For my birthday, would you be so kind….

emily-and-daddy-cropped-13September 21 is my birthday.

It is also the second anniversary of the execution of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia, and also day #921 in the Syrian civil war, which has forced about six and a half million people to run from their homes into an unknowable and deeply frightening future.

Every year on his birthday, actor Nathan Fillion (Buffy, Waitress, Castle, and most importantly: Firefly) asks people to give to his favorite water charity; it’s a lovely thing, and some years, I’ve even done as he asked. And so, inspired by Mr. Fillion, I’ve decided to do a similar thing, if on a much smaller scale (I mean – I know you love me as much as you love Nathan Fillion. There are just a few million fewer of you. Is all).

If you enjoy this blog, or my writing over at The Daily Beast, or the piece I just ran on xoJane (of which, by the way, there will be more in the future), or if you like my Tweets, or, heck, maybe you know me personally and maybe I make you laugh every now and then — and if you have a little spare dosh to pass around — please consider celebrating my birthday in one of the two following ways:

  1. troy davis suitIn Troy’s memory, please purchase I Am Troy Davis, published this week and written by my good friend Jen Marlowe and Troy’s sister, Martina Correia-Davis, who died of breast cancer soon after her brother was killed. It’s the story of Troy, his remarkable family, and the on-going struggle to end the death penalty. (And not for nothing, but Jen is a hell of a writer). Can’t say it better than Susan Sarandon: “I Am Troy Davis is a painful yet very important book” — unless it’s Maya Angelou: “Here is a shout for human rights and for the abolition of the death penalty. This book, I Am Troy Davis, should be read and cherished.” If you make your purchase through the non-profit publisher, Haymarket Books, it’ll cost you $18.
  2. There are more than six million Syrians who have run from their homes in fear. About two million of them have crossed international borders; more than four million remain within their war-torn country, trying desperately to get by. There is so little that we can do to reach out and help the Syrian people — but we can reach out to support the folks working night and day to support them: Please donate to the UN Refugee effort. This is how I’ll be honoring my own birthday, and all who have raised and loved me so far.

    Syrian refugees filling their buckets at Atmeh refugee camp, in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, Syria, Apr. 5, 2013 source

    Syrian refugees filling their buckets at Atmeh refugee camp, in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, Syria, Apr. 5, 2013 source

And hey, if you happen to be Nathan Fillion? Thanks for everything, man. And please celebrate my birthday with me.

What’s that you say? Firefly’s 10th anniversary is coming up?

What I want:

 

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What I might be getting (and which has just been made available for pre-order):

“But it ain’t all buttons and charts, little albatross. You know what the first rule of flying’ is? Love. You can know all the math in the ‘Verse, but take a boat in the air you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells ya she’s hurtin’ fore she keens. Makes her a home.” – Mal Reynolds

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The problem being that the former costs one hundred American dollars (I’m sorry: ninety-nine American dollars and ninety-nine American cents) and the latter, while a little pricey but not prohibitively so at $19.95, comes with a $9.60 shipping charge. And that just ain’t right. (For the record: I’m pretty sure that the $100 to-scale Serenity model is worth every penny. It’s just a lot of pennies).

I will say this though: Whether or not I decide to abuse my poor, post-bar mitzvah bank account for some sweet Firefly swag, I have a date marked (quite literally) on my calendar: November 11, the date of SyFy’s Firefly reunion special (“Browncoats Unite,” or some such) and day-long series marathon.

Do I own the series on DVD? Sure do. Could I stage a day-long series marathon all on my own if I wanted to? Sure could. But will it be better knowing that I’m watching with all the other Browncoats and awaiting the crown jewel that will be the special? Hell yeah! That will not only be shiny – it will be the shiniest. (No, I’m sorry. “The shiniest” would be: New episodes. “The second shiniest” would be: A second movie. Doing what I just described will be the third shiniest. Just so’s we’re clear).

Maybe I could dress like Zoe for the event!

I’m not sure I could carry off the look, though.

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I’m nice, but I’m no big damn hero.

 

Nathan Fillion makes me smile.

Do you like Nathan Fillion, rugged-yet-sensitive-Canadian-acting-person, of Firefly, Castle, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Horrible, and Waitress fame? Do you like to laugh? Are you, maybe — just maybe — a wee bit of a geek?

Of course you do, of course you do, and of course you are!

