Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Werd From the Nerd: News and Updates

Kitty Madness!

Trust me, this is the face of evil waiting to happen.
I don't have a precious baby kitten anymore. I have a ball of furry madness that eats almost 60-75 milliliters of formula a day and poops almost that much (eeewww). She sleeps through the night now, thank heavens, but still requires a lot of attention during the day, which is why we're still staying at my in-law's house (that and Maintenance hasn't fixed my air conditioner yet). Today Tifa attacked my backpack. None of us thought it would do any good, but it is an ugly back pack. She got a bath for the first time today, as I continue to search for that one elusive flea. Not wanting to drown the little thing (Tifa, not the flea), I made sure to keep her head well above the water, which was only about two inches deep anyway. The pesky little parasite found its way into one of her ears, causing her intense irritation. She shook her head vigorously and the flea never even made an appearance until I started combing her fur out. It eludes me still. Anyway, had to go buy more Pedialite and latex gloves. The gloves make everything having do to with cleaning her much safer, both in terms of sanitation and the fact that her little baby claws have become little baby tattoo needles, only these don't ink flesh, they strip it.

Lateness of Doctor Who reviews, again!

I am exceedingly sorry, yet again, for the lateness of my Doctor Who reviews. Considering last Saturday's episode, "The Rebel Flesh" ended on a cliff hanger, I've decided to augment this week's tardy review with another double whammy next week, which will involve "The Rebel Flesh" and its sequel in both of their entireties, possibly saving us all a little time and anticipation. From what I understand, I really can't afford to shave any more years off of my life span stressing out about it. For anyone interested in helping me acquire cable t.v. complete with BBCA and Doctor Who, please visit one of my archived Doctor Who posts to donate to the Doctor Who Cable Television Fund.

A New Take on an Old Classic

I don't do enough nerdy things *ironic snort*, so I've decided to instigate yet another blog event: The X:Files re-watch! Re-watches are a popular part of Tor.com's retinue of interesting blogs and involve taking an entire series and breaking down each episode into tiny digestible tidbits of fun information and trivia. The point of my re-watch is to educate those unfamiliar with the series on plot, characters and the phenomena that inspire the show. Unfortunately I was well into re-watching season two before I had this idea. I'll cover season one (again) while I search for a place to get my X:Files tattoo done.

A Restaurant in Needs is Pap's Indeed

This is the part where some of you may gag at my professional journalistic attitude towards my arguably "underemployed" work status. Warning: shameless plugging ahead. I have not been asked to do this.

Many of you may be aware that I work part-time (or full-time, possibly even over-time) at a Greek restaurant here in San Antonio. That Greek restaurant, Papouli's Greek Grill, is greatly in need of intelligent, moderately experienced, mature team members interested in earning competitive wages and taking advantage of promotion opportunities while working for one of the most successful Greek restaurant chains in South Texas. Voted Reader's Choice Award in 2010 for Best Mediterranean/Greek Restaurant in San Antonio, Papouli's is growing rapidly, already hoping to launch a fourth restaurant sometime in the future (both where and when are currently undisclosed at the moment). Despite a heavy influx of new blood, more is definitely needed as current employees (both old veterans and  intrepid noobs) move on to other things.

Whether your interested in making  your career in an up-and-coming entrepreneurship or need a summer job to pay the bills until school starts, Papouli's has a place for all types of people, from high intensity positions like cook, coordinator and counter to low intensity positions like bus/dish and prep. Anyone in the San Antonio, Texas area who is interested in joining one of our three teams has only to log onto www.papoulis.com and apply to their desired store, or leave a comment for further direction.

Reviewing Made Sexy: Thor versus Pirates 4

Male readers need not apply to this purely fan-girl post unless you like to read shamelessly plugged masculine film reviews expounding upon the appearance and acting style of Tom Hiddleston and Johnny Depp as I compare the totally legitimate pros and cons of two blockbusting films of the summer, Thor and Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides. Coming soon to a squealing nerd near you.

Thanks again to all my readers near and far for their patience as I repeatedly misplace my brain. I might not have many loyal fans or top of the line readership like Ray William Johnson (at least not yet), but I do appreciate every one of my page views. Thanks so much for coming by and perusing.

--The Nerd

Thursday, May 19, 2011

One Doctor, Furnished in Smarmy Gaiman

"Fear me, I've killed dozens of Time Lords."
"Fear me, I've killed them all."
The Doctor and The House, "The Doctor's Wife"

Just when we thought the Doctor couldn't get himself any deeper into trouble, a proposal falls into the lap of fantasy writer, Neil Gaiman: write a script for Doctor Who. The result: "The Doctor's Wife", an episode as clever and inventive as befitting both novelist and Doctor. "The Doctor's Wife" combined Gaiman's story telling with a firm re-grounding in the past lore of the Doctor and his past. Upon closer examination, it is unclear where the Gaiman ends and the Doctor begins. In this tale of seamless writing and flawless wit, the two seem inextricably intertwined.

