time bomb town: on not watching Doctor Who

I feel rather guilty about not watching this series of Doctor Who, to be perfectly honest. Admittedly I feel guilty about a lot of things, it’s one of my default states, but still, fannish guilt is as valid as anything else.

It’s frustrating, as for several years my identity was pretty wrapped up in Being A Doctor Who Fan. As part of that, I’m at least partially responsible for several people either starting to watch the show or renewing their interest in it. These days I have easy access to it, being UK-based, and the shine didn’t entirely come off the penny by my learning what goes into the media industry sausage.1

I know what it’s not: while I’ve been critical of Steven Moffat, it didn’t stop me from watching Eleven; I actually find Clara to be an okay companion, though the Special Girl stuff does wear on me; and I said quite firmly that if they absolutely had to go with a white dude for Twelve, Peter Capaldi would be the only one I’d want. Hell, he’s even allowed the right accent, and if he’s riffing off Seven, I’m entirely cool with that. I like Seven.

But apparently I can’t be bothered. Some of this is anxiety around watching things I like2 and some of it is the fact that I simply don’t have the energy these days to face the potential crap. I have an overly analytical brain, and DW has never been a show I can watch where I know, or even can be fairly confident, that nothing big is going to bother me in a fail kind of way. Usually this wouldn’t be quite as much of a problem, admittedly–as many others have said before, marginalised people tend to elide a lot of bullshit when consuming media, or we would never consume anything ever again. Sometimes it ends up being beyond the pale or reaching critical mass.

The problem with DW is that I care too damn much. I want it not to fail, to be as interesting and nuanced as it is in the best fanworks. And because it’s ongoing, every new episode is another hope that falls apart into, inevitably, another utter disappointment.

This is not, by the way, me strictly going off at Moffat for fail, though I notice the overall fannish and critical tide is changing towards that, in an interesting development. (If you asked me, and you didn’t, I suspect this is due to recent shifts in SFF around awareness of social justice; it doesn’t matter if one likes it or buys it, one at least knows about it.) RTD was as guilty, in my book, of certain kinds of screwup.

Lightbulb moment: in my opinion, the tone of the Moffat-run show is currently one where the viewer anticipates nuance and complexity. The cues are there, the settings, the narratives–and then things just don’t pan out. RTD had a problem of building up far too much drama to ever be remotely resolved, but to me, it was forgivable in the sense that it was not to be taken as high art telly.

It works better explained in the metaphor of animal vids. No, seriously.

For me, RTD’s show is like one of a puppy that runs about the kitchen, tripping over its paws, bonking its snout into things and careening off them. RTD’s Who was at heart, even when dark, even when failing3, a big camp romp.

Moffat’s Who is like one of a cat that prowls the edge of the sofa, contemplating the jump to the top of the nearest piece of furniture. There’s a lot of wandering back and forth and pondering about it, possibly a brief nap in an odd position, and then finally, when you least expect it, it jumps, misses

And then shakes itself and walks off across the floor like Nothing Just Happened, Nothing To See Here.

And to be honest, I can really only put up with so much of that. I’ll store the Twelfth Doctor for some time when I have more of myself to spare, when things aren’t getting far too real and complex and problematic in the real world.

Or when the cat sticks the jump. Whichever comes first.

  1. Even the coolest-looking things are held together by spit and duct tape and a lot of hard poorly-compensated labour. 

  2. I’ve been fighting anticipatory anxiety around fandom and real life interaction for several years and I hate it SO MUCH

  3. Let’s not talk about Donna: mentally insert gif here of stick figure flipping off the heavens, going f uuuuuuuu

in the gyre (always coming home)

Hey, kids, I’m back, for my sins–a new theme, a tidy blogroll, and a different outlook on life.

Okay, maybe not that different. After all, I’m still generally grumpy and snarky and a bit of a cynic, but I’ll endeavour to be entertaining while I blether on.

Check out the about page for what passes for my mission statement, and I’ll get some content to you soon.  (e.g. when it’s not near to midnight on a Friday.)

but seas between us braid hae roared

I was going to do an epic post about the best classic rock Christmas songs, but life…okay, lazing around at the in-laws during the holiday season…got the better of me.

In lieu of that, here’s a sample from the list that’s appropriate today yet–James Taylor’s version of Auld Lang Syne.

Personally, I (heresy, I know) am not that big a fan of Robert Burns, sort of take him or leave him. I’m sure as hell not fond of Hogmanay, the Scottish take on New Year’s Eve, though it’s perhaps a bit more genuine than the Times Square Rockin’ New Years Whatever US version (both have too large of drunk crowds for my liking). And while I do love James Taylor, the rest of his holiday album is also take it or leave it, in my opinion.

But this suitably pensive limited-production take on Auld Lang Syne is far and away the best version of the song or poem I’ve ever heard. And with that–a happy new year to those on the Gregorian calendar.

So many people I know have had lousy times of it in 2012. In light of that, I hope that 2013 will be better for us all and for the world.

still singing Galway Bay

It’s taken me a few years, but I think I’ve finally mostly sorted Christmas in Britain in my brain.

Christmas, as Christmas, though not necessarily of much religious connotation, is a big deal in and of itself in Britain. This has taken some getting used to. Possibly the weirdest thing for me to swallow, aside from not being wished ‘happy holidays’ on a regular basis, is the fact that nativity plays are de rigueur in primary schools, but overall it’s the sheer assumption of celebrating Christmas that gets to me. (By the way, thanks to the Life in the UK Test–which I passed–I can now tell you with 2001-statistic accuracy what percentage of the population is Christian and which percentage is not. In 2001, that is.)

