Monday, October 27, 2014

Riding the Panic Train, or What Not to Do When Your Husband Might be Dying

Last Tuesday I learned the hard way that when the zombie apocalypse goes down, I am totally screwed because I'm no good in a crisis. In fact, I suck gopher wang. Worse: I suck unwashed gopher wang.

Like this, only with more wang. Unwashed.

My husband came home from work Tuesday afternoon looking like utter crap. More so than usual. I don't say that to be mean, trust me. Darren is a handsome man. He's also a diabetic, not in the best of health, and he's killing himself working two jobs-one of which requires some heavy lifting. He usually leaves for the first job around 7:30 in the morning(sometimes earlier), works until 3:30 or 4:00 PM, leaves for his second job, and comes home around 7:30 or 8:00 PM. That's a long goddamn day, and as you might expect, he's usually exhausted by the end of it. Last Tuesday was his short day, so I expected him to be tired, but not as bad off as he usually is when he's working both jobs. I couldn't have been more wrong. When he walked through the door, he looked like he pulled a double shift for both jobs without so much as a lunch break and picked up a third job slaying dragons in between. Because that's just the kind of guy he is.

Like this, but with more awesomeness.
We had made a plan to go to Lafreniere Park to feed the ducks after he got off of work, but one look at him was enough for me urge him to stay home and get some rest. Not that he listened. Darren could have a spike rammed through his skull and he'd be all, "No, no. We made plans." Usually, I wheedle him into driving since I hate driving almost as much as I hate anything math related, but he looked so bad off, I grabbed the keys before he could ask. Our drive consisted of me peeking over at him every five seconds and resisting the urge to ask if he was okay while trying not to get into an accident. It would have been a pointless question anyway as he was as far from looking okay as a man can get before you call for a medic. I even asked if he wanted me take him to the hospital, but he declined much as he would if the previously mentioned spike were giving him, "A bit of a headache. Really, it's nothing."

So there we are, each of us holding onto a bag of bread. He's looking more and more miserable by the second. I start tossing whole slices at a time, just trying to get this thing over with so I can drag him home and force him into bed. Either he sensed I was in a rush or he couldn't take it anymore. Probably the latter. Either way, he began following my lead, throwing whole slices. Those damn ducks never had it so good. We had to have been there less than ten minutes before we headed back.

I get us home. He steps out of the car, gets down on one knee, and immediately throws up everything he ate that day onto the driveway. And possibly some of what he ate last week. And if digested food can travel through time, it's quite possible that he puked up a few future meals as well.

"Um, are you sure you don't want to go to the hospital?" I say staring at the mess on the concrete and hoping that bit of red I see isn't blood. "Because I really think you need to go to the hospital. I'll drive."

"No, I'm okay," he says after the Ghosts of Meals Past, Present, and Future exit stage right. "I feel better now. I just needed to puke."

I don't say, "No shit." I do try to get him to reconsider.

"I'm not wasting money on a bill I don't need. It was probably just food poisoning. I'll be fine."

Food poisoning sounds like something you should go to the hospital for, I'm thinking, but he knows his body better than I do. I humor him and let him have his way. He's already looking better by the time we get inside, so I'm starting to think he made the right call. He even scoffs at my mention of him calling in sick the next day. Because I'm just his wife who cares about him and stuff. Why listen to me? Even so, I ask him if he wants me to pick him up some chicken soup from Whole Foods.

"Nah, but can you get me a Pina Colada Smoothie?" he says.

"Of course," I say, and make haste to the nearest Smoothie King. Instinct tells me soup would probably be better for him, but it's a liquid, and liquids are good for you when you're sick. Right?

Yeah, see, the thing I didn't realize was that he wasn't just sick with a virus. He was sick with a mother fucking stomach virus. Do you know what happens when you consume dairy products when you have a stomach virus? You blow chunks. Know what's in a Pina Colada Island Smoothie? Milk. Yeah.

Now we're on round two. The Ghosts of Meals Past, Present, and Future finish their smoke break and climb back onto the stage faster than you can say, "Get the bucket!". This time, he's all for going to the hospital. So I take him to East Jefferson, and because he's weaker and sicker than I've ever seen him in my life, I go into panic mode. I miss the first entrance to the hospital and have to take the next. I cram my car into the closest spot to the emergency room, nearly driving over the parking curb. Once we get inside, I have trouble figuring out the two sided elevator. Meanwhile, my poor husband is trying to direct me where to go, where to park, which side of the elevator to get out of, while simultaneously trying to hold onto both his lunch and his patience.

We get him admitted, get him into a hospital smock, and a bed. A doctor pops in to ask a few questions and informs us Darren probably has a stomach virus, but they'll run some tests just to be sure. And because he's low on fluids, they'll hook him up to an IV.

"He should probably stay home from work tomorrow, right?" I ask the doctor, knowing what my Love Bug will say next.

"I can't miss work," Darren immediately pipes in, teeth chattering, clutching onto his stomach for dear life. "We need the money."

I give the doctor a look that would freeze a hell bound demon, shake my head emphatically, and repeat, "He should probably stay home from work tomorrow. Right?"

"Uh, yeah. That would probably be best," he wisely says.

I graciously stop stabbing him with my eyes.

A nurse comes by to put in Darren's IV and to take some blood, something he isn't looking forward to, but he's resigned. She sticks him, and all of a sudden he starts getting lightheaded and even sicker to his stomach than he was before. This never happens when he gives blood. At least, it's never happened before. He asks for a vomit bag. The nurse goes to find one. My husband is grabbing his stomach, groaning, and I know she's going to be too late. I pull back the curtain, run through the hall looking for her and yelling for someone to please get me a goddamn vomit bag. Darren groans louder and I rush to his side to hold his hand. Just as the nurse comes running up with the bag, Darren grabs it, vomits both in it and on me, and promptly blacks out.

By now, I'm riding the panic train full speed ahead. Darren comes to a couple minutes later, and the nurse explains he passed out due to vasoconstriction or low blood pressure or something. I don't remember because all I'm really noticing is my husband groaning, teeth chattering and shaking, and dying on the hospital bed.