Basic Plot

The Doctor is lured outside the universe by an oh-so tempting bit of news: other Time Lords could still be alive. He takes the Tardis, Rory and Amy to a satellite outside the known universe (imagine a bubble on the side of a much larger bubble and it wouldn't be anything like that all, or so it goes). There, they are greeted by Aunt, Uncle, Nephew (Ood), hogde-podged bits of people caught outside the universe in the catch-all that is The House. The House, looking for Time Lords to devour, lures the Doctor and the Tardis into its maw. Aunt and Uncle separate the Tardis matrix from the machine and implant it in the body of a young woman, Idris, who enjoys biting and kissing equally and not exactly in that order. The House traps Amy and Rory inside the Tardis and uses them for entertainment, recreating rooms, separating them, playing before them scenes of horror, especially for Amy. The Doctor must build another Tardis, with the help of The Tardis, to reach Amy and Rory before The House destroys them.

Gaiman's Writing

I do not have to expound upon Gaiman's writing style or his long bibliography. The man's name speaks for itself. I will restrict my fan-girlish comments to myself regarding his hair and resist the urge to brag about having met the man on my honeymoon. So, onto the episode.

This episode smacks of a distinct difference in character that is all-too-Gaiman, but stands firmly grounded in the danger and madness that is the Doctor. My opinion is that the episode, where it not advertised at all that it had been written by Gaiman, would not stand out from the rest of the series. This is a good thing. Gaiman has successfully and seamlessly written an episode in true style while still inserting enough of his own style to mark this episode as unique, but does not break continuity for the sake of artistic licence. In the hands of another writer, this could have ended badly, like letting John de Lancie write a Star Trek novel. The most interesting aspect of Gaiman's episode is the relationship or--dare I say it--marriage of the Doctor to the Tardis. One cannot travel without the other. The Doctor needs the Tardis to travel space and time. The Tardis is all time and space at once, but needs the Doctor or other Time Lord to traverse it. The analogy is further enriched by trapping the only married couple in the series inside the Tardis and putting them through the emotional wringer.

Rory and Amy, after some mild questioning regarding Amy's loyalty, are inseparable, and inside the Tardis they are each other's only hope for survival against The House. The House is especially fond of targeting Amy, who is easily upset at the thought of death, whether it is Rory's or the Doctor's, when she is powerless to stop it. Gaiman uses this as a reference to tie this episode to the others, especially episode three, when the Doctor reminds Amy that Rory is counting on her to save his life. The same could be said for the Doctor, if it were cosmically possible.

People are So Much Bigger on the Inside

Gaiman does a fantastic job of anthropomorphizing the Tardis in the form of Idris. Gaiman explores the relationship between Tardis and Doctor by giving the Tardis a voice and giving viewers some of the most touching scenes in the series. Before this episode, I do not recall the Doctor ever crying. Trust me, he wasn't the only one in the room that was. Even my husband teared up a little when the Doctor and Idris/Tardis had to say good-bye. But it was not good-bye; it was "hello" for the first time in nine hundred years. In that time the Doctor had always been frustrated with the "unreliability" of the Tardis.

"I've always taken you where you needed to go," the Tardis said. Realizing that a sentient matrix controlled the blue police box, the Doctor has a brand new idea of how to operate with the Tardis.

Gaiman also explores the nature of people's emotions. When the Tardis is inside a human body, she comes tries to find a word, a big word to describe herself that is also so very sad. In the end "Alive" is sad because something that is alive must also die. In this case, the body holding the Tardis dies but the matrix lives on, voiceless but alive nonetheless. The subject of being dead and alive and its impact on those around us has been the central theme of this series, starting with the Doctor's supposed death in "The Impossible Astronaut" and Amy's fear regarding the potential for both Rory and the Doctor to die in their adventures. Emotions, in this series, are also continuing to run high. The Doctor continues to seek forgiveness for what he's done to the other Time Lords. His desperation leads him into the trap set by The House. Amy is still guilty for what she cannot tell the Doctor about his death in 2011. Rory is still wary but has renewed his confidence in his wife.

All things considered, this episode, in terms of sheer emotional value, shines as a prime example of progression. As one travels through space and time, whether over the course of a life time or via a time machine, life must inevitably end, sparking new beginnings. This episode begins with marks the beginning of a new phase in the Doctor's life with the Tardis.

Best Scene

The best scene of this episode, aside from Idris alternating between kissing and biting the Doctor, is the scene where the two Tardises become one in an effort to override The House's control. It is synonymous with Idris' death. She releases the Tardis matrix back into the time machine, subsequently dying. She reappears to the Doctor a final time, not to say good-bye, but to say hello.

"It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Doctor," she says. After nine hundred and more years of silence, the Tardis and the Doctor can cement their relationship grounded in true understanding of one another. This is the essence of marriage, which is presumably why this episode is called "The Doctor's Wife". It can be speculated, hopefully without presumption, that this episode, following closely on the heels of Gaiman's re-entry into the married life, is not based entirely in fiction. This season has been closely analyzing the married couple's relationship via Amy and Rory and all of their predictable attitudes. The only relationship yet to be explored was the Doctor's hypothetical, and now totally believable, relationship to the Tardis, who he often refers to as "Old Girl" and "Sexy", as if she were truly a real person. Leave it to Gaiman to open up the possibility that the Tardis really has a life of its own. We just never realized it until now.

