by Catriona Mills

Hallowe'en

Posted 2793 days ago in by Catriona

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Twenty-One

Posted 2793 days ago in by Catriona

The Hallowe’en edition:

ME: That’s everything. But you’re going to have to do some chopping and so forth when people arrive, because I’m going to basically disable myself, in the truest sense of the word.
NICK: What, get maggoted?
(Pause)
ME: I was thinking more of my fake fingernails?
NICK: Oh. Well, them too.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Twenty

Posted 2794 days ago in by Catriona

While Nick is reading the first draft of my novel:

ME: You could come and read it in the bedroom. I’m going in there to play Mario Party DS.
NICK: But I’m comfortable now.
ME: Okay. Do you need me?
NICK: No. Well, generally speaking, yes.

Bless.

Live-blogging Torchwood Season Two: "Dead Man Walking"

Posted 2794 days ago in by Catriona

We’ve just had the following conversation:

ME: Well, I’m quite hurt, and offering Tim Tams won’t change that.
NICK: Would other kinds of chocolate change that?
ME: How would you get other chocolate?
NICK: I could go get some.
ME: But I have to live blog and I don’t know how to turn the television on!

Seriously. You’d think I’d have learnt by now, but, somehow, living with a geek means you end up with a terribly complicated audio-visual system.

Then the conversation segued to this:

ME: Life never used to be this complicated!
NICK (in the living room): Mumble mumble mumble.
ME: I heard that!
NICK: I didn’t say anything you shouldn’t have heard!
ME: Oh.

So, sometimes that technique backfires. It’s still worth trying.

So, where were we? Oh, yes: Owen was dead.

Tonight’s episode contains violence, but still no sex or swearing. What’s up with you, Torchwood? Slacking off a bit, are we?

We open on Owen’s body, covered with an autopsy sheet, but only to the waist, so we can see the bullet wound over his heart. Martha is doing the autopsy. Oh, Owen is 27? Is it a sign of the approaching apocalypse that I’m older than even the protagonists of “adult” television?

Just as Martha is supposed to make the first incision, Jack leaps into the room and says that no-one is to touch Owen until he gets back. He goes to see a creepy child with Tarot cards, who says she’s been looking forward to seeing the Captain again.

He asks her if she knows where it is. She says she does. Jack asks if it’s in a church, and she says no: when people realised what it could do, they built the church on top of it.

She asks if Jack will reconsider, and he asks, in return, if she knows the answer to that. She says she does, and we see, in the foreground of the shot, that she’s holding the Death card.

The church is full of weevils, by the way, as Jack rummages through such various items as a flag-emblazoned guitar.

But when Jack returns to the Hub and the others ask what he has, we see he’s holding the pair to the Resurrection Mitten.

Gwen says he can’t use it, not after Suzie. But he says he’s using it. He’s bringing Owen back.

Credits.

Gwen says she thought the glove didn’t work for him, but Jack says it’s a different glove and different circumstances. It has to work, he says, so if they have anything to say to Owen, say it now.

Owen wakes, freaking. And Gwen is horrified, but less so than Martha, who has never seen this before. Owen, unlike the other victims, copes quite well with being brought back to life. Gwen goes to say goodbye, but Owen says that, no offense, he only has two minutes. Tosh tells him she loves him and always has. And Jack . . . Jack asks for the code to the alien morgue, because Owen is the only one who knows it.

Damn, Jack. That’s cold. Even for you.

He does tell Owen a little about what death is, but, this being Torchwood, it’s not comforting.

Owen dies again.

Tosh is weeping. Ianto looks shell-shocked. Jack looks devastated, and grips Owen’s hand, until Owen says, “I’m really going to need that hand, you know.”

Cue general disturbance.

Owen says maybe he wasn’t meant to die, but, in the foreground, we see the glove wiggling its fingers slightly.

Owen puts his pants back on, which, this being Owen, I imagine would do much to reconcile him to life, as Martha tells him that he can’t lead the investigation, because he’s the subject of the investigation and, also, he’s dead.

They determine that Owen is not, unlike Suzie, draining his energy from Jack. [Ambiguity! Suzie wasn’t draining her energy from Jack, of course, but you get the general idea.] Martha gives Owen a device to wear that will monitor the effects of the glove, which are spreading out through his body, changing its composition.

Martha asks Owen what death is like—after he’s asked why she’s stopped flirting with him, and wondered if it’s necrophilia if he’s conscious—and he first tells her he saw pearly gates, and then tells her he saw nothing. He says Suzie said something else, that there was something in the darkness.

Then he falls into a distorting darkness, where something is waiting for him. He screams for Martha, and when we come back, Martha is screaming his name and calling for Jack, saying that Owen collapsed.

In the Hub, Tosh tries to talk to Owen about what she said to him, and he tells her it’s fine: he knows it was just a grief reaction, and she didn’t mean it. She tries to tell him she did mean it, but he blows her off.

