Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Sound and the Fury

The premise of the recently released movie, License To Wed (which I have not and will never pay money to see), is that it is important to know your partner very, very well when embarking upon a long-term relationship. For my own part, I thought I had done my research thoroughly. Imagine my surprise when, not too many months into cohabitation with my then-fiancé/now-husband, I uncovered a truth so foul: my guy snores.

It’s not just gentle snurffs and gurgles. It's full on, window-rattling, mattress-shaking, hear-it-over-the-television-in-another-room nose-roars. After some weeks of study, I discovered that, since I am a heavy sleeper, the snoring would not wake me up if I fell asleep first. Of course, that almost never happens because he falls asleep by 9:00 and I stay up ‘til after 11:00. I also have a tendency towards “intermittent delayed sleep insomnia” which means that occasionally I lie there, staring at the ceiling for hours, wishing I could fall asleep but instead getting more and more infuriated with the person sawing wood next to me.

Over the years, I’ve had to develop some survival strategies for sleeping in such a hostile environment. The simplest, of course, is the basic jab. The pillow thunder is often diminished if the snorer can be induced to sleep on his side. In order of escalation, a quick jab with index finger, elbow or knuckle (the last being particularly effective when applied in the middle of the back) can usually get him to turn over. A kick to the calf or ankle is an advanced option, being sure to make contact with the ball of the foot only as jammed toes will not help the situation at all.

The next thing I tried, since pointy physical contact was not doing the trick, was to employ props. I bought an “anti-snoring” pillow made of firm foam, curved to support the head and neck in a snore-reducing position. Some people have had good luck with that sort of pillow. Not us, not at all. I then moved on to earplugs (the foam kind you roll and squish into shape), more earplugs (a more expensive squishy foam kind) and finally a third set of earplugs that have lasted me for some time now (brand name: AOSafety - which I first successfully used at the F1 Grand Prix in Indianapolis in 2000).

When he really gets it into gear, however, even the best earplugs in the world cannot keep the mattress from vibrating with the snores, and I have to stagger down the hall to sleep in the guest room. Now, we’re a little young for separate bedrooms as a rule, but my having a quiet refuge is imperative. I read a magazine article recently that went so far as to advocate renovating a walk-in closet into a soundproofed sleeping sanctuary for the non-snoring member of a couple. (Seems like an extreme measure, especially if your home has a guest room. If I am ever lucky enough to have a walk-in closet, I’m going to keep all my shoes in there!)

A couple of years ago we hit bottom. There was a period of about two months where I had to sleep in the guest room. He was upset and refused to believe me when I complained/explained about his snoring. So I secretly borrowed a little handheld tape recorder from his boss and, after he went to bed, I waited for the noise to start. When the racket could be heard over the television show I was trying to watch, I snuck down the hall and got him on tape. I recorded nearly twenty minutes’ worth and played it for him the next morning. Finally, he heard it too – which was particularly gratifying since the worst thing about snorers is that they never know what they sound like. Added bonus: his boss still has the recording and likes to play it at meetings. I get a lot of sympathy from my husband’s coworkers.

We’re in a pretty good spot aurally/nasally these days; I have found that the decibel level is directly proportional to any weight gain (his, not mine) and he’s been running and biking a lot. Occasionally he starts to percolate a bit – I suspect I’ll never be completely free of it. But I’ve been self-medicating lately: I think I’m close to the perfect recipe of red wine and Tylenol PM that grants me blissful slumber regardless of the ruckus on the other side of the bed.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Deadwood recap - “Mister Wu” (S1E10)

The dropping: Al takes it upon himself to make amends when two of the camp’s resident drug addicts rob and kill Wu’s opium courier. The reverend is failing fast, to pretty much everyone’s dismay. Bullock and Starr find that everyone wants to be their friend. Eddie says he’ll back Joanie in her new venture so she doesn’t owe anything to Cy.

At the hardware store, Sol is urging his business partner to go for breakfast. Bullock is agonizing over a proposal to the mayor to use some of the levies to set up an infirmary and a dump and is thinking of writing a letter to the editor at the same time to garner some public support. Mayor E.B. meets them at the hotel entrance and weasels a little, rubbing his title in their faces. “Letter to the editor first,” grunts Bullock, to which Sol gives him a supportive wink. E.B. approaches the Gem but is halted by Wu and the tit-licker. Wu gets there first and insists on seeing “Swidgen.” Johnny closes the saloon doors on E.B. and the tit-licker (“Lick later!” says Johnny) and brings Wu up to meet with Al.

Wu brings out a piece of paper and some charcoal, and between sketches, pantomime and much shouting of “cocksuckers!” makes it known to Al that two white men killed the Chinese dope courier who was bringing Wu’s – and thus Al’s – opium supply to Deadwood and stole all the dope. This scene, where Al is figuring out what Wu is trying to say, is hilarious. “Those are the first ‘cocksuckers’ I have ever heard coming out of that room that were not uttered by Al …” marvels Johnny from downstairs. Al promises to find the two white men who stole the dope and killed the courier. Temporarily appeased, Wu leaves – by the back door, as Al insists. Al then tells Dan to find “the dope fiend,” Jimmy Irons. E.B. coyly asks Al if “there’s anything the mayor should know.” Al takes a good look at E.B.’s blue coat and frilly shirt and snarks, “the name of another tailor.”

The hotel restaurant is packed. Sol and Bullock are – perhaps unwillingly – sharing a table with Merrick who is enthusiastically reading Bullock’s letter to the editor about offal disposal. Merrick is such a boob. Two new guys ride up to the hotel looking for E.B.; a flunky sends them to the Gem. They come in as Al and E.B. are stuffing the bribe envelopes – Al rightly surmises that they are the bagmen come to take the bribe money back to the magistrate in Yankton. One of them, Silas Adams (played by Titus Welliver), hands Al a letter, which immediately sets the saloonkeeper off: it’s from the magistrate, who is requiring more money to fix Al’s warrant problem. Dan picks that moment to come back with the dope-fiend Jimmy. Al will be in quite a mood to deal with him.

Back at the hotel, Charlie is standing in line waiting for his breakfast; Joanie, who already has secured a table, asks him to join her. They chat for a while, bringing each other up to speed on their respective business ventures, until Sol, Bullock and Merrick get up to leave. Merrick invites Charlie to join them and Joanie graciously gives him leave to go. Poor Charlie – he is so lonely with Bill (and now Jane) gone. Outside, Merrick is holding forth in full-on blowhard mode. He proffers the idea of forming a gentlemen’s club to walk and talk together. Bullock panics a little and insists that they need to open their store; Charlie says he really isn’t much for joining clubs; Sol, the most gracious of the bunch, suggests that they could just walk together when they happen to be out walking. They skedaddle, leaving Merrick to ponder names for his new club.

Jimmy is in with Al, lying as best he can, but Al knows that he and Leon (the dope-fiend faro dealer from the Bella Union) were the ones who took the dope. Soon enough, Al has Jimmy on his knees. Having both pissed and shit himself at this point, Jimmy tosses himself off the balcony (at Al’s suggestion) and, down in the muck of the street, waits for Dan. It’s a really funny scene. Downstairs, Al instructs Dan to clean Jimmy up. He then notices the Reverend sitting next to the piano and goes over to investigate. Again, Al surprises me by showing a fair amount of compassion for the stricken preacher, asking after his health, walking him gently to the door, and offering him access to booze and whores off-hours, in case the reverend wants to indulge. The Reverend just wanted to hear the piano music though, and staggers off. “Fuckin’ new piano,” mutters Al.

Hostetler (some guy who runs the livery stable, apparently, although we’ve never seen him before) stops by the hardware store to let Bullock know that he has first refusal on some property he wants to sell. Bullock is super-tense and says he isn’t ready to make an offer. Hostetler is slightly put off by his prickliness, but not so much that he doesn’t buy a pickaxe. [This scene is a little weird: did we know that Bullock was interested in purchasing additional property? Is it for a house for his wife and son? What’s going on here?] Eddie stops by Joanie’s new hotel room and offers to fund her new whorehouse so she doesn’t have to take money from Cy. When she asks how he’ll get the money, he says he’s going to rob Cy. Oh yeah, that’s going to end well.

Dan has brought Jimmy (in cleaner pants and a sling) and Leon back to Al’s office. Al intimidates the dope fiends easily and then stomps off to Wu’s with the remnants of the dope. In another very funny exchange, Al says he’ll hand over only one of the cocksuckers to Wu, not both of them, fearing that giving two white men to the Chinese would start a bloodbath in camp. Wu is not happy about it, but he understands and acquiesces. Al instructs Dan to take the two dope fiends to the bathhouse while he consults with Cy about which man will get sacrificed to Wu. Cy is completely unsympathetic and is not interested in giving up his employee. Miffed, Al leaves after reminding Cy to pony up his share of the bribes for the magistrate’s bagman.

When Al returns to the Gem, he finds the reverend back in his place by the piano. Johnny is scandalized: his own father was a preacher and preachers shouldn’t act like that. Al is more than scandalized; he is outraged, but manages to back his temper down a little when he realizes that the reverend doesn’t even remember their conversation from earlier that day. He drags Doc into the back and asks after the reverend’s condition, more upset than I would expect. “Nothin’ to be done, huh?” he asks and, to the doc’s affirmative, “well, he ain’t comin’ back in my place. He’s a man of the cloth, in case he forgets, kickin’ up his heels like a four-bit strumpet.” He pauses, and then asks the doc how Trixie’s spirits seem. The doc retorts that he doesn’t answer to people’s spirits and Al gets crankier.

Bullock and Sol are back on their porch, watching the evening come in. Bullock bemoans the fact that he seems to be living someone else’s life, especially with a wife he doesn’t know and a child who is not his own. Sol is sympathetic and can read between the lines: “But, she is a beautiful woman,” referring, of course, to Alma. Bullock just sighs and grits his teeth. Meanwhile, Al and Silas the bagman are conferring. For some reason, Al feels compelled to confide in this complete stranger, perhaps sensing that Silas is a little smarter than the average Deadwooder and might be of some use down the line. Silas is open to new opportunities and when Al asks him to accompany him to the bathhouse (“No one is looking to fuck you up the ass – I gotta execute someone”), Silas pauses, downs another shot of whiskey, and tags along. Titus Welliver has gained quite a bit of weight in recent years: when I first saw him on X-Files, he was damn skinny.

