Champion: Angel and the changing definition of a hero

What Ho Wee Readers, for anyone who subscribes to my Wee Mailing List, you will remember that come last update I talked about the various shows that I binged watch during this apocalypse, we’re all currently living through. And if you remember well, one of those shows was the Buffy spin-off, Angel staring David Boreanaz as the titular hero.

For anyone not in the know, Angel ran from 1999-2004 and centered round Buffy Summers’ former flame: Angel, most notable for being a vampire with a soul. It was originally envisioned as a kind of supernatural detective show, being more focused on case-by-case episodes and less on overarching soap-opera-esc storylines that had become Buffy’s bread and butter by that point. And for, roughly a season and a half it did that – and I’d say it did it really well. For while Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a show confined to its allegories – confusing as they became in season six – Angel could let itself be more flexible with the monsters and ideas it wanted to try out. Girl who electrocutes people, sure go ahead! Psychic demon who can read your destiny when you sing Karaoke? Hell, why not make him a recurring character.

Of course, anyone even remotely familiar with it will know that this notion of Angel as a case-by-case show didn’t last very long. And by around let’s say half-way through season 2, with the resurrection of (spoilers!!) Angel’s sire Darla, the show’s plot very quickly became just as soap-operay if not more so as Buffy before it. And I’m not even saying that as a bad thing, a lot of these plots were really interesting and unique – my personal favorite is the mystical pregnancy storyline in season 3 (the show did have several over the course of its five season long run, but this was by far the best). I’m just trying to give you a clear idea on what the show was and what it became: a paranormal detective show, to a supernatural soap-opera to, whatever they were trying to do with season 5. But throughout all that change the one constant in the show remains the focus on Angel; just like it’s parent show, while all the characters are given some form of development and plotlines of their own, ultimately, it’s our title hero that keeps the main share of the focus.

And that’s fine, in fact given the ever-shifting nature of both these shows, having the focus on a main central character is probably a good grounding factor. That being said if I did have one complaint it’s that, and I realised this at the beginning of season 4, I actually find Angel really annoying as a character.  

I know, I know liking characters is completely objective, and it’s not like Buffy Summers doesn’t have her share of people that find her annoying – I’ve never been one of them, but I do acknowledge their existence. And me finding Angel annoying (at least in the later seasons) really shouldn’t be enough of a topic to make a whole blogpost about. After all I found Cordelia unlikable and annoying right up to the end of season 3, when the last shot of her actual character was shown, and I’m not going to rant about that for over a thousand words. And yet what I found interesting about this revolution is when it happened: Angel is describing what he believes makes a champion.

Angel: Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It’s harsh, and cruel. But that’s why there’s us – champions. Doesn’t matter where we come from, what we’ve done or suffered, or even if we make difference. We live as though the world is as it should be, to show it what it can be. You’re not a part of that yet. I hope you will be.

As the main character, and a main character that is heavily favored by the writers to come out on top in any moral argument (except for season 5 for some strange reason, he was arguably doing a lot better than previous seasons) – Angel’s views on what makes a champion a champion holds a lot more wait then the other supporting cast. And come season four Angel’s definition of a champion is someone who lives morally, regardless of whether he succeeds at actually helping people. The methods matter more than the outcome.

It’s an interesting take on the concept of a champion, and strangely one that seems at least partially opposed to the definition that was laid out in Angel’s very first episode by the character of Doyle. Namely that a champion is someone who helps the helpless. And that was it, no disqualifiers, no strangely specific moral hoops, just be of use to people that need you. Under this definition absolutely anyone could be a champion, and you didn’t necessarily have to kick vampire butt to do it. We can see this in characters like Anne (a character who started in Buffy, but who comes back in Angel) who runs a home for homeless teens. She is literally helping the helpless, thus by Doyle’s definition of the word she is a champion even though we never see her handle a stake once.   It’s also notable that in her first episode we’re shown her grappling with a presumably morally dubious action, of accepting money for her children’s home even though it comes from Wolfram & Heart (the main bad guy of the series). While the episode does give a sort of work around, where she can get the money and not take it from Wolfram & Hart (Angel steals it for her) it’s interesting that the money still ends up splatted in blood (it’s a long story) that she quite literally has to wipe off. But in the end, she takes it because that ill-gotten money will do more for her kids, then her clean conscious ever could.

I’m not saying that being a completely morally upstanding person, who doesn’t compromise on their principles should be in anyway excluded from someone who saves innocents (particularly in fiction). I’m a big fan of characters like Captain America in that regard (both Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson). And if that had been how Angel had started off characterizing what it means to be a champion, that would be fine, but it didn’t and that’s what strange.      

But I know what you’re thinking right about now; Wee Lassie, this has all been very well written and clearly well thought out, but why does it matter?   So, the show Angel plays fast and loose with some of the dictionary, it’s not like the enjoyment of the entire show was predicated on it. And I’ll follow you to that peer, no there are large sections of Angel that are not ruined at all by this, fun characters, good episodes all throughout even the shakiest of seasons. You could in fact go several episodes in a row where this flip flopping on meaning bears no ill effect on the likability of their stories at all. But then, you go back and try and binge watch all five seasons and cracks begin to show.

The idea of being a champion, or at least of Angel being a champion is baked into the very core of the show. In much the same way that Buffy being a Slayer was baked into the very core of her show. In fact, as Angel goes on it seems that the word is used as the show’s version of a slayer, thematically speaking. But the difference is ‘a slayer’ was created by Joss Whedon and his merry team of writers to be its own specific thing. And a specific thing that is very well explained in the show itself. However, a Champion by contrast is not only a pre-existing concept, but it’s one that with its flip flopping on meaning, the show makes accidentally nebulous. It’s fine to tell us Angel is a champion, or so and so was a champion, but when the show’s own narrative can’t seem to keep the meaning of the word consistent, how are we supposed to interrupt that? Do they mean Angel helps, the helpless? Or that he is entirely good and virtuous? Perhaps it only means that he intends to do good? And as such when characters state with utter certainty that he is a champion or he is the real the champion, it comes off as false. Or at the very least, as a character not speaking as themselves but rather as a puppet for the writers to shill their pet.

