Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 In Review - The Year of the Fangirl

2013 - The year for some really great memories. And here's hoping 2014 will only add to the pile of good things.
I guess it’s that magical time of year when we look back on the calendar year and (as long as nothing massive happens in the next three days) consider all the huge events that occurred.  I usually don’t do this because, well, it’s just a cheap way to make content.  The news media does it all the time as long as there’s (hopefully) no great natural disaster in a third-world country to do their fake hand-wringing about (come on - is there anything more insincere than a TV news anchor?)  Besides, there’s usually not much that I really want to discuss or even dig up from my past because it’s just too rage-inducing.  Plus, I never feel very connected to national or world events because I have such a low opinion of humanity in general and I know they’re all going to be idiots no matter what I do or say, so better to let them get on with the business of being idiots and maybe they’ll make enough rope to hang themselves with and I won’t have to do a damn thing about it (just because you may see feral dogs ripping each other’s throats out in public doesn’t mean you have to get in the middle of it to try and stop them. Words of wisdom, right there).

But you know, 2013 was one of my better years in recent memory - mostly because I decreed it to be the Year of the Fangirl and here’s the tweet to prove it:
Meaning that I was going to indulge in fannish delights and let the world sort itself out (or blow itself up - whatever it decided it wanted to do).  I guess since 2012 was such a colossal disappointment, I was tired of having high expectations for the year and I was envious of the people who didn’t seem to care that things were going to hell - so I decided to be one of those people.  The result: The Most Fun I’ve Had In a Good Long While.

(People talk about how pessimism is so damaging and terrible, but I think it was the best thing I ever did!  What’s the phrase? Now that I’ve given up hope, I feel much better).

Giving Reality the finger, one fanfic and Tumblr reblog at a time.
Anyway, I didn't start this to talk about how horrible the world is and how much faith I've lost in humanity.  I started this to talk about how ignoring all that shit helped me find the good things in life and enjoy them more fully.  So, here is the myriad of ways 2013 - The Year of the Fangirl - was the best year in recent memory -

- I started out as part of the Yule Ball committee, in which the library system I work for hosted a Harry Potter Yule Ball for teens.  It was basically a Prom for the literary minded and I found myself wishing there had been such things for me when I was a teenager (and I have no idea how this happened, but I have no pictures of it, sorry about that). In fact, that kind of dovetails into something else cool that happened this year - ToshoCON. Admittedly, I was more involved in ToshoCON than Yule Ball, but it all served the same purpose to show me how my hobbies and my day job combine to be something really spectacular and just a lot of fun.  I’m in my element with fellow geeks (even if they are younger than me - hey, they help me keep my priorities straight) and we’re just having a fun old time. So, yay library life!

- Speaking of conventions - this year I went to not one, but TWO conventions! The first I’d had planned for nearly a year previous and that was Gallifrey One in Los Angeles.  Meeting best friends I didn’t even know I had along with meeting stars of my favorite TV show - what could be more fun? (maybe going two years in a row would do it - fingers crossed!)

Oh, I know! Having the announcement a month later that Salt Lake City would be getting its very own Comic Con!  And after all the success and fun of that initial con - it turned into two! Recently, they announced that Salt Lake Comic Con would be expanding into two annual events, FanXperience in April and the regular Comic Con in the fall.  After being kind of an anomaly in this little niche culture we have in Utah, it’s nice to be recognized and appreciated for the growing demographic we are (and telling the scrapbooker, the outdoor retailer, and bridal conventions to suck it doesn't feel too bad either).

- Movies and books are always a hot topic in my life and 2013 was no exception.  A Memory of Light closed out “The Wheel of Time” in spectacular fashion. I took on the Goodreads Challenge to read (and review on Goodreads) 100 books by the end of the year (which I accomplished in October - clearly, I need to set a higher mark for myself) and I found some lovely little reads (and some not-so-lovely, but that’s part of the fun).  But another book I discovered this year was Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (quite appropriate, don’t you think?)  And it’s all about fandom and being in a fandom and finding your way through real life while hanging onto fandom.  It’s perfect!

