Saturday, September 9, 2017

Why I Won't Pray For You (and what I will do instead)

Let me start by saying right away that you may be offended by the beginning of this post.  You won't like it. I'm sure it will make you angry.  That's fine, but before you decide to vent your anger back at me, please read the entire post.  You may not think I'm such a bad person after this is finished.  My purpose is to bring hope and cooperation.

With so many tragedies happening across the country right now, many friends have requested I pray for them, or else pray for others who may be suffering.  That's all you want me to do - pray.  You want me to ask a deity - and I'm sure you mean the deity you personally worship - to do something for you.  I suppose it's an easy way for me to respond to your problems.  I pray for God (or gods) to help you. Better God than me, right?

Let's say I decide to help you by praying.  How do I go about doing that?  I go to a quiet place where I won't be interrupted.  It might be my home and it might be a church.  Maybe it's my car or just a quiet time at my desk at work.  Here I silently ask God to help you.  It takes me just a few seconds.  It doesn't inconvenience me at all.  It hardly requires any thought or effort.  It's done and I have done my duty.  I have prayed for you and now it's up to God to help you.

At this point you're sneering at me a bit.  You are probably downright angry.  "We get it, Rachel.  You don't believe in God.  You are just being contemptuous of my religion and I don't like it."

What I do or don't believe in, and why I don't believe  (and those subjects deserve posts of their own) are irrelevant.  Even if I did believe, I would hope I could do better than prayer.  Prayer is something that's between me and the gods of my choice.  I feel I need to involve the person I'm praying for a bit more directly.

I also find this idea of group prayer to be somewhat disturbing.  If you take up an issue with God and pray about it, a loving God should want to help you because He wants to help you.  This shouldn't be some kind of numbers game.  Does God say, "I don't want to help you when you pray to Me for that.  Wait!  There are other people praying for you too.  I think I will change my mind."

What happens if my prayers are ineffective.  What if God or gods has a different plan that doesn't include helping you the way you requested.  What then?

If you are hurt, if you are in trouble, if you are sick, if you are grieving, if you are distressed, then there is so much more I want to do for you.  Prayer is just a few seconds of my private time.  If you are someone I care about, then you deserve much more than me giving you a few thoughts separately from you.

What will I do for you instead of pray?

I will give you my company.  I will provide hugs and a shoulder to cry on.  I don't want you going through troubled times in isolation.  I will spend real time with you, talking to you either by visiting in person if I can, phone calls, or emails.

I will help you with chores or errands.

I will cook meals for you or bake you a batch (or batches) of your favorite cookies or cakes or pies.

I will do volunteer work if I can.

I will donate money. I will donate to a relevant charity for disaster relief.  I will donate to your GoFundMe.  If we are close I may provide you with direct financial support if I am able to.

All you have to do is ask.

But that's the crux of it, isn't it?  If you need help, will you ask?  If I offer help, will you accept?
If I'm not offering, why aren't you asking?

To me this shows just how isolated we have become from each other.  We say we don't have time.  We say we are busy.   We sit in front of our computer screens, complaining endlessly on social media about how stressed out our lives are.  Then one day we run across a friend in need and she says, "Pray for me," and we respond, "Sure, I'll pray for you," and the transaction ends.  Prayer is said and we go on with our lives, hoping God heard and will fix whatever the problem is.  We feel smug about our good intentions, but what are we really doing for each other?  Platitudes and prayers on social media have replaced meaningful human contact.

We are afraid to reach out and ask for help because our loved ones are all too "busy" complaining about their lives on social media.  We don't say what we really need.  We don't offer more help because our friends and family aren't reaching out.  Ask for a prayer.  Say a prayer.  Let something else sort it out.

Can't we do better than this?  If you're going to go to church, don't just pray.  Volunteer in that church's disaster relief efforts.  Visit your friends and family.  Call up a loved on to check on him.  Send whatever donations you can.

I'm not just going to sit on my butt and pray.  God may have another agenda other than answering my prayers.  If I want to make a difference in the world, it's up to me.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Modest Proposal: How To Remove Confederate Memorials

The Civil War was a black stain on our country's history.  Half of the states in the United States committed an attack of treason against our country and attacked us for the right to no longer be a part of us.  Their motivation for doing so was so they could continue their horrific abuse of human rights in the form of slavery.