So, I think the only question that remains is why change the definition at all? Well to answer that I could just tell you the conclusion I’ve come to, but I’d think it would be far more entertaining for the both of us, to show you instead.

So cast your eyes below, as I review several of the characters (both hero and antagonist) and see by the strictures of both definitions of the word, if they are champions.

Holtz

One of the most successful, non-superpowered vampire hunters in the Buffyverse. After Angel raped and killed his wife, snapped his infant son’s neck, and turned his daughter into a vampire, Holtz spent the rest of his life seeking vengeance. Ending in him making a deal with a demon, showing up in the 21st century and making all sorts of trouble for the main characters.

Definition 1: Helps the Helpless

Yes, both before Angelus destroys his family and afterwards. Even at his most antagonistic Holts helps the helpless because he’s still killing Vampires. In one of his first scenes with his acolyte Justine he kills a vampire right in front of her; we’re meant to take this as a dark reflection of a slayer and watcher relationship. Holtz is manipulating her, and yet I’ve never been able to get all the people; the people that had he been allowed to continue living, that vampire would have murdered, out of my head. The action may have been done for less than pure reasons, and yet it is still helping the helpless.

Judges say:

A Champion

Definition 2: Lives an entirely Moral Life

Before Angelus kills his family, it’s impossible to say for sure but given everything we’re shown of his family’s deaths, it seems likely that he did live an entirely good, moral life. Between their deaths and him making a pact with that demon, while he is consumed with vengeance, it seems likely he still lived a virtuous life beyond that. After the demon, no, his every waking breath is dedicated to vengeance on Angel; leading an idolised virtuous life is not a priority at all.

Judges Say:

No Longer a Champion

Gunn

 A good man, and a truly skilled Vampire Hunter whose been hunting the nasty things since he was twelve.

Definition 1: Helps the Helpless

Like most of the Angel investigation team, Gunn is a difficult one to pin down in this regard. When he first arrives on the scene, he is defending his neighbourhood from a nest of vampires, and putting himself in considerable danger to do so. So that seems pretty cut and dry, and yet when he joins the AI team officially in season two things become a little murkier. They all ‘help the helpless’ but much like the rest of the AI team, Gunn becomes much too reliant on Cordelia’s visions to tell him where he should help, and therefore when she is not there to give them, he does nothing. That’s not even me being unkind, that’s stated in the show itself. And then there’s season three and four’s whole debacle but I’ll get into that more later.

And then we have Season 5, which I was very complementary to in my last newsletter – but then again that was before I saw the disastrous end of it all and realised, they had absolutely no idea where they were going with it at all. But regardless, Charles Gunn has one of the more interesting storylines, with him fully embracing the power the AI team now wields as the leaders of Wolfram & Heart. With that kind of money, they can do more than just save individual victims from the things that go bump in the night. They can help with the aftermath, set up funds and homes for children that lost their parents to vampires; and really start to make a change in how the fight against evil is won. In other words help the helpless at the most fundamental level.

Judges say:

Season 2 – Champion

Season 3-4 – Not a Champion

Season 5 – A Champion, though of a different kind than before.

Definition 2: Lives an entirely Moral Life

Well, that’s the hard thing about this definition, because it’s so vague it’s difficult to attribute it to anyone. If it means living life by your own moral standards, then we could say that baring a brief time in season 4 Gunn is a champion throughout Angel. Even in season five before (spoilers) Fred’s death. The same could be said if it means living a moral life as seen by wider society, since in season 2 he is protecting his neighborhood and helping out at a homeless center; while in season 3-4 he’s still fighting the good fight, just getting paid for it. And season 5, well season five was a mess for everybody. However, if the definition only refers to what Angel sees as a moral life, then we can only assume his oppion holds the narrative weight for what defines a champion. And his oppion on Gunn is problematic, he seems to view him as a stupid if well-meaning kid when they first meet; nothing but extra muscle when he’s working for Angel Incorporated, and a moral traitor in season 5 when they’re working for Wolfram and Heart.

Judges say

Inconclusive

Connor

Angel’s son, born from two vampires (Angel and Darla) and raised in a hell dimension by Holtz. Honestly it makes less sense in context.

Definition 1: Helps the Helpless

Connor helps a lot of people in season 3 and early season 4 (arguably more than Angel). So, for a time he is a champion; however, than the main arch of season 4 happened and well…everything shot downhill from there.

Judges Say

Only for a short time.

Definition 2: Lives an entirely Moral Life

By all forms of this definition that I laid out in Gunn’s section no, it’s sad but no. It’s clear if you really look at it that Connor only views himself as a moral individual when he first returns from Hell seeking to kill Angel. If we look at it from a wider society perspective, he once again falls short, since his rescues come off as more wanting to hunt things than actually saving people. And then we have Angel, and since that petulant speech up nearer the beginning of this post was directed at Connor, we don’t need to dig that hard to find what the soulful blood sucker thinks of his offspring.

Judges Say:

Not a Champion

Angel

A Vampire who has a soul.

Definition 1: Helps the Helpless

In seasons 1 to 2, I would say yes without a drop of hesitation in my voice. But then everything changed when the Darla storyline attacked. But all joking aside, when Darla (Angel’s sire and former lover) was resurrected, Angel’s obsession with first her and then getting revenge for her turned him from a bland if inoffensive heroic character to a raging douche bag who hurt everyone and everything around him. And while this change was clearly intentional, and something that the plot encouraged Angel to move beyond, it revealed a nastiness to Angel’s character that he never really did.