But I’ve learned to adjust–a paradigm shift with a slightly jammed clutch, but adjust none the less. There are some key points to remember and understand; admittedly this is mostly for my benefit and amusement, but this could be handy to anyone writing a themed fanfic in a UK-based fandom. Maybe. I suppose. Get a Britpicker, even if you don’t think you need one.
- Christmas takes on a bunch of aspects that in the US and Canada are assigned to Thanksgiving–bigass traditional meal of turkey and stuffing and veg sides with family, and specific television viewing (coughdoctorwhocough) thereafter. I’ve had people ask me what the heck US people eat for Christmas if they just had turkey a month earlier. The answer I’ve given is ‘sometimes turkey sometimes other things’.
- Christmas crackers are a small but crucial concept. These are tiny explosive devices with paper crowns inside, a joke that is appalling, and an item of the Cracker Jack box variety back when you actually got something okay in a Cracker Jack box. Those from elsewhere, think a Kinder Egg toy.
- One will be getting drunk lots as part of this holiday process, with family (potentially as coping mechanism) or on work nights out, or both. With regards to the latter, office Christmas party, yes, and then likely another night of pub and food with one’s department, and getting hammered on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day because it’s a bank holiday and one has nothing else to do save eat leftovers and drink all the things. See: coping with family.
- Remarkably little eggnog is quaffed, though. Except at Starbucks.
- Fake Christmas trees are far more common. If you asked me to surmise as to why, I would say ‘way less open land to grow Norfolk pines’, but I may be off-base here.

And…well, this is more than a point. Christmas music here is just slightly different, which gets me to what was going to be the point of this post until I went on a tangent.
I’ve gotten used to what I will hear in stores and malls and offices in the US for the holidays, that continuous piped stream of not-exactly-cheer-inducing sound. Unfortunately, the stuff I can handle most as background noise (and this may be because of upbringing) is almost non-existent over here, stuff like Mannheim Steamroller and Canadian Brass and even the darn Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Fortunately, some of the big band stuff’s crossed the big pond, but Britain has this unique concept of the Christmas Number 1. This is the lucky track on the top of the pop charts for Christmas week, which is often a Christmas pop song. So many try and fail to gain this spot. (Christmas doesn’t always win out, though. Gary Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ Mad World from Donnie Darko was #1 one year, which makes me grin in misanthropic and anti-pop glee.)

And there are a few tolerable things you’ll hear constantly over here that have never made it stateside–Slade’s Merry Christmas, Everybody, for a start. Let’s not talk about how I didn’t initially believe Noddy Holder was a real name for a rock musician as compared to a name JK Rowling dismissed for a houseelf. It’s just that no one here has heard Must Be Santa! It’s a damn shame.

With regards to things I’ve heard on both sides of the Atlantic, I’m going to take this opportunity to say that Wham!’s Last Christmas is the most ridiculous Christmas song ever, except for possibly Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime, which is purely insipid. I mean, seriously, how is a song about having your heart broken and telling that person ‘screw you, you’re not special’ full of the spirit of the season?

At least Fairytale of New York, which I love, is unapologetic about its catchy bleakness. It’s got just the right kind of self-aware attitude problem to be the ultimate in UK Christmas tracks…which, fortunately, is what it is.

Even if there’s no such thing as the NYPD Choir.

all painted blue, all painted white

If you’re viewing this in post form, the right sidebar may be seriously out of whack, what with the floating post info bit over the top (at least, that’s how it looks in Firefox for me). I think it’s a problem with the newest version of this theme, but at the moment I don’t have the energy to go hunt through CSS for a fix. Please bear with me.

In my defense regarding posting here more often, I’ve spent the last couple weeks negotiating the ins and outs of applying for indefinite leave to remain, which is currently occupying my mind. It’s complex (though one would expect that, for such a permanent statement), so my anxiety has gone up a little bit.

Anyway, in the interests of being entertaining instead, some other thoughts. Maybe not about the BBC Four Exquisite Cuisine season, which has also kept me entertained over the last couple of weeks. They’ve been the sort of thing that makes Matt wince and decamp to the other room but that I love–food/cookery programme and BBC Four history programme. My only complaint is that they disappeared way too fast off iPlayer. I’ll leave the amazing programmes I would totally pitch had I the invested ear of a Beeb commissioner to one side unless requested, and I’ll also only comment that I’ve also had shows playing on 4oD to the extent that ‘Buffalo Stance’ is stuck in my head permanently. (Thx Fresh One!)

We had our first snow overnight last night here in Glasgow. Not much, and sure as hell not enough to make for any pretty photographs. Instead, it was just enough to leave some slippery pavement (about which I’ve ranted at length previously, if you search my archives from winter 2009-10…I’m too lazy).

I feel more than a little nostalgic about the first snow of the year. One of the traditions at my Smith College house (TYLER: BEST OF GREEN) was to have a First Snow Party early in the morning after a snow…or in the afternoon, should it fall that way. There was hot chocolate and snacks and a wee fire in the fireplace going, and we all made paper snowflakes and had banter and it was amazing times.

To most readers this is going to sound like something out of, I don’t know, Chalet School or something. But it’s real, and it was lovely, and I don’t give a damn how twee it might sound, in a post looking back on it. (For those who might not be acquainted with me, I’m pretty anti-twee.) It was home, and I doubt any of my friends and housemates would disagree.