The nurse leaves us alone. I start making phone calls letting his work know that he won't be coming in tomorrow, when he tells me he's having trouble moving his arms. My first thought is, he's having a stroke. I check his face to see if one side is drooping, try to decide if his speech is funny, and whatever else that acronym stands for. I'm about to scream for the doctor when he clarifies that he can move his arms, he's just feeling weak. Weaker than he's ever felt in his life. I sit back down, try to calm myself, try to tell myself that this is nothing. He'll get through this. We both will. And then it hits me. Maybe he won't. One day, he won't. And I'll be sitting in a little room with a doctor facing me, shaking his head, telling me he's sorry.

I am no longer riding on the panic train. I'm walking barefoot on the road to hell, and I've never felt more alone in my life.

I text my sister: "Darren's in the hospital. He vomited twice and passed out. If anything happens to him I don't know what I'll do."

The nurse comes in to replace his saline bag. She tells me where the vending machines are in case I want a snack or some coffee. Our friend Mickey, who is also his coworker at his main job, calls to let me know that he'll be off in a few hours in case I need him to watch over my hubby if I need a break or anything. I am grateful for the offer, but by now I'm stuck like glue to the chair next to his bed, and I'm not leaving for anything. Not for coffee, not for food, not to change my vomit stained clothing. Nothing. If the angel of death shows up for my husband, I need to be there to open up a can of wifely whoop ass.

Unless it's the Julian Richings version of Death. If it's the Julian Richings version of Death, everybody's fucked.
My sister gets in touch with me, calms me down, and I suddenly feel a lot better. I'm no longer on the road to hell alone. At the very least, I have a ride back to purgatory should I need one. I call my mom too, tell her I have a new found respect for her. I can not even imagine how she got through my dad's death when I can barely get through my husbands little stomach bug. I finally allow myself to go to the bathroom. My bladder is about to explode, Julian Richings be damned.

When the second bag of saline is almost empty, the doctor pops in once more to let us know that Darren's vitals are looking good and, in spite of the early blackout incident, he's sending him home. He gives me some paperwork, including a list of what he can and cannot eat for the next forty-eight hours, and a prescription for nausea medication. He tells me to keep an eye on him, to call if his condition worsens, and leaves with what I suspect is the bemused look he gives to all the overreacting spouses pacing the halls of the ER. I take Darren home, climb into bed with him, and spend the rest of the night waking up every five minutes to make sure he is still breathing.

The next couple of days, I played nurse. He stayed home from work like a good little boy, and I tried not to jump every time he groaned. He's doing better now, though he says he's still feeling a little weak, but that's to be expected, I'm told. I am trying like hell not to hogtie him while force feeding him a gallon of water and electrolytes.

A lot of you will read this and immediately roll your eyes at my hysterics, and for the most part, I'd be right there with you. What you don't understand is I've been struggling for the past few months with the idea that I could wake up one morning to find myself a widow. Maybe it's hormonal. Maybe it's because I just got married, or the fact that my father died suddenly in his early forties. I don't know, but I've tried to push these fears to the back of my mind. I was even in the middle of writing a short story about a woman dealing with the death of her husband when my husband came home sick as a dog. That shit will mess with your mind, I don't care how level headed you are in a crisis.

So what have I learned from this experience other than the fact you should never buy your spouse a smoothie with milk in it when they're suffering from a stomach bug? Not much. I'll probably lose my shit the next time something like this happens. What can I say? I love the guy. But I'm thinking if the zombie apocalypse does go down, I'll let Darren wear the Sheriff's hat.

He couldn't do any worse than this guy.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lazy Time Reblog Sunday: The Pet Collective

Y'all are gonna think I lost my damn mind with this one. To be fair, it's been a long day of rubbing backs, and I didn't have a lot of time to search the internet for interesting things to amuse my dear reader(s). But after some quick searching, I found a YouTube video of an American Horror Story cat parody from The Pet Collective's archives. Follow them here on YouTube and enjoy this video while I take a long and much deserved Epsom salt bath.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lazy Time Reblog Sunday: Zombie Orpheus Entertainment & Rallsfilm

Back when I was a kid, there were these little comic booklets church going adults would give to kids to keep them quiet and to set them along the righteous path. The main message of these booklets was that everyone needed to accept Jesus as their Lord and savior like right now or else. They also taught that everything in the world is pure evil, everything but Jesus and the bible. The King James version of the bible. Not those other...less reliable versions? These comics were evangelical tracts written and drawn by a man named Jack T. Chick (Chick tracts), and they were awesome in their foolishness.

According to the word of Jack Chick, the list of evil things includes homosexuality, Catholicism, pornography, any religion that isn't Christian (except Catholicism because Catholics are bad, for some reason), and Dungeons & Dragons, to a name a few. D&D was one of the biggies. There was some big to do about it being an indoctrination tool for the occult (bad), and he even did a tract claiming that certain members were taught "real" magic if they reached one of the higher player levels. This, of course, made me want to learn more about the subject. If Chick had been smart, he would have said members were forced to do Algebra equations or dishes or give up candy for life or something despicable like that. Math, chores, and health food? Big turn off for kids, Jack. Just FYI.

"Just five more loads and my DM will totally teach me how to do the real magic missile!"

The beauty of Chick tracts are that they are so over the top with their allegations of persistent and ever present evil in ordinary life that they make themselves a parody without even trying. Which is probably why the guys at Rallsfilm and Zombie Orpheus Entertainment made a movie adaptation of Dark Dungeons, a Chick tract explaining the evils of RPG. The movie is almost word for word with the tract it's based on, and it is all the more funnier because of it. J.R. Ralls even had the balls to ask Chick Publications for the rights to make the movie version of the comic. And the dude got them! Roll twenty for awesome!

In honor of Ralls' massive brass ones, this week's Lazy Time Reblog Sunday is dedicated to him and the guys at ZOE for bringing Chick's paranoid fantasies to life. You can buy the movie here for just five bucks. You can follow Ralls here on his Facebook page. The guys at ZOE can be found here and here. And I also did a Doomtown Theater live-tweet movie review that can be found on Storify and will soon be up for display on Skeptical South's Live-Tweet Theater page. Until then, peace out bitches, and may your rolls be ever natural!


