Monday, August 27, 2007

Cultural Osmosis

I'm soooo close to finishing this book. In fact, if I'm very, very good today and get excited about it, I might even pull off a marathon and finish the first draft today! Of course, I already know a bunch of things I want to change when I revise it, but I'll deal with that after the first draft is done.

My hair experiment had an unexpected result. I'd thought that doing without conditioner or styling products would result in a frizzy mess, but it was almost the opposite, and I suspect that had something to do with the French braid. The crown above the point where the braid started was a kind of frizzy halo, then most of my hair was just slightly wavy, with the ends very curly. The hair did start to curl up more after I took the braid out, and I imagine I would have had a huge, frizzy mess if I hadn't done the braid. But now I know that my heroine can survive without looking too hideous if she just braids her hair when it's wet.

I did go ahead and order my book completion reward of Doctor Who DVDs last week, and it's a good thing I did, since the estimated delivery date is more than a week from when I ordered them. They haven't even shipped yet, with the status at "carrier notified to pick up shipment." I may still have a personal vendetta against that B-word chain with an online store, but generally, if they had something in stock, you got it within about three days of ordering it, and that was with the free shipping. I bit the bullet and paid for standard shipping from Amazon, since their free shipping had an estimated delivery date of more than two weeks after I ordered and their price was so much lower to begin with, but now I know not to order from them when it's time-sensitive. Most of the time, it isn't time sensitive, but when you want to watch something on a particular weekend, it is nice to be able to get it within a week of when you order it. I guess they're trying to force everyone into Amazon Prime, but that's more expensive even than the B&N membership, and I don't order enough stuff online that I simply must have delivered right now to make that pay off. Maybe with this order I should have just joined the free trial, and then cancelled it.

Speaking of Doctor Who, I'm a relative newcomer to that universe, and yet I feel like I'm pretty steeped in knowledge about it, which is very weird. Before the revived series, the only times in the past that I'm absolutely sure I watched it were the Fox TV movie in the 90s and the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college. That summer I was interning in Houston at a news bureau and working nights and weekends as a restaurant hostess. Because we were a family-oriented restaurant in a suburb, our dinner rush tended to hit early, between about 5 and 7:30. The hostess was the first to be cut for the night when the rush slowed enough that waiters could take over seating people. That meant I got home and collapsed on the sofa just in time to catch the public television airing of Doctor Who, where they showed an entire story arc as a kind of movie in one night. My memories of what, exactly, I saw are kind of hazy, as I was watching on a 13-inch black-and-white TV I was "storing" over the summer for my dorm roommate. I'm not even sure which Doctor it was. I have a vague impression of it being Tom Baker, as that's who I most associate with the role, but this was the late 80s and that would have been way behind, but then they could have just been rerunning older episodes.

And yet, I seem to know way too much about this series. There's so much that's familiar to me, and was, even before that summer. For instance, there was a guy on my dorm floor in college who had one of those long, striped scarves, and I knew it was a Doctor Who scarf (and I'm fairly certain he was around in my sophomore year). I knew someone with a TARDIS coin bank, and I recognized it. When I was watching Doctor Who that summer, I recall my reaction when I found it on TV as being, "Hey! It's Doctor Who! Cool!" And I've caught a lot of the references to the classic series that are in the new version. For instance, when Sarah Jane showed up last season, I recognized her immediately and even had a fairly vivid mental image of what she looked like when she was on the show. I was thrilled to see K-9. There's a big classic reference in one of the episodes later this season that I got to see when watching with some friends earlier this summer, and I actually squealed out loud when it came up -- but I don't know how or why I know that.

It's entirely possible that we did watch some Doctor Who when I was in college, since that's the kind of thing our group would have done, but I don't remember doing so, and I have vivid memories of us all cramming into someone's dorm room to watch Star Trek -- the original series every afternoon right before dinner my freshman year, and then later The Next Generation every weekend when it started during my sophomore year. (I know there's at least one of y'all around here -- help me out!) My parents are fans of the new series but have no recollection of having seen it before, so chances are pretty good I didn't watch it at home before college. We had one television, and we generally watched everything together as a family. I wouldn't expect them to remember details about everything we watched, but you'd think that a series about traveling through time and space in a blue police call box would ring a bell. So how do I know all this stuff? Is it some sort of geek cultural osmosis, so that by hanging around with people who have been into it all along, I'm absorbing aspects of it -- kind of like the way I could practically quote the entire film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail before I ever actually saw it? I'm sure there were dorm cafeteria dinner table discussions that had Doctor Who references woven in, but then that wouldn't explain how and why I recognize images.

I imagine that this is kind of what it must be like to have partial amnesia, or maybe even Alzheimer's disease, where something seems incredibly familiar to you, and you seem to know quite a lot about it, but you have no memory of meeting that person or learning that thing -- like, "I know who you are and why you're important, but I don't remember meeting you."

While thinking of this, I've had a vague mental image of Daleks on the TV set in my best friend's basement rec room during the summer between fifth and sixth grades. That could fit, as that summer may be the one time in my life before I left home when I would have watched something without at least one of my parents around. That summer, my mom got a job and my little brother was in nursery school, so I, as an incredibly responsible 10-going on-11-year old, got to stay home alone during the day (we were on a military base and it was an entirely different world then). We had one TV station in English that worked on American-format TVs, and during the day, aside from a short block of soap operas, they ran a lot of old American TV series, mixed in with stuff they got from British TV. It's entirely possible that they could have shown Doctor Who as part of their daytime summer programming. My best friend's older sisters went to boarding school in England and were home for the summer, so it's possible they would have been in the basement watching Doctor Who while we were playing in there, and then I might have watched it on days when I wasn't outside playing or over at a friend's house.

I don't remember it specifically, so I definitely didn't get deeply into it, but at that age, I didn't get deeply into anything that didn't have a cute, youngish guy involved. As awesome as Tom Baker's Doctor was (and that was right in the middle of the Baker era), he wouldn't have counted as a cute, young guy to me at that age (now, if it had been the current Doctor, I'd have been all over it). My big obsession that summer was Daktari, since in a lot of the episodes there was a cute, young vet, and I was very disappointed when they showed an episode he wasn't in. I do know for sure there was at least one British science fiction series on in the afternoons, so it would make sense for Doctor Who to have been programmed with it.

And speaking of that, since I believe there are a fair number of residents of the British Isles reading this, maybe you can help me name this series. I've Googled and Wikipediaed myself to death and can't find any evidence of this series, and it's driving me crazy. The series would have been on AFN in 1978-1980 or so, but it could have been several years old by the time it made it to AFN. It was shot on video and had a special effects budget of about a dollar per episode, so it had a similar "look" to the early Doctor Who episodes. From what I can recall, the story involved an alien spaceship landing near a British small town or possibly suburb. The aliens were a kind of Amazonian society, where the women were strong, aggressive and in charge, and the men were all weak, wimpy and subservient. The aliens really upset the social order in the town, encouraging all the bored housewives to rise up and take a stand. It seemed lovely at first, but there was something darker going on, and an underground resistance movement formed. At some point, some members of the resistance managed to travel to the aliens' home world, where they saw that the society was based on slave labor, and they led an uprising. The alien women wore metallic jumpsuits that looked like something ABBA would have worn in concert in that era, and they had the Farrah Fawcett hair with the wings on the side. I think it was a Thames TV production, as I recall that logo appearing at the end of episodes. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

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