At the bathhouse, Al toys with the two dope fiends who are oh so very high and lounging in disgusting tubs. (Jimmy calls him “Mr. Swearengen” but Leon nonchalantly calls him “Al” … I’m pretty sure that’s pissing Al off big time.) After a farce of drawing straws, Al grabs Jimmy by the ankles and gives a good yank, submerging his head and then stepping on his neck to keep him underwater. Leon watches, terrified, as Al drowns his dope-buddy, Dan and Silas looking on impassively.

The reverend enters the boys’ hardware store. He is confused and scared, and asks them if they are, in fact, Bullock and Starr. He can’t tell if they are who they seem to be: because of his illness, he thinks that either they are devils that he cannot recognize, or if not devils, he is actually losing his mind. Gently, the boys reassure him that they are who they are, and that they are his friends. They offer to walk him back to his tent and the reverend is overjoyed, poor thing. It’s a lovely parallel to the abortive walk that morning with Merrick.

Al sends Leon back to Cy to tell him what transpired at the bathhouse, after punching the dope fiend in the eye and snarling, “don’t fucking call me Al.” I knew it! Silas is bemused and a little enamoured of our Al (who among us isn’t?). Dan wraps Jimmy in a sheet and he and Al make a stop at Wu’s pigpen. Wu thanks “Swidgen” and Al returns the respect, hoping that they haven’t signed themselves up for killing too.

Next episode/previous episode

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Deadwood recap - “No Other Sons or Daughters” (S1E9)

The dropping: Charlie has a new coat. Everybody who thinks they are anybody has new jobs. Jane has had enough. Sol hasn’t got a chance with Trixie (although she kind of wishes he did). And this episode proves that small town politics is boring even in Deadwood.

Ah, morning at the Swearengen household: Al ponders the gold nugget Trixie brought him, then wakes her up by slamming it down on the dresser. He rambles on and on about annexation and the legislature in Yankton and bribes and how Deadwood will change and I’m already bored. But then I realize that aside from all the “fucks” and “cocksuckers,” he’s acting like a husband complaining about his job to his wife as he gets ready for work in the morning. He finishes dressing and, staring out the window at the street below, asks her how her arm is. She murmurs that it’s fine. After giving her some sidelong glances, Al quietly tells her not to try to do away with herself again as he heads downstairs. Ian McShane is just great here: he won’t look right at her but concern and worry flit across his face in profile. Trixie picks up her head and stares after him, pondering the softer side of Al.

Bullock brings Ellsworth to the hotel restaurant to tell Alma about her gold claim. I love Ellsworth! Sophia likes him too because he makes funny faces at her. Bullock and Alma flirt a bit and then he leaves. A hotel employee (with a much better Irish accent than good ol’ dead Tim Driscoll) brings Wild Bill Hickok’s last letter to his wife to E.B., having found it in a spare pair of pants. E.B. takes the letter and tries to figure out what to do with it but is interrupted by Charlie, all decked out in his new “I’m running a mail and freight bidness” duds. Charlie is worried that the frock coat is too over the top, but E.B. likes it. That’s who I’d take fashion advice from, yup. Ellsworth agrees to keep Alma’s claim live by working the creeks for her, but he earnestly tells her that she needs some serious prospecting to see how deep the vein goes.

Al is annoyed that Charlie was able to get in on the mail/freight business, chiding himself for not grabbing up such industry himself. The magistrate from Jack McCall’s trial comes into the Gem to talk with Al about the upcoming annexation. Al listens for a while and, when he’s about as bored as I am, cuts through it and asks who needs to get bribed in the legislature to allow Deadwood to function as an entity. As the judge starts writing down names and figures (with Al giving him the stink-eye), he mentions that a warrant has come to Yankton charging Al with a Chicago murder. The judge offers to take care of it for a mere $5,000. Al is not happy but has an it’s-got-to-be-done look of resignation on his face.

The Reverend comes to the pestilence tent to relieve Jane from her shift. She cheerfully announces that no one croaked today, then notes that “[his] fuckin’ eyes are still playing tug-o-war.” The reverend’s health is rapidly deteriorating: his eyes are wonky (as Jane just noted), his left arm is useless, he thinks he smells like rotten flesh and he gets no comfort from reading the Scriptures any longer. Jane, exasperatedly but with concern, tells him to talk to the doc – she won’t be around camp much longer for people to be disgusted by so they don’t pay attention to the sickening reverend. Or something like that - she speaks in amazingly run-on sentences. Anyway, he’s sick and she’s leaving. I still don’t care much for the reverend, but he’s becoming so sad and pathetic that my response to him is segueing from annoyance into heartbreak. Having recently professed her sobriety, Jane takes a long pull off her flask as she leaves the tent.

Al, coffee mug in hand, stomps around the camp, telling all the BMOCs to “be in [his] joint in two hours, we’re forming a fucking government.” E.B., Merrick, Cy, Bullock, Sol, Tom the bartender and Doc all get invited. Joanie and Eddie talk a little at the Bella Union. Eddie is quite distraught by Cy’s brutality towards Flora and Miles. Joanie tells him that she’s going to start her own place, out from under Cy’s thumb. Eddie is supportive but skeptical, seeming to understand that Cy is bribing her in order to get her past the malevolence of the last episode. Joanie wanders through the camp (taking note of the remnants of Flora’s dress in Wu’s pigpen), searching for a place for the best little whorehouse in Deadwood. I’m surprised she wore those white boots out in all that muck. She meets Charlie in front of his new freight office; they introduce themselves and he asks her opinion of his new frock coat. They keep talking, Charlie fairly shyly – I think he misses Bill and having someone to talk to. Joanie tells him what she’s out doing and he gives her a little pep-talk. Then, because she’s a smart cookie, she lets him know about the “town meeting” over at Al’s place, thinking that he might be a good one to have involved.

On his way to the Gem, Doc finds a drunk Jane leaning her head against a barn. He speaks to her, a couple tears running down his face, and asks her to stop drinking. Poor Doc – he’s such a sweetheart. She rounds on him, telling him to mind his own business but also to pay closer attention to what is happening to the Reverend. As the doc heads off, Charlie walks up, having witnessed the argument, and asks Jane what she’s being paid to hold that building up. He offers her a position with his new freight business, but she retorts that she’s already in a position. “Leaning forward, shitfaced drunk?” Charlie quizzes. She means her nursing job. He is persistent but she keeps turning him down, dissing his outfit to boot. Charlie gives up. [Mr. Mouse doesn’t like Charlie because he can only envision Dayton Callie in his twisted role on CSI, but I think Charlie is a great character and played really well.]

Doc tends to the Gem’s whores. He and Trixie have a nice little moment when he squeezes her hand and she fights back some tears. The menfolk assemble for Al’s meeting, eyeing each other suspiciously. “I’m declaring myself conductor of this fucking meeting as I have the bribe sheet,” announces Al. Then they talk about forming an informal municipal government to protect their camp interests and I’m bored again. Town meetings always bore me. Blah blah blah: they nominate themselves into various positions and E.B. ends up being mayor (“temporary appointees,” snits Bullock).

Later that night, the Gem is jumping. The new mayor is getting a vigorous handjob from one of the whores and Al, with an eyeroll, says he’s “going to find early occasion to push the mayor off his pedestal.” “Don’t do it with no nudge,” says Dan agreeably. Al has a headache and Dan asks if it was because of all the organizing. “Aah – twenty-five cups of coffee and too much circulating in the fresh air,” grunts his boss.

Bullock and Sol are enjoying the evening on their front porch. They’re cute and funny together when Bullock’s not being uptight and angry. Sol thinks that the doc perhaps didn’t need to mention that he’d been arrested for grave-robbing seven times just to get out of being Camp Health Commissioner; Bullock magnanimously points out that doctors do need cadavers for research purposes. Turns out Bullock volunteered for the Health Commissioner post as a way to not be nominated as sheriff … but then the camp decided to not appoint a sheriff and now he’s stuck. Charlie comes up as Sol wanders off to call on Trixie: “How ‘bout that doc?” he grins, “Grave-robbin’!”

Sol is very cute as he tries to talk with Trixie. She is uncomfortable having him at the workplace– “you don’t belong here” – and he suggests that she come see him at the store sometime and “buy a broom.” She replies that if she buys anything, it’ll be “an axe, a hammer and a saw.” With a straight face, Sol tells her that such things are “all fully stocked. And we never ask the purpose of a customer’s purchase.” They grin at each other and he leaves. Doc goes to the reverend’s tent and insists on examining him. He reassures the reverend that it’s the tumor making him feel the way he does. The poor reverend is so sad, saying that it is God’s purpose to test him with such suffering. Doc tries to be gentle with him but says that God is a sonofabitch to treat the reverend so. I’m not sure that was as reassuring as the doc intended it to be.

Joanie comes back to the Bella Union, having found herself a hotel room so she won’t have to stay in the room where Flora and Miles were killed. She checks in with Cy, who is pleasant enough (for him) to her. He’s been drinking, however, and decides it’s time for Eddie and him to have a little chat. Joanie wants no part of that and watches from the safety of the balcony. Cy finds Eddie moping at the bar and proceeds to menace the smaller man: I did what I did to those kids – get over it. Cy is just pure evil.

Charlie, making the rounds as fire marshal, finds Jane sitting on a bench in front of his freight office. She tells him that she is leaving: the direction the camp is headed makes her sick, plus “bores the living shit out of [her.]” She insists that she will not be drunk where Bill is buried and she cannot stay sober. She asks Charlie to explain to Bill her reasons for leaving, and walks off into the night, promising to send money via “Utter Mail and Charlie Freight.” “All right, Jane,” Charlie croaks hoarsely as his last living connection to Wild Bill staggers out of sight.