The Doctor is a Time Lord of the planet formerly known as Gallifrey. He travels through space and time with his loyal friends and the fickle personality of the Tardis (who has only just recently had a new idea about kissing). For all of his cleverness and confidence, he can never truly shake the guilt of what he has done in the past. However, he is slowly coming to realize that the forgiveness he seeks can be found in those that love him.

Want more Doctor Who reviews? Donate to the Doctor Who Cable Television Fund. All proceeds will go towards providing the Nerd with cable television, in order to provide readers with timely Doctor Who reviews along with other Nerd news.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spreading the Werd of the Squealing Nerd: Animal Abuse or Neglect

May seems to be Animal Rescue and Awareness Month at the Balentine and McGee residences in South Texas. Many will remembered my post a few days ago regarding my husband and I helping to rescue a very small kitten. More than a little of our money and time has gone into ensuring her survival. How she came to be abandoned or picked up, we still do not know, but our attention, dedication and determination are unwavering.

Several members of my family and many of my friends have heard me talk about Marmaduke, the English mastiff living next door to my parents. Thursday, during the thunder storms and tornado warnings sweeping Bexar County and four surrounding counties, Marmaduke went without shelter and food. Unfortunately, that day was just like every other day for Marmaduke since he was brought home by that family. My aunt, Becky Bush, my mother, sisters and I refuse to believe that despite all of our efforts, nothing can be done by the city to save him.

The Case of the Curious Kitten: Tifa's Fight

You know that family that always seems to be rescuing animals? The one with all the cats? That's the McGee family. The McGees and the Bushes (my mother's family) have a long history of rescuing and raising animals. My Grandpa McGee always had animals. He had dogs, cattle, and more often than not, horses. My grandparents, Hannah and Donald Bush, and my aunt and uncle Roberta and Chuck Williams, live on the same section of land in Rossville, just two miles outside of Poteet, Texas. As far back as I can remember, litters of feral kittens have been cropping up on their property. Their lives were not always easy, but my grandmother, aunt, and my youngest aunt Joanna, always did their best to make sure food and water was available.

The habit of rescuing animals has not ended with my little sister, Jamie, and myself. My twin attempted to rescue a cat several times until her first daughter was born. My aunt, Becky Bush, owns several rescued pets and often assists her co-worker in placing rescued pets with good families. Pixie, my aunts cat, is a rescue. My family's cats, Milo, Piper and Sugar Cookie, are all rescues. Tifa, a nine day old female, is a rescue kitten whose life in the last few days has been wrought with pain.

Tifa at two days old.
Tifa came to us last Friday. She was two days old according to the vet my friend took her to. She was being bottle fed, but not getting enough food. We switched from a bottle to a syringe, making sure to dilute her formula with Pedialite. Once we began hydrating and feeding her, she began crying and moving around (signs of a healthy kitten) until May 9, when I noticed a large lump on her back. We immediately rushed her to the veterinary hospital, where we were informed that a bite had become infected and created a large abscess. The vet lanced and drained it and gave us antibiotics . The next day her fever was down, but her back was once again inflamed and full of liquid. After repeated draining, the abscess is healing. She still has trouble defecating, but other than that, Tifa is well on her way to being a perfectly normal kitten. Her eyes opened this last Wednesday, three days earlier than expected for a kitten her age. My little sister surmised that her early development is a survival tactic.

"She has to make a choice," she said, "Live or die. The fact that she's opening her eyes and moving around while she's still so young is to make sure she can see a threat and escape it. She's chosen to live."
Um, that's her eager face.

Tifa has put up the fight of a lifetime in only nine days. Without the help of our friends and family, she might have died seventy two hours after her birth. Hopefully this spunky little kitty will live up to her namesake. The other night she ran circles around us before peeing on me. I'll periodically post pictures of her so that you can see her progress.

"There's Nothing We Can Do,": The Tragic Life of Marmaduke

Marmaduke, Mother's Day
The tags on the collar of this seven-year-old English Mastiff say "Titus". My family has never called him that. To us, he has always been Marmaduke, named after the mischievous comic mastiff. His size deceives the casual on-looker to his true nature. He is sweet tempered and easily skittish. He likes meaty treats and enjoys playing with the tennis balls or raw-hide bones my sister and aunt give him. When my niece and nephew are in the yard, he watches them, following them from his position behind a fence he could easily leap should he take a notion to do so. When someone comes to our front door, it is not the sound of our German Sheppard and Rat Terrier they hear but the roaring bark of a grossly under weight, but still slightly intimidating, English Mastiff. For the last five years, we have thought of Marmaduke as our dog. The only thing separating us from actually owning him is that he is legally the property of the family next door. 