Then he slips back into the darkness, where he hears something that I suspect is supposed to be Latin. Or might actually be Latin. All I know is “mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”

But as he comes back, he’s speaking the same language, and his eyes are all black. Well, the irises and pupils are black. Nick tells me at this point that this is the same writer as “The Satan Pit.” Figures.

Owen disappears from the Hub, to general consternation.

Martha chews Jack out for not telling UNIT that he could bring people back from the dead. He says it’s still Owen, but Martha says that Owen’s only 50% human, and that 50% is dead.

Ah, video-clip montage.

When we come out of that, Owen is in a night club, being snogged by a girl wearing feathery wings and then trying to beat Jack up.

They’re both arrested, and when Owen tells them that he works for Torchwood—special ops—Jack says, “Special Ops? Special needs, more like it.”

They end up in the same cell, where Jack tells Owen not to kick things, because his ankle won’t heal.

Then there’s a sequence that I don’t think I’ll recap. I’m with Jack on it being the most revolting thing I’ve ever seen.

Though, as Nick points out, how can Owen talk, if he can’t metabolise things?

Never mind.

They discuss Proust. Owen asks if Jack’s read Proust, rather skeptically, and Jack says, “Yes. Well, no. We dated for a while. He was really immature.”

So what we have here is a dead man talking to an immortal man. Owen is cherishing every last minute, even the feeling of the bricks under his fingers, because he doesn’t know when his body will give up for good, while Jack says that when you live forever, you don’t even notice the feel of the bricks.

Jack says he’s had enough, and gives the police his Torchwood authorisation code.

Gwen says that Jack has found Owen, and Tosh asks if he’s himself again. When Gwen asks what she means, Tosh says she’s been watching CCTV footage of Owen, which Gwen, rightly, points out is a little like stalking. But she shuts up when she sees the creepy eyes/Latin combo.

Meanwhile, Jack and Owen are surrounded by weevils. Jack tells Owen to leave, because they’re after him for stealing the glove from them. But Owen doesn’t.

Heather! Carpark!

Wow, that’s a lot of weevils. All in their complimentary weevil boiler suits. Jack and Owen end up on the top story of a carpark, but, as Jack tells Owen to get behind him and pulls his gun, the weevils all kneel and, seemingly, pray.

And Owen has the creepy eyes and Latin happening again.

Tosh uses her secret translation device on Owen’s weird Latin ranting, and they hear him saying, “I shall walk the earth, and my hunger shall know no bounds.”

When Jack returns to the Hub with Owen, Gwen shows them early woodcuts of Death, who is associated with Death. The legends come from five-hundred years back in Cardiff’s history, when a little girl died of the plague and, when she was brought back, brought Death with her. Death killed twelve people, needing thirteen souls to cross over permanently.

They decide that Owen is becoming a gateway: that’s what the changes to his body are doing. So he tells them that they need to embalm him. They need to inject formaldehyde into his veins, to shut his brain down.

OWEN: It’s the only way to be sure.
ME: No. You could always nuke the planet from orbit.

Gwen asks Owen if he’s sure, and I offer my “nuking the planet from orbit” option again. But Owen says yes, he’s sure: he can’t sleep, drink, or shag, and those are three of his favourite things. He’s ready to pass over.

So they dress him, oddly, in white scrubs, and he walks through the Hub, past Ianto. Gwen walks with him. Martha, Tosh, and Jack are prepping the medical room.

And as Jack asks if Owen is ready for the first injection, the Resurrection Mitten goes nuts, leaping straight for Martha’s throat. Martha screams, which is not something I associate with Martha, but then it is a sentient gauntlet. That would throw anyone.

The next scene, in which they spread out looking for the glove, Nick says is an Alien reference, but it reminds me of nothing so much as the last time a huntsman spider got into the house.

Well, until the gauntlet leaps out and hugs Martha’s face. That’s definitely an Alien reference.

Then Owen shoots it—well, not, obviously, while it’s still on Martha’s face—despite Tosh’s warnings that this might be the end of Owen.

Then we hear Gwen gently saying Martha’s name, and we see that she looks about eighty.

NICK: Oh, the Doctor’s going to be so pissed at you, Jack.

Jack says that the glove did this to Martha, while we see the shadowy figure of Death, as a cloud of smoke, leave Owen’s body and kill Jack. But not temporarily.

They take Martha to the hospital, where the doctor says it’s very lovely of them to look in on their elderly neighbour and collect her pension, but that she’s got to be, what, eighty? So they need to accept that she’s going to die.

Jack tries to send Owen back to the Hub, saying he’s not safe. But it’s too late: Death is at the hospital with them. They can tell, because there are weevils everywhere outside. And, sure enough, people are starting to die.

They evacuate the hospital, but there are multiple Code 4s (heart attacks) in intensive care, and there’s at least one boy who has his headphones on, so he hasn’t heard the evacuation code.

Death seems to have killed eight people, leaving five to go. Of course, the Torchwood staff number five. If you count Martha but not Owen.

IANTO: I’ve searched on the term “I shall walk the earth and my hunger shall know no bounds,” but I keep getting directed to Weightwatchers.

Low blow, Torchwood.

