Examining “Trash”

Might I just say: I really really really really really love this episode. It pretty much doesn’t make any sense if you haven’t seen “Our Mrs. Reynolds”, but if you have, then it is BRILLIANT. It is really good. I’m not exaggerating. Much.

So, with that preface, I should say that in this episode we meet Saffron again. Only this time, she’s introduced as Bridget. Huh? Yeah, you heard me right: Bridget. And she’s married to one of Mal’s old war buddies. Awkward much? So yes, it turns out that Saffron/Bridget has married multiple men. Hmm…

So, as you could probably guess from my previous paragraph, deception and double-crossing is a major theme of this episode. The most obvious example, and the one that will almost definitely take up the whole of this post, is Bridget/Saffron’s deception of Mal and all the other men she’s married. The adventure the crew of Serenity undertakes in this episode is a scheme of Saffron’s to steal a very valuable gun from a former husband of hers. Somehow she obtained all the plans, blueprints, and security codes for the house, and found out the victim’s (horrible word, sorry) schedule for the next 18 months. No one bothers to ask how, but it turns out that she had some sort of relat

Examining “Safe” and “Our Mrs. Reynolds”

I shall begin with the Firefly episode “Safe” for two reasons: 1) it’s been a while since I saw it, and therefore I’m not entirely sure what to talk about, and 2) I greatly prefer the episode “Our Mrs. Reynolds”, so I want to be done with “Safe” quickly. XD Although they’re both pretty amazing episodes. Obviously, as with all Firefly episodes, I highly recommend them.

In the episode “Safe”, the Serenity and, obviously, crew, land(s) on a backwoods Old West/medieval style planet. I say Old West because it has a very frontier-town feel to it, and also because the whole series is a “space-western,” so of course they try to add as many Wild West aspects as possible to it. I say medieval because River finds a festival and proceeds to join in their maypole/Celtic dancing. She learns the steps eerily quickly, and then throws herself into the dancing with all the abandon of a small child. She and Simon are then kidnapped by the villagers who need a doctor, and he does in fact help some of then, but then River uses her “powers”, and the villagers proceed to label her a witch and attempt to burn her at the stake. I won’t tell you what happens next, but considering the fact that they are in every episode for the rest of the series, it’s rather obvious that they survive.

The second episode, “Our Mrs. Reynolds,” is, in my opinion, one of the more brilliant of the episodes in the series. In it, Mal accidentally gets married to a local girl on the planet they were visiting, and then tries to get her off the ship, but they are already too far gone. The girl, Saffron, is very naive and scared, and has many antiquated ideas about what a wife should do for her husband. The crew takes pity on her, and they decide to take her to a planet where she can get a career for herself. It turns out, though, that Saffron is actually trained as a companion like Inara, and she sabotages the ship, sends it hurtling towards some underhanded ship dealers, incapacitates Wash, Mal, and, indirectly, Inara, and flies off into the nonexistent sunset (no sunsets in space, remember? But if she’d been on a planet, there almost definitely would’ve been a sunset). Luckily, though, everyone comes to and realizes what has happened in time to rescue the Serenity from an ignominious defeat in a scrap heap and they fly off to confront Saffron.

So hopefully this summary has piqued your interest enough that you will now go off and watch these episodes, and delight in the comedy, sniff at the tragedy, and gasp at the partially scary parts (though none are half as scary as “War Stories”). And please do comment: I’d love to improve my writing. See you around soon! Watch more Firefly!!

Examining “The Message”

Ah, another Firefly examination! Yes, I love TV!! But I must say one word of warning before you rush off to enjoy the brilliance of Joss Whedon in “The Message”: IT’S SO DEPRESSING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *sobs* And so, on that cheerful note, we begin.

The primary question my beautiful teacher asked us relating to “The Message” is: What new elements of character are revealed throughout this episode? Now, I’m pretty terrible with plot summaries, and I wasn’t really going to include a full episodal summary (I don’t care if that wasn’t a word before: it sounds cool and it is now *evil grin*), so I would highly recommend watching this episode before reading further. Of course, I highly recommend watching it anyways, but still.

This episode is really the first episode where we learn anything about Jayne’s past, and also about his emotions. When the crew goes to the post office (and I’m being a bit generous with that term here) to see if there’s any mail for them, Jayne receives a box from his mother. It’s always amusing to find out that tough guys have a mother, isn’t it? 😀 We find out that Jayne is rather uneducated, in that he is a very hesitant reader, but he cares about his siblings when he reads that one of them is sick. He also is very pleased with the garish orange knitted hat his mother enclosed in the box, and he proceeds to wear it throughout the rest of the episode.

