Sunday, December 25, 2011

Deeper Magic From Before the Dawn of Time

Guess what everyone? It's Christmas!  Which means it's time for the Doctor Who Christmas Special!  You know the drill - Spoilers below the video for "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe"

(Not one of my better efforts, but okay in it's own right)

It is well-known that my Geek Cred was initially born from a deep and abiding love of fantasy, not science fiction.  Something I've noticed in the past (and maybe the divide is shrinking to an extent) is that sci-fi geeks and fantasy geeks don't often mix well because one group gravitates towards things that are just outside the realm of possibility for the current time period and the other group gravitates towards things that are so far out there that serious science just laughs at it (I suppose that's the Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate, though I could be tarred and feathered for suggesting Star Wars is light and fluffy fantasy.  Then again, I know comparatively little about Star Trek).

I will be brutally honest - I like to think of places where anything and everything can happen, not just things that are within the realms of real-world science and technology.  Plus, I'm not a big fan of long and involved explanations of how some thingamashootit teleport/light speed/shrink ray device works.  If the story tells me something works, I can accept that it works within the realms of the story and I don't get terribly nit-picky about it.  Besides, the beauty of fantasy stories like Harry Potter is that magic is considered a science - there are rules of what can and cannot be done.  And often in those stories, new things are discovered that make impossible things possible - which is what science (by and large) is really about.

I've come to accept science-fiction, of course.  I'm watching Doctor-freaking-Who, for cripes' sake!  But this Christmas Special embodies something that I've long thought about and accepted for myself - science and fantasy can co-exist in peaceful, lovely, storytelling harmony.  Sometimes, there are talking trees in a fantastical wintertime forest that can only be accessed by a dimensional gateway into Fairyland Androzani Major disguised as a Christmas package.  And sometimes, the fish just like the singing (now shut up!)

I've got to get this out of the way first - Some people got their panties in a wad over Steven Moffat using themes from CS Lewis' Narnia series for this year's special because "OMG - it's a Christian allegory even though Lewis said it wasn't but who cares it's religious and we can't have religion in a SCIENCE fiction show - RAWR! *frothing mouths*" To those ninnies, I raise a dubious eyebrow and snort a derisive "Seriously?"  I wouldn't have brought this up and it actually would take much longer for me to address this to my own satisfaction, but I'll give you the short version - In my own personal beliefs, religion and science mesh quite well together.  There are some things that many mainstream Christians hold to that I don't (the whole deal about the Earth being 6,000 years old is but one of many), but it would take too long for me to delve into it here.  Suffice it to say that science is the way God created the universe and we little humans are learning to figure out even a slice of what He does in His creations. Everything science "discovers" is something God did first.  And that's all that I have to say about that.

Back to Doctor Who -  combining Doctor Who with Narnia is actually quite a genius idea and I'm not just saying that because I am a fan of CS Lewis and the "Narnia" series.  Come on - the TARDIS is basically a sci-fi'd up version of the "Bigger on the Inside" wardrobe in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."  It doesn't take it a genius to figure that one out (though this does NOT take away Moffat's "genius" card).  Add in a mystical snowy forest (which doesn't stay mystical for very long) and the souls of trees with some Halo-esque military people to point the way and you've got a pretty solid Doctor Who story.

There has also been talk of how "alien" Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor is.  I will agree with that from sunup to sunup - but he isn't completely alien.  He understands human emotion, if almost accidentally and by scientific means.  In "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" (I'm just going to abbreviate it as DWW for this post - that's a stinkingly long title), he gets Madge to pilot the pseudo-Epcot globe through the Time Vortex by helping her remember her home and her family.  Much the same as he tried to do with Amy in "Cold Blood" when Rory was being erased from time.  Well, that one didn't quite work the way he hoped, but he eventually got it when he rebooted the universe in "The Big Bang."  Another part of that is understanding kids - one thing Eleven gets is kids - from Amelia Pond to young Kazran Sardick to Cyril and Lily.  He connects with kids'  emotions, even if he hasn't cottoned on to why he's done that.  It often takes him a few minutes to figure out that something is wrong with The Big Picture, but it's usually after he's rambled about fish fingers and custard and girls and crisps and remodeling the house with revolving Christmas trees.

Another thing I liked (and it's likely the "Moffat is a Misogynist Pig" crowd is going to be be ape-nuts over this, but they can all go stick their noses in the air about it) is how the "Strong Mother" trope came into play in this story.  Especially a mother who has only recently found out her husband was killed in war and she hasn't told the kids yet because she doesn't want to ruin Christmas, so she is keeping everything together by the skin of her fingernails.  I don't care who you are or what feminist gospel you subscribe to, THAT is true strength and it makes sense that the trees of Androzani Major would choose Madge to pilot their tree souls to wherever they ended up in the end (and I could even overlook the Green Aesop crap in the end).  Beyond biology and the whole "Mama Bear" thing and what-have-you - that is a pretty solid way to resolve the story line.

Of course, this would not be a review from me without a grand List of Things I Liked -

- The Return to Androzani - Even though this is Androzani Major rather than Androzani Minor where the Fifth Doctor bit the dust *sniffle*
- The Doctor: "There's never anything dangerous here." *beat* "There are sentences I should just stay away from"
- Halo Dude - "There's no crying in baseball military engagements!"
- The fact that the sonic screwdriver doesn't work on wood actually became a major plot development!
- Cyril's giant Christmas present was wrapped in TARDIS Blue wrapping paper.  I'm seriously doing that next year!
- Call back to "The End of Time" with the Forest of Cheem ("One of them fancied me.")

And, of course, The Return of the Ponds! Who both know the Doctor isn't dead! Which means the Doctor was staying away from them for no real reason (though that almost became moot in the first five minutes during the Doctor's swan dive to Earth and recreating - rather badly - his own version of an Impossible Astronaut).  And as if to put the exclamation point on the fact that Eleven is indeed conscious of his own humanity, he gets a little misty-eyed as he walks into La Casa de Pond for Christmas dinner.

Bottom Line: Solid Christmas Special for Doctor Who.  Doesn't beat out "A Christmas Carol" for TEH BEST EVAR, but still pretty good.  I liked the fantasy elements in it and didn't mind that science got thrown in there for good measure.  Hopefully it's good enough to tide us over until next fall (holy shiz - that's a long time!)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Year in Review and Christmas Wishes

I'm off to the ranch this week for Family Christmas Fun Time, but I would be sincerely remiss if I didn't put something fun on the blog and just reflect on the Year That Was 2011 and honor my time there, if only to acknowledge it was heads-and-shoulders better than 2010.  Plus, I'm not much of a sender of Christmas cards (why spend so much money sending something nice that's just going to get thrown away - seriously, what do people do with all those nice cards they get in the mail?)  In the spirit of the occasion, I present -

The Top Ten Great Things That Happened to Me In 2011

Well, the ten things I feel are noteworthy at least - 

10. Taking the West Desert Drama Team to Region and Qualifying for State

    I spent the first part of the 2011 calendar year working for West Desert High School and one of the most fun things I did with those kids was coaching them for Drama Competition.  Even though I have no real qualifications to be a Drama coach other than I was the only person in West Desert that had the time and was willing to do it (sometimes, that's all you really can ask for).  Three of my students performed a scene from the dramatized "Pride and Prejudice" - and for three young kids from the sticks going up against kids from small private schools (who, under no circumstances whatsoever, never, ever, ever recruit.  Nope, never), they actually made a damn good showing.  Enough that they qualified for the State competition.  Actually, my entire time at West Desert was so much fun and I actually find myself missing it from time to time.

9. Studying Abroad in Serbia

In conjunction with my Master's Degree (which I will expound upon in a moment), I had the opportunity to travel to Serbia and do some library programming with kids and teens.  It was seriously an eye-opening experience for me, who has never traveled out of the United States and never really had any plans to.  Even with some of the logistical issues we had, I just cannot forget the enthusiasm and love the librarians in Serbia had for the people they served and how much they wanted to help them.  It inspired me to be a better librarian and to really put my heart into the work I want to do now that I have my degree.