This is all reminding me less of Alien or Aliens at the moment, and more of that episode of Buffy where she had the flu. That might be because a small boy is being stalked through the hospital by Death. Tosh and Owen grab the boy and run.

Gwen says that Death now has twelve victims. Which twelve? There were only eight before, and the hospital had been evacuated. So where did the other four come from, if they aren’t the Torchwood staff?

Never mind.

Turns out that the answer is a puzzle. They knew that the priest stopped Death at twelve souls through “faith.” And it seems now that the little girl who died of the plague, the one who started the whole process, was Faith.

Owen realises that she had nothing to lose, because she was already dead.

And he pushes Jamie—the little boy—out of the room, after a pep talk about how he can survive the cancer, and pushes Tosh out, too, despite her protests.

Tosh screams and and beats on the door as Owen taunts Death, asking him how long he can survive in here alone with only twelve souls. “No one here but us dead men,” he says. “Owen Harper’s soul has left the building.”

And he grabs Death, and holds him by the wrists until he fades.

But Owen is still walking.

Ianto, left out of the excitement, asks plaintively over the comms, “Jack? Jack? Anyone?” He’s less than thrilled when the “anyone” turns out to be the newly young Martha, who grabs his shoulder.

Back at the Hub, Martha says he’s absorbed an intense amount of energy, and she doesn’t know how long it will take to dissipate. Until it does, he’s a walking dead man.

He asks Jack if he can keep working, to make up for the fact that people died because Jack brought him back to life.

Jack says they’ll see.

Now that’s an uncommon approach to the death of a primary character, you have to admit.

Strange Conversation With My Mother

Posted 2794 days ago in by Catriona

In which my mother demonstrates that, while she’s persistent in chasing all the minutiae of her daughters’ lives, at least she believes it’s a two-way process:

ME: Well, when are you getting back from Tasmania?
MY MOTHER: Oh, not long after we set out.
ME: That’s not helping me, Mother.
MY MOTHER: You don’t know when we’re setting out?
ME: . . . No.

Celebrating The End of Semester

Posted 2795 days ago in by Catriona

Behold, the pile of marking!

Behold, the pile of marking with a pen to show the scale!

Sigh.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Nineteen

Posted 2796 days ago in by Catriona

This conversation came while we were listening to Ride’s “Drive Blind” (an event succeeded by me becoming overwhelmed by mid-‘90s nostalgia and insisting on listening to a couple of tracks from Bush’s Sixteen Stone album):

ME: Ride really are shoegazer, aren’t they? It’s odd, because I love them, but I normally hate shoegazer. Like My Bloody Valentine. And you know what I dislike most about My Bloody Valentine? The fact that they’re called My Bloody Valentine, so I can’t even use that name pejoratively.
NICK: Yeah.
ME: You weren’t listening to that, were you?
NICK: I can only hear about one word in ten. So I just keep listening, and say “Yeah,” and pick up the conversation later.
ME: Remember when we said that that increases the chances of you getting shouted at? Because it’s really annoying?
NICK: Yeah.
ME: Did you hear that?
NICK: What?

Sadly, It's Not That Kind Of Blog This Time, Either

Posted 2796 days ago in by Catriona

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy the Google searches that bring people to The Circulating Library. So here’s another selection of Google searches from the past few weeks.

People have been busily searching for Nancy Drew, it seems, because I’ve had hits from the following searches:

  • “Nancy Drew pants.” I love this one. Are these like Daisy Dukes, d’you think? Because I seem to remember Nancy favouring skirts.
  • “Nancy Drew: Who is the champion of cheaters now?” I don’t know! Though there was that one time the young Nancy investigated the case of someone wiping her name off the list of volunteers for an ice-skating competition. I think there was some cheating involved in that.
  • “Nancy Drew using a torch.” I have no idea whether the impulse behind this is a little kinky or not, but I should try and find a picture of Nancy using a torch, just in case the search is repeated.

This one is only peripherally related to Nancy Drew:

  • “Detective girls in bondage.” I said to Nick, “How do you suppose, if they’re in bondage, you can tell they’re detective girls? D’you think they’d still be holding their magnifying glasses?” Still, it’s all in line with the most popular search that brings people to my site, which is still “Agatha Heterodyne porn.”

There’s also been a small flurry of Barbie searches, including the following:

  • “Servant Barbies.” Sadly, for all her unrealistic body image, I think Barbie’s careers were always more high-flying than this, weren’t they?
  • “Barbie and Ken in bedroom.” And the dolls aren’t even anatomically correct . . .

And some slightly more random searches:

  • “Three pairs of tweezers.” Gasp! The geckoes’ invasion plans continue apace! Quick, anonymous Googler: hide your cheese slicer!
  • “The dangers of coffee.” I suspect they were thinking more of heart palpitations and less of that time I spilt it on myself and then blogged about it.
  • “The song that the boy is trying to run away and he has to marry the goblin princess.” I’m sorry that I’ve never heard of this song, because it sounds fabulous.
  • “Fictional characters with heart disease.” So specific! I always wonder about the impulse behind these types of searches, but I dare say it’s just rampant curiosity. Wikipedia should have a list of these fictional characters.
  • “Leavisite English department.” I wonder: running towards or running away from?
  • “Cow + gate.” I mainly included this one because I cannot for the life of me remember using those two words in conjunction on this blog.

