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March 20, 2009 04:57 PM

Previously on Battlestar Galactica: "Someone to Watch Over Me".

What follows, after the break down there, are a few thoughts on "Islanded in a Sea of Stars," the penultimate episode, if you count both parts of "Daybreak" as the finale — which, for the purpose of live(ish)blogging, I intend to. Comments on those will go up tomorrow, or possibly tonight, once it's all over.

This has been fun. Slightly frantic, but fun. When it's all over, I intend to get a little more reflective, a little more analytic, and a little less recappy than today, which has been "Watch and post! Watch and post!" just about as fast as I can. Reaction — now! Go! Go! Go! But even in that semi-frantic timeline, it's been fascinating seeing how this season fits together all at once – so I can't wait to see how the whole series fits together when it ends in a few hours.

Thoughts on "Islanded" are a little briefer than previous posts.

This episode begins with one of those moments that doesn't exactly change the show as we know it, but does introduce something we've never heard of, or had reason to believe exists, before: the colony (see also: the resurrection hub). "I guess you could call it home," Ellen says of the place where Cavill has hidden out, and the place where whatever remains of resurrection technology is stashed. Adama's sick and tired of destiny — even from Kara, who explains about the song that her father taught her, that switched on the final five, that led them to Earth — but even he can't argue with the simple fact that they're still alive, and that everyone agrees that Hera's fate is important.

But his mind is only on his ship, which the new Quorum is already trying to claim, piece by piece. Other things happen in this episode — like Baltar trying to claim that Kara is an angel, a scene which leads to a lovely moment between Kara and Lee where he tells her he doesn't care what she thinks she is; like Boomer finding, to her surprise, that she's connection with Hera (and not just because of Cylon projection) on their way to the colony — but what it's all about is everyone preparing for the end. For them, it's not the end of the show; it's the end of Galactica, their home, refuge and protector. It's home, as Roslin says later when she tells Adama that she's not sure she's ever felt as home as she has on the ship — even though now, if he doesn't let the ship go, they might both die on it. But who will Admiral Adama be if he's not the captain of Galactica?

• Gaius talks about angels, a voiceover on the wireless, while we're looking at Kara. I keep wondering if she was somehow one of the people who appeared to warn the five of the impending attack on Earth.

• Gaius and Caprica, having what I imagine is one last moment to show how far they've come — or not come — since their first moments together.

• A dying Eight muttering "Too much confusion," to Tigh as she fades.

• Ellen telling Saul that while the child he almost had died, he already had children. Millions of them. And once again highlighting that the central friendship in this show is Tigh and Adama, the human and the Cylon, one of the two pairs around whom the entire show turns.

• Starbuck in a toilet stall, goading Gaius, who goads her back until they're in a strange position where she almost has to ask him something, but being Starbuck, phrases it as a challenge instead.

• Starbuck, period. The show's playing with us, backlighting her as she says, "There's one thing I know for sure. I am not an angel." Her scenes in this episode are mostly fairly quiet, but when she goes in to sit with Sam, determined again, on a quest that may have no ending, acknowledging that it didn't matter after all that he was a Cylon, it's only one of the moments here in which she starts accepting things as they are. Slick told her that sometimes it's OK to be lost, and she's taken that to heart.

• Gaius, still untrustworthy, still using someone else's moment of vulnerability to his own ends. But I'm not sure what his point is here: to tell his flock not to fear death?

• Kara, putting her own picture on the memorial wall, like she's letting go of herself.

• And at the end, the admiral and his executive officer, letting go of something that makes them who they are. But it's not over yet. There's one last mission.

I seriously can't wait.

March 20, 2009 01:39 PM

And we continue (from the mutiny-centric "The Oath" and "Blood on the Scales") with the info-heavy "No Exit," which found me mostly just typing, somewhat frantically, in an attempt to keep up with everything Sam Anders says. It's important, it's relevant, "It's the miracle, right here," as he says to Saul Tigh.

So let's see what the Cylon says...

"No Exit" changes the opening sequence, giving more history — a nice warning for how much history we're about to get dumped on us in rapid succession.

• Ellen waking up is a fantastic place to start, but what I love about this scene is the way the tone is set for her to be something so much more than we've seen her be before — through her politeness to the Centurion. Beautiful.

• Oh, Sam Anders. Sam Anders and the Bullet of Exposition, and his wife Kara Thrace and Her Special Destiny. I can hardly believe how much info gets piled on in this episode, and while it's not exactly graceful, it's still fairly satisfying.

• The power play with Ellen and Cavill instantly makes both of their characters are far more interesting: his petulance, resentment, endless anger at the imperfections she gave him, and her welcoming of uncertainty, of change, of nuance (how do you define machine? It's one of the first things she suggests. What does it mean?). And there's a lot to ponder in the suggestion, later confirmed by Sam, that Cavill always knew who the final five were. When Ellen, her memories blocked, was sleeping with him on New Caprica, trying to keep Saul alive, Cavill knew. The entire time. It makes that entire sequence so much darker, and shows that the reason he boxed D'Anna wasn't because she learned forbidden knowledge, but because she might tell the Five who they were, and they might find him out, I think.

• "I need a Chief, and all I have is a Galen," is such a lovely line, and an acceptance of how important Tyrol is no matter what his title.

• Ellen says something about Centurion values like belief in a Cylon god. Still fascinated by this. And the way Cavill says he's deleted a subroutine about sleeping; how, where? How does it work?

