Sunday, February 24, 2013

In Which I Talk About Buffy

A while ago I posted the 30 Days of Supernatural and Doctor Who or something similar. I've had a Buffy one saved for such a time as this. Meaning I've been slowly coming back to this now and then for a couple months.

Now that I actually think about it, I don't know if I've actually published an entire post about Buffy (besides the recasting post). I've started a few, but I don't think I've ever published them because I feel like I write about Buffy a lot. That may be true, but I probably don't write about it enough. Because it's awesome.

So here it goes. Quit reading now if you have no interest in Buffy and go watch Buffy.

1. Favorite Season

This is already hard... I'll have to narrow it down. Not 1-3 because "Angel's lame. His hair sticks straight up and he's bloody stupid."

Not 4 because besides Hush and Spike coming back as a regular, nothing really sticks out to me.

5 is a contender even though Dawn is the worst in that season.

I like 6 more than most people I know. I like how dark it is and seeing Buffy deal with issues the way imperfect people would. Then there's Dark Willow and you meet Andrew. Plus it's got two of my favorite episodes (Once More With Feeling and Tabula Rasa) and one of three most heartbreaking episodes (Hells Bells [the other two are New Moon from season 4 and The Body from season 5, just FYI]).

7 is up there. Spike kind of blows my mind, Principal Wood is pretty awesome, it's got a fantastic story arc, The First is crazy creepy, we're introduced to Nathan Fillion and one of my favorite vilains in the Buffyverse, it's got the Scythe, Felicia Day, Light Willow (!!!), and the show Joss created to be a feminist show comes to the perfect feminist conclusion. I'm getting chills right now just thinking of Buffy's final speech.

Maybe 7 is my favorite? But just barely, because I really do like 6. They might be tied so I'll put the trailers for both seasons below.

2. Favorite Episode

It's a three way tie between Once More With Feeling, Tabula Rasa, and Hush. One musical, one hilarious, and one terrifying. The perfect trifecta.

Once More With Feeling:

Tabula Rasa (not the best clip, but the only one I could find):

Hush (also not the clip I would have picked, but apparently copyrighted material is hart to come by on YouTube. Still though, gives me chils). Seriously, this episode won an Emmy and that's huge for genre shows:

3. Favorite Song Used in an Episode

The earlier seasons of Buffy generally featured an up and coming band, but I'm too lazy to try to remember those. I'm using the musical episode for this one.

I'll Never Tell sung by Anya and Xander. I really wanted to show the scene and this is the best I could find. I guess Fox doesn't really like their property up for free on the internet. And apparently this one you have to watch on YouTube. But it is the karaoke version so you can catch all the wit.

Tell me you're not curious. I dare you.

4. Favorite Female Character

I love Anya, I really do, but my favorite female character award goes to Willow.

Willow. I always felt like a spaz as a teenager. I still do (I just have awesome self esteem now). One line in the first episode has always rung true with me: 

"When I'm with a boy I like, it's hard fo me to say anything cool, or witty, or at all. I can usually make a few vowel sounds, and then I have to go away."

Now, maybe I didn't dress this dorky in high school, but I still sure did identify with her. 

We were kindred spirits from the very beginning and I love watching her change. Just look at season one above versus season seven below. But so many other things make her a phenomenal character. 

There's Eskimo Willow (consequently the same Willow that stole the heart of Oz [aka Seth Green]),

Vampire Willow, shown here breaking another vampire's fingers, 

Willow pretending to be Vampire Willow,

Doppelganger Willow (she thinks she kinda gay),

Flying Willow (that's right, I'm pulling from the comics here), 

Dark Willow, 

and (one of my favorite scenes), Light Willow. 

 I just love everything about her. Everything she starts out as and everything she becomes.

5. Least Favorite Female Character

I really don't like Dawn in season 5. Really, not at all. However, Dawn is I think 14 in season 5 which is a perfectly valid excuse to be so freaking annoying. Kennedy, on the other hand, is in her 20s and should not be so insufferable. She's only in season 7 as far as the show is concerned, so that's a bonus I guess, but I still don't like her in the season 8 comics. I haven't started reading season 9 yet, but I have a feeling I still won't like her. And I know Willow broke up with her at the end of season 8, but come on. When has an ex of any Scooby stayed out of the picture for good? Answer: Once. I have a feeling they'll keep with the trend they've generally been on.

