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.