Unfortunately, Marmaduke's life has been anything but the happy one led by his comic counterpart. Ever since he came to live with the family next door, he has done without. He is fed enough to keep him alive. The Texas summers are unbearably hot, even to humans, and Marmaduke is without water more often than not. In two of the most intense winter's in South Texas history, including the first snow since 1985, Marmaduke has not been taken inside or provided with a shelter. His hips and back are sore and stiff from laying on the hard, unkempt earth of the family's backyard, without even a decent patch of grass to cushion him. His back legs are covered in lesions and sores from being dirty. He has fleas, which my aunt treats him for, and most likely heart worms, for which my aunt also treats him. We hand him beefy treats over the fence and fill his water bowl up from our hose. There are no windows on the side of the other family's house facing ours, so we feed him in our own bowls out of site of family, who has been incited to anger more than once by our meddling.

His ribs are visible under his skin, and his tail is
eaten up with a flea allergy.
Why haven't we tried to have him taken away by Animal Care Services, you ask? That's just it. We have. I myself have overseen one ACS pick-ups during the winter of 2007. My twin over saw one prior to that in 2006. The neighbors behind us on the block over have had him picked up by ACS. The problem with keeping him out of these people's hands is that he is pure bred, and when the family bought him, they put a chip in his lower lip that allows The Pound to locate his family. After every single pick-up, he has been promptly returned to his owners, who are never made to comply with the stipulations that they feed, water and shelter him properly. My sister and I made sure to make police reports regarding the neglect, which have so far gone unheeded. In 2007, after he was picked up at my request, the owner of the house retaliated by having ACS called to apprehend my cats on account of they sleep outside and have no food. The ACS agent, the same one that took Marmaduke at my request, told me he didn't see any cats on the premises. I told him there were many cats in the area. He tipped his hat and left. That same year the family next door was served with a fine for animal neglect. The court ordered Marmaduke to be properly cared for, and he was, for a while. One day the undersized shelter he was provided with disappeared and his bowl went empty for days.

The response from the City of San Antonio has been, "Its sad, but there's nothing we can do." I know this is not true, when there are so many agencies fighting for animal rights in San Antonio. I refuse to believe that there are so many animals in being rescued in the news, but there is nothing that can be done for a dog that is obviously being neglected. I do not understand why it is that this travesty continues when there are laws in place to punish those who abuse and neglect animals. Why is it a Felony B in San Antonio to abuse an animal, but only a Felony C to steal one? Why is that this has been allowed to happen? And not only that, why has it been allowed to happen again? This family is notorious for abusing animals. One day I came outside to feed and pet the beagle they had chained to their fence. One of the boys came out of the house and asked what I was doing. I told him I was feeding the dog.

"She has food," he said.

"The food is on the porch," I said, "she's chained up over here. How can she get to it?"

Seeming to take my side, and we fed the dog together. I asked him what the dog's name was. He said he didn't know, that the dog belonged to his aunt.

The next day I went to visit the dog, she was wrapped in the thin wire chain connecting her to the fence. She had wound herself up in it in an attempt to get out of it. After another two weeks of this, he aunt finally came and got her dog. I have no idea how she reacted to how thin her dog was, or why she was tied up out of site of the family.

The next dog they got was a Boxer puppy. To my knowledge she didn't have a name. By the time she finally died or was taken away (for I simply do not know), she had been malnourished, dehydrated and cancerous, with tumors erupting around her anus and tail.

Becky giving Marmaduke a treat.
He is leery of her after the heart worm medicine.
Mother's Day evening, my aunt fed and watered Marmaduke from a distance. She put heart worm and flea medicine on his neck and gave him treats. Yesterday, the step-father was having the air-conditioner worked on. Of course, with people around, he makes a decent show of giving a damn. Marmaduke had plenty of food and water. He seemed content to lay in the yard and watch them work. How do I know this? My family surreptitiously sat in our newly watered yard under the pretense of playing with our German Sheppard, Juno. My aunt watched him cautiously. When the step father walked by his dog, he barely favored him with glance. Marmaduke put his head down and drooped his ears, clearly afraid of him. The air conditioner man did not look at him either. It was as if he wasn't there, suffering and unhappy in the dirt. The man went inside and shut the door, closing the curtain so they did not have to look at him. When they had gone, Marmaduke went to my aunt to receive his nightly treats.

Despite that family's best efforts, Marmaduke persists, knowing that my family loves him and cares for him. It would be better, however, if he were in the possession of someone else. What makes matters worse, is that should he be taken and examined for re-adoption, God only knows what the vets would find wrong with him. He has never seen a vet except at ACS. He only gets medicated by my family. Heart worms could be plaguing him, killing him, and we do not even know it. The fleas on him alone would cost a small fortune to eradicate. His teeth are bad from lack of care. He is only seven, and he walks like he is thirteen. The tragedy of Marmaduke could be that no matter what we do to save him, he will die in the end, his life already ruined past salvation. For that, someone should be held accountable. I hold that family living next door, that family that  has idly sat by and allowed a life to degenerate in their own backyard, responsible for his death, even if I have to give the order for his euthanization myself. Their pets inside live in luxury and comfort. What had Marmaduke ever done to deserve being left alone in their backyard, filthy and hungry?

