February 17th, 2008

Blow My Mind

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. NOW I get it.

I'm now one season into my viewing of the entire series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Today I'll return the Season One DVDs to the library so the next person can borrow and appreciate it.

I've dipped into Buffy before -- I saw much of the fifth season and some of the sixth season, in this window of time where I had both a TV and access to the stations that aired it -- and had been intrigued enough to want to see it from the start. It was already clever from said start. It was finding its feet dramatically -- I kept thinking "That couldn't happen unless there were almost no other people around" (really, a lot of times Sunnydale High seems mighty depopulated) -- but I kept being rewarded with the viewing.

And then the show happily surprised me, rewarding me more: I liked how the episode "The Puppet Show" messed with its structure, to throw people off so they wouldn't guess what was really happening. "I did not see that coming," I thought about the reveal of the possessed puppet's real motives, for example. (And that's a sign of confidence: the producers did a show with a possessed ventriloquist's puppet and made it work dramatically and emotionally. That's actually an affecting climax.) And this morning I watched the last two episodes of the first season, "Out of Mind, Out of Sight" and "Prophecy Girl," and remained impressed. For one thing, I really like Clea DuVall -- she was about the only person I liked in The Faculty, and her character in Girl, Interrupted is heartbreaking -- and to have her playing a gone-evil character was vivid. I mean, her character's invisible, and she still makes a strong impression. And her last line -- "Cool" -- is disturbing in context. Nicely disturbing.

And I got a little choked up and emotional at "Prophecy Girl." Poor Willow. Was that episode the first thing Joss Whedon ever directed? Because I like seeing signs that he's developing into an interesting director; I sensed that from the Buffy episode "The Body" and, of course, Serenity. He does good "oh, no" emotion.

I see the seeds of something very, very good here. I see what a lot of you guys see in this show. I am intrigued by its ideas and wish to subscribe to its newsletter okay, Chris, that's taking it a little far. But I like Buffy's real-world-but-still-soap-opera-y quality, where even an antagonist like Cordelia (and later, of course, Spike) shows unexpected depth. The good guys are trying to be good but not always 100% succeeding; the bad guys and the almost-bad-guys can be understood and sometimes honorable; and all of this doesn't feel like dramatic change for the sake of dramatic change. The show makers didn't seem to be going "Oh! We'll suddenly make this character good and that character evil!"

So I'm starting to experience something a lot of my fellow geeks have heartily recommended. Thanks for recommending it heartily.

(And one more thing: I'm glad that Buffy got to go somewhere dramatically, by having several more seasons, something that, of course, Whedon's show Firefuly didn't get. Question: Did Whedon and Co. originally hope to get at least one full 22-episode season of Firefly and got cut short by the network? Or was the first season only supposed to have 14 hours' worth of shows?)

I'm walkin', yes indeed

Or I was. Had I a Blackberry PDA thingy, I could be walking, and updating LJ at the same time, and I would be reveling in my multitaskingness right before I got creamed by an SUV. So it's good I'm not walking now.

Finally a good day for walking to enjoy the weather -- wispy clouds, shortsleeve temperatures, goodly amounts of sun, a nice light breeze -- so I took advantage of it. I hopped the bus to the Woodstock neighborhood, dropped off the Buffy DVD set at the library, and headed west again. I spent money at Safeway and Laughing Planet Cafe, having a good quesadilla with a silly name I won't repeat here, and then went farther west. I walked the Reed College campus; I last was there in early 2004 for Dr. Demento's talks and video shows, and I last explored the actual campus in spring 1991, when I considered going to college there. Nice to remind myself it's there and visitable. I sat next to the lake on campus for a bit, reading. (Earlier on the walkabout I finished Ursula K. LeGuin's Gifts and started the next novel I'd grabbed, Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Had I been perverse, I'd have gone on my long walk with a copy of The Long Walk.) I zigzagged home after that, past Reed dorms and over the Brooklyn rail yard, getting a slight windburn but being glad I was outside.

Overheard during this trip: "That's why I stripped out of my clothes? So I'd be cold enough to have a hot drink?" (Note: the young woman who said this was not in fact naked, Reed's reputation notwithstanding. She was wearing something with spaghetti straps. I don't know enough how to describe women's clothes.)

And seen on this trip: a low-rent gesture by a guy on the bus. He had a large coffee mug. He put a beer can in it (yes, that large), and he opened the can and started drinking from it in the bus. I was tempted to bump into him when deboarding so he'd spill and be caught. I resisted, though.

Oh, and I saw a spider outside a Reed dorm. I saw its web first, and then found it, and thought all right, warm enough to make webs. I like spiders. Well, most spiders.