• Cavill's endless bitterness about his resemblance to humanity is so telling, so huge, for the whole story. It's not just about hating humanity for building and using the Centurions; it's about actually hating the flaws of humanity, the imperfections. He wants to make Cylons better, and by better meaning more like machines. Which is what Boomer says, that Cavill is teaching her to be a better machine.

• I cannot type fast enough to keep up with Sam's infodump. But the first key thing he says is that the five reinvented resurrection tech, organic memory transfer, that it came from Kobol with the 13th tribe. But they aren't the 13th tribe? Who IS the 13th tribe? The original Cylons? Previous Cylons, since it keeps happening again?

• "These old planets, that's not who we are anymore. We're a fleet now, and our daily lives are defined by the ship we're from." Lee's a smartypants. But so is Roslin, when she points out, "You're so hellbent on doing the right thing that you sometimes don't do the smart thing."

• The Galactica needing, absolutely requiring, Cylon help — it's a fantastic illustration (a word I keep using) of the reality of the universe in which these people live. Joining forces isn't optional anymore.

• "We needed to find the other tribes and warn them," Anders says. They knew the tribes would create artificial life and they wanted to warn them to keep the Centurions close, not war with them - is the implication that the nuclear holocaust on Earth was a war between these skinjobs and their Centurions?

• When they got to the colonies, the survivors of Earth made a deal with the Centurions that if they stopped the war with humanity, they'd help them develop humanoid bodies - hence, the eight models. And Kara jumps right on that number. Eight. Which is also interesting in that it implies the Eight was the last skinjob series created - the impulsive, emotional one.

• Interesting that the temple they found comes back up again. The 13th tribe left Kobol, stopped at that temple, and it showed them the way to Earth. Thus, their ancestors had already taken that path? Ellen tells Cavill that the five didn't plant anything there, no signs, no symbols: "We backtracked the path of our ancestors, found their temple. The one true god must have orchestrated these events." So she actually believes in this god that I thought she said was a Centurion value. I'm still a little confused by this. And Cavill argues that the five created their children in this flawed, human-like way because "they thought that God wanted it that way." Hmm.

• "We didn't limit you," Ellen says. "We gave you something wonderful. Free will. The ability to think creatively, to reach out to others with compassion." And the ability to love. Boomer asks, love who? Humans? Who would she want to love? This becomes way more interesting in light of Ellen's obsession with Caprica's pregnancy proving Tigh loves her.

"But the humans on Kobol made us," Tory says. Let me see if I can get this straight:

1. Humanity, on Kobol, makes Cylons.
2. Thirteen tribes leave Kobol for the colonies and Earth.
3. The tribe that leaves Kobol for Earth is made up of Cylons.
4. On Earth, the Cylons began to reproduce, so stopped using resurrection tech.
5. But then the final five reinvented resurrection tech - why? And how old are the final five? Did they already resurrect? When were they born/created?
6. Then there was a nuclear holocaust and they wanted to warn the other colonies, knowing they would try to create artificial life and that that life would rise up and rebel.
7. Thus, the nuclear holocaust on Earth was caused by the Centurions, which the skinjobs had as servants, destroying them?

• Ellen says, and seriously seems to believe, it would take all five of them to rebuild resurrection. Cavill says she's no better than the humans that enslaved them. But when did the humans enslave the skinjobs? Or is that leftover from Centurion brains? And how can Cavill complain so much about this when he dumbed down the raiders and the Centurions? He's the one whose arrogance leads to things like Centurions destroying their creators - assuming that's what happened on Earth.

• Cavill was first and helped them build the others.

• The Centurions had a single loving God; Ellen said it changed everything. If Cylons learned love and mercy, the cycle would change. Cavill turned on the five of them, trapped them, suffocated them, killed them, downloaded and blocked their memories, implanted them with false ones and sent to the colonies after boxing them for a while. Back on Earth, Sam says, they saw different warning signs — a woman, a man — that no one else could see. I still didn't hear him use the word "angels," which everyone else has quoted. Maybe it was in one of those moments when someone else is talking over him.

• Sam says, "Seven was the Daniel. Daniel died. He was Seven. I'm sure." At first I thought Kara's fixation on the name meant it rang a bell for her, but later, she says, "I thought maybe I was the Seven. I need to be something," and it's almost heartbreaking: Certainty, for her, that she's nothing anyone knows. (I keep wondering, What did Leoben think he knew, when he locked her up in a house with him as her fake partner, Kara and a Cylon? I don't think the show knew who the Cylons were yet, which makes Leoben's actions even stranger, more fascinating - and so sadly forgotten.)

• Sam insists the Cylons stay with the fleet. "It's all starting." On the baseship, Cavill tells Ellen, "I gave you all grandstand seats to a holocaust." And Ellen argues about everything Cavill's done — taking Galen's confession, torturing Saul — all being so that they'd come back and tell him he was right, give him approval: "You are driven by the most petty of human emotions: Jealousy, and rage."

The Daniel conversation between Ellen and Cavill, with Boomer in the room:
"I know what you did to Daniel."
"That Seven didn't thrive. Sad. It's too bad we're not made out of something more sturdy."
"Daniel was an artist. So sensitive to the world. I was very close to him. But John decided I was playing favorites. Maybe I was. Someone contaminated the amniotic fluid in which we were maturing all the Daniel copies, and corrupted the genetic formula."

• Is it telling that she says all the Daniel copies? Can we take that to mean there was an original Daniel?