Sunday, October 05, 2014

Lazy Time Reblog Sunday: Recapper's Delight

I don't have a whole lot of time for television, what with all these internets needing to be surfed. But when I do find a show I like, kiss me goodbye and write me a post card, 'cause you won't be seeing me for a long time what with the fact that I'll be too busy binge watching the hell out that shit to care much about the world around me. If it's not on Netflix, I pine away, waiting for the next season to come out on Blu-Ray or DVD. Because how the hell am I supposed to sleep at night if I don't know Sam Winchester made it out of hell with both his soul and his wits intact? Waiting for all the episodes of Forever to be available to download might drive me to the brink of insanity. Just the brink, mind you. I watched the pilot episode. It was meh.

Ioan Gruffudd, alive and fully clothed.

I don't always have time to binge watch the shows I like because there are these things called sleeping, eating, working, and sex with my husband that I have to do. Lucky for me Claire Abraham has my back. Her blog Recapper's Delight is full of "tongue-in-cheek" recaps of Doctor Who and a few other shows. I don't think she's done any episodes of Supernatural, but maybe if we all follow her blog and ask nicely, the lady will acquiesce. This week's Lazy Time Reblog goes out to Ms. Abraham. Please follow her through her blog and her Google+ account.

 Recapper's Delight: Funny television recaps
I write funny television recaps! Come here for tongue-in-cheek recaps of Doctor Who and other television shows. Now writing for!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Doctor Who, Season Eight: Deep Breath

....And I'm back. I've been waiting months to find a show I was enthusiastic enough to blog about, and now I've got it - a new season of...

New season, new Doctor, and a refreshing new direction in which we learn, after seven series of flirting with companions, that the Doctor is not our boyfriend after all.

It only took him a thousand years to figure that out, finally.


We open with a freakishly over-sized Tyrannosaurus Rex (or, since the beast is female,  possibly a Tyrannosaurus Regina,) who is rampaging in terrified fury through Victorian London. At least she's not a dinosaur on a spaceship. As the ordinary folk scramble in terror and try to avoid becoming dino chow, three odd little characters rush through the scene with a more analytical approach. There's a lovely young woman named Jenny, something that appears to be a giant walking, talking potato, and Madame Vastra, lesbian Silurian. As Vastra gazes up at the magnificent lady lizard, I wonder if she's possibly fallen in love. (Watch out, Jenny.) Moments later, they realize the dino is choking on something, and it spews out a big blue box.

Gotta wonder how the newspapers reported this the next day. Gotta wonder why it didn't make the history books.  The Tardis slams down conveniently near Vastra and her party, and one particularly clueless guy (Oh, look! It's the local detective! Where's Sherlock Holmes when you need him?) declares that the big lizard currently stomping buildings and people to pieces has laid an egg.

Vastra sneers at him because he doesn't realize it's a police box, and I stop to consider that these Victorian folks probably don't know what a police box is, either. Or if they do, they just know it as that big blue thing that always seems to appear right as the entire world goes completely insane. Yet another reason to be scared out of their wits.

The walking potato man, who will heretofore be referred to as Strax, orders the occupants of the box to surrender to the glory of the Sontaran Empire, and the man inside pokes his head just long enough to tell Mr. Potato Head to shush. Probably something Strax hears a lot, actually.

It is, of course, the Doctor, although none of the Paternoster Gang are sure yet because he looks very different from the last time they saw him. The Doctor doesn't recognize Strax, either, confusing him with one of the Seven Dwarves. He does recognize Vastra ("the green one) and Jenny ("the not-green-one") but he is still very disoriented in his post-regenerative haze. Moments later, Clara stumbles in a daze from the Tardis, probably wondering why she traded in an idyllic classroom of menacing delinquents for these ghastly adventures, especially since this new Doctor who does not resemble her cuddly young friend has forgotten her name. The Impossible Girl is now the Asking Questions One. (But does she ask the right questions?)

The Doctor sees that he has not actually managed to escape from the dinosaur, so he tries a new approach: "not flirting". He'll be not flirting with more than one person this episode, even if he does refer to the dino as his lady friend at least once. After a few more moments of incoherent rambling, the Doctor passes out.

Regeneration is a bitch, isn't it? At least he didn't try to strangle anybody this time, and he's not set right with a simple cup of tea (although this first scene for Capaldi borrows really, really heavily from The Christmas Invasion.)  As Clara informs the Paternoster Gang that this older man with a new face is the Doctor, Vastra puts on her best Brigadier hat and murmurs "Here we go again," and the credits roll.

A little later, we see Jenny and Clara hovering anxiously around a closed door as the Doctor engages in a rampage almost as ferocious as that being offered up by his scaly "lady friend." Vastra's trying to make him go to bed, and he don't wanna. He's forgotten what the concept of a bedroom is and pretty soon three females (two of whom are married to each other) are trying to get this new, very un-flirty Doctor into bed. Because bedrooms are just for sleeping in, and when you are awake, you leave the room.  Yes, this is going to be a very un-flirty Doctor.  Vastra cleverly implores him to help her get to sleep, and we learn that the Doctor usually just cat-naps whenever anybody else starts talking. Hmmm. Maybe that explains why he never quite understood all those little signals Martha Jones kept trying to send him. At any rate, Vastra asks him to use his psychic link to project an image of perfect sleep onto her mind, and after protesting that his superior brain might be too much for her, he complies... and is immediately conked out.

When he looked like David Tennant, the Doctor's psychic links were elegant and penetrating, almost seductive. When he looked like Matt Smith, he just cracked his skull against that of his partner, causing slapstick concussions for both. Now, the process has become a boomerang. I think the guy is losing his touch with this technique.

Once the Doctor is nicely tucked in, Clara reveals that she's having some issues.  Remember Clara, the Impossible Girl who dove into the Doctor's timestream and rescued every single incarnation at least once? Clara, who traveled with three Doctors at one time last November? Clara, who saw every incarnation in his tomb on Trenzalore? Clara, who begged the Time Lords to give her Doctor some new regenerative energy? Clara, who, of all the companions this guy has ever had, should be the one most clearly educated on the idea that he changes his face a lot, and that the faces he chooses aren't always handsome?

