Sunday, June 8, 2014

Take Me Out to the Ballgame; or, because baseball is fun, dammit

A couple of years ago, I was talking to a friend about baseball and he was talking about how he stopped watching because his team wasn't very good. I said, "I'd rather watch the Yankees lose, than not watch them at all." To which he said that I must be a pretty big Yankees' fan. And yes, that is true; but more than that I am a baseball fan. It is a great, great game and it is fun. Fun to watch: win or lose. There is something inherently fun about the challenge of baseball. It is, no matter what else it can become, a game. And the fun is in the playing.

I was reminded of that conversation yesterday, as I watched my beloved New York Yankees lose yet another game. My Yankees are mired in a bit of a slump. Coming off of a mediocre year in which they missed the playoffs for only the second time in 20 years they are hovering at .500 which means that they are losing as often as they win. As a team, the play is anything but sparkling, they are making errors (actual, and mental), their relief pitching is giving away runs, and their bats seem to have nothing but holes in them. And the toughest to take is that my hero, the iconic Derek Jeter--who is playing in his final year (SOB)--is batting .260 and well, just isn't the player he used to be, most of the time. It can be a little painful to watch.

Now, before, I sound like a spoiled Yankees' fan with no ability to reflect on my own experiences, I know, the Yankees don't lose a lot of games. I know that as a fan I have little to complain about. Historically, I am a fan of the most successful team in MLB history with a record 27 World Series championships, the latest one in 2010. In the last 20 years the Yankees have only missed the playoffs twice (in 2006 and last year in 2013). Even, right now, when they are playing terrible, they are still a play-off contender. Some would say this makes me spoiled, and maybe it does, but I would say that it makes me unaccustomed to dealing with mediocrity. So, watching them lose is, well, not a common thing. I know that for other fans of other teams this discussion may feel like salt in a wound. Oh poor Yankees haven't won a World Series in 4 whole years... and they would be right. Oh poor Yankees are still in the playoff hunt. Oh poor Yankees with all their all-stars. But. But. If you are used to success then any failure is that much harder to deal with.

As I write this, I am watching the Yankees play the Kansas City Royals. Literally, just seconds ago the Yankees had the bases loaded with two outs and Derek Jeter was batting. I stopped writing to watch. I found myself holding my breath and praying--perhaps a bit more fervently than I am comfortable with--to the baseball gods that MY Derek Jeter--the iconic Jeter. The lifetime .316 Jeter. The one who is guaranteed admittance into the hall of fame. The one who is number 8 all-time in hits. Captain Clutch with a flair for the dramatic.--would make an appearance. I held my breath hoping... but, no. Instead, in a moment reminiscent of Mighty Casey, he struck out.  And it is painful. It actually physically hurt a little. (There may have been something in my eye for a second). That. That is new for me. So. Would I rather watch that, than nothing?

Yesterday the Dodgers lost, too. I have some family members who are fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Right now they are miserable. Their dreaded rivals the San Francisco Giants have won two World Series Championships in the past four years and they are currently the best team in baseball. The Dodgers. Well, they aren't. They are in second or third place and if the playoffs were today they would be a Wild Card team. Compared to some fan-bases another spoiled team. But, my brother does nothing but moan. He literally curses and bemoans these terrible, terrible Dodgers. Yesterday, after they lost in a walk-off the Colorado Rockies he said he had HAD it. He wasn't going to watch again until September.

My best friend is a Cubs fan. It is something that I have to acknowledge that I do not really understand. I don't have any idea what it is like to watch a baseball team that has not won a World Series in my entire life, in nearly three of my entire lifetimes combined. I can't conceive of what it like to watch a team that is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for whole chunks of the baseball season. I can't even *get* it. But, what I do get is that it is painful for her. She sometimes can't watch. Doesn't watch. For a while, her husband wouldn't let her watch the Cubs pitch. He said his team couldn't lose when they were batting.

The thing is though, Jeter is up first in the next inning, and I will be watching. My brother will watch the Dodgers, today. My best friend will watch the Cubs (even when they pitch). We will all watch; because it's fun. Because, even when this game breaks our hearts, it is beautiful, and that is fun, dammit.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Waffling; or, Is it a food? Or a state of mind?

I kind of, sort of, follow a food blog called Food Riot on the facebook. They are a sister blog to another one I follow called Book Riot. Yesterday's post about what I am reading was because of a comment on a Book Riot post in which they referenced their "50 Book Challenge" (sorry, I tried to find a to link it, and couldn't, or well, didn't feel like trying that hard... maybe later). Anyway, it isn't books I want to talk about today, it's food. Specifically, waffles. Ish.

Food Riot ran a post about this new thing called "waffling." This is a thing. A thing where you make desserts (and I assume you could do savories as well) in your waffle iron. First, I have to say, I was not a fan of waffles for a long, long time. I prefer protein for breakfast rather than carbs, and if I had to make a carby breakfast, I'd rather make pancakes because there is, well, less fuss. All that equipment! I am not a kitchen gadget person. I love to cook, and until recently (when I found myself cooking for 6 people who do not like anything remotely foodie) I considered myself a little bit of gourmet. I changed my mind about waffles, and waffle makers when I found these whole grain waffles. They really are the best. Seriously. THE BEST. I eat them with cottage cheese and fruit and maybe a little jam, if I am spoiling myself. So, once I discovered the perfect waffle, I was much more open to the idea. And, I sort of *get* the waffle iron in a new way.

