Sorry I’m late with this comments section. I’m late with everything this week. I’m especially late with my marking. It is time to cry a bit now.
May 30, 2013
May 20, 2013
Would it at all inconvenience you if I borrowed your TARDIS for a bit? I don’t have to keep it; I know you need it to save the universe with, plus occasionally to visit Shakespeare and Winston Churchill. However, what interests me about it is that it’s bigger on the inside. My apartment, you see, is not.
Cleaning is tedious at the best of times, but when you have completely run out of shelf space, it becomes an exercise in frustration. You “tidy things up” by moving your possessions from one pile to another. You can’t put them away because there isn’t anywhere for them to go. When you sit down to start figuring out what to throw out or recycle, you cart bag after bag out of your apartment, then turn around to survey it, only to find that it looks exactly as messy and chaotic as it did before you got rid of all that stuff. Perhaps all you want to do is move your decrepit old couch, which has a hole twice the size of your head in it, out so you can get another one in, but you have been working at “cleaning up” for days, and it’s still impossible to extract the couch from the teetering piles that surround it. You have also breathed in about a pound of dust.
If I could just have the use of your TARDIS for a few days, I could shove a bunch of crap into it, get the damn couch out, then retrieve the crap before it inconvenienced you much. I know using the TARDIS as a glorified storage locker is probably kind of demeaning for a machine that is basically alive and has been designed to plumb the depths of time and space, but I’m desperate here.
If you could get back to me yesterday, which I know you’re perfectly capable of doing, that would be appreciated.
May 13, 2013
This week, there are handcuffs. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Only time will tell.
Oh, Community, Community, Community. What has happened to you this season?
Admittedly, I’ve been a bit determined to see Season 4 of Community as in a negative light. I don’t entirely trust my own reaction because I know I’m inclined not to look on the bright side. However, I’m pretty sure that last week’s episode, “Advanced Introduction to Finality,” was genuinely bad. It didn’t just rub me, personally, the wrong way; it broke some of the fundamental rules of good storytelling. Today’s Rant will be spent complaining about this. I need to get it out of my system somehow.
There will, of course, be spoilers. Read on at your own risk.
One thing I’ve noticed about all the 2013 episodes is that they appear to be going through the motions. It’s as if the writers like Community but don’t really understand what makes it tick. They’ve retained all the parts, but those parts aren’t fitting together to make a coherent whole. The writers know parody has become an integral part of Community; therefore, almost every episode has been a parody. They know fans like Abed and his “meta,” so Abed has been transformed into a socially dysfunctional manufacturer of meta who cannot cope in society at large for more than a few minutes at a time. The characters act like their old selves, but here’s the kicker: their old selves have evolved over the seasons. Season 4 has had Season 1 Britta confronting Season 2 Jeff in one episode and Season 3 Shirley and Pierce going up against Season 2 Abed and Season 1 Annie in another. Annie has apparently fallen back in love with Jeff for no discernible reason. Chang has become entirely pointless and has gone through a sudden and seemingly artificial arc that makes no narrative sense. Pierce does nothing but make racist comments and draw attention to the fact that he’s losing his memory (ha ha haaaaaaaa…isn’t dementia hilarious? I. Don’t. Think). Every episode ends with the group learning a lesson that draws them closer together and Jeff making a heartwarming speech about it.
But next to last Thursday’s episode, all this stuff seems positively Shakespearean. We start out with Jeff on the verge of early graduation but having second thoughts about returning to his old firm. Yeah, okay, but the Jeff we’re given here is nothing like the Jeff we’ve been seeing lately. He’s far too nice to everyone. He doesn’t use irony. He asks for a graduation party. As far as I can tell, he’s acting as he does simply to further the plot. His attempt to replicate the die throw in “Remedial Chaos Theory” is weakly explained.