But a mildly unpleasant hero is a still a hero, and then we got season three, and with the introduction of the miraculous birth of Darla and Angel’s son, Angel as someone who must continually prove that he is a champion is almost forgotten. While the ‘helping the helpless’ doesn’t completely stop, as this is still at least pretending to be a monster of the week show, it’s notable that that’s no longer the focus of the show. In fact, as I mentioned in Gunn’s section without the visions or some kind of monetary insensitive, neither Angel or his team seem very interested in helping anyone.

And then we have season 5, where Angel is counterintuitively at his most passive in regards to his ability to do heroic deeds, and his most desperate to be a champion. I found it very hard to ignore while watching Angel whine about being in charge of Wolfram &Heart (the LA branch anyway) that his main complaint was often that he no longer felt like a hero. This was even despite the fact that he’d been given proof that not only were they still helping people, but on a much larger scale than they ever could have in their previous location.

Judges Say:

To begin with, but lost his motivation for the fight along the way.

Definition 2: Lives an entirely Moral Life

Given the speech up there he clearly thinks he does, but honestly given some of his decisions particularly at the end of season 5 – I won’t give anything away just in case this mainly negative post has for some reason made someone want to check out the show, but his actions are truly disgusting – it would be hard to argue that this view of himself lined up in anyway with reality.

In seasons 1-4 we could claim that he is living a somewhat moral life in regards to how society at large sees it. He isn’t hurting anyone – which as a vampire, even a vampire with a soul, he is quite capable of doing – and he’s for the most part fighting the forces of evil. This only changes is season 5 when Angel is arguable at his most morally dubious (or at least a moral dubiousness that the writers will admit to); though strangely this is a moral failing that comes not from within Angel himself, but is rather forced upon him. By Wolfram & Heart, by the Black Circle, even by the more human members of his team. Angel is passive in his fall from grace; even the choice to join Wolfram & Heart didn’t come about from a character flaw as it arguably did for the rest of AI, but from the truly noble desire to save his child.

It’s almost as if the world bends around Angel, so that in his own standards at least, he can continue to call himself a champion

Judges say

I’ll leave this up to the reader.

So, if you’ve been following my tangent this far, you may have guessed where I’m going with this. That is, if you follow the series of events throughout series 3-4 it is clear that with the arrival of his son and all the plot-threads that came with that, Angel’s main focus turned inward rather than outward. All the energy that would have in the past been dedicated to helping as many of the helpless as he could, now stayed focused on protecting his son, providing for his son, and later in the season (spoilers) reclaiming his son. None bad priorities by any account, but all focused on the good of the few (and in particular the few that Angel considers his) rather than the good of the many. I’m not criticizing this, merely noting it as a fact in the show’s change of direction. Because in truth for the story this shouldn’t have necessarily be an issue. After all, unlike say Buffy herself Angel is not locked into his role as a hero, he is not a slayer. In the past he has chosen to fight evil in part to redeem himself, but often just because he felt it was the right thing to do – but he could stop, he could walk away or choose to turn his back on the world and the fight to preserve it. And yet to do so would be to give up being a champion; because being a champion on those early episodes was an active concept you had to keep performing. Help the helpless, or you weren’t a champion. Now they could have done this, made Angel have to decide what mattered more to him, the ones he loved, or he’s supposed great destiny. That would actually be a very interesting storyline, one that not even its parent show managed to tackle.

Except…as I noted before, the writers seemed really married to the idea of a “champion” being the Angel equivalent of Buffy’s “slayer”. Angel was the star of the show; therefore, he must be a champion. So, if the definition of “champion” as someone who helps the helpless no longer fit him, then the definition must be changed. Because in the end, that’s all Angel had. Unlike characters like Buffy or Spike, or heck even Xander there wasn’t really much to Angel. He could be blandly heroic, or mysterious, but once you got past that to what should have been the character that lay beyond, there wasn’t really much of anything. While Spike could flip flop from enemy to ally like he was having some kind of spasm, and still remain entertaining through his well-defined personality; and Buffy could confront the realities of life alongside her destiny as the Slayer, because of her innately heroic and loving nature; with Angel, you really had to take the writers word for it that he was interesting beyond the notion that he was a champion.

But the reality is just because you keep telling us someone is a champion, doesn’t make us belive it.

If you’ve enjoyed this terribly delayed rant of mine, remember to follow the wee blog if you haven’t already and don’t forget to check me out on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Goodreads for all that good stuff. And click the button at the bottom of the post to buy me a wee cup of coffee on Kofi. Also don’t forget to sign up for the Wee Mailing List by the 27th of September to find out which three Angel characters would have done better in Buffy (hint the last one will surprise you). So, until next time Wee Readers, don’t forget to stay safe, stay awake and have a very bonny day.

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Whore, Slut, Bitch: The Wrong way to insult a Politician

Politicians are a bit shit, aren’t they? I think we can all agree on that account. Whether we be English and forced into another pointless lockdown by an over grown blob monster in a blond wig. Welsh, and unable to buy non-essential items from our supermarkets. Irish…I’m not entirely sure what the Irish are doing right now but it’s 2020, so it can’t be anything good. American and trapped in a choice between a kinda racist jerk (Trump) and someone who is more than likely a pedophile, and also racist, and senile (Biden).

Or you could be Scottish like me up here in the north, and have the party that was supposed to be building a long-term plan for independence destroy the economy. Making it by the way, very unlikely that we’ll ever get independence again.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m not overly fond of politicians right now.

But for the sake of this post’s topic, let’s just say that I hate Nicola Sturgeon.

No more than that I wish death upon her.

Let her be smothered by her own stupid tartan mask.

Now before anyone gets upset, I’m not actively plotting the death of a politician. I just really need you to understand the depth of my hatred for this woman. So that you don’t mistake what I say next, as coming from any actual sympathy, or fondness, for Sturgeon herself.

Because as the title may suggest, if there’s a right way to insult our darling politicians, then there’s a wrong way too.