So, now that I have admitted that I have a distrust of kitchen gadgets, and that I have only recently gotten past my general distrust of the waffle-maker as a tool I can admit that "waffling" fascinates me. The selling points seem to be that using the waffle maker is 1) faster and 2) creates nooks and crannies for toppings to hide in. That sounds pretty good to me. But. The major selling point seems to be the novelty. I once read an article about ways to make toast with your kitchen appliances that just seemed nutty. And in some ways, waffling feels similar. More like a need to be new and different than any desire to create delicious food.

There is touch of that ongoing history about the ways that each generation has needed to create a distance between themselves and the one that came before it in this idea of re-claiming kitchen gadgets. It is as if in the desire to be creative and inventive we have also become a bit, well, lazy. Waffling seems like an attempt to fulfill the desire we have of making something new, but without all that work. Hey, I know, let's take something that is already good, but boring, because, hey that's how YOUR mom makes food. Look at me! I am putting perfectly good recipes into a waffle maker! This isn't your grandma's cookies! Or, her waffles! It is this desire to be different that has served well America for centuries. It is what drove people to settle here, to invent, to push boundaries, to develop a history of ingenuity. But, I worry that there might be a better way to do this than to take a brownie mix, store-bought cookie-dough, or other pre-packaged food into a kitchen gadget. It seems, just a little bit, more like a cheap thrill, than a good idea.

What do you think? Ingenious idea? Or cutting corners?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Half-done; or, a mini-break half book reading list

I am getting a two-week mini-summer break this year. I start summer school on June 9th. I have a little bit of work to do before then, but for the most part I am footloose and fancy free for once. Normally, I cram as much travel as I can into these little breaks, but this year I am taking a couple of trips to New York that are sucking the money out of me, so I need to do some staycations. The good thing is that I will have some time to read.

I used to real a lot. All the time. All. Of. The. Time. Then came school and a degree in literature, and well, I actually read less than ever. Then Grad school, and I didn't read anything that wasn't assigned. And now, as a writing instructor I pretty much read only what I needed to to teach my classes. However, this year, I found myself in situations where I would have time to read a little. The trouble is that for the most part I would be at other people's house, or travelling when I would pick up a book and read it for a while, then I'd have to leave. This resulted in several half-done reading sessions. I have a handful of books to finish. So, my first foray in the "Reading Challenge" is to finish my half-started books.

1.  The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (currently pg 274 of 509)
I started reading this on May 19th. I was at a friend's house whose husband has the worst taste in television programs. I often find myself reading a lot at her house because I can only take so much terrible tv. In the past, I have usually just grabbed for one of the Harry Potter books and read it until it was time to go and then just put it back. Because I had read them all (more than twice) it didn't bother me if I left it unfinished. But, this time I saw a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo and started that instead.

I had only gotten about 30 pages in, when it was time to head into the Bay Area for a professional development workshop. I grabbed the book, completely sure that I would not read another word. Well, it was my lucky day as I ended up on a lovely little campus called Valambrosia Retreat and there were no TVs or computers in the rooms. The only entertainment available to me was to play with a handful of tame bunnies who wandered the campus, or read. I left that retreat about half finished with my book.

2. The Fault in our Stars by John Green (currently 177 of 313). **FINISHED**
I started this book on April 12th. I was on vacation in New York with some friends. My friend had bought The Fault in Our Stars at the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan. I had no intention of reading anything on that trip. My primary purpose was to watch Derek Jeter play in his farewell season. Much to my dismay he didn't play. In any of the three games I had purchased tickets to. I had flown thousands of miles and spent 100's of dollars for nothing. As each game ended and Jeter still hadn't played I was being incredibly brave. Then the final game was rained out. I needed a release and I picked the the incredibly sad and tragic John Green novel. I only read half, but the story of teens battling terminal cancer gave me the emotional outlet I needed and allowed me to put my relatively minor disappointment into perspective.

3. Beautiful Chaos by Gary Russell (currently 79 of 242 okay not quite half) **Finished**
April 30. This is a Doctor Who book. I bought it for my niece, but it seems a little old for her. I was reading it to make sure it was appropriate for her, and I got a halfway and realized that I was finishing it for myself. I don't think my niece will read it, at least not for a year or two. But. I started it, so I will finish it.

4. Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare (currently Act II) **Finish-ed**
April 22. Another one begun for my niece. She and I started reading this play together. We made it through one act before we were both distracted by other things. So, this one will be the hardest finish as I am literally reading this aloud with an 11 year old. But, we'll give it a shot!

5.  The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje (currently pg.117 of 265).
March 18. I was on a field trip to Ashland, Oregon chaperoning a high school drama trip with my best friend when I go sick. I was not able to leave my room for two days. So, I bought this book. Again, I got through about half before I went home. Once there I got even sicker (maybe the sickest ever) and I didn't pick the book up again.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On Weariness; or, Running on Empty is Still Running.