Bullock goes to Alma’s hotel room to check in with her about the claim. She says she liked Ellsworth and wants him to pan the creek on her claim. They sit and chat a bit, a little awkward with each other. It’s like a first date until he baldly tells her that he’s going to bring his wife and son out to Deadwood since the camp seems to be getting safer. Ha ha – that’s funny! After a pause, she asks him if he has any other sons or daughters and he says no, and then non sequiturs that his brother was killed a couple years ago. Alma’s like, um, okay, sorry about that? As Bullock says goodnight, she asks him why he mentioned his brother. He tells her: “My wife is his widow, my boy is his child” and I really wish I’d met you before I got married. Oh – that part was just implied, my bad. Bullock leaves; she closes the door and there would have been some heaving bosoms had she not been wearing such a major corset. Just wait ‘til you see him with his shirt off, Alma!

Next episode/previous episode

Friday, July 27, 2007

What To Do When Your Green Thumb Turns Blue?

We will “celebrate” our seventh year in our house in a couple of weeks. We have almost two acres, much of it wooded; there is enough lawn that it takes me just under two hours with our push-mower once a week. (Actually, that qualifies as “more than enough lawn.” Yeesh.) This is my first house after years of apartment-living and I was, seven years ago, ecstatic at the prospect of being able to create and maintain my own gardens. As I mentioned, that was seven years ago: this year, all I have sown is apathy.

The yard was a blank slate when we moved in: the lawn a mess of weeds and crabgrass, and some foundation shrubs along the front. The soil was only three inches of dirt over a deep layer of sand the contractor had used for fill – not the ideal for planting anything except for perhaps ostrich heads. Also, we are on a very slow well which recovers one gallon of water in seven minutes, so watering outdoors is not an option. Still, plenty of room for possibilities! I even started a gardening journal and faithfully began recording my adventures.

I immediately dug out (and amended, and amended, and amended again) a small flower garden in front [tulips – which the deer and squirrels promptly ate every last one of – and icicle violets], a narrow rock garden, a triangular bed on the back corner of the house [vincas, which dried up because I couldn’t water them], and a big perennial bed in the back yard [asters, hollyhocks, bee balm, day lily, coreopsis]. Later, I added black-eyed Susans and sea thrift to the rock garden and smelly herbs [lavender, catmint and thyme] to the front garden. See, I noted, I’m already learning to focus on drought-resistant, anti-deer plants. This is such fun!

In January 2002, I started a wish list. In May (after the frost had finally left our Maine soil), I dug a new perennial bed off our deck [clematis, sedum, campanula], added to my big perennial bed [cornflowers, pinks, globe thistles, lupine], replaced the ground cover at the corner of the house [pachysandra – which has actually, to this day, succeeded], and cute little hens-and-chicks [sempervivum] to the rock garden. By mid-June, everything in the rock garden except for the hens-and-chicks had died and the remaining tulips were decimated by the local wildlife. Undeterred by this, I optimistically planted 200 bulbs in the fall – all of which ended up being eaten by the fracking squirrels. I noted in my journal that I seemed to be very good at planting new plants but very bad at maintenance. This will be a recurrent theme.

I attempted to start my own seeds in spring 2003: largely a failure, probably too much water for a change. Also, I didn’t get out into the outside gardens until the Fourth of July; weeding, therefore, was the main task at hand. I expanded my deck garden and planted astilbe, candytuft and artemisia. The rock garden gave up the ghost entirely, poor thing. I planted a rosa rugosa out front (from North Creek Farm in Phippsburg, Maine – a very cool, laid back place with great beach roses and free range chickens scurrying all over), and replaced the hollyhocks in the big garden with a blue veronica and white gooseneck loosestrife.

Ah, 2004 – a harbinger, I’m afraid. The last entry in my notebook is: “08/14/04 – haven’t done much in the garden this summer … rainy, rainy rainy.” Also, that day marked the first weeding of the year as well (yikes!). In addition, I killed a bunch of grass on the front lawn in my attempt to oust the ground bees that had moved in. (Have you ever been stung by ground bees? I would recommend avoiding that if at all possible.) My dad gave me four tomato plants which I put in pots on the deck, and I planted more candytuft, what I think is a sea buckthorn (so cool: tall and shrubby with skinny leaves), Russian sage and two more catmints.

2005 and 2006 are only blurs at this point. I probably put in a few more plants, maybe weeded once or twice. I know that we edged the gardens and put down a pick-up truck’s worth of mulch last year, but that’s all I can positively account for. This year is by far the worst: I have done absolutely nothing but mow the lawn, and that only a few times. The big perennial bed is holding its own, although the lupine which had previously done so well didn’t bloom this year at all. The only things holding on in the gardens around the deck are the astilbe – it’s even flourishing, so it must prefer neglect – and the buckthorn. The pachysandra is finally choking out the dandelions, but the front herb garden is sadly succumbing to the encroaching grass.

I just don’t care anymore, I guess. It’s been a pretty rainy summer so there’s hardly been any time to be out in the garden; when we do get some sunshine the last thing I want to do is weed. I’m tired of battling the horrific soil conditions and the crabgrass. I don’t know enough about landscaping to do it myself and I don’t have the money to hire someone else to plan and execute it for me. I’ve just mentally checked out of this house and want a new one, with already-established gardens, maybe something funky and xeriscape-ish that won’t need much water (since I’m accustomed to that already). Or perhaps I need a new hobby altogether, something that doesn’t require so much work – like restoring old cars or raising purebred Morgan horses. Those are easy, right?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Deadwood recap - “Suffer the Little Children” (S1E8)

Whoa nelly! Take a break from Deadwood for a couple weeks and it’ll getcha with a vengeance when you come back to it! This one’s pretty violent: I’m not usually uncomfortable with violence - "Reservoir Dogs" being in my DVD library and all - but I was squirming a bit near the end here.

The dropping: Bullock finds a solid-gold reason for Alma to stay in camp, much to Trixie’s sorrow. The camp’s smallpox epidemic goes the way of the dodo. Al not only never loses his temper, he also does his best Lady MacBeth impersonation. And Flora and Miles take the Orient Express out of Deadwood – Cy punches their tickets for them.

The “gimp” is scrubbing the floor of the Gem, trying to eradicate the bloodstain left when Dan murdered the hooplehead who was after Flora. Dan apologizes to Al for all the free drinks he had to hand out to restore order after the knifing. EB is on a tear and, in a very Shakespearean speech, vehemently suggests that Al murder Bullock and the widow to take over that scrumptious gold claim. He then accuses Al of backing off from the claim when Al hesitates to jump on that excellent idea. As the saloonkeeper looks at his flunky consideringly, the scouts ride back into town with the smallpox vaccine and rumor of a treaty with the Sioux. Al is delighted with both pieces of news and tells EB that the only way they are going to not be swimming in money now is to engage in open bloodshed with Bullock. The gold claim is gravy on the steak and they just don’t need the gravy anymore. EB is disappointed but sees Al’s point, just like he usually does.

Flora returns to the Bella Union in the aftermath of the stabbing at the Gem. She seems shaken and stays the night with Joanie, who nuzzles her but doesn’t try anything, despite Flora having provocatively unbuttoned her chemise. People hoping for a glimpse of actual Kristen Bell boobage will be unrequited. Flora has a very cold and calculating look on her face as they fall asleep together.

The next morning, folks are lined up around the block for the smallpox vaccine, which Doc is dispensing from Bullock and Star’s hardware store, away from the “horseshit and flies.” Charlie takes a small faint from the needle prick: “It wasn’t the pinprick - I ain’t et!” he protests when Jane gives him a hard time about it. Bullock and Alma flirt as she stands in line to get Sophia vaccinated. I’ve decided she’s too breathy for my taste and it’s annoying that she can’t make up her mind about anything. In fact, she goes back and forth between returning to New York or staying in camp about eighteen times in this one episode, getting poor Trixie’s hopes up and then dashing them … I’m not even going to bother to recap it all. Even Bullock points out how changeable the widow's mind is, although he doesn’t seem quite so put off by it. In fact, Bullock goes to the Gem where Dan takes him to meet Ellsworth, who will be assaying Alma’s gold claim.

The gimp maid pours Al some more coffee and he quizzes her about Trixie’s whereabouts: apparently no one knows where she went. Al and the gimp have this very interesting relationship. He’s brusque with her, but not as nasty as he is to most people; he actually scrubs the floor himself when she isn’t quite able to take care of it; he holds lengthy conversations with her that seem strange for discourse between a saloonkeeper and a handicapped maid. I wonder if she is a former whore who got injured in the - ahem - line of duty. Perhaps she was his mistress before Trixie, or maybe she’s his sister. Very peculiar.

Doc heads home and discovers Trixie passed out on the floor of his hut, having failed in a suicide-by-laudanum-overdose attempt. He is very cross with her but it’s clearly due to affection and chagrin; he rouses her a little and puts her to bed. In a bed on the other side of camp, Flora gets up, gets dressed and gets some lunch (such late risers!) to take to her brother. Behind closed doors with the other Bella Union whores, she is as nasty-talking as the rest of the local folk, and Cy decides he is no longer sure she is who she says she is.

Alma proves how very awkward she is around children. Also, her hair is big. She has pretty clothes, however. On the gold claim, Ellsworth – after receiving assurances from Dan that he won’t be killed for witnessing Brom’s murder – “discovers” the big old vein of gold in the cliff wall for Bullock. Flora and Miles plot over their lunch at the Gem: Flora wants to hurry up and do the job, saying that Cy is on to her. Miles thinks she just wants to “do it fast and dirty so [she has] to cut someone’s throat.” She doesn’t dispute it, but won’t be dissuaded – “I can move the dyke” – and they plan to take the Bella Union right away. I’m a little unconvinced with Kristen Bell’s acting choices as Flora: she is so very angry and the writers haven’t given us enough backstory to explain such wrath. I believe Miles, but Flora just seems too hard.

