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A quick question for Supe fans...

Something occurred to me the other day regarding Dean and Sam's relationship, and I was just wondering, because I honestly can't remember; has Dean ever asked Sam for help?

I know Sam has tried to help him, and been more or less rejected (S3, S4). And I remember the shock of Dean succumbing and asking Castiel for help through prayer in S4.

But has Dean ever said to Sam, "I need help. I need you to help me?"

Maybe his current problems with the Mark of Cain will demand that of him? Maybe it's what Sam needs to get past his current recalcitrant attitude? Maybe that's what needs to happen to shift their relationship, in particular Dean's perception of how he fits into Sam's world (that same perception Sam has very brutally rejected).

Or maybe it's already happened in the past and I just can't remember it. Very possible.
Helloo!! I keep hearing Charlie Bradbury in my ears - I'm back, bitches! But as I don't actually ever say that in the wider world, I'll just content myself with saying- at last, a new computer. I've been without one since January. I have used my i-pad to keep up with things, but posting anything beyond a tiny piece of fic feedback or the occasional comment on that feeble little keypad was just too frustrating.

I've been reading everyone's posts, save those with spoilers for SPN.

Supernatural: Ah, Supe; just when I thought I was out, they dragged me back in. I didn't much enjoy S8; as always, there were individual highlights, but the whole murky first half just annoyed me, particularly when Sam's abandonment of Kevin never got much of an explanation except that he was in the mood to do so. I think we've been spoiled by some very, very clever writers in the past; I kept expecting some devilish twist in the whole Amelia thing, and to find it was all actually just as turgid and vapid and soap opera-ish as it initially seemed was a real disappointment. Whatever liking I had for Sam pretty much evaporated over all that, and the self-justification that followed. For the record, I don't blame him for not pursuing Dean - as far as he knew, Dean was gone. I get that. But leaving Kevin in the wind was appalling.

So watching a show with one of two main characters well-set in the I'm Really Starting to Dislike You Zone was always going to be tough, and after about four episodes I bailed on this season. Dean and guilt is such an old song. I kept recording, but there was always something else to watch: the sheer insane fun of Vikings, new Justified, new Sherlock.

But this week I sat down and caught up with the Season So Far and - I actually enjoyed it. Some interesting stories, I'm enjoying the angels stuff, and I think the break allowed me to deal with the fact that so many aspects of the show that I used to love are gone, and I just have to accept that and take it as it is. They're no longer underdogs. I don't get that delicious sense of threat any more, and challenges never seem insurmountable; we know that these are the Winchesters, goddamit, and whatever is thrown at them they'll find something or someone or some way to win. There have been a few too many "Hey, look what I just found!" moments. Too many resurrections, too many Get Out of Jail Free cards. So the investment in terms of mystery or adventure or suspense is significantly watered down from the heyday of S3.

But I still care about Dean. Ridiculously. I wasn't surprised by Sam's speech in The Purge - lord knows, that boy's worst traits have been sanctimony and selfishness since the start, so no big shocks there. I have no real hope he'll grow past these flaws any time soon. But Castiel's support of Dean gives me some comfort. And who knows - maybe Sam will be reminded of all the many, many times that Dean has not only forgiven him far worse trespasses, but actually shouldered the blame for them. Maybe Sam will acknowledge to himself that it was his choices that resulted in Hell's non-closure - he chose to take the trials because he wanted to live where Dean was ready to accept his own death, and then, at the end, when Dean pleaded the case, Sam made the choice to accept Dean's arguments. (I was surprised at the pure depth of Sam's lack of self-awareness when he laid the fall of angels at Dean's feet - although it was a bit of a 'kitchen sink' moment for Sam, when he flung everything he could think of at Dean to justify his deep anger). Maybe Dean's battle with addiction to power will wake some kind of empathy and compassion in Sam - always his best traits - as he recalls his own troubled past in that regard. If we get just one scene with Sam becoming aware of all Dean has done and suffered for him, one moment of reconciliation, well, I'll call it a draw.

And for all my denial, I still do have some sympathy for Sam. I do get that Sam's big need is for independence, so Dean's actions cut right into him at his most vulnerable point. I'm sure that's why Sam is being so reductionist about it all. But what he has not learnt is that isolation as a form of defining one's self is the weakest and least authentic. A truly independent person, a fully realised personality, understands and accepts that part of themselves that takes strength and pleasure from interdependence.