Oh today. I am two kinds of tired. Shallow and deep. Global and local. Literal and metaphorical. I am weary and worn. I am hollowed out and running on nothing. In these bleary moments where caffeine masquerades as clarity, I feel my skin tighten and it is as if something inside is pulling at me. Pushing me to do crazy things. Things that my rested brain keeps me from doing. I want to make big decisions. I want to DO things. Something. Something big and grand and terrifying. I want to take huge leaps and fall off of edges. It is almost as if I am at my most honest when I am too tired to pretend. I get loopy when I am tired. And loopy is when I am just crazy enough to jump.

But, sometimes, I am too tired to run wild and instead I have another cup of coffee to wake up just enough to be safe. Or,  distract myself with breads and circuses, or cocoon myself in sleep until I can trust myself to behave; You know, just keep calm and carry on.  But, even while napping, sometimes, I remember, dream of, braver days when I couldn't be so easily quieted. When I did recklessly leap and run and try. Now, I worry that I am too tired to be that rash again. That this time the weariness is heavier, deeper, that it has housed itself in my bones. A cancer eating my hopes and leaving me marrowless and brittle. How many rash chances do I have left in me? How many gates can I crash through and still not break? 

I hope the answer is all of them. I hope I am just weary enough to try, but not so tired that I sleep.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Doctor Who as Catharsis; or, It's the FEELS dammit

I haven't written about Doctor Who for a couple of months. Not because I haven't been watching it, and especially not because I haven't been thinking about it. I am at the end of Series 6. I might even be officially done with S6; I am not sure where the Christmas episodes fit in. The difference between where I am now, and where I was last time I wrote a blog about the good Doctor is that I have seen all the reboot Doctors. I have one more series to be caught up, but until Peter Capaldi makes his debut later this year, I am, at least for the minute up to date (sort of). So, a return to the question of "Who's your Doctor?"

For some, I guess, this answer is easy. I have heard, and read, accounts of fans knowing immediately with whom their loyalties lie. All I know is that, for me, it isn't Matt Smith. At the beginning I would have laid the blame on him for being too young, too silly, too frantic, too slick...just too much. Then I blamed the writers for not writing stories that allowed Smith access to my favorite aspect of the Doctor, the fact that he is just "Sorry, so, so sorry." But, now, I am pretty sure it isn't Matt Smith, it's me.

Doctor Who is at its best, for me, when it is sad. Not just sad, but those heart-wrenching, kleenex moments, when I want to cry out loud; I am happiest with DW when I am hiccoughing through my tears. It is catharsis to engage in a little harmless sobbing. Matt Smith, so far, hasn't really stood a chance with me. I think that accepting what I love about Eccleston and Tennant is an undercurrent of painful loss that makes them just imbued with buckets and buckets of pathos. And, as I have said well, apparently, I like to be sad. I do like humor, and as I have said, I wouldn't like Doctor Who if it isn't funny. But, I like my jokes as foils to darkness. Laughter through tears? Yes. Laughter because it is a relief to laugh after crying? Yes. Pure comedy doesn't work as well for me.

So much of what appeals to me about Doctor Who is the underpinning of the trope of loss. Everyone is so broken and I suppose in what is prolly a little too revealing of a statement, I like that. I like crying when Rose and Ten get separated. I refuse to imagine Rose happy with her fake Doctor. I see her as having been tricked into settling--a trick that you cannot convince me that she will never be appeased by. I refuse to think that even memory loss can allow Donna peace. It is clear that even the *blessing* of ignorance will never allow her bliss. And don't even get me started on Rory, that poor guy. He guarded Amy for 1000 years, and he still has to wonder if she loves the Doctor more...Anyway, the major appeal for me is that no matter how much Nine and Ten joke or smile, at the end of the day I can see that they are haunted. I can see their ghosts, and I like that.

It is only as I see these later Eleventh Doctor episodes that I am beginning to see his ghosts, and it makes sense that I am beginning to like him more.So, unless S7 is just one big Eleventh Doctor cryfest is seems that I am still back to choosing between Nine or Ten. Well, I'm still not sure. I liked Ecceleston before the DW because of his amazing Jude in the film version of Jude the Obscure. Just watch that movie without crying I dare you. I came into this show already predisposed to Christopher Eccleston's 9th Doctor. He is broken, rough, and drowning in pathos.

Even as sure as I was that Eccleston was the one for me, it didn't take long for me to fall for David Tennant's 10th Doctor hook, line, and sinker (come on, "I don't want to go" and that music from Bad Wolf Bay? I can cry right now thinking about it). As much as I like Ten,  if I am honest, I prolly like the character of "David Tennant" better than the Doctor. (Come on David Tennant, you know we'd so be friends!) I am to the point where I can't choose between Nine and Ten.

As I am on the cusp of Series 7, I know enough (spoilers) to know that the Doctor will lose Amy. And, knowing he is going to be broken again, I like him more already. With this perspective in mind, I have begun to see Eleven as being a Doctor who is frenetically (and futilely) trying to outrun his losses. Joking and running to forget his past; and with that view, I like him better. Does this make me cruel? A sadist? Maybe, but I do know the more the show makes me cry, the more I like it.

Who knows, maybe Peter Capaldi's 12th Doctor will be the saddest of all, and settle this whole debate for me.

Favorite Ninth Doctor episode: "Father's Day"
Favorite Tenth Doctor episode: "The Satan Pit" ("Doomsday" is right there)
Favorite Eleventh Doctor episode: "The Girl Who Waited"

What is your favorite episode from each of the *new* Doctors? Are you a Nine? Ten? Eleven? Or something else?