That being the case, you will understand why the following made me so happy. I give to you: Nathan Fillion guesting on a web series starring his friends (I think! I don’t know what it’s like to be Nathan Fillion’s friend. I can only imagine. And what I’m imagining looks like Canadian unicorns) Tim and Sam Daly, being — let’s face it — stinkin’ funny. And also, unavoidably, inevitably: Ruggedly handsome. He carries his curse well.

Four minutes and fifty-three seconds of sheer delight. Enjoy!

Firefly: In which I am, and remain, wholly bowled over.

Firefly characters, l-r: Jayne, River, Simon, Mal, Inara, Zoe, Wash, Kaylee, Shepherd

By one measure, I’m now about half-way through the pop culture phenom that is Firefly (as first referenced here). I’ve watched the pilot and all the episodes, aired and non-, in the correct, Joss Whedon-approved order, and last night saw the movie (Serenity). All rank among the finest televised/cinematic entertainment I’ve ever seen.

But (you ask, with justifiable confusion) if you’ve seen it all, Emily, how is it that you’re only half-way through? I’ll tell you how: Special features.

I’ve watched a few already (oh, Alan Tudyk, you were born to be Wash!), but many others remain to be seen, not to mention the commentaries — and if you know me at all, you know that I plan to watch it all.

So by another measure (sheer number of minutes spent on the couch), I may not have even made the half-way mark yet — let’s not forget: I did actually watch all (or nearly all — I lost track at a certain point) 45 hours of extra material on my Lord of the Rings DVDs.

Ahem. In for a penny, obsessive geeks, in for a pound!

So (you ask, again, justifiably) what the hell is so great about Firefly?

As you may imagine, I’ve been thinkin’ on that a spell. Hereunder, but a few of the reasons (in addition to the writing, acting, and directing, which: Obvs!):

  1. It’s actually silent in space. I know I said this over at anibundel’s place, but given that this is the first time I’ve ever heard — you know — nothing in space, it feels like a kindness on the part of Joss Whedon, and bears repeating. Because there’s no motherloving noise in space.
  2. The characters are people we’ve never met before (with the exception of Captain Mal Reynolds, who is the-handsome-loner-who-is-tortured-and-gruff-but-also-funny-and-moral — but Nathan Fillion plays the part so well, that his tortured handsome funny guy feels like someone you could actually meet someday). I think the real trick is that Whedon treated all of these characters as people, not devices with which to tell a story. The incredibly sweet and emotionally generous young woman who paints flowers over the door to her bunk is also a miracle-working mechanic who thinks sex is a terrific thing and couldn’t sound bawdy about it if she tried. The wise-cracking pilot who can near-enough thread a needle with his mad skillz (sigh, Wash…) is a bona-fide coward who envies his wife’s war stories. For but two examples.
  3. The women get punched. Stick with me here. The women in this world set 500 years in the future are as fully warrior (or non-) as the men, with the same training and ability to save themselves and their comrades (or not) — and while such a thing has occasionally been seen on film or television, it is always (almost always) one woman and one woman only, and that woman is highlighted in some way as to make clear that She Is Special. In Firefly, if a woman starts a fist-fight, she will be punched, no matter who she’s up against. And believe it or not, to me, that spells advancement — because it means women are taken seriously as genuine threats, not treated as delicate flowers.
  4. There are no knobbly-headed creatures. I say this with some care, because I am (after all) a Trekker through-and-through, not to mention the whole Star Wars thing, and both of those universes are positively riddled with the knobbly-headed (and furry, and green, and shape-shifting, and so on). But that’s just What You Do In Sci-Fi — there’s no real reason for it, other than that some of us like the notion that we’re not alone. Whedon managed to make a compelling sci-fi story in which hucksters are still trying to sell the human race on the notion that we’re not alone. Bottom line, the Firefly universe genuinely feels like a place in which we might all wind up in 500 years’ time, based entirely on the knowledge-base we now have, and the personality strengths and weaknesses that humans have always evinced.
  5. The ship looks like a piece of crap. I mean, I know they love it and all, but if you’re a motley crew of smugglers attempting to, essentially, duck the government you once fought for the rest of your lives? Your ship is gonna look beat up. And Serenity does.
  6. The ship’s name. Now, this is a piece of information I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t watched the deleted scenes, and it’s so crucial, that I have to count that as a black mark against Whedon (gasp!). The battle we see in the pilot’s first moments is a horrific one in which (we learn in the movie) some two-thirds of all combatants died — and it’s the battle that decided the war between the Alliance and the Browncoats, with whom Mal and Zoe fought. We learn at some point in the course of the series that this battle took place in Serenity Valley and that’s treated as significant — a possible sign that Mal hasn’t really made his peace with the fact that the Alliance won — but that’s it. In the deleted scene, though, Zoe talks about the battle’s gruesome details with newly acquired passenger Dr. Simon Tam, and as she leaves his room, he asks: “If that battle was so horrible, why did he name his ship after it?” Zoe looks at him for a second (bonus points, Whedon, for always allowing your characters to hold a look for a second or two!), then looks toward his feet and says “Once you’ve been in Serenity, you never leave. You just learn to live there.” And that, my friends – that is some deep shit.