Perhaps at heart that's the tragedy of the Winchesters. Dean is someone who needs others beyond a healthy level, due to the deep trauma of losing his mother at such a young age and so violently, and simultaneously losing his loving father, his home. Terrible stuff for a little boy to cope with, and Dean has clung hard to those ever-shifting sureties in his life ever since. I am sure that the classic questions of guilt and punishment a child of that age might have asked - Why did Mummy go? What did I do? Was it my fault? - went unanswered. I don't blame John, but it's pretty clear that his mind was spiralling into obsession just when Dean needed him most. So Dean fixated upon the two people left to him, made them his world - and then found that they weren't much interested in being that for him. It's never a great idea of course to put your happiness into the hands of someone else, but there was no one to explain that to Dean. The peripatetic life that followed would have exacerbated this dependence upon John and Sam; nothing else was constant. Against that, Sam has grown up under the stifling guardianship of a father who was aware of his possible destiny and therefore no doubt scrutinised everything he did, and an elder brother for whom he formed the major part of his life. Nobody needs that kind of burden as they grow. And it's completely understandable that Sam's instinct is to push at these bonds, just to get some air. But to reduce Dean's love to a simple selfish need is to belittle them both. Yes, Dean's needs are deep-seated, but his self-sacrifice for Sam's sake is real, too. And more; he was able to give Sam up in Swan Song. The strength that took is extraordinary, and frankly I'm glad the writers gave him back Lisa just about then; the alternative is too bleak to contemplate.

Justified: I still haven't seen the last three episodes, as I'm depending on a friend to get them to me and she's swamped by too many things. On one hand, it continues to be very good, although I haven't been as enthralled as I was by, say, S2. On the other - dammit to hell, Graham Yost! Where's Tim???? You say he and Rachel are going to get some good screen time next season - I hope you're right. The one decent scene Tim's had all season was a gem. I have to admit, I'm surprised they didn't do more with Tim. I see so many critics who highlight the character (or did, in S4), and the only kind of fannish buzz I see based on the show pretty much centres on him. Great fanfic by Freshouttaideas and carolinablu85, amongst others, continues to be written. Jacob Pitts continues to delight; any time an actor has the insight to explicitly deplore his white privilege I am on my feet and applauding. He is officially adorable, and I duly adore.

Vikings: I am enjoying the hell out of this show. Avoided the first season due to an appalling trailer that made me think it was something like the execrable 'Tudors'. I love history too much to handle the usual Hollywood ham-fistedness. But when I watched an episode or two of the second season, I saw much to like. Mad Ragnar (and he's an Echuca boy!! That's a country town about two hours away from me - I had no idea.), mad Aethelstan, shield maidens. (I could slash Ragnar/Aethelstan, too easy). It's not historically perfect, of course, but it gets so much right, and I love the exploration of that whole period that is rather skipped over in the history books - 'The Vikings came and raided, pillaged, raped, murdered, and then decided to stay and everyone got over it.' How the hell did that actually happen? I don't actually fan for anyone, I'm just enjoying the story (and the look of it- the scenery is stunning).

So - that's me, and all is well in my offline life, and I hope to hear from anyone still out there!

The Ashes Part Three - Glory, glory

We won! Wonderful last day, with a young bloke from England showing so much class and fight that I honestly thought they might just pull it off. (The main character in 'Fever Pitch'? The one who is absolutely pessimistic about, and completely caught up with, his soccer team? That's me.) But in the end we got there, and it's just the best Christmas present - if something as ephemeral as sport can be categorised thus. Oh, look, I know in the grander scheme of things this is a trifle, but right now I am ecstatic to a height comparable to the depths of the previous three losses, so...

Nice to see the Aussies clapping young Stokes, and Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin acknowledging him even in their triumph.


Jacob Pitts singing

Every now and then a beloved cugly does something that astonishes. Sometimes for the worse; thankfully, sometimes for the better.

Please; go and listen to this. Jacob Pitts - yeah, the dorky guy from Euro Trip, the smokin' (In every sense) Hoosier from The Pacific, and the inscrutable Tim Gutterson from Justified - singing like his heart is breaking, and it officially slayed me.

Starts off like Nick Cave, ends up like - gah, like the best hurt/comfort story you never read.

The Ashes Part 2

Well. Wow. Wonderful stuff! Australia wins the second test, goes 2-0 up in the series. Even Mad Jack McMad would not have predicted this. The Aussies played beautifully again, and fully deserved the result.