Word by Word; or A Travel Memoir

London: Shoes.

Being a mostly country girl, I was not prepared for the unyielding firmness of days spent walking the pavement of a real international city. Sure, this was not my first sidewalk, but I was shockingly unprepared for the daily pounding my feet received from walking the miles demanded by a life in London. Within weeks, foot pain was a reality. Feeling like a character in a film about overworked labor class waitresses and construction workers, I would kick off my shoes at the end of the day and rub my tired feet. I was far too young for pain like that. The shoes I had been wearing that had seemed more than comfortable when I had bought them and broke them in by wearing them for my life in Chico CA were woefully unable to bear the brunt of my 5-10 mile pavement pounding escapades through the streets of London. Finally, on a day when even my morning dose of ibuprofen could not assuage the pain in my feet, I caved in and bought a pair of fancy trainers that were by far and away the most expensive clothing purchase I had ever made. I remember putting on shoes that cost more than I could imagine spending and feeling like I was wearing clouds. It is 11 years later, and I still have those brown leather Timberland trainers. When I stepped  out onto the London sidewalk, in my new shoes, I felt like a Londoner. They are well-worn now, but still, when I travel and I know I am going to be walking a lot, those are the shoes I reach for.

Lake Havasu: Mustard.

MTV Spring Break was filmed in Lake Havasu, Arizona in spring of 1995. It was a fleshfest of twenty-somethings partying on houseboats. I watched with the singular envy only known by a sheltered small town girl. When it just happened that I was driving across country to visit my Great Aunt Katherine--yes, I am named for her-- in Indiana and when I saw the sign to Lake Havasu, I just had to detour. My excitement turned to disappointment when I realized that Lake Havasu is really a retirement community. I shuffled dejectedly through a town that obviously catered to senior citizens not college kids. Gift shops full of tote bags, rhinestone studded sweatsuits, and t-shirts about grandkids. Not what I was expecting. Always the trooper I refused to be bowed, I boarded a houseboat to go out on the lake. The houseboat captain was a self-ascribed Lothario. A somewhat attractive man in his late 50's is was pretty obvious that the senior ladies also thought he was Lothario. I, the lone dark-haired lass sitting in a sea of silver, was decidedly not as impressed. The captain flirted and the ladies just ate it up, his big joke was that when we would sail close to the other boats filled with even more silver-haired ladies--who were all gazing longingly at OUR captain--he would hold out a jar of Grey Poupon and shout, "Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?" And everyone, but me, would laugh uproariously.In the last hour of the trip I discovered that the original London Bridge had been moved to Lake Havasu. They took the bridge apart, brick-by-brick, and reassembled it over Lake Havasu. At the end of the day, that fact saved that trip for me. It just seemed so ridiculous that London Bridge had been erected in AZ. It was so out of place, and was the only part I liked. It was like me. I remember standing on that ridiculously placed bridge watching the sun go down and below me a boat skimmed the lake and a voice shouted, "Pardon me..." Finally, I just had to laugh.

Edinburgh: Wet.

My memories of Scotland are rain-soaked, really. I have only been twice, for only a handful of days each time, but it was nothing if not permeated by rain, and well, being wet. Visually, this city in memory is a mix of green and gray: The rain and the pavement, and walking so much I was drenched with sweat. The rain coming in an open hotel window to land on a bed soaking rumpled sheets and clothes discarded in passion. I am sure the sun shines in Edinburgh, and I am sure there are paths that would not force me uphill or up a set of stairs, but I don't remember any. Every journey through that city was a climb that left me breathless and slick with sweat. Tired, wet, and breathless became a default state; but, the arduous path was always worth it. Always. At the top is a castle, a view, a monument, a hotel room... a boy. Each soaking me with rain or sweat.

What about you? What is one word that you associate with a trip or a place?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Baseball Heaven: A Rebuttal; or, Maybe a Surrender

The first time I stepped out of a professional baseball stadium's cement labyrinthine underbelly and glimpsed the lush outfield grass I cried. I was about 13 and my church youth group had gone to Oakland to see the Tigers at the A's. Our seats were up so high I don't even think I could see the players' names pasted on the back of their uniforms. I don't know who won that day, I don't even remember if we stayed for the whole game, but I will never forget the way my chest constricted and how I just couldn't breathe when I saw that gorgeous field laid out before me. It was, to me, heaven.

My love of the green grass, wood bats, leather gloves, and that gorgeous red dirt is a feeling of reverent awe that never lessens and never fades. No matter how old I am, or how many games I have been to, I cry a little every time. It isn't about the stadium because it doesn't really matter where, it just matters that it is grass, chalk, dirt. Each of the (only) five stadiums I have visited it is the same. Every time I emerge from the dark into the light and there is nothing in front of me but green, and brown, and sky and I have to swallow gasps and blink back tears. I am moved every time, because it is just so beautiful.

I have a friend who has written a blog that claims that Wrigley Field is in fact "Baseball Heaven" and as I read her Ode to Wrigley I found myself wanting to argue. It could have been because she threw down the gauntlet by saying that my beloved Yankee Stadium is most definitely not Baseball Heaven, and that it isn't Fenway Park--my second favorite stadium--either, but that it is Wrigley. And I wanted to fire back. I wanted to write about how Wrigley is the aging diva of baseball; but, then I realized that I am not qualified to criticize. I haven't been to Wrigley. Or Great American Ballpark, or Busch Stadium, or Oriole Park... or any of the other 25 parks. I have only been to five. So, what do I know?