• Cavill says that if he's flawed it's his maker's fault, not his. And Ellen wants him to accept himself as he is, despite his mistakes. There's a weird forgiveness thing going on here, like Baltar's God from whom he wants forgiveness, or to forgive. And later, when Boomer takes Ellen to the fleet, she claims she's forgiving her. Knowing, now, that it's all a plot to get Hera, makes this more interesting: Cavill clearly believed Ellen when she said she couldn't recreate resurrection alone, so he turns to the reproduction option, wanting Hera. Or else it's a trap to bring the fleet, and with them the final five, to the mentioned-for-the-first-time Colony (rather like the Hub, that), where he can lure them all intro recreating resurrection. However, given that the Galactica is getting the shit kicked out of her in the previews for the finale, I don't think any fear for the five's lives is stopping Cavill from firing on the ship.

• "We should've brought a tumbril. ... Nevermind." What's a tumbril?

On to "Deadlock," which isn't a favorite of mine.

March 20, 2009 03:26 PM

"Deadlock" may have been a weak episode, but "Someone to Watch Over Me" is something for any show to be proud of. It's nearly flawless, a beauty of acting, writing, editing and, so very importantly, composing (composer Bear McCreary's three-part, incredibly detailed blog on his part of the experience starts here and is definitely recommended reading).

Plus, it's about Starbuck AND the Chief. What more could you ask for?

I stopped taking notes for much of this episode because I just wanted to enjoy it. Its two narrative strands — Kara talking to a piano player in the bar, and the Chief getting involved with Boomer — twist around each other, weaving things tighter as we near the end of the series. The beginning of the episode alone is amazing: As Starbuck goes through the motions of an ordinary morning again and again, everything is underscored by Slick, the piano player she sees in the bar, and everything literally happens again, just like it happened before. Life repeats itself in small ways, week after week, and Kara gets tireder and tireder, as they look for somewhere to stop moving.

A piece of the thread with the Chief and Boomer involves the baseship wanting Boomer back so they can try her for her involvement in the Cylon civil war, but a piece of what makes that interesting is the appearance of Sonja, the Six who will represent the baseship in the new Quorum. Not much is made of it, but it's fascinating — as is her plain statement that now that resurrection is impossible, capital punishment has meaning for the Cylons.

The early scenes with Starbuck and Slick, the piano player, have a nicely played friendly combativeness; she challenges him on the meaning of his music, and he explains that it brings a little grace and beauty to an otherwise brutal life — and he could be speaking of Starbuck's life, given her past, and her quickly revealed knowledge of music, which is far greater than expected. Before she talks to Slick, Starbuck talks to Doc Cottle, who tells her she needs to get on with her life, but for once, the Doc is wrong. She needs to go backwards, via the drawing Hera gives her — the row of dots. In a tiny moment, Hera nods when Starbuck asks if the colorful dots are stars. A map as well as a song? The translation of music into a navigational tool? Isn't there often music playing in the basestars?

Starbuck's scene with Helo, when he tells her he has all her stuff, serves three purposes: It reminds us Helo's there, for crying out loud; it reminds us of Starbuck's long-unmentioned pianist father; and it underscores how detached Starbuck is from her old self, as she only takes the tape of her father's playing, leaving Helo everything else that once belonged to her.

But even more quintessentially Starbuck than that detachment is her ineloquent explanation of how the song Slick is working on makes her feel. It's like a person chasing a car, she says. He tells her it's meant to evoke a sense of loss. It's the same thing, but Starbuck speaks in concrete terms, not words that describe feelings, and has to work to explain that that's just what she meant.

The fact that this manages to be both a Chief episode and a Starbuck episode - the most cut-off person, and the most connected, sympathetic person - helps make it a stunner. Every scene that's not with Kara and Slick, I would want the show to go back to them, but that the plotline with the Chief and Boomer is so compelling too. On the one hand, Starbuck is inching closer and closer to Slick, talking about her feelings — how the song her dad taught her, which Slick's playing reminds her of — made her feel happy and sad at the same time ("The best ones do," Slick says). On the other, Sharon is showing the Chief the trick of Cylon projection, showing him the house she dreamed they'd live in someday, even the daughter she thought they'd have. And I think she means it, even as she leads him into attacking another Eight to get her out; even as she fools him into helping her leave with Hera onboard. I think Boomer is the most conflicted, fascinating, cruel, divided character on the show; she truly seems to believe two things at once. She loved the Chief, but not enough to set aside her mission for Cavill. She says she wants the Chief to come with her, but without thinking of what Cavill would do with him, another one of the five. You could argue she's always just pushing the Chief's buttons, but when she tells him she meant every word, no matter what happens, I believe her, even as I don't trust her. How could you trust anyone who could do what she does in the locker room with Helo, with Athena looking on?

"Sometimes lost is where you need to be," Slick says to Starbuck. And then there's the sequence this entire episode is building toward, edited so gracefully, timed just right, Starbuck and Slick on the piano bench, picking out the song; Ellen, Tory and Saul in the bar, just turning their heads the tiniest bit as the first notes line up; Boomer picking up Hera from the nursery, in a hurry; Slick launching into the lower part of that song, Starbuck joining in, a beautiful shot of their hands that shifts to the three Cylons, Saul's eye widening — until Starbuck stops, seeing her dad, seeing Slick as her father, until the Cylons interrupt and suddenly, he's gone.

"I plaued it as a kid. My father —" she stops when she realizes the player isn't there.