I think it's fascinating to consider what snooker players call 'the rub of the green', meaning that ineffable quality of luck that comes to visit one team or another. It was certainly against us in England in winter, where rain and poor umpiring decisions worked to accentuate the failings the team may or may not have had. (By the way, I do not consider the Broad incident poor sportsmanship - he had every right to stand his ground - but it was another case of poor umpiring). It's those just missed opportunities, the incredible, unlooked-for catches, the dismissals where everything has to go unusually wrong for the batsman for it to come off. I think it's fair to say that now, in this series, we've got the rub of the green with us, even to the fact of winning the toss twice. But it also speaks to the luck you make when you train hard and commit fully - the catching by the Aussies has been exemplary.

England has made much of their own bad luck. Cook has been awful - that second innings dismissal was appalling. Joe Root did very well, and that was an example of bad luck, I guess, when he was dismissed on 87. But most feel to poor shots, and England have fielded poorly - bad catching cost them 238 runs in Australia's first innings.

So, on to Perth, where the pitch is hard and bouncy and fast and Mitch Johnson will be hitting 155kph. Happy, happy days. But I think those writing England off are quite foolish; there was some middle order ticker on display, and for all we know, Mitch will lose his radar and Anderson will have a field day and write us off. Cricket is ever unpredictable.

Dean and Season 9

I’ve finally managed to just about catch up with SPN S9, although I forgot to record episode 2. Overall, I’m enjoying it. Loved the Wizard of Oz episode. Liked Sonny, and the young bloke who played Dean was outstanding. It’s reasonably strong so far.

But I got thinking about where I am with Supernatural these days, and it struck me that probably the major difference between my level of involvement and that of the earlier seasons is that Dean has become so familiar to me that he is predictable. In this way it’s very like a marriage; after nine years there’s a nice familiarity and appreciation, but there are no more surprises. The blazing passion has gone. Or, to put it another way; if the character of Dean *did* surprise me these days, he would have to be so out of character as to render the whole marriage over, like finding my warm and supportive spouse was secretly an adulterous dope fiend. To surprise me, they would have to destroy Dean.

It means that though I like him – indeed, have great affection for him – I am no longer fascinated by him. There’s nothing that I can think of that could be revealed that would challenge my apprehension of the character. What is the most extreme thing he could do whilst still being true to who he is? Sacrifice Sam for a greater cause? He’s done it. Torture to gain information? Ditto. Prove to be capable of manipulative, lying behaviour? Yep, done that. I can accommodate a wealth of failings and actually resist others that some folk have saddled him with because I understand him holistically to be a courageous, self-sacrificing, flawed but noble human being.

Yes, they’d surprise me if Dean was revealed as, say, a child molester, but then that would radically alter my understanding of so many other fundamental aspects of his character that it would destroy the relationship (that is, the way I engage with this fictional creation).

I think this level of familiarity and predictability means that I no longer rush to watch the show, waiting for revelations. At heart, I am fascinated by characters. The plot will do whatever it does but its main purpose for me is to reveal character. I find ‘The Walking Dead’ to be rather mesmerising for this reason. I am not thrilled by zombies or apocalyptic visions per se, but I am intrigued by how characters gradually unravel or become tempered to strength by the challenge. And I don’t think Dean has much left to show me in this regard – it is all variations upon a well-known theme now. Of course, I may well be completely wrong.

I can’t help but compare my current level of interest in Dean with my current level of interest in Tim Gutterson of ‘Justified’. Tim remains largely unknown to me, and so I am drawn to him. What I *think* I have garnered about his character is extremely likeable, but there is so much that remains open to interpretation or speculation that I find myself working over the scant evidence again and again. I had a great discussion about this with freshouttaink, who took a scene in S4 (when Art bellows at Tim) one way, and I a completely different one. She saw (if I am not misrepresenting her) Tim as being a little dismayed or upset that he’d earned Art’s disappointment; I saw his look as one of borderline contempt, a ‘Seriously? I’ve been yelled at by experts.’ In cricketing parlance, Art delivered a bouncer and Tim just gave it a flat-bat swat straight back over his head. And the gorgeous thing is that one of us or neither of us could be right. Jacob Pitts himself gave a wonderful quote the other day that he thinks he has misjudged Tim – that he, JP, was not decent enough to appreciate Tim’s courage. It’s a typically self-deprecating JP quote, but it’s interesting in that the actor is still trying to find the character too, so it’s no wonder that I’m engaged in that screen/self dyad of creation.

When I look back at those characters for whom I’ve felt a kind of love, some have become exes whom I’d cross the street to avoid; some remain old lovers who can still re-ignite a burst of passion when we meet again before gently returning to near-oblivion; and some have settled into a kind of easy companionship. I think Dean is there at that last stage for me now, and I hope that the PTB do nothing to change that. I may no longer have all those butterflies and heart pounds that come with the first blush of romance, but I do have fondness and appreciation and respect. That’ll do.