Even if I had him taken away and had have him euthanized humanely and cleanly, it would be better than the life he is currently living. I would take that blood on my hands as a sign that we had done all we could, that when we sent him to his death, he knew that it was at the hands of those that loved him and cared only for his happiness. How I hope and wish this is not the case, that he can be saved and find a loving home with my aunt or someone else who will love him as much as we do. Sadly I know that reality is probably too far gone. However, he cannot be allowed to suffer in his present condition. I'm putting the word out on the family next door. I am calling everyone to action. Please, if there is anyone out there with the means or the connections to find Marmaduke a savior, I ask that you contact my family and myself either through this blog or my email. If anyone knows an organization willing to take Marmaduke, please let me know. Any help is appreciated. For everyone else, keep Marmaduke in your hearts, as I do, and know that my words are choked with tears, even this many years into the ordeal, his suffering pains me anew.

Our pets look to us for love and comfort. Unfortunately there are those that find none. I cannot and will not tolerate cruelty.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Doctor Who Double Whammy! Episodes 2 and 3 of Season 6. Spoilers Ahead!

Doctor Who "Day of the Moon" episode 2 season 6

"Welcome to the danger zone, step into the fantasy,
you are now invited to the other side of sanity.
They call me an alien, a big headed astronaut,
maybe its because your boy easy gets ass a lot."
Katy Perry, feat. Kaye West, "E.T."

The second episode of Doctor Who picks up where we left off three months later. This episode of Doctor Who does a great job of answering the questions raised at the end of "The Impossible Astronaut" concerning the secret Amy tells the Doctor: that she is pregnant. A lore argument broke out on Tor.com over the relevance of the child in the space suit being the Doctor's and Amy's. Following the logic, the argument is in favor of the fan girls. Following the plot, it is clear that the rest of us can take a leap of faith,and trust in Amy to keep her vows to Rory, fearing only for any possible child of theirs, not the Doctor's. Having put that matter to rest, "Day of the Moon" was amazing on more than one level, no matter what our security clearance might be.

Moffat's Writing: Stop-gap Timeline

In this episode, writer Stephen Moffat once again rips apart the fabric of the fictional reality to tell the episode's plot in non-linear fashion. As discussed on Tor.com, Moffat's writing reflects both the fictional reality of the show and the uniqueness of the character of the Doctor. In this case, Moffat uses memory loss as a means to lapse through whole sections of reality and still maintain a streamlined comprehension. In the scene in the orphanage, Amy's palm recorder starts beeping. Her reflection reveals her hands, arms and face to be covered in marks. She has seen scores of the creatures, but her memory retains nothing. Instead of total scene description, we receive the discoveries the same way she does. Lack of dramatic irony builds the suspense and disgust of this scene as Amy moves through the orphanage simultaneously seeing and forgetting a hatching nest of the creatures. Very little is revealed to us by the plot.

By disturbing the linear fictional reality, Moffat raises emotional response to the breaking point. Amy is eventually taken prisoner, leaving her palm recorder behind. Each of Amy's lines purposefully omit proper nouns. She refers to her target audience as "Stupid-Face." Given the implications of the last episode, Amy's attachment to the Doctor and her apparent pregnancy, Rory and the audience can only take Amy's words at face value: she seems to want the Doctor, not Rory, and the dialogue of both episodes appears to confirm it until Amy reveals what we, as faithful followers, should have known all along: that she loves Rory and feared for their (potential) unborn child. Since we only have one scene from Amy's perspective during her capture, we are left with little to go on. Only at the very end of the episode do all of our questions seem answered, and --then again--maybe not.

So Much Laughter in Darkness: Humor in "Day of the Moon"

Fortunately for us, humor often breaks the horrific imagery in this episode. Every time one of our heroes gets in trouble, its President Nixon to the rescue! Nixon has never been so powerful, even going so far as to remind the security officers at NASA that he is their Commander in Chief. The repetitive presidential theme song only heightens the absurdity of the President emerging from the Tardis in both NASA and Area 51. The entire fiasco at NASA is further confounding as Rory, an Englishman, informs the security guards, "America thanks you." Here we are finally confronted with the irony of the entire episode of a British television series taking place in America. As always, the Doctor is full of surprises and the very strategic humor lifts the dark atmosphere of the episode enough to keep tears at bay. Emily Asher-Perin of Tor.com has an excellent essay on the recent dark turn the show has taken. The humor in so much darkness is another twist of Stephen Moffat's talent.

Best Scene--Breaking The Silence

Without a doubt the  most inspiring scene of the episode, The Silence unwittingly give the order for the human race to know them, remember them and kill them on sight. Subliminally received as Neil Armstrong takes his first step onto the moon, even those who will not receive the message for hundreds of  years have been assured of their safety. The Silence watch as their own undoing is revealed on the sepia screen of 1969 by a man who can travel through time, the video for which was supplied by twenty-first century technology. Arguably a scene for a season finally, it is powerful and ironic at once, and (until episode four) is going to be hard to top.

