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#diydumbass

I'd like to say that visiting IKEA three times in a week is excessive, EVEN FOR ME.

Listen, I thought I nailed it the first time -- I had the bed, I had the mid beam, I even had the friggin slats. I mean, did I check out with the slats? No. Did I leave the slats on the cart? Yes. Did I have to go back the next day for new ones? Also yes.

So fast forward a week, and back we go to IKEA to pick up some storage for the laundry room. This is no "hop in the car for 10 minutes and you're at IKEA" kinda drive, by the way. This is a trek from Vancouver to Richmond, so trust me when I say that sitting in a car for an hour is a PAIN IN THE ASS. Literally. My ass hurt.

But look how worth it it was, y'all...

IKEA sells these cardboard boxes in white, pink, mint, and black. Through the magic of washi tape (quite possibly my favourite invention, behind cell phone cases that charge your phone, and also leggings), I turned these plain janes into some real dazzlers. Yes, I said dazzlers. Yes, I regret it.

I AM A DIY GODDESS.

that vancouver sunlight though, am i right

that vancouver sunlight though, am i right

Or, you know, just a regular chick who likes decorative tape. Either one.

#lexamatters

I have been trying to figure out how to articulate my feelings about The 100’s “Thirteen” for a solid week now. I, as I know many others have, struggled with knowing where to start. Do I talk about the death of Lexa and what it means for the show? Do I talk about the impact her death has had on the already vulnerable LGBTQ+ community? Or do I address the elephant in the room--namely, the use of the community to influence The 100’s place in queer pop culture?

In the end, I chose to try and relate my commentary on this hugely packed subject to my first experience with an on-screen romantic female relationship--that of Root and Shaw from CBS’ Person of Interest.

Root and Shaw’s relationship came from the very natural chemistry that sparked up between Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker. Both the writers and actors chose to see where that chemistry went, and that line of thought led to a real, honest-to-goodness relationship between the two characters. Everyone’s respect of this relationship, from creators to writers to actors, allowed support and encouragement of Root and Shaw to blossom from fans in an entirely safe manner--they weren’t being played, and it wasn’t all subtext, which is often the saddening case with many female relationships on television. Root and Shaw had something between them, and the creative team behind it decided to explore it without any type of fanfare or attention seeking on social media. Root and Shaw became Root/Shaw, and it was the fans who championed the progressiveness of their relationship. The writers, actors, and studio stayed humble about it, only pushing to do bigger and better things, and to make the best show possible without disrespecting their audience.

This too, was how Clarke and Lexa began. The writers established that Clarke was unapologetically bisexual right off the tails of Clarke and Lexa’s first kiss. Now there, too, was another romantic relationship between two women for the audience to follow and revel in. In fact, Clarke and Lexa’s kiss came a little over a month after Root and Shaw’s--I had never felt so spoiled in my life.

But there is where the two relationships began to diverge--where POI’s creative team kept their heads down and supported their fans with nothing but respect, The 100’s began pushing “Clexa” as the new mascots for representation on television. And really, why not? Why not celebrate two badass women falling for each other in the middle of a war? Why not make a big deal about something that was, in all honesty, a big fucking deal?

Well, here’s why not: the audience came, they saw, and then they were once again conquered by the dead lesbian trope.

The 100 spent its lengthy hiatus using fans as its number one publicity source. One of its biggest draws for new viewers became Clarke and Lexa. I watched people who adored Root and Shaw find Clarke and Lexa, and vice versa--everyone jumped on both trains and buckled in for two wild rides. Social media became a delightful storm of think pieces, articles, and listicles about the progressiveness of The 100 and its female characters. In fact, many seemed content to turn a blind eye to its diversity issue (on average, the POC characters are tortured, beaten, and killed more than anyone else on the show) in the face of some kind of representation. This, I think, is a great example of how badly television needs any kind of representation--the audience should not have to pick between racial diversity and LGBTQ+ stories. It shouldn’t be an either/or situation. But it happened, anyway.

The hype seemed to work. The 100 began drawing the eye of major entertainment outlets, such as Entertainment Weekly and Buzzfeed, primarily on the issue of its sci-fi nature and its queer characters. The hype built and built all the way to the premier of the third season in January. And it continued to build as Clarke and Lexa worked on repairing their relationship from Lexa’s betrayal of Clarke in season 2--things almost reached a fever pitch as the reconciliation between the two became less and less hostile, and more and more intimate.