8. The Great "Wheel of Time" Re-Read (To Be Epic-ly Concluded in 2012)

I've mentioned on Twitter and Facebook that I've been reading "The Wheel of Time" series by Robert Jordan.  I have to give a bit of background on this - my senior year of high school, I moved to a new town and a new school where I didn't know anyone.  I kept mostly to myself for a while, but I slowly got to know people and make friends.  Part of that "making friends" thing was exchanging books and things that we were all interested in and at some point, a few of my classmates unearthed "The Wheel of Time" from our tiny school library and they were all reading them like crazy.  Since this was the era of the "Lord of the Rings" movies and I was all nuttied-out for Harry Potter, I was ready and eager for any new fantasy series to catch my attention.  Well, those classmates handed me "The Eye of the World" (book 1 in WoT) and I ate that up like nobody's business.  I proceeded through the series (as much as the school library had) and basically decided that it was Amazing (by extension, my new friends were Amazing for handing it to me).  Sadly, I graduated about the time I was finishing up "The Fires of Heaven" (book 5) and I had to turn my attention to going to college and all the fun that comes with that.  I did manage to finish up to "A Crown of Swords" (book 7) during the summer, but then I had to quit because school life was not conducive to reading a Doorstopper Fantasy series (sad day).  Even after finishing college, I had moved on to other pursuits and never got around to picking it up again.

Fast forward to working for Salt Lake County Library in 2011 - one day, someone checked in the audiobook of "The Eye of the World" and my little fangirl brain got to thinking "Hey, I have a long commute and an iPod - this could work!" I snapped up that audiobook and discovered (to my utter delight) that the library had the rest of the series on CD as well (seeing as how local author Brandon Sanderson is finishing the series since Robert Jordan passed away in 2007, of course Salt Lake County would have tons of copies available).  I started up in October and haven't looked back.  And yes, it is just as fun and Amazing as I remember it.  The only reason it isn't higher up on the list is because I'm still in the middle of where I left off before - next year when "A Memory of Light" (book 14 - Holy Shiz!) comes out and I get to finish, this might be #4 or so.  We'll see.

Honestly, though - this is more than revisiting a book series that I loved Back in the Day.  Starting "The Wheel of Time" again also reminds me of all those wonderful kids I knew in high school who befriended the New Girl at a time of life that everyone is gearing up to take off into the lone and dreary world.  And that is something I'll always appreciate (yes, I am a sentimental fool from time to time. Why is no one surprised by this?)

7. The Advent of "Traveling the Vortex" and Friday Night Who

Continuing in the fandom vein for a moment (I'll get to the Personal Story stuff soon) - 2011 marked the year of the Myrka jokes, feedback and Number 1 Fans.  Yes, folks - this year, I was introduced to Glenn and Shaun and their marvelous adventures introducing their friend Keith to "Doctor Who."  I originally reviewed their podcast back in February when it was first starting up and I enjoyed it so much (not to mention the fact it's a great way for me to be introduced to much of Classic Who without having to go through all from "An Unearthly Child" to the end. People, that 26 seasons of stuff - not to mention how many missing episodes had to be reconstructed? Oy...).  Not to mention Friday Night Who has become the highlight of my week.  It's the closest I can get right now to watching Doctor Who with a bunch of like-minded fans from all over (instead of those fair-weather "Oh, this is something you like - sure I'll watch it with you, I have nothing better to do" types - not that I don't appreciate you all!) and just have a grand old time.

For being one of the highlights of my week and my year, Traveling the Vortex gets a well-deserved spot on my Year in Review list.

6. Watching "Doctor Who" Series 6 as it Broadcasts

Yeah, I guess there's something to be said for "mainlining" a series (meaning you wait until you have all the episodes and watching them all in one go) - but there was nothing that I appreciated more than my first year of delving into "Doctor Who" on a week-by-week basis and getting to digest each episode over the course of a week (and sometimes longer than that).  It intensified the conversation, make me think harder about this stuff and increased my enjoyment of the show.  Not to mention, I got to savor the experience a lot more than when I was barreling through the David Tennant era in the course of a month.  The whole of Series 6 was a fantastic experience and, with a few minor exceptions, I loved every minute of it.

Of course, since I'm getting the boxed set for Christmas, I will also look forward to watching the entire season in the course of a week or so :)

5. Getting a Job at the Library

I don't know where other people would put this one, but since I actually got a job in a library and that's the field I want to work in - I'm pretty stoked about this.  Especially since it's in the library system I REALLY wanted to work for.  I'm still "just a substitute" - but everyone's got to pay their dues somehow.  Salt Lake County Library is a great place to work and the people are friendly and they do an amazing job with everything.  I'm still hoping to get on as a permanent hire (preferable as a children or young adult librarian - but I'll take what I can get) - but I do love my job and I am darn lucky to have it :)

4. SEAL Team Six Taking Out Osama bin Laden

No matter your politics or opinions or whatever - that was an awesome day.  God bless our troops.

3. Finishing my Master of Library Science degree

Awww, yeaaaah! Look how cool that is?

What - did you want an overly-sentimental treatise on how happy I about finishing my MLS and being done with school?  Okay - I might post a video of people singing and dancing happily.  Like this one -

Yeah, I'm just a little bit happy about this :)

2. Mark Coming Home

I took a LOT of video the day my brother came home from serving his mission in Argentina for two years.  None of it has been posted until today (I had grand schemes of editing together a video of that happy occasion, then I lost the SD cards - then I found them again, so that may still be a possibility).  Personally, I hadn't seen Mark in three years since he left while I was serving my own mission in Florida, so I was just as thrilled as anyone to have him back home.

(And if my brother has a problem with this video being posted - just remember that I'm the one sounding like a brainless moron about to burst into tears).

1. I'm an Aunt!

For the top of the list - what honestly could compete with this - the birth of my niece, Jaylee Elizabeth, beats everything else out.  Enough said.

That's only a smattering of pics of the lovable little peanut - and there will be more in the future, trust me.  Being an aunt is awesome!

There you have it - 2011 rocked in so many ways.  I have so much to be grateful for and happy about.  And I truly, truly hope 2012 capitalizes on the good things that happened here and continues to just be awesome and - now I'm rambling...

Everyone, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's a Trailer, Precioussssss

How long have we waited for this movie to materialize? And now - WE HAVE A TRAILER FOR "THE HOBBIT!" YAAAAAAAAAY!!!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Lovers, The Dreamers and Me - Review of "The Muppets"

When I was little - this is before I even went to kindergarten - my family was dirt poor. To be fair, I was born a little over a year after my parents got married so they were still in that "poor, young, dumb, newlywed" stage of life.  As a result, we didn't have the shiniest, bestest toys.  But one thing we did have was an old dial TV (a hand-me-down from my grandparents) with a VCR my parents got from their wedding.  We didn't buy a lot of movies and this was way before we even thought about cable.  But we did have blank VHS tapes.  So, Mom and Dad taped movies from TV for my sister and I to watch after "Sesame Street" and "Mister Roger's Neighborhood" was over and all there was to watch was crappy soap operas and Mom wanted to clean the house.

We had many things recorded on those tapes - anything shown on Magical World of Disney counted, as well as innumerable Mickey Mouse and Goofy short cartoons (I have a picture of my three-year-old self zonked out on my dad's easy chair because I insisted on watching Goofy cartoons before bedtime and I didn't make it through the whole tape).  There was "The Chipmunk Adventure" and "Pete's Dragon" - and there was "The Muppet Movie."

I certainly didn't understand anything about time periods or how things got "dated" over time.  For all I knew, "The Muppet Movie" was brand spanking new in 1988.  I didn't really recognize the celebrity cameos and I truly didn't care.  I just wanted to watch Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo and Miss Piggy (okay, I admit that I did care about the Big Bird cameo).

