DVDs as temporal distortion

Yesterday the DVDs arrived; this was the second of three shipments in a massive (and horrifically expensive) order that’s been mostly Doctor Who-related stuff (i.e., Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood, the most recent Doctor Who season) for a book chapter I’m writing (although the box I’m still waiting on is the Sherlock DVDs which I need for an essay I’m writing on spec and will eventually find a home for somewhere if not where I’m currently intending it to land).

But don’t you own all that stuff already, Rach?

Actually, not so much. I watched the first two seasons of Torchwood on Netflix and own a couple of episodes for my iPod. I watched Children of Earth through the wonder of somewhat sketchy technological choices. And I fully admit to doing that a lot to get around region-based delays; sometimes because I’m impatient and sometimes because I actually need to see the thing because of a looming deadline and can’t leave it out of work I’m doing just because I’m in the US. I do, however, always buy the material once it becomes available to me, because that’s the ethical thing to do — I earn money from residual payments related to DVD purchases and cable airings of films I’ve been in, and it’s important to me to respect that paycheck for other people; that feeling is, of course, magnified when it’s about properties people I know and like work on (as is the case with things Whoniverse).

But sometimes, I’m just not super-efficient about ordering stuff. I’m waiting for a sale, or I don’t need it for a project right that second, or I want to combine it with a larger order, or whatever. Yesterday, however, the big box came (and there is a surfeit of DVDs in my life right now — Kali bought me The Duchess; SAG just sent me The Social Network and The King’s Speech for awards voting) full of stuff I need to get to much sooner rather than later.

What surprised me was my emotional reaction (beyond I have too much work to do!) to the stuff. Look, to cut to the chase, pulling out those Torchwood DVDs made me really sad for a few moments. Ayup, I’m one of those people. Or maybe not. It depends on which people you are (if you care at all), I think.

Look, I liked Children of Earth (CoE) (and the comment thread here is not for discussing why you did or didn’t like it; if I know you, I already know; if I don’t know you, I know the 20 arguments I’m most likely to hear — do feel free to mention how you felt if you’re posting about how you feel about how you feel about CoE, but let’s not rehash its merits or lack there of today, okay?). A lot. There were places I felt it was flawed; there were narratives I had hoped for or anticipated differently; there were choices I wouldn’t have made, but at the end of the day I liked it. It was satisfying for me (and Day 2 had truly exquisite pacing).

It also knocked me over. It was exhausting — the show itself, but also the hype, the fandom, the five-day grind of it all while being a fan and a fantasist and a critic. It was an experience in real-time that was made for the way in which I try to encounter the world, and which, having had the opportunity to so encounter the world, served as this amazing cautionary tale: liminality can be a real pain in the ass.

Seriously, how do you do criticism when you’re crying? How do you interact with your partner when you are grieving for the loss of phantoms? How do you participate in fandom when you know too much about the nature of production processes to feel comfortable with some of its arguments?

I’ll tell you, over a year later, I still have absolutely no damn idea. What I do know is that the whole CoE experience (It was like a fun park ride! Just… not always very fun.) led me down some really interesting research avenues (that’ll actually be available soon, I just need to make some tweaks and then it’ll be up on Friends of the Text), took me to the UK, was partially responsible for my most recent tattoo (which says Be grand and was acquired 4 hours before I boarded a flight at Heathrow back to New York), and has continued to open up some really exciting professional possibilities for me.

On the other hand, it also led to strained friendships, awkward con moments (John Fay, you’re a class act), a weird ambivalence about cosplay (um, for those who love the coat if not me, I’m not actually sure it’ll be coming to Gally this year), and a probably over-developed concern regarding fandom’s supposed displeasure with my existence. Yay. Or, you know, not. But the CoE experience sticks in my mind perhaps most for its weird You Are Not Alone (Doctor Who joke there, for the uninitiated) quality.

My whole childhood I was told I was wrong, and weird, and probably mentally ill for allowing books to mean so much to me. My father, jokingly, but with what felt like real disapproval to me, said something about my needing an exorcism because of my fondness for The Vampire Lestat. So when people kept saying in the first couple of days after CoE, “I had to keep going into the bathroom at work to cry,” I felt so glad for the tangibility of narrative that was being demonstrated through that grief. Stories suddenly weren’t just one of my vices or a secret society of inappropriate desire amongst my other lonely friends; they were real and shaping us as much as we were shaping them.

Mostly, CoE is a thing that happened long ago and far away now. We were all different people then. I’m busy being, well, busy, and I’m also really excited for the next Torchwood series coming from the Starz/BBC collaboration. But I do miss our silly, cracky show that was sometimes brilliant; I do miss us all tuning it at the same time; and I do miss the possibility I felt in Torchwood back when I wrote a silly letter to The New York Times.

It’s just television. Except when it’s not. Putting those boxes on the shelf made the whole messy, sordid, strange, not always okay for anyone, journey seem small and nearly imagined. It wasn’t, of course, and it’ll all unfurl for me again when I have to watch all three seasons over two days really soon (albeit with a totally different focus that’s on how Whoniverse stories portray and use media and marketing in their narrative constructions).

That’s the wacky thing about the DVDs. By existing in DVD format, a story is strongly designated as a part of the past. So is the story about the story (i.e., release and immediate reception). Yet, DVDs are also a preservation not just of an eternal present, but of the moment before. By being a story you already know, DVDs are also an odd innocence and a temporal distortion. They tell me what I keep telling everyone else: all times are now.