Well, the Doctor's not the only one with memory loss. Clara wants to know how to change him back, because Matt Smith was soooooooo cuuuuuuute! And cuddly. And young. Vastra's almost as taken aback as I am. She demands that Jenny bring her the veil she wears around strangers, and the room's temperature lowers ten degrees as she slithers out.

Outside, the dinosaur is roaring sadly - possibly because the world is no longer the temperature to which she is accustomed and the oxygen level has changed too much for her to take a Deep Breath.  Clara, uninterested in the crying dinosaur, wonders frantically why this brand new incarnation has the face of a man old enough to be her father, clearly fearful that he won't be able to pretend to be her boyfriend while suggesting Naked Twister at Christmas parties anymore.  (I think this is a very good thing.) How would Jenny feel if Vastra changed, and was no longer the person she liked?

In one of the episodes more poignant moments, Jenny gently reminds Clara that she doesn't like Vastra. She loves her... even if she's different. Even if she's a lizard. Jenny leaves Clara to her thoughts, and because nature abhors a potential vacuum, the sleeping Doctor offers up a translation of the dinosaur's thoughts. She's alone. Her world - the trees, the sky - are gone. The wind bites, the world is grey, and she is alone.

He could very well be talking about himself. I liked that. And then Strax arrives and does his clueless Strax thing, and I didn't like that so much, because he's kind of a one-joke character a lot of the time. Which is too bad, because this disgraced Sontaran nurse  is actually quite as alone in the universe and divorced from his people as the dinosaur and Vastra and the Doctor are. He's just a bit braver about it. But apparently his isolation is funny, because the Sontarans are supposed to be the bad guys.

Out on the street, an unsuspecting fellow named Alf leaves his wife to chat up a gentleman in a top hat who appears to be quite the regal, aristocratic Victorian gentleman... as long as you look at his good side. His bad side... is a tad robotic. And he's got bad eyes. Perhaps Alf would like to gift him a new pair? No? Well, too bad.  He's accepting the gift anyway. - in the most violent manner possible. Aw, for me? It's not even Christmas!

Back in Vastra's chamber, the great lizard detective sulks behind her veil and grills Clara for information about the Doctor's regeneration. What she's really doing, of course, is rather severely chastising both Clara and certain members of the audience for being disappointed in the idea of an older Doctor who no longer acts as the show's primary sex symbol, as he has been since Tennant tried out his new teeth all the way back in 2005. (And possibly since McGann liplocked with his lady friend back in 1996.) We are back to the Hartnell/Troughton/McCoy template, which was phased out before some current audience members were even born. Did Clara want to flirt with the Doctor? Honey, do you have ANY idea how OLD this guy is? That young face of his? He was just trying to get you to like him. And then he found a way to save all the Time Lords, so now he possibly doesn't feel the need to do that anymore.

Meanwhile, Jenny, who is Vastra's wife, (not her maid), serves up tea, while looking and feeling very much like a maid. And complaining about it. Nobody seems to care. It must suck to be a Victorian lesbian married to an imperious, self-righteous lizard who has an understated contempt for apes. Vastra's object of scorn at the moment is Clara, who doesn't seem to understand that the Doctor's young appearance was a veil to make her accept him. Now that the veil is lifted (and honestly, replaced by another veil, which will also eventually be exchanged), how can she feel so differently about him? 

Clara flares up, remembers that the script says she's an egomaniac control freak, (whether her actual behavior indicates that or not) and in a new, refreshing direction we haven't ever actually seen before, actually demonstrates a bit of genuine, fiery character development as she declares that she can't possibly be that shallow because she once had a pin-up of Marcus Aurelius on her bedroom wall. She never gets distracted by pretty male faces, no sirree.  Never. Ever. This very effective argument spurs Lizard Lady to back the hell off a little bit; it's a shame the script undermines the truth of Clara's retort later. But back to the Doctor - get over the fact that his face has changed, Clara girl, because you've got a bigger challenge to face... the fact that his personality has changed. A lot. (Once again, I am not sure this is at all a bad thing. A Doctor who was 1000+ years going on twelve got a bit grating for me at times, no matter how terrific a performer Matt Smith was.)

Meanwhile, back in the bedroom, the Doctor has awoken, (sniffing), which means he's got to leave the room now, because apparently that's the rules. No, actually he's going to do a rather terrific dog imitation for several frames, sniff out some chalk, and gets to work on a rather magnificent spread of mathematical calculations. THEN he leaves the room - out the window, dancing across the roof, because doors are boring. He's going out to flirt with a big, sexy woman, his new lady friend - the dinosaur. He bellows to her that he brought her along by accident - it must have been something she ate - and he'll make sure he gets her back home safe and sound, just like any good gentleman caller should.

The dinosaur responds by bursting into flames, and this Doctor's first (and possibly only) attempt to impress a girl ends in tragedy. Nope, he won't be flirting like that again. He'll probably be too traumatized for several regenerations to come.

In his hurry to rescue his lady love, the Doctor takes the shortest route off the roof (straight down, and it's lucky there was a tree there) and steals a horse while the Paternoster Gang, who have also seen the dino bonfire, call for the carriage. Buy the time they all get to the bridge, however, there's enough roast Rex to feed the homeless in the alleyways for a week, and the Doctor has something new to feel terribly guilt-stricken about. But who could have done this? Is that the question?

The Doctor questions the question, suggesting that it's of questionable value, and then suggests a new question. (At least nobody's asking the Oldest Question in the Universe anymore, and he doesn't have to wear a question mark... anywhere.  At all.) The question is... have there been any similar murders?

And the answer is.. yes. Vastra knows. Well, gee, Ms. Detective, why didn't you say so before?  And who is that strange regal robot guy who isn't gawking about a burning dinosaur in Victorian England?
Clearly, it's the bad guy, and this prompts the Doctor to take a flying leap into the Thames, looking for clues. This guy really dives into his work. Don't forget to take a Deep Breath, Doctor.