We should never forget the Civil War, but we shouldn't glorify it.  Heroes of the Confederacy should not have a place of prominence in the public square.  We should not be honoring their efforts.  They betrayed our country and they lost badly.  Many of these statues and memorials were erected in the 20th Century rather than during or after the Civil War.  This reverence for the era of slavery and the violent protection of it, happened during the height of Jim Crow laws.  These memorials were meant to be a reinforcement of institutionalized racism

It makes sense for decent people to want them down and placed in a museum rather than in the public square.  Sadly, there are hordes of Americans who don't see it that way.  I am hearing the never-ending  Republican cry of "Political Correctness" and "Stop being offended."  The more one tries to bring racism into the equation, the harder the right will dig in its heels.

How do we get this statues removed?  It's simple.  Liberals have to advocate for them being kept in place.

First get the ACLU involved.  Make it about southerners' rights.  Regressives hate the ACLU, so if they start advocating for statues staying in place, you can get a crowd of neo-nazis will want them down.

Next, just make all liberals advocate for the statues.  Liberals want to be empathetic to the poor southern losers who want to remember their fruitless wars.  I'm so sorry you lost.  You can have your statues if it makes you feel better about yourselves.  Here's a hug.

Liberals can also take the history route.  The Confederacy is a major part of Democratic Party history.  Democrats want their history preserved too.  Liberals are owning up to their repugnant, racist history?  We won't give them the satisfaction.  Let's take those statues down.

Whatever liberals want, regressives want the opposite, so let's leave those statues up.  If we advocate for them staying up, they will come down tomorrow.

What I don't get is the sudden panic about removing the Statue of Liberty.  Let's consider a couple of points about the statue.
  1. She's French
  2. She welcomes immigrants to the country.
 I'm surprised the Republicans didn't advocate for her removal years ago.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Finally Reviewing The Ms. Collection

Anyone who has read style posts on this blog knows I love to shop in theory, but find it frustrating in practice.  That's why I am often pursuing online services that have stylists pick out clothes for me.  I have done multiple posts on StitchFix (I have ordered a few boxes since my last review post with varying levels of success) and the now-defunct Keaton Row (I think they ruined their own business model).

My most difficult problem with buying clothes in the past three years has been weight fluctuations.  I joined StitchFix after a major weight loss, but a year later I was gaining again.  Fit issues continued to be an issue with Keaton Row.  I went from a size 8-10 to a size 6-8 to a size 10-12 in a short period of time.  I'm back down to a fairly steady size 10 now, but I'm working on going back to the 6-8 days.  I have had to buy multiple sizes of clothes to accommodate all of these weight fluctuations.  It means I have assorted items of clothing that are too large or too small.  I don't know what I should keep and what I should toss anymore.

I decided my best way to keep my wardrobe fresh would be to rent clothes.  A rental service would provide me with a constant influx of new items and I wouldn't have to commit to any of them.  There is no uncertainty in a rental service.  I don't have to worry if the dress they send will fit me in six months because it will go back in six days and I receive another dress next week.

I had four options for clothing rental services.

Rent the Runway is the most expensive of the bunch.  For a monthly fee I can choose designer items of my choice from their inventory and keep them as long as I need to. 

The main drawback of this service is the price.  The monthly fee is steep.  There is also no guarantee the clothes and accessories I want will be available when I want them.  I would consider this service for a one-time occasion rental, but the subscription doesn't seem worth it even though I know the clothes are fabulous.

Le Tote is the most well known downmarket rental option.  Unlike StitchFix, you have some control over what they send you, although not as much control as Rent the Runway.  With LeTote you can view their inventory and choose items you like, but you may not receive them (but receive similar items). 

I chose not to use this service because I read too many online reviews complaining about the quality of the clothes.  Also, the items users chose often didn't make it into the boxes anyway.

There is also Gwynnie Bee.  This is aimed at plus sized women and seems well-liked around the blogosphere.  It starts at size 10, so I could hypothetically use the service with no fit issues.  I am trying to get below that size range though, so I optimistically decided not to go with this service.

I decided to to with the Ms. Collection.  They have the same fun surprise element as Stitch Fix, carry decent, mid-level brands (the stuff you might find at the malls and department stores like Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Vince Camuto, J. Crew, and Kut from the Kloth), and offer both casual and business options.

