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Archive for February, 2013

I don’t actually know what to write about today. I was thinking of doing another Topics in Doctor Who post, but I wasn’t sure what to do it about, because I can’t seem to think of any more controversial “topics” to discuss for any length of time. I mean, I could talk about one or more of the companions. I was sort of pondering doing something on the use of the deus ex machina plot device that is used almost to death in the finales of far too many series to count, but there didn’t seem to be a side to take in that debate. (Other than that Russell T. Davies uses it far more egregiously than Steven Moffat.) I also thought about talking about the use of temporal paradoxes in the show, but again, there doesn’t seem to be a side to take. Although… (more…)

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I have not been having a good or productive past week or so. Which is annoying in several ways. I suppose I had a decent excuse at the head of last week (monthly ladypain and all that), but then I let it sort of snowball around me and it all went to hell. I haven’t written anything in a week because I don’t know what to write. I’ve only kept up blogging because it’s the one thing I’ve been doing with any consistency since the new year. The rest of it’s happened in haphazard gasps, and it’s frustrating to me. (more…)

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The Passion of the Bedrooms

Part of me doesn’t want to write anything today, mostly because I feel like I don’t remotely have anything to talk about. I didn’t sleep well last night, and as a result slept in late this morning and spent a good part of the day dozing in bed and in my computer chair. This is the first really significant thing I’ve done all day. Unless you count throwing away a bunch of stuff in my old bedroom.

That’s a story, I suppose.

Four years ago this summer, my whole family lived under one roof: my parents, my older brother, me, and my younger sister. My sister and I had shared a room when we were younger, but eventually we got fed up with each other and I moved into a room that wasn’t really a bedroom but nevertheless served the purpose of one for many good years. (This in spite of the severe lack of temperature control, occasional flooding, and leaky ceiling.) Fall of 2009, my brother and I transfer to the same university, and my sister is in her junior year of high school.

And then my brother applied and was accepted to the Disney College Program in Anaheim, CA. He moved out in January 2010 to California, and by the end of the semester, he had declared his intention to stay out there, which meant that he was effectively abandoning his rather nice room. So I moved his crap out and moved my crap in, and I have lived here happily ever since. (The temperature control still sucks, but this is a very old and drafty house, so I’m not surprised.)

A year goes by, my parents badger my brother to at least finish his degree if he’s going to stay in California, my sister makes it through her last year of high school. And then that summer, she moves out to live in an apartment with her boyfriend who subsequently became her fiance, and then we had TWO empty rooms in the house.

And then a bunch of crap happened, like my sister’s wedding–which facilitated moving my old bed into her old bedroom so my brother would have somewhere to sleep–and then somewhere amid all that mess, my old bedroom basically turned into a poorly organized storage space. A lot of stuff that had been stacked up elsewhere in the house got thrown down there and left.

And then, a few months ago, my brother suddenly decided that he would like to get his college degree after all. He’s moving back home.

This would not be a problem if not for the saga of the cats and the hungry dog: basically, after our older dog sprained her ankle, the vet decided she was overweight and needed to be put on a diet. This would have been easy to arrange but for the fact that she liked to nosh on the cat food when she thought no one was looking. So we fixed this problem by putting the cat food in my sister’s old bedroom, sequestered from the dog (but not the cats) by a strategically placed child gate. Later on, a kitchen reorganization led to the litter boxes getting moved into the old bedroom as well.

So here is the dilemma: my brother is not getting his old room back; he’s moving into my sister’s old room. That leaves nowhere for us to put the cat food or the litter boxes–except, I have come to realize, the storage bedroom, which can also be cut off by the child gate. The only problem is that that bedroom is full of two years’ accumulated junk that no one has wanted to organize, despite the growing and pressing need for it.