On the movie front - Marvel had some stellar entries with Iron Man 3 (shut up, it was good) and Thor: The Dark World. And count me as someone who actually enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness (I guess I don’t have all the fanboy history to get all up-in-arms about whatever the problems were) and I did enjoy Man of Steel as well. Ender’s Game and Catching Fire were great too.

- Okay, so the BIG event of 2013 (and one that I spent extensive time talking about - not just here, but on Tumblr, Twitter, and on Traveling the Vortex through feedback) was the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who.  Between episode reviews/recaps and Librarian in the TARDIS and general geeking out over all things Who - I think that was a huge part of why 2013 was so great.  And the future of Doctor Who seems to be secure for the foreseeable future, so there will be plenty of wonderful delights to take part in soon - but the look back to the past this year was more fun than I can express.  Honestly, The Year of the Fangirl would not have been such a personal success without Doctor Who and for that I am extremely grateful.

So now, 2014.  I haven’t had a great track record with even-numbered years lately, but I’m ready.  The fangirling won’t stop and neither will the snark. So if you're expecting any of this to taper off... sorry - not happening!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

And One Greeted Death Like a Old Friend

Below "The Tale of the Three Brothers," there are spoilers for "The Time of the Doctor" -

That was one hell of a regeneration!  But first - there was a story.

There are huge chunks of the Eleventh Doctor's tenure that we don't have accounted for, precisely.  Space between "The Wedding of River Song" and "Asylum of the Daleks" - plus all that time in Series 7 with the Doctor dropping off Amy and Rory and Clara and having adventures on his own.  I expect that Big Finish will have plenty of fun with those empty spaces when the time comes.  I only mention this because - it's almost fitting that we got something similar with "The Time of the Doctor."

I really loved this story.  We were introduced to the concept of Trenzalore back in "The Name of the Doctor," and it's right that Eleven gets to close that storyline out.  Give Twelve a fresh slate to work with and get down to business without having to clean up what was left behind.  But what I enjoyed the most about this is that it was treated like the Time War. Alluded to, mentioned, glimpsed at - but never shown explicitly. Ultimately, this story is about saying goodbye to the Eleventh Doctor - but not in an overpowering and intense way.  The flashbacks and small nods to the past are so perfectly placed within the story, just as fleeting reminders of what's come before.  As with the nods in this 50th Anniversary year, they are simply there to pay tribute and don't take over the actual story that's going on. Those little "kisses" (if you like) were just so perfect and wonderful.

We see the Doctor age and get old - spending centuries defending the town of Christmas. Probably the first time since his first incarnation that the Doctor actually got old and died. Clara pops back in and out (like the TARDIS has gotten used to this whole "Okay, Wednesday is Clara Day, so let's go get her!" Okay, maybe not really like that, but you get my drift).  The Doctor is ready to make his last stand and his last stand is supposed to be on Trenzalore.

But if we learned anything from "The Day of the Doctor" - indeed, if we learned anything from the Eleventh Doctor - it's that time can be rewritten and nothing is set in stone.  Not even the Doctor's gravesite.

This is Matt Smith's moment and all praise and gushing goes to him. So often, the Eleventh Doctor is described as an old man in a young man's body. Well, this time we saw the old man come out for a short time. Matt is going to go far in his acting career, absolutely zero doubt in anyone's mind (well, there better be zero doubt. If you have doubts, I'm coming after you with a stick!) No matter how he looked, he was still the Doctor (even with his head shaved - that was a clever little lampshade-hanging moment). Clara knew it and I knew it and everybody knew it.

And the regeneration - you know, I listened to today's Verity! Extra and something that got brought up was how much kids in particular have latched onto the Eleventh Doctor. When Ten regenerated, I was a sobbing mess - mostly because he was a sobbing mess (kind of).  But Eleven - Eleven was ready to go. And because he was ready to go, his fans (and I'm thinking of kids in particular) can be ready to let him go.  Yes, it's sad - yes, I shed a few tears (just like Clara did). But Eleven's time is up. He's lived a good long life (even if we'll have to wait to see... well, hear it) and he's happy.  His life wasn't a live-fast-die-young sort of thing that's happened so many times in the past. He had so many laughs and joys and heartbreaks and he's done. Even when he thinks he's used up all his regenerations... nope, Gallifrey peeks out through the cracks and says (in essence) - okay, here's some more golden-sparkly-stuff - go do your thing!