For instance, say I was to get so angry at Nicola Sturgeon one day – you know because she’s ruining my country and whatnot – that I was to call her a pigwhore. Now why would that be wrong? That’s right, although a knee jerk reaction for many of us, instantly insulting a woman’s sexuality is a by-product of our still very patriarchal society.  But that can’t be right, I hear you shout – I call male politicians whores all the time.

Boris Johnson is particularly deserving of such a title. But really think about it, when you hear someone call someone a man-whore, it doesn’t sound like a really cutting insult, it sounds like a joke. And that’s because in our cultural lexicon, it really is. It’s funny to call a man a sex worker, because clearly that’s something that just doesn’t happen. Sex work is thought of as a woman’s domain, okay…let’s pretend that’s even remotely true. Either way, you don’t have a particularly good insult on your hands.

So, you say, you can’t call her a whore – by surely calling her a pig is fine. A greasy, smelly, dirt ridding pig. Look at her, look at what she did to Alex Salmond – she’s filth. And while I agree that she very much is, why is your first instinct to insult her appearance rather than her actions? Would you do so for a man? I mean don’t get me wrong, we do insult men’s looks: Trump’s hair looks like a tribble, Biden looks like death incarnate, Boris is a toad and I swear to god Keir Starmer is the reincarnation of a shovel. And while that is also missing the point of why we hate these men so very much – as should be fairly obvious by now, it does take on a slightly more troubling meaning when it’s a woman. Years of oppression, punching down and all that. I know, I know, patriarchy ruins everything.

Of course, sexism isn’t the only bigotry we have to be careful about using when we display our righteous anger to the coldblooded butchers that run our world. Well…the British one anyway. For instance, if I were to say that Sturgeon’s haircut makes her look like a wizened little man of a hundred and eighty-five, that could be construed as transphobic… possibly I’m not certain, please feel free to correct me in the comments. But it’s certainly slightly ageist; after all, why is it a bad thing that she looks like a little old man of a hundred and eighty-five? Sucks all of the joy out of an insult. You only want to hit the leech of a politician, but you end up being cruel to some innocent person instead.

While there is some ground to the argument that the modern notion of political correctness can rather perversely be used to shut down real political discourse – it cannot be denied that when we insult a politician using hate speech, we dilute our own insult and rob it of both its intended meaning and value.

Damn it, I hear you say – it’s practically impossible to insult the murderers running my country using the slurs, and rhetoric the internet has prepared me to use. So, I’m just gonna make up my own words.

And well…yeah. It’s certainly fun to make up your insults, and it defiantly frees you of the danger of offence, or miss fire on an innocent. It’s fun to call Nicola Sturgeon a Fuzzwopple; or Keir Starmer a Bolderfups; or even Obama and the Clintons EvilDennjsydfjai. But you see the problem there, too right? The words are fun to say and they certainly don’t hurt anyone, but they also just don’t mean anything. We only really understand that these are insults by the tone in which they are said, and with written media we don’t even have that. We’ve gone from one extreme of just offending and insulting everybody, to the other end of the spectrum where we’re not even really insulting our intended target.

So then, what’s the answer – how can we express our anger, in a way that won’t hurt someone innocent and yet still actually expresses our hatred?

Honestly the answer seems to be the simplest: just be honest about why you’re actually angry.

Why do I hate Nicola Sturgeon? She’s ruining my country, by gutting the economy and encouraging the worst of Scottish racist tendencies within her followers. Not because she is a woman with a stupid haircut and an old man face.

I hate Keir Starmer because he is surgically removing the actually left-wing members from the Labour party – and if that sounds counter intuitive, well, congratulations you have a fully developed sense of earth logic, it’s a pity the Blairites don’t. I do not hate him because he has a shovel face.

I don’t trust Obama, not because he has a set of clownish ears or (ridiculously enough) anything at all to do with his race; but because people seem to conveniently forget his war crimes every time they want to compare him favourably next to their political villain of the week. He’s also a little too chummy with sexual predators and, you know, other proven war criminals.

Biden and the Clintons are those sexual predators and other proven war criminals.

Twitter is saying we might have a third lockdown, no…no…clearly the reason I hate Boris Johnson is because he looks like a shaggy dog that was turned human through a series of horribly cruel laboratory experiments.

There is probably a list longer than the entirety of the bible why people don’t like, or take issue with Donald Trump and I can guarantee you that when it comes down to it; not one of them involves his skin being orange or his hair being ridiculous.

Well that’s me, that’s my rude little rant done. If you’ve enjoyed this excuse to call the politicians of the Western World as many rude things as I can get away with, to try and express my rage in a somewhat healthy way, then follow the Wee Blog, if you haven’t already. Also check me out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and GoodReads. Also check out my Short Story page, to see if my fiction is as racey as my posts; and don’t forget to sign up for the Wee Mailing list before the 19th of December, to see some of the insults that were a bit too rude even for this post. Also, before I go, I’d just like to say something:  I focused on western politicians, and these ones in particular because they were honestly the ones I knew the most about, and therefore have the most intimate hate for. If you think there was any I left out, that I should have mentioned, please mention them down below in the comments.  All I ask is that you be as inventive and colourful in your language as possible. And for those of you wondering why I didn’t go harder after Trump, this is a blog post about how to insult politicians and if you have trouble insulting as big a target as Donald Trump, then nothing I could say would help.  Until next time Wee Readers, have a bonny day and if I don’t see you before then, have a very merry Christmas.

Just a brief note before we leave, if you’ve enjoyed this and other posts like it on the Wee Writing Lassie, why not buy me a Wee Cup of Coffee, or drop me a tip over on Ko-fi. Which is linked to the image below.

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A Published Story and the Lockdown that inspired it

Only a couple days now to Halloween, that day of Ghosts and Goblins when we embrace the dark and macabre aspects of our society more than…well… we already do. A day in which society says it is not only okay to be scared, it is down right expected of us.

And honestly, who doesn’t love a good scary story?

Really any kind of horror story does it for me.