But this one is my current favourite:

  • “Brust milk.” I said to Nick, “A fellow Kiwi? Or do you think Steven Brust has started a side business?”

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Eighteen

Posted 2797 days ago in by Catriona

ME: My calves are never going to forgive me for all this exercise.
NICK: Never?
ME: Never!
NICK: “Never gonna give you up . . .”
ME: Sweetie, if you Rick-Roll me again, I shall punch you.
NICK: Fair enough.
ME: Metaphorically speaking.
NICK: Of course.

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Season Three: "Blink"

Posted 2798 days ago in by Catriona

I’ve not been looking forward to live-blogging this episode. I admit it. It’s not that I dislike it: I don’t. I adore it. And that’s part of it: I’d really rather just like to watch it. But my other concern is that this will be very, very difficult to live-blog. It’s so visual, for a start.

Still, we’ll give it a go, shall we?

In the meantime, have I mentioned how irritated I am by this Triple J programme? There’s just such a surfeit of smugness. Sigh: it’s difficult being too old for Triple J television.

The storm seems to have passed over—and what a lovely, lovely storm it was, except for that one lightning strike, which was a little too close for comfort—but we’re still surrounded by lightning and thunder. If one can be surrounded by thunder. Or, for that matter, lightning.

Wow, the ABC has many, many adverts now.

We open on a wrought-iron gate over which a very, very pretty girl is climbing, ignoring the “Danger: Keep Out” signs.

She’s heading into a deserted house, to take photographs. I’m typing slowly, because I have to keep glancing at the screen.

She pulls some wallpaper off the wall, to reveal the messages “Beware the weeping angels,” “Duck,” “No, really,” and “Sally Sparrow, duck now.”

She ducks, and a rock comes in through the window.

When she looks out, she sees a stone angel, with its hands over its eyes. Heading back to the wall, she pulls off more paper, to see the final message: “Love from the Doctor, 1969.”

Credits.

Sally Sparrow, walking up the stairs calling for Kathy, sees the Doctor on the television, telling her never to turn her back, to look away. He says they’re faster, faster than she can imagine. And whatever she does, not to blink.

As we pan back, we see the Doctor’s on more than one screen.

Sally calls her friend Kathy, to reveal that she is in Kathy’s kitchen, making coffee. Kathy says Sally’s about to meet her (Kathy’s) brother, who pops up to say he’s not sure, but he really hopes he’s wearing pants.

Sally says no.

The next morning, Sally (Sparrow) and Kathy (Nightingale)—who, as Kathy points out, sound like girl investigators (“A bit ITV,” says Sally)—break back into the deserted house.

Sally, looking at the weeping angel, says it’s closer to the house than it was last night.

Just then, someone knocks on the door. Kathy says she’ll stay back, just in case it’s a burglar. (“A burglar who rings the doorbell?” Sally asks.)

But it’s not a burglar; it’s a man in a suit who has been charged to deliver a letter to Sally at this place and this time.

Kathy hears a noise, and heads out. She glances at the angel, and when she turns her back, we see that the angel has moved its hands away from its face.

Kathy steps back into the house, and, behind her, we see the angel has moved closer.

Sally proves her identity to the man in the suit, and behind Kathy, we see the angel, now in the hallway, with its hand outstretched.

The man in the suit says he has a letter for Sally, from Kathy. Sally turns away to ask Kathy if this is a joke—but Kathy is gone, and the angel is back in the garden.

Indeed, Kathy isn’t in London any more. She’s in Hull. In 1920. This man in the suit is her grandson, who has been charged by her with delivering the letter. Kathy died twenty years ago.

Sally leafs through the letter and the accompanying photos, and tells the man that this is sick. She runs upstairs, calling for Kathy, and if she’s not frightened to see the hallway full of angel statues—who move their hands away from their faces when Sally turns her back, and move them back up when she turns back—we are.

She sees a statue holding a key, and grasps it—when she hears the man in the suit leaving, she runs downstairs, narrowly avoiding the out-stretched hand of an angel. As Sally leaves the house, we see the angels watching her from the windows.

Sally sits in a cafe and reads Kathy’s letter, then stops by Kathy’s grave—noting in passing “You told him you were eighteen? You lying cow!”—and walks off, watched by one of the stone angels.

Sally heads off to tell Laurence, Kathy’s brother, what happened to her. She heads into the back room of the video store where he works, and there’s the Doctor on the screen again, seemingly speaking directly to her.

She tells Laurence—who has remembered where he last met Sally, and covered himself—that Kathy has had to go away for work, and that she loves him. Laurence is slightly freaked out by this.

The Doctor starts talking again (his pause button slips, apparently) and Sally asks what he is: Laurence says he’s an Easter egg, a hidden feature on seventeen unconnected DVDs. Laurence says he and the guys are trying to work out what it means.