So here I am in 2011 - legally I'm a grown-up (though I will deny that I have any kind of boring, grown-up qualities in my personality).  I understand that "The Muppet Show" was sort of a big deal back in the day, but I didn't experience it (weep silently for me).  But I did get to experience "Muppets Tonight" on TGIF in the late 90s.  And I maintain that the very best version of A Christmas Carol is "The Muppet Christmas Carol."

The point of all this sentimentality? I love it when something from my childhood gets to come back and be made new and relevant again.  I went into "The Muppets" expecting a Muppet movie like "Muppets Take Manhattan" or "Muppets in Space" where the Muppets are just part of the scenery along with their human actors.  But "The Muppets" is actually about revisiting old times and realizing that they are still good and important and deserve to be passed down in our culture.  It's like finding that one book or that one toy that you loved as a kid, but you haven't used it in years.  Not because you were deliberately neglectful, but just because life gets in the way (see also - "Toy Story 3").  Thank goodness for the creators of "The Muppets" for reminding the rest of us who loved the Muppets as kids that we still love the Muppets, even though we're older now.

And kudos for staying faithful to the spirit of the material!  There's a scene in "The Muppets" where Kermit and the gang go to ask Mr. Richman if they can just have the old studio back.  Richman has this little song-and-dance number that basically plays to idea that the world is cynical and the goofy Muppets stuff just doesn't cut it anymore.  Then he unveils the Moopets, which is basically the Muppets if Jim Henson was from the south side of LA.  This reminded me of the "edgy-fication" of certain well-beloved characters.  It works with some (like Batman) but for others (like the Looney Tunes) eh... not so much.  There are just some things that you don't do that with.  The original formula works fora  reason - because it resonates.  People want to have the good and silly stuff that's just - fun.  Everything isn't all doom and gloom and gritty realism.  There's still a place for absolute silliness.

"The Muppets" stuck with the old formula and it works like a charm.  Even lampshading that they're gathering up the old gang in a montage and driving to Paris by way of a map in the glove box - that's what the Muppets do and that's who they are.  I did get a little nervous when Fozzie pulled out the fart shoes (because the Muppets do NOT have to resort to bathroom humor) but Kermit and everyone told him to give it a rest and everyone kept it classy.  The addition of Walter was cute - I especially loved the song with him and his (human) brother Gary singing about being men and Muppets (and what about Jim Parsons as the human Walter? I nearly busted a gut when I saw that!)

And no, I did not get all weepy and crap when they all came out to sing "The Rainbow Connection" there at the end.  Nope, not at all *sniff* (aw hell... anyone got a tissue?)

Bottom Line: "The Muppets" is a fun and heartstring-tugging way to bring my childhood back into my adult life.  It has me hoping and wishing for a a rebirth of "The Muppet Show" because that was one thing I sort of missed out on, but I would love to have it back.

Seriously - who doesn't love the Muppets?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I'd Like to Thank The Academy...

Today, I presented my Capstone portfolio for Master of Library Science program.  After two years of blood, sweat and tears (oh, heaven help me, there were tears), I am a professional librarian (as soon as the final grades get put in, of course).

It's a really weird feeling.  I don't have homework anymore, I don't have to go to classes and I don't have to do group projects or stress out about presentations.  But something about this final weekend with my classmates has made me a little sentimental (read: weepy).  Ten minutes of a Capstone presentation wasn't enough time to really thank everyone and reflect properly on what this entire program has meant to me and I'm not that good of a public speaker to really say it.  And I feel more sincere when I'm in an informal setting.  Since blogging is what I do best, I am putting my thanks and appreciation here for everyone to read and refer to often.  I'll just use first names and initials, since I know I'm picky about my own privacy and I figure others are too.

First of all, I have to give a HUGE thank you to Adriane, our wonderful and indispensable advisor.  Even when I thought there was some giant catastrophe with financial aid or registration, she was always calm and collected and ready to reassure me that it wasn't that big of a deal (even though my brain kept telling my otherwise).  I often wonder if she even sleeps at all because she does so much and is so wonderful at it.  One of the first things I tell people asking about the Emporia State program in Salt Lake City is that Adriane is a total and complete sweetheart and is the one of the best things about the program.  Even when I first met her for my application interview, she was so warm and welcoming to me.  Even before I met her and we were just communicating via email - her demeanor made me want to be in this program.

While we're talking mentors and such - another HUGE thank you to Susan, LuCinda, Donnae, Mindy, Bret and Eddie at the West Jordan Library where I did my practicum.  I don't know how the managers and librarians are at other libraries in the Salt Lake County system (with me only being a substitute clerk and not a librarian), but these guys and gals were the best group of mentors a girl could ask for.  Susan especially, being my official practicum supervisor, welcomed all my questions about children's and teen services, collection development, reference questions and even cheering my quest to find that "perfect job."  When I'm in the neighborhood, I try to stop by West Jordan Library and say hi to this amazing group of people that I wouldn't mind actually working with for realsies (hint,hint, HR).  All of them helped me in ways that I can't really express here, but I am grateful beyond words.

I had some stellar professors, but the one that really stood out in my mind was Cheryl from two summers ago.  Cheryl taught our reference services class during our second semester, which was a time that I was still getting my feet under me.  She is also the associate director of the Utah State Library, which means she's a pretty important person in the Grand Scheme of Things.  We had a group presentation assignment in that class and my group did a PowerPoint about technology in libraries.  I was in charge of putting the presentation together and I also made a video for it.  After our presentation, Cheryl asked me if she could use the video I made for the trainings she did for librarians all over the state!  Also, when I saw Cheryl at the ULA conference in May, she remembered who I was and even bragged to some of the other people there that I did a rather clever presentation in for her class.  For a hayseed farm girl from the sticks, that's a pretty big deal.

On to my cohorts.  All of them have contributed something to my education and influenced my experiences, but some stand out from the group.

Next, I have to thank Heather N.  For one thing, putting me up for the week of the ULA Conference.  For another, being my "other mom" during the Serbia study abroad trip (more on that in a minute).  And for all her confidence and expertise (which she'll deny to the end of time, but she is one of the most capable people I've known at any level of academics I've been in) never, not once, did she make me or anyone else feel inferior.  On the contrary, she always had a desire for all of us to be our best and succeed.  As far as she was concerned, one person's victory was a victory for everyone.

Speaking of Serbia, I could not have survived that trip without Ginger and Brienne as well.  I've mentioned how I had never traveled outside the country before, but Ginger and Brienne had and were more than willing to take this "international greenie" under their wings (Ginger was my other "other mom" on this trip).  I loved being with the entire group, including the ladies from the other Emporia cohorts - Kristy, Amy, Ericka and Mary - but my classmates hold a special place in my heart.  The entire Serbia trip was a wonderful thing for me to do, even though a part of me wished the entire time I could go home.  It was in Serbia that I realized that I had enough knowledge and confidence to stand my ground even with the most experienced librarians - that I have just as much to contribute to the conversation as someone who's been at it for twenty years.

Angie.  Angie, without whom I would not have had the guts to even apply for Serbia.  For the implications of that, see the previous paragraph.  Angie - thanks.

Back in Utah, I have to acknowledge Brenda, who was my seatmate for most of our classes together.  Somehow, we managed to sit next to each other for nearly every class and we had a blast when the lectures got a little dry (sorry folks, it happens sometimes).  We found things to talk about, both in and out of library-related topics, and I consider her a good friend.

I also have to mention Lisa G. - one of the most dynamic and excited-to-be-here children's librarians I've ever met.  I can only hope to reflect a fraction of her enthusiasm for the profession.  I keep thinking I ought to go watch her do a story time at her library because it would be one of the most gratifying things I could see.  She is someone I also look up to and I have to thank her for her example.  Along those lines, Jessica gets a special mention for her equal excitement about teen librarianship.

Other people that I found joy working with - Katie, Jon, Dale, Josh, Kellie, Emily (who was also one of the best lunch buddies I've had), Amy C. and the other Amy C., Trisha, Heather B. (who helped me find a place for the books I weeded out of West Desert High School's library) and Catherine - all of you made the entire Emporia experience for me.