And then it was gone.

So, here’s where POI and The 100 come back together: cast issues. Sarah Shahi became pregnant with twins, and Alycia Debnam-Carey was hired as a lead on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead. Suddenly, both fictional relationships were about to lose their real-life actors.

But here’s where they differ: POI looked in the face of an exhausted trope, and said “not today”.

The 100 did not.

Shaw supposedly went out in a blaze of glory after saving the life of her friends. She kissed Root and was then almost immediately shot.

Lexa went out in the middle of a firefight she was not involved in. She had sex with Clarke, and was then almost immediately shot.

On the surface, those stories are the same. But POI took it so much further--Shaw didn’t die. She was saved. POI chose to use the absence of Shahi to explore Root’s feelings for Shaw and what the loss of one of their own would do to their team. But it did not do this at the expense of Shaw. Shaw lived. That's not to say that she didn't suffer, or that it wasn't hard to watch--brainwashing is another tired trope, but POI often takes these tropes and flips them, or sells them in new, revolutionary ways. POI isn't perfect. But it's trying. And that's important. 

But back to Shaw: in making that creative choice, it gave Shahi the option to eventually come back to the show for most of the yet-to-be-aired (come on CBS, I’m dying here) Season 5. Her story was and is not over.

Lexa’s is.

There is no hope for the continuation of Clarke and Lexa’s relationship. Sure, Lexa is in the City of Light, but she can’t leave it. Her physical body is gone. This isn’t Doctor Who. Where River Song died and had her mind uploaded to The Library the first time the audience met her, and then had her story told backwards over the next five seasons (thank you, time travel), Lexa died and is now stuck. She isn’t a time traveller. Sure, her spirit lives in the City of Light, but there’s no body for Lexa to go back to. There’s no relationship with Clarke for her to resume in any kind of lasting way.

Maybe Lexa’s death wouldn’t be a problem if The 100 hadn’t built its growing audience and social media representation on the back of Clarke and Lexa’s relationship. Maybe it wouldn’t be a problem if she’d died some other way--perhaps in battle, or in the quest for peace, which would have been far more fitting for a character as strong and powerful as Lexa. (Remember Shaw? She didn’t just “die” for Root--she took on an army to save the people she loved and to stop a morally reprehensible organization from using an AI to control the world.) Maybe it wouldn't be a problem if the writers hadn't promoted hope for Clarke and Lexa fans while knowing that Lexa was dead. Maybe it wouldn’t be a problem if she hadn’t died minutes after finally consummating her relationship with Clarke. But all of those things did happen. And so it is a problem.

I guess my point is this: there’s a right way to do romantic relationships between women on TV, and there’s a wrong way. The wrong way has long been the preferred way--there are entire lists out there naming every dead LGBTQ+ female character. There’s so many that you can’t even count them on one hand, let alone two--it’s something that just keeps happening and is somehow considered revolutionary storytelling. It’s “shocking”.

You know what is revolutionary, given the odds gay women are given on TV? Not killing them.

This isn’t to say that characters shouldn’t die--everyone does, whether we want to or not. And there is certainly narrative weight in exploring death and its impact on humanity. But it’s cheapened when it’s done so many times, and in the exact same way. To the same people. Over and over. If Lexa had to die (and in the world of The 100, that wasn’t exactly an unexpected outcome), it should have been a good death. A noble death. One fitting of her character. And it certainly shouldn’t have happened immediately after she found happiness with Clarke.

What kind of message does the death of Lexa send to the viewer? Narratively, it sends the message that no one is safe--that sometimes people die in meaningless ways. That makes sense. But its real-world consequences are far more important than the mileage gained out of shock. If LGBTQ+ people are only shown the fictional representations of themselves as people who can never be happy, and die meaninglessly, then what are they meant to think?

What am I meant to think?

I’m newly out. My journey to accepting my bisexuality has been a long one, full of denial and doubt. But characters like Clarke, Lexa, Root, Shaw, and yes, even River Song, have helped me accept myself and embrace the truth of my life in ways I would have struggled to on my own. So here I sit, coming out to the internet at large, and the only thing I can think is this: if I am this exhausted from this one experience, what do people who have been out and watching themselves die in popular culture for longer than myself do when this happens? How tired are they?

