Vampire Detectives of the Small Screen

February 29, 2008

Where was I? Oh, yes, the angst and drama surrounding vampire/mortal relationships. As it turns out, TV has been a wonderful place for these to play out. sonetka alluded to some of that going on in Buffy, but I never watched Buffy regularly. Instead, I watched two amazingly similar shows about vampire detectives, separated in airtime by a little more than a decade.

The first series, Forever Knight, I first saw during my impressionable youth, watched regularly for a while, lost track of, never finished, and then rediscovered upon joining Netflix during the dark days of graduate school. It was a Canadian show that had made its way down to the US, to which I was introduced by my aunt and uncle from Chicago, who could always be counted upon to feed my interest in fantasy. It was an awesome show, in a really-bad-early-90s-special-effects kind of way. In the first season, for example, the transformation to vampire mode was signified by the screen darkening and a yellow rectangle of light appearing in a bar over the vampire’s eyes, because they hadn’t yet figured out how to change just the eye color. But these are minor issues, I assure you.

The show is pretty much entirely driven by the main character, Toronto police detective Nick Knight.* Nick has been a vampire for 800 years now, and for the last several hundred has been looking for a cure. As the opening credits narration so eloquently puts it (in the voice of Nick’s nemesis and master, no less): “He was brought across in 1228. Preyed on humans for their blood. Now he wants to be mortal again. To repay society for his sins. To emerge from his world of darkness. From his endless… Forever (K)night.” Can you see where all the tension between the pros and cons of vampirism and mortality might come in here?

Here are the dichotomies, as embodied by various major characters:

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Vampire Detectives of the Page

February 26, 2008

Like sonetka, I too have been thinking about vampires. In part this is due to the recent resurgence of immortality on TV, (namely CBS’s Moonlight,) but I’ve actually had vampires, and more specifically vampire detectives, in my life since high school, so I’m going to backtrack and look at this weird theme from the beginning, starting where sonetka left off, in books.

My first encounter with the combination of vampire and detective fiction came through my high school enjoyment of Mercedes Lackey‘s books. Her Valdemar series is gaining something of the never-ending quality of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, but, also like McCaffrey, she has been prolific in other series as well. One of those other series was the Diana Tregarde Investigations set. There were only three books in the series, Children of the Night, Burning Water, and Jinx High, due to, I kid you not, unbalanced fans threatening Lackey for revealing the truth of occult police work (and a bunch of other stuff.)

In any case, Lackey’s main character, Diana Tregarde, is a Guardian, who guards the force, fights evil, etc., etc. She must solve occult-based mysteries to save the world, which makes for some weird and wacky plots, but with some good fantasy/horror suspension of disbelief, everything makes sense within the context of the book. They’re fast-paced, like any good adventure mystery, and not nearly as cheesy as they sound initially. But what does Diana do to pay the bills when she’s not out fighting monsters? She writes romance novels. And who does she meet in the first book, who helps her gain insight into the dark side of the occult world, and also happens to be tall, dark, devastatingly handsome, and averse to sunlight? A vampire boyfriend, of course. Sound familiar? The vampire boyfriend turned out to be one of the more interesting side characters, but given that the next two mysteries took place out of town, he mostly became relegated to phone conversations and textual references, and then the series ended and we heard of him no more. Alas.

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Dead Handsome: Buffy Vs. Bella

February 23, 2008

Last week a friend lent me a copy of Twilight, swearing up and down that I would love it – she never buys hardbacks but made an exception for this, so she really thinks highly of it. I’d heard of the Twilight series before but until I looked the books up on Amazon I hadn’t realized what a phenomenon they were; since the author is a Mormon BYU grad I had thought her popularity was more local. But apparently, girls across the continent are fighting over first rights to Edward Cullen, brooding, conflicted vampire hero who’s in love with a high school girl approximately 1/6th his age. Now, where have I heard a story like that before?

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February 19, 2008

I knit. I have an account on Ravelry, a self-described “knit and crochet community”, and I go to a weekly stitch-n-bitch to hang out and chat knitting with other knitters. I design knitted goods and publish the patterns. I am a knitter.

Among knitting circles, a collection of yarn in one’s possession (butnot on one’s person) is known as a “stash”. Until recently, I thought of my stash as like a yarn waiting room. Yarns hang out in the stash,waiting for me to knit them into finished objects (“FOs”).

A stash begins innocently enough. You finish a hat and have a quarter ball left over. It waits in a drawer with your needles,eventually gathering friends from that sweater you bought an extra ball for, the yarn for your mom’s holiday gift, some nice yarn to add stripesto a sweater (but decided you liked better plain), some gorgeous yarn you got on megasale and think might be gloves someday, etc…

Recently, though, I’ve become aware of a more sinister side to the stash.
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Look Your Age

February 15, 2008

After all that thinking I did about societal expectations surrounding looking professional, I found myself also wondering about a related question. How does a person go about looking their age? This is something that comes up a lot on shows like “What Not to Wear,” in which they frequently chastise the person getting the wardrobe makeover for not dressing appropriately for their age, be it by dressing too young or too old. I often get comments (regardless of what I’m wearing) that I look “so young;” by contrast, Mark is often thought to be older than his actual age (and he goes to work in a t-shirt and jeans every day!) So how do we, as a society, go about determining what the archetype of a certain age looks like? TV, ads, general life experience?