Bullock tells Alma definitely not to sell and they flirt some more in the hotel’s “absurd restaurant.” When EB asks how the assay turned out, Alma cutely asks Bullock, “Is the technical term ‘bonanza’?” EB looks as though he just swallowed a razor. When Miles asks to take the afternoon off to go look after a rumored sighting of his father, Al not only allows him the time, but also offers to pay for the rental of a horse. Al’s been taken in by these kids too – it’s amazing. Bullock stops by the saloon to tell Al that the widow won’t be selling and Al, feeling magnanimous, suggests that Bullock sit and “drink with [his] vanquished foe.” Which Bullock does, and they appear to reach a truce between the two of them. We’ll just see how long that lasts. As Bullock indulges in a shave at the back of the saloon, Al stalks over to the bar and mutters, for the umpteenth time so far this episode, “where’s that fucking whore?”

The whore in question is getting a visit from Alma and Sophia. Feeling guilty about not being able to offer Trixie a means out of the camp, Alma gives her a chunk of gold. Trixie looks pensive after they leave, clutching the big nugget. Miles has found his way to the Bella Union and has bought himself a poke. A testy Flora tells Joanie she’s quitting and then flounces up to Joanie’s room to look for “a pin” she lost. Cy is wicked suspicious now. Joanie catches Flora stealing her jewelry but doesn’t try to stop her; Flora is really snotty and, pulling a knife, hustles downstairs where Cy confronts her. She sticks him in the knee with her knife and rushes back upstairs screeching. She and Miles escape out over the balcony but Cy’s men catch them in the street and beat them really badly, Flora getting repeatedly punched on the head. Cy’s men drag them back into the saloon as the campfolk watch, slightly horrified.

Cy, Eddie and Joanie are all in Joanie’s room with the young grifters. Flora looks as though her skull has been broken in at least one place; Miles’s face is battered and swollen. It’s horrible. Cy taunts them and smacks them about some more, before shooting Miles and then forcing Joanie to shoot Flora. She does so, sorrow and pity flooding her face, and then tries to put the gun to her own head. Cy snatches the gun away and tells her she’s not going anywhere. Later, Cy finds Joanie on the balcony. He tells her that he didn’t enjoy doing what he did (I think that’s pretty much a lie) but he did it to prove that thieves can’t get away with trying to rob his place. He then offers to set Joanie up in her own business, outside of the saloon, to give her some more independence and maybe a little happiness. She is struggling, desperate, so sad: “Kill me too, Cy, or let me go … if you don’t kill me or let me go, I’m gonna kill you.”

Down in the street, Trixie walks back into the Gem as Doc and Alma watch, dismayed. Nice job, Alma – you blew it. Trixie goes upstairs to Al’s room. Wordlessly, she hands him the gold nugget from Alma, slaps him sharply across the face when he grabs her arm to look at the new track marks, then strips. The whole time, he says nothing, just watches her, and folds the covers back so she can climb into bed. Now, there's another interesting and complicated relationship for our Al!

I love this show. I love how it is clearly manipulating me into loving Al Swearengen and hating Cy Tolliver. They’re both reprehensible and yet Al seems, not redeemable, but understandable. We have seen nothing positive come from Cy yet, but Al has demonstrated loyalty to his people, the willingness to do some good deeds (albeit small and certainly not from any sense of altruism), and has even approached something near to tenderness or at least empathy a couple of times. I must be a sucker for antiheroes.

Next episode/previous episode

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Top Ten Cover Songs on my iPod

If you were to take a scroll through my iPod (that is, if I were to let go of it long enough for you to do so), you would almost immediately see that I am an '80s and '90s kind of person. Sure, there's both newer and older stuff in there too, but I am predominantly stuck in a retro sort of place. I'm fine with that.

One little subgenre for which I've discovered an affinity are cover songs, with some partiality for modern bands covering songs from the 1980s. My Top 10 are listed below, in alphabetical-by-band order.
  • Smooth Criminal covered by Alien Ant Farm
  • I Will Survive covered by Cake
  • Sweet Jane covered by the Cowboy Junkies
  • Land of Confusion covered by Disturbed
  • Shout covered by Disturbed
  • Suspicious Minds covered by Fine Young Cannibals
  • Word Up! covered by Korn
  • Oops! I Did It Again covered by Richard Thompson
  • Dear Prudence covered by Siouxsie and the Banshees
  • I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself covered by the White Stripes

My current favorite is the Richard Thompson - you gotta love a folk god covering Britney Spears. Runner-up is Word Up! (best played really, really loudly). If anyone has other good cover song suggestions, I'm interested!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Let's Talk Football

More specifically, let's talk about my concern for the future of one of the better new television shows from last season, Friday Night Lights. There was considerable worry about the fate of this little show at season's end last year but NBC stepped up and decided to bring it back for another season. Yay! FNL is one of the few regular network shows both Mr. Mouse and I can agree on.

Earlier this week, however, the producers of FNL let it be known that some changes are being made for season 2. There will be less football, for one, and more sex! babies! adultery! murder! These revisions are mostly to draw in more female viewers, ages 35-49.

Um, hello? Hi - I'd like to introduce myself as exactly your target audience. Yes, well, if I wanted all that stuff, I would watch Desperate Housewives or Grey's Anatomy. But, you see, I don't want that stuff, so I watch Friday Night Lights. I want to see Coach yelling at his boys to find their potential. I want to see his boys struggling in the wake of their championship last year. I want to see high school kids figuring out how to juggle dating, homework, family and sports in a largely believable manner - but with really pretty people and great dialogue. I actually wished there had been MORE football scenes last season - they were exciting and really well-done. I want to see Matt, Smash, Tim and Jason getting drunk and bonding on the field late at night. I definitely do not want to see Dillon, TX 90210 or The OC: Panther Style.

And I absolutely positively do not want to watch Rosie O'Donnell as a girls' soccer coach who butts heads with Coach because she's sick of football getting all the money and attention. This show does not need stunt casting, and it definitely doesn't need her. My stomach hurts just thinking about it.

P.S. And while I'm ranting about the ruination of my favorite t.v. shows, let me say this: I'm one episode shy of finishing Battlestar Galactica Season 2.5, and this half-season has been by far the weakest of the one and nearly two-halves I've seen. With the exception of Downloaded (2.18) and maybe The Captain's Hand (2.17), it's just not been as amazing as I've come to expect. Of course, this still means that it's better than pretty much everything else out there right now, so I guess they're still ahead of the curve. A main annoyance: I just don't buy the Apollo/Dualla relationship. Logan and Parker have more chemistry.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pizza Pie – Mi Amore

Who among us doesn’t love pizza? My mother would point out that as a child, for a while I didn’t like pizza; I even refused it as a guest at a birthday party and the mom had to order me a cheese steak instead. (In my after-the-fact defense, that cheese steak was really, really good.) I have certainly gotten past that momentary gustatory lapse: during the fall and winter months we make homemade pizzas once a week. I like to think the residual warmth from the oven helps heat the house.

My earliest recollection of pizza is from the Cabin in Bath, Maine. This very local institution, located across from the shipyard, has been around for at least 35 years. When my parents first moved to Bath, going to the Cabin on Friday nights was the highlight of their tightly-budgeted social calendar. Since the toppings at that time (the early to mid-70s) were limited by today’s standards, my dad kept his own personal tin of anchovies in the restaurant’s refrigerator. Now, of course, anchovies are on the doughy-crust pizza menu, along with pretty much everything else. My current favorite Cabin pie is a white pizza (mozzarella cheese and olive oil but no marinara sauce) with black olives.

Later on, my Midwestern-born folks introduced me to Chicago-style, deep-dish, double-crust pan pizza. Made at home in a special round pan with a two-inch high lip, this pizza could feed an Olympic soccer team. Lay in the first crust, and then fill the pan with everything you’ve got: onion, green pepper, meatballs, pepperoni, shrimp, olives, artichoke hearts, anchovies, Italian sausage, broccoli, tons and tons of cheese. Put the second crust on top, cover it with red sauce and more mozzarella, use a forklift to place the laden pan in the oven and then wait for the utensils-required gooey goodness to bake. That old deep-dish pan of my parents’? Still in heavy rotation.

These days when we go out for ‘za, we head to the Flatbread Company in Portland, Maine. Located right on the working waterfront in a stunningly rehabilitated pier warehouse, Flatbread deals in natural, largely organic flatbreads. The company seems to be hippie-run (and I mean that in the very best way) with a commitment to using natural and organic ingredients, supporting local small farmers, fostering community and serving damn fine food. Their organic house salad, comprised of mesclun and small leaf lettuces (with the option of tasty purple arame seaweed!) and dressed with a homemade ginger-tamari dressing, is delightful and their flatbreads are just fantastic. I usually go with the “Punctuated Equilibrium” pie (topped with Greek olives, local goat cheese, rosemary, red onion and roasted red peppers) but I always take the time to hear the daily specials.

More often than not, however, we make our pizzas at home and, since it’s grilling season, we grill’em. It’s much easier than I thought it would be. I use frozen or refrigerated pizza dough (not bread dough and certainly not dough from scratch) and split the ball in half since smaller pieces are easier to manage. Heat a clean, well-oiled grill to medium-high, and then put the naked stretched dough right on the grate. It will crisp in 3-4 minutes, depending on how hot the grill is, and – amazingly – doesn’t sag down through the grate openings.

Once the underside is browned, remove the pizza, putting the uncooked side down, and put your toppings on the cooked side. Place the dressed pizza back on the grill for another few minutes to cook the bottom and warm the toppings, and then presto - pizza! We’ve been keeping the toppings fairly simple: pepperoni and Kalamata olives on red sauce, or grilled chicken and black olives on pesto. You do need to be organized enough to have all the ingredients ready to go grill-side, so be prepared. It’ll be worth it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Literary Mice - book list

As anyone who has been reading this blog from the first post knows, I've been fond of mice all my life. Today, while I was at work (but clearly not thinking about work or really even doing any work, let's be honest), I started wondering how many books I have with mice in them. Obviously, there's my newest acquisition, Mouse Guard Fall 1152. But how many others? My parameters are broad: any book for children or adults, picture book, graphic novel or prose novel, with mice as the subject matter or, at the very least, having a mouse as a fairly major character.