"The Curse of the Black Spot" episode 3 season 6

Basic Plot

Rory, Amy and the Doctor, en route to another adventure, encounter a pirate ship who is beset by a demon, The Siren of legend, who marks injured victims with the black spot. Stephen Moffat drags poor Rory into deep trouble as he is cursed with the black spot and called by the Siren. The focus of this episode is to reaffirm our faith in Amy and Rory's relationship while reminding us that our priorities are to those we love first. Everything else is immaterial. Parallel universes collide, threatening the peace of our heroes while offering hope to a set of wayward pirates and a young boy named Toby.

The Multiverse and Doctor Who

Towards the end of the episode, the Doctor, Captain Avery and Amy follow Rory into the realm of the Siren, who we discover is aboard a ship in an alternate dimension piloted by alien life forms. The Doctor explains to his companions that the universe interacts in layers of universes that sometimes cross paths. In modern metaphysics, those layers of universes that make up the navigable space/time continuum is known as the multiverse. Based in String Theory, the idea is that time and space are not relative, and that both of them can be traversed at the same time or separately using a set of determined coordinates. In the case of this episode, the two realms that have intersected both include becalmed ships with endangered or dead crew members. The Doctor and the others repeatedly get the impression that someone is watching them. The reflections in mirrors, water and other surfaces serve as doors into either alternate reality.

Traveling along the space time continuum through the multiverse is precisely what the Doctor does with the Tardis. Using coordinates, the Doctor chooses when and where he'd like to travel to. So it no surprise that the Tardis attempts to exist in both sets of coordinates, those grounding it in the seventeenth century and those of the alternate alien reality. The result is complete malfunction and confusion.

The idea of the multiverse is not new, and in fact could be linked to Doctor Who as far back as its original series. The multiverse has been a trope for metaphysical poetry and speculative fiction for as long as the genre has existed, used often by fantasy writer Michael Moorcock and, arguably, perfected by horror author, Brian Lumley, author of Necroscope, a fifteen-novel-story about a man who can travel the space/time continuum and speak to the dead. Awesome trope and effective catch-all, the multiverse is ideal for complicating matters in Doctor Who.

Best Scene

The best scene is, of course, the scene aboard the alien ship in which the Doctor puts his hand in something foul, crying, "Alien bogies!" before promptly wiping his hand on Amy's sleeve. As if the exclamation where not childish enough, we are reminded of the Doctor's whimsical disregard for personal space in a blatant act of self-cleansing and preservation. And of course, the Doctor has a habit of doing things just to annoy Amy.

Next Week: Episode 4, "The Doctor's Wife"!

Excitement abounds across the Internet in light of next week's episode, written by Neil Gaiman in true Gaiman style. Gaiman originally (at least to my knowledge) revealed the fact that he had been asked to write a script for a Doctor Who episode at the World Horror Convention in 2010. Our adventurers shall embark next week in search of what could be the only surviving Time Lord besides the Doctor. They will travel to a place that seems to be inhabited by biting hobos. This nerd was not at all surprised to see the flash of a Cthulhu-esq face as a potential enemy. Surprises abound, and do my ears detect Gaiman's singular voice in the trailer? Wishful thinking? Watch the trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZAVJOEGnsw and listen for yourself. For more spoiler-revealing content go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/dw/news/bulletin_110507_02 to see interviews with Gaiman and the Doctor Who cast.

The Doctor is a Time Lord of Gallifrey. He travels through space and time with his loyal friends, embarking on weird adventures. But is the Doctor truly the last of the Time Lords? Could there really be just one more out there, or is the Doctor falling into a trap?

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Monday, May 9, 2011

"The ninth day of the month..."

I love the ninth day of the month, and there is a reason for this.

As a nerd, I'm prone to remembering very random lines from my favorite books and movies. Whereas my co-workers are likely to make up funny things to say, I'm more likely to quote a funny line (probably from Family Guy) for dramatic effect, but the things I truly find funny are far from everyone else's scope of entertainment. Also, I flatter my self that I'm very widely read.
Great new cover for the novel trilogy.

Back to the ninth day.

The line from the PBS adaptation of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast goes like this: Secretary Barquentine reads from the Tomes to the Earl of Groan (in the book, Barquentine's father reads from the Tome). The Earl, in accordance with the rituals, eats certain foods at each meal for each day of the year. That day's meal happened to fall on the ninth day of the month.

"The ninth day of the month," Barquentine says to the Earl. The servant places each piece of food on the Earl's plate as Barquentine speaks. He puts a red egg down.

"The ninth. Didn't I say the ninth?"


"The egg should be blue, not red!"

My co-workers and friends, upon hearing this seemingly irrelevant statement, stare at me in wonder.