 But then - WHAM! And there's Twelve! No prolonged shower of gold sparks, no bonfire, no screaming - just... there he is prattling about the color of his kidneys and how do you fly this thing?

(And poor Clara is there thinking "Oh shit - now what?")

Other things -

- Wow. Gallifrey came back sooner than we expected!  Even before we knew it had come back.  That's what the cracks in Series 5 were about (wonder how much of this is Steven Moffat thinking it out in advance or if he just thinks of cool things at first and then figures out how to use it in later stories).

- On that note - all the explanations for all the strange things throughout Matt's era were there. Explained and gone and done with. And oddly - I'm okay with that.

- Clara Oswald is an English teacher at Coal Hill School. There is nothing I don't love about this.

- The Cyberman's head is named "Handles." And the thing kind of reminded me of K-9. Why does Eleven keep making friends with things he should be scared of? (Because he's the Doctor - that's why).

- The Doctor just happens to have the Seal of Rassilon from "The Five Doctors" in his pocket.  Because of course he does.

- I had a tough time settling on a title for this blog post. But I remembered the line from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows about greeting death like an old friend.  And just now, I was looking through my notes and I said something about the Sontarans having an invisibility cloak on their ship - so there's some serendipity for you.

- "Ten had vanity issues." You know, when I heard that Moffat was counting that as a regeneration, I wondered how he was going to explain that so it didn't sound half-assed. But that line made it all okay.

- The Oswald Family Christmas. Most. Awkward. Christmas. Ever. But I liked the poem in the cracker that Clara read to the Doctor later.

- The clock struck twelve when the Doctor's regeneration blasted all the Daleks. Yeah, yeah - someone's gonna bitch about the nuclear regeneration energy. But the way I look at it - the Time Lords sent it direct, they might have built in the explodey-ness of it all - I'm okay with it.

- He takes off the bow tie and drops it to the floor right before he regenerates. The Feels.

- Though I am glad that he got his young face back before he regenerated. I just wanted to see his face as I knew him best before he had to leave.

It still hasn't quite settled in that Matt's actually gone and Peter Capaldi is actually the Doctor now. I have about eight months to get my head wrapped around that fact. I might even rewatch "The Time of the Doctor" later and still not accept it. Then again, I might watch it later and burst into big, fat, messy tears. I never quite know. I did watch BBC America's "Farewell to Matt Smith" before "The Time of the Doctor" (it's really nice being home for Christmas with my parents' satellite TV) and I was getting all choked up during that. I've said it over and over again (especially on Tumblr) that I'm just not ready for Matt to leave. But I am grateful to him for his part in making Doctor Who a huge success. Not just a commercial success (though that is extremely important) - but a success with individual people. And when I say "individual people," I mean "me." Sure, I started with Eccleston and went onto Tennant and then to Matt Smith when I first started watching Doctor Who - mainlining and all that. I started watching around the time that Series 5 was finishing up it's premiere run. Eleven was still very new to everyone and I wasn't sure he'd unseat Tennant as my favorite (and then I latched onto Davison and we all know how that turned out). But I will say this - if Matt had not been as good and wonderful as he was, I don't know that I would have continued watching the show. Doctor Who would have been just another show that I once watched on DVD because I was bored, but I never followed in real time (I do that a lot).  But between the stories and the characters and Matt's performance as the Doctor, I kept coming back. And Matt kept impressing me and making me fall in love with his Doctor. The same Doctor who has kept me going through some very dark times, even since that initial impression. Words will never adequately express what this show means to me, and that is due in a very large part to how Matt played the role. I may never meet Matt in real life, but I would like to just tell him how thankful I am for what he's done and wish him nothing but the best in future.

Thank you, Raggedy Man. For landing in a little girl's backyard - for not standing back and watching her cry - for making her laugh - for being her friend - for taking her hand and yelling "Run!" - for taking her through all your incarnations and feeding her love of stories and adventure and fairy tales. Because of you, she's going to be just fine. Through all of time and space - things will be okay. And it's all down to you.