A ghost story? Yeah, that’s fun – ghosts can be pretty scary, and yet because the majority of mainstream society tells us that they simply cannot be real, it’s safe to be sacred of them. There’s a degree of separation from our societal reality and the ghouls on the screen or page. Same goes for Vampires, or Werewolves or any of the other monsters we see children dress up as this time of year.

We might even count the slightly less fantastical horror creatures of serial killers like Hannibal Lector or….I’m sure there are others, but he’d the only fictional one I know off the top of my head. Not to mention the masked killers of the slasher genre. After all, although serial killers do exist and have probably killed a lot of people just like the viewer, the statistic likelihood of you ever meeting one is probably very low indeed. So once again, they’re something scary but separate enough that they don’t seem real for us anymore.

But what happens when the scary thing not only absolutely exists, but is now a daily factor in most people’s realities? That’s right…I’m talking about Lockdown. Which before anyone rips my arms off – not that I think any Wee Reader would, but this is the internet and Trolls abound – I’m not discussing the need or otherwise of Lockdown. Honestly when we’re talking about fodder for fiction, I actually think fear of a pandemic and the fear of isolation and loss of autonomy that can come from Lockdowns, are two different fears entirely. It’s really only happenstance that they often go hand in hand.

However getting back to the actual topic, Lockdown is a thing that has affected and is continuing to affect a lot of people all over the world. People have lost their jobs over it, they’ve been trapped inside their houses – no hope of escape. Psychologically this is really messing with our collective heads. So, when we take all of this into account what we have to ask ourselves is – is this actually a topic we should be making fiction about?

And the answer would have to be, a resounding – of course we should. Not only is fiction a great vehicle to work out and express underlying fears of our realities, but the notion of being trapped somewhere – either by yourself, or with people you’re quickly loosing your patience with, is a fascinating start for really any kind of story. Scary not least among them.

So where am I going with this? Well, stand back in shock because…I’ve just had a new story published! It’s called the Rabbit Hutch and it is a Speculative Fiction about a man that has been trapped in lockdown for thirty years. Ah fiction and reality, how blurred your line has become.

If you’ve enjoyed this advertisement for my new short story – The Rabbit Hutch, please follow the wee blog if you haven’t already and check out my Short Story page, where you should find all my other published stories. Also check me out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads and Facebook. Enjoy my story, and until next time Wee Readers have a Happy Halloween and a very bonny day.

Just a brief note before we leave, if you’ve enjoyed this and other posts like it on the Wee Writing Lassie, why not buy me a Wee Cup of Coffee, or drop me a tip over on Ko-fi. Which is linked to the image below.

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Small Restbites of Relief – or thank god, I don’t have to think for a minute.

Relax

Hi there, I’m the Wee Writing Lassie – you may remember me from such blog posts like ‘The Ultimate Lockdown Reading List’ or ‘The Great Star Wars Lockdown Binge’ and many more titles, sometimes not even involving the word Lockdown at all. I’m here today to ask you, the Wee Reader, a question. Actually, it’s a bunch of questions, and they’re all rhetorical so don’t feel pressed to answer them in the comments down below. Seriously, this is just part of the bit I’m doing.

Have you been locked in your house for an extended period of time, in what can only be called some kind of illegal imprisonment? Terrified you might catch the 21st equivalent of the plague? Your favorite celebrities no longer watchable after some very distressing allegations? Fighting off the slow creep of depression laced boredom and apathy that comes from being unable to go farther than five miles from your house for nearly three months? Well, then you need Small Restbites of Relief – the guaranteed way that you, yes you can forget your troubles and all the troubles of the world for even the smallest measure of time.

Warning: Restbites are not a cure for actual depression, and should really not be treated like they are.  Also, not all Restbites will work for everyone, Restbites of Relief are a personal thing and really should be judged on a case by case basis. Honestly, the only reason the Wee Lassie is doing this blog like this, rather than in a top ten list like a sane person, is because she thought it would be funny and we all really need a good laugh right now. May cause bloating and dry mouth.

Six

Do you feel physically bogged down under the weight of the corruption in your government? Are politicians you once liked suddenly seeming no longer so brash and shiny? Well take a step back in time with me, Wee Readers, into a land where everyone was pretty much just as bad, but with the proviso that they’re now all long dead – so they can’t ruin your life.

The Musical Six is a retelling of the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives, as if they were a girl band. And not just any kind of girl band either, no, a Spice Girls like band. Complete with terrible cockney accents and all. There’s something so relaxing about not having to worry if the political figures being sung about are up and about doing evil today for, like I said before, they’re all dead.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Does the madness of the world feel like it’s about to break you? Has just going out to the shops become a walk through that book with the title you don’t want to say, because you’ll sound like a crazy person? Well join me in the sweet escape of life told from the point of view of an actual crazy person. No, Rachel Bloom is not crazy but her character certainly is – and as you watch the total complete mess she makes of her life, before they put her on meds, you can feel relaxed in knowing that at least no one has ever stalked you across the country in a futile attempt to fix their own fractured psyche. I mean, that you know of.

Community

Getting frustrated about the giant hole in your tooth that should have been fixed weeks ago and is now filling your mouth with a terrible taste? No, just me?  Well that’s probably for the best, seeing as how the show Community has absolutely nothing to do with that. I just needed an outlet for my frustration at the current lack of any Dentists open! Anyway, unlike the world today, Community is an enjoyably insane show.

The show Community tells the tale of a group of roughly seven students at a community college, and their wacky teachers and the hi-jinks that follow. While characters often change, with new ones brought to the forefront to the replace the old ones after their actor either left, or in the case of Chevy Chase, asked to leave – the roles these characters played, stayed somewhat consistent.

They have:

The sarcastic leading man – Supplied by the character of Jeff, a lawyer who faked his law degree and now has to go back to college. 

The dippy freedom fighter – supplied by the character of Britta, an activist who has never once voted.