The following morning, Strax has come up with a diabolic plan to find the Doctor... lure him to Paternoster Row by confiscating the Tardis. When the Doctor comes looking for his beloved time machine, he will... melt him with acid. No, he won't. Sorry. Strax is a Sontaran, and old habits die hard, especially since the cinematic prequel suggested that he was still sending intelligence reports back to the homeworld.

The Impossible Girl dresses in a dress fit for a Victorian governess - old habits, you know - and has a lovely chat with Jenny, who cheerfully informs her that Vastra's interrogation techniques sometimes include eating her victims. That's one lady I don't want to piss off. Strax strolls in to give Clara a medical examination - by which I mean that he shows off one of the new gadgets recently designed by a child who won a Blue Peter competition. While Strax can't tell Clara's eye from her mouth, he can discern from a brain scan that her subconscious includes strains of deflected narcissism, a trace of passive-aggressiveness, and a lot of muscular men doing sport. Or something else equally... physical.  Well, so much for her not being distracted by attractive men. This scene kind of undermines the impact of her retort to Vastra.

The Doctor, meanwhile, is seriously slumming in the alleys of London with his new hobby - terrorizing homeless guys. The air is bitey - the dinosaur said the same thing, which I thought was interesting - and the Doctor needs some clothes, since he ran off in the middle of the night in a nightgown and no particular plan for his investigation. He's also almost as flummoxed by his new face as Clara is.  He thinks he's seen it somewhere before... Where do the lines come from? Who frowned them for him? Why did he choose the face of an old guy he can't quite remember, and why can't he remember, and why is Homeless Guy (played by the widower of Liz Sladen, our great Sarah Jane Smith) backing away in such terror of him? Why is he running around in his nightshirt? Does he think it resembles the kind of toga he might wear to a nice volcano eruption in Pompeii, or something?

What is he trying to tell himself about his new, fiercer, older face? (Hint: maybe it has something to do with not flirting with your very young companions anymore, Doctor.) At least this time, a Scottish Doctor is able to use his Scottish accent to complain about things. And in the meantime, the Doctor is about to mug this poor guy for his coat, since there's no use in them both being cold when the newspapers are reporting a series of deaths caused by spontaneous combustion and he's got a job to do. No, this is not your resident fangirl's Doctor.

Back at home, Jenny is posing provocatively for Vastra, who is working very hard behind an easel as they discuss the hottest trend of the week in London - spontaneous combustion. Jenny thinks Vastra's been painting her, but when she turns the easel around, we find that she's been tracking the murder sites instead. Jenny was just showing off her um... assets for... um... art's sake. Or something. I can't help but think that if these two were a heterosexual, human couple, Vastra's treatment of Jenny would be viewed as horrifically unequal and emotionally abusive rather than the laugh riot the writers here seem to think it to be. Jenny may love Vastra, but at some point they might have to explain to us why. Vastra attempts to distract us from her awful behavior by telling us why the murderers are frying people and dinosaurs alive; they are trying to conceal what parts they've taken from the bodies.

Clara, in the meantime, has found a major clue; somebody has been advertising in the newspaper, looking for the Impossible Girl.  The Doctor? It has to be, doesn't it? Now, why the Doctor would go advertising for Clara when he could just... you know... go home, and get some proper clothes on, I don't know, and Clara wonders the same thing. Still, she's certain she's found him. He'll be waiting for her on the Other Side of the Newspaper - as clarified by ad advertisement for Mancini's Family Restaurant.

So... who's hungry? And for what?

Pretty soon, the Impossible Girl has become the new Girl Who Waited, as she sits cluelessly in the silent family restaurant packed with people who consume their dinners without making a single sound - guess she's a narcissistic egomaniac, and not much of a people watcher. She gets her next clue with one deep breath. Somebody smells awful. Suddenly, the Doctor is sitting beside her, and the reason for the stench is clear. He's got not only Homeless Guy's coat, but his entire outfit. Somewhere there's a hobo running around - we hope - with the Doctor's nightshirt and, if the Doctor is telling Clara the truth, (because the Doctor lies,)  his pocket watch. (I wonder if it's the same fob watch from Human Nature? If so... what are the future implications for that?)  Clara is cross with him, not only because he smells like tramp, not only because he doesn't look like Matt Smith anymore, but because of the ad. What kind of person would put an ad in the paper to find somebody whose whereabouts were already known?  The Doctor thinks it must be a a very egomaniac, narcissistic needy game-player! How self-aware of you, Doctor!

Except that he didn't place the ad. He thought Clara did. And now we know what he currently thinks of Clara, and so does Clara. She's not just cross, she's double-crossed, and that makes her even crosser, until they realize there's a much more important issue at stake. Who placed the ad?

This is a vanity trap for narcissistic egomaniac game-players who want to pat themselves on the back for figuring out the puzzle.  None of the other people in the room are really eating. Or breathing. How long before they realize the two people in this booth are alive? How long can you hold your breath, Clara?

The Doctor and Clara try to leave, but it's already too late. The humanoid robots are surrounding them menacingly. What is this damned restaurant anyway, and how did it get such a good rating on Yelp?  All it seems to serve, according to the waiter are...

Brain stem.

That's not really what's on the menu. This week, Mancini's Family Restaurant will be serving the Egomaniac Narcissistic Needy Game-Player Special - Grumpy Older Time Lord with a side of Impossible Girl.


The Doctor tears off the waiter's face to expose a metal framework. And yes, that's a real human face, Clara.  Not a mask. When the waiter replies to the Doctor's previous inquiry - they have a children's menu - the concept of Mancini's Family Restaurant gets truly horrific indeed. Don't have your birthday parties here, folks. The booths are now equipped with really effective seat-belts, and the two find themselves falling down below the ground to an underground chamber in a spaceship that's been buried for centuries. They are now in the robot's larder.

The Doctor demands to speak to the manager.  Oh, look, it's Half-Faced man we saw earlier.  He's got some really great eyes now. He's also recharging, so they've got some time to maneuver an escape.