The truth is that any definition of Baseball Heaven is profoundly and distinctly personal. Every fan probably loves their stadium, at least in some way. For me, Yankee stadium was mecca. I toured it with my heart racing and a post-coital glow. Fenway Park was historic and wonderful, and I had a great time there. But, Oakland ( The name changes so much, I don't even know anymore) will always have a place in my heart. It's close and I've seen some really great baseball there. And, you know, no one ever forgets their first. It is an argument that can't be won. Like comparing lovers. Who am I to say? I don't have the credentials to rank stadiums; I don't have the experience to compare and contrast. And what makes one cat purr makes another hiss.

Baseball Heaven is not a place. It that space between the infield and the grass. That moment of silent tension right before the pitch, when players spring into ready position. That silent moment when we wait to see what will happen. That space where anything can happen. It is Derek Jeter methodically kicking rocks and smoothing the infield dirt while waiting to pounce. It is a cold drink on a hot day; it is listening to fans around me discuss past games. It is Nick Swisher wooing the crowd, and the crowd flirting back. It is a cotton candy vendor winning a dance off against a drunk fan. It is the sound of a ball on a bat, the thud of a leather, and the sight of green, and brown, and sky.  That to me, is Baseball Heaven.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Doctor Who; or, That's So Funny

I would never love this show as much if it wasn't funny. So, here (hopefully without too many spoilers) are the top 5 funniest moments, for me, from S1-S4. As I was finishing this, I realized there are actually a lot I missed.

1. The Ninth Doctor is funny. It is likely what I like the most. Yes, Tenth Doctor is funny too, but Ninth is FUNNY. "Rose" I found the first episode to be really funny. There were a ton of lines in that first episode that made me laugh. In fact, it is probably what made me a fan.

You can't convince me that this comment isn't about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. 

The Doctor: [looking at at tabloid] Well, that's never gonna work he's gay and she's an alien.

 But this is probably the funniest moment for me. And it gets funnier after you know Jackie a little.

Jackie: I'm in  my dressing gown.
The Doctor: Yes, you are.
Jackie Tyler: There's a strange man in my bedroom
The Doctor: Yes, there is.
Jackie Tyler: Well, anything could happen.
The Doctor: [shakes his head and smiles] No.

2. "Blink" I don't know if this is an episode that is thought of as funny, or maybe it is, but there are some hilarious moments.

Kathy Nightingale: What did you come here for anyway?
Sally Sparrow: I love old things. They make me feel sad.
Kathy Nightingale: What's good about sad?
Sally Sparrow: It's happy for deep people.

When Billy Shipton meets Sally and she tells him her name is "Sally Shipton" and they both just about die.

And of course this gem which probably meant there were t-shirts made before the episode even ended. 
"The angels have the phonebox. That's my favorite. I've got that on a t-shirt" 
In thinking about it, that whole episode is funny. Funnier than I even remembered.

3. "The Doctor Dances." Ninth Doctor: Sonic Screwdriver VS. Jack Harkness: Sonic Blaster conversation. Come on boys, just whip it out and have it done with.

4. "The Poison Sky." Are you my mummy? Ten has to put on a gasmask to survive a gas attack by ATMOS and quips, "Are you my mummy" in reference to "The Empty Child." The key to being funny is surprise, and I wasn't expecting that. One of the few places where I laughed hard enough that people were asking me what was so funny; and I just couldn't explain.

5. "The End of Time." The opening speech, delivered in a cowboy hat, shades, a pick feather boa to the most serious creature in the universe, an Ood. I am more than slightly disappointed not to be privy to the marriage to Queen Elizabeth especially after the way "The Shakespeare Code" ended (hmmm, some funny stuff in that one too).
Ah! Now. Sorry. There you are. So, where were we? I was summoned, wasn't I. An Ood in the snow, calling to me.  Well, I didn't exactly come straight here;  had a bit of fun y'know: traveled about, did this and that, got into trouble, you know me. It was brilliant! I saw the phosphorous carousel of the great mingelinga Stat, saved a planet from the red carnivorous mor, named a galaxy Alison, Got Married! That was mistake. Good Queen Bess. And let me tell you, her nickname is no longer... mmmm. Anyway, what do you want?
What about you? What are your funniest moments?

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Very Stuffy Analysis of Why David Tennant is So Dam Hot (SDH) as Doctor Who; or, a blog just for Donnie

I think it's the sideburns. Or maybe that crazy, sexy, hair.

The Endnotes

Doctor Who; or, you never really forget your first

If I have learnt nothing else from my foray into Doctor Who, a show with completely rabid fandom, a new experience for me, it is that people are always asking me who "MY doctor" is. Like others who are behind, that is a tough question as I have only seen two so far. But, like the Queen herself (allegedly) I think it might be the 9th Doctor. I am not always sure, and I have my moments, but in the end I think there is something about your "first."