I would remiss if I didn't mention the people outside of the Emporia program who supported me.  Mom and Dad - for the money, verbal support and a place to live while I did my work.  Kathryn for letting me stay with her during class weekends (and who continues to give me friendship and emotional support).  Ed for giving me a job at West Desert, letting me have time off for class and the ULA conference, allowing me run of the West Desert Library.  Also, my students last year who were willing to be my guinea pigs for some of my class projects (I showed off some of your excellent work in Serbia, you guys!)  Not to mention the West Desert Community for letting me show them off for my Strategic Plan Project in LI 805 (another video - you all have no idea how much fun I have putting videos together).

This has been something I will always treasure.  It sounds trite and a little cliche, but this was one of the best things I've ever done for myself.  I have learned and grown so much from it and I wouldn't exchange it for anything else I could have done with these last two years (in spite of all the times I got on here and pissed and moaned about this professor doing that or that classmate doing this.  Don't worry guys, I never used names).  I'm not quite sure what to do with myself until I get a job (please Job Fairy, find me something good!), but I am glad to have known everybody and I hope I have done something good for the rest of you as well.

There's not much else to say - except *hug*

Martha Donna Hug

I love you all.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The End Is Near!

My MLS Capstone is tomorrow.  Two years of the hard slog in grad school comes down to this - putting together a 10 minute presentation showcasing what I learned in those two years and praying that I learned the right things (as far as my professors are concerned, at least).  So, in honor of the occasion, I have a couple of theme tunes floating around in my head.  The joy of having a blog is that I get to annoy share them with you all.

1. Theme from "Rocky"

2. "My Way" by Frank Sinatra

Dear Sweet Gallifrey, this whole thing is making me loopy.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Winner! Winner!

So, I just won NaNoWriMo!  Go me!  I successfully wrote a 50,000 word novel in less than 30 days!  Hooray!

The catch?  I'm still not done with my story.  I may have - oh, let's see... carry the one... another 25% of plot to complete.  Then I will go on a massive editing spree and make everything mesh and sound coherent (which may take the rest of my life or something) and then - I might be open to having people read it and critique, which will result in more edits and meshing and blood, sweat and tears.

But dudes - I WROTE A NOVEL!! And it is an awesome feeling!

For now, WE DANCE!

(I'd like to give a special thanks to my supervisors at work for turning the other way when I was writing in my little blue notebook during down times so I could meet the 50K mark by November 30.  And with this thanks, I ask that you continue to look the other way when I start in on the climax of the story - 'cause it's gonna get GOOOOD!!  I hope...)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Doctor Who Day!

There's been plenty of chatter about the impending 50th Anniversary (and rightly so), but we all would be remiss not to observe the anniversaries between now and then.  Because today, everyone's favorite Time Lord celebrates his 48 anniversary!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Don't Want to Live On This Planet Anymore

Since I graduated from college, I've noticed that I haven't been calling out instances of general annoyance in my day-to-day doings as much as I used to.  But something happened this week that I just have to point out.  Besides, the world has gotten away with its stupid shenanigans for way too long.

A bit of background before I launch - last Sunday, I was visiting with my family over football games and cooing over the baby niece.  Somebody (or several somebodies) brought up the "Why Are You Not Dating or Married Yet?" tirade.  I let this go on because people need their hobbies and I can't get them to shut up about it anyway.

Fast forward to Thursday - I am at work (you know, that thing where big kids go and do certain tasks and get paid money for doing them?) and the guys who bring in deliveries from other libraries came in.  They were engrossed in conversation and they were quite loud about it so it was hard to ignore.  They were more or less my age (maybe a little older - no older than early 30s).  I didn't care that they were talking.  But their conversation was a stunning example of why I just don't date.  They were discussing such wonders - like how the new Beavis and Butthead made fun of Jersey Shore (Pot, meet Kettle).  Oh - and the different nuances in how Letterman and Leno deliver their opening monologues.  Not to mention what the heck happened to Conan's show?

If that is the best my generation can offer in terms of datable material, then I will gladly take self-imposed vows of celibacy.

Now, I know what some of you will say (in the most nasally voice you can manage) - "Well, we sit through all your Doctor Who crap so why shouldn't you sit through our Beavis and Butthead stuff?"  Because, Dear Readers, this is my blog and I will write whatever I choose.  Including commentary on how stupid and inane my generation is.  When silly nonsense like 30 Rock and Glee is considered high quality entertainment, there is something wrong with the world (besides, I like Doctor Who).

Honestly, I almost want to apologize to the world for the abject stupidity of my generation.  When the braindead fools on MTV and Comedy Central can tell you what to think and how to believe, it's no wonder that marriage rates are dropping and people are actually worried about it.  There are other factors involved, but a big part of it is that both guys and girls hang out with each other, they put on this stupid brainless act that they see acted out on TV in front of each other and everyone says "I don't want to marry him/her - he/she is an idiot."

Like I said, intelligence is only one factor involved but for me, it's a biggie.  A guy had better have something more substantial to say to me than whatever asinine drivel Letterman flapped about in his monologue last night.  Until then, I'm taking my ball and going home.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Hope No One Curses Me With Immortal Sexiness! (no, really. I hope not)

Well, folks - the end is near.  Or, at least nearer than it was 24 hours ago.  Sparklepirepalooza* Part IV has hit theaters and everyone - Twihards and Twi-haters alike - felt it.

I make no secret that I fall into the Twi-hate camp (though with less ferocity than most).  I have no desire to see "Breaking Dawn."  I did watch the trailer mostly because of my own sick curiosity and also that I am glutton for punishment (the above video is not that trailer. This video is so much better). The whole trailer revolves around Bella and Edward's wedding and honeymoon. Honestly, both Bella and Edward look about as excited about their impending marriage as I would be about seeing this movie (as in "Please don't make me do this! Please! Please! Pleeeeease!!)

But something has bothered me excessively about the Twilight franchise. Not just Edward's stalkery, controlling and abusive tendencies toward Bella. Not Jacob's character derailment just for the sake of having a cheap love triangle. Not even the *shudder* imprinting of Renesmee (and don't even get me started on that creature OR her weirdo name.  Holy crap - WHY?) All of these things have been documented extensively by Cleolinda, Mark Reads Twilight and Reasoning With Vampires and a whole host of other blogs. While these are brimming with snark, none of them have really hit on the thing that truly, truly bothers me about this series. And now is a good a time as any to explain exactly why I hate it.  My hope is that, after today, I won't have to mention it on this blog again.

It is well known that Stephenie Meyer is LDS (or Mormon, if you prefer). In the interest of full disclosure, I am LDS too. At first, I was excited about a fellow member of the LDS Church writing a popular fantasy series and be in the public mind because that would somehow work towards showing the world that, hey, we aren't as weird as you think we are. Then I read the books. And, not for the first time, I realized just why people think we're so weird (Dear World, I implore you - Please don't judge us all by Stephenie Meyer! If you want a good fantasy author that happens to be LDS, I suggest Shannon Hale, Brandon Sanderson, Jessica Day George and Ally Condie. Just for starters).

I will admit - I got caught up in the Twilight craze a bit. I read the first three books shortly before I left to serve an LDS mission in Florida and I really didn't have time to critique them with a discerning eye. I just wrote it off as a silly vampire romance for squealy teenage girls and there wasn't much harm in it. Then I left for my mission and didn't think much about it for 18 months.

For those not familiar with the life of an LDS missionary, here's some basic facts - as a missionary, you don't watch TV, listen to the radio, read books or participate in any kind of entertainment not put out by the Church. You are there to teach people about the Church and you're 100% focused on that. You write home once a week and get to call home twice a year. It's intense and grueling and extremely hard, but you also experience so much growth and spiritual maturity, so that makes it worth it for a devout member of the Church.  But you just don't know what's going on in popular culture unless someone tells you about it.  And even then, you just don't care.