SALLY: When you say you and the guys, you mean the Internet, don’t you?
LAURENCE: How did you know?

Then the Doctor starts responding to Sally. The first time could be coincidental, but when she says “It’s as though you can hear me” and he says, “Well, I can hear you,” that’s not so coincidental.

As Sally leaves the video store, the clerk is shouting at the screen he’s watching, telling the heroine to go to the police. “Why does no one ever go to the police?” he asks.

So Sally goes to the police, where she sees the angels on the building opposite. Slowly, slowly, she blinks—and they disappear. She says to herself that she’s going mad, but when the camera pulls back, we see the angels are outside the police station.

She meets a terribly sweet policeman called Billy Shipton, who says he can’t talk to her right now because he has a thing—until he looks up and actually sees her.

Billy asks Sally to have a drink, and she asks if he’s on duty, but he says he clocked off before he took her to show her the cars that have been found at the deserted house. Well, many cars and one TARDIS.

She asks why he did that, and he says, “Because life is short and you are hot.”

She agrees, after some banter, to give him her phone number, and when he asks her name, says “Sally Shipton. Sparrow! Sparrow!”

He says he’ll call her, and she says he’d better, all the while blushing and saying “Don’t look at me!”

Billy says “I’ll call you, gorgeous girl!” but when he turns around, there are four stone angels surrounding the TARDIS.

Slowly, slowly, Billy blinks.

Outside the police station, Sally realises that Billy told her nothing would open the TARDIS, but she has this mysterious key. She heads back into the parking garage, but Billy is gone.

Because he’s in 1969, while the Doctor and Martha explain that, well, firstly he’s in 1969, but it’s all right, he’s going to really enjoy the moon landing, and, secondly, that the angels are psychopaths who zap you into the past and let you live to death while, in the present, they feed off your potentiality.

The Doctor says he needs Billy to take a message to Sally, and he’s sorry, but it’s going to take Billy a long time.

Back in 2007, Sally gets a phone call from Billy—who is in a nursing home.

BILLY: It was raining when we met.
SALLY: It’s the same rain.

The Doctor’s message is that Sally needs to look at the list, the list of DVDs. And Billy explains that he didn’t stay a policeman: he got into publishing, then video publishing, and then DVDs. It was he who put the Easter eggs on.

He tells Sally that the Doctor told him Sally would understand one day, but that he, Billy, never would. Sally says she’ll come and tell him all about it, but Billy says no: they have only this one meeting, the night he dies.

BILLY: Ah. Life is long, and you are hot.

Sally says she’ll stay with him, and he says he has until the rain stops.

Later, Sally stands at the window in the sunlight, and looks at the list—and she realises something. She rings Laurence, and tells him that she knows what the seventeen DVDs have in common: they’re all the DVDs she owns. She tells Laurence to bring a portable DVD player to the deserted house.

And that’s when she realises that all the random things that the Doctor is saying are actually a conversation he’s having with her from thirty-eight years in the past.

He can’t hear her, he says, but he knows what she’s going to say, because Laurence is writing Sally’s answers into his transcripts of the Doctor’s words.

The angels have the phone box! That’s Laurence’s favourite bit. You and many other geeks on the Internet, Laurence: we checked about thirty seconds after this episode ended, and there were about forty T-shirts with that on.

The Doctor explains that the weeping angels are quantum locked: they don’t exist when they’re being observed. That’s why they cover their eyes: they can’t risk seeing each other. But once you blink or look away, you’re dead.

And then the Doctor points out that the transcript ends, and he knows the angels are coming for her. But she has to get the TARDIS to him. And the DVD ends.

Laurence says he’ll rewind it, but Sally realises that neither of them are looking at the statue—which is looming over them as soon as they look at it.

Laurence stands and stares at the statue as Sally frantically tries to open doors, but he blinks—and the statue is right there when he opens them.

The doors are locked, and they flee downstairs, looking for a delivery hatch, though Laurence has to take his eyes off the statue to follow her. The other three angels are downstairs, standing around the TARDIS. Sally keeps her eyes on them as she heads towards the TARDIS. But Laurence’s angel follows them and starts the lights blinking.

This scene is amazing and almost impossible to live-blog. But as Sally frantically tries to open the doors, the lights blink on and off, showing the angels ever closer and in more menacing positions each time.

The DVD that Laurence carries is a time key, though, valid for one journey: as the angels frantically rock the TARDIS, it dematerialises—right away from Sally and Laurence, who scream and cower in a circle of angels.

But the angels are looking at each other, from where each was standing on one side of the TARDIS. They’ll never move again.

Sally and Laurence are in the shop, and Laurence asks if she can’t let it go, as she rifles through a folder of material to do with the angels. She says she can’t, because there are unanswered questions, such as how the Doctor got the transcript.

But as Sally looks up, she sees the Doctor and Martha, with bows and arrows over their shoulders, leaping out of a taxi. She accosts the Doctor, but he doesn’t know who she is. She realises that she is the one who gave him the transcript in the first place: she does so, telling him he’ll need it when he’s stuck in 1969.