When I decided to watch Doctor Who, I asked for advice about when to start. I wasn't sure if I needed to watch the episodes in order, or if I needed to have watched any from the 1960's. At the time, I knew that David Tennant had been incredibly popular and I knew that Matt Smith had replaced him. I didn't know about regeneration, so I wasn't clear on exactly how much the story required new casting, I just sort of assumed it was a show that couldn't keep its star. So, my interest level in starting was really, as I said before, more about curiosity about such a cultural movement than anything else. But, the answer to my question about where to start had an answer I wasn't expecting and my ears perked up when I was told that I should probably watch the Eccelston year even though some people say it "isn't as good" as the others. What? Christopher Eccelston? In truth there are prolly very few people in world who have actor crushes on Chris Eccelston, and it turns out, I am one of them.

I first saw Eccelston in the early 90's movie Shallow Grave. It was a little British film that also marked my introduction to Ewan McGregor. If you haven't see it, I do recommend it. It has been awhile since I saw it, but it is about some friends who end up with money that isn't theirs (maybe from a drug deal or something) and they face some pretty massive ethical decisions about what to do about the money. It was very low budget, very well written, and I loved it. After that, I sought out films with both Eccelston and McGregor and was not disappointed. The second film I saw was Jude. A film version of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure with Kate Winslet. It was haunting, and sealed the deal for me as an Eccelston fan. So, when my friend mentioned Eccelston was the Doctor in the first season, I was in. All in.

It is interesting to me now that I am through the Tennant years and know just enough about Doctor Who to realize just how different the 9th Doctor is from the rest of the Doctor pantheon. From what I can tell, he is the first not to wear a suit, 9 is implied to be working class and much is made of the fact that he is from the north, and I loved the little joke about how "Lots of planets have a north." The little jokes about how he appears to be a "navvy" which was slang for a laborer or a construction worker. This idea is not one that would ever be applied to 10th Doctor who does not look like he has ever done a day's labor in his life (and I don't mean that in a bad way). The class aspect becomes doubly interesting when you hook 9 up with Rose who is also working class, someone whom Cassandra calls a "chav."

I don't know the show insider gossip. I've seen enough things that for whatever reason when Eccelston refused to return for another season the fans were outraged and never really forgave him. For a while, I thought I was going to be able to catch up on old seasons on BBCAmerica and I was DVRing them (until I realized that they are hacked into pieces and are missing as much as 10-15 minutes of show from each episode, something that will actually become a problem soon, as Netflix does not have S7, yet). At one point I had nearly 100 episodes in my DVR and not one from 2005. Not one S1, Eccelston, 9th Doctor episode. Not even "The Parting of the Ways" which was technically Tennant's debut. I don't really care about the kind of in-fighting that leads to these kinds of feuds and character's early deaths, except in the way they affect the show. I don't take sides; but, I do find it interesting that S1 is not played on TV. There is a lot of history there. I can't imagine the show without having seen S1.

I came into this experience with a predisposition to love Eccleston and I was a bit resistant of the change to 10. As I have said before I actually had to go back and re-watch S2 because it wasn't until "The Satan Pit" that I realized that I was digging on 10 and I wanted to re-watch those shows a bias towards Tennant rather than mistrust. And as my BFF predicted by the time of Tennant's regeneration into Matt Smith, I did "mourn" the loss of Tennant. I will start S5 in a couple of weeks and I might want to come back here and take it all back, although I doubt it, and I might be a Matt Smith fan... or even the next guy. Knowing me, I will probably love them all.

I have talked a little about my favorite episodes from S1 The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. But one thing I have to add is that the real reason why I think I love those episode so much is that it seems to be the first time 9th Doctor is happy. There is not really a villain to be defeated as the nanogens were not a villain so much as a *good thing* gone wrong. The joyous shouts of "everybody lives! For once, everybody lives!" give us an insight into how hard it is to be the doctor, that he knows that happy endings are the rarest of things. I just love the joy in that moment.

It is the elements of a goofy sort of reticent urge to hope that make me love 9th Doctor. He has these moments where he is so serious and you can see just how deep he goes and then he throws on this goofy smile and sparkly little almost crazy look like he just can't care about that right now that is just heartbreaking. And he is the reason I love Rose as much as I do. She doesn't love 9 the way she loves 10, loving 10 is easy, he is charming and attractive, and even though he has all the darkness of 9 he just wears it differently. In "Father's Day" when 9 tries everything to allow Rose to keep her father KNOWING that it is destroying the world. It's beautiful. He seems to be so much more willing to give up his life for her than the others, and it isn't surprising that in the end he does. It makes sense to me that 9 regenerates into a man that Rose would love, because it just may be what 9 was thinking about when he "dies." Without 9 there is no 10, and I just wish that somehow that history was respected a bit more.

What do you think about the 9th Doctor? What is your favorite S1 episode?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Doctor Who: or, it's about time

I have begun watching the British science-fiction television series Doctor Who. It is wildly popular with my friends and, of course, worldwide. I was convinced to watch, not just because I felt I was missing out on cultural inside-jokes, but because when so many people whom I like and admire all start talking so positively and so passionately about one thing, well, that means it is probably pretty good. So, to sort of locate myself within this discussion, a little about me: I am a non sci-fi person, so the genre is not a natural fit. I started watching mid-December 2013, so 8 years after the new Doctor Who aired, and 50 after the original. I am an anglophile who was raised on Masterpiece Theatre and lived in London for 6 months in 2003, so the British aspect has appeal. So, while the potential for me to like this show was there, it was sort of unlikely.