The Meta One – Abed, who I particularly enjoy not only because he’s a very likable character, and his meta humour is hilarious, but because he’s a depiction of an autistic character who isn’t also a complete dick.

The Cool Geek – Troy, a former football star who lost his scholarship when he injured himself takes this role for the first five seasons, and then kind of no one does after Donald Glover left to focus on his music.

The Motherly one – this role is filled by the character of Shirley, a mother of three who first joined the college after her husband ran off with a stripper, for the first five seasons and then sort of left empty for the sixth.

The Control freak – Annie, a recovering drug addict with a penchant for dramatics, and selling out the school at the earliest opportunity. A fact that she rarely gets called out on.

The Oldest member– A role filled by the character of Pierce in the first four seasons before Chevy Chase was fired. After which the character of Hickey – played by Johnathan Banks from Breaking Bad – took up the mantle as the oldest member of the group. Although unlike Pierce, Hickey was a teacher instead of a student. After Johnathan Banks left to go star in Better Call Saul, the role was taken up by the character of Elroy played by Keith David.

Now you might say, this is all well and good Wee Lassie, but you’ve not really said much about the show itself. Well, in answer I could say that Community is such an ever changing and wacky show that it’s hard to summarize it without either giving the game away or, focusing too much on an element that won’t be prevalent throughout the whole series. Yes, I could say that, but instead I’ll make the far more logical point and ask you if you were thinking about the depressing state of the world through that whole spiel? No? Well then, I think I’ve proven my point now haven’t I?

Coco

Not all Pixar films age well, in fact some of them are probably going to become practically unwatchable, if those allocations we’ve all heard about turn out to be in anyway factual. However, I advise not to focus on how depressing potentially losing the Toy Stories or Finding Nemo is, and start giving some attention to the properties that Pixar and Disney have not given unnecessary sequels to. And there are many such films, most not even needing big names to help tell their story – films like Ratatouille, Up, Brave, Wall.e, Inside Out, A Bug’s Life (god I haven’t seen that one in yonks) but my favorite of all of them is the film Coco. I mean for god’s sake, Coco’s aged so well you’d almost think it was written by time travelers from 2020. And no, I won’t explain what I mean by that, you’re just going to have to watch the film for yourself and try to figure it out.

Coco is set on Día de los Muertos, or The Mexican Day of the Dead to us Westerners. A festival taking place at the beginning of November that celebrates the dead, and their connection to the living.  If I’m getting any of this wrong, I apologise, this film is literally my only exposure to this festival, as I live in rural Scotland and never saw the Book of Life.

It’s difficult to describe what I love about this movie without giving away the several turns and twists  the story takes but suffice to say this film may leave you in tears, but isn’t it nice to be crying about something other than the complete collapse of our society for a change?  If you watch anything today, let it be this film – seriously it’s just the best.

Eating take out that didn’t come from those big chains

Lost faith in those big corporations that seem inexplicably to be open despite the fact that more pressing and needed services – like libraries and dentists and hospitals, remain closed or severely limited? Yet despite that, still missing the ease of a takeout dinner? Then why not try your more local takeout restaurants– which thanks to this awful, awful situation is now practically all of them. Although I say this coming from a place of previous distrust with the big chains – particularly McDonald’s – because apparently for the first twenty odd years of my vegan life, that meat fat was just so important to the taste of their chips. Chips, you have to go out of your way to make them not vegan. Ehem, anyway – try something local, you’ll be helping out a smaller business and taking money away from the big chains without missing out on having takeout.

Walks on the Beach

Exercise is extremely important to our health. This has always been a known fact, since the beginning of time humans have known that after a run, you generally feel better than you did before.  Of course, that could just have been from not getting eaten by whatever giant creature you just so happened to have pissed off that day, but you know the same thought applies. Whatever the case you’ll feel better after a nice run in the fresh air, and what’s better than then fresh air – fresh sea air, my Wee Readers! Sea air, salt water and general excise have all been found on the beach. So, take yourself and any loved ones you haven’t been forcibly separated from yet, down to the beach today – and improve your immune system and subsequent mental health.

Or at least you could, if they hadn’t shut all the beaches. I mean I don’t think they’ve done that in Scotland yet, but that’s only because our weather is so bad…IT DOES IT FOR THEM.

Sun

The Sun is a beautiful thing and you should get as much of it as you can during this pandemic – not only because of its benefits to your overall health, but also specifically your mental health. Sunlight increases the release of the hormone serotonin, which boosts your mood and helps a person feel calm and focused. Which is probably why the majority of the really fun, gift giving holidays are held at the darkest times of year when we get less sun.

So, until that one obviously evil billionaire who we’ve all collectively just chosen to trust with our health for some unknown and never specified reason, succeeds in his plan to dim the sun with poisonous levels of dust in the air  – you should get as much sun as you can.

Corona Buffy

 And now we have the final Restbite, coming in last because technically speaking it’s not a full Restbite at all. However, I mention it now because I feel it emphasizes the point that this very strange blog post is trying to make; that is, that staying up to date with world events should go hand in hand with, keeping yourself sane with moments of brevity. Which this small twitter account does perfectly, as it couples articles on deep subject matter with the ever-lovable, and often sarcastic Buffy Gifs, to make their point. Seriously go check it out here and follow this thing – they don’t post often, but it’s always interesting when they do.

If you’ve enjoyed these Brief Restbites of Relief, don’t forget to check me out on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Tumblr and Instagram. Remember, while it’s important to stay up to date with the goings on in the world right now – disturbing as they are – it is equally important to take care of your own mental health. It’s easy to get bogged down with the weight of everything these days, and anything you can do to relieve that, even if it’s just laughing at a stupid YouTube video, is not wrong. You’re not stupid or small for getting excited for the next episode of your soap, or the next installment of your favorite book series. Wow…that got kind of overly deep for a second…well, I suppose that’s what comes from blogging during a pandemic. Until next time my Wee Readers, get plenty of sunshine, have a bonny day and…let’s hope this is all over by Christmas.