When I first decided to subscribe, I looked online everywhere for reviews.  Unlike StitchFix, there aren't many women reviewing the service in the blogosphere.  Many of those reviews are negative with complaints about bad choices and poor quality.  I did manage to find one positive review in the group.  One would think the lack of good reviews would keep me from subscribing, but I was too curious.  I came to the conclusion that there weren't enough reviews out there to know what the service was like without trying it.  On the other hand, the bad reviews of Le Tote were too numerous to ignore.

The Ms. Collection offers three levels of subscription.  They have a "Ms. Play" ($39 per month) collection that provides 3-4 pieces of casual clothing, a "Ms. Business" ($49 per month) collection that provides 4-5 pieces of work clothes, and as "Ms. Combo" ($113 per month) that includes 6-7 pieces from both collections.  It also includes accessories like scarves, bags, and jewelry if you indicate in your profile you are interested in receiving these.

I started with the Ms. Business pack, but this spring I decided to upgrade to Ms. Combo.

After these many months of subscribing, I have mixed feelings.

I do believe the stylists pay attention to feedback.  One time they sent a blouse that I thought was cute, but was too see-through and too large.  Two packs later I received it again in a smaller size and with a camisole to wear under it.  They have never neglected to send a camisole with sheer blouses since then.  Another time they sent a top I loved in February that I thought was not seasonally appropriate and wouldn't look good layered under a sweater or jacket.  I asked if I could revisit it in the spring.  I received it again in April.  If I say I like a piece, but it was the wrong size, they will sometimes send something similar in a different size.

In general there is always at least one piece in every pack I can wear.  This is an improvement over StitchFix where I have sent back boxes that have had nothing useful in them.

Here is a recent box they sent.

The stylists have a good general feel for my style. They know I like strong colors and floral prints.

In this pack I was only able to wear the burgundy top, the floral top, and the yellow top.  The yellow top was the only thing that fit me really well.  That's too bad because I don't like yellow. I have indicated this in my profile, but sometimes they slip a yellow piece in a pack.

I loved the tropical dress, but it was huge and hung like a sack on me.  The pants were way oversized.  The chambray dress made me look like a toddler wearing one of Daddy's shirts.

Thanks to my love of personal style blogs (I should address those in another post), I considered ways I could get creative with the chambray dress.  I thought I could wear it open as a duster.  It would have been a nice idea, but I wouldn't want to wear a chambray duster in July.  The stylists don't always pay attention to weather in their choices.

After receiving this particular pack, I realized I had lost some significant weight.  I congratulated myself and adjusted the sizes on my profile.  The clothes are fitting me better now.

There are times I will receive a box that is boring and too much like previous boxes.  I will vow to end the service after one more box.  Then the next box will be filled with perfect clothes and I will decide to keep subscribing.

The turnaround time on the packs can be slow.  If you wear everything once, you might have the pack a week.  If you want to wear some items two or three times, you are stuck with the pack for longer.  You need to give it a week to mail the pack back and then wait another week for them to style another pack and send it out to you.  I average two packs a month.  That means I have to make sure there are enough clothes in my closet to wear between packs.

The other drawback of the service is you can't rent one item and send everything back.  I loved a skirt in my last pack and wanted to wear it multiple times, but the other stuff I was happy to wear just once or not at all.  I couldn't hold on to the skirt and send everything else back.  You have to rent the entire pack and send back the entire pack at once.  If I sent back everything in the pack but the skirt, they would have charged me to buy the skirt.

There is an option to buy any piece you love at a discount (it's used clothing after all).  I rarely buy anything from my packs because the whole point of using this service is I don't want to commit too much to my closet while I'm still losing weight.

I have been happy enough with the service to say I will hold on to the subscription until I lose 20 pounds.  I am about 5 pounds above that right now, so at the pace I lose weight, I expect to be subscribing another three or four months.  It has been useful.  I am constantly injecting a bit of freshness into my closet and I love the anticipation of a new box.  It's more environmentally sound to rent clothes instead of buy them as well.

I don't know if I would say outright I recommend the service.  It has its drawbacks and its advantages.    I can only say if you are considering it, to take a chance and find out for yourself.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Life's Little Annoyances (That sometimes don't seem so little)

Getting into an elevator with someone who just smoked a cigarette (or pipe, or cigar, or any other smokeable substance).