Clara's got the Sonic Screwdriver that the Doctor needs to free them, but she can't give it to him by hand, so she's got to throw it towards him with her short little legs and feet. The Doctor misses long-legged Amy. (Don't go there, Doctor. Companions don't like it when you compare them unfavorably to the last girl - just ask Martha Jones.) Clara does manage to throw it with her toes, and it hits him in the - oh, you probably deserved that one, Doctor.

Soon freed, if a bit sore in sensitive places, the Doctor and Clara examine the dormant (they hope) robots, and wonder why robots need to harvest human organs.

Droids harvesting human organs for spare parts, maybe.  The Doctor remembers something like happening once... sort of... maybe... (Apparently Reinette De Pompadour was not quite as unforgettable as she seemed to be at the time?)

The Half-Faced manager begins to wake up, and the duo begin to run away - but the Doctor pauses, because he's still trying to remember something about droids and spare parts and flirting with a pretty girl when he had a younger face and... um... deserting his companions. Oh, yeah.  that's right. This guy not only used to be Matt Smith; before that, he used to be David Tennant, and he ended up leaving Rose and Mickey at the mercy of the droids.  So here we go again.  The Doctor is the one who dithers, but he's also the one who escapes, and Clara is left alone with the Half-Faced man. The Doctor has deserted her, and he doesn't even lend her his Sonic Screwdriver.

Now, ask her why she doesn't like this new Doctor.  It's not just about the new face anymore. But even though she doesn't have his screwdriver, she does have her own wits, and what follows next is not only the best scene in the episode, but possibly the best set of scenes Clara Oswald - or any New Who companion - has ever had. She remembers something the Doctor asked her... how long can she hold her breath? Take a Deep Breath, Clara. This one is for real.

The answer to his question: One minute, 23 seconds. For 83 agonizing seconds, Clara holds her breath, trying to walking robotically through the maze of droids without being detected as a living being. How long can you hold your breath to stay alive? Longer than I can.  I actually did the challenge with her, and I lost long before she did. As she glides stiffly, mechanically down the corridor, the tension in her face gradually becomes much too painful and palpable to for a snide little armchair critic to mock, and she finally faints into a nightmare as the droids carry her towards her doom.

In her nightmare state, Clara remembers another horrific encounter with a roomful of people almost as terrifying as the droids. It was her first day teaching, and the disruptive kids could sense fresh meat. She screeched empty threats - and found they were completely ineffective. She'd have every single one of them kicked out of school! Because the headmaster would certainly go for that, right?  "Do it" sneered one of the children.

That little enemy saved her life here. The Half-Faced man has never taught school, and we can certainly hope he's never been a father, so he doesn't understand the uselessness of empty threats on kids or anybody else. He threatens to kill her if she doesn't tell him where the Doctor is... but she's kind of going to die anyway, isn't she? If she's dead, the Doctor is free to tell everybody what kind of chow Mancini's Family Restaurant serves up.  They can't have that. Bad for business. How about torture, then?  Now why would she give up the only information that's keeping her alive, even if they torture her? Oh, look, he's got a flame thrower hidden inside his freakishly large right hand.


Can we negotiate? Answer each other's questions? Why did you kill the dinosaur? Half-Face doesn't think he's willing to negotiate, but Clara points out that she's not answering his questions until he answers hers... and if she dies silent, the Doctor runs amok.

Now it's his turn to crap. Nice going, Clara. Really, really nice.  That was Doctor - level thinking, there. The droid doesn't look as mind-blowingly terrified as she does, but he's the one who caves first. He murdered the dinosaur to get its optic nerve. And since he's been alive as long as the dinosaurs... he's been at this grisly hobby for a very, very long time. What's the point of all this, anyway? The murderous robot man, slowly turning himself into a human, accidentally reveals his ultimate goal.  "We will reach the Promised Land." It's like the dearest wish of a human heart. Must be a malfunction caused by a spare part he picked up somewhere.

Gotta wonder if this ancient guy ever met Moses. That might explain a few of those plagues in Egypt.

But now it's Half-Face's turn to ask a question, and he's pretty consistent. "Where is the other one?'  Clara has to admit that she doesn't know. There really is no reason for them to keep her alive after all; she has no useful information for them, but she does have some perfectly tasty spare parts to share. Clara has really just been stalling for time.  If the Doctor is still the Doctor, at least as she perceives him to be, he will have her back....

And as she leans her hand back, the Doctor grabs it. He is indeed still the Doctor - even if he mugs homeless guys for really bad clothes he doesn't really need. He's wearing somebody else's face, now, as well as their clothes, but tears off the facade to reveal his true identity as Clara gasps in relief.

The Doctor thanks the robots for all the juicy gossip - possibly the best-done example of the Bond Villain "Just Between You and Me" trope that I've ever seen, and jeers at them for being bested by Clara, whom he praises as "brilliant on adrenaline" and insults as a control freak in the same Deep Breath. Hey, Doctor, are you trying to make her even madder than she already is? You charmer, you. You must drive all the narcissistic egomaniac girls just wild.

So, Half-Faced moron, why the invitation to this little party?

However, it appears that the droid didn't put the ad in the paper, either. Pssst.... I sense a Season - Long Arc Alert! (Please let it make sense this time, and get properly explained in less than three years.  Oh please, oh please... I love Doctor Who, but sometimes it's the narrative equivalent of an Escher drawing.)

And now, there has to be a safeword to bring in the cavalry.  What could it be? Well, this is a group of people originally assembled by the kid with the huge chin, so what else could it possibly be?


And just like that, Vastra and Jenny roll in balletic elegance, like amazon ninjas wrapped in streamers, from out of the ceiling, and Strax... plummets down heavily, with the elegance of a giant turd, his streamers settling weakly like the toilet paper sent to clean him up afterwards. Jenny thinks he should have taken the stairs.

Vastra has called the cops, a smart little detail the Doctor rarely remembers to do. That little eatery is out of business. No more Happy Meals for the droids.

The Droids advance, now seriously prepared to kill, and the Doctor, ever intent on saving every life form he can, urges them not to murder, since they generally only kill to survive. Clara, seeing the restaurant as a slaughterhouse, doesn't get his reasoning... and the Doctor reminds her that every restaurant that serves meat has slaughtered somebody. She is not a vegetarian, so...