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My Coronavirus Soundtrack

This Coronavirus outbreak, and the subsequent madness of the whole god damn world, has left me feeling quite depressed. So to cheer myself up I began formulating a playlist of happy songs – as you do. But for a while that’s all it was, just a thing for myself, and it wasn’t until my mother asked if I was going to blog it, that a far more inventive idea came to me. Why just make a playlist that cheers me up about the coronavirus, when I could make an entire soundtrack for the bloody thing. So here before you, is the finished work – note, this is just a bit of fun and not to be taken as a serious account of the state of the world. We get enough of that from the news and (if you’re like me) Twitter, and while this outbreak is a serious thing, sometimes we just need to laugh.

1. Prologue – this isn’t the first crisis we’ve faced

2. The Outbreak Begins

The First Official cases are reported across the world

3. And so we took to Twitter

Honestly this is the first time in my life I’m checking Twitter several times a day.

4. Trying to Understand why this is happening

5. Wash your hands for 20 seconds

6. The Bog-roll Crisis

I didn’t even have to stretch for this one

7. More Panic Buying…I mean what were people thinking?

8. #CorbynMustStay

Oh Jeremy Corbyn, we almost had a socialist Prime Minister. This one may be slightly localized to Great Britain – but this is a British Blog, (at least for now) so what can you expect?

9. Schools Close for Most

If you think this is an inappropriate song, you should see the one I almost put here.

10. The March of the Covidiots: or this is not a song that should fit so well this late in the timeline of a Pandemic

11. And so the Army was called in

Well, the police anyway.

12. Quarantine Life

Well, guess we can’t leave our houses now.

13. Disney + released

If they didn’t want the comparison, they shouldn’t have bought the franchise.

14. And so the Great Binge watch of 2020 began…

Yes, it’s just the Simpsons theme…why? What are you watching?

15. Clap for the NHS, and Stay Home

Being serious here people, the NHS (and other healthcare systems around the world) are already overworked – don’t overwhelm them, stay at home and watch Friends.

16. Coming out of Lockdown

Speaks for itself really.

17. And Hopefully we’re all still…

If this playlist offered you any joy during these dark days don’t forget to follow the Wee blog, if you haven’t already. Also don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Goodreads. Also check out The Wee Mailing List, for all new content. Keep safe, Wee Readers, and don’t forget to laugh whenever you can – it’s good for the soul. So, until next time, have a bonny day.

Just a brief note before we leave, if you’ve enjoyed this and other posts like it on the Wee Writing Lassie, why not buy me a Wee Cup of Coffee, or drop me a tip over on Ko-fi. Which is linked to the image below.

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Memories of a 2019 GoodReads Challenge: or, the top ten books to read while you’re social distancing

What ho Wee Readers, how are you all doing? Are you trapped at home in quarantine? Or practicing social distancing to protect yourself and or your family? Yeah, my Mum’s got a damaged lung, so I’m right there with you. At times like these the world can seem a terrifying place, almost overwhelmingly so – and I find the best cure for such depressing thoughts, can be found in the pages of a good book.

Wow, that was a far more depressing opening than I thought it would be. Anyway, if you’ve been following my Goodreads account, then you’ll know that I really enjoy their Reading Challenge. At the beginning of 2020, I challenged myself to read a hundred books, which is quite a step up from the thirty I read in 2019. I’m well on my way to completing this year’s challenge, so I’d just thought I’d take a look back at my favorite reads of last year, to try and forget about this year.

10. Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly

This is a collection of essays about the cancelled tv show Firefly, one of two I read over the course of 2019 – though by far this is the superior volume. Mainly because unlike its sequel, it didn’t go on and on about how not having aliens in it made Firefly the greatest sci-fi show ever to exist. Or sneering at the notion that anyone would ever put an alien in their space fiction, let alone actually believe in life on other planets. Which, as someone who is patiently waiting for the mother-ship to return, I find slightly offensive. Anyway, you won’t find any of that nonsense in this book – at least, none that I can remember.

9. Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds: The Musical Drama

So…Michael Sheen’s voice…wow. Anyway, back on topic…I started this post quite a while ago, and then got pulled away to write another essay (I know I’ve said that before, but it’s not just an excuse, it really is what I’ve been doing all this time) and during that interval the world kind of…exploded. Basically, we somehow woke up one day and found ourselves living in a dystopian novel, which is…well…bad whatever, but if it was going to happen, why couldn’t it be ‘The War of the Worlds’ instead? Look I’m not trying to be crass here, I’m well aware how terrible the coronavirus, the mass panic buying of loo roll…for some unexplained reason…and well everything the British government has been doing lately, is. All I’m saying is that I would rather watch Boris Johnson be disintegrated by a Martian, than worry about the bloody coronavirus.

8. Coffee at Luke’s: An Unauthorized Gilmore Girls Gabfest Edited by Jennifer Cruise

So, this is a thing. Rather like the first book on this list, this is a collection of essays; except this time on the topic of Gilmore Girls. Gilmore Girls is one of those shows in which I have a… complicated relationship with. On the one hand I loved the original show, and yet like many of you out there I found the revival lacking in the charm that made the original so appealing. Also, the characters were all awful, and by that, I mean they were all awful people. Where they like that in the original, I don’t remember that. Still the book is well worth a look, even for the most disappointed of Gilmore Girls fans, and I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys digging deeper into their favorite shows.