Most folks my age probably have one or two at the most. I have eleven:
  • The aforementioned Mouse Guard Fall 1152 by David Petersen
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll [Dormouse]
  • Maus by Art Speigelman [1986, graphic novel about Holocaust survivors with mice as the Jews and cats as the Nazis]
  • Is There a Mouse in the House? by Josephine Gibson [1965, rhyming book]
  • She Was Nice to Mice by Ally Sheedy, age 12 [1975, before Sheedy got into acting she wrote this biography of Queen Elizabeth I who was apparently nice to mice]
  • The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse, The Tale of Two Bad Mice and The Tailor of Gloucester, all by Beatrix Potter [separate books]
  • Pippa Mouse by Betty Boegelhold [1973, children's book]
  • Julius, Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes [1990, children's book about introducing a new baby into the family, starring anthropomorphic mice]
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame [the Water Rat ... he counts]

That's an impressive list, if I do say so myself - but I am always ready to buy new books. If anyone has other mouse-centric literature suggestions, I am eager to hear them!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Firefly - episode 7 “Jaynestown”

Kaylee and Simon are flirting in the hallway. (Do spaceships have hallways? Is there some other sort of space-ical term for them?) Simon insists that he is not as stiff as she thinks, that he does in fact curse – when it is appropriate. Kaylee points out that “the whole point of swearin’ is that it ain’t appropriate.” Inara swooshes by on her way to a rendezvous with a client. “Have good sex!” chirps Kaylee. Simon gives her an amazed look. “What?” she innocents. Suddenly, there is a lot of crashing and banging in the infirmary. Simon rushes in to find Jayne tearing the place apart, taping a gun to his stomach. Simon is aghast: “You’re like a trained ape … without the training.” Mal reminds Jayne that no guns are allowed in Canton. Jayne allows as he was in Canton a few years ago and might have made some enemies – he just wants to be prepared. “No! Enemies - you?” snarks Simon, fussily tidying. Mal snaps, “Why you arguin’ what’s been decided?” Resigned, Jayne tears the surgical tape off his belly and whimpers. I love Jayne.

Inara departs in her shuttle just as the bigger ship hits atmosphere. Serenity lands next to some disgusting and disgusting-smelling mud hole; Mal explains that this is why it’s such a good drop spot – no one wants to come here. Zoë, luckily, gets to stay behind with the ship; when Wash protests, she pulls rank and sends him off with a kiss. Kaylee suggests that Simon could come along; after some scoffing, Mal supposes the pretty doctor might be useful. Book volunteers to look after River. Jayne, by the way, is wearing a lovely flak jacket with a hood, plus a hat, plus goggles. Trés stealthy.

Simon attempts to pose as the buyer, giving the crew a reason to be in Canton. Of course, Simon is completely out of his element and struggles mightily until Mal bails him out. The crew heads to town to find their contact. Jayne is very nervous. “You haven’t been here in years,” says Wash, “they won’t remember you.” Mal marvels: “I think it’s possible they might,” as they stop short in front of a larger-than-life mud statue of one Jayne Cobb. “Son of a bitch,” quoth Simon, finding this to be an appropriate time for cussin’.

Mal would like an explanation: “You wanna tell me how come there’s a statue of you here lookin’ at me like I owe him somethin’?” “Mal, I got no ruttin’ idea,” sputters Jayne. He exposits that he was here a few years back, stole some money from the magistrate and had to run. Simon muses, jaw agape, “This must be what going mad feels like.” Wash considers the statue. “I think they captured him though, captured his essence,” he says. “He looks sort of angry, don’t he?” thinks Kaylee. Wash: “That’s kind of what I meant.” A whistle signals a shift change and Jayne suggests that they stop playing art critic and get going before someone recognizes him. “I crossed the magistrate in this company town!”

On the other side of town, Inara is meeting with the magistrate. She looks lovely and he immediately seems like a nasty piece of work. She arranges to return later that evening. Back on ship, River and Book are in the galley. River is “fixing” Book’s Bible: tearing out pages, making notes, rewriting the “false logistics,” and so on. “Noah’s Ark is a problem,” she points out. Book rushes over, “River, you don’t fix the Bible.” “It’s broken,” she insists, “It doesn’t make sense.” Book explains that you don’t fix faith, it fixes you. I don’t think she’s convinced.

The crew are hiding out in a subterranean bar, biding time. They are drinking a local brew called “mudder’s milk,” which, according to Jayne, has all the proteins, vitamins and carbohydrates of a turkey dinner, plus 15% alcohol. It comes as no surprise that Jayne is a big fan of the milk. A little blond boy stares at Jayne as a man approaches their table, suggesting that they lay low a bit before heading out to pick up the hidden goods. Just then the guitar player strikes up a song and all the bar patrons join in on the chorus: “…the Hero of Canton, a man they call Jayne.” Simon is more incredulous than he has ever been in his life: “No, this must be what going mad feels like.” Jayne realizes what happened. His hovercraft had been damaged as he tried to escape and he had to push out the stolen lockbox, which landed in the center of town. The mudders think he did it on purpose á la Robin Hood. Mal drops his head into his hands. Wash is loving this, however, and gives my favorite line of the episode (and one of my favorites of the whole series): “We gotta go to the crappy town where I’m the hero!”

On board Serenity, River wants to make amends for tearing up Book’s Bible. Unfortunately, she decides to apologize just as he’s untied his hair to wash up. He turns to look at her, Medusa-tendrils flying, and she screams and runs away. Zoë comes to find out what’s the ruckus. “Whoa!” she exclaims as Book pokes his head around the corner. Back at the bar, the crew have decided to leave. They come up onto the street to a huge waiting crowd, chanting Jayne’s name and cheering, the blond little boy from the bar standing proudly in front. Jayne panics and runs back into the bar, demanding mudder’s milk from the barkeep. A young man cries out that Jayne has returned to town and the barkeep swats the milk out of Jayne’s horrified hands. The barkeep brings out a different bottle, announcing, “The hero of Canton won’t be drinkin’ that! He drinks the best whiskey in the house!” The bar patrons swarm Jayne and Mal starts wracking his brain to figure out how he can use a folk hero to his advantage.

The magistrate comes to Inara’s shuttle, towing his 26-year-old virgin nerd son behind him. This, then, is the problem Inara has come to fix. At the bar, Jayne is toasting himself; Wash and Mal are at their wits' end; and Simon and Kaylee are getting drunk. They are very cute. Simon marvels, “I reattached a girl’s leg and she named her hamster after me. He drops a box of money and he gets a town.” “Hamsters is nice,” slurs Kaylee. They are quite hammered and Simon gets brave enough to tell her that she is pretty. Mal picks just then to announce their departure. “Now?” complains Kaylee, “Things are going so well.” Mal finally picks up what she’s laying down and it’s very sweet the way he tries to help her out. He leaves them in the bar to watch over Jayne as he and Wash head back to the ship. River is hiding in a bulkhead and refuses to come out: “too much hair!” Zoë says she agrees with River. Miffed, Book explains that it’s the rules of his order, but puts his hair away. Mal and Wash get back to Serenity and explain to Zoë that since Jayne is a local hero, they convinced the townsfolk to have a Jayne-Day celebration the next day, the festivities of which should provide enough cover for them to sneak out and collect their goods. “Jayne’s a what?”

Inara and the magistrate’s son, Fes, are talking. He explains that he is not manly enough to please his father. She is supportive, telling him that if his father had asked her to come here for himself, she wouldn’t have come. He perks up at this and she leans in to remove his eyeglasses. At the bar, the young Jayne-fan tells his hero how the mudders stood up to the magistrate’s men. “You guys had a riot on account of me?” Jayne says, voice full of drunken pride, “my very own riot!” Adam Baldwin is fantastic. The mud pit foreman shows up at the magistrate’s house to inform him that Jayne Cobb has come back. The magistrate immediately goes to some horrific hot boxes – small wooden boxes on stilts in the middle of a bog – and releases a rough-looking, one-eyed scumbucket named Stitch. Turns out Stitch was Jayne’s partner and not only did Jayne toss the lockbox out of his failing aircraft, he tossed Stitch out too. Not about to pass up this opportunity, the magistrate hands Stitch a loaded gun and informs him that his old partner is back in town.

The next morning, Mal finds Kaylee and Simon asleep in the bar. Simon sputters nervously that it’s not what Mal thinks: they didn’t … he didn’t … he wouldn’t, not with Kaylee! “What do you mean, not with me?” she glares at him. “Uh-huh,” says Mal, completely not interested, “where’s my hero?” Said hero stumbles out of a room in the back, a disheveled but attractive doxy on his arm. “Eggs! The living legend needs eggs!” he announces. Nope, says Mal, the living legend has a social engagement to keep. Mal, Jayne and Kaylee start to leave and when Simon tries to follow, Kaylee rounds on him viciously (as viciously as she is able, anyway). She thinks he should stay here and have a civilized breakfast, just the sort of thing that’s appropriate. Between the eyebrow and the body language, not to mention the incredibly sarcastic tone, even Simon can figure out that he’s stepped in it here. Mal, behind Kaylee the whole time, gives himself whiplash from all the eye-rolling. They leave; Simon sits down at a table and asks for a menu. “A what?” grunts the barkeep.

On Inara’s shuttle, Fes is virgin no longer. Atta boy! He thought he’d feel different after, however, isn’t he a man now? Inara tells him that a man is just a boy who is old enough to ask that question. She sweetly goes on to say that their having sex together doesn’t make him a man - “You do that yourself.” And no, she doesn’t mean alone in his bedroom after she’s gone. Mal explains the plan to use Jayne's celebration as a distraction, but Jayne is uncomfortable with that idea. He thinks he’s really made a difference to these people, “me, Jayne Cobb.” “I know your name, jackass,” retorts Mal. Jayne tries to explain that they threw a riot in his honor, making Kaylee grin. Wash and Zoë drive up on the mule, collect Kaylee and Mal, and head off into the scrub to collect the goods; Jayne heads to the center of town to greet his fans.

