Sunday, June 27, 2010

Can't Stop the Serenity

Fans of Joss Whedon's Firefly/Serenity adopted the name "Browncoats" for themselves. Under no circumstances known to God or man should this be confused with "Brownshirts" - seriously, don't even joke about that. The "Browncoats" were the rebels in the interplanetary war. The Alliance wanted a monolithic rule; the Browncoats preferred to keep to themselves, despite the medical and technological advances of the Alliance. Malcolm Reynolds, the captain of the Firefly-class ship Serenity, fought on the side of the Browncoats.

They lost. Mal fled for the Black, desperate to be left alone, but not to be alone, and television history was made.

Five years ago, Browncoats started a charity known as "Can't Stop the Serenity" which had the dual goals of getting the movie Serenity on the big screen and raising money and awareness for a Good Cause. The Browncoats adopted the charity Equality Now and every year right around June 23 (which happens to be Joss Whedon's birthday), groups of Browncoats hold events to raise money for Equality Now (which was co-founded by a former student of Whedon's late mother, Lee Stearns. See - everything's connected!). Events include movie showings, auctions, raffles, and so on.

It's a fun time and a truly great organization. Equality Now fights (and fights hard!) for the rights of women and girls throughout the world - one of their main goals is the eradication of the abomination known as female genital mutilation (FGM) which is widely practiced in countries such as Somalia on very young girls. It's not about culture, folks. This is horrific abuse and deserves to be brought into the glare of the public forum and roundly condemned.

So check out the links, go to a showing, write a check.

Doing good can be fun.

But more importantly, doing good needs to be done.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Going Away for a Little While!

As you may know, Gentle Readers, I maintain two blogs. This one is devoted to more professional posts, centering around writing, presenting, and publishing material derived from my observations about Joss Whedon's work.

I'm about to dive into a couple of writing projects and, while I'll keep you posted here, I won't post on a particularly regular basis. However, I post over on Mockingbird's Nest - you can check out my more wide-ranging posts over that-a-way. Just click here and you'll be transported there.

Ah, technology!

See you over there - or back here!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Slayage - Last Day (sob!)

And there was much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth . . .

Slayage 4 is over, folks. Put to bed, so to speak. Oh, there will be a Slayage 5 at a currently-undisclosed location for reasons of national security and the fact that we don’t know where it’ll be yet. But it’s nice that at least three universities are vying for our business, which has not always been the case. Moreover, it’s a distinct possibility that the next Slayage will be outside the American South – possibly north of the border. (Cue “O Canada.” Or possibly “Blame Canada.”) Two years is a long way off and who knows what may happen in that time span. Still, I’m sure that in 2012, there will be an enthusiastic gathering of Whedonians somewhere. They’ll come equipped with brilliant insights and nigh-encyclopedic knowledge of scenes, deleted scenes, shooting scripts, draft scripts, the contents of multiple interviews with Whedon, his actors, his writers, his shoe-shine boy and so on.

And I fervently hope to be right there in the very thick of it!

Two years ago in Arkadelphia, I spent a lot of time pacing around a hotel parking lot and talking on the phone to FryDaddy, who attended this Slayage at my side. (Oh, it was determined today that a “Slayage” is an exact unit of time. Three days followed by two years.) I stopped at one point in our conversation, sure that my gushing was boring him. Far from it. As he put it, “I like hearing you soar.” So today’s keynote. I had been unusually nervous about this one - not the content, which I thought was pretty solid (although I had to cut some stuff I really, really liked which is always the case). Rather, I was nervous about the reception from the audience. Whedonians can talk about gender studies and production details until the cows come home (and we will), but I was applying Twelve Step principles of recovery to the arc of several quite beloved characters, one of whom (Willow) doesn’t turn out too well. There was some definite pushback, but overall, I’d say the presentation went well and I may have started a new conversation in the field. Or I may have lobbed a hand grenade into the crowd; I’m not entirely sure.

But it was a whale of a ride!

I met some wonderful people here – some very talented writers and presenters and some people who are in the “scary smart” section of the intellectual spectrum. I learned a lot and thought so much I was exhausted by nine in the evening. I have ideas for half a dozen writing projects and a long list of people to e-mail and stay in touch with. And I hardly saw a bit of St. Augustine. I hear there’s some kind of fort here.

All the more reason to come back, but tomorrow, we head for home.

And I’m sad about that. But glad in a way, too. But sad.

A “Slayage” is a long time.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Slayage Day 3

Let me be honest. By Day 3 of a conference like this, I’m having a great time, but I’m getting a little worn out. And with my keynote to go first thing tomorrow, I’m going to have to cut this short tonight.