I wish someone would tell me, because I’m apparently an outlier, and it’s getting annoying. If I am a person and I am the age I am, how can I not look my age?

And if it turns out that most of the people I know have this problem, how has the overall picture of what a person’s age is supposed to look like become so skewed?

-posted by Dana

What is professional hair, anyway?

February 13, 2008

I’ve been thinking about my hair a lot lately. Partly this is because it’s got split ends, and I need to have it trimmed. But then I started thinking about how much I should have it cut. Should it be just a trim, or should I really get it cut?

I’ve pretty much always had long hair. Very long. By the end of my third year of college, it was getting to the point that I could sit on the ends when it was down. I got it cut short for the first time after I returned from my semester abroad, in a sort of “I have the confidence to do something really different now!” act of independence. They cut off 25″ all in one go. Then I grew it out again for 2.5 years, only to get it cut short again in the middle of my second miserable year of grad school, this time with the hope that it would symbolize some sort of grand turning point for many things in my life then. It didn’t work, but they did take off 12″ that time, and it did mean that while I remained depressed for the rest of year, I didn’t have to worry too much about brushing my hair.

Anyway, I’ve recovered since then, and I’ve been letting my hair grow again ever since, so it’s back down to almost my waist. And I like it. So why would I want to cut it? Why do I sort of feel like I’m expected to cut it?

Some time last year, at whatever time of year it was that the local paper decided most new college grads would be seriously looking for job interviews or going to their first real jobs, there was an article about “how to look professional.” Most of it was dedicated to discussion of different levels of casual vs. formal professional clothing, but two things stood out to me from their suggestions for women:

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Judicial Review?

February 8, 2008

I have more respect for John McCain as a candidate than I have had for a major Republican candidate in pretty much living memory. He has risked political capital for principle on a number of occasions, most notably in his support for campaign finance reform, and that’s not easy to do in politics for as long as he has been it. I still disagree with most of his positions, but I respect him.

That’s why I felt such a chill down my spine during his remarks yesterday when he became the presumptive Republican nominee for president when he spoke of his enthusiasm for judges who “take as their sole responsibility the enforcement of laws made by the people’s elected representatives.”

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Project Sylpheed – A gamer’s perspective

February 8, 2008

Usually when I buy a video game, I pick up something that I’ve carefully explored in advance. I read reviews, watch videos of the game being played, and perhaps even download a demo of the game to play on my computer or a game console. In this sense, Project Sylpheed was different. I was in my local Best Buy to pick up something else, and happened to see it while walking past the video games. I had recently finished the a game, and didn’t have anything new to play at the time, so I bought it on a whim.

The game describes itself as a “space saga.” I would describe it as a combat flight simulator. You fly a small space fighter, engaging in dogfights against other space fighters and larger capital ships. There is a very simple economic system built into the game by which you earn points based on how well you do on each mission which you can then spend to get access to better weapons and equipment for your fighter. The game also allows you to start over from the beginning after you beat it, but to keep all of the equipment you earned the first time through, and to continue to earn points in order to further expand your gear.

As a combat flight simulator, the game is exactly the sort of highly engaging, mindless entertainment you might expect from the cover art. The game doesn’t require a lot of thinking. You can more or less point your craft at the enemy of your choice and hold down the button until your weapons lock on, then let go of the button to fire a swarm of dozens of guided weapons at them while you turn your attention to something else. The game also does its best to provide an engaging storyline, but this is an area in which it tends to fall short.

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Blogroll Addition: GreenCouple

February 5, 2008

Geek Buffet’s own terrorfirma has started a new blog,, where he writes as his alterego, Will, along with co-blogger and fiancée Maggie. You can get a taste by reading Will’s cross-post below, Globalization is Green, and then check out the rest of their posts to date. They started posting in January, so the archives aren’t too daunting. Read them all!

They cover an interesting range of topics, from global economics to personal decisions about where to live, all with a focus on living green. Maggie’s personal and professional interest in eating both green and local promises to inspire any number of interesting posts related to food from them both. Will has already produced several good posts on some of the more personal economics of living green as well, such as alternative gift-giving and the pros and cons of purchasing “green energy” from the power company. I look forward to more!


Globalization is Green

February 5, 2008

[cross-posted from, where my fiancee and I talk about how we’re trying to live green(er) together]

The Undercover Economist by Tim HarfordI’ve stolen this counterintuitive title from a section in Tim Harford’s interesting economic book (and who thought that phrase would ever be used?), The Undercover Economist. The book as a whole is a great overview of economic thinking applied to a variety of topics, from finding a good used car to pricing coffee. Near the end, Harford attempts to debunk the idea that trade protectionism prevents globalization from damaging the environment. I find most of his arguments very persuasive, although there might be more arguments against globalization that he doesn’t cover. Hardford identifies three main anti-globalization arguments: a “race to the bottom,” transportation costs, and the idea that economic growth inherently hurts the planet.

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