I went to the gal's apartment to confront her, I would find that there was a telescopic camera at one of her windows, pointing directly at my apartment and parking space. The gal would say it was for bird watching but when pressed, she would admit to everything.
That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.
I get moments, when out on one of my apartment's porches, when I realize how many people could, potentially, be watching me. Last night I looked south and saw what looked like fire but I also saw the shadows of people standing near the blaze. I wondered whether I should be calling the fire department until I realized it couldn't be fire because there wasn't any smoke. The people whose shadows I could see must have been holding some sort of light that visually crackled and flickered like fire. I watched for a while and the flickering stayed consistent, never engulfing the wooden deck from which it emanated. If I saw that, then those same people (along with many others) could see me smoking a cigarette or taking the groceries out of my car.
            Though I recognize that I’m not Veronica Mars and no one is interested in tracking my every move, I still find myself performing for an audience. The way I ash my cigarette, where I put my cup of tea and which book I read all give me meaning to an anonymous audience and so I choose carefully and deliberately act as if I’m unaware of the outside world. I think about my routines and realize I'm fairly predictable. I cross streets at the same corners. I stay home after five on most weekdays. I go downstairs to get the mail in socks and I never check my rear-view mirror for a possible tail. But, of course, no one is following me so it really doesn't matter how predictable or performative I am. My life is not a series of large, terrible events that I must risk my life to figure out. My life is not a series of men who are so in love with me that they would get arrested on purpose, just so they could get put in lock up thus within striking distance of someone who hurt me. The stakes in my life are pretty low. It's not entirely fair for me to compare my life to the life of a television character. Their life can't be anything other than suspenseful, mysterious, overly dramatic and strangely heartfelt. If the show wasn't successful at that specific combination it would be canceled or I wouldn’t watch it. I wouldn't think about it constantly. I wouldn't, in the middle of real-life conversations, use Veronica Mars in an effort to prove a point. I wouldn't suddenly wish that my boyfriend was the kind of guy who sent flowers as opposed to picked them himself. I wouldn't, for that matter, get mad at my boyfriend for not being the slightest bit interested in Veronica Mars. 

            Someone threw a bottle through my car window two weeks ago and if I were a television character I would have done something about it. My actions would be far more daring than filing a pointless police report over the phone and paying three hundred and eight dollars and fifty two cents for two guys to come to my house and replace the damaged window. It would be a mystery that unfolded for months after the initial crime and ended with someone dead and a strong boy's arms crushing my small frame, kissing my blonde hair and crying over the miracle of my survival.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Scenes From a Farm

I've been on the farm for nearly a month and lots of things have transpired. Or at least lots of lambs have been born. Well, and I've learned some things. Like how easy it is to get a huge truck stuck in the tiniest bit of mud if you're not in four wheel drive, and how to hand and non-hand milk a sheep. And the three important things one should do after lambs are born. And some basics of cheesemaking. Oh, and how to castrate a lamb. Today I witnessed - but didn't try out myself - a method to killing and skinning chickens, which involved breaking their necks, cutting off their heads and "skinning them like rabbits." I'm very down with all of this. I take pride in not being squeamish, and of being willing to fully understand how things I love to eat - whether cheese, yogurt, lamb or chicken - come to my plate or bowl. Below are a number of photos I've taken over the last month, I'm @carikuber if you care to follow me. I'm not blogging as much, though I'm sure on some day I'll finally delve into my cross-country drive. Right now I'm still trying to be more "present." The first photo is once I got back to the farm after going to the local feed store to pick up 8 bales of straw in a gigantic truck.
 Lambs stay with their mothers for three days before they are relocated to the 'lamb barn' and mothers are put into the milking rotation. On this particular day only two needed to be brought up, so instead of bothering with a crate, I just had the siblings in my lap for the drive. My face looks fat but whatever.
This was actually earlier today. Once they hit 30 days/30 pounds, the lambs are weaned off the milk formula and are fed only hay and grain. They're put in a separate barn/pen, and today we put up a fence that will now allow them to venture out and add fresh grass to their diet. I took videos of some extremely happy lambs frolicking. Today was also a very nice day - sunny, 60 something degrees outside of the shade. The farm's Chairman of Fun deemed this a celebratory event - the fence and the lambs frolicking - so we all had beer and just watched them explore their much larger enclosure.
Yesterday I was on 'PM Milk' duty and arrived before my colleague did, so I thought I'd get to rounding up the sheep from the field. Often enough these sheep are already in the barn and it doesn't take much doing to get them where they need to be, but on this occasion I came out to literally watch one baby slide into this world, not 10 minutes later, this happened. Baby number two emerging as baby number one seeks out its first drink.
A few weeks back I had my first day off and so I ventured off the island and north to meet up with J. from my grad school days. I meandered on my way up, and this is just one of the views I had the pleasure of enjoying.
Earlier this week new chicks were purchased to replace the chickens that were slaughtered today. Dreams are being realized folks.
Another photo from today. Jett, the Border Collie, usually doesn't get to actually be that close to sheep, but was given the opportunity today and seemed generally to enjoy it.
This was taken at some point in the past few weeks: a morning view from my studio apartment.
For the first week or so I was here I kept hearing that their were mountains to see across the sound, but the weather wasn't really allowing that to be proved. And then one day, the skies were clear, and holy shit! Mountains.
The view from my porch.
Another pretty sky.
Yup. Good times. Now I gotta go milk.