The main factor that made me resistant to watching in the first place is that I am a non sci-fi person. I do not like Star Wars, Star Trek, or other classic sci-fi programs (and I have tried a couple of others that I have been told I would love and, well, I didn't) and the fact Doctor Who is about aliens and space travel and all of that is what kept me from watching it in the first place. So, even though people said I would like it and I should try it I did not want to be that person, again. The one who rains on the parade. I assumed that it was simply a genre thing, and I said I just didn't like things set in space. But, really, there is a sort of genre cheesiness and style that some sci-fi viewers will put up with that I just can't do. To me (and I know this is blasphemy) Star Wars and Star Trek are often not constructed well as art. And the acting and writing, well, not the level I was looking for.

So, for a second here, I am going to sound like a pretentious ass, and that's okay with me, but for only about 3 seconds, then I am far more likely to switch to fangirl gushing. There is an aspect of expectation that as a viewer who is a trained literary critic and the fact that I have academic degrees in the humanities, I value the quality of a show more than any other aspect--this means I do not suffer bad writing, I need good-to-decent acting, good dialogue, and the characters have got to be likable and developed (or developing), I want the cinematography to be lovely or at least interesting, and most of all, I want fantastic stories. I am making an assumption that many of my friends who love some of the sci-fi stuff that I don't love grew up watching those shows and may have an emotional attachment that allows them to defend some of the technical aspects that I just can't forgive (like the horrible costumes). Maybe, if I had watched more sci-fi as a child, I'd have a better understanding of how camp and cheese is a good thing. Maybe. On the other had, any time you try to figure out why someone else likes something that you don't, you just end up making weird assumptions and sound like an idiot, so enough of that. Anyway, I was more than pleasantly surprised that Doctor Who delivered beyond my wildest expectations for most of these things, and manages to make camp and cheese seem more like whimsy and charm.

I have so much to say that I think the best approach is to respond generally and then move on to specifics. I will likely write about this a lot as I am pretty interested right now (although that is what I said about Jane Austen and THAT didn't happen. Ah intentions...wait, don't get distracted! Focus). Today, let me lay out the topics that are interesting to me.

1. Context. I am sort of fascinated by the idea of coming late to such an active cultural phenomenon. As I said before. I am at least 8-years late (maybe 50 depending on the math). This means that while I am still struggling about whether I love 9th or 10th doctor more, the rest of the world is mourning the 11th and preparing to welcome the 12th. While I am just learning about the Tardis, and wondering whether or not 10th Doctor had sex with Rose, the rest of the world is wearing t-shirts about a 50th anniversary. This idea of watching a show about the relative dynamics of space and time in the *wrong* time fascinates me. I am like Harriet Jones, holding up my Doctor Who Analysis and offering insights, and the rest of the world is responding, We KNOW already.

2. Netflix Vs. Real Time (BBC America). Another aspect of how I am watching this show is one that I have been talking about with another friend who is watching on about the same pace as I am. She and I started at about the same time and while I am a bit ahead (for now). We are both "binge-watching" or what I have been told is actually called "netflixing" which is when you watch whole series of television programs in a very short amount of time. I am not sure of the exact date I started watching, but it was not more than three weeks ago. Tops. In that time I watched four seasons, and season 1 and 2 twice. That is roughly 120 hours of TV in three weeks. And while I know I could never keep that pace for long, because life, it has possibly made for a unique viewing experience. One thing my friend and I had been discussing is just how emotionally we were responding to the show and wondering if everyone felt this way when they watched or if it was unique to the binge-experience. Something, that I am not sure how we would really find out. The main question being, that if you watch without time between to distract you or to mellow out the emotional response are you, in effect, multiplying the experience by condensing it?

3.  Emotional/Personal Response. This show is killing me. I literally (and I mean this is the old-fashioned sense of the word) have to take breaks. The sheer amount of personal loss and devastation about losing characters (or about their personal plot developments) is over whelming. Areas that were particularly hard are the personal relationship between Rose and the 9th and 10th Doctor, and the one they call tentoo (which I won't say too much about because I don't think Brandi has gotten there yet). The way S4 ends. The relationship between Donna and her family. The issue raised by the character of Donna about how you can be this amazing person but just won't be *successful* in the world because your skill set doesn't translate in a career. And again, I have more to say, but I'll wait until I am sure Brandi is caught up...The other two areas that have been so emotional for me are about loneliness, the theme of regeneration and change, and the sheer amount of Carpe Diem mythology.

4.  Characters. Of course there are four sort of characters. The Doctor (for me, I've only seen two Eccelston and Tennant). The Companions, Rose, Martha, Donna, Jack, Sarah-Jane, and I guess you'd have to throw Astrid in there too. The villains, Daleks, Cybermen, Henry Saxon... and of course more, and then what I am calling The Rest Jackie, Martha's family (which I can never remember their names) Sylvia, Wilfrid, and more.  I started the show already liking Eccelston, and sort of not liking Tennant (I don't know why, something about Hamlet and all the press maybe). So, there is much to be said here.