I tell you this to illustrate how I perceived Twilight. While I was a missionary, "Breaking Dawn" was released and the first movie came out and Twilight-a-palooza was at a fever pitch. People were also interested to know that Stephenie Meyer was LDS. Well, of course we missionaries are going to be excited about this! Any publicity that brings the Church into the public eye is a good thing - whether it's positive or negative - because that gets people asking questions and they often come to the missionaries to ask. And missionaries LOVE being asked honest questions rather than just being yelled at to "F-off" as we go down the road. Except until we came to the part where some girl squee-ing over Twilight asked me whether I was "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob" - and I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. And no, she didn't want us to come teach her family about the gospel (sigh… onto the next house, I guess).

I returned home from my mission and could finally sit down and find out what the hoopla over Twilight was about. I watched the movie (it was crap, but most movies-from-books are), re-read the first three books (umm… okay, not the greatest) and finally read "Breaking Dawn."

And that, Dear Reader, is where I reached my breaking point (no pun intended). I still don't think I've recovered the brain cells that I lost.

It went further than crappy writing and a "What-the-Ever-Living-Hell-Was-That?" reaction. I realized how horrible Edward and Bella's relationship was and also how terrible Bella treated Jacob and how Jacob's character completely went off the rails. But worst of all - I realized that people (members of the Church included) found ways that Stephenie Meyer had supposedly incorporated Church doctrine into the narrative, mainly the doctrine of eternal marriage.

I can (almost) forgive all that other BS in these books. But when you sell a story that can be interpreted as a commentary for something I hold sacred and turn it into a pile of muck, I take issue with that.  It's even worse when it's a member of the Church doing it because that just adds fuel to the argument that Mormons are these strange psycho freaks.  Especially because there are legions of asswipes with an internet connection who don't need any excuse to take potshots at people's religious views (for the love of all that is good and decent, why are you giving them more ammunition? They don't need it!)

And it got worse - as I roamed around the internet and found reviews of Twilight (both professional and amateur), I felt even more sick as people took Bella and Edward's relationship and marriage as an excuse to malign the Church and its teachings. This is the reason I could not read through all the "Mark Reads Twilight" reviews - many of those posts were the most insulting and offensive things to me on a personal level. And the worst part is that Bella and Edward's marriage is NOT an eternal marriage. It's a gross mockery of the institution and I'm not happy that Stephenie Meyer wrote the books that way in the first place so that the movie producers could basically characterize it as True Blood for fourteen-year-olds (What else do you expect? It's vampires and teenagers - of course Hollywood's going to do that?)

I realize that not everyone believes the way I do and I don't expect them to. But I do expect people to get their facts straight - or at least make an effort to find out the truth from a reputable source (it's amazing how many people who hate the Church go anywhere except the official Church website - or even Church members - to get their facts and figures). Since there hasn't been a suitable response to the people who bring the Church into their Twilight bash-fests, this is my effort to set the record straight.

Topic #1 - Marriage and Family

The Church teaches that the family is the most important thing for anybody - whether you're a parent or a child (which, everyone is one or both of these). We are to work together as families to get through this life. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained and instituted by God.  When a marriage is performed in the temple by proper priesthood authority, a man and a woman can be sealed to each other for time and all eternity. Also, any children born to them will be sealed and they can be a family after this life. There's also provisions made for adoption and remarriage and things like that that I won't go into here. But that's the basic idea. The reason for all of this is that God is our Heavenly Father and He wants us to return to Him and we can only do that as we are sealed together as families.

The caveat to all this is that the promised blessings in the marriage ceremony - promises made in all the ordinances performed in the Church, actually - are dependant on how we as individuals live our lives. If we adhere to the commandments of God and keep our side of the promises, then God will bless us with what he's promised (most likely these blessings will come in the next life). Of course, you have people who don't live up to their end of the bargain and God will judge them accordingly.

Topic #2 - Free Agency (also - Right to Receive Personal Revelation)

Another a key component to God's plan for His children is the concept of free agency or free will. Everybody has the right to choose. In fact, that's what our purpose in life is - to make choices and to learn from those choices. Without freedom of choice, God's plan would be pretty pointless. We are here to learn what is right and what is wrong and the only way we learn from that is by experiencing consequences - which we do NOT get to choose. Also, we can counsel with God in our personal lives and have His input on how we make decisions, if we choose to include Him in the process.  This is known as receiving personal revelation.  Example - A few years ago when I was asked to serve as the president of the women's organization in my congregation, I was asked to pray about it before I said yes or no to the position.  I was entitled to revelation from God about the matter (Spoilers - I did accept the position and served for about a year).  Marriage especially is something we are counseled to pray about - if Person A says they had a dream or a vision or saw something in their morning toast that means they are supposed to marry Person B, Person B has the right to receive that same revelation. And if Person B doesn't get that revelation, they are well within their rights to tell Person A to shove off.

I bring these things up as they relate to Bella and Edward (and some of the other Twilight characters). Edward essentially strips Bella of her free will by using his "AMAZING SPARKLEPIRE* POWERS OF PERSUASION" to tell her that he is her One And Only True Love (sadly these things do happen in reality - in and out of the Church). And Bella is just dumb enough to fall for it (let's be somewhat fair here - Bella's not the poster child for fully-realized characterization, here). But Edward is a controlling stalker and certainly NOT the kind of boyfriend I would aspire to having - and certainly not the kind of man I want my younger sisters or my niece or any of my former students to meet and fall in love with. Edward (and to a lesser extent Jacob, but he's still guilty) is an abusive and emotionally controlling person and it sickens me that these are paraded out as examples of healthy relationships. While I've never really had a serious romantic relationship of my own, I'm pretty sure a breakup isn't supposed to send you into a waking-comatose state for four months and a desire to risk your life in order to hear your beloved's voice tell you how stupid you truly are.

So there's that aspect of the relationship. But going back to Church doctrine - Bella and Edward's marriage is NOT an example of an eternal marriage. Not as the Church teaches it. Again, these are my own closely-held beliefs. Nobody has to believe them just because I do. My purpose in this is to clear up some very gross misconceptions and bring in some things that don't get discussed with the respect they deserve.

Please, please, please follow me on this closely - when people say Stephenie Meyer injected eternal marriage into the "Twilight" series, that is not true at all.   Eternal marriage only comes in the next life.  Everyone living right now in in their mortal life, sent here to learn right from wrong and to choose for themselves who they are going to follow. If a couple qualifies for and chooses to be married in the temple, they make certain promises between themselves and God. The Church teaches that, once they get to the next life, God will judge them as individuals and as a couple if they have kept those promises. If they have kept their promises, God will reward them with being married for all eternity and they will have their children with them (as long as their children have kept their own promises. This goes on and one forever - I told you, this is eternity you're dealing with).  But living forever in this life is not - I repeat, NOT - how this is supposed to work.

Let me tell you, eternity is going to be a wonderful thing. True, I haven't actually seen it for myself, but I do know that as good as this life can be, heaven is going to be a zillion times better. The best part for me is that God is going to make everything fair for everyone - and He can do that because He is God. No one is going to have to fight over material things or hurt feelings because none of that is going to matter anymore. I can't really explain it very well - it's something you come to know on your own.  But it is not living forever in this world with someone who brow-beat you into marrying them.

Bottom Line - Bella and Edward aren't married for eternity. Not by a long shot. Oh, they may live forever, having forever handsome immortality sex and chomping on dead deer carcasses, but that's about all they've got. Eternal marriage is so much more than that, no matter what the romance novels say. Twilight has nothing to do with the Church beyond Stephenie Meyer's interpretation of her beliefs (which, I would like to have a long talk with her Sunday School teachers because that's not the doctrine of eternal marriage that I was taught). And the next person that says Twilight has anything to do with Church doctrine (whether they mean it as a compliment or an insult), I am going to punch them in the face.

