The picture above that I so adroitly manipulated (the applause is appreciated!) is from Thomas Gainsborough’s Mr and Mrs William Hallett. The man and woman are, of course, the aforementioned Halletts. I loved this picture when I first came across it–I don’t remember where. It has a haunting quality to it. The colors are slightly muted and misty. The brushwork, when you look closely, is slightly loose, almost impressionistic. Details around the edges disappear, especially in Mrs Hallett’s diaphanous gown. This creates a bit of mystery and allure. The subject itself is mundane enough. It’s a couple walking in a forest with their dog. The technique, however, and the slight pulling away of Mrs Hallett from Mr Hallett and the dog’s inquiring look. There are clouds piled in the background as well. No doubt this was commissioned by the Halletts, but Gainsborough made it more than just a simple double portrait.

Gainsborough is one of my favorite artists and the style of the 18th century is probably my favorite aesthetic. That contributes to why I love this painting so much.

I was lucky enough to see this hanging on the wall of the [British] National Gallery. Nothing could have made me happier.

Oh, and Mrs Hallett really DOES have a nice hat, doesn’t she?


My, oh my! A lot has been going down on the Vampire Diaries front, and I’ve been neglecting my duties in expressing my opinions. Nothing gratifies me more.

Throw Damon a Bone

I was getting very frustrated and discouraged with the way Damon’s character was being treated during the previous 3 episodes and 5 minutes, but Thursday’s episode (Kill or Be Killed) finally put things back on track.

In my estimation, the real trouble began when Damon snapped Jeremy’s neck. Yes, I can see the reasoning behind it, and the intent. The idea is that Damon will have committed an act of such atrocity that it will be all the more amazing and epic and awesome and thrilling and blah blah blah when he and Elena finally make up and get together (it will happen, or they fail at making a love triangle). It will show how much Elena is able to forgive him. It shows how much Elena can hurt Damon. It also allows, sigh, for them to backpeddle because we all know how buddy-buddy those two were getting: too buddy-buddy for comfort, because Stefan and Elena were looking pretty weak. Time to back the DE train up, say the writers. In the process, we’ll throw a nice obstacle in the way of the relationship that’ll be so EPIC once it’s gotten around. And, by the way, we can bring Jeremy in and he’ll magically forgive Damon for killing him and that’ll be cool and help bring Damon and Elena back together after we threw that monkey wrench in their relationship.

I’m not saying they don’t have a plan, or that it might not work out in the end. I’m just saying that killing Elena’s brother was the wrong way to put a bog in the path that leads to Delena land even if he did come back to life safe and sound. It’s pretty unbelievable, even in the VD universe, that she could forgive him for that. And, it makes absolutely no sense character-wise. That’s what ticks me off. It makes sense with some of Damon’s character traits: impulsive, violent, emotional. But there are two very, very large parts of his personality that it does not match up with: his loyalty and his intelligence. He loves Elena (or they have “something”), and he might have wanted to hurt her after she rejected him (you won’t find me arguing that), but he should have done something to her that was so heinous. He’s shown that when he cares for someone, he will not hurt them (that’s pretty much just Stefan and Elena up to this point). All of a sudden, he does something extraordinarily horrible to this person. Then, of course, you have to take into account how damned stupid it was of him to do that. He cares about Elena, and he must have known that killing Jeremy was absolutely unforgivable, 100%. Even a drunk, emotional Damon would never do something that would destroy utterly one of the things he cared about most.

What made it worse was in episode three when Damon lied to her about seeing the ring. Problem one: Damon doesn’t lie. He hasn’t lied about anything else ever so far as I can remember, though he evaded answering questions. Problem two: this would have been a prime opportunity to make Damon’s previous actions work for his character. Being overly emotional is not enough of an explanation for snapping Jeremy’s neck, not to me. They could have said he saw the ring and was just trying to scare Jeremy and lash out at Elena. Would have worked for me.

Then he wanted to kill Caroline. This disappointed me, because I would think he’d be cautious at least and see if she might be an asset to him and his brother. That’s what the Damon we all knew from Season 1 would have done.

Then there was his pleading with Elena. Do not like him acting the fool for her. This is Damon, dammit. Give him a little credit and give him some respect. All of a sudden, he’s throwing himself all over Elena? It could have worked, but . . . it didn’t.