And what does it say that I had to base this entire post around my only other experience with an on-screen female relationship, because there are so few out there right now that don't end in tragedy? What does it say that I could only contextualize the death of Clarke/Lexa by pitting it against one of the only other queer relationships in currently airing science fiction?

I’ll tell you what it says: it says that this has to stop.

Writers cannot consider themselves above anything. Telling an authentic story means keeping yourself humble and not assuming your audience is comprised of idiots. If you know a trope exists, if you know you’re going to perpetuate it, and if you know that the character you’re about to kill has an actress that actually expressed her willingness to return to her character--despite being heavily loaded down with another show--then here’s your option (and there is only one): don’t do it. 

If your character has to die, make it worth something. Don’t build your show up as a beacon of progress and then assume that your clever writing will absolve you of any consequences when you take that progress away. And for the love of god, take responsibility if you screw up this badly.

I have hope for The 100. If the response from episode writer (and new Xena reboot show runner) Javier Grillo-Marxuach, as well as staffers like Layne Morgan are any indication, they all know that a mistake was made. It's validating to see those who made a mistake looking to not only apologize, but to do better. To be better. It is too late for Lexa and many of the community, but perhaps, maybe someday, change will come.

Reshop, Heda. Clarke, Root, and Shaw’s fights are not over. And if and when they are, here’s hoping they die well.

In the immortal words of Sameen Shaw:

“If you wanna die, okay. But die for something that you love.”


If you'd like to contribute to enacting real change, please consider donating to the Leskru's Trevor Project page!

#oneweekwith: the apple watch


I spent a great deal of time hemming and hawing over the Apple Watch. Did I need it? What was the point of it? Why couldn't Canadians use Apple Pay yet? Why didn't the aluminum come in different colours (okay, that last one was more about aesthetic)? However, after a few months of development (and the release of a sport version with gold aluminum), I finally came into possession of an Apple Watch.

Just in time for Disney World! I could use Apple Pay! I could get notifications! I could send texts!

Okay, firstly, past Brittany, I hate to break it to you: but getting hyped for Apple Pay was a little naive. Despite me being in the US, Apple Pay was still not available to me (and, as of writing, is still not available in Canada, either-GET IT TOGETHER, CANADA). And since I was travelling, the only time my Watch wanted to work was when I was connected to Disney's patchy in-park Wi-fi. So, the notifications thing (as demonstrated above) worked a bit of the time, and that was pretty cool. That particular app didn't offer replying from within the watch, but I took a shot at sending both tweets and texts using the Watch's built-in replies, as well as its speakerphone.

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Sending Messages
I took the first opportunity I could to try and text my mom on my Watch from the midst of the Magic Kingdom. That was my first, second, and third mistake. Naturally, due to the huge amount of noise around me, the speak-to-text option worked roughly 50% of the time--it would often lag, or not load at all., and when it did, it got overwhelmed with the amount of input going into the speaker in addition to my voice. So, speak-to-text was reserved for quieter areas.

Checking Twitter
This proved to be way easier. I could scroll down my twitter feed using my finger, or the dial alongside the watch face. I could favourite, retweet, and reply to my friends pretty easily (as long as it was quiet, and I could use speak-to-text). However, the app was often slow to load, and I couldn't compose new tweets on the Watch. I could view images, which was a definite bonus.

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Tracking Health
I have recently become low-key obsessed (don't judge me) with step-counting. This is probably because I do not take enough of them in a day. I was immediately fascinated with how the watch tracked my daily steps and distance walked--my first day with it, I walked 17,000 steps (and I survived). This turned out to be my favourite part of the Watch, actually. I loved knowing how much exercise I was getting. Of course, now that I'm back home at an office job, I am less psyched to see that my total steps for a day barely break 1000. It's good motivation to start exercising more, I guess?

The Rest
Calendar is helpful, as is Weather (when it loads). I've found Stocks to be my favourite thing to check, as it's just so easy to access in a swipe or two. I've experimented with the Music app, and the Camera one looks promising--though when I'll use it, I'm not sure. Selfie taking? PROBABLY. The rest, I have yet to play with.

The bottom line here is that the Watch is...useful. It's nice to have. But it's missing that extra something that would make it a must-have and something that would I would hate to leave the house without: Apple Pay. Without it, I just have an iPod Nano strapped to my wrist. And that's just silly.