Fuschia Groan
The Gormenghast novels by Mervyn Peake are some of the best examples of early fantasy that I have ever seen. Set in an imaginary world, the city of Gormenghast is ruled by a decadent line of Earls who adhere to a set of rituals so equally decadent that they cease to retain any meaning. The plot revolves around the generation of main characters associated with the destruction of that decadence: Titus Groan (the next Earl of Groan), Fuchsia Groan (his sister), and the kitchen boy, apprentice doctor and murderer, Steerpike. In their attempt to become something other than what they are, each of these three characters' interactions bring about the upheaval of their entire kingdom. Some of them unwitting, such as Fuchsia's arguably unhealthy imagination and escapism, and some of them willingly, such as Steerpike's determination to overthrow the entire line of Groan. The story becomes an appeal to Socialism which is then crushed by the status-quo, bringing up important themes such as class equality and the freedom to follow our dreams (both sides of the spectrum being thoroughly represented in Titus Groan and Steerpike). The status-quo re-stabilizes under the new command of a female leader, Countess Groan, bringing to light female power, particularly of the mother, and crushes the dangerous threat from the outside in the form of a one-man uprising--versus the very passive threat of a young Titus' inability to cope with his destiny. The novels are overarching, broad, and filled with adventure, written, arguably, ahead of its time and simultaneously in context.

Titus Groan
Mervyn Peake's influence on modern fantasy speaks for itself, especially the larger influence over sword-and-sorcery author, Michael Moorcock (more so, perhaps than, say, J.R.R.Tolkein). Peake was also well known for his musings, poetry, and illustrations. The official omnibus version of the Gormenghast novels is fully illustrated with Peake's own interpretations of his characters. Peake's style is deeply imaginative in its detailed, romantic description of scenery and people. Each person in the novels receives their own unique description. The poet laureate of Gormenghast is described as having a wedge-shaped head. I still have trouble imagining that. Irma Prunesquallor's facial features and anatomy are repeatedly emphasized, characterizing her as vain (and blind to her flaws in more ways than one) without actually saying it. Peake's narration set the stage for modern fantasy by revealing events in third person omniscient style, following a linear plot structure that strengthens its didactic convictions through dialogue and interaction, the basis for the rules of good narration and characterization in fantasy fiction.

Now that I have laid out the foundation for my weird recitation, I would like to declare the ninth day of the month an official occasion. Every ninth of every month I will conduct an interesting play-by-play of facts and tidbits pertaining to important Ninth Days, even my own. And so, in the spirit of Gormenghast, let me be the first to announce that from this Ninth forth, the egg shall be blue, not red!    

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Werd from the Nerd

I have several updates I'd like to announce as well as several apologies to  make. I believe it was a young Yul Brenner that said, "I am not one to make excuses," but in this case I do believe several explanations are in order.

1) I would like to apologize for not posting a review for last week's Doctor Who. I have successfully procured episode three and will gladly cover both episodes two and three tonight. Hopefully this won't happen again.

2) I am well on my way to completing a contract for the band The Happy Campers, headed by University of Texas/Texas San Antonio English/Classics/Humanities professor Ken Burchenal. Through a series of stupid syntax errors, the JQuery player we're using for their website is no longer functioning. Once that is fixed, I'll post a  blog devoted to all things Campers. They have an awesome sound and look great on stage, despite whatever they may say to the contrary.

3) As many of you know, I'm a contract technical writer and I work in a restaurant part/full time. What many of you don't know is that in two months I'm moving my entire base of operations to Austin, Texas. In order to do that, I must find gainful employment. The search is on...in the mean time I'm still taking contracts. If anyone is interested, all of my information is on this grossly inadequate website www.btw-services.com . Ignore the fact that the writing is awful, the pictures are horrible and some of the links lead to no where.

4) Friday afternoon my husband and I acquired a two-day old kitten from a friend of ours. She is now a mostly healthy four day old kitten. Currently she is being bottle-fed a combination of Pedialite and kitten formula, six milliliters every three hours. She sleeps on a heating pad with a pink flamingo. As of this afternoon she is unable to feed from a regular bottle (we're using a baby medicine syringe) or use the potty on her own. Entirely dependent on us for the basic necessities, she requires that her new parents sleep little and go virtually no where. That being said, I'll likely be posting rather sparingly for the next week or so, until her feeding schedule widens. We named her Tifa, the only FFVII character I couldn't fit on my sleeve tattoo.

Thanks for being so patient with the Nerd. I hope that patience doesn't wear too thin. See all of you tonight for a complete review and comentary on Doctor Who episodes two and three.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The World Horror Convention April 30, 2011--In Review and Retrospection

The 2011 installment of the World Horror Convention wrapped up yesterday afternoon around 1:00 pm, but the day preceding the closing ceremonies was filled with the metaphorical sound of joyous screaming. Well, perhaps I was the only one doing the screaming (and perhaps a little squealing?). After all, one can hardly expect much better of me after having bought a signed copy of Elric At the End of Time. In addition to fascinating panel discussions and stimulating conversation about the genre as a whole, authors allowed their willing readers and avid patrons to line up in front of their tables. All around the convention goers, and myself, was the overall feeling of welcome and contentment. Understandably tired after this event, the Nerd is a little late in her report, but better late than never, no? So, in light of memories past, lets go back there, shall we?...