He’s not quite sure what’s happening, but he’s charming.

DOCTOR: Gotta dash. Things happening. Well, four things. Well, four things, and a lizard.

Laurence arrives and boggles, but the Doctor leaves to deal with his swarm, and Sally, putting her arm around Laurence, walks back with him into Sparrow and Nightingale: Antiquarian Books and Rare DVD’s [their apostrophe].

And we flash through various statues on various roofs, as the Doctor exhorts us not to blink.

Man, after the first time I watched that episode, I nearly had a panic attack every time I had to walk past a public building. Bless you, Steven Moffat!

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Seventeen

Posted 2799 days ago in by Catriona

Post-Wii Fit:

ME: Then I did the free jogging, but I spent most of my time shouting, “Stop slowing down you, you stupid cow!” at my Mii.
NICK: Really?
ME: Yeah. And on an empty stomach, too! Sometimes, the balance board asks me if I’ve eaten my breakfast, and I think, “Are you kidding me? Dude. Shut up and exercise me already!”
NICK: You’re developing quite an adversarial relationship with that balance board, aren’t you?
ME: And with my Mii. They’re just so damn chirpy.
NICK: They’ve probably had a crack team of Nintendo engineers working out the exact degree of chirpy that works best.
ME: Yeah, but it was designed in Japan. And judging from this and other games, they have a much higher tolerance for chirpy than I do.
NICK: Doesn’t everyone?
ME: Oh, shut up.

Lamplight Vignettes

Posted 2800 days ago in by Catriona

Lessons I Have Learned From Reading Various Teen Romances

Posted 2800 days ago in by Catriona

1. If you don’t want to pressure your girlfriend to sleep with you, but you also know you’re (cliche alert!) “not willing to wait forever,” you probably shouldn’t be dating a fourteen-year-old girl when you’re in college.

Seriously.

Keep the May-December romances for when you’ve reached a commensurate degree of sexual and social maturity, okay? It’s just common sense.

2. If your immortal boyfriend says he’s loved you through all your various life cycles even though you’ve never managed to consummate your relationship, and he’s therefore willing to wait forever for you to be ready, you have about half a book before he

  • tries to take your pants off.
  • becomes really irritated with you and starts disappearing for long stretches of time
  • drinks your best friend’s blood
  • flirts with the school bully
  • wipes your memory
  • all of the above.

3. The important lesson to take from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is that Meg Murry definitely had boobs. Because, after all, she already had glasses and braces, right? So no benevolent deity would also make her flat-chested, okay? That would just be mean.

4. If you say you’re a feminist, there’s nothing to stop you also fantasising about literally being your boyfriend’s property, including wanting to wear a bracelet engraved with “Property of [Boyfriend’s Name]” and justifying this by saying that it’s just like the fact that your cat’s collar has your name on it.

5. As a corollary to the above, the statement “I’m a feminist, right?” is so powerful that you only need to say it once every two or maybe three books to completely negate any unpleasant after-effects of statements such as the above.

6. That cute boy you just met? Chances are he’s either

  • your brother
  • immortally bound to his actual sister, so he has to marry her eventually. Even though she’s his sister.

7. If you’re fifteen and you haven’t started your menstrual cycle or, in fact, ever seen your own blood, even after injuries, you really should think about that. Sure, we don’t expect you to realise you’re a fairy, but you know you’re not a competitive gymnast. And you didn’t know anything was odd? Seriously?

8. Wherever there’s one cute boy, there’s always another one. It’s just a fact of life. Sure, one of them’s probably a vampire or a fairy or something, but you’ll just have to deal with that, because love triangles are inevitable.

Apparently.

9. Interspecies dating is no more complicated for teenage girls than it would be for a tiger who happened to meet a rather attractive lion. Trust me on this. Just don’t wonder whether your children will be sterile, because that’s not something that’s usually covered by the literature.

10. Boys like girls who have some kind of quirk. So if you’re not a fairy, or able to see fairies, or a vampire, or the spitting image of a vampire’s long-lost love, or, at a pinch, a Catholic schoolgirl, you’re just going to have to get a tattoo.

Live-blogging Torchwood Season Two: "Reset"

Posted 2801 days ago in by Catriona

Well, I didn’t manage to finish my novel today, as I promised everyone on Twitter that I would do. But I did manage to write somewhere around five thousand words, so I am feeling a little smug.

Of course, I should have been finishing an article on the construction of the mid-Victorian penny weekly as a commodity between 1862 and 1897, but I didn’t.

Still, a productive day.

I worry a little that the nature of the novel might have suffered, since it’s supposed to be light and whimsical children’s fantasy, but I wrote most of today’s chapters while listening to The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack, to drown out the sound of construction next door and the whimpering of the neighbours’ new and neglected dog.

It’s a fab soundtrack, but not really suited to whimsical children’s fantasy, wouldn’t you say?

And that’s probably enough nattering on about my day, especially since the episode doesn’t even start for another eight minutes.