The adventure the crew of Serenity has in this episode is because of a crate they receive at the post office that contains the body of a young man that Mal and Zoe fought with in the war, and they run into trouble with the Alliance while trying to transport him home. Because they see this young man, we get to have a flashback moment into the battle where the man Tracy, Mal, and Zoe fought together. We realize that Mal used to be incredibly more impulsive than he is in the rest of the series, and it provides a great comic aspect to the depressing rest of the episode. I had always found Mal to be reckless and impulsive before, but seeing that flashback made me realize how much calmer he is compared to how he was in the war. We also see that Zoe was very calm and methodical in the way she did things in the war, and never showed any sort of emotion besides anger, and even that was slight. I suppose her marriage to Wash and also the fact that she was no longer in the war made her realize that she could lighten up, laugh a little, and generally enjoy herself more.

As you have probably noticed, I could go on for quite a while longer, but I shall spare you the burden (burden isn’t quite the word I was looking for, but as my mental dictionary/thesaurus is not functioning at the moment, it’ll have to do) of reading more of my attempts at critical analysis of the show Firefly in general and the episode “The Message” in particular. Ah well. I shall be back shortly with more analyses of more episodes. Go watch more Firefly. I promise this will make more sense then. Well, I hope anyways… 😀

Examining “Shindig”

Ah, isn’t it wonderful when you get to watch a TV show in class? Yes, this is what we did in our last Honors English class. Our teacher is truly brilliant. She knows exactly how to make us happy. 😀

But of course, it wouldn’t be a class if all we did was watch TV, so Dr. Woodworth commanded, ordered, requested (with no way of backing out), assigned, whatever, us to analyze certain things about the episode that we watched. We had a list of topics, and our battle plan was to choose certain or one of these topics to analyze in our blog post relating to the episode we watched. And so I begin: saying in introduction that the episode we watched was episode 4, or “Shindig”, from the show Firefly, in case anyone is curious to know of which I speak.

The topic that I decided to analyze relating to “Shindig” specifically and Firefly generally is the idea of the Western aspect of the show. Obviously a great part of the Western feel is the “frontier” of the newly terraformed planets on the outskirts of the galaxies and the Wild West feel of frontier-town-esque colonies. In these frontier colonies we also get bars and taverns that echo the stereotypical taverns and barns of the Old West. With the bars also come bar fights, and the intervention of the town sheriff, which usually results in one or both of the participants being thrown out of the tavern and also out of town. In “Shindig” in particular, there is also a battle over defending a lady’s honor, which seems to be something that would have been brought up often in the Wild West. In “Shindig” we also have the classic fistfight in a bar, and a very interesting touch of a sword duel. The final harkening to the Old West comes at the end of “Shindig” when we get a glimpse of the cargo that the crew fought hard to get, and the cargo turn out to be a bunch of cattle. The cattle also provide a very humorous and enjoyable end to the episode, and, as it happens, hopefully to this blog post.

Well, an almost end. I did want to say more on other topics that had to do with the Firefly episode “Shindig”, but we shall be watching more episodes in my amazingly fun Honors English class, and so, ye shall hear more of my ramblings on topics discussed and the wonderful TV show Firefly. Until then, my dear literarily inclined fellows!!

(And yes, I know that isn’t a word. 😛 It is now! ^_^)

Henrietta’s Firefly

Henrietta Lacks was born and raised and lived her whole life between Baltimore, Maryland, and Clover, Virginia. She and her family were all poor black tobacco farmers or miners. She married her cousin, and they had 5 children together.

River Tam was born on a planet controlled by the Alliance, which took over when Earth got too crowded, and terraformed new planets to support the ever-growing population. She went to an Alliance school before her brother rescued her, after which they lived on a ship which took on semi-legal jobs around the fringes of the galaxy.

When we meet River Tam in the TV show “Firefly,” she is 17 years old. When we meet Henrietta Lacks in the book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” she is dead. Sort of.

River Tam was a fictional character.

Henrietta Lacks was real.

When you compare River Tam and Henrietta Lacks on the surface, they appear not to have anything in common. But when you dig a little deeper, there are many similarities.

Henrietta and River were both taken advantage of by doctors: Henrietta, because she was poor, black, and uneducated; River because she was young, privileged, and brilliant.

While Henrietta was under anesthesia for surgery to treat her cervical cancer, the surgeon took a sample of the cancer for his lab without Henrietta’s consent. When River went to the Alliance school for gifted children, doctors performed extremely damaging surgery on her brain without her consent.

Henrietta’s cancer cells turned out to be the first immortal cell line ever grown in a lab, and since the 1950s they have been used all over the world in testing vaccines for and doing research on diseases such as polio and HIV/AIDS. We never really find out what the operations on River’s brain did for the Alliance doctors, but the result of those operations proves very important in saving the lives of the crew of Serenity, the ship River and her brother are on.

At first, the families of Henrietta and River had no idea what had happened to them. It took Simon, River’s brother, several months on board Serenity before he was able to get to a place where he could find out what had been done to River. It took years for the children of Henrietta Lacks to even find out that cells had been taken. And even quite a while after both Henrietta’s children and Simon found out what had happened to their mother and sister respectively, they didn’t know why those things had been done, and they didn’t know what to do about them.