Having a piece of food - particularly a hard piece of food - stuck on your tonsils and the back of your tongue keeps bumping up against it.

Your passenger's left leg when you put your manual car in fifth.

Being stuck behind a slow walker on the streets of New York (and the people coming from the other direction are moving too fast to allow you to go around the slowpoke).

The slow walker above is smoking a cigarette.

Donald Trump's ugly face everywhere I look.

The crying baby in the apartment upstairs.

People who hold the elevator forever at their floor.

People who won't re-rack weights at the gym.

Bent bra hooks.

The View from the Plateau

I know health and fitness posts aren't the most interesting items I write.  I doubt there are many readers who want to know the narcissistic details of my health and fitness improvement efforts.  Nonetheless, every once in a while I do feel it's not a bad idea to discuss my progress and whether or not I'm making the right moves to achieve my goals.  I do hope it inspires some of my readers.  I'm sure there are many people out there with similar struggles who want to know what worked for me and what doesn't.   I felt my regular updates on my progress on the Lean Eating program provided some insight to readers who might be considering the program themselves.  I'm also sure there are people who are struggling with losing weight after recovering from an injury or illness as I was.

So now that I have made excuses for why I still continue with this boring and self-centered pursuit of writing about my body issues, I want to talk about the problem so many women face when trying to reshape their bodies:  The Dreaded Plateau.

At the beginning of 2017 I blogged about my determination to finally do something about the post-surgical weight gain.  The surgery was nearly 3 years ago.  I may still have some stiffness in my hip, but I am functioning normally.   There is still some pain in my elbow, but it is only aggravated by heavy pulling motions (I doubt I will ever attempt to do pullups again) or putting direct pressure on it.  I no longer have any excuse to put a full effort into my lifestyle improvement.

I enacted a few rules.  I reserved sweets only for special occasions.  I made sure all my meals were planned ahead.  I limited alcohol consumption by never drinking it in the house unless I was entertaining.

It worked for a while.  I lost about 11 pounds, but soon I fell back into my old ways.  I'd quaff a glass of wine or a cocktail at home.  I would give in to a sweet craving during slow afternoons at work. The weight kept creeping back on.  I wasn't looking any fitter.  My body still looked soft and flabby.

But the worst of the plateau came in the gym.   At first it seemed I was starting to make real progress. One morning I was at the gym and I was doing a heavy weight/low rep day.  I meant to do my front squats at 60-65 pounds.  I miscalculated the weight of the plates when I loaded up the bar and I realized after my first set or two that I was actually squatting with 70 pounds.  I wasn't squatting that much before surgery (I squat all the way to the floor in case you think that sounds light).  I couldn't believe how strong I had become.

Two weeks later I was back at square one.  I was working in the mid weight/rep range and decided I could do 10 reps at 60pounds  with no problem.  I couldn't.  I struggled.  I lowered the weight.  The next time I had a light weight/high rep day, I took the weight all the way down to 45.  I was not only not making progress, I was regressing.

Now is the time to start making the same self-pitying comments I always make about my poor genetics.  Here is where I complain about how naturally unathletic I am.  It's where I say for the hundredth time about how it takes me twice as much time to make half as much progress as a normal person does.  This is the point where I moan about how my body just loves its fat and doesn't want to give it up.  Woe is me.

Oddly enough, even though I throw a really good pity party, I know when it's time to pack it up.  I realized I had learned a lesson in the past few months. What I had been doing wasn't working anymore.  I had gone as far as I could go with the old rules.  If I wanted the old rules to continue working, I would have to adjust them and I would have to find other ways to stick to them.

Back in May I discovered the Whole Life Challenge.  This is an online weight loss "game" where you pay a small fee and track your nutrition, exercise, sleep, and other various lifestyle habits for 8 weeks.  The rules were strict.  I had to give up all grains, including corn, all sugar, and most dairy products.  I also couldn't drink more than one glass of wine per week.  The program worked on a point system where I started each day with 5 points and lost a point for every non-compliant food I ate.  I had tinkered with the Paleo* diet in the past and WLC depended heavily on the Paleo Diet.  I could do this.  I was capable of cutting out a few foods and occasionally taking a hit of a point or three when the occasion called for it.  Besides, the exercise requirements were light.  I only had to do 10 minutes per day.  That's not even a third of what I do on a regular basis.