Everything else is less; everything else is important. Athena, stumbling into a room, asks Helo if Boomer has Hera and he instantly knows she does. Boomer, trying to escape, pretends to be Athena, but Adama calls her by her own name. Roslin, falling, fainting, as Hera leaves; why didn't Caprica feel something, too, if they used to share the opera house visions? Ellen realizing it was all planned from the beginning, hating being a pawn in Cavill's game, and saying of Hera, "She's plugged into something that's manipulating all of us."

The cynical side of me says, sure, she's plugged into whatever skinny framework the showrunners have set up for the last episodes. But this one is so well done that I can't be cynical about it. It's one of the best episodes of the entire series — this one and "Unfinished Business" might top my list.

Next: "Islanded in a Sea of Stars."

March 20, 2009 12:02 PM

As explained in the last post, I'm watching the last season of Battlestar Galactica and blogging it all day. Why? Because it's awesome. Because I'm making up for not doing this as the season went on. And because the story is even better when you watch it all at once. As noted before, there are spoilers aplenty, and this is not an intro course; it's running commentary for geeks. I'm treating "The Oath" and "Blood on the Scales" as one story since the mutiny spans both episodes.

Wow, this gets long. Fair warning and all.

"The Oath" begins with location and military time; it's a military story and will tell you as much from the word go.

The other thing it makes clear is that this fight is going to bring people alive again. Kara says as much – "Take a breath, Lee" — when she saves Lee from a handful of mutineers. (Her impulsive kiss is matched only by her "I could do this all day" when taking down her enemies as one of the most perfectly Starbuck moments we've seen in ages. Not to mention one of the most perfectly welcome, vibrant scenes of someone on this frakking ship knowing exactly what she wants and exactly what to do.)

In the middle of mutiny, everyone is acting in their simplest, truest form. Like Adama says, "Live or die, it's how you act today that's gonna matter." For every character, it does: Starbuck fights, fiercely and loyally, for her admiral and her ship. Adama takes control, instantly, from wobbling soldiers who aren't really, truly convinced that what they're doing is right. Gaius goes self-serving. The Chief goes efficient, organized, experienced with how to use the ship (not to mention loyal — though when Lee asks why he's doing what he is, Galen's reply — "The old man deserves a better fate than what he'll get from them" — is only half his story). And Roslin goes steely and determined; her quick thinking about using Gaius' wireless is the kind of thinking that's kept her in the presidency so long.

I had some skepticism about the mutiny as a plotline at first. Even though it does seem, in part, like it had to happen eventually — someone had to revolt, be it against the incorporation of the Cylons into the fleet or simply the fact of military governance — it also seemed like it was taking away from the questions we all want answered: the opera house, Kara's destiny, everything bigger than two men's fury. But now, what I see when I watch these episodes is Gaeta and Zarek knowing not what they've brought upon themselves. They've given fighters a clear enemy. They've given these angry, drifting people a threat they can understand and identify.

And in trying to prove how right they are, Zarek and Gaeta illustrate instead how difficult and how vital Adama's position is. It's an interesting twist, especially for a viewer who would be more likely to identify with non-military, non-Cylon folks: The revolt on behalf of the regular men and women serves only to show that those revolting aren't actually fit to lead. I kind of think it's a cop-out on the show's part; it would have been much more interesting if the rebellion was led by a person who truly believed what he or she said, not by a Tom Zarek, who only cares for "the people" when they agree with him (at least in this season, and arguably since the very beginning). Both his secret tribunals and his decision to murder the entire Quorum undermine the position of the rebels — a position that, realistically, we ought to be fairly understanding about. They're being asked to welcome in those who would have wiped out their entire race — and whose entire race they then tried to destroy. Could it be more complicated?

(The lines among characters are complicated further when you have Starbuck telling Adama "They are not your men anymore! They are the enemy!" Her view is almost as oversimplified as Zarek's, but she's not trying to take over the entire fleet, even if she is a loose cannon.)

(I've caught up to myself now and have to start with bullet points just to watch and type at once.)

• Later, Zarek says "Destroy our enemies before they destroy us." And it's too late for Gaeta, who realizes, "This is all based on lies." Zarek's war was never for the people, but against Adama. I wish it were more nuanced than that.

• But nuance is in other storylines. Nuance is the guy from the Pegasus whose name I can't remember letting the Chief go (and, later, breaking down in his indecision, finally choosing one unknown future over another); nuance is the quiet way the entire escape is thanks to the Chief, as shown in another throwaway line: Lee says he forgot that "this place," from which Roslin escapes, was there, and Galen says everyone did. Everyone but him, who knows the entire ship, every path, every way through and around.

• "Who do you want to be?" Roslin yells at Tory, trying to convince her that the fleet, the humans, have a remarkable habit of beating the odds. It's the question that covers this entire season, even the entire series: Who do you want to be? What defines you? Hope or failure? Your enemy or your ally? Who stands a chance if they all keep defining each other as enemies?

• Moments of humor with Lee and Kara: Looking away from the Roslin/Adama smooch, like they're being embarrassed by their parents, and the grenade Lee doesn't pull the pin on. Nicely done moments of relief from the tension.

• "This isn't a trial. This is the asylum." The smartest thing Romo Lampkin ever said. Followed swiftly by the smartest thing he ever did: His moment of indecision, standing in a stream of light trying to choose himself over Kara and Sam, is a tiny, character-defining glimpse at what a bad guy this slimy lawyer actually isn't.