You just watch us run.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas is Coming!

Okay, we'll just say I took December off (hey, 2013 was a busy year and I needed a break!)  But I didn't want Christmas to go unnoticed, so have some Muppet shenanigans for this lovely holiday week -

I will be back later this week with thoughts (and tears) on "The Time of the Doctor," so fret not on that score - and here I realize I never posted the trailer (ugh - December. Blah), so have it now -

Okay FINE! There's this thing too -


Anyway - I do have some things in store for the new year, Who-related and otherwise, so keep watching this space. In the meantime, have a safe and happy Christmas!

(please don't go matt...)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Meeting Your Heroes

Title: Assisted: An Autobiography
Author: John Stockton with Kerry L. Pickett
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: October 2013

Synopsis (from Goodreads) -
John Stockton's autobiography, Assisted, pulls back the curtain on his very personal life to show fans a thoughtful recounting of the people, places, and events that have connected with John along his path of extraordinary success. This book clearly illustrates the importance of his family, his faith, and his unparalleled competitive spirit.

My Review:

Well, I wasn't alive for the Kennedy Assassination and 9/11 was still some years away - so here's my ultimate "Where Were You?" moment in history (fast forward to 5:14) -

May 29, 1997 - It’s late. My sister, Emily, and my brother, Mark, and I are all in our pajamas ready for bed. But none of us are sleepy. Mom’s gone to my Grandma Johnson’s to deliver her birthday gift (it’s Grandma’s birthday). My two youngest sisters are... somewhere (at ages 3-and-a-half and 2, they were probably in bed asleep. Or maybe Alison was there jumping on my parents’ bed with us and little Shalayne was probably with my mom. Hey, some details just aren't that important). Dad was watching us, but he was on edge just like us kids.

2.8 seconds. That’s all that’s left in the game. The Houston Rockets had scored to tie the game at 100 points apiece and the Jazz had possession of the ball and the lead in the playoff series (barely - damn Eddie Johnson). A quick timeout and the TV switched to commercial. My twelve-year-old brain mentally calculated “We’re either going to score or the game’s going into overtime. We have a good chance of winning either way. We’re either going to score or go into overtime.”

Of course, this “we” business didn’t really mean much in the long run. But they were my Jazz from the word go. And even at my tender years, I felt part of the moment. Everyone in Utah did (well, except for those boring old hipster douchebags who thought that cheering for the hometown team was too far beneath them and opted instead to cheer for scum like the Los Angeles Lakers. Whom the Jazz had dispatched from the playoffs weeks earlier, I might point out).

The game came back on and we scurried back to my parents’ room and onto the bed, eyeballs glued to the TV screen. The announcers said... something, I don’t remember what. All I saw was a line of purple uniforms waiting to inbound the ball and another line of white uniforms trying to disrupt it in any way they could. The ref handed the ball to Bryon Russell, who passed it in, starting the clock. Everything happened so fast - the clock ticked down, John Stockton got the ball at the three-point line, that one dopey announcer said “Uh-oh,” Stockton launched the ball over Charles Barkley, the ball went in, the clock ran out...

And our house went ballistic!

The kids jumped off the bed and ran around the house. Dad ran after us, high-fiving and cheering. Our celebrations mirrored those taking place on the court in Houston. With that one three-point shot - a shot I had seen John Stockton make hundreds of times on TV and I could only dream of ever making - my fandom life tipped over into a brand new watershed, though I didn’t know it at the time.

The Utah Jazz - scrappy, basic, clean-cut, fundamental little team that they were - were headed to the NBA Finals. And we fans were ecstatic!