*Credit where credit is due - "Sparklepire" was originally coined by the lovely and witty Cleolinda Jones (though I tacked on "-palooza" just for fun). She is one that has kept religious criticism out of the Twilight discussion and I give her a lot of praise for that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Things in the Past 24 Hours That Have Made Me Happy

I've just found a bunch of random things that have brought a smile to my face and I wish to share them with you. There's nothing really specific and no set theme.  Just something to enjoy on this chilly Saturday -

1. "What About Everything?" by Carbon Leaf

The first video I found with this song was actually one by Babelcolour and was posted by Traveling the Vortex. But I discovered that BC was inspired by the one above, which was done a few years back, and it is no less impressive.  And the song itself is quite inspiring - I got 10,000 (or so) words written on my NaNoWriMo yesterday just from listening to it over and over again.  I believe I have a new theme song for myself and a new favorite group.

2. Pandora Radio

I've since quit listening to the regular radio for music because (A) They never seem to be playing songs I like and (B) They always go right to some idiotic commercial just as I'm tuning in.  And I can't stand commercials anymore (I am becoming my dad in this regard).  However, I keep missing out of fantastic new music (like Adele) because I just listen to what I have on my iPod.  For whatever reason, I'd never used Pandora before last night (even though everyone's grandmother's canary has), so I decided to give it a shot and it was brilliant (well, so far).

3. "Help Me, Doctor! You're My Only Hope!"

Untitled by ~nrrrdy on deviantART

Okay, so I unofficially gave it that title (it was one that was suggested on the Doctor Who LJ forum), but that it really funny.  I really can't say anything more than that.

4. My Niece Doing Something Amazing

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're all saying - everything these things do at four months is amazing to their relatives.  But guys, Jay-Boo is reading! (Well, really, just looking at the pictures. Or deciding which page to drool on next).  You all can be as skeptical as you want, but this is my niece and I am a librarian and I couldn't be prouder of the kid (and her parents).  And this is my new cell phone wallpaper.

5. I Hit 20K In NaNoWriMo!

I meant to mention this earlier, but I'm taking on National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) in which I'm writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, starting with November 1 and (hopefully) finishing on or before November 30.  I was on a pretty good track until I had a couple of days where I worked eight hour shifts and I didn't get anything written.  And if you don't write at least 1,667 words a day (on average), you get behind.  Well, yesterday I had the day off because of the holiday and I sat down and wrote my little fingers off.  I found a really good plot thread to go along with and I made it past the 20,000 word mark!  I was quite pleased with myself over that one.

Happy Saturday, y'all!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You, Veterans!

This is one of my favorite songs and it honors some of my favorite people.

All this week at work, I've noticed that the Salt Lake County Library website has one announcement in their rotating announcement thingie about November holidays. It's to let people know that we'll be closed on Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. It didn't hit me until yesterday that those two holidays are quite appropriate to put together like that.

When I was in 8th grade, I had the opportunity to visit Washington DC for a week with my school. One of the things we got to do was visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Four of the students from our group got to lay a wreath on the tomb during the Changing of the Guard ceremony. There are few places in this world so peaceful and reverent and the Tomb of the Unknowns is one of them. You just see it in the guard that's posted there and there's a great spirit that fills the place.

I will always be grateful for the men and women who have risked their lives and sacrificed for this country. That is not a trite statement or just something appropriate to commemorate the day. I have an uncle who served in Korea and an uncle who served in Vietnam and I've had many friends serve in the military. Everyone that I've met who has served has done so gladly and with a sense of honor that you just don't get anywhere else. I admire all those who can do what is asked of them and who will sacrifice for people they might not even know. It is because of of those brave souls that I can get up every morning, work in a job that I love, get an education and enjoy my life the way so many people in this world just don't get to do.

One thing my trip to Serbia taught me is how grateful I am to live in the United States. There were things about Europe that were fun and enjoyable (the tomatoes are fantastic!) But there are so many other problems they have that we just don't.  Just one example - People complain about the racism in America. Maybe some of that is true - I've never seen it firsthand. But while I was in Serbia, I did see a restaurant owner hit a young Gypsy girl just for coming into the restaurant. I've never seen anything like that happen in the States and it really bothered me. When I landed in the US, I was so happy to be home. We live in a very unique and blessed country and that is due in no small part to the soldiers who have fought and died throughout the years to keep it that way.

To all the veterans out there - it seems like a small tribute compared to what you have done, but thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

And Now.. A Tribute to Russell and Julie (Oh, and That David Bloke Too...)

This. Is. GOLD!  There are not one, but TWO videos floating around in celebration of the RTD/David Tennant years of Doctor Who (at least, that's what I think they are).  Honestly, I have no idea why these were just found now, but it brought a little tear to my eye as I laughed by butt off at the sheer awesomeness of it.

First, the cast and crew of... well, all of the 2009 Specials singing to "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by The Proclaimers (no spoilers, really. Unless you can somehow divine what the hell is even going on here. Um... no - you really can't. Random Graeme Harper spotting!)

And this is David Tennant, Catherine Tate and John Barrowman singing "The Ballad of Russell and Julie." Just - enjoy.

I have a feeling this was all the skinny Scottish fellow's idea.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Doctor Eleven!

Hey y'all - it's Matt Smith's birthday!

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension

This calls for some fun video linkage!

Happy, Happy Birthday to our favorite bow-tie-, Stetson- and fez-wearing Doctor!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I'm Famous!

Well, I'm in the Utah Library Association October newsletter, at least.  Check it out!
Click to Embiggen
Here's the link to the entire October issue, but I figured people would just want to see our article instead of having to search until page 11 for it.  All I can say is that I'm glad the picture they used is from the first day we were in the country.  We all look fresh and happy (and like our clothes had been washed in a washer rather than a sink in our hotel/dorm/thingie).

And because I promised I'd post them and I haven't gotten to it yet, here are some pics of some of the Serbian night life.

Yes, that's Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper walking down the street with some Monty Python guys.  I wish I'd had my camera more at-the-ready, but I was in the middle of having dinner and was lucky I got the backs of them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Show Me Something Real

I'm in a posting mood today.  This probably won't have anything substantial to it and I reserve my right as a blogger to have posts where I just ramble.

First off - this is funny.  Even for people like myself that know almost nothing about Star Trek (Captain Kirk, Captain Picard, Spock, Data, the Enterprise, The Final Frontier... yup, that's about all of it) will enjoy the joke.

Today I ended up working with one of my classmates and I am very grateful I did.  I am having the hardest time with this capstone thing for my end-of-master's-program wrap-up.  The professor keeps harping about applying theory to what we've learned in this program.  Only problem is that we talked about theory in the first semester and then it was never heard from again.  And with good reason - in the real world, there's no such thing as "theory." Either something works or it doesn't and no amount of academic bull-s****ing will make it work (just ask the Soviet Union. Oh wait...).  In my entire academic career, I have treated theory as something nice to look at and something that makes you feel important when someone else says it but when I say it, I sound like a pretentious little snot-nosed student that no one will ever take seriously.  So, instead of spouting off a bunch of researchers' BS, I just call it like I see it (using my own terms and my own experiences) and it works out just fine.  People know I'm being honest and real with them and they know that I have internalized what I was supposed to learn rather than who supposedly thought of it first.

So back to work tonight - my classmate said that he really didn't understand the whole thing about "theory" because we never covered it (which is good to hear because I was freaking out when I heard we were all of a sudden expected to know what it was) and besides, this is just a one-credit class and once it's over, we've passed everything and we can go get awesome librarian jobs and do something real in the world.

(hey, I like that term - "do something real."  Sound much more proactive that just sitting around "doing good." Because "real" and "good" are not mutually exclusive.  Hmm... I'm going to hang on to that one for a while).

Anyway, theory be damned - I know I learned something significant (and real) in this program.  Whether or not I can spout off a bunch of pretentious, pipe-smoking professors who wrote papers about the concepts is another story (and, really, I'm never going to have a five-year-old ask me who came up with the theory of library usage.  More likely they'll be asking for an Elephant and Piggie book).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It's A Nice Day to Start Again

Yeah, it's a week late, but cut me a break. I've been out of the country! But I now have my review of "The Wedding of River Song." Spoilers beneath the every-so-appropriate video.