Yummy yummy trash day goodies

Later year over 3,900 projects were successfully funded by Kickstarter to the tune of more than $27,000,000. Dogboy & Justine was just one tiny piece of this. I personally also support a lot of crowd-funded projects both through Kickstarter and through other sources. As part of today’s trash day, I’ve got a few to share with you.

Hate doing dishes after parties? Hate what disposable cups do to the environment? Dreaming about beng able to serve cocktails in vegan, gluten-free, flavoured, edible cups? Jelloware wants to make all your dreams come true, even if they are going to have to change the name.

I love the past as it never quite was. I also love photography. Which is why I’m supporting The Fifties: A Tale in Black & White which seeks to create photos that borrow from iconic 1950s imagery while speaking to African and African-American history and culture.

Another photographic project I’ve pledged to is Dirt Floors & Stone Walls, a photojournalism project about India’s public schools. India has a large presence in the life of me and mine and this artist’s work really jumped out at me.

Finally for today’s crowd funding items, Kendarra Publications is raising funds to publish its first novel. I haven’t read the book, and I haven’t actually met Tessa, the press founder. But I do know her from LJ, and I find her to have an excellent critical eye for writing and the absolutely fortitude to run a small business in a challenging space.

Yesterday’s report on Frosty, the pit-bull found dead in the trash, was originally going to be part of today’s links, but I wound up writing about him when the story of the rescued pitbull came to light. I can now report that the rescued dog as found a forever home.

Rats are smart, clean creatures who make great pets. But they also live in New York City’s subways and they are afraid of nothing. Why not to doze off on the subway, part 542,356: Rats. The truth is, I find this rat oddly charming, and I keep watching the video in rotation with the Craig Ferguson Doctor Who show opener routine when I feel down. Intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism! And, even if you hate Doctor Who or don’t know what it is, the Ferguson thing is a freakishly accurate and hiliarious summary of the program

On the acafen front, I’ll be working on a possible submission for Transmedia Sherlock over the weekend. It’s about queer theory and Sherlock Holmes’ reception both by other characters within the narrative and by the audience. If anyone happens to have any good bibliography items related to queer theory, textual analysis and asexuality they want to share, it would help me out for a small section of the paper.

Buffy, Angel, and a whole bucketload of spoilers

At least a year after we started, Patty and I finally finished watching Buffy and Angel. For her, it was a rewatch; for me it was a first time thing brought on both by the scholarly work I’ve been doing on mourning for fictional characters and a desire to understand more about the stuff she loves.

What a ride. As she predicted embarking on this thing, I’m more of an Angel person (even if I really hate the season of demon pregnancy incest whining) and she’s more of a Buffy person. It’s easy to say that’s about me liking the darkness of Angel or her being a teen girl when she first saw Buffy, and those things aren’t untrue, but on my side of the aisle it also has something to do with a sense of intimidation I feel in the face of the women — good looking, feminine and more popular than they think they are — of Buffy, which is something I write a bit about in the forthcoming Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them. Aside from being glad to be include because, Hey, writing about stuff! for money! Yay!, it means a lot to me to have my perspective included there both as a queer woman and a genderqueer person.

Early on in our watch, the Internet warned me: You’re going to love Wesley. You’re going to identify with Wesley. And it’s going to break your heart. I entered the shows with my teeth grit for that reason alone. I didn’t necessarily want the burden of anyone else’s stories right then; the journeys I’d been on as a fan and at least tangentally-related pro with Harry Potter and Torchwood had been exhausting and personal enough. There are only so many broken boys with strange codes of personal honor this heart can house.

Luckily, Buffy-era Wesley turned out to be a buffoon, and I was more worried that I was Spike and his obsession with the word effulgent (which you have to admit is great fun to say). Last night I cried when Spike got the reception he always deserved if not in talent, then in desire and ambition, for his poetry. And when Wesley just did the work — not because he maybe had nothing left to live for, but because the work is what he knows how to do well and with passion better than anything (he’s not a man with hobbies) — I just nodded.

Yup, that’s right, I don’t believe Wesley went into Angel’s grand plan at the end because he had nothing to live for. And it’s not just that he sort of liked Illyria in her own right (actually, can we talk about the her for a minute? Ilyria is describes itself as “godking of the universe” and inhabits a female body. It was, for me, daring and compelling stuff about gender, that I wish the show had had time and inclination to go farther with; Ilyria isn’t female. It’s not male. And it’s not sexless.); it’s that when Angel asks everyone if they are in on his suicidal mission the camera lingers on Wesley and his face seems to say I can survive this; I’ve survived so much else. It’s remarkable to me. Where I expected the smile of someone ready to die in the way that we so often see in these hero narratives, there was the smile of someone who was somehow, in spite of everything, ready to live. And then he volunteers anyway.

It was an absolute punch in my gut.

The last episode of Angel is sort of a mess because the season had to be wrapped up so quickly. It’s not, strictly speaking, emotionally satisfying, but it has a glorious symmetry. In the last shot and line we are told that this whole grand story — of heroes and watchers and vampires and desperation and of small people trying to do great things in an uncaring-if-you’re-lucky universe — is about to start all over again. As it always does and always will.

I won’t tell you the last lines of my piece for Whedonistas, but I will tell you that I am, having finally seen the end of Angel, remarkably satisfied and a just little bit startled by my essay’s conclusion. I managed to nail the thing I hadn’t seen yet; time is, it seems, always out of order.

And Wesley? I didn’t cry for him. But I sure felt like his brother there for a while.