• "I ran. Again. I disappeared in the nick of time. Again." Is Gaius actually having a moment of honesty with himself? Not half as honest as the Lieutenant brave enough to tell Adama, with Tigh right there, that he hates the Cylons and can't take orders from a leader who won't fight them. That one man, in that one sentence, has more clarity, more honesty, than ten Tom Zareks.

• It's too easy to make Roslin so right. If Zarek were a less nasty man, then Roslin's choice to fight him would be so much more complicated, more her choosing out of pain and fury than out of what's best for the fleet. Which, to be fair, is why she's choosing; it's about believing Adama is dead, not about the fleet, and she's a lesser leader for it. But we have the easy out of knowing Zarek would be a terrible, terrible leader, and should never be given command of the ragtag remnants of humanity — not when he's willing to take out everyone who disagrees with him. Neither of them are thinking about the future, but one's less dangerous than the other.

• It's almost funny when Gaeta snarks at Zarek that they have a military leader and a president in one. It's true: Zarek wants all the power. But again, it's making it too morally easy for the audience. We've already found, over the last three seasons, that it's not so simple as humans good, Cylons bad, so why make it so simple when it's humanity vs. humanity? When Zarek tries to take over in the CIC, the show lets us almost forgive Gaeta for being fooled by Zarek, for believing that Zarek had anyone's best interests in mind. It's a more complex ending for Felix Gaeta, who was, in his way, everything Zarek pretended to be: A man who believes that he's right, but has limits to what he'll do as a result. When Gaeta says he's fine with the way things went down, I believe him.

Continue with "No Exit," or skip ahead to "Deadlock."

March 20, 2009 04:17 PM

After the cancellation of the West Eugene Parkway sparked a two year search for alternatives, the West Eugene Collaborative (WEC) has recommended the eventual conversion of the West 11th commercial strip into a green, multi-modal, mixed-use, dense boulevard.

The wide boulevard with up to four lanes of through cars, two lanes of side access streets, two lanes of parallel parking, two dedicated lanes of EmX buses, wide sidewalks and five park strips with trees but no dedicated bike lanes could be built incrementally and take two decades and $180 to $250 million to complete, the WEC’s consensus report estimates.

In the short term, the diverse group of developers and environmentalists recommends improvements to signage, traffic lights, intersections and turn lanes on West 11th and adjacent 5th and 7th streets to quickly and cheaply reduce congestion.

The WEC report is vague in many details and does not recommend limiting big box development in the area nor does it call for any major new highways.

The lack of a big new road like the controversial and failed parkway through wetlands may be the plan’s biggest statement, according to Friends of Eugene President Kevin Matthews. “It represents a big decision to say West Eugene can work without the new roads,” he said.

WEC members said the report was more about creating a consensus among diverse groups for an overall vision and direction than a detailed technical plan. The next step, they said, will be seeing if the community supports the vision and fleshing out the engineering. “At this early time, it may not have a whole lot of detail in it, but it’s a first step,” said west Eugene City Councilor Chris Pryor.

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy said the biggest accomplishment of the diverse group representing both environmental and development interests is moving from the decades of divisive fighting over the parkway to a consensus vision. “To me that is a very big deal.”

March 20, 2009 05:46 PM

Remember all the talk about Oregon leading the nation in fighting global warming? Well, ODOT must have thought people meant leading the nation in increasing global warming.

The state transportation agency, Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Portland's supposedly green city government is gung ho for a 12-lane, $4 billion, that's right $4,000,000,000, I-5 freeway bridge across the Columbia River to facilitate urban sprawl.

But, grassroots opposition is building. Here's a mocking shopping channel video from a Portland bike activist:

March 20, 2009 10:34 AM

THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN ALL OF THESE POSTS. You've been warned.

It's 10 in the morning and I've been watching TV for two hours.

I can't resist.

Battlestar Galactica ends tonight with a two-hour season finale, but the last season is running all day today. And I'm watching. I can't wait until the season comes out on DVD to see how the story lines up when it's all watched at once; this season isn't fussing with standalone episodes, or short-term storylines. It's for all the marbles.

So I woke up and started watching. I woke up to the triple whammy of "Sometimes a Great Notion": the president in tears, our girl Starbuck burning her own corpse and poor, distraught Dee ending her own story. I'm now up to "The Oath," about which I haven't previously blogged. That's the thing: I'm bummed that I didn't blog about each episode as it aired. So I'm making up for it today. These will be scattered thoughts, and at some point I'll have to take a break to, oh, eat, but I'm settled in front of the TV for the duration.

A warning: This isn't an intro-to-BSG thing. This is commentary for those already watching. And because the show deserves it. But I'll get to that tomorrow, when it's over.

Here we go.

Previous post on "Sometimes a Great Notion"
Previous thoughts on "A Disquiet Follows My Soul"

Watching the first two episodes of season 4.5 again put things in interesting perspective. What stands out is that the most important lines are hidden, not buried, but tucked under the grand moments. Dee's death still frustrates me, still makes me wish it had been someone else, but in retrospect it seems believable (for the character, acting as the illustration of Adama's story about foxes that give up the fight and let themselves drift out to sea) and pragmatic (in that the show needed to pare down a little bit to get through these last episodes; even with some characters gone, it's too busy).