#csifinale

Well, the bad news is that CSI is over.

The good news is also that CSI is over.

After a fifteen season run, CBS' most iconic crime-solving show went off the air last night with a two-hour event film titled "Immortality". During its time on the airwaves, CSI single-handedly changed not only the TV procedural landscape, but real-life law enforcement itself. "The CSI Effect" became a very real thing (and problem) within the justice system. CSI-type courses were integrated into universities. For better or for worse, CSI has unequivocally changed not only the approach to law, but to real-world science.

So, naturally, the send-off to one of the most influential shows of the last two decades was not centred around the science and innovation that spun off three more shows, but on petty relationship drama.

TV is always about character. One of the first rules taught in film and television writing classes is character first, story second. CSI threw that rule out of the book from day 1, choosing to focus on the flashy science and gruesome visuals that became icons of its entire run, and thus placing its characters' development and progress second. This started a worrying trend in television where characters were often used as props for a story, and the development given to them could be erased to aid any casual viewer in understanding the world they'd randomly tuned into. Luckily, with today's TV the way it is, serialized drama is more prevalent and popular (perhaps not to a network, but it really is the age of the consumer), and thus frustrating storytelling like CSI's is harder to find. More demand is placed on writers to grow and develop their characters both in a serialized program, and a procedural one (Castle is a great example of this). However, CSI never strayed from its formula, and those small moments were still too sparse to ever be emotionally satisfying to the viewer. 

As the show progressed, some relationships between the characters were forgotten (Catherine and Grissom, once described as best friends, had so few interactions in William Petersen's final season on the show that Petersen and Helgenberger, who plays Catherine, commented on the inconsistency to TV Guide), while others took the forefront (Grissom and Sara). The team dynamics often ebbed and flowed depending on which cast members were in any given season, and continuity between them was often forgotten amongst the rote of the crime of the week formula CSI perfected and then exhausted.

The finale, however, threw much of that out the window. It chose instead to focus on the frankly tumultuous relationship between Grissom and Sara (now divorced) and used the backdrop of a casino bombing to carry that story through the finale's frankly empty two hours. The idea of finally focusing on characters certainly would have been a welcome one--if it hadn't focused on the most tired and done story in CSI's entire run; once again revisiting Grissom and Sara's bland relationship felt like beating a dead horse (or a dead pig, as Grissom once iconically did). Every other character fell to the wayside as the show took one final shot at exploring one of the most boring dynamics in its history.

The episode opened with the aforementioned bombing, which drew casino owner (and FBI agent) Catherine back to Vegas after Helgenberger exited the show in season 12. Along with Catherine came Brass, beloved LVPD cop played by Paul Guilfoyle, who himself exited the show in season 14. And, of course, with the implication that fan-favourite Lady Heather may be connected to the bombing, along came Grissom, unseen since Petersen's exit in season 8.

The next two hours were filled with a frankly uninspiring whodunnit and an indulgence into Sara Sidle's psyche, including a truly torturous interrogation scene with Lady Heather, where Sara's petty jealousy towards Heather's former relationship with Grissom was more befitting a tantrum-throwing toddler than a grown professional. The show took pains to have other characters remind Sara of her feelings for Grissom, rather than showing Sara herself exploring those feelings--or, perhaps more importantly, Grissom exploring his own towards her; one bizarrely long scene involved Grissom staring strangely at Sara while they sat waiting for a hive of bees to return with the evidence they needed. 

The bees, red herrings, and bombings all culminated in a bizarre speech from Grissom to one of Lady Heather's former (and jilted) BDSM clients about a mythical whale whose love song resonated at a frequency unable to be heard by female whales. (Are there gay whales? Couldn't that poor whale find love with a fellow dude whale? Was that whole speech a strange metaphor for men who can't take no for an answer? The answer to the last one is yes.) Grissom successfully talked down the bomber, whose jealousy towards Grissom and Heather's relationship that impressively mirrored Sara's own (thankfully, hers did not come with a bomb vest). The day was also saved by Catherine, Greg, and Morgan, who all managed to disarm a series of car bombs that would have levelled a building. Another shout-out must be given to DB, who spent almost all of the second half of the movie staring at a computer screen and waiting for it to reveal the fingerprint of their culprit, and who did not complain once about Grissom sweeping in to take over his job with no explanation at all.