Then everything goes mad. The end of the previous episode hinted at the pending return of the Darkest Timeline, but here’s the thing: in Season 3, the Darkest Timeline is handled in such a way that it doesn’t break the fictional world. It may or may not actually exist. For instance, in “Remedial Chaos Theory,” Abed catches the die in the “real” timeline…but it is never confirmed that the other timelines do or do not absolutely ever happen. The hints that they do may be a product of Abed’s imagination. Evil Abed is seen only once (in the tag of “Remedial Chaos Theory”) exclusive of Abed himself. Point of view is maintained, and the rules of the show’s world are not violated. They’re prodded, but they remain intact.
“Advanced Introduction to Finality” seems, at first, to violate the rules of the world. Various Darkest Timeline characters, primarily Evil Jeff and Evil Annie, begin turning up and messing with the prime timeline. They thus confirm the reality of the Darkest Timeline (yes, I know this will change, but bear with me for a moment), which was always ambiguous before, and smash point of view to smithereens. Jeff Prime has no idea that Evil Jeff has arrived. The Evil Study Group has scenes at which no one else is present. Someone viewing the episode for the first time has two choices at this point: 1) to believe that the rules of the show have suddenly and inexplicably changed or 2) to anticipate an “it was all a dream” ending. Both choices are narratively problematic. In “Remedial Chaos Theory,” the ending works because everything remains ambiguous. In “Finality,” however, there can be no ambiguity; the writers are going to have to make a choice. The point-of-view issue complicates matters. If the entire episode were from Jeff’s perspective, an “it was all a dream” ending would be weak but comprehensible. In “Finality” as we have it, whose dream would it be? It would need to involve someone in the study group imagining scenes in which he or she was not present and somehow being okay with that.
The episode goes with the “it was all a dream” ending. Specifically, it uses Abed as a sort of spirit guide who explains to Jeff that he’s making this entire plotline up. We soon learn that Jeff is imagining it all in the moments before he throws the die. If Jeff is fully conscious, why is he confused as to the reality of what is happening? Is it all meant as a metaphoric representation of what is going on in his head? We’ve seen Jeff daydream before, but we haven’t seen him invent a complex story inside his own head in the space of about two seconds while everyone is staring at him expectantly. This kind of ending is already very weak storytelling, but here, it makes no sense at all. It allows Jeff a chance for another heartwarming speech, though. Yippee.
I have a hard time understanding how experienced writers could choose to go this route. There are twelve-year-old children who know the “it was all a dream” plot is cliched. Worse, it takes away all character growth gained during a storyline…except, arguably, for the person having the dream. This episode could easily have been about five minutes long.
Community is a shell of its former self. Sure, it’s “only a TV show,” but it used to be a rather intelligent one. I guess I’ll go back to watching paint dry for a bit. I do find that fascinating.
May 6, 2013
The fun bit about having over 200 students and no marking support is that at the end of the term, all the assignments come due at the same time. Have you ever tried to mark 200 term papers, 30 presentation essays, and 200 exams in a two-week period? It’s hard. There is crying. And towards the end, you come to the inevitable but worrying realisation that if you go to sleep for even a few minutes at any point in the next forty hours, you’re not going to finish on time.
Everyone has a different strategy for coping with the dreaded all-nighter. As I don’t drink coffee, mine involves Pepsi and jelly beans, neither of which are good for me but both of which give me just enough of a rush that I can stay away for a few minutes more. Staying awake all day and all night and all day again by drinking gallons of Pepsi was a bad strategy, but it was all I’d got. I also posted updates on Twitter every time I finished ten more exams. I’m not sure this accomplished anything besides annoying all my Twitter followers.
I finished marking with an hour and a half left before the grade-submission deadline. You would think this would have been a good thing, but not really; I still had to create a grading spreadsheet, enter 200 participation marks, and submit 200 grades to four separate pages. This ended up taking me an hour and twenty-nine minutes. I got the grades in with one minute to spare. By that point, I was seeing little creatures move around on the other side of the room, and when I stood up, I bumped into walls I hadn’t realised were there.
When you’re really tired and saturated with Pepsi, you’re also really hyper. Despite my condition, I stayed up until 10:00 p.m. My entire brain hurt.
There’s no real moral here beyond “Marking systematically destroys one’s sanity,” but, you see, I’m still tired. I would like to experience the sensation of having a T.A. eventually. That would be nice.