6. Favorite Male Character

No question. Spike. Although Andrew takes a close second. I love Spike's story (especially seasons four through six), he's the only vampire I've ever been attracted to, and he's just all around awesome. Here are some of those awesome moments. And trust me, they're all worth watching.

This one is from Angel, but it's still a fantastic moment.

7. Least Favorite Male Character

Angel. Don't get me wrong, I love the show Angel and David Boreanaz (I spelled that right on the first try!) is great in his own show. He's just not great in Buffy. Their relationship is the worst and he's unbelievably broody. That's another thing I like about Spike: when he gets his soul, he doesn't spend 200 years sulking over everyone he killed when he was a soulless demon. Angel, on the other hand, does. It gets old real quick. Except when he's Angelus (soulless Angel). I love it when he's Angelus. That's the only time I can handle him in Buffy. To be fair, this happens in Angel and makes up for three seasons of lame Angel in Buffy:

8. Favorite Friendship 

Buffy and Willow. From beginning to end, their friendship is perfect.

9. Favorite Romance

Willow and Oz. They were just so freaking cute and tragic. Although Willow and Tara have grown on me over the years as a couple. Despite their both being witches, their relationship always seemed the most real. Willow and Kennedy, however...

10. Least Favorite Season

No such thing.

11. Least Favorite Romance

Ugh, Buffy and Angel for sure. It's all drama-y and they're both so moody and blah, blah, blah... It's a pretty toxic relationship. I'm in the minority here though, because SO many people love Buffy and Angel (aka Bangel). I couldn't find a video of a scene with the two of them without it being a tribute video to their eternal love. Bleh.

I can't embed this video from Angel where Cordelia and Wesley are showing Fred and Gunn what Buffy and Angel's relationship is like, but it's well worth a watch:

12. Least Favorite Episode

Teacher's Pet. The substitute teacher turns out to be a giant praying mantis and uses teenage virgins to fertilize her eggs before eating them (the teenage virgins, not the eggs). It's really not entertaining. Although that's where we first learn about Joss Whedon's love of schwarma. Ah, season one.

13. Favorite Potential Slayer

Pff, no question. Vi played by none other than Felicia Day. If you don't know how much I love Felicia Day, read any other post I've written on the subject of anything remotely geeky. I'm sure I mention her because I love her so much.

The picture below is of her right after she receives her Slayer Power. She's looking down at a pit full of hundreds of Ubervamps saying, "These guys are dust." SO AWESOME! I'm bummed she's only shown up once very briefly in the season 8 comics.

Since there aren't any clips of Vi on YouTube (part of that could be that she is a very minor character), I'm putting the first episode of The Guild here. Felicia Day created, writes, and stars in the only web series I watch regularly. In fact, her channel (geek and sundry - check it out here) creates my favorite videos in general.

The production quality goes up, as well as the episode lengths, and this show has gotten so popular that one season when the guild goes to Mega-Game-o-Rama-Con we get cameos by CRAZY people including, but not limited to: Nathan Fillion, Eliza Dushku, Zachary Levi, Tom Lenk, Neil Gaiman, STAN LEE (!!!) and others. Seriously, watch it.

14. Favorite Female Villain 

Glory. Who wouldn't want to see the Slayer fighting a god?

15. Favorite Male Villain

Caleb. There is nothing Nathan Fillion can't do. Too bad he was only in a few episodes.

16. Episode You Like That Everyone Else Hates

It's got to be something from season 6... Probably Normal Again. I don't know too many Buffy fans in real life, but there was some message board where a lot of people didn't like this episode and I was very surprised. I love it. 

The Trio (Warren, Jonathan, and Andrew) unleash a demon on Buffy that has a poison that causes hallucinations of another life. In this other life she's in a psychiatric hospital and her life in Sunnydale as the Slayer is a prolonged delusion. She spends the episode going back and forth between the two trying to figure out which is real.