I believe Simon never found out why the Alliance doctors had performed the operations on River, and he never found a way to completely reverse the damage. After Henrietta’s children learned that their mother’s cancer cells had become immortal, they tried to get their mother’s name known as the person behind the cells. Years passed before Rebecca Skloot came along and was able to help them.

Henrietta Lacks and River Tam were both taken advantage of by doctors.

They and their families were damaged by their operations.

They were both loved.

Firefly: Serenity

I am very glad that I chose to watch the pilot episode of Firefly. After having seen 3 episodes from the middle of the season, it’s cool to go back and see how things got started. The first scene in the episode depicts Mal and Zoe during the war. In the later episodes, everyone refers back to Mal and Zoe being in the war together, but this is when we get to see them in action. After seeing this scene from the war, we realize how much they are used to relying on each other, because they were the only ones from their squad left alive after a long and intense battle. It really brings new meaning to their relationship.

The next, and main, part of the episode takes place 6 years later, when Mal is the captain of Serenity (the ship). We see how Book, Simon, and River come on to the ship, and for me, having heard all the stories of Simon and River being fugitives, it all makes more sense after seeing this first episode. We see Mal’s utter stubbornness and need to be right and have everything work, but we also see his intense loyalty to his crew and his ship. So much so, that he is willing to make a deal with a woman who shot him once, because he doesn’t want his crew to get captured because of the cargo he decided to pick up.

In this episode, we also get to see more of Jayne’s character. He’s surprisingly loyal to Mal, and he takes pride in his strength and meanness, but he doesn’t use his strength to bully the crew, just to bully the people trying to kill the crew.

My favorite part of this episode has nothing to do with story line, emotion, or character development, but with a t-shirt. One of my favorite websites has a line of geek pop culture shirts, and my favorite was a t-shirt with a stegosaurus saying to a tyrannosaurus rex, “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” I found it amusing, because of course, t-rexes eat stegosauri, but I had no idea where the line was from, and I didn’t know the context, so I always felt like I missed some crucial part of the joke. The first time we see Wash in this episode, he’s sitting at the controls, playing with two plastic dinosaurs: a stegosaurus, and a t-rex. He makes the dinosaurs have a dialogue, and they seem to be friends until the t-rex declares that he will eat the stegosaurus, to which the stegosaurus replies, “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” This line does not in any way help the plot of the story, but I found it quite satisfying to finally see the context of one of my favorite t-shirts.

I am very pleased with the stories in the Firefly episodes that I’ve seen, and I hope that they continue to be just as enjoyable as I continue watching them for my English class. I especially can’t wait to see more of Jayne and Book, and perhaps some more t-shirt ambiguities will be cleared up. I’ll try to keep you posted on what I find most enjoyable about Firefly, but it’s just so much better to watch them yourself.

Tell me what your laugh lines are!

Curse your inevitable betrayal!

TED Talk (Adam Sadowsky)

I love my English class.

We watch soooooooo much cool stuff.

Today, we watched a talk on ted.com (an awesome website) about the Rube Goldberg video (an awesome video) for OK Go (an awesome band). The talk was by the guy that OK Go went to when they wanted to make a Rube Goldberg machine music video for their song “This Too Shall Pass”. It’s crazy how much work, time, thought, and man-power went into that project.
You can get to Adam Sadowsky’s talk by clicking this. He plays the video at the end of his talk, so don’t worry if you haven’t seen it before. It’s actually quite a short talk, and he’s quite engaging.

I recommend this to everyone. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

War Stories

Torture.

I know this is an odd way to begin a blog post, but it’s an important, and tragic, part of the world we live in. It’s also a major part of the episode “War Stories” from the TV show Firefly.

In “War Stories”, (pardon if I give a spoiler), two of the crew (one of whom is Mal, the captain) are captured by an old enemy of Mal’s set on revenge. Mal and Wash (the other crew member) are then tortured to the brink of death. I couldn’t quite figure out why, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t for information.

Torture is often used as a way of extracting information, usually about troop movements and supply chains in war. Does it actually work though? From what little I know of torture, I think the victim would be more engrossed in trying to block out the pain or prevent the torturer from having the satisfaction of seeing them break than in revealing information. However, there’s also the part of me that thinks, “Duh, if you tell the people what they want to know, they’ll probably stop torturing you!” Unless, of course, you’ve been kidnapped by a sadist, and after finding out what they wanted to know, they send a firing squad at you.

But that still doesn’t answer the question: Does torture work?
I suppose it would depend on what you were trying to do. If you’re trying to find out information, it may work, but I’m sure there are other ways of finding out rather than beating someone bloody. Hypnotism? Psychological torture? (not that either of those are good).
But if you’re trying to revenge yourself upon someone, how do you know when you’re done? When they apologize? When they’re dead? If, say, the victim killed your brother, he can’t exactly bring him back to life, can he? And a death for a death in that situation really serves no purpose. Your brother’s still dead.

So what exactly is the point of torture? Does it ever work?

I say it depends on the person, and it depends on the circumstances, but in general torture is never a good idea.

But I don’t really know. And I’m curious: what do you think?