Fes and Inara have gotten dressed. He tells her that it seems a folk hero who robbed his father and gave the money to the mudders landed in Canton yesterday, and the magistrate wants Fes to attend the hearing. As he relays the mythology, it’s clear that he’s on the Robin Hood’s side. Inara starts to look sick to her stomach and admits that she knows whom he’s talking about. “He has this idiotic sense of nobility, you know? … He thinks he’s a hard-hearted criminal, and he can be unrelenting, but there’s a side to him that’s so …” Fes excitedly jumps up. “You know him? You know Jayne Cobb?” Inara promptly swallows her tongue (metaphorically speaking). Fes tells her that his father has put a landlock on “Jayne’s” ship so it can’t take off. Fes says that he “sort of hate[s] the idea of him getting caught.” Inara is still flabbergasted that they’re talking about Jayne.

Simon has had trouble stomaching his breakfast. It doesn't sit any better when Stitch comes into the bar and starts beating the shit out of him for being “part of Jayne’s team.” It’s pretty ugly and Stitch gets ready to take himself an eye when the chanting starts up in the square: Jayne! Jayne! Jayne! Jayne! The man himself is asked to make a speech which I will attempt to reproduce for you here: “I’m no good with words, don’t use em much myself [laughter from the mudders]. I want to thank you all for being here and thinkin’ so much of me [points at statue]. Far as I can see it, you people been given the shortest end of the stick ever offered a human soul in this craphill ‘verse. But you took that end and … well, you took it and I guess that’s somethin.” Wild applause. “Wow,” says Kaylee, standing in the audience with Mal, “that didn’t sound half bad.” “I’m shocked my own self,” replies the captain.

A shotgun fires, scattering the crowd. Stitch throws a beaten Simon into the dirt and advances on his former partner. Her anger forgotten, Kaylee gathers the poor doctor up as Stitch and Jayne square off. Stitch tells the mudders who the Hero of Canton really is: a thief who tossed out his fuel reserves, the seats from the hovercraft and finally his partner, before he finally ditched the money. “You’d a done the same,” sneers Jayne, but Stitch refutes it at length. “You gonna talk me to death, buddy?” asks Jayne. For an answer, Stitch whips his gun around and fires, but the young mudder dives in front of his hero, saving him.

Jayne screams, wild, throwing his knife into Stitch’s shoulder. They fight like crazed animals, brutally flinging their bodies into each other, until Jayne finally squishes Stitch’s head against the base of the statue. He pauses, panting, and sees the body of the young man who took the bullet for him. Adam Baldwin does a beautiful job here, his face falling from rage to misery in milliseconds. “Get up! C’mon, get up! What’d you do that for?” he shouts at the dead mudder. Mal looks as though he’s sorry they ever came to this town. Jayne turns on the crowd, hollering, “You thinks there’s people who’ll drop money on you? Money they can use? There ain’t people like that! There’s just people like me.” The little blond boy, dressed in his finest for the celebration, returns Jayne’s bloodied knife to him, tears in his eyes. Stricken, Jayne turns away and topples his statue.

Mal, Jayne, Simon and Kaylee trudge back to Serenity. Wash tries to take off but the “landlock” alarm buzzes at him. Nervously, he starts pushing buttons and flipping switches, all to no avail. Inara comes onto the bridge. “Is there a problem with takeoff, Wash?” she asks. “Is there a problem?!” Wash yelps and then the buzzer shuts off and they are greenlit to depart. “Ah, no, there’s no problem.” At the magistrate’s house, Fes’s father is irate because his son lifted the landlock on Serenity. Fes is post-coitally cool and confident: “You wanted to make a man out of me, Dad. I guess it worked.”

Serenity takes off. Jayne thoughtfully cleans his knife on the cargobay catwalk. River is working on something in the common area and the Shepherd comes up to her. “Just keep walking, Preacherman,” she says, not looking up from her book. Kaylee attends to Simon’s cuts and scrapes, suggesting that he not let people stomp on him so much. He protests that it really wasn’t his plan. She then asks him why he gets so stiff and formal around her, why he can’t relax so they can enjoy each other’s company. Simon explains that being proper and polite is all he has left; it's the only way he has of showing her that he likes her. Mal stops by Jayne’s perch on the catwalk. Jayne doesn’t understand why that mudder would have taken that shotgun blast for him. Mal figures that anyone ever got a statue made of him was one kind of sonofabitch or another. Jayne seems to agree, but Mal counsels that it wasn’t about Jayne, it was about what those people needed. “It don’t make no sense,” mutters the hero, as a plaintive version of his theme song plunks in the background.

This recap turned out to be a long one - sorry. I think it's because I've tried to quote more than usual - I just think that parts of this episode are so very funny and couldn't help myself.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Book Review: Two Trilogies by Robertson Davies

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most Americans have never heard of Robertson Davies, novelist, essayist, playwright, actor, professor and publisher, who died in 1995. It’s a shame, really, because this old-fashioned Canadian has written some of the cleverest, most erudite-yet-accessible and tightly-plotted novels I’ve read.

His Deptford Trilogy is made up of three novels: Fifth Business (1970), The Manticore (1972) and World of Wonders (1975). My paperback copy of this omnibus has 825 pages. The same cabal of characters inhabits all three novels although the focus of each separate novel is different. Fifth Business is told in first person and narrated by Dunstan Ramsay, a Canadian boy who grows up to be a schoolteacher and a world-renowned expert on saints. The Manticore is related as dialogue between David Staunton (son of Boy Staunton, a childhood and adult friend of Dunstan Ramsay) and his Swiss Jungian psychoanalyst. World of Wonders returns to Ramsay, technically as first-person narrator, who quotes the conversations and stories told to him by Magnus Eisengrim, a famous magician. The action that sets the three novels in motion is this: Ramsay, as a child, ducks a snowball thrown by Boy Staunton which hits Eisengrim’s pregnant mother, causing her to go into labor prematurely.

The Cornish Trilogy is comprised of The Rebel Angels (1981), What’s Bred In the Bone (1985) and The Lyre of Orpheus (1988) and the paperback comes in at an impressive 1,136 pages. As in the earlier trilogy, the same characters populate all three novels in varying degrees. The Rebel Angels takes place at a Canadian University: an eccentric art collector, Francis Cornish, has died, naming three of the professors as his executors. What’s Bred In the Bone leads us through Cornish’s very interesting life, from his childhood in a small town in Ontario, to his university education in Toronto (where his path crosses that of Dunstan Ramsay), to his apprenticeship as a painter and restorer, his war experiences and his return home to Canada. In The Lyre of Orpheus, the executors of Cornish’s will have established a charitable foundation which is sponsoring the completion of an unfinished opera by a doctoral candidate prodigy.

I don’t remember how I discovered these books. I do remember sitting down with The Cornish Trilogy, a little intimidated at first, but almost immediately getting sucked into this world Davies had created. These novels are dryly funny, intellectual – incorporating, with reason and clarity, art history and criticism, comparative literature, opera theory, hagiology and Jungian archetypes (to list just a sampling) – and yet understandable to the layperson. The scope of the narratives span decades, generations and continents but Davies brings everything together by the end – the Lost writers could learn a thing or two from him about tying up plot points! Do not be put off by the number of pages, although I suppose in this age of Harry Potter folks are less alarmed by a book’s thickness: these smart and funny novels should be savored at length.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Reading is Fundamental (for Dogs)

For better or worse, I am selfish. I am not charitably-inclined and I hoard my precious recreation time like Gollum and his Ring. This is why it was so out of character for me to apply to the local Animal Refuge League for a volunteer position. Now, I am very much an animal-person: I have had dogs and cats all my life (and goats, sheep and pigs for a while growing up); my current dog, Becky, is a rescue from the very same local ARL. I have never wanted to volunteer for the shelter before because I figured it would be heartbreaking to not be able to take home all the animals that were having a tough time finding new homes. But when the shelter posted a brand new volunteer program – “Reading & Relaxation” – I reconsidered.

This R&R program “gives volunteers an opportunity to spend one-on-one time reading and relaxing with dogs in the shelter and reminding them that calm behavior reaps its own rewards.” Giving a shelter dog some quality quiet time with a human who is not placing any demands on the dog should reduce the dog’s stress. A calmer dog has a better chance for adoption. Sign me up! I thought.

The application paperwork for volunteering at this shelter is daunting. In March, I filled out a four-page application which wanted, among other things, my level of education, my experience/skills (“Please feel free to attach a copy of your résumé” – I thought I probably didn’t have to do that) and two non-family member references. (Again, please keep in mind that this is for reading out loud to dogs). And just to give myself an edge over the competition, I even attached my proposed reading list:

James Herriot’s Dog Stories – Although I own the whole All Creatures Great and Small series, I thought the shelter dogs would prefer to start out with happy dog stories.

My Family and Other Animals – by Gerald Durrell. Durrell (brother of author Lawrence Durrell), who grew up to be an internationally-known naturalist, chronicles his family’s five-years on Corfu in the late 1930s. One of my all-time favorites - the only book I ever stole (from my third grade classroom) – this book is jam-packed with dogs, birds, bugs, scorpions and bats, as well as an entire menagerie of human characters.

Cat on a Hyacinth Hunt – by Carole Nelson Douglas. This mystery novel was given to me as a joke but it turned out to be a pretty good tale, enough so that I’ve read several others in the series. Set in Las Vegas, there are two protagonists: Midnight Louie, a black tomcat who thinks he’s Sam Spade; and Louie’s person, Temple Barr, a redheaded casino PR rep with a penchant for high heels and solving crime. I’m hoping that this would not be too edgy for the dogs to listen to, what with a saucy cat as a main character.

So I sent my application in and waited. And waited and waited until May 15th when I was contacted for Volunteer Orientation. With my three books at my side, I joined approximately fifteen other potential volunteers (most of whom wanted to walk dogs, cuddle cats and assist in adoption counseling) at the Orientation … which consisted of a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation read word for word, bullet-point by bullet-point, by the presiding volunteer. Our applications were handed back to us, in case we wanted to make any changes, and we were told that we would be called if and when anything opened up. If we were not called within six months, we’d have to reapply. Thank you for coming and don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.