Oh, I thought of something else I wanted to say. After all, I haven’t had my usual Friday-night whinge. I completely destroyed Nick at Wii Boxing the other day, and my arms are still sore.

Eye of the tiger, arms of the squirrel, apparently.

Ah, but here we are with the actual episode. This one contains violence. But no sex or swearing, apparently.

Opening monologue.

Here’s a weevil running up towards a warehouse. Always with the warehouses. It’s wearing its complimentary weevil boiler suit and being chased by Torchwood.

Owen tracks it down, but it runs off and he stumbles across a dead body. No, not literally. Metaphorically.

Someone wanders into Torchwood, and Ianto tells them they’re closing, until she flashes a badge, and he leaps up with a “Sorry, ma’am.” He tells Jack that his V.I.P. visitor has arrived—and it’s Martha.

Credits.

They embrace. Of course they do: it’s Jack. He cuddles everyone—well, except Donna. I never did figure that out.

Owen asks what Martha’s doing there, and she says she’s there to complete his autopsy. Jack says she’s UNIT, and Gwen asks which one UNIT is. Jack says that they’re the “acceptable” face of alien research, but that Torchwood are better looking.

While I type that, there’s a fair bit of discussion about what ties all the victims together, but I miss most of it.

Afterwards, Jack and Martha chat a little about surviving the end of the world, and Jack asks about her family, because, of course, they remember the events at the end of the world, as well. He asks if she misses the Doctor, and she says a little, sometimes. But it seems that the Doctor recommended her to UNIT.

Then Jack asks if she can get him one of those red caps, for recreational purposes—he thinks Ianto would look good in it.

Gwen asks how long Martha has known Jack, and Martha accidentally gives the impression that they slept together. Gwen says she hasn’t either, and they bond over the fact that they must be the only two people on the planet who haven’t.

Then I miss some more complicated technobabble, about an alien device that Owen wants to use for medical purposes, except he keeps blowing things up instead.

A patient shows up who has the same markers as the wave of victims, and Torchwood are off.

Ooh, medical montage. How CSI of them!

Now it’s Owen turn to ask about how Martha knows Jack. She first tells him that she knows Jack “forwards and backwards,” which just sounds filthy if you don’t know he’s a time traveller, and then tells him that they were “both under the same Doctor.”

NICK: Wishful thinking on both their parts, really.

But in the interim, they suggest that the attacks are not only designed to kill, but to obliterate something in the victims’ bloodstreams, which would explain why their medical records have been wiped and why they’re using some form of bleach to attack them.

Based on a new victim, Martha suggests that the attacks are more like assassinations.

And the victim who survived, Marie, is now suffering some sort of attack at the hospital, so Torchwood are off again, thinking she has some kind of parasitic infection.

While Owen and Martha are at the hospital, Ianto and Gwen are talking to Barry’s best friend. (Barry’s the latest victim, the student found in the woods.) And his best friend says that Barry had just been “cured” of diabetes: the best friend thinks there’s nothing weird about this, at all. Did he think that diabetes could be cured?

So, back at the hospital, Owen questions Marie, who says that she used to be HIV+, until she went to the Pharm, for a medical trial for something she calls “Reset.”

Then she dies.

And—oh, ew! Some kind of swarm of things comes out of her mouth to fill the room, but they die almost instantly.

Basically, it’s an alien larvae gestating in a human body. They left Marie when she died, looking for a new host, but Owen and Martha were wearing masks, so they all died.

Owen then heads into some hardcore technobabble, but, basically, it’s like anti-viral software for the human body, assuming that anti-viral software came packaged with deadly alien parasites. The wholesale cures are a side effect of the alien trying to find a healthy host for the larvae.

Hey, the Pharm’s director is Jim Robinson! Jim! Isn’t he doing well for himself?

Torchwood just bully themselves through the gate, where Jim Robinson patronises Jack and pretends not to know his name. He also denies outright that he knows any of the victims, or that they ever took part in any clinical trials.

And then Jack tells him that Marie died from a parasite of alien origin, which seems poor policy, frankly.

Owen tries to talk to Jim Robinson doctor-to-doctor, but he won’t have a bar of it. And even Jack’s “I had a boyfriend once whose nostrils flared when he was lying” doesn’t get a rise out of him.

Then I notice that Jack’s eyes are actually quite green, and I’m distracted slightly.

But Jack notes, via some fancy technology, that the Pharm has the highest concentration of alien lifeforms this side of the Rift.

Still, even if that’s true, they’re incapable of getting into the Pharm or of hacking into their mainframe. (Do we still say mainframe?) But Ianto says they’re looking for volunteers, and Martha offers herself.

Owen pulls Jack aside and tells him he can’t send Martha in on her own, but Jack says he’d depend on Martha if the world was ending—and, in fact, he did.

There’s a gorgeous conversation between Martha and Ianto, when she says that Jack asked her to get Ianto a UNIT cap, and he says red is his colour. So she asks what’s going on with them, and he says they “dabble.”