Here's a funny story about how I came to view "The Wedding of River Song" - so the last two weeks, I was in Serbia on a study-abroad trip.  Saturday we were scheduled to have an outing - go sightseeing and do some fun things in Belgrade. Until the American Embassy learned of a big protest/march scheduled for Saturday.  Since they were sponsoring us and providing our transportation in and out of Belgrade, they canceled the outing amid fears that the protest could get violent (evidently, there was precedent for this sort of thing).  So, Saturday we were left to our own devices.  We did get to go to the Avala TV Tower and up to the observation deck, so that was pretty cool.  But we all came back to our hotel/dorm and I got "The Wedding of River Song" online and watched it because, hey, now I had time for that sort of thing.  I suppose I could have written my review then - but to be honest, I wanted to wait.

And now - here are my thoughts on both the finale and the whole of Series 6 -

Reviewing this is strange because I usually review "Doctor Who" without having heard or read others' reviews of it.  But I did listen to Radio Free Skaro's and Traveling the Vortex's thoughts on it.  I don't think that hurt my opinion because - to be honest - I don't know what my opinion of this episode is.  I liked the simultaneous-history-with-time-degrading concept and I liked that the eye-patches were a device used to remember the Silence.  The Live Chess thing was hilarious.  The giant "Area 52" pyramid was cool too.  But as I'm sitting here rewatching this episode - most of this is largely forgettable.  And that's sad for me to say because I've enjoyed the twist-turny, wibbly-wobbly, spacey-wacey stuff that Moffat comes up with.  But this one... was a little flat.  I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either.

Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed "The Wedding of River Song" well-enough  There was just enough wacky Steven Moffat stuff going on to make the story fun and even gloss over the fact that there is just so much that is left unanswered (WHY DID THE TARDIS EXPLODE AT THE END OF SERIES FIVE?? ... ahem... Also - why do the Silence want the Doctor dead in the first place?)

(Also - when they mentioned the Tessalecta in the pre-credit recap, I figured the Doctor that got shot by the astronaut was a Tessalecta. Which means that Ganger two-parter last spring was just to set up the fake Amy and nothing else.  Which means they wasted a perfectly good two-part slot on that tripe. And that's just sad).

But can I get a big round of Badass Rory and Amy Pond Appreciation?  First, you've got Rory leaving his Eye-Drive on so he can fight the Silence - and then Amy comes in with machine gun blazing. AND - Amy leaves Patchy to the mercy of the Silence.  And I stood up and cheered. Because Patchy is one of those villains that you just want to see bite it in the end. (YAY PONDS!)

But I did like River's little speech about how the universe didn't want the Doctor to die (even I don't completely understand it's context within the story).  Because I hated those moments when the Doctor was all mopey because he'd screwed up people's lives and he'd decided the world was better off without him.  I certainly hope that we are done with emo!Doctor and he can go back to having whimsical adventures without worrying about his companions so much.  If anything, the fact that River, Amy and Rory found the Doctor in the alternate timeline proves that the Doctor makes his companions better.  Hell, even the end of "Closing Time" proved that.  And the Doctor needs to recognize that and take credit for it, already!

Overall opinion of Series 6 - Wish there'd been more resolution and less asking of new questions.  Wish "The Rebel Flesh" had been one episode (boy, how do I wish that).  Wish there'd been less filler - or that they'd just gone with it being one whole season of filler.  I would seriously be okay with that.  But I also wish that there had been more about the Silence story arc throughout the season, especially because when the season did address it, it came out of left field and I had to remember what that was all about.

Let me address the filler while I'm thinking about it - when your "filler" episodes include stuff like "The Doctor's Wife," "The Girl Who Waited" and "Closing Time," why even bother with the season-long story arc at all?

I think they tried to blend one-off episodes with a season long story arc and it kind of, sort of, maybe didn't work out that well. The one-offs don't add to the story arc and the story arc gets diluted from week to week so that gets in the way of resolving everything that needs resolving.  I think they either need to do one-off episodes or really commit to a story arc - not try to do both.

Some Words on the Tribute to Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart): Whoever decided to make the Brig's death a major plot point in this story is a genius (bet you a cookie it was Moffat).  I wonder if, prior to Courtney's death, there was something else written there to convince the Doctor to go to Lake Powell Silencio and Moffat just changed it to include the Brigadier instead.  Or maybe that scene hadn't been written and he just took the opportunity to pay tribute to a wonderful character and actor.  However it came about, I'm glad that it turned out the way that it did and it was a fitting way to pay in-universe tribute to the Brig.

"Silence Will Fall When the Question Is Asked" - So, can I safely assume that this is all setting up for the big-time 50th Anniversary special in 2013?  I mean, I'm okay with that - but I wish I knew that before thinking that the finale would be... well... final.  That everything would be wrapped up and everyone would be happy (ha - that's a good one!)

After careful consideration (and just some good knee-jerk reactions) this is how I rank the individual stories of Series 6 (not counting "A Christmas Carol")

1. The Girl Who Waited
2. The Doctor's Wife
3. The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon
4. Closing Time
5. A Good Man Goes to War/Let's Kill Hitler (I think that was meant as a two-parter)
6. The Wedding of River Song
7. Night Terrors
8. The God Complex
9. The Curse of the Black Spot
10. The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People

Bottom Line: Yeah... I don't know what the Bottom Line is here. I'm just as confused as the next geek.

Who's up for Frontios?

Friday, October 7, 2011

I'm Back!

What I would have given for those red shoes 48 hours ago.

I made it home, folks.  After three countries, six flights, two weeks, one delayed flight (but no luggage lost - thank goodness), my trip to Serbia is complete.  And was it ever an Earn Your Happy Ending.

The library programming itself was great.  We did a lot of work with kids and teens, which I expected.  What I did NOT expect was how discombobulated everything was on the administrative front.  I heard the phrase "Be flexible" so many times during this trip that "Flexible" is the new dirty F-word (and you shall not see it written out for the duration of this post).  There was just zero communication between us, our professors, officials at the embassy and the folks in charge of the conference.

Don't get me wrong - once we got into our discussions and library tours and programming with the kids, everything was fantastic.  Especially when none of my professors were around - I could "cut loose" and be myself with the kids and my classmates and have fun while also achieving my objective.  But when either of my professors were there, they made me nervous.  It didn't help that during a presentation to some high school students, one of the professors - rather obnoxiously, I thought - kept yelling from the back of the room for me to speak up.  That threw me off so bad and I wound up shouting my whole presentation and it was not very good.  Please note - the time to give constructive criticism to someone is NOT in the middle of their actual presentation.  Do it before or after. Don't embarrass them in front of their audience.  Whatever failings you've perceived in the speaker are automatically doubled and it ruins the entire thing (and the problem might not have been that big of a deal to begin with - but now you've totally flushed it down the crapper).  I count my blessings that I had other people presenting with me and they could back me up when I lost my thread.

But Serbian teens are a lot of fun.  One memorable thing happened when we actually visited a high school in Belgrade.  We had a wonderful discussion about libraries and studying when one of the boys asked us all what book mad us angry.  I said "Twilight" - prefacing my answer with the concern that I would make some enemies.  On the contrary - I got a rousing applause from the group.  Not just the boys, either - some of the girls joined in the clapping.  From there we had a short discussion of why they didn't like "Twilight" either and their answers were mine as well - it's poorly written and it's a bad portrayal of what a romantic relationship should be.  It did my heart good to see that, even half a world away, there were people who got it.

We did a lot of work with American Corners, which is an organization that US embassies throughout the world sponsor as an outreach and education center where people can come and learn English by reading books and watching movies in English.  They also get Americans to come visit and do presentations about American culture and talk to the people.  It's a fantastic program and I wish I'd known more about it before I got to Serbia.