It’s been over four months since I first submitted my application. I haven’t yet been called and, at this point, my volunteering fervor has waned somewhat. In fact, my ego has taken a bit of a blow: what kind of an incompetent can’t get picked to read out loud to unwanted dogs?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Summertime Drink Recipes

Still no Deadwood DVDs in my mailbox ...

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is sit on the dock at camp with a frosty beverage in hand, dangling my feet in the pond and watching the sun work its way west towards the mountains. Usually the frosty beverage is beer, but on the really hot days beer can be too heavy.* So what are the time-honored favorite cocktails of which I then avail myself? I'm so glad you asked. Oh - I usually pour my mixed drinks in pint glasses so as not to have to get up so often for refills.

Tonic-assisted: gin & tonic (usually Tanqueray but I've been branching out to Bombay Sapphire which is more delicately floral and less junipery) or rum & tonic (I prefer Mount Gay here; a really dark rum, like Gosling's, works better in a Dark and Stormy situation.)

Seltzer-assisted: I already mentioned my crush on Stoli Blueberi & seltzer/club soda; limoncello & lemon seltzer is lovely too, and the seltzer really cuts through the stickiness of the limoncello

Michelada: Salt the rim of a pilsner glass. Squeeze in the juice of a lemon, add enough hot sauce to pink up the lemon juice. Add a really cold pilsner (I like Corona) and shake some coarsely-ground black pepper on top. Drink half the michelada at one go, and then work your way through the rest. (I was introduced to this spicy treat at my baby brother's wedding outside of Pucon, Chile, by Robbie, a New Hampshire native and purportedly one of the best white-water kayakers south of the equator.)

Frozen: Bourbon slushes (recipe from Cuzzin Kathy). 1 1/2 cup bourbon, 12 oz. frozen lemonade, 6 oz. frozen orange juice, 6 cups of water, 1 cup of sugar, 2 cups of brewed tea. Thaw the frozen ingredients enough to mix together with everything else. Freeze, and then scrape up into cups like a sassy granita. (Seems like a lot of water, doesn't it? I haven't made this for AGES so the recipe may need some tweaking.)

Key Lime Margaritas: 1 can of limeade, 1 limeade can's worth of tequila, 1/3 can of triple sec, 3/4 can of water, 1/2 can of Key Lime Liqueur. Mix it all together and serve over ice; blend with ice if you're high maintenance. (Recipe compliments of Bug)

Sangria: 1 bottle (750 ml.) red wine (merlot or shiraz), 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/4-1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup dark rum (or brandy - but I'm more apt to have rum in the house). Mix it all together, add sliced citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, limes, whatever). Splash in some unflavored seltzer right before you serve it. Obviously, if you want more kick, add more booze.

Bloody Mary: I do not have a good Bloody Mary recipe! Anyone willing to share theirs? I like 'em spicy.

*As probably mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I am a beer-snob - I only drink microbrews. You couldn't pay me to drink that pale mass-produced Mill-mich-busch-coors-bud crapola.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Quinoa (or, clearly not a t.v. episode recap)

Sorry for the Deadwoodus-interruptus of late: my Blockbuster Online queue got a little disheveled and now I'm in the middle of BSG Season 2.5 (have you seen the guns on Apollo? Mm-mmm-mmm-mm-mm.). Also, Mr. Mouse is a huge Tour de France fan and since I seem to control the remote 75% of the time, I thought I'd give him first dibs while the race is going. (They're in Flanders today and just passed the coolest castle ever.)

So, then, quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah"). If you're not eating it, you should be. It's a gluten-free, complete protein whole grain from South America - the Incas first grew it over 5,000 years ago - which cooks as quickly as couscous but is much more hearty. You can find it in the health-food section of major grocery stores and it comes in traditional (white) and heirloom (red) varieties. I find the red quinoa takes about five minutes longer to cook than the white. I use it as a side dish in lieu of potatoes, pasta or rice; my sister-in-law mixes it with lentils for a main dish. It's got a nice, mild, slightly nutty taste. Try it - you'll like it! Next on my alternagrain menu: kasha (roasted buckwheat). I'll let you know how it goes.

Oh, I also want to reiterate my profanity disclaimer from my first Deadwood post. My Deadwood recaps contain a lot of really bad language but I wouldn't be able to quote any dialogue if I didn't use the swears. Again, if it's too offensive, please don't read the Deadwood recaps. And, as Bartles & Jaymes were wont to say, thank you for your support.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Knocked Up - mini-review

We finally got around to seeing Knocked Up last night and I'm going to score it the way I would score The 40-Year Old Virgin: screamingly funny in some parts but about twenty minutes too long. Bonus points for keeping my husband awake for the entire movie; Little Miss Sunshine was the last movie we saw together and he fell asleep three minutes after the start. There may have been beer involved. I'm just saying.

I have recently become a big Seth Rogen fan, since about a month ago when I re-watched the entire Freaks and Geeks series. It was very nice to see him exhibiting some acting range here, which he didn't really get to do in 40YOV or You, Me & Dupree (I suppose scene-stealing in those movies can't really count as range). Katherine Heigl did a great job - she's come a LONG way since Roswell. I didn't really care for Leslie Mann - too shrill and screechy - but that's the way the part was written, not the actress's fault. And I absolutely did not recognize Martin Starr: Bill Haverchuck from F&G and the hairy bearded guy in this movie ... he's aged well!

One final note: giant beer-snob kudos to Paul Rudd (I love Paul Rudd) for drinking Sierra Nevada throughout the movie.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Bitchin' Camaro - Transformers movie review

I've never been much of a Michael Bay fan - I recently saw The Island and thought it was a perfectly decent science fiction movie, acted fairly well by pretty people and Steve Buscemi, that was completely overwhelmed by gratuitous and grandiose explosions. His movies tend toward the slick and showy, supersaturated with color and parched for substance. In addition, I am not a robot-nerd/Autobot-fangirl; I never watched the cartoon or played with the toys; I wouldn't know an Optimus Prime if it walked up and bit me. But for some reason I wanted to see Transformers. And damn, now, if I don't want to buy a 1974 yellow Camaro with black racing stripes.

This movie was a hoot. I saw it at a sparsely-populated 10:00 a.m. matinee (I was the only female in the theater) and given how much the tiny audience was enjoying the show, I can only think that seeing an evening show in a packed house would be so much more fun. I chuckled out loud a couple of time (the robots make lame jokes!), I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped two or three times, and I drove home checking out all the passing cars, trying to imagine what kind of 'bots they'd morph into. Granted, some parts are pretty foolish, like when the Autobots strike poses and introduce themselves and the whole hide-the-giant-alien-robots-from-my-parents scene went on far too long. I really don't like chihuahuas. Every woman/girl who wasn't Sam's mom was far too hot to be human. Prime's voiceover seemed to serve no other purpose but set up Transformers 2. But really, this is a popcorn-flick: no thinking necessary - pure, lunatic entertainment. And boy does Michael Bay like to blow shit up!

It's a little difficult to tell what's going on in some of the Autobot vs. Decepticon battles what with all the CGI flailing and tumbling and buildings crumbling and assorted chaos, but the CGI is amazingly well-done; I especially liked Bonecrusher rollerblading up the freeway. Shia LeBeouf does a good job and really sells it (I'm thinking I may have to check out Disturbia now just because I enjoyed him so much here). I loved John Turturro's clip-on tie - hee. And Bumblebee is just fun. I understand that he was a Volkswagen Beetle in the original cartoon. I hope the hardcore Transformers fans are okay with the change because that Camaro, the older one, steals the show. "I love my car!" says Sam, and so say all of us.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Deadwood – “Bullock Returns to Camp” (S1E7)

The dropping: Al’s patience is fast running out with regard to buying the widow’s gold claim. Bullock has had most of his sense of self-preservation beaten out of him in his fight with the Sioux warrior. Charlie is mourning his friend as best he can. Over in the smallpox tent, Jane and Doc win some and lose some. Alma finds herself getting all heated up with her husband scarcely cold in his grave. And grifters have targeted both the Gem and the Bella Union ... I’ve seen a couple episodes of this show now, and I’m predicting that Al is not going to take this sort of thing lying down.

Bullock and Charlie ride into a fort; Jack’s paint horse is tied up there so they’re obviously in the right place. They find Jack, drunk and apparently not that popular with the locals: “You can find the fuckin’ jerk in that bunkhouse.” They introduce themselves as Bill Hickok’s friends (which clears the room), knock Jack unconscious, tie him to his horse, and take him to Yankton for trial. Back in Deadwood, two teenagers are canvassing the camp, looking after their missing father. The girl is Veronica Mars – or will be in a couple months - here they call her "Flora." Dan is quite taken with her. No one has seen their father and so they look for some work: Al hires the boy, Miles, to sweep up around the Gem; Flora turns down an offer to turn tricks with the Gem whores. Doc, Jane and the preacher are some wicked busy tending to all the smallpox sufferers. Incredibly, Andy has risen from the almost-dead, and he credits Jane with saving him. “Them as heals under my care stay fuckin’ healed,” crows Jane triumphantly. For some reason, she is cleaner than she’s been in all the previous six episodes. Doc gives Andy some hand-me-down clothes and sends him on his way.

Sol takes Trixie, Sophia and Alma in his wagon to Garrett’s funeral and Trixie reminds Alma to pretend to be stoned as she leaves the hotel since Al will be watching. He is watching, and Alma’s not as good an actress as she thinks she is, because he growls, “That widow ain’t fucking high.” Al is displeased with Trixie and E.B. for assuring him otherwise. E.B. retorts that he thinks Al wants to buy the claim for himself, not to keep the Pinkertons off his back. Al sends him off to the funeral with instructions to get the purchase done. Flora has found her way to at the Bella Union and is showing her father’s picture to Cy. Neither he nor Eddie can help her, but Joanie manages to talk her into whoring for them. Flora says she wasn’t virgin like her brother thinks, and she seems realistic about never finding their father. She also seems to take quite quickly to the whoring.