What’s his dabbling like? Martha asks. And if you’ve ever wondered, Ianto says it’s “innovative.” Indeed, almost “avant-garde.”

He’s so adorable.

So they set Martha up with a fake identity, and some contact lenses that will allow Torchwood to watch what she watches—and, if you keep watching, you’ll see those come up again in a much less comfortable situation.

JIM ROBINSON: I see you’re a postgraduate student at the moment.
MARTHA: Yes.
JIM ROBINSON: Studying what?
MARTHA: Creative writing.
NICK: Oh, clearly a disposable candidate!

We kid!

Martha lies her way into the Pharm as a test subject, and Jack chats about his past relationship with Christopher Isherwood: “It’s not the getting in that matters, it’s the getting out.”

Tosh tries to ask Owen out on a date, but begins by talking about how he fancies Martha, which seems a bad start.

OWEN: Plus, I think if I try anything, Jack’ll have my kneecaps.
NICK: Owen, Martha will have your kneecaps.

But once Owen realises that Tosh is asking him out, he agrees to go. He doesn’t sound terribly enthusiastic, but he isn’t being a total prick, either, so that’s a step up for Owen.

Meanwhile, Martha is wandering around the Pharm at night.

Tosh is helping Martha through a locked door—honestly, shouldn’t Torchwood have a night shift and a day shift? And why has this never occurred to me before now?—as security guards head down the corridor towards her.

But she’s into Jim Robinson’s office, to try and open up the computer system.

Jack is as anxious as I am, because he knows that this is always the part of the narrative where the heroine is caught.

But she manages to get Tosh remote control of the computer, which means Martha can get out of the office. Well, she should be able to get out of the office. Jack tells her to get out, saying that they can download it all to Torchwood, so she should leave.

But as she wanders back through the buildings, she hears an alarm that tells her that something—something terribly dangerous—has escaped.

Back at the Hub, Jack realises that the Pharm is running their own hitman, which, as he points out, is unusual for a medical-research facility.

Martha’s trying to get out of the Pharm, but the gates are locked. She hears again the warning that the creature is highly dangerous. And, hearing a noise behind her, she turns, into a radiation surge that knocks out the contact lenses. Behind her is a giant insect, but before she can run far, she’s knocked out with a tranq dart.

Owen wants to go in after her, but Jack says that she’s been in worse situations than this. Owen asks if he’s sure about that?

Well, yes. She was the last person to escape before the burning of Japan, remember? Oh, wait: you don’t remember any of that.

Gwen and Ianto prevent an assassination, but Martha isn’t as lucky, as she wakes up strapped to an operating table, as Jim Robinson says her test results show she’s very special.

Back at the Hub, Jack is using a weevil as an interrogation technique. I’m pretty sure that’s against the Geneva Convention.

Back at the Pharm, Jim Robinson is explaining that he knows that Martha has travelled in time and space, and her unusually effective immune system, a result of this travel, makes her an ideal test subject. They inject her, but not, luckily, through the eyeballs, which is how he’s been killing people.

At the Hub, the hitman that Ianto and Gwen grabbed starts bleeding from the mouth, and Owen, trying to grab the giant parasite inside him with the alien surgical tool from earlier, explodes him instead. Everyone takes this in their stride. Except the hitman.

Parasites are incubating inside Martha.

Torchwood uses the hitman’s body to get into the Pharm, by tying him behind the wheel of a car. Ianto is the only person to have an even vaguely normal response to this suggestion.

When Torchwood burst in on Martha, it seems she has survived the larval stage—the first test subject to do so—and only the strongest of the larvae they implanted in her is still alive. Jim Robinson is thrilled about this, but Jack less so.

The rest of Torchwood—Gwen, Ianto, and Tosh—find that the Pharm are holding dozens of different aliens captive, and using them as test subjects. Apparently, you can get some pesticides and a rather powerful chemical defoliant from weevils.

Or was that exfoliant?

No.

Jack says he’s closing the Pharm down. Jim Robinson says no, but Jack says yes: they’re in control of the Pharm’s computers, and they’re wiping the records as they speak, never mind actually destroying the buildings.

Then Owen uses his creepy alien surgical tool on Martha, and kills her—but only slightly and for a short while.

She gets better.

Owen drags Martha out of the building and tries to get in her pants, but she says she has a boyfriend. He says yes, but did he save her life like he just did? She says yes.

So there’s that.

Then Jim Robinson pops up with a gun, still in his labcoat.

Owen steps in front of Martha, and Jim Robinson shoots him.

Man, shot by Jim Robinson. How embarrassing!

Jack shoots Jim Robinson in the head, but it’s all just revenge now, because Owen is dead.

We pan back from Owen’s body.

Well, that’s an unusual take on the victim of the week, isn’t it?

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Sixteen

Posted 2801 days ago in by Catriona

Watching Nick trying cycling on the Wii Fit:

ME: Zig-zag to go up a hill. And lean forward.
NICK: How do I do that?

I’m afraid if you don’t know how to lean forward at your age, I can’t help you there, sweetie.

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