The Ashes part 1

Well, so much to enjoy so far. The latest is watching Stuart Broad saying the Poms are 'proud' that they don't comment about other teams. Joins Andy Flower's 'We set our standards, the Australians set theirs.' Enormous hilarity all round. Suuuuure. Presumably there's been some sort of MIB mind wipe of much of 2013 for the Brits... Basically, bravo Pup, and let's turn down the hypocrisy a little England, shall we?

But the cricket has been great. Of course I'd say that, we won, right? But I meant to post last Thursday, when I was happy but precariously so after Haddin and Johnson began our fight back. I thought that very first day was terrific, even though England would rightly think they won the day. I loved watching Alastair Cook bat so resolutely to save the match (in fairness I must confess I loved it even more when we got him out, but well played, Cookie). I loved Mad Mickey making a ton - he is always a joy to watch. Loved Lyon getting some wickets. Loved Swann getting bugger all (as he and Anderson are the only Poms I can't stand).

I remain unconvinced we'll regain the Ashes this time round. Rogers, Watson, Bailey, Smith - unconvincing line-up. I think the Brits will bounce back in Adelaide; they still have a much better batting team than we do. The way they collapsed twice in this Test is surely an aberration. We might get another in Perth if Mitch keeps his radar in some kind of working order. But we need to win three... Still, can't do better than we've done so far, can we? C'arn the Aussies!

And best wishes, Jonathan Trott. Hope you get better soon, and good on you for being open about the reason you went home. I have not heard a single Aussie express anything but concern and admiration for you, and I am sure that your courage in letting people know how you're struggling will help many people face their own mental health issues.


My wishlist

My wishlist - well, it's my happy place, shallow wishlist I'm putting here. Not the other one - you know, where I wish that all Tea Party Republicans were sucked back through the space and time vortex to their alternate reality where the words coming out of their mouths made sense. Or where I wish that Tony Abbott, Cardinal Pell and Julie Bishop might be caught in flagrante delicto and forced to resign, leaving Father Bob Maguire to run the Catholic Church in Oz by popular acclaim and Malcolm Turnbull to perhaps wrench the Liberal Party back towards moderate, compassionate conservatism. Or where Ass(he)ad realises he's unfit to lead a lamington drive and leaves Syria forever, as moderates from both sides rush to fill the leadership vacuum and peace breaks out all over. Yeah, we'll take those ones as read.

No, this is my wishlist for Season 9 of Supernatural and Season 5 of Justified.
Tim for the Win!Collapse )

Heroes (not the TV show...)

Who is your hero? A student of mine brought the topic up the other day. It's really not something I actually think about too often; it may be that it's not culturally too closely aligned with Aussie culture, in the same way that we just don't talk about 'our dreams' as perhaps Americans do. Our British colonial heritage keeps that sort of revelation tight to our chests, thank you very much.

But I started thinking about this the other day when challenged. And I thought of three people immediately. I think that's the true test of who is a hero; you can name whoever you want, for whatever PC reasons you might have... But who honestly is capable of actually changing your own behaviour, in a What Would Dexter Do? Kind of way.

For me, and first, it's Nancy Wake. An Aussie living in Paris at the start of the Second World War, who involved herself in resistance activities until it became too hot for her, then fled to the Uk where she trained with the SOE to be parachuted back in as an agent. She ended up fighting with a group of partisans, insisting on wine and make-up even as they camped on the Massif Central. She had extraordinary élan, and the story that always, always comes back to me was when she rode a bike across the mountains to warn off an attack that would have been catastrophic. Her thighs were rubbed raw, and she didn't get off the bike for at many, many hours because she knew if she did she'd never get back on. Every time I am doing something that challenges me physically, I tell myself, 'Nancy rode across the bloody mountains with cheese grate red thighs, FCOL. Get a grip!' That three day ride remains a constant heroic reminder to me of true courage, and I have used it when I needed it.

Raoul Wallenberg, the righteous gentile from Sweden. Look him up if you don't know his story. Every time I need moral courage, I think of him and remind myself that to compromise in the face of bullying-which is to say, the face of evil- is worse than the evil you are facing. If you don't know better - if you truly think you are doing the right thing even as you intimidate and control others to their detriment, you are still less morally accountable than the person who understands the morality, who sees the compassionate, decent path, and chooses not to take it. I think of him, and have done so since my mid twenties, every time I am afraid to stand up to the powerful people who are making unkind, unjust, immoral choices. I have never dealt with the kind of stakes he did - saving hundreds of Hungarian Jews by rubber stamping them into Swedish citizens, in the face of Nazi oppression, and ultimately at the cost of his own life - and I sincerely, deeply, hope I never will. But I tend to think moral courage is a muscle like any other; exercise it regularly, and it grows in strength, so that should a crisis occur, it's there for you when you need it.