But before Dee's death, we see Lee telling her about the speech he gave — a speech we were spared watching (poor Jamie Bamber deserves more to do than just speechify). What he told the fleet, or the Quorum; I'm not sure, was that they're free. No more destination, no more mythology to follow, no more visions of Earth. It's scary, but it's freedom. That's the point. It's so scary, some characters can't face it. Whether or not Dee is really one of those characters is still up for debate, a bit, but what follows, in the mutiny, shows that it's too much for the very person who claims to be all about freedom: Tom Zarek.

Zarek's mutiny is in theory all about the Cylons, and about Adama's welcome of them. He claims to want power to be in the hands of the people; he claims (in "A Disquiet Follows My Soul") that a revolution is in order to put the world at rights. But watching this again, I think there's more to it than that. Zarek watches the world change in ways he doesn't like, and his response is to take over, turn it back to the way he thinks it should be. I've never trusted his claims; the only person who behaves the way Zarek talks is Chief Tyrol. Zarek is a self-serving bastard who shields himself with talk of "the people" to justify his actions.

But I'm getting distracted. I don't mean to go over things I've already posted about. What I mean to do, with these eps, is point out things I should've seen before, and things that look differently with more of the story told:

• Kara and Felix in the mess hall. She should've seen it coming when he pushed all her buttons, made her furious, reminded her of everything he's angry about, from the tribunal that nearly killed him (established - let's remind ourselves of the irony - by Vice President Zarek) to the leg he lost after being shot by a Cylon. "Is that a threat?" Starbuck asks Gaeta. "You're gods damn right it is," he replies. But Starbuck, being Starbuck, thinks it's all about her. It's not.

• Roslin, jogging while the world tries to light itself on fire. She's as lost as Dee was, but her response is to live – to live more than ever. And as she jogs, Bear McCreary's score is fantastic, full of action movie drums and terseness, nervousness, but a nervous strength. (The more I read McCreary's fantastic blog, the more I'm impressed with the BSG music.)

• "Maybe tomorrow really isn't coming," Roslin says to Adama. It's another moment where the important part is tucked under the more dramatic one; the drama is when she asks him whether she has the right to live a little before she dies. She asks him that about herself, but tells him that he, too, has that right. She's still putting someone else first, even in her selfishness.

• Gaius Baltar's speech about the humans needing to forgive God, rather than be forgiven, is absolutely fascinating in light of the scenes with his father in "Daybreak, Part 1." His father is a salt-of-the-earth farmer type; Gaius comes from humble beginnings. And, apparently, hates it. He asks what sins his flock has committed, what dark thoughts they've harbored, that their God would abandon them in space, but he's talking about his own hatred of his father. Is his whole quasi-religion about this?

• "Every revolution begins with one small act of courage." "Disquiet" ends with two beautiful shots, the first of which hides Gaeta behind Zarek as Zarek washes his hands. But he can't wash his hands of this. Each one of them is trying to give more responsibility to the other; Gaeta asks if Zarek is the man to turn the world right side up again, which Zarek says he's one of the men to do that. "I need a partner." But he also wants someone else to get his hands dirty — or dirtier. Zarek's not afraid to kill, as we see early in the next episode, but he does let an awful lot of the death and violence fall to someone else.

• Is Roslin and Adama in bed, in the last lovely scene of "Disquiet," the last moment of peace anyone ges on this show? This quiet, sweet, simple moment?

On to "The Oath" and "Blood on the Scales."
Then to "No Exit."
Then to "Deadlock."
Then to "Someone to Watch Over Me."
Then to "Islanded in a Sea of Stars."

March 19, 2009 04:30 PM

Things I learned at this year's Chef's Night Out, the annual foodtastic benefit for FOOD for Lane County:

• Do not attempt to have a time limit, for lo, you will find yourself cursing the fates, and yourself, on your way out of the Hult Center.

• Do not attempt to have a plan, for lo, your plan will be flawed and un-carry-out-able.

• Do not forget to refill your beer glass.

In short, I didn't do as thorough a job stuffing myself this time. The things I missed! I ogled plates as they swam past me in the stream of diners: jello shots! Tiny sloppy joes from Davis'! More oysters and other small shellfish items than I could count on many fingers! The entire lower level!

I had this plan, see. I was going to start at the top and work my way down. But I didn't count on things like lines, and people, and the way certain tables are so popular (Soriah, I am looking at you, with your incredible banana desserts, always reliable, always delicious) that you have to trail person after person, delicately balancing your little tray while trying not to knock theirs out of their hands, just to find the end of the line. I didn't count on how the nicer-looking but smaller trays this year would make the piling up of food (in order to go find a corner in which to photograph and eat it) much more difficult.

That isn't to say I failed. I still left stuffed; I still made a boyfriend plate for he who couldn't join me. I just didn't even manage to hit half of the night's 50 tables. Still, here are hurried, from-memory notes on some of the things I ate, in alphabetical order:

(PLEASE NOTE: I am going to get things wrong. I am going to call them by the wrong names and things. Correct me if you remember. I didn't take notes. I don't have four arms. C'mon, now.)

Adam's Sustainable Table: Tofu pot pie! After a good dose of meat dishes, I opted to try the somewhat neglected tofu; most people were going for the kidney or chicken pies. The little cups were the perfect size, enough to offer more than a nibble but not too big, easy to pick up and easy to situate on a crowded tray.


Clockwise from top: pumpkin enchilada from Agate Alley; paté from Marché, something I do not remember the name of from Red Agave and delicious puffy cream-filled pastry from Marché; ahi poki and cucumber salad from Agate Alley.