I knew the WLC eating habits weren't ones I could make permanently, but I felt they would help me practice restraint and think more about my food choices.  It paid off and by the end of of the eight-week program I lost 9 pounds and had lost a total of seventeen pounds since the beginning of the year.  My ultimate goal is to lose a total of 34 pounds, so I came halfway to that goal.

Do I see a difference?  Sometimes I look in the mirror and I still see a fat girl.  Sometimes I see a fit girl.  I don't know what to believe.

This is Kevin and me in 2015 on the beach in the Greek island of Zakynthos .  It's less than a year after surgery.  I was still hurting too much to work out at pre-surgery levels.  My elbow was still pretty bad even after the expensive PRP treatment.

Here we are in Chincoteague in the summer of 2017 after spending a year and half working out the way I did pre-surgery.  I am about 15 pounds lighter.  I happen to be wearing the same bathing suit (as a coincidence, Kevin is also wearing the same bathing suit and the same hat).

Sometimes I look at this and see an improvement.  Sometimes I think it's just that I'm in a more flattering pose.  Do my arms and legs look smaller?  At least the surgery scars on my right hip have faded.

Isn't it strange  how I judge myself not just how I look but also how I judge only one type of athletic performance.   Maybe there is more to consider.

On my birthday I took a day hiking trip with my friends Rich and Mickey.  We went to a trail called Breakneck Ridge.  It was aptly named.   We chose it for its proximity to the charming town of Cold Spring rather than for its ease (or lack of ease) in ascent.  We read the trail was difficult, but we felt we could handle it. We had no idea of what we were in for.

The beginning of the trail is one continuous rock scramble.  It was tricky at times trying to figure out the best way up.  Sometimes the only way up that presented itself still seemed impossible.  I plowed ahead with every climb.  I wanted to get up those precarious parts as quickly as possible.  I wanted to be ahead of the slow climbers so they wouldn't slow me down.  I started out a bit cocky as I swiftly made my way up.

Then I came to a part of the trail that had only one possible way up and it was terrifying.  There was a large, flat slab of rock that was almost vertical with no obvious footholds and handholds.  I saw several climbers ahead of me having trouble with it.  Rich went up first.  Between Rich and Mickey and me there was a young woman trying to go up and having trouble.  I had to wait for her before I could keep going.  I found a ledge to the side to sit and wait.  From that ledge I could see the long descent down to the Hudson River.  I began to panic.  I felt that sense of vertigo one feels when confronted with dizzying heights.  I had confidently come this far, but I suddenly feared I would not be able to get over that slab of rock.  This woman ahead of me couldn't figure it out.  Why would I be any different?

Oddly enough, as she called up to her boyfriend who was on the trail above her and asked for help, he said to her, "Just follow her."  She looked over at me and said to him, "She's off to the side waiting for me."  I realized I was "her" and apparently other hikers noticed how adept I was at climbing.  It gave me a little bit of confidence that others saw me as someone who knew what she was doing (although if I looked down, that confidence would diminish).  Finally Rich helped pull her up and she made it to the next ledge on the trail.

It was my turn.  Going back down was not an option.  I had to get up over this bit of rock.  I couldn't even tell you where I dug in my foot or what I reached for.  I just did it.  I figured it out without even giving it much though.  I think I definite hoisted my leg up pretty high to the edge of the top of the rock and pushed myself up.  I had to be both strong and flexible to do that.  After waiting for several minutes watching someone else struggle, I made it over that section of the trail in a few sections with no assistance.

The view from that (literal) plateau?  It was breathtaking.  Breakneck Ridge is worth the crazy climb.

What else have I accomplished lately? I completed the Warrior Dash and thought most of the obstacles were easy.  This summer I took my first modern dance classes.  I took a tap class with a new instructor who is nothing like my regular teacher and who made it feel like I never tapped before.  I rented a bike in Chincoteague and realized how much better balanced I am on a bicycle than I used to be. (I can take my left hand off the handlebars without feeling like I'll lose control). I was having trouble with Riddle over the winter and stopped riding her for a few months, and started riding other horses to work on my skills until I felt I could communicate with her again.  I started riding her again in the spring and my ability to work with her successfully earned me a Rider of the Month award.  I can do so much.  I have overcome what I lost post-surgery.  I'm as fit as I ever was.  Why can't I be happy with that?