So I trekked down there today with a big black trash bag and started going through the things I’d left behind, such as the two 1000-piece puzzles that were mostly intact when I left them but ultimately destroyed by my brother’s carelessness during one visit home while he was going through his old things to send to himself in California. Those went in the bag, as well as a collection of vaguely creepy porcelain dolls I’d been holding onto since I was ten for no reason in particular. I ended up binning a lot of old writing stuff as well, old stories that I took a shine to for a month and then never touched again, as well as crappy poetry that honestly never needs to see the light of day again. I threw out two decks of cards whose rubber bands had dried out and broken, sticking to the cards in a last attempt at holding them together. I threw out too many old binders to count (and yet something compelled to hold onto the huge one full of old fanfic, heaven knows why). I filled up two bags to almost back-breaking weights, and yet I hardly made a dent in the clutter.

And have I mentioned how my brother is moving home in just about two and a half weeks?

(42/260)

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I got a new book today: The Madness Underneath, the second book in Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series. I tore through the whole thing in a few hours this afternoon, and by the last few pages I was screaming at the heavens for everything that was being rained down on the characters that I’d grown to care for so much over two books. And then I got to the end wishing the next book was out already, and eventually I found myself thinking about what it takes to get me emotionally involved in a book. I spent years in love with the Harry Potter series (though not involved in the fandom, thank god), and if the tears and cheers I let out while reading Book 7 are any indication, I was really emotionally invested in what happened in that series. By contrast, my attitude towards A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones is much… less involved. I don’t really care what happens to all but a few characters, and I’m much, much more inclined to flip ahead to find out if X or Y survives whatever stupid cliffhanger they’ve been subjected to.

So I thought I would try to analyze my attitudes towards each series respectively and figure out what sits at the root of my like or dislike. I may also bring in some other series such as Discworld. It seems apt.

I thought I would start with how I was introduced to the various series in question. I got into Harry Potter just as it was reaching its initial peak in popularity in the United States, in 1999. My 5th grade teacher began reading us the first book in class, and I was rather enthralled. I got the first book for my birthday that year and got through it pretty quickly (I think I read the whole thing in one evening or two, which is quite a feat for a ten-year-old). I suppose part of my love for the books might be due to the fact that I was at just the right age to “grow up” with Harry–I was about his age when I started reading them, and I was seventeen when the final book came out in 2007. The Harry Potter books were an essential part of my ‘growing up’, I suppose, one of the few constants in my life during the awful middle school and early high school years.

By contrast, I started reading Game of Thrones partly because I had been hearing about them for years, and they were seeing a renewed sort of popularity with the success of HBO’s television adaptation. From what I’d heard I wasn’t quite sure they were my style, but I liked the first book enough to give the others a go. It’s been near about a year since I read the first book, and I’m currently getting no closer to finishing the fourth one and in all probability moving on with my life. I may wing my way back to the books once the final two have come out; I honestly don’t know if I’ll care enough about what happens at that point. I may just look up a good summary and move on with my life.

Of course, these two accounts don’t really deal with what makes me like what I like and dislike what I dislike. For the longest time I was a stick in the mud about Discworld, after reading the first book and a random one in the mix and not knowing quite what to make of them. Then I read Making Money, the second Moist von Lipwig book and soon after its predecessor Going Postal, and for some reason that tipped me over the edge. I got into series like Temeraire and Leviathan because they had hugely intriguing premises (Napoleonic wars with dragons and steampunk World War I, anyone?), and my relationship with Shades of London began because I was already a fan of Maureen Johnson’s and had greatly enjoyed her previous speculative fiction work, Devilish.

It may be that I just find the expansive reach of A Song of Ice and Fire intimidating. There are almost too many characters to keep track of, and as the series has gone on, the viewpoint characters have essentially been flung to the winds, each one covering a different thread of the story to the point where it’s like looking at seven or eight different parts of a tapestry at the same time, all the while trying to figure out what the big picture is. The fact that focus generally falls on storylines that bore me (i.e., the petty politicking of King’s Landing) rather than on the ones that excite me (i.e., everything that’s happening at the Wall, which seems to have such monumental importance that the politics seem all the more petty in comparison) does little to kindle my enthusiasm.