In episode 4, he shook Mason’s hand and went back on it. I said to the screen, “And mean it, Damon!” But of course, I was trying to knock some sense into the writers. It didn’t work. Damon stabbed Mason with a knife and made an enemy. I was really frustrated: Damon again does something stupid and out of character. Why are you doing this to him, writers?

And by the way, no really good one-liners so far. Maybe, “Now I’m not living up to my best self.”

This is the trouble: Damon was built up as an awesome character, the smartest one in town, the big bad-ass brother, the sexy one, the one who had the wit and the pathos. For these 3 episodes and 5 minutes, he came across as an idiot and a jerk with few redeeming qualities. Not because that’s the way his character should be, but because the writers failed.

Thank god for Thursday’s episode, Kill or Be Killed. Damon was at last not doing stupid things, was making good decisions, and wasn’t taking crap. And it turns out he was totally right all along about Mason (sweet vindication), who betrayed him and Stefan. He also showed that old soft side (and the intelligent side that says think before you stab) when dealing with Liz and Caroline and Elena. Thank GOD the writers brought it back a little bit.

I still think they need to go back and give a better explanation of the neck-snapping. It could be one simple line. He explained that he was just overly emotional, that Katherine got to him–not good enough, writers.

Best line of the night: “But you’re my friend.” Poor Damon! Jesus, everyone rejects him!


Some major teasers came from a panel that was held today with the writers and Steven R McQueen.

Here’s a linkedy-link courtesy of

I know part of this “manning up” on the part of Jeremy will involve bonding time with Damon. That’s been hinted at, and I cannot wait for it! It’s been dubbed Team Milk and Cookies, like Team Badass (Damon and Alaric–by the way, I LOVE Alaric and his knowing looks especially when Damon and Elena are together in the room with him).

Katherine. Romania. 1492. Wow. Firstly, she’s Katerina Petrova, and that ain’t Romanian. I’ve watched enough gymnastics competitions to recognize a Romanian name when I see it. And that is Russian, very Russian. Naturally, this extends to other Slavic countries, but Romania isn’t one of those. There are therefore two possibilities: Katherine traveled to Romania or this flashback is actually about her maker or someone else having to do with her.

By the way. Romania. 1492. Equals Dracula. Just saying.

Bonnie in a love triangle. Yey, maybe she’ll have better luck in love. As long as Damon isn’t involved. And poor Matt. Give him a little more action, please?

Oooh, Kelly Donovan back as a succubus? I dunno, I don’t want them to go all supernatural menagerie on me. I’m barely okay with adding werewolves to the mix.

David Anders back as Uncle John? WANT!

Lexi and Anna coming major? MAJOR WANT!

In flashbacks? OMG, YES PLEASE! I love flashbacks hardcore.

Oh, Julie. “Every man woman and child”? Ew. I know you were exaggerating for comedic effect, but refrain from doing so ever again. Please. Damon is not quite that promiscuous. Damn.

It’s going to be hard to have this week with no new episode. I’m currently out of school and without even a part-time job, so I have way too much time on my hands to think about this stuff. So it’ll be hard. But I’m looking forward to Plan B (looks like some insanity may happen) and especially to the following two episodes–a MASQUERADE. Who else is singing Phantom of the Opera? But some major you know what is going to go down it looks like–it looks like Elena might be kidnapped by Katherine’s old friend Lucy, who may or may not be a witch.

I have some qualms, but this show rocks. Keep on being awesome, TVD!

The International Gymnast article

Rewind about twenty years, and you will find that Kim Gwang Suk of the People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) was listed as 15 (the proper age at the time) from 1989 to 1991. Unsurprisingly, this raised eyebrows, leading the FIG to ban North Korea from the 1993 World Championships.

I guess North Korea thought the FIG had a short memory, because it’s just come to light that Hong Su Jong has been listed under three different dates of birth at different international competitions. During the 2004 Athens Olympics, she was listed as being born March 6, 1985. For the Asian Games in 2006 and the World Championships in Stuttgart in 2007 [I was there!], her date of birth was given as March 6, 1986. Note to officials who didn’t catch this in 2007: get a new job. For this year’s upcoming Worlds, Hong Su Jong’s birthdate was listed as March 6, 1989. The new (probably correct) date of birth would mean Hong Un Jong wasn’t eligible for the Athens Olympics that she competed in.