Agate Alley Bistro: Agate Alley's pumpkin enchiladas were spicy and tasty, but it was the pairing of ahi poki and cucumber salad — just spicy enough, just tangy enough — which I would have liked to have in a larger size. Say, an entire platter of the stuff.

Want to be even hungrier? Read on!

Bates Steakhouse: With all due respect, I'm going to have to disagree with the Bates server who said the sauerkraut was the best ever (I think he said best in the world, though it may have been best in town) — it was definitely good, but not Best! Ever! good — but the prime rib was delicious, straightforward and a nice change from some of the more elaborate flavors bouncing around my palate.

Café Soriah: The above-mentioned banana macademia flambé, served over vanilla ice cream. The only thing I patiently waited for; they were working on more bananas when I got to the head of the line. I'm lucky that if this dish is on the Soriah menu, I've never noticed; otherwise, I might be tempted to eat it every time I'm at the bar. (Also, Soriah had pens. Brightly colored pens. Almost out of character brightly colored pens. Of course I took one.)

I just realized I missed out on Govinda's, which I really wanted to try. I think I should make a list for next year.

Larsen's Fine Candies: I went simple and snagged a chocolate-covered caramel that made a lovely one-bite dessert for my first trayload of food.

Mac's Restaurant and Nightclub: The booklet doesn't list them, but I could swear it was from here that I picked up tiny shrimp and crab cocktails — like last year — that acted, early on, as tantalizers for the heavier things to come.


The boyfriend plate, clockwise from left: kidney pie from Adam's Sustainable Table; fruit mousse from Palace Bakery; fortune cookie from forgotten location; ahi from SweetWaters; another Red Agave whatsit.

Marché: Look, I don't mean to play favorites, but the truth is, the one thing I ate multiple servings of this year (like last year's pork belly on a stick) came from Marché: Rich, decadent little cream-filled pastries drizzled with chocolate. I love not-too-sweet, just-right cream fillings, and these little buggers had plenty. I ate one. I went back for another. And another. And I put one on the boyfriend plate and made him eat it immediately, lest I eat that one, too.

Marché also had an array of patés on slices of baguette; I'm not honestly sure which one I had, but it surprised me: It looked like far too much paté for such a little piece of bread, but — with the addition of mustard and a cornichon on top — was just right, the richness cut with spices (allspice? nutmeg?) and the cornichon providing a textural counterpoint.

Market of Choice: The good old MOC always surprises me at Chef's Night Out. This year I skipped the cheese in favor of a miniature reuben with, if memory serves, house-smoked pastrami, and a citrus seafood shot, bright and vivid and so tangy I wished I'd actually eaten it like a shot, rather than forking out the bits of shrimp, tuna and avocado. I feared the mess, you see. I only have two hands, and one had to hold the tray.

Ninkasi: I'm usually a dark beer girl, so I opted for the loved-by-Eugeneans Total Domination IPA, just for fun.

Palace Bakery: In a frantic dash to make up a boyfriend plate before said fellow picked me up, I grabbed one of the Palace's beautiful mini mousses without being sure what fruit it was — passion fruit, I think. Now, on this dreary afternoon, thinking of my single bite of the mousse is nearly enough to send me immediately to the bakery; do not pass go; do not stop for coffee.

Red Agave: Teeny pork things — I think very like but not quite the same as last year, pork confit on masa? — and even teenier cheesecake bites, the latter of which I sadly did not try, the former of which was a reminder that I need to head to Red Agave one of these nights to try the late-night menu.


Mini-reuben from Market of Choice; seared ahi from Three Forks

Three Forks Wok & Grill: I started with Three Forks and inadvertently set myself a tuna theme for the night with their seared ahi — which came on a plate with just a dab of hot sauce. More, more!

On the way out, stacking the boyfriend plate with a beautifully arranged bit of ahi on a rice cracker from SweetWaters, the aforementioned Palace Bakery mousse and a few other things, I nabbed a cookie on a stick and a chocolate-laced fortune cookie, and failed to see where the latter two treats came from. The fortune cookie was eaten before I could steal a crumb, but for the record, I was told I really should have eaten one myself.

What I most wish I hadn't missed: The Vintage's cheerful cocktails. Beppe & Gianni's lobster and crab ravioli. Crab lobster (did this night have a seafood theme universally?) bisque from Fisherman's Market. Govinda's. Vegan cupcakes from The Divine Cupcake (though I skipped these chiefly because I fall for them all the time at Novella Café at the library, and already know how good they are). Colcannon-stuffed baby potatoes (with Guinness and corned beef; it was, after all, St. Paddy's) from Mallard Banquet Hall. Oregonzola gnocchi from Mazzi's. Wine from countless places.

You can't beat yourself up too much about what you miss at Chef's Night Out, though, even if you're me and you're prone to beating yourself up over missed food opportunities: It's wonderful and it's overwhelming, and it's hard to navigate alone. You need a food buddy to help test things, to run off in one direction to load a plate while you veer in another, piling dishes high so that when the two of you spy an empty bench, you can claim it and gorge to your heart's content.


Up close and personal with the creamy puff of goodness.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm hungry...

* This title is a reference to last year's Chef's Night Out post.

March 16, 2009 12:10 PM

Cargo bikes are in.