A series of confusing wrap-up scenes followed the conclusion of the mundane case: Catherine declared her intent to DB to apply for his position (Ted Danson is set to head to CSI: Cyber), which was then given to Sara. No goodbyes from Grissom were given to any of his old team--or, in fact, to the audience, leaving characters like Doc Robbins, Brass, David, Greg, Morgan, and Hodges in some strange eternal limbo where their stories and relationships were not addressed or acknowledged at all, but who all presumably went on with their lives. No one was given a proper closure, or even a send off. Which, really, is entirely in line with the way CSI treated its characters for fifteen seasons. Still, one would hope that the ending to the entire show would attempt to wrap up characters the audience grew attached to over fifteen years.

Instead, viewers were treated to a goodbye from Grissom to Sara, and then given whiplash three minutes later when Sara appeared at Grissom's boat to run away with him on his ocean vigilante adventures. Indeed, the only characters to get any sort of ending were those two as they quite literally sailed off into the sunset. 

Here's hoping Sara handed that position over to Catherine (apparently there was no room in those two hours to take five seconds to give Catherine some closure, either), and that she's running the LVPD crime lab with her Level 1 CSI daughter by her side. 

See you never, CSI. After fifteen seasons, viewers can finally rest easy: it's really, really over.

lootcrate

Let's just get this out of the way: if the Canadian flag is your most-used flag emoji, Lootcrate is probably not for you.

I subscribed to Lootcrate six months ago, after hearing about a box that would feature Marvel's Agents of SHIELD. The first box I received (March's "Covert") dazzled me: a James Bond t-shirt, an Orphan Black comic book, and, of course, a coveted SHIELD lanyard that was previously seen at the AoS panel during Comic Con 2014. All in all, not too bad. Sure, there was a bizarre bungee string that was apparently meant to be the strongest string out there, a book of Mad Libs (who doesn't like Mad Libs? I mean, I don't, but I bet other people do) and an even more bizarre plastic 'only tells you the time when you touch it' digital watch, but hey--at least there was some Marvel stuff, right?

Wrong. Those few bits of strange junk mixed in with a gem or two turned out to be the norm. What also turned to be the norm: delayed packages, or missing ones all together. And disappointment. Boy, was there disappointment.

See, Lootcrate seems like a great deal. $20 a month nets you exclusively licensed merchandise from your favourite companies and franchises. Marvel! DC! Funko (man, did I want something from Funko, but spoiler alert: that was not to be)! $20 a month might be acceptable for the States dwellers, but the rest of us outside the US have to pay extra to have our boxes sent to us. So, my running total for Lootcrate each month was $30. That's, like, so many Costco hot dogs I could have eaten. A hot dog a day, with change to spare. (Please don't eat a Costco hot dog a day, you may puke. Or die. Don't do it. Enjoy Costco hot dogs in moderation.)

April's box ("Fantasy") came with a Harry Potter luggage tag (very cool), some Game of Thrones magnets and a pin, and...a blow-up crown. I paid $30 to be sent a blow-up crown. While it certainly had its novelty, there was something so disappointing about that sad, squished crown that made me feel like an asshole for even owning it. Sweet luggage tag, though. That would have been $10 well spent at Walmart.

May's box ("Unite") came with an Avengers ice tray and a Power Rangers t-shirt, as well as a small puzzle. Quite the bang for my buck at $30 a box. Especially since (and this is in no way Lootcrate's fault) I already owned that ice tray. But, let's be real. That's on me.

June's box ("Cyber") was more substantial, with a figure from Terminator, a pouch...thing, and some various posters. But, again. $30. Shout out to that Cylon poster, though. That thing was sweet. I should hang that up.

July's box ("Heroes 2") included nothing, because it was never sent to me. I contacted Lootcrate and was assured I would receive it. I never did.

August's box ("Villains 2") actually included something useful and cool, for once--a mug featuring Venom, and a Hydra pin. However, that was it for me: after months of junk, one piece of merchandise was not enough to keep me paying $30/month. And I don't think I'm gonna wanna wear a pin that represents a fictional Nazi organization around town. (Hey Brittany, isn't that reaching a little? Nah.)

I unsubscribed just in time to miss out on September's theme ("Summon"). Somehow, I don't think I'll feel too left out.