What makes this even more comedic is the fact that Hong Su Jong has a sister Hong Un Jong. The two look remarkably alike, and Hong Un Jong’s birthdate was March 6, too–but it has always been listed as March 6, 1989. So it appears that the sisters were twins all along, but North Korea chose to falsify only one sister’s age.

It doesn’t exactly shock anyone, either. Not only has North Korea done this before with Kim Gwang Suk, there has been an enormous flap lately over the Chinese falsifying ages. The North Koreans probably thought themselves above such rules, and being a dictatorial country, pretty much anything goes if that’s what the government wants. It’s easier than pie (so to speak) in such a country to falsify ages. One might expect them to have attempted to be sneakier. I mean, this was exceptionally blatant; at least China had their paperwork all properly falsified, and they didn’t switch the dates of birth every five minutes. What’s remarkable is that it took this long to catch the problem.

Luckily, the Hong sisters are of age by now, so they ought to be able to compete as long as North Korea isn’t banned again. I mean, it isn’t their fault they were told to compete at the age of two for the honor of the glorious leader (God, somebody shut that country down please and put some sane people in charge).

I found this review and was struck by the smugness, dismissiveness, and yet the grudging admiration.  Firstly, Katherine is spelled with a K. She’d old-school like that (holla to Katherine Parr and Katherine of Aragon). Yes, I will feel like a petulant, 14-year-old fangirl. But I am most certainly not. I am a petulant, 23-year-old, mature, very intelligent person who appreciates good TV when she sees it.

For some, the only way to confirm the real Elena is to call her on her cell phone. Others, unfortunately, don’t either have a phone at hand or enough time on their hands before the demonic Catherine lops off their fingers with a bread knife or decides to stab them.

I can’t tell whether this is some oh-so-subtle dig because it’s so convenient that someone could just call Elena’s phone to know who’s who (and they failed to use that when Damon was tricked by Katherine), or whether it’s glee at the fact that Uncle John got his fingers cut off.

 vampire soap opera

It is not a soap opera. Period. It’s a supernatural drama.

The question, of course, for any TV soap opera, is how convoluted the plot can become before viewers get bored. Showing no inclination to drive a stake through a strongly beating ratings heart, The Vampire Diaries develops cautiously, with the introduction of villainous Catherine as the most significant new twist.

Whoa. Okay, way to imply that Vampire Diaries is a rating whore of a show (it’s not–it’s a good show that people watch because it’s a good show). Also, Vampire Diaries is just about the fastest-paced show on TV. It does not “develop slowly”. I could say that Katherine-with-a-K’s arrival isn’t the most significant twist in and of itself; I’d say the “death” of Jeremy and the “death” of Caroline count. Again, not a soap opera. And the plots are not convoluted. Complicated, yes, and layered, but let’s not slyly imply a show is convoluted just because we’re a little too slow to understand what’s going on.

After a century and a half of it, how much more abuse can a hot Prince of Darkness take?

This is amusing but again very snide. As if it’s some silly affectation. Damon is a wonderful character. And for the record, he can’t take much more. I think he’s hit rock bottom and hopefully things will only get better for him.

The Vampire Diaries, based on the books by LJ Smith, may allow the occasional bloodbath but maintains its tween audience appeal with dialogue such as “Don’t flirt with me, Catherine. I’m not Damon. I haven’t spent 145 years being obsessed with you.”

Yeah, it’s very violent for a TV show. It’s also NOT AIMED AT TWEENS, is NOT ENTIRELY APPROPRIATE FOR TWEENS, and is an amazing show for AN ADULT AUDIENCE. Just because it’s on the CW and its equivalent in the UK doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed by adults. And what the hell is “tween” about what Stefan said? Is it the short sentences? The face that it has to deal with love? This isn’t cutesy “flirting”. There’s not much cutesy about this show.

And with its predominantly youthful, good looking and black-denim-clad cast, this show is still fun to watch in season two – especially if you’re too young to remember the mouldering, stone-cold, bloodless wretches that vampires are really supposed to be.

Dear writer of this article: That ship sailed in the ’70s with Anne Rice. Get over it. And it’s not denim, it’s leather.

Nine years ago today, I was 14 years old and in 9th grade. I had been in high school for only about two weeks, but that didn’t really make much of an impact on my memories of the time. The switch to high school was smooth for me; my brothers went to that school before me, and all of my friends from middle school were there with me in high school.