Revolution Cycles in Whiteaker has started to sell this stable Madsen from Utah featuring a big, low-slung cargo tub and a 600-lbs. capacity (click images for links):

The non-profit Center for Appropriate Transportation (CAT) is offereing classes to build this sturdy hauling trailer:



CAT’s Human Powered Machine shop also locally builds a number of cargo bikes including this popular model:

Many bike stores in town have been selling the increasingly popular Californian XtraCycles:

Then of course, Burley has been building cargo trailers in Eugene for three decades:

What’s next for Eugene? Maybe something like this from the nirvana of bike commuting, Copenhagen, Denmark:

Seen any other cool cargo bikes around town?

March 16, 2009 11:06 AM

The Twitternets is all aflutter this morning about the now-formerly-known-as-Sci-Fi-Channel's bit of thickheaded rebranding:

Building on 16 years of water-cooler programming and soaring ratings growth following its most-watched year ever, SCI FI Channel is evolving into Syfy, beginning this summer, Dave Howe, president, SCI FI, announced today.

By changing the name to Syfy, which remains phonetically identical, the new brand broadens perceptions and embraces a wider range of current and future imagination-based entertainment beyond just the traditional sci-fi genre, including fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure. It also positions the brand for future growth by creating an ownable trademark that can travel easily with consumers across new media and nonlinear digital platforms, new international channels and extend into new business ventures.

That last sentence is the only bit of this that makes a lick of sense. Pretending that being the Sci Fi Channel (sorry, SCI FI! I do not like to yell in all caps!) limits you from airing "fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure" programming is just making excuses. What this comes across as — and I'm hardly the first person to point this out — is "Hi! We're distancing ourselves from that crazy science fiction, 'cause it's for nerds/geeks/crazed fanboys who never leave the house/take your pick of clichés!"

If it's all about a trademark thing, though, then fine. FINE. I can even get halfway to forgiving the post for referring to both "the mainstream appeal of the world's biggest entertainment category" — without really clarifying what it means by that; TV? "Scantily clad women?" Suzi suggests — and "the generic entertainment category 'sci-fi,'" only because they're talking about trademarking. (Though the idea that their new name is "broadening perceptions," as opposed to "broadening viewer skepticism toward the wisdom of the network's choices," is almost enough to make me snort coffee.)

But the simple fact is, whatever the reason, be it corporate grabby hands or nerd distancing tactics, the new name is stupid. Stupid enough that it goes quite well, really, with such wonderful TV movie titles as Ice Spiders and Sharks in Venice. Oh, formerly-known-as-Sci-Fi-Channel, you've always been so wonderfully literal. Why go wonky with "creative" spelling now?

(Possibly my favorite Twitter response: "I like that 'SyFy' are spelling phonetically to a group that can usually explain the main theoretical barriers to warp speed technology!")

EDIT: OK, I somehow missed this gem of an article before — in which one Tim Brooks, TV historian, actually says:

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular."

We're still having this conversation? The women-don't-like [insert "geeky" thing here] conversation? Really?

But hey. That Dave Howe fella says "SyFy" makes them feel "much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise." I know I feel cooler every time I see the word I will never pronounce any way but "Siffy." Don't you?

March 14, 2009 09:23 PM

Let’s see if we got this right.

The UO’s new President will make a half million a year.

The UO’s new athletic director will make at least another half million.

The UO’s new football coach will make $3 million.

That adds up to $4 million a year for the three positions.

Due to a supposed lack of money, the UO is hitting in-state students with an extra $150 and out of state students with an extra $300 in fees Spring semester.

Those extra student fees ad up to about $4 million squeezed out of students and their families struggling in the down economy. Funny how math at the University of Oregon works out.

March 13, 2009 01:05 PM

Check out this artsy video of Eugene's funky bike culture:

See anyone you know?

March 13, 2009 10:43 AM

Twenty-one Roosevelt Middle School students biked to school today to save the world and perhaps win a prize, according to Freiker.

What’s Freiker? Freiker (short for frequent biker) is a growing program started in Boulder, Colorado that rewards kids with iPods and other prizes for biking to schools. Kids put a RFID sticker (like in the library) on their bike helmets and pass under a solar powered scanner that counts their bike trips and sends the data to the Freiker.org website.

Frequent bikers get a prize from program sponsors, but the big prize is healthier kids, more livable cities and less global warming. Freiker has counted 105,000 rides since 2005.

March 13, 2009 04:38 PM

After the closure of the county’s armory warming shelter, the homeless have few choices but the county jail now.

Eugene Acting Police Chief Pete Kerns told the City Club last month that arrest and the jail is where “many” homeless mentally ill people wind up. “It’s a dry warm place where they can get warm meals and some treatment,” he said.

But instead of calling for a homeless shelter to properly treat such victims of mental illness, Kerns called for an increase in the size of the jail by up to 20 fold. The 1,600 bed jail Kerns envisions would cost $160 million to build and $50 million a year to operate, far more than a homeless shelter.

Meanwhile, Eugene police continue to take enforcement actions against human beings for the “crime” of homelessness.

According to a staff memo this week, the city code only permits being homeless under certain prescribed conditions:

“Eugene Code 4.816 allows up to three vehicles to camp on vacant, industrial, commercial, religious or public property with the owner’s permission if standards such as sanitation are met. In addition, one vehicle can camp in the driveway of a single family residence or in the backyard in a tent if the same standards are met. EC 4.815 allows limited camping on public streets.”

The memo states: “Because of the worsening economy and unemployment, the number of homeless people has increased by a third compared to last year.” And the homeless, or homeless “crime” problem as the city may see it, is only getting worse: “Despite the economy, rental vacancy rates remain low and rental rates remain high in our community. We expect an increase in complaints….”