17. Character You Relate to the Most

See above, re: Favorite Female Character

18. Character Who Didn't Get Enough Screen Time

Again, this is Caleb. Seriously, one of my favorite villains and I think he's only in 5 episodes. He also makes my favorite exit from the show - Buffy cuts him in half with a scythe balls first. It's pretty awesome. 

19. Character That You Like That Everyone Else Hates

The only characters I know a lot of people hate are Dawn and Kennedy and we've already talked about them. I don't think I'm against the tide on this one. 

20. Best Spike-centric Episode

Um... all of them? Remember how his story is my favorite? If I had to pick one, it would probably be Fool For Love. There's a lot of fun Spike history in there (not only do we see how he killed two slayers, but we get to see him as William before he was turned) and there's a moment at the end after he's done telling Buffy his story that just gets me every time. The clip below isn't it ("You're beneath me.") but it's still a very interesting look at Spike. He's on his way to kill Buffy but sees her crying and decides to sit with her. There's a whole story about how he loves her, but he can't really love her since he's a vampire and therefore has no soul. His progression in this season (juxtaposed to the stark reminder of what he really is at the end of season six) is just fascinating to me. 

21. Best Willow-centric Episode

For a second I was thinking of Two To Go/Grave. Willow goes dark and evil and kills Warren by flaying him and tries to kill lots of other people and eventually the world. But the Xander comes in and saves the day. It's kind of awesome.

Anyway, as good as those two episodes are, Doppelgangland is definitely the best Willow episode. Vampire Willow gets teleported from an alternate reality into the actual reality. Everyone thinks she got vamped and are super sad, then Willow pretends to be Vampire Willow and shenanigans ensue. It's fantastic. And the two Willows have more in common than you'd expect.

22. Best Xander-centric Episode

The Replacement. Xander is split into two, each holding different attributes of the same person. Hilarity ensues. It's a great episode.

23. Two Characters You Wanted to Get Together but Never Did

Everyone got together with everyone except Buffy and Xander. And Xander and Spike. And Spike and Willow. And Buffy and Willow. Okay, not everyone got together. But there was enough getting together that there's no one I felt like should have gotten together. Cause really, there was a lot of getting together. Although, do Jenny and Giles count? They dated a little but they never got that far...

24. Favorite Example of 90s Special Effects

The werewolves. They started out terrible, and they stayed that way. It's just a person in a hairy suit running around on all fours with a very non-wolfy face. I think the very first werewolf you see had a wolf face, but they deviated from that and never got better. I don't know how they'd do it differently given the time and budget, but it's still hard to get past.

25. Favorite Buffyverse Saying

Gotta love the Buffybot:

26. Favorite Scooby Moment

I don't think I could pick one moment... Maybe when they realize that they all dreamed about the weird cheese man in Restless at the end of season four. Also a fantastic episode.

27. Cutest Moment

Well, pook. This video doesn't allow embedding. It's season 7 (Touched) when Spike gives his speech to Buffy. Knowing their history makes this a lot cuter, but still. It's all sorts of tender.

28. Character You Love to Hate

Again, Caleb. Nothing like seeing a crazy misogynist being sliced in half balls first.

29. Episode That You Hate That Everyone Else Loves

Once more, I don't know many Buffy fans in real life and I don't go against the tide much. Although it's probably an episode that involves Angel when he's not Angelus.

30. What you Think Made Buffy So Great

Joss Whedon. Specifically, his philosophy and the way he writes women. Skip to about minute 3 if you want to bypass Meryl Streep's introduction and get to the meat of his speech.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why I Don't Care About the Current Gun Control Debate or: Let's Take a Deep Breath

This is for the extremes and the very loud people on both sides. I suppose I take a position on this whole thing, but just barely. To me, it's kind of a wash. I'll give you the reasons why.

1. The Intent 

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Admit it. That could go either way. It could be about individual people or it could be about people belonging to a well regulated militia.