I suppose one of the appealing things about the series that I do enjoy are their limited viewpoint. Except for a few chapters, the Harry Potter books are told exclusively from Harry’s point of view. The Shades of London is told in the first person. The Temeraire novels are told from Captain Will Laurence’s point of view, though once he’s separated from his dragon Temeraire, Temeraire himself rates some point of view scenes as well. The Leviathan novels have two viewpoints, switching between its teenaged protagonists but no one else. The Discworld books don’t have quite so tight a viewpoint; they shift pretty readily from character to character, but they nevertheless manage to stay focused on a single story and a few subplots, instead of three or four main stories at a time.

Maybe it’s the viewpoint trouble that’s my beef with ASOIAF. Maybe it’s that I can’t connect to them emotionally. I’m certainly not saying that no one can, only that it’s rather difficult for me. After a few thousand pages of that series, it’s only rarely elicited tears or screams from me. Taken together, the two Shades of London Books barely make six hundred pages, but I already care about those characters more than any one character from ASOIAF. Maybe it’s because of the way the books are written. We like what we like, I suppose, and sometimes that’s all the explanation we can divine.

(41/260)

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It’s another one of those times when I don’t quite know what to write. I would write about Community, but I’d like to get a review of Elementary in there as well, and I haven’t watched it yet, so that’s right out. I am, however, currently watching the Doctor Who special about the Second Doctor, so I suppose I could talk about Classic Doctor Who.

As is perhaps well known by now, this is the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who, and much is being made of the show’s legacy and history. While there was a gap in the show’s continuance from its cancellation in 1989 to its revival in 2005 (excepting the 1996 TV movie), there’s still a good 25+ years of show to explore and get through.

I’ve made some very little headway into the massive backlog of episodes (only just through the available episodes of the show’s first season, and then I bought The Three Doctors on DVD just because I could), but what I’ve seen I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. From the very first episode, when the Doctor is very much unlike the hero he’s come to be known as, I could see how much the show hadn’t changed over the years, for all that it now possesses a cinematic flair that clearly was not present in the early days. But the spirit of the show has ultimately remained unchanged, and that is what appeals to me so much about it. The humor and tension in the serials are genuine and real, and I often find myself shouting at my screen as I do so often while watching modern Doctor Who episodes. The characters are appealing (Barbara is the best, and yes I will fight you about it) and even the initially prickly First Doctor is lovable in his own way.

As I said, I haven’t seen very much of Classic Who (as it is called), but what I have seen I’ve enjoyed greatly. Doctor Who is Doctor Who no matter what, and the Doctor is the Doctor is the Doctor, every time. For all that his various incarnations are different in appearance and personality, there is still a constant thread that runs through each one, and it’s what makes watching Classic Who worth it. Even though a lot of the stylistic elements are very, very different, it ultimately is the same show, and while it’s changed, it hasn’t. And that’s the beauty of Doctor Who–it’s always changing, but by changing it remains at its core the same.

(40/260)

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I was ready to love this episode from the moment they first announced the title, and when it premiered last September it didn’t disappoint. It succeeds largely because it’s a fun, silly adventure story in the classic Doctor Who mode, all while carrying a dark undercurrent of drama that makes it all the more enjoyable. (Also, I maintain that “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” is the best title of an episode of television, ever. Though I’m also partial to Elementary’s recent “A Giant Gun, Filled with Drugs” and the Pushing Daisies classic, “Oh, Oh, Oh, It’s Magic!”) (more…)

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Or: Another Side of the RTD vs. Moffat Debate.

I mentioned this briefly in my entry last week, but one of the (many, many) complaints leveled against Steven Moffat’s tenure as Doctor Who’s showrunner is that his companions are not as “relatable” as Russell T. Davies’ companions. Characters like Amy Pond, River Song, and Clara Oswald (though oddly never Rory Williams) are decried for being too “special” and “extraordinary”, as opposed to RTD’s Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, and Donna Noble, who were all “just like us.” The implication being that Rose, Martha, and Donna are better characters┬ásimply because they’re middle class women from modern-day London. Because Amy and River and Clara are “special”–for whatever reason–they are bad characters, because their special-ness makes it impossible for the viewers to relate to them.

To say that I have a few problems with this argument is perhaps a bit of an understatement. (more…)

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