And Australia's Geoffrey Robertson, a man who has taken on churches and governments in the pursuit of justice. I think of him when I grow weary of seeing arseholes doing what they like, where and when they like, without compunction, simply because they are adhering to that time- dishonoured dictum that might is right. Geoffrey, and others like him, work incredibly hard in The Hague to bring such people to account. I think of him when I need encouragement, when the fight wearied me and I think the arseholes have won. His lesson is perceptiveness and persistence. Be aware of what's happening, be ready to raise your voice, keep your sense of humour because that's something that the small-minded ( and ironically, it's the pettiness of tyrants that strikes me most) struggle to curtail or contend with.

So these are my heroes; people I conjure up in my head to hold me to account. I guess that's not necessarily what people always think of when they market 'superheroes' - they're looking for someone to rescue us from external threat. I guess I'm looking inward for someone to rescue me from my worst failings; my cowardice, my selfishness, my fear and anger and bigotry.

I'd love to know who inspires you. Do you have someone(s) who challenge you to be better?
I've had an interesting fortnight as a parent. I've come to realise I'm as hardcore and take-no-prisoners in my approach as the most zealous fundamental Christan; only for my child it's a lefty social justice dogma. My daughter is being socially engineered full of attitudes towards LGBTQ folk, racial difference, refugees, the poor, differently abled, and so on. There is never an opportunity missed that I don't ram home the lessons, and when I reflect on that, it's no different, in its style, to a god-botherer in full flight claiming Jesus and God in everything that happens. I can only hope she doesn't react completely against me as a teen and go full-on neocon.

Small and I sit and watch the news together. She's ten. I don't know if this is good parenting or not. I just know that parents kind of /sort of reproduce themselves, but in the updated, better model; 'me but better' is what's going on. And the news matters to me; it's not so much that I can do anything about death in Iraq from car bombs, but at the least, at the very and insignificant least, I can acknowledge the passing of 48 people in another car bomb attack. Does this matter? I don't know. But I comment: I tell her, how sad. That's awful. If it happend in Australia, we'd do nothing but talk about it for a week. How come we only have it down the news, and we won't really care? That's what she's hearing.

What will shape another human being? I think parents can only do so much. I do believe there's a genetic component; creditable research tells us that left wing people use more of their brain than right, so maybe we can look at them as disabled? Not quite as evolved? I think, already, that Small is there: she makes comments that are beyond what I drum into her, that tell me she's thinking about multiple causes, multiple needs.

And something else is helping: she'd wildly into Dr Who. The Sarah Jane Chronicles. Star Wars the Clone Wars. Lord of the Rings. And as we hear and watch these stories, I'm talking afterward; how hard it was for the Doctor to make that decision. Did you think Donna made the right choice? What would you do? Was Ahsoka right? Do you agree with that stuff at the start of Clone Wars?

Now, here's an interesting proof of the pudding: Small has seen, and we've discussed, the situation in Syria. Is this good parenting? *I don't know!!* It just seems right to me. So as we were watching Dr Who, Chris Eccleston, Ep 1 tonight, she turned to me and said, "It's really important, Mum, that they give Syria a choice. You shouldn't attack someone without giving them a chance to make a good choice."

Wow. I will argue, vehemently and to my dying day, that nothing in the Christian Bible is so clearcut as the Doctor saying that to Donna and Martha when he beams back up to the Sontaran ship. I have to give them a choice. And Small extrapolated that to Syria, and how bloody right she was.

When we watch scifi/fantasy together we can talk about courage, and sacrifice, and morality. What did it cost Frodo to undertake that mission, gradually realising that he wouldn't come back? What does that mean to us as human beings; what causes do we take up unto death, what do we consider worth dying for? When do you give up? When do you insist on the courage, even when everything is aligned against you? Rose agaionst the Sycorax, stepping forward. It's brilliant. It's breathtaking. It's more real than anything the Bible has to offer, because it's not about pleasing a spaghetti monster in the sky. It's about deciding for yourself what constitutes a good life, and a good death, and deciding that in the service of others, you've found that goal.

Sigh. I suspect that many would disagree with my parenting choices. But finding a moral guide in fables worth exploring - yeah, I reckon that's good education, at least.


tim gutterson

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