One workshop we did with American Corners was a discussion with some children and teen librarians from a public library.  At first, my classmates wanted to be all deferential and insist we be the students and the professionals teach us - but the professionals were there to learn.  It was that point I realized something (well, I'd thought about it before, but this was the first time I really got it) - a country like Serbia is still trying to figure out a lot of things.  Good grief - it was only relatively recently they figured out that communism is a really bad joke.  They have to look to other countries as examples of how to do this whole democracy-republic-free market-capitalism-thing when much of their population is still looking for their free chunk of stale bread (trust me - that bread done been ate a looooong time ago. [poor grammar intended]).  So, where are they looking?  The European Union is one place they look to, which makes sense since they are on the same continent.  But they also look US - and that's just what we do.  When we have the resources and the know-how, we help people help themselves.  Whether that's in education or humanitarian aid or throwing off an asshole dictator.  Even countries that were once our enemies, once we're done fighting, we help rebuild.

I know a fair few will read that and scream at me for it (because it's sooo vogue to criticize America, even when it does something good).  To you who scream and harp, I say that you weren't there and you didn't talk to these people and you didn't see how much they admire us for the things we do have.  Good grief - when the American Corner said they would be getting ten Kindles for people to check out, the Serbian people in the audience were so happy to hear they would have access to something like that.  One girl said it best when she said "We have TV - we see your culture."  Serbia is by no means the poorest country in the world, but they don't have all the technology and the things that we do.  But they know of those things and they want them for themselves.  And this is not a bad thing.  One presentation at the conference at the University of Belgrade suggested that they wanted to be listed among the top colleges in the world for technology along with the likes of MIT and UC-Berkeley.  These people have goals - and they are asking for our help in achieving them.  The fact that I spent the last ten days in their country proves that.  Believe me - Serbia was never on my list of places to see before I die.

Back to our workshop at American Corners: Basically, these librarians wanted us to teach them.

So, I started off by sharing a few things I'd done with my students.  Nothing flashy - just a few examples and ideas to get the conversation rolling.  And boy, did it ever roll.  My classmates and I had gone in thinking we were the ones doing the studying, but we were really the teachers.  Don't get me wrong - I wasn't all "Hey, we're Americans and we're going to change your lives if you listen to us and only us."  But the whole idea behind this meeting (at least, what these librarians were told) was for us to share what we were doing.  They wanted to learn from us - they were there by choice and they were eager to listen to us.  And I was extremely honored and humbled by that.

Second Bottom Line: Despite administrative bungles and total miscommunications between parties, this was an eye-opening and rather fun experience.  I have more stories, but I will save them for another time (because I am still fighting jet lag and a head cold).  Suffice it to say that I feel truly blessed to live in the United States and I am glad that there are people in other countries working to find new ways to improve their way of life and I am glad I could contribute something.

And I am glad to be home.

Programming Note: I did get to watch "The Wedding of River Song" while I was in Belgrade (long story how that happened).  I have not written down my thoughts, but I will soon.  Look for that in the near future.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

On My Way!

See you all when I come home!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Just When You Thought Sofa-Man Couldn't Get Any Cuter...

I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought of this, but why pass up such an opportunity? Spoilers for "Closing Time" under the video -

Well, there were people praising "The God Complex" left and right last week for its DEEP AND PHILOSOPHICAL MEANINGS AND WE'RE SO INTELLIGENT FOR NOTICING *insert self-important pipe smoke here*. And that's just fine. Because those same people will be scoffing at how simplistic and naive "Closing Time" is. And that is where I found the charm of this penultimate episode of Series 6.

One thing I love about the Doctor is his desire and ability to take risks. More often than not, they pay off. But there are a few occasions where things go wrong. And suddenly, we have a Doctor who feels the need to drag his companions into this little Time Lord pity-party like he's a thirteen-year-old girl who didn't get asked to the Sweethearts Dance or something. And yes, not everything goes the Doctor's way.

But sometimes, I think we as fans take those failures and amp them up to surpass the Doctor's successes, as though we enjoy watching the Doctor suffer. Or maybe we just feel like jealous of the Doctor and his companions because of all the wonderful adventures they get to go on and any time we can see the Doctor fail, it's just one more notch in our "Well, We Can Feel Better About Ourselves Because You Suck" totem pole (now we sound like those arrogant cheerleaders in high school who have to pick on everyone else in order to feel more important.  Guys - we are better than this).

Thank Gallifrey for Craig Owens and "Closing Time."

Number One - I was happy to see Craig and Sophie back (however briefly Sophie was there).  "The Lodger" is a favorite of mine and I loved how Matt Smith and James Corden played off one another in that story, so I was glad to see James return.

Number Two - It was good to have a Pond break.  Don't get me wrong - I have all the love for Amy and Rory.  But I think the Doctor needed a change from some of the guilt they'd been piling on him.

Number Three - In that vein, Craig had so many wonderful lines in this and his words were probably what the Doctor needs at this point.  After having to break Amy's faith in him (which - why on Earth do people enjoy seeing other people lose faith in whatever they have faith in?  Why is that such a problem to the world at large?  That's another topic for another day, evidently), the Doctor is feeling like dirt.  But a visit to Craig - now, Craig has seen what the Doctor can do.  What Craig knows is this: People were dying when that spaceship was stranded about his flat and the Doctor came along and he was able to stop it.  Granted, Craig helped the Doctor do it (another evidence for the Doctor's need for a companion) - but would Craig have ever had the courage to do it without the Doctor?

Number Four - Two Words: Baby Alfie.  If I could engineer a perfect Team TARDIS, it would be Matt Smith plus a baby (and likely the baby's parents).  Maybe it's because I've become an aunt since this Doctor last encountered a baby, but all those scenes with the Doctor and Alfie were so beautifully done and Matt acted the crap out of those parts.  Add in Papa Craig and that's a match made in the time vortex.

(Side Note: Steven Moffat first introduced the concept of the Doctor "speaking baby."  I've noticed that when other writers take a concept that Moffat introduces and try to write with it, it falls flat.  But Gareth Roberts knocked this one out of the park.  All of the "Speaking Baby" scenes were so much fun and I loved all of it).

Number Five - Only because I know people are going to piss and moan about "Ugh - Craig saved the day with love and how stupid is that," just let me tell you something, Harry Potter: The Doctor has voiced his admiration for the human race and he's also voiced his distaste for the human race.  If there is anything good about this world and the people in it, it's that we have the capacity to care about each other.  My heart broke when I thought Craig was about to become a Cyberman (my first thought was "Oh no! Not Craig!" My second thought was "Oh crap, I'm going to have to sit through another round of 'Pity the Doctor because he screws up everything and everybody' ").  But when little Alfie cried and that gave Craig the strength, the courage, the... whatever... to break out of the Cybermen's emotion-killing-machine-thingy - I cheered out loud!  From a writer's standpoint, the Cybermen are great for contrasting the difference between the cold-hearted and emotionless life of soullessness and the loving and warm life of love.  When you love, it means you have people around who care about you and you have people to care for.  Sure, it sounds sappy and silly, but that's because there's not really a way to make it sound as good as it feels.  I, for one, liked the ending.  Plus, it was a great contrast to the danger that is certainly about to come in the next episode.

Number Six - Because I couldn't fit it in anywhere else: the Cybermen basically took a backseat in this story and just let the emotions play out for the Doctor.  They were used as just an adversary for the Doctor to defeat in his normal fashion to give him one last hurrah before heading off to Lake Powell Silencio.

Number Seven - HOLY COW THE FINALE!  Okay, so people were right about River being in the spacesuit.  BUT - the point of the next episode is NOT to see River kill the Doctor.  The point is to see how he gets out of this one.  Because we all know Matt Smith's coming back for Christmas and next season and the season after that.  I for one and eagerly anticipating the resolution of all of this.

Bottom Line: The Doctor is leaving the safety of the friendship of a companion and about to meet his death.  Why wouldn't he want to bask in that for as long as he can?

Programming Note: I am leaving for a study abroad trip to Serbia tomorrow morning.  Because of this, my review of "The Wedding of River Song" will be delayed until I can get back and watch it.  This means that I have to be extra-vigilant of spoilers, but I can handle it (with any luck, I might be able to find a decent download link and watch the episode on the plane ride home).  The only bad part is that I won't be able to SQUEE with all of you until then :(  But do enjoy yourselves.