The preacher is much more restrained at Garrett’s funeral than he was at Wild Bill’s. Trixie and Sophia stand off to the side a little, and Sophia names her dead sisters while picking flowers. Soon they’ll be able to call her by name, I just know it! As the funeral party sings their hymn, E.B. sidles greasily up and unsuccessfully renews his bid for Alma’s claim: “Please stop talking to me, Mr. Farnum!” Just then, Bullock and Charlie arrive back at camp; Bullock joins the funeral party but Charlie can't bring himself to go near Bill’s grave yet. Dan lets on to Al that he rather fancies little Flora. E.B. scuttles back to the Gem to inform Al that Bullock has returned and may attempt to put a kibosh on their plans. Alma and Bullock flirt a little as she tells him that she doesn’t require him to assist her in her affairs. He asks if she’s firing him and when she says no, he insists that he will continue on her behalf. She then proceeds to make him uncomfortable by confessing her former opium habit and then blushes, “I had better manners before I was abstaining.” I think the widow’s got an itch she wants to scratch. Don’t do it, Bullock! Bring your wife out from Michigan!

Trixie stops by the hardware store and Sol tries to flirt with her a little. She doesn’t encourage him, but she doesn’t shoot him down either. Jeesh, everyone’s making eyes at each other these days. Charlie brings Sol some supplies to restock the store; he doesn’t want to talk about Bill or acknowledge saving Bullock’s life, even when Sol wants to thank him for it. Poor Charlie. E.B., being a “stickler for self-delivered messages,” pops in to tell Trixie that Al wants to see her. Now. Andy goes back to the Bella Union and is a little cranky with Cy for having thrown out his belongings …and also for having been thrown out to die himself. I can see where he’d be a little testy about that. As bidden, Trixie goes to Al’s office – could he actually be more sarcastic? After some manhandling (nothing more than bruises, I’m sure) he sends her back to the hotel to spy on Alma and Bullock, warning her not to forget her place. Charlie stops by Nuttal’s saloon to ask the saloonkeeper about Bill’s murder. The cards Bill was allegedly holding were aces over eights, now and forever known as the “dead man’s hand.”

In the pest tent, that whippersnapper Joey has died and Jane cries a little to see it. Maybe that’s why her face is so clean: all the tears of late. The preacher reports to Jane and Doc that Bullock and Charlie are back, and then pitches into another one of his fits. This one is not so bad. The doctor sits him down and tells him that he’s got a brain lesion, and his current state of exhaustion is probably not helping things. The preacher hopes that his brain tumor might be the hand of God working through him; Doc says, well maybe, but go lie down anyway. Jane’s face is a study in sadness and sympathy. After her shift ends, Flora walks from the Bella Union to the Gem, trailed by one of her new johns who is extremely smitten with her. Dan greets her and finds her a table off to the side, away from the scuzzier clientele. At the hardware store, Sol brings Bullock up to speed on the camp happenings. Bullock struggles to speak about his battle with the Sioux warrior, clearly disturbed by the experience.

He is not, however, so shaken that he doesn’t to ask Al to recommend someone to assay the widow’s claim, so she gets a “fair shake.” This way, if the assayer’s work is in error, Bullock figures he will be able to hold Al accountable. The two square off against each other, no love lost, and Al pretty much tells Bullock that he’d better sleep with one eye open. Miles and Flora confer briefly and lo and behold, they are con artists, looking to score on both saloons. One of the drunks makes a move on Flora and Dan kills him. Al gives a big old eye roll and shakes his head at the folly of young lust. Out at the graveyard, Jane is talking to Bill’s grave when Charlie tentatively approaches her. He asks her if Bill was dead by the time she saw him, and then asks why Bill would have let McCall get to him. Jane has no answers and grouches that he’s interrupting her giving Bill the news. She lets him talk until he starts to cry, and then Charlie asks if he can talk to Bill some more tomorrow. “Sure, what the fuck you askin me for? I don’t make the rules.” Jane totally makes me laugh. Trixie tells Alma that she has to go back to Al, that Al has seen through their deception. She recommends that Alma sell and get the hell out of Deadwood – to screw Bullock if that’s what she wants, but to get out and go home. Alma is shocked, but it’s is not clear whether it's at the tone Trixie takes with her or at what is being said. I knew she wanted to jump Bullock’s bones and Trixie knows it too!

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Deadwood – “Plague” (S1E6)

The dropping: Bullock is momentarily distracted from his quest to bring Wild Bill’s murderer to justice by a bad-ass Sioux warrior; he regains his focus after shedding some blood. Charlie proves he can read horse graffiti. Ellsworth learns to play craps – which will be yet another drain on his gold claim. Alma, Jane, Trixie and Sophia form the very first girl-group, paving the way for the Supremes, Josie and the Pussycats and the Spice Girls. On the testosterone side of things, Al brings the erstwhile camp leaders together to combat the smallpox threat. Plus there’s fruit.

High in the Hills, near a Native American burial ground, Bullock is attacked. His horse is killed and he is badly beaten. Fighting for his life, he finally knocks the Sioux warrior unconscious and then pulps the warrior’s head with a rock. It’s an ugly, violent and bloody fight – not your typical Hollywood fisticuffs at all. In camp, the doctor hustles through the Gem to examine a john who can’t get it up for one of Al’s whores. It’s that pesky smallpox epidemic Doc was so worried about. Over at the Bella Union, Joanie asks if Ellsworth (yay!) will keep her company. “I will, but I’m expensive,” quoth that worthy fellow. Joanie chuckles, “I knew that just lookin’ at you.” Ellsworth is a great character. Joey, the whippersnapper Cy sent off to Nebraska after the vaccine, returns to the saloon, sick as a smallpox-ridden dog. Cy tells him to keep his mouth shut and go lay up.

Al expresses his frustration that E.B. hasn’t pushed Alma into selling the gold claim. E.B. is reluctant, thinking “something strange is going on in that hotel room.” Doc stops by to tell Al that his saloon wasn’t the first place the pox showed up. Hmm, says Al. E.B. tries to gain admittance to Alma’s room but Trixie shuts him out. Alma is right full in the middle of detox-sickness and Trixie promises to take care of her, but first she has to go check in with her boss. Al and Doc storm Cy’s saloon demanding to know if Cy’s guy got the vaccine for the pox. As Doc treats Joey, Al and Cy decide to work together to put a spin on the epidemic.

Calamity Jane wanders back into town. She’s talking to herself but I can’t tell if she’s drunk or just being Jane. She goes into Doc’s cabin to wait for him. Al swoops back into his saloon and announces that there will be a get-together shortly – Dan and Johnny are to “buy some fruit.” Trixie is waiting for Al in his office: he asks if Alma is doping again (since E.B. didn’t think that the widow was taking the drugs); Trixie lies to him and says she thinks Alma is using but she can’t be sure. Al gives her another ball of dope, saying he wonders if Trixie is giving it to Alma at all. “Why wouldn’t I?” asks Trixie. “I’d rather try touching the moon than take on a whore’s thinking,” says he. Al tells E.B. to make sure that Trixie isn’t lying about doping the widow. Al and E.B. have this fantastic symbiotic relationship, 'though I'm not quite sure who is the parasite. Trixie goes back to Alma and tells her she has to fake being high in front of E.B. and Al.

Later, when Trixie takes some dirty sheets to the Chinese laundry, E.B. scoots up the stairs to check on Alma. Sol, in the meantime, chats Trixie up a bit on the street. He thinks she’s pretty – which she is. Doc gets back home and is startled to find Jane there, waiting for him. They are fantastic together: Jane is so funny and I really like the long-suffering doctor. Jane informs Doc that she found a smallpox victim in the woods; Doc wants to know how she feels. “I just lost my best friend!” she shouts. Doc points out that Jane has not contracted the pox; he enlists her to assist him in nursing the people who will be getting sick, telling her she can do her drinking “off work, like I do.” E.B. sneaks back into Alma’s room with clean linens and she puts on her sexy, vague, I’m-high face until he scurries back out, convinced.

Oh yay – it’s Charlie, on his way back to camp from Cheyenne! He comes across the Sioux’s painted-up horse, then Bullock’s dead horse, then the dead Sioux, and finally an almost dead Bullock. Charlie’ll make everything okay again. As he tends to Bullock, Charlie gives him him details about the “one bad hombre” Bullock managed to dispatch. Bullock then tells him that Bill is dead; Charlie says he’d heard tell of Bill’s death, but “often as he wasn’t before, I hoped he wasn’t again this time.” Charlie gets Bullock onto his feet. In Deadwood, Johnny comes by the preacher’s tent to invite him to Al’s get-together; the preacher is surprised by the inclusion, but agrees to come.

At the Gem, Dan, Johnny and Nuttal are opening cans of peaches and pears as E.B. reports that the widow is back on the dope for sure, all sexy-like. The get-together commences: Al, E.B., Cy, Doc, the preacher, Nuttal, Merrick and Sol – all the power-players in camp. They decide to (1) build a hospital tent to tend to the sick, (2) send riders to fetch vaccine and (3) write an article in the paper to keep the general populace informed and calm. Suddenly, the preacher pitches another fit. The assembled group – all of them! - is surprisingly empathetic and kindly towards the afflicted man. Later Doc speaks with the preacher privately; all the preacher wants is to be cleared to assist with the smallpox victims.

There’s some small trouble at the Bella Union: Cy is not happy with Joanie’s attitude of late. He also confesses to feeling “some fuckin’ affection” for her. Powers Booth’s head is HUGE! I’m completely distracted by it. At the printing press, Al, E.B., the doc and Cy are offering their editorial commentary (to Merrick’s dismay). It’s a pretty cute little scene. Jane goes to the hotel to check on Alma and Sophia; the little girl opens the door and says “hello, Jane” to her. Jane is floored; Trixie is very nice to her. This is a very curious group of females to be hanging out together. After taking her leave of the girls, Jane follows the latest stretcher to the “pest tent” where the preacher is already assisting Doc. Doc welcomes her. Bullock and Charlie place the Sioux warrior up on the burial platform and head off after Jack McCall. Al reads excerpts of the epidemic article to Dan, all the while bitching about Cy. He’s pretty satisfied with himself, however: “As a base of operations, you cannot beat a fucking saloon.”

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