So just an impression or two. I loves me some Whedonians! They are among the kindest of conference-goers. When one attendee took sick and was forbidden by her doctor to fly out here, one of the organizers kindly offered to present her paper for her. Isn’t e-mail great? I heard some GREAT stuff today! Among the highlights was a paper discussing the behavior of the residents of Sunnydale as viewed through the template of disaster studies. (Did you know that, statistically speaking, there is actually very little violence and looting in the wake of most disasters, such as Katrina and the Haiti earthquake? All media spin. Truly – if it bleeds, it leads. That says something very sad and very dark about the human mind.) Also, there was a wonderful presentation on Chaucer's Wife of Bath and the Dollhouse episode “Belle Chose” that gave me much to think about.

Enough for now. More later, when my keynote is done and things are wrapping up.

Think good thought my way, if you don't mind!

Slayage Day 2

Consider this post as "under construction." Much happened today and it's late and tomorrow starts early. I'll catch up, I promise.

Until then, some things to consider:
  • Brilliant musicologists illuminating scores of particular episodes and discussing the themes that emerge from them.
  • A brave new point of view being heard for the first time. (OK - full disclosure. I'm married to him, so I'm likely to be biased on this point. But objective observers commented on the merit of the paper, so I'm pretty sure my judgment is sound.)
  • The irony of the award for excellence in Whedon research and writing (where feminist themes are so often in evidence) being so very, very phallic. (Then again, it's called the "Mr. Pointy," so one can hardly be surprised.)
  • Dozens of academics gamely warbling through the entire soundtrack of "Once More with Feeling." Followed by "Mandy."
A good day, capped off with a podcast interview of yours truly on Gobbledygeek.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Slayage Day 1

The conference began with a kick-off reception tonight. These mix-and-mingle events can go in any number of directions, but Slayage is different from most academic conferences on a number of levels. First off, it really does have sort of a family reunion feel to it. Sure, so&so might be my German cousin and thatonethere might be my Israeli aunt, but what family doesn’t have its quirks? It’s good to see these folks again – Facebook and other such forms of communication are useful, but there’s nothing like actually seeing these people who share your passions and think deeply about the same things you spend your time pondering over.

We did a little exploring of St. Augustine earlier today, but it was too hot and humid to do as much as we had (over ambitiously) planned. However, we did take a tour of the main building of Flagler College, which was originally the Ponce de Leon Hotel built by Henry Flagler back in 1887. Talk about grand! Let’s see – since only the gentlemen could handle financial transactions, the genders were separated inside the lobby. The men went to the front desk to pay and the ladies were whisked away into the Grand Parlor – merely seeing business being transacted was thought to be a cause of blindness in the fairer sex. (Ah, the high Victorian age!) Ladies could not even go to the front desk to retrieve their jewels from the hotel safe; rather, they described what pieces they wanted in detail, then sent their husbands. Just imagine the squabbles – “You never listen to me! These are my day diamonds –how can I possibly wear these to dinner?”

Seriously, the hotel was the grandest of the grand hotels. It was the first building in Florida to be built from the ground up with electricity in mind, and was wired by Edison himself. Guests were “afeared” of the new-fangled notion, and servants were hired whose sole job it was to press the buttons to turn the lights on and off in the guests’ rooms. The hotel had hot and cold running water, but shared bathrooms. Yes, the Astors and Vanderbilts shared a sink. Louis Comfort Tiffany did the windows and the plasterwork in the Grand Parlor prominently features his distinctive “Tiffany blue.” The decorative details are just marvelous and feature nautical themes, mythology, and Spanish influence. It’s a bit overwhelming, to tell the truth. (And it’s telling that the four figures representing the Age of Spain are Adventure, Discovery, Conquest, and Civilization.)

The conference begins full-bore tomorrow morning and goes pretty much straight through until the banquet tomorrow night, which will be held in what had been the Grand Ballroom of the hotel. More on that later.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Safe in the "Land of Flowers"

The adventure began today! After many adventures in the tying up of any number of loose ends FryDaddy and I left North Carolina for the humid sunshine of St. Augustine. Sort of like home, but with Spanish moss. The Slayage 4 conference officially begins tomorrow, but we wanted a day to nose around America's oldest city, so we arrived today. I don't know that we'll find Ponce de Leon's famed Fountain of Youth, but we've already discovered a killer gelato shop and there's an old Spanish fort to climb around on tomorrow before the conference kicks off.

You can see a bit of St. Augustine's history by clicking on this link. Who knows, we might even visit the alligator farm. (Does that mean they farm the alligators or that the alligators are pulling the plows or something else entirely? Hmmm.) Flagler College is our host and you can learn more about them by clicking this link. That's the main building in the picture at the top of the post. It began life as a grand hotel, then became Flagler College in 1968.

We've already run into a number of Whedonians who also arrived early for the conference. From the looks of things, this is going to be a very good time! Papers are due to be presented that range in topic from exploring the character of Cordelia to examining the role played by music in Whedon's shows to the theme of neurological tampering. The challenge here is deciding what you feel like you MUST see, since so many interesting papers are scheduled opposite each other.

Tough choices must be made. That's another lesson the Whedonverses teach us.