If I’m remembering correctly, I had third-period computer keyboarding class. When I walked in, the television was on and the teacher said in a voice tinged with excitement and awe that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. Honestly, as a 14-year-old from Maryland, I didn’t really know what the Twin Towers were. I thought it was an accident, of course. Class went on pretty much as normal.

On the way from third to fourth period, my friend went past in the opposite direction. I remember the spot, the corner in the upstairs hallway near my English class. Her face was shocked and pale, and when I asked her if something was wrong, she just shook her head. I’m almost sure that she’d been watching the events unfold on the TV.

My memories are a little hazy. Fourth period would have begun sometime about 10:00. The television was on already, and by this time the second plane had flown into the second tower, and I think one tower had fallen. An announcement came on shortly after class began to announce that all classes were to stop and televisions were to be turned on to the news. We would also be sent home early (you know, in case a plane was flown into a high school in rural Maryland). From then on, we watched and I got chills seeing what was happening.

That’s where I was on September 11, 2001. Where were you?

Currently, I’m watching a show on the History Channel about September 11th conspiracy theories, and I am amazed–and sickened–by some of the wrong-headed thinking of the theorists. I am shocked that straightforward evidence can be ignored. What’s most remarkable to me is the fallacy of the super-efficient government. What these conspiracy theorists clearly forget is that governments are made of human beings, and that at the time an attack like this was unprecedented. Our government is absolutely not all-powerful. Planes cannot be scrambled at the blink of an eye. There are gaps in the protection–and that was made painfully clear on September 11th, 2001.

I have been waiting for this moment for months. MONTHS. It was a very hard wait after the finale the Vampire Diaries writers gave us, shocking us with Katherine’s return and putting three people’s lives on the line. And poor Damon’s heart, because in the last few moments of the show, he kissed Elena–only it was Katherine, not Elena.

No bones about it, Damon’s my favorite character. No bones about it. Mostly I feel so badly for him. He’s been screwed over so many times and all the “evil” stuff he does is a defense mechanism, vampire-style.

And he’s smart. Thank God he was the first to realize Katherine was back and that it didn’t take him very long. In the first few minutes of the show, he has a conversation with Elena; they’re both confused because he keeps trying to make her admit that she was on the porch the night before and kissed him, but of course she wasn’t there. It was her evil vampire doppelgänger (I’m not sure that means what you think it means, world at large). Jenna then shows up and insists that she told Elena about going to see the fire marshal, and Elena’s like, “Uh, no you didn’t.” And then Damon, looking on, has one of those lightbulb moments. “You have got to be kidding me.”

He isn’t shy about it, either, which is slightly surprising to me, but I guess he had no choice, knowing Katherine will spill the beans. He’s now pretty up front about going after Stefan’s girl. He tells Stefan and Elena that he kissed Katherine, who he thought was Elena. Elena steps in between the boys, who get in a little tiff. I was a little pissed that Stefan was able to tell it was Katherine right away when she shows up and tries to kiss him, but Damon was fooled. That’s really not fair, I think, to Damon’s character. He’s the smartest one on the show, if he couldn’t figure it out then Stefan shouldn’t have been able to. till, logically, Stefan has kissed Elena before, knows her in some ways that Damon doesn’t–and Stefan wasn’t dosed up on vervain and in a highly-emotional state at the moment, either. Okay, okay, I might let that slide, though it bugs me.

Cut to Damon comforting Liz Forbes over Caroline’s illness. Caroline was injured when Tyler (*werewolf*) crashed his car in the season finale. Damon lets Liz cry on his shoulder and then, loving guy that he is, gives Caroline his heeling blood. Cut to the funeral. Katherine is running around, not caring whether Elena shows up and the locals are confused. She confronts Bonnie, who’s no match for her (will that take Bonnie down a notch? um, no). She has a little heart-to-heart with Stefan. She came for him (whatever, she lies, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this, too, were a lie), then stabs him with a candlestick when he says he hates her. It’s hard to say if either of them are really over the other. As Katherine says, even though he pretends he’s over her, his choice of girlfriends (hello, Elena looks exactly like her!) says different.

There is a lovely little Damon and Elena scene, where he makes an attempt to call her out on her denial. Yep, he ain’t being shy about it now. I think the kiss, and the bitter disappointment of the fact that it wasn’t Elena, has galvanized his determination to really make Elena see how much she cares about him. But, denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, ladies and gents.