The Supreme court ruled it was the former, so let's go with that definition and quit worrying about what the Founding Fathers meant (cause really, the Founding Fathers meant for the Constitution to change a lot more than it has, but then I always was a true Jeffersonian in that respect).

2. The Practicality

My career military brother explained it to me this way: "The second amendment isn't about letting people hunt. It's about being able to overthrow a tyrannical government if we need to and you can't do that with rifles."

It's the argument for high capacity clips and "assault weapons" (cause we still haven't really defined that phrase).

Gun lovers love this argument, gun haters call it crazy. Back up from the name calling and think about the context. The men who wrote this had (about a decade before) finished overthrowing a tyrannical government. Those pesky things were very real for them. It's understandable they'd want to put in a fail safe in case their government ever went that direction too. Makes sense and I absolutely buy into this argument.

Except when I really think about it. We don't have a tyrannical government. It would be really difficult for our government to become a true tyrannical government (although it seems we're getting close to that in a few areas... privacy, anyone?).

You say President Obama is a tyrant? Well, can Congress still impeach him? Could we have voted him out of office? Do we still have free elections? Could we have changed Congress this last election?

If you answered "Yes" to all of these (if you didn't, you might be a conspiracy theorist with shaky arguments), we don't really live under a tyrannical government. You may think the government acts like a tyrant, but in a couple of years you have the ability to change that.

Hence my thinking that we probably won't need to overthrow the government in the near future. Also, assuming the military will be on the government's side, could we really do that with random gun owners with high capacity clips? I guess it could be a military coup and the general theory still makes sense to me, so wash.

3. The Death Toll

According to the UNODC, the U.S. has 2.97 firearm homicides per 100,000 people. Compare that to the Western Europe (cause where else are we going to compare it to?) where any country there doesn't get to one person murdered by firearm per 100,000. Italy comes in second at .71 people per 100,000 and just about anywhere else in the region doesn't even come close to that.

Call me crazy, but I'm thinking that's not a coincidence. The U.S. has the highest gun to person ratio in the world (also from the UNODC) at 88.8 guns for every 100 people. The simplest form of reason will say, fewer guns, fewer gun deaths.

However, while the U.S. has the highest gun to person ration, it doesn't have the highest homicide rate per 100,000 people by any stretch of the imagination. The simplest form of reason would say this is because the vast majority of gun owners in the U.S. are responsible and don't murder people and I absolutely agree with that.

Still, our rates are comparable to places like Peru and Zimbabwe and that's enough to give me pause. At the very least it's something that we should look into.

So there you go. I really don't think anything in that was inflammatory, but then I do want to punch both extremes in the face right now, so I may not sympathize with either side. Here are just a few stray observations to finish up:

1. The government is not going to take away your guns. If they do, it won't be until public opinion decides on that route. That won't be until the gun culture in this country has all but petered out. That won't be for a very long time. You'll be dead. Chill.

2. If someone wants to sell their gun to some anti-gun group that will melt them down or whatever they do with guns, who cares? It's their freaking gun. They can do whatever the hell the want with it.

3. Mass shootings are a tiny percentage of the death toll, so high capacity clips probably matter less than some are saying. Plus, it really is fun to shoot a bunch of rounds off really fast.

4. Oh yeah, I enjoy guns. I don't hunt, but I like shooting. I want to own a pistol someday when I have $400 to spend on the one my brother picked out for me (and yes, I am a self-proclaimed liberal).

5. Research, research, research. Why are there more gun deaths here than Europe? How many of those could have been prevented by access to mental health services? How many could have been prevented by decent schools? How many could have been prevented by trying to lessen poverty? Where do these killers get their guns? What percentage of these killers are in gangs, live in poverty, or have mental health issues? As a researcher it is staggering to me how little the causes of gun violence have been studied.

That's all. If this upsets you in visceral way and you decide to comment on it, know that I'll probably just roll my eyes at you.

If this upsets you because I haven't investigated fully or I got some facts wrong and you decide to comment on it, know that I'll take your comments seriously and take them into consideration as I form my opinion (because opinions should always change as you find new evidence).