You have to climb to reach a plateau.  I had a long ascent.  It's time I just enjoy the view for a while. I know I can keep climbing again.

*I am not one of those weird, quasi-religious Paleo freaks.  I think the Paleo diet provides some useful guidelines for eating since it focuses solely on fresh food.  However, I also think legumes, grains, and dairy can have their place in a healthful diet.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Whovians Need to Get Over Themselves

"It's traditional."

"It's always been done this way."

If you want me to support your cause, you will never use these phrases with me.  I believe tradition can be more of a hindrance than a help.  Rigid adherence to tradition is a potential impediment to true progress.  If humans always stuck to the belief that things should be done one way because they have always been done that way, we would all still be living in trees.  Everything changes and moves forward and most of the time humanity is the better for it.

This doesn't only apply to the big issues.  It also applies to the small ones.  Pop culture needs to be refreshed and reinvented too sometimes.  If it didn't we would all still be watching vaudeville and the Keystone Cops and wondering why were were bored with them.

The grand tradition of Dr. Who deserves a face lift as much as any institution.  For the uninitiated, I will clarify that Dr. Who is a TV show that began in 1963.  The BBC created it as a way of teaching children about science and history.  It was about a mysterious, humanoid space alien from the planet Gallifrey who travels throughout time and space in a magical spaceship shaped like a phone booth called the TARDIS.  He solves complex issues throughout the universe using only his wits.  The show caught on with a broader audience.  Thanks to PBS, it found an audience in the US.  It was a cult hit.

Unfortunately the actor who played the Doctor became seriously ill and could not continue playing the role.  Rather than end the show, the writers came up with an ingenious plan to keep it going.  The Doctor is an alien with two hearts.  When he is close to death, he has the ability to regenerate into another form.  He would still be the same person with the same memories, but have a different body.  That body could be anything, but from 1966-1989, the Doctor always took the form of an eccentric, middle-aged (EDIT: Okay, not all of them were middle-aged), white, English man.  Audiences saw 8 of these men before the show was cancelled.

In 2005 the BBC decided to reboot the series.  Its old fans were nostalgic, and the emerging popularity of nerd culture among young people made it ripe for a new life on television.  In order to appeal to a younger audience, the producers began casting younger, hipper men in the lead role.

As stated in an earlier post, I had a long and complicated history with the show. The reboot helped shatter my expectations of what the Doctor could and should be.  The Doctor was no longer a middle-aged man in a funny hat.   He was a cool guy in a leather jacket.  When Christopher Eccleston left, the regenerations became even younger and more eccentric.  I enjoyed each of these regenerations.  Every actor brought something new to the role.  I never let myself get too attached to one Doctor.  I don't have a "My Doctor" (although if you forced me to choose, I'd pick Eleven).

When I heard Matt Smith was leaving the show, I started to think long and hard about the choices the producers had made in casting the show so far.  Sure the Doctors each had different personalities and appearances, but they all had one thing in common.  After fifty years, maybe it was time to make some changes.

"The next Doctor should be black," I said to Kevin as Matt Smith's departure became imminent.

"Or a woman," was his response.

I'm a progressive feminist kind of gal, but the idea of a woman threw me for a loop for a moment.  Why a woman?  Why not a woman?  Certainly a woman is capable of doing everything the Doctor does.  If you want to go by stereotypes and say that men have the brawn and women have the intellect and sensitivity, wouldn't a woman be perfect as a hero who defeats enemies with wit and negotiation?  Still my brain was as tied to the idea of a male Doctor as the producers and writers were.  It was difficult to envision.  But back in the 70s could fans of the show envision a young man in a leather jacket and jeans as the Doctor instead of a weird guy in a ridiculous scarf?

Whatever hopes I had of a radical change in the Doctor ended with the new season.  Tradition won out in the end and Peter Capaldi, an eccentric, middle-aged, white man was cast in the titular role.  Doctor Who had come full circle.

I liked Capaldi and what he brought to the role, but the Capaldi years have not been the most successful seasons.  Ratings are slipping.  My husband groans when I suggest we watch an episode of Doctor Who.  "The writing just isn't good anymore," he protests.  The show has lost its momentum.  Do we blame Capaldi?  Do we blame Steven Moffat?  Do we blame the fact that the show has been on the air for over 50 years and there is only so long you can play the same concept to the same audience?