5. Individual episodes. By far and away I like two kinds of episodes the best the "Rose/Doctor" episodes, those that focus on Rose and the doctor's relationship, and those written by Steven Moffat (which I guess means I am in luck because after S4 that is ALL of them). The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances is still my favorite, then Blink. I also find this interesting, because he never writes about Rose. I don't think he likes her as much as I do :( I also prefer episodes where they travel back in time the best, then the one's in present day, and those in the future the least (prolly my own non-sci-fiction bias). I love the ones with literary connections (Dickens, Shakespeare, etc) a lot too.

Whew this is getting lOOOOOOng. So, I'll just start listing.
The role of guns, violence, and free-will. The idea of actively participating in history and people's lives (the idea of "fixed" and "flux" points in time). Gender (can the doctor ever be female?). How much hotter Tennant is in 2009 than 2005. And it isn't perspective, he just *gets hotter*...And more, much, much more.

I will close this first discussion by saying. I am surprised by just how much I do love this show. I also know that it has to be about timing. I know I would not have liked it this much in 2005. I was reading a forum on IMDB where someone who started watching around the same time that I did started a discussion in which they asked "When does this get good?" People were giving advice like, "skip to the Tennant years" or "don't give up, it gets better." My response: For me, it got good in the first 9, if you are forcing yourself to watch it, then MAYBE, it will never get good, maybe you just don't like it. At least not today.

What about you? What do you think? Please... discuss!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Resolution 2014; or, more, more, more

Usually resolutions are about quitting something. Giving things up. Losing weight. Getting organized. I resolved to quit drinking diet soda every year for two decades. Ironically, it was 2013 (the one year I said I wasn't going to *do* resolutions, that I actually did it, so far). In my experience it is far more difficult to stop doing something or to quit something than it is to start or add to. So, this year, I am going only make resolutions about doing more.

1. I am going to read more. I used to read all the time. I spent my childhood reading. Somewhere along the way of earning a handful of academic degrees in English I lost my passion for reading. I have talked about this before in this blog, but things get better all the time. So. I am going to read more. First up, another read of Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero, then Ian McKewan's Atonement. After that, we'll see. Oh, and I need to read some Sherlock Holmes in there somewhere as I am teaching a class on that in the Spring. Feel free to recommend books.

2. I am going write more. I think of myself as a writer. I think I could be okay at it. At least sometimes. I know I have good ideas, but ideas are not books. Well, at least not without some work. So, I am going to write more. I am toying with the idea of taking some writing classes. But, in general, I allow my time to get eaten up by Facebook and TV (see resolution 4) when I could be writing. This resolution extends to letters, blogs, as well as other types of writing.

3.  I am going to volunteer more. It has been a while since I committed my time to help my community. I used to volunteer a lot when I was in college and it is something I'd like to do again. I am not sure exactly what I want to do yet, but it is time to start looking for opportunities.

4. I am going to watch more really great TV. Okay, I know how that sounds. But, this one is sort of a problem in that I sometimes trick myself into thinking I am too busy to watch a new documentary or great movie or Masterpiece Classic episode. So, instead of watching one really good show I will fritter my time watching hours of MLB network or playing Facebook games or even worse watching you tube videos. So, I am going to give myself permission to watch some great TV (and watch less of the crap).

5. I am going to move more. I have given up on dieting because I finally realized how awful that whole restriction thing is (only took me 30 years to get it), but I can't live another year as unhealthy as this one. So, the answer seems to me to be in movement. I used to love to walk. I would walk 8-10 miles a day. There is no reason not to. I just stopped (replaced it with Facebook I am sure--there is a theme here). I would like to take a yoga class or maybe even learn to ballroom dance. The key is movement.

6. I am going to continue to save more money. I did pretty well in 2013. Not as well as I could have, but since 2014 is all about more, I will also be more positive. I have a small tiny nest egg saved up and this year I am going to add more little eggs to that nest. The key here seems to be in value. Understanding that one good purchase is better and more satisfying that some of the profligate spending I have done in the past.

7. I am going to be more positive. Let's face it, I can be a complainer. I can look at a situation and see the dark side with little effort. So, more gratitude. More thanks. More light. More hope. More forgiveness for others and myself.

8. I am going to eat more. I have decades of disordered eating behind me that makes this resolution plenty tricky. But, I rarely eat what I actually want. I usually please other people or deny myself what I *really* want because it is expensive, or unhealthy, or whatever. This year, I am going to eat more of my favorite foods. That includes going to more farmer's markets and getting fresh organic foods. That means eating really great bread and fantastic cheese. Oh, and that means wine, and pasta, and salami... And buying the good lettuce that tastes delicious, but just doesn't *last as long.* Bon Appetite!

9. I am going to talk to my friends more. I am terrible with the phone and many of my friends live far away. So, letter, phone, text, this blog, carrier pigeons, and anything else I can think of will have to do.

10. I am going to travel more. This one is tricky because it is hard to travel and save money. But, it can't be impossible. But, in order to make 9 happen, then 10 is a must. And, this very well may be New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter's last year. So, I know I will have to go to a couple of games. New York? Chicago? Tampa? Funny how many of my friends live near MLB cities.

So there you go. That seems like a pretty good list of resolutions. 2014 looks pretty good to me. A year filled with reading, writing, drinking and eating, travel, great TV, and dancing. Hmmm, sounds a lot like college. Well, in the words of the doctor, Allons-y! Happy 2014!

What do you want to do *more* of this year?