There are, of course, failings as well. The biggest one (pointed out to me in the comments at anibundel’s) is that we’re meant to believe that the shared universal culture is essentially a mix of American and Chinese — to the extent that the characters all curse copiously in the latter — but there’s not a single Asian speaking role in the whole thing. Not.one. So, yeah, room for improvement there.

Perhaps one day, the stars will align, and Whedon will get a chance to address that enormous lacuna….

Sigh. One lives in hope. I think I recently detected a certain yes-iness to Whedon….

Pop culture? I’ll give you pop culture! Or: On friendships and the undoing thereof.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I have a little internet community among the commenters at Ta-Nehisi Coates’s blog at The Atlantic. There are people there who I count among my genuine friends, but who I would not recognize if we sat next to each other on the bus. Such is life in the future! One such friend, known online as anibundel, recently had to have some pretty major surgery done, and she asked a few of us to help out with her blog. Honored to be asked to guest on her site, I immediately said yes — but in the meantime, if you read the following, you will see that some trouble arose….

The Serenity Prayer in Chinese. You know who would be able to read this? Yeah, you know who.

Dear Ani,

I’m genuinely honored to be guesting on your blog, and I suppose the ethics of convalescing friends and guesting bloggers would normally prevent me from informing you of the following, but, I’m sorry, convalescing be damned, this is a moment of crisis in my life, and I have to tell the truth:

I really kind of hate you now.

Now, now, Friends of Ani! Settle down! My goodness, you are a loud and loyal bunch!

Give me a moment. I’ll explain myself, and by the end you will likely rally to my cause, browncoats to Ani’s Alliance.

Once upon a time I had a baby, and then I had another baby. As is often the case with the advent of babies, one or two things in my life gave way a bit — in my case, one of those things was watching TV. Some 12 years later, I still kind of barely keep up with one or two sitcoms and one drama a week, and maybe a little Daily Show. On most days, the kids make this not-inconsiderable loss worth it. Sorta.

Anyhoozle, back in 2002, this new show came on — “Fire”…something? — some show that all the geeks in my particular Tribe of Geekitude were worked up about — oh that’s right, “Firefly”! – and as wildly as the geek community embraced this thing — the lead was that cute-but-rugged actor I’ve seen a lot before, right? — all I ever got around to doing about it was thinking “I would probably like that” before BOOM. It was gone.

Well, if I gave you a list of all the movies and TV shows that have come and gone without me getting to enjoy them since the advent of Baby #1, that would be a very long list indeed, so the point is: I added Firefly to the list. And made my peace.

But then there was a movie, and I wasn’t sure why it seemed to be about The Serenity Prayer, but my geeks were happy, so yay! Good News! But I hadn’t seen the show, so of course I didn’t go see the movie. Once a geek, always a geek, and some things need to be done correctly or not done at all. I do remember that much.

Then my Blockbuster closed. We never signed up for Netflix. It never occurred to me to check my library. I hate watching whole episodes of anything on a computer monitor.

Yadayadayada, point is, here we are, 2011, and even though now I’m an enormous fan of Nathan Fillion, and follow Joss Whedon closely enough to know that he secretly (secretly!) filmed a version of Much Ado About Nothing this summer (starring Nathan Fillion!), largely because in the interim I became a huge Dr. Horrible head, which I somehow managed to watch on a computer monitor before most of the world had even heard about it, AND I own and proudly wear a t-shirt that boasts a Firefly catch phrase (this one, right here) — I still hadn’t seen so much as one minute of Firefly. And I was tootling along quite well without it, thankyouverymuch.

BUT.

…to read the rest of this stirring tale, please click here to continue on to Ani’s site! There you will find, among other things: A C3PO mash-up with Mexican culture, many pictures of adorable kittehs, recaps and analysis of various reality show shenanigans, and all manner of things that are WAY more fun than what you’ll find here most days of the week (though I do try to be entertaining. Now and then). Give her some love, people! Even though I hate her.

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