Certainly women have played a stronger role in the show since the reboot and the show has played with the idea of a female time lord.  Throughout the first few seasons we learned the mysterious River Song, while a human born to human parents, has Timelord DNA due to her being conceived in the TARDIS.  We saw her regenerate from Amy's childhood friend, Mels to her final incarnation as River.  She must have regenerated at least one other time because Mels was black and she was a white baby.  In the more recent seasons we saw the Doctor's nemesis, The Master, regenerate into Missy, a woman.  The character became immensely popular and she is far more complex than the Master, who is portrayed almost as pure evil.

With Capaldi's departure imminent, the speculation that a woman would be cast as the next Doctor grew to a fever pitch.  There were speculations on potential actresses to play the role.  There were denials from the producers who said this wouldn't happen.

On July 16th, I received my birthday present of the notification of the next Doctor.  Jodie Whittaker, formerly of Broadchurch will take on the role..  It is an interesting crossover since the Broadchurch cast features two former actors from Doctor Who, David Tennant and Arthur Darvill. Also Season 2 featured  Torchwood alum, Eve Myles.  There was also speculation about Olivia Coleman playing the role, and I think that choice would have been equally legitimate.

Nerdbros have exploded all over the internet.  Apparently a woman isn't fit to play the Doctor.  The angry Twitterverse has provided several interesting reasons why. Much of that is pure sexism. Apparently The Doctor can't fulfill her role as savior of the universe if she's on her period.  (Do Timelords have periods?  Do they have human genitalia?  I suspect if she gets her period, she does what human women do.  She sticks a tampon up her hoo-hah, takes some Advil for her cramps, and carries on.)  She might cover the TARDIS in frilly decorations or cry when the Daleks threaten to exterminate her.  What if she breaks a nail or gets a run in her stocking? No matter how many strong women exist both in pop culture and in real life, there will always be sexist pigs who won't believe they are capable of heroism.

What is sadder than the sexism is the viewers who can't accept change.  We are back to doing things how they have always been done.  Doctor Who has always had men in the starring role, and that's the way it should be.  It doesn't matter that doing this eventually led to a cancellation the first time and slipping ratings the second.  Jodie Whittaker may be terrible in the role, but she may also be brilliant.  The show could go in new directions that will be fresh and unexpected.  She will have different relationships with her companions (and that's why I look forward to seeing the most).  She is breaking a tradition, but breaking tradition is what leads to progress and this is exactly what the show needs.

Embrace change, or lose what you love entirely.  Your choice.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Life's Little Victories

When I am on the train going home, I do not like to get up after I find a seat and sit down.  I want to sit down and immediately get my ticket ready and read my book.  I don't want to be disrupted.  I want to stay seated until the train reaches my stop.  This means I do what it takes to not have to move to let someone in my row.  If I'm sitting in the aisle seat, I will ask anyone requesting to sit in my what her stop is.  If that person is getting off before me, I will gladly take the middle seat.  It's is much easier than standing up, moving into the aisle to let the other passenger into the middle seat, and then getting up again at that passenger's stop.

Today I boarded the train and found an available seat in the two facing rows at the back of the car.  Two people were in this group of seats already.  One was sitting on the aisle and one was sitting at the window.  I decided to take the remaining window seat since I wouldn't have to move at all as other people came to sit in this row.  The passenger opposite me was an elderly woman of middle height, who, like most American adults, was significantly taller than I am.  I politely tucked in my stubby legs so they were a reasonable distance (for a train anyway) from hers and pulled out my book.

Another minute later, she moved into the middle seat.  It was obvious she couldn't bear to have my knees hovering just a few inches across from hers.  She needed to sit with no one close to her.

Along came a tall and portly teenager who took the aisle seat next to her.  His body occupied all of his seat and appeared to be spilling into hers a bit.

Then a statuesque and voluptuous woman, quite a bit taller than this elderly woman and significantly bigger and taller than I, sat in the middle seat.  There was some extreme leg tucking going on here to maintain that polite distance between knees.  The elderly woman did not look happy.

The train began to move.  Nobody came and sat in the window seat opposite me.  I stretched out my legs and smiled.

I tried not to smirk at the former occupant of the seat opposite me.

Ah schadenfreude!