The droids are advancing with something that looks like sheer human anger and bloodlust now. It's all those spare parts. They've added a touch of emotion to the droids, and old Half-Face looks a bit like a fire and brimstone preacher as he continues his mantra... he will reach The Promised Land.

The Doctor, ever an agnostic skeptic, declares that there is no such thing.  Half-Face leaves his devoted followers to do his dirty work and rushes to his escape pod.  The Doctor stows away underneath, once again abandoning his companions to a room full of killer droids.

The Inspector and his police crew arrive just in time to do... nothing of any importance at all, except run in terror of the restaurant manager with the really creepy face, so it's up to the Doctor, who comes to his task with a measure of resignation, regret and determination. "I've got the horrible feeling I'm going to have to kill you"he says sadly. Then he offers the droid a drink, while offering a little exposition to get the audience up to speed. This 51st century spaceship has crashed in the past, and they've spent eons attempting to get home again... using human bodies as spare parts. They turned their ship into a restaurant, but it won't ever fly... nobody can repair a spaceship with human remains, can they?

Wait a minute,  there's some serious deja vu going on here... can't quite remember where this came up before, but he'll think of it, right? Droids? Repair a spaceship? Spare parts? What do you call this ship, exactly? It's the SS. Marie Antoinette, sister ship of some other ship the Doctor once saw one time but can't seem to remember properly.  Maybe he's still got a touch of regeneration amnesia. And how do you power it? With a balloon, of course.  The droid's got his own Tardis... meaning he's got a Tethered Aerial Release Developed in... Skin. Human skins, by the thousands. So that's what droids have for dessert.

Downstairs in the sewer, a really unconvincing fight scene commences as Strax and the girls fight off more than 30 of the droids, while at street level the police officers gape in terrified horror at the balloon and call for reinforcements. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Half-Face sit in the escape pod, floating through the skies of London and commenting on the view. The Doctor suggests that all these spare parts have made Half-Face more human than droid, capable of evaluating the scenery. The droid tries a little harder, coming up with the typical response, "It is beautiful."

The Doctor begs to differ.  He doesn't care about the pretty scenery from far away; he cares about the people up close, in need of his help, whom he is determined to protect. And poor old Half-Face, constantly replacing his spare parts... is a broom.  He's changed his parts so many times, it's hard to tell if there's anything left of the original machine he was when he began.

For the second time this episode, the Doctor gives us a metaphor about another that is also referring to himself. The droid is a broom, each piece replaced over and over again, and he can't remember where he got his face from. Sound familiar? Self-destruction is against the droid's programming, but murder is against the Doctor's programming. And yet... one of them is going to have to break that programming, or every single companion in the sewers is going to die, because the badly outnumbered Paternoster gang aren't doing so hot, even though one of them is a Sontaran military commander with a blaster. Clara suddenly remembers, with truly uncanny timing, that the droids won't attack if living creatures aren't breathing.. and once again, everybody takes a Deep Breath. And once again, it's a stalling tactic to give the Doctor just a little more time to solve this problem.  The droids back off.

Clara, who is an old hand at this by now, uses the breathless respite to grab the sonic screwdriver and  Jenny and Vastra use this opportunity to show off a certain Silurian brand of CPR so that the fans screaming for a married lesbian kiss will shut up, already. Poor old Strax, in one of the noblest moments of his entire career with the Doctor, begins to lose the will to not breathe, so he points his blaster to his own head so his friends won't die... and unfortunately, that makes Vastra cry out, and then they all start breathing again, and their gooses are all pretty much cooked in the last great banquet of Mancini's Family Restaurant. Until the droids all suddenly drop over dead. Their control node, Half-Face is no longer operational.  Why?

Half-Face can't destroy himself, and the Doctor won't murder... one of them is lying, and they both know who it is. There's old Half-Face, who has plummeted from his balloon and become impaled on the cross of a church steeple, and there's the Doctor, with angry, fierce eyebrows, looking exceptionally sad and grim. And there's the companions, able to take as many deep breaths as they like, because the danger has passed for now.

One of them was lying.  They both knew who it was... but the audience does not.

Back on Paternoster Row, the companions search for the missing Doctor, and find the space where the Tardis used to be. He has gone. Clara is stuck here. She asks Vastra if she can join her little band of barely-respected-servants, but Vastra, possibly aware of the potential problems that might arise from recruiting a control freak, has a better idea. She thinks the Doctor will come back for Clara. And sure enough... there's the whirring sound - apparently either he still leaves his brakes on, or River was just wrong - and the Tardis materializes.

He's redecorated. She doesn't like it. This is becoming something of a full-cast, all-time catchphrase, although it also may be yet another metaphor for the Doctor's regeneration. He looks at her sternly, and tells her that he's lived for over 2000 years, and he's made mistakes.

One of them, apparently, was flirting by changing his face to please his young female companions. He's not her boyfriend. The age gap is just too great - and when you consider the amount of dismay that was voiced at the idea of shipping characters played by 56-year-old Capaldi and 28-year-old Coleman, you realize how unsettling the idea of a romance between the Doctor and his companion - any companion - has always been. The Doctor is roughly 1,944 years older than Capaldi. Now, we can just see a hint of the size of the problem in the lines on his face.

That being settled, he shows off his new outfit, sort of a Pertwee-esque affair, updated for a new century without the ruffles. Please don't tell me who he mugged to get that. So, will you preen for her anyway? Heh. Old habits, you know.

It appears that the same shop lady who gave Clara the Doctor's number is also the person who put the advertisement in the paper - so somebody really really really really really really really wants them to stay together. Well, you know, some shippers just really die hard.  Does Clara want to stay? During their conversation, he's returned the Tardis to her own time, so she can leave if she wants. Borrowing yet another line from the Tenth Doctor - his shadow has been all over this episode, even though he was never directly mentioned once - she replies "I'm sorry.  I'm so, so sorry."

The Impossible Girl, who has traveled actively now with four incarnations - including the Tenth Doctor and the old, crotchety War Doctor -  doesn't know who the Doctor is anymore. Maybe it's because he's taken up this new hobby of leaving her to face murderous droids by herself? No, apparently, it's because she still can't see past the veil of his immediate face. So who can convince her?