And Stefan is all blah, blah, let’s all be friends. Naturally he’s right, but just as naturally he doesn’t understand his brother. He doesn’t want to hear Kumbaya, he wants to hurt someone or something, he wants to be angry. He’s very much on edge. Telling him to just get over it won’t really work. If they’d fought a little, it might have let off some steam. Then again, Stefan can only do so much to reverse what Katherine has done, and he is really trying to put all this insanity behind them. It is really tough when the crazy little bitch is running around, though.

I would like to mention that Bonnie is pissing me off. I disliked her from the moment she pretended to unspell that device. Now she’s hurting Damon for no reason whatsoever and is getting a really, really big head. She even thought she could take on Katherine. She needs to listen to Damon and realize her powers are not as powerful as she might think.

I missed most the short bits with Tyler and his Uncle Mason. I did NOT miss Uncle/Daddy John being an ass hole, or Stefan threatening him. Somehow I feel that should have been Damon, but Damon is way too messed up at the moment…

In fact, he’s going for a drink, and–uh-oh–Katherine is there. I’ve seen enough of the previews to know this will lead to a bit of violent making-out-like rough-housing. As I thought, it wasn’t really much of a makeout session. It was mostly poor Damon hating Katherine so much and still loving her way too much. He demands that she stops, and says he has just one question and he wants her to be honest, for once. He is so very, very sad, because I think he already knows the answer. She says, “The truth is, I never loved you.” And she leaves. This girl cruel beyond words (he’s been searching for her for 145 years, she knew it, and she never went to him once!). She also doesn’t realize what a maniac she’s made him–because she calls him her sweet, naive Damon or some such.

It has to be a lie. Why in the world did she mess with him way back when, if she didn’t love him at all? I can imagine she was just playing with him, but why? Why would she want to turn him (which she did) or have a threesome with the brother (which she did) if she didn’t love him? And if she loved Stefan so much, why in the world has she stayed away for 145 years? I don’t believe she never loved Damon. I know we’re going to learn where Katherine was all these years, but I somehow think she’s lying to Damon perhaps in some attempt to help him.

At the moment, though, he is one hell of a mess. And he shows up in Elena’s bedroom a “little” drunk. Now it’s Elena’s turn to say she loves Stefan. Oh my God! People need to stop choosing Stefan over poor Damon, stop hurting poor Damon! Elena really should know better. She should have been much, much more understanding. Both she and Stefan seem to be telling him they aren’t really interested in what’s wrong with him. Stefan just wants him to stop being obsessed with Katherine (he can’t! he’s been in love with her for so long!) and Elena just wants him to stop asking her for any compassion, apparently (that’s the message she was giving, anyway). Oooooh, boy. What a shame. Poor, poor Damon!

Is it any surprise that he snaps, and forced himself on Elena? My first reaction: oh no! This is NOT how the first real Damon/Elena kiss should go down! But then, poor Damon is so messed up at the moment, that it couldn’t have really gone down another way. But Elena should have given him a little tenderness in return!

Damon is now doubly rejected by Elena. And he attacks Jeremy. I yelled at the TV, “Don’t hurt Jeremy!” but he didn’t listen. He snapped Jeremy’s neck. At least Stefan had the grace to say that Damon probably knew that Jeremy had the protective ring on. He’s probably right–Damon wouldn’t have actually killed Jeremy, I don’t think, because even he would have known Elena wouldn’t forgive him for killing her brother. Also, spoilers have said he becomes something of a father figure for Jeremy, and in episode 3, Elena and Alaric go with him on a road trip. So she must forgive him. I think Damon has hit rock bottom, but I think it can only go up from here. He must have some closure now with Katherine.

Just to seal her evil-ness, in the last few seconds of the episode, Katherine pops up at the hospital where Caroline is still recovering. Wow, that poor girl! She just recovered from a nearly-fatal accident, she has the love of her mother and her friends and Matt, everything is going great for her. Heck, she’s Miss Mystic Falls. And Katherine smothers her. Caroline has Damon’s blood in her system, so she’ll wake up a vampire at least, but how evil is Katherine for doing that to her? I love Caroline, she’s so adorable! Now her life is ruined–literally gone! And everyone (*Bonnie*) is going to blame Damon. Oh, and poor Caroline is just a message. “Game on,” Katherine says.

I LOVE this show.

This is my latest bit of artwork. It’s Olga Korbut on bars during the 1972 Olympics, doing her Korbut flip and flying over the bar. I used chalk pastels on blue pastel paper. Click it for a bigger image.