Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Directions

Reel One: Over at the Rewatch, we're in Season Five now. I agree with Nikki, who's organizing this whole shindig - Season 5 is about using what you learned in Season 4 and moving ahead, often in unexpected directions. Be sure to read Nikki's intro and then settle in to enjoy Tanya Cochran's analysis of three early Season 5 episodes that really will set up large chunks of this season. A big question that gets raised in one of these episodes circles back to a theme that's been raised before in Buffy; namely, who's your family? It's a complicated question and I enjoy the answer Whedon comes up with.

Reel Two: The draft program has been released for the regional Popular Culture/American Culture in the South, which will be held in October. For the first time, a student of mine will be presenting - we're on the same Friday afternoon panel. My student will be presenting on Pushing Daisies; I'll be yammering on about possible links between Cowboy Bebop and Firefly. My Other Half will be presenting on Saturday. It also appears (it's a draft program; things change) that any number of friends will be gathering as well, including Nikki of the Rewatch, who is the keynote speaker for the Lost mini-conference-within-a-conference that will be going on at the same time. You can find out more about the conference here. Just think about it - beignets, jazz, abandoned refrigerators, voodoo, and Mardi Gras - all of these are are possible topics. New Orleans may never be the same!

COMING SOON! More on the conference, especially as I begin to put the presentation together. And it's time for us to contribute to the Rewatch - more on that soon!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Life Brings Changes

I was going to make this all about the Rewatch and then realized that I should include a bit more, due to Recent Events. First, though, let's check in with the Great Buffy Rewatch of 2011.

I missed a week here, due to being away last week and boy! was it a doozy! Matthew Pateman dissected the Season 4 coda "Restless" (which he had given the book-length treatment here), which is an episode that deserves rewatching, even after the rewatch. "Restless" is structured around the nighttime dreams of Our Heroes and is quite revealing. And funny. And full of cheddary goodness.

Then this week, we begin the amazing journey that is Season 5. This season will knock your socks off and (being a Whedon creation) will break your heart more than a little along the way. Your guides for the first trio of Season 5 episodes (that really WILL have you going, "Huh-what?" more than once) are Stacey Abbott and Cynthea Masson, who have written for the Rewatch previously. You can trust them. Now go read.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . . I had a day yesterday that was just surreal. It was just too much for a single 24 hour period. (Yeah, yeah, one day at a time, but sometimes, several days gang up on you all at once and you just have to get through it peacefully. Ice cream helps, as does ripping off the pedometer and warning it sternly to quit glaring at you.) Long story short - some great things happened yesterday, which I can't talk about just yet, but rest assured they involve good news for people I truly care about.


It's not that I believe that for every good, there has to be an equal bad. I don't believe that, as I don't believe that the universe is somehow conspiring and lurking to "get me." Sometimes lights turn red for everybody. Cosmic (and traffic) law.


I have a friend who has just retired after 35+ years of teaching for the fine people of North Carolina. She was in fact part of the committee that hired me lo those years ago. She started at the community college back when it was held together with baling twine, spit, and maybe a little duct tape. Flimsy walls were put up in the morning and you had an office of sorts by afternoon; no need to involve the building code people. She also got paid a pittance since she was female and surely her husband took care of the finances. (This complete injustice was rectified when our current president came on board back in the early 1990s, but by then she'd been at the job for more than 15 years at a fraction of the pay she should have received.) She worked hard, cared about her students, and always put herself last on the list. She worked so her husband could finish his doctorate, she worked to support the kids, she worked through her own breast cancer treatment, she worked to pay for her husband's very expensive long-term care when he was hit with early onset Alzheimers. She finally went back to school to complete her own doctorate (paid for out of her own pocket, since the degree isn't required to teach at the community college without so much as a course release), defending the dissertation just in time to retire this May.

Now it was time. She had Big Plans. She was going to travel (had a trip to the Holy Land lined up that she was thrilled about), she was going to go to conferences (she went the Slayage 2 with me years back and loved it - I've got the pictures to prove it), she was going to finally "read for fun" . . . Big Plans.

God laughed.

I visited her in the hospital yesterday. She has suffered at least two strokes since late May, leaving her tired and with some impaired language skills. Imagine the special horror that holds for someone who teaches other people how to communicate. Far from defending tricksy points of the theories applied to her dissertation, she's struggling to color a picture of socks in a preschool coloring book.

Oh, and it gets worse. When the doctors did a scan, they discovered that cancer has latched on to her liver, her lungs, and her abdomen. Treatment is uncertain at best. I'll know more later this week, but things look very grim for this good woman.

I learned some things today and the lessons were in Technicolor. Don't put things off. Times are tight and sometimes it seems that work is what matters most. It's not. It's important, sure, and I want to do a good job for my students, my school, and yes, myself. But I'm not at all sure that putting off what you really want to do to grade a few more papers or teach an overload class for a few extra bucks is quite as important as it once seemed. Cliched as it may sound, it really is later than we think.

So please - at one point today and every day hereafter, just stop what you're doing and think for a moment - Do I want to be doing this? Does this really matter? If the answer to both is "no," do this. If at all possible (and trust me, it's possible), stop and walk away from it. Go outside and stroll for ten minutes, even if it's blazingly hot or bitingly cold. Pet a kitten. Surprise the ones you love with ice cream. Daydream about winning the lottery. Fire up your Harley and find a curvy road. Whatever works for you, but take time every day to nourish your own soul. No one's going to do it for you and you don't want to wait for some dream vacation to "cram lost years into five or six days," as a wise man once sang.

That son-of-a-bitch Death has a timetable that is absolutely non-negotiable, inexorable, and unknown to us all. And he's waiting in the wings for all of us.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sum of the Parts

Reel One: Over at the Rewatch, Season 4 is about to wrap up. Now, Season 4 isn't my favorite (I was never a real fan of the Initiative idea), but it has some GREAT episodes! Case in point are these three. "Primeval" shows how much stronger Buffy is for her ability to depend on others - Whedon doesn't like the whole "lone wolf" idea very much. And Spike shows that he doesn't need to be chip-free to cause heartache and trouble. Violence is a gown of many designs, my children.

Reel Two: My draft has been cut and chopped and bandaged and sent. Now we'll see. Also, cover art of the "Season 9" comic has emerged. I must say that I'm approaching this with caution. While Season 8 got off to a start I'd characterize as "great," it quickly went downhill into stories I didn't believe (and worse, didn't believe in) and had a hard time regaining its footing. The comics are canon, so that has to be dealt with. Harshly.

Coming Soon: Season 4 finishes with "Restless." Enough said - this is an episode that you need to wear flip-flops to watch - it'll knock your socks off!