The script isn't about Clara anymore. It's about the audience, used to young-looking, sexy Doctors who have snogged every single regular television companion, male or female, since 1996. 

The phone rings. The Doctor suggests that she answer it, because it might be her boyfriend, or at least, somebody who tried to pretend to be her boyfriend. He knows exactly who it is.  It's himself.

He just looks and sounds a bit more like a man in his late twenties. The Eleventh Doctor, slowly dying and already reeling from the effects of his coming regeneration, is urging her to stay with the man who will follow him. "He needs you."

I can hear the subtext of the writer's message very loudly; Take that, distressed fangirls. If the script can't coax you into embracing Capaldi, perhaps it can shame you into it.  Possibly the audience deserves more coaxing and less emotional blackmail?  I thought Capaldi was doing a fine job of convincing the audience himself. The Doctor emerges from the Tardis, and at first Clara scolds him for easedropping, until he reminds her that he, himself, was the person with whom she just shared a tearful farewell. "You can't see me, can you?" It's a wrenching, heartfelt moment for a lonely Time Lord who repeatedly loses every person he's ever cared for.

Clara hugs him, and as he stands helplessly, sputtering that he's not the hugging type (anymore)... but Clara's the control freak, remember? She's not sure he gets a vote. But maybe they could get some coffee? Or chips?

The end.

Oh, wait, maybe not. You see, the Half-Faced man isn't quite done after all.  He awakes from his grisly death in a conservatory that very strongly resembles the garden for doomed patients that trapped Amy Pond in The Girl Who Waited. He is greeted by an unsettlingly over-cheerful siren named Missy, who seems to be under the impression that the Doctor is her boyfriend.  There's been a lot of that going around lately. She also chirps, with wild-eyed certainty, that he's finally found his Promised Land - Paradise. As she chomps her teeth in a manner that is reserved exclusively for villains and lunatics, we realize that we've found the long-lost identical twin sister of Madame Kavorian, Tasha Lem, and River-Song-While-She-Was-Still-Trying-To-Kill-The-Doctor.


Saturday, October 04, 2014

Five Life Hacks Every Massage Therapist Knows

Bol's Eye by Shaun Boland
I've often told my husband that, should we win the lotto, the first thing I'm going to do is hire my own personal massage therapist. Until then, I've made do by trading massages every other week with one of my coworkers. The therapist I trade with is so good at what she does, I've informed her that she's at the top of my hire list should that fiscally worry free day occur.

A lot of you massage virgins out there might think receiving a massage twice a month is an insane luxury, but for us massage therapists, it's much needed maintenance. Most body workers that leave the industry quit due to repetitive motion injury. I've been in the business for over four years, and I don't think I've ever met a massage therapist that didn't complain about some kind of upper body pain. If your occupation requires you to do any kind of repetitive action on a daily basis (any occupation dealing with computer work, hair stylist, dentist, bicycle messenger, anything requiring you to use your freaking limbs, etc.) massage is suggested at least once a month to keep your body from breaking down.

Not everyone is a massage therapist or knows one willing to make a trade, and few people can afford the expense of a monthly visit to their local spa. So I've done you all a favor by compiling a list of five things you can do for relaxation, muscle strain, and even a few hacks to aid sinus and migraines, while you save up for your next visit...(or wheedle a gift certificate out of your significant other).

1. Yoga, Pilates, or Any Light Exercise

It's the last thing you want to hear when your body is aching and you've had a long day at work, but light exercise is essential to body maintenance for reasons that go beyond burning fat. Muscles require proper blood flow and circulation to do what they need to do (Well, duh, you say. Yeah, I know). Yoga and Pilates are especially recommended because they also aid in flexibility. That's basically what massage does-increase blood circulation and flexibility. I've often suggested to clients that they do a light workout shortly before and after getting any kind of deep tissue work to help loosen and warm up the muscle fibers for this very reason.

2. Epsom Salt Bath

This is the second most common piece of advice a massage therapist will give you once you get out of a massage (The first being, "Drink plenty water!") Magnesium sulfate-commonly known as Epsom salt-has been known to aid in relaxation, reduce muscle aches and inflammation, flushes toxins, has been known to reduce symptoms of acute asthma when used as a bronchodilator, and can relieve migraine, cold, and sinus aches. It does everything but the dishes. It's contraindicated for pregnancy and those suffering from high blood pressure, so talk to your doctor first before trying. And as an added bonus, here's a nice little step by step guide for those of you trying to lose weight. Don't know if it works, but at the very least, you'll get a relaxing bath and soft skin:

How to Bathe in Epsom Salts to Lose Weight by eHow

3. Tennis Balls

Yes, you read that right. Balls. There, I said it. You can stop snickering now. This one is usually suggested for pregnant women with lower back pain, but anyone can use this on any part of their body (Again with the snickering! Cut it out!). This is especially good for those hard to reach places. Golf balls work for this as well.

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4. Aromatherapy Towel Rub

For sinus headaches and migraines: Place a few drops of essential oil on a cold wet towel. Use the towel to rub the back of your neck or set it on your forehead. Rubbing a few drops around the temple and forehead are good too. Eucalyptus and peppermint work best.

For muscle aches: Same as above, only the towel should be warm. Eucalyptus, peppermint, and arnica are only a few oils that work well for this.

For a list of essential oils and their uses, check out Sustainable Baby Steps. 

5. Chair Massage

You've probably seen the kiosks at the mall, or if you live in the New Orleans area, at Whole Foods. Chair massage is what I like to call massage with training wheels, because I usually suggest it to people who are leery about getting a table massage. It's a little less scary for first timers because, for one, you don't have to get naked, and two, it's usually done out in the open or at least within screaming distance of a group of people. I also suggest this to clients who are on a strict budget because it's considerably cheaper than a spa massage (somewhere around $1-$2 a minute) and most places will allow you to choose the stop time. If you want five minutes just to see what it's like, you can get five minutes. Just make sure the person you go to is licensed. I'm not sure what the laws are in other states, but in Louisiana, massage therapists must keep their licenses visible at all times.