7. The Silmarillion by J.R.R Tolkien.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s least enjoyable book…there I said it. I’m of two minds about this book, on the one hand nowhere else is J.R.R. Tolkien’s genius most evident, and yet the only way to describe how I manged to finish this is: with great difficulty. Whether or not you enjoy this book really depends on how much you’re invested in the Elves as a people – for you see The Silmarillion is not just the history of Middle-Earth, it’s the History of Middle-Earth as told by the ruling class of Elves. It’s why we never really get a look into the other races unless they’ve had direct contact with the elves. Notice how it’s only the men who live under the Elves sovereignty who are in anyway explored in a meaningful way. This isn’t the story of Middle-earth but rather how the elves perceive it. And nowhere is this more apparent than the story of the petty Dwarves. The petty dwarves were a diminutive race that lived in the continent of Beleriand (the north most tip of middle-earth) during the first age (or at least round about that time, Middle-earth calendars are a lot less straightforward than you’d think). In fact, they were the first people to live in Beleriand, even before the elves – and what did the elves do when they got there? Come on, we all live in a post-colonist world, you know what they did. That’s right, they massacred them…hunted them for sport actually. Claiming all the while that they thought they were animals. While they do stop doing this once they meet the larger dwarves, and realize the creatures they were gleefully slaughtering – which had worn clothes, and held weapons – were not in fact a strange kind of boar. However, they don’t actually seem to feel guilty about what they’d done. In fact, the text itself implies that the petty dwarves had it coming, because they were…unpleasant, and didn’t like anyone. My Valar of the Forge and Earth, why would a people that have been hunted to near extinction, and smeared in the history books, not have a sunny disposition? Madness, don’t they know that the feelings of their murders come first above all things.

Yes, I am a Tolkien nerd, why do you ask?

6. Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel by Daniel Jose Older

They should have let the cooking robot kill Ben Solo. Out of context that sentence sounds like nonsense, doesn’t it? But trust me, after you read this book, you’ll know what I mean. Anyway, getting down to business. Despite my first impressions of the film I can freely admit that ‘Solo’ is by far and away probably one the weaker members of the Star Wars franchise. Many people have tried to pinpoint the exact reason for this – raging from the sensible to the outright ludicrous – but I have come to the conclusion that ultimately, it was the pacing that let Solo down. Namely, it was originally supposed to be three films, but got squished into one for…some reason…and you can really tell. Despite this, the film had many positive qualities, not least among which was being the only film to note the cruelty many heroes casually throw at droids – I mean it didn’t do it well, but at least it mentioned it. Last Shot is everything Solo should have been: it explores Han Solo’s past but only so much as it pertains to the story, and it gives characters that had previously been killed off before they could do anything more than snark a chance to shine. And most of all, droid abuse and activism was made a central theme and story plot, rather than just something to be giggled at.

5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The book is better than the show. Yeah, I’ll say it, the show was needlessly dark and depressing and… that second season, oh my god, did I hate that second season. I couldn’t even watch it to the end. Look I know both the book and the show cover heavy topics that need to be taken seriously, like abuse, possible murder and body issues, but somehow the book was able to do that without making every single character completely unlikable. I mean what was with that story-line of Madeline cheating on Ed? She didn’t need more drama in her story, her book story-line was dramatic enough and unique. It wasn’t just another copy and paste affair arch. In conclusion, read the book and skip the show.

4. Revenge of the Sith by Mathew Stover

I love this book. I’ve read it more than once, more than thrice really, and each time it just gets better. A common trend when praising this book, is to imply that it vastly improves upon the original film. However, I’m not going to say that, because quite frankly not only is that kind of petty prequel hate repugnant to me in every way but, I found nothing to hate in the original film. In fact, it’s one of my favourites. What I will say is Mathew Stover’s take on the fall of Anakin Skywalker and the rise of Darth Vader is interesting and new, not better just different – but I found his description of the force, particularly how Obi-Wan experiences it, the most fascinating I’ve ever encountered in any Star Was franchise media, films included.

3. Snape: A definitive Reading by Lorrie Kim

Awesome, just awesome. Severus Snape is the essential base-breaking character. You either love him or loathe him, there doesn’t seem to be any neutral ground on this issue, but that doesn’t matter because Snape a Definitive Reading is the book for both sides of the argument. Whether you love him and want a conformation of why he is so awesome, or you absolutely hate him, but want an insight into what all your crazy friends see in him, this is the book for you.

2. Room by Emma Donoghue

I love this book. I was so, so about the film – since as a visual medium it lost much of the magic that was Jack’s misunderstanding about his situation in the beginning of the story – but the book was fantastic. Now I’m assuming, Wee Readers, that each of you fall into one of two categories. Either you’ve already read this book/watched the film, and know each of the ins and outs of the story, and therefore don’t need me to tell you what you already know; or you have no idea what I’m even talking about. In which case I don’t want to ruin the story for you. So I’ll just say this, if you’re stuck at home at this strange time, pick up a kindle or audible version of this book, sit back and enjoy.

1. The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

Speaking of good books to read while you’re waiting out the coronavirus. This is, and I don’t think I’m overstating this, the best book published in 2019, hands down. If you’ve been following my blog for a while – hello early Wee Readers – you’ll remember I interviewed the author herself a few months back. If you’re interested go check that out here, or Ailish’s own blog here. There now the plugging is done, onto the real talk of the book.  Without giving away the end – because as we all know, only gypes give out spoilers on the internet – this a book that will not end how you think it will. Whether you are a fan of sweeping Romance, accurate Historical Fiction, Heroines that aren’t a size two, or like me an accurate portrayal of a Scottish accent… this is the book for you. Trust me, Wee Readers, you will not be thinking about the coronavirus while you’re reading this book. Seriously go out and buy this book.

If this wee post has distracted you at all from the ongoing dystopian narrative, we’ve all somehow found ourselves living through, then don’t forget to follow the wee blog if you haven’t already. Also check me out on Twitter – where I am hilarious – Facebook, Pinterest, GoodReads, Tumblr and Instagram. Also check out my Wee Mailing List ,for brand new content. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

Just a brief note before we leave, if you’ve enjoyed this and other posts like it on the Wee Writing Lassie, why not buy me a Wee Cup of Coffee, or drop me a tip over on Ko-fi. Which is linked to the image below.

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