The Dealer's Room and Artists Room

Get signed in with patience and try not to dart glances around the door jamb. Concentrate on listening to the panel discussions, if you can. Don't let the sound of laughter and conversation spill out of the room into your eager ears. Never mind the fact that there is a room full of discounted books, most of  them one-in-a-lifetime finds, some of them even already signed, not a yard away from you in any direction. You have networking to do, important people to meet and hand out business cards to. ...Ah what the hell! The Dealer's Room at the WHC is an integral part of the convention experience. Small and large publishers alike gather in this room to exhibit their new authors, show off old favorites and make the most of the chance to liquidate old stock. For patrons or aspiring artists, meeting and mingling with potential publishers can open up opportunities that they did not have before. The folks at Edge Press are very interested in receiving new material for their anthologies, and have published such notables as Nancy Kilpatrick. The Dealer's Room also hosts new authors and their publishers hoping to showcase their work. Returning authors also have a chance to promote themselves. Weston Ochse of Bad Moon Books featured his new piece, Lord of the Lash and Our Lady of the Boogaloo, and was only too happy to personalize a copy for the Nerd. The WHC has proven that the dealer's room is full of hidden treasures, as well. One never knows what they will find at a table. Also, never underestimate the power a publisher bearing cookies. Also in the dealer's room this year were Centepede Press (Stephen King, James Herbert) and Dark Continents Publishing.
Can't wait to read this one by Weston Ochse

The artist's room this year featured numerous new artists as well as returning favorite, Albrecht Durer. Special guest Vincent Chong also had several large pieces on auction, as well as small prints for sale, signed of course. The art room offers inexpensive prints, usually signed or copies of signed prints, aspiring artists can use to spruce up their archives or inspirations. I was fortunate enough to happen upon a copy of Vlad the Impaler by Albrecht Durer, the font of which matches my back tattoo. One can also find large pieces on auction. Most of the sales go to the WHC. 

Panel Discussions

"Hello my name is John, and I'm
an alcoholic." "Hi, John!"
The Nerd squealed indeed upon discovering she had missed the Vampire Mega-Panel Saturday morning. The panelists met to discuss our favorite villain, the vampire in all of its forms and speculated as to why the vampire continues to dominate the stage of horror fiction. Also on the list for Saturday was "Horror Without Stephen King", another speculative panel that discussed Stephen King's influence on horror writing and what the industry would have been like without his immense contributions. Peter Straub was present at "The End of Good Advice", where panelists discussed the many pieces of advice writers--old and new--received and still receive, covering everything from writing workshops and groups to self-publication and promotion. "Genre Mash-Ups", featuring Cathy Clamp of Tor Books, discussed the fear of genre mashing from the perspective of consumers, buyers and publishers. Genre mashing has been going on for at least as long as the industry has persisted, from weird noir to space westerns. Questions were raised regarding the validity of Seth Grahame-Smith's mashing of old classics and monsters (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, etc.). One of the last panels of the day consisted of discussions about past horror tropes that can be forgotten. Despite the interesting topics, the panel was sadly short of people, adding John Skipp (writer/publisher) as a last minute speaker. Discussion did not lack, though, as the panel raised questions about publishing safely on the Internet, self publication, and the death of the Gross-Out competition at WHC, whose resurrection is set for 2012. Other panel discussions and various readings by emergent, guest and established artists took place throughout the day.

Mass Signing

The guys at Dark Continents
The author's mass signing began at 7:00 and lasted two hours. We, the convention goers and my husband, stared eagerly from the side of the room as the author's took their seats, set up their wares and prepared their pens. I held my copy of Peter Straub's non-fiction work, Sides, tightly in my hand. We could not, however, move on to Straub without first stopping by the table of Dark Continents Publishing writer Sylvia Shultz, where the Nerd acquired Taming of the Werewolf, a genre mash-up feature bits of William Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. Cathy Clamp signed me up for the Zombie give-away. Straub enthusiastically signed my book and I thanked him for such an interesting panel. Then it was over to Adrian Chamberlin (and his Cadbury Chocolate), David Youngquist and John Prescott, some tables over and also with Dark Continents Publishing, undoubtedly one of the most interesting sets of people at the convention. Courteous and encouraging, they were eager to make friends, and so were we.

We left the mass signing with our treasures in tow. Those authors, Peter Straub and the guys at Dark Continents, did not sign books that day, though. They signed little bits of our memories. As Brian Lumley did in Brighton last year, those authors put pen to page that day to indelibly print their name, or the date or possibly a little encouragement on a part of our hearts that they in some ways already owned. We could not have been more honored or pleased.


The WHC has come and gone. As we look forward to 2012 in Salt Lake City, we look back on the group of authors and publishers who made 2011 so special, particularly Weston Ochse (who insists that I never call him 'sir'), Peter Straub and Dark Continents Publishing, as well as the wonderful folks at Edge. In all my years as a writer, I have never felt so comfortable in a sea of strangers. The writers--famous and not so much--and publishers at WHC were cheerful and supportive. We entered the convention with some apprehension, and left with a profound sense of encouragement. We had a fabulous time and can't wait for next year.

Weston Ochse blogs here: http://www.westonochse.com/
Come see why I've been squealing about these guys here: www.darkcontinents.com

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