To say I've been a fan of the Jazz my entire life - well, that begins to paint the picture, I guess. My earliest childhood memories are sitting on my grandmother’s lap with a big bowl of popcorn watching Jazz games on my grandpa’s big screen TV with the sound muted and the voice of the Jazz, Hot Rod Hundley, giving the much-higher quality play-by-play from the radio (when I was little, we had three-and-a-half channels and none of them carried the Jazz games, so we went to my grandparents’ house to watch. It was quality family-bonding time before the family all went batshit crazy. Well... before I realized how batshit crazy they were). As I got older, my Jazz fandom only increased - from playing in Junior Jazz (the little league basketball program the Jazz organization sponsors) to saving newspaper clippings of important games to devouring the monthly HomeCourt magazine. Even learning how to draw the Jazz logo so I could decorate my notebooks at school (in purple and teal, of course - none of this crappy powder blue nonsense). And from the word “go,” I had two basketball heroes - Karl Malone and John Stockton. The best basketball players ever to pick up ball and no one could ever convince me otherwise (I even traded an $80 Michael Jordan trading card so I could have a special Stockton-to-Malone print that wasn't worth near as much - an incident the boys at school never let me live down, but I didn't care. Michael Jordan had enough people fawning over him - he didn't need my adoration).

So, when John Stockton’s autobiography was announced earlier this year, I was ecstatic! Here was a guy who I admired for his basketball abilities - but also for his integrity and honor off the court. When I’d watch post-game interviews, he always struck me as a good person, someone who didn't get off on showboating or fame or celebrity - which, being from a down-to-earth rural background in a down-to-earth rural state was so much more appealing than all that flashy crap from LA and Chicago. Plus, Stockton was a quiet leader - something I identified with even as a kid. He didn't have to be the center of attention to make an impact on his teammates and community - he just showed up, did the job, set a good example and that was that.

Don’t think that didn't make an impression on a farm girl from Middle-of-Nowhere, Utah.

However, as I read Assisted, I found more and more that I really didn't know a whole lot about my hero. I did appreciate the insights into John’s childhood and how he came to play basketball. A lot of what he describes is in the vein of “And one thing led to another and suddenly, I’m in the NBA” (okay, okay - there was more to it than that). But, I guess is just how life goes for most people (though, without the part about playing professional basketball. Mostly). The whole thing reads the way I remember Stockton’s post-game interviews on TV - down-to-earth, no-nonsense, tell it like it is. He’s here to play ball and all that extra stuff doesn't matter - even though the media seems to think it does. And it’s just the perfect glimpse into the life of a guy who I've never met, but who made such an impression on my life that’s really difficult to put into words. I mean, I cried when he retired, but I knew that it had to happen eventually. Just didn't think it would be the same month I graduated from high school (oh, how life bookends itself sometimes). And watching Jazz games just isn't quite the same without the Old Guard anchoring the team (oh here, listen to me waffling on like an old lady, pining for the good ol' days of my youth).

This isn't so much a review as a reflection of my memories of watching the Jazz as I was growing up. I’m still a fan of the Jazz, but life has taken me elsewhere - far from that scrappy little twelve-year-old who tried to mimic Karl Malone’s footwork in the driveway, in hopes of someday playing in the WNBA (Ha! I barely made the JV squad my senior year of high school. I had much more confidence in my abilities than were actually there. The regrets and failed opportunities of my life could fill several volumes).

MY POINT IS - that this was a fun little read that let me revisit some of my own happy memories of cheering for the Jazz in those wonderful days of the playoffs and winning seasons, but also to gain insight into a remarkable man who happened to be one of the greatest basketball players ever. Someone who didn't care who got the credit, who embodied the spirit of competition, and who was just a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

Back to that night in '97 - Mom stayed at Grandma’s house to watch the end of the game. When the game was over and everyone’s excitement had ebbed to the point that normal conversation could be had, Grandma turned to Mom and asked “Now, what did you want to talk to me about?”

Mom handed Grandma the wrapped birthday gift. “Happy Birthday, Mary. Though, I think John Stockton gave you the better birthday present.” (Grandma agreed - though that was just Grandma's way).

With the modern-day emphasis on glitz and glamour and fame in pro sports, I don’t think there will ever be another player like John Stockton to make it to the big leagues. On one level, that makes me sad, since I learned so much from watching him (and the rest of the team, let’s be honest) play and there are probably tons of kids out there who could do with some positive role models. On another level, it makes the time that he was playing that much more special. Magic Johnson gives way to Michael Jordan gives way to LeBron James gives way to... who the heck knows? (Jabari Parker, perhaps?) But there’s only ever going to be one John Stockton in the history of hoops. And maybe that is as it should be.