Videos

Reversing the polarity

As you might expect, I was thrilled with incoming Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall’s decision to cast Jodie Whittaker as the thirteenth incarnation of the time-traveling alien who has been saving the universe since 1963.

For those unfamiliar with Doctor Who: The premise of the show is that the Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, travels through time and space in a ship disguised as a 1960s police box, protecting the universe from various threats. When a Time Lord sustains a fatal injury, instead of dying, he or she regenerates into a new body.

Up to this point, much of the Doctor’s heroism has hinged on a combination of intelligence, audacity, and male privilege.

For 54 years, we’ve watched the Doctor infiltrate secure installations with little more than an imperious look and a mouthful of scientific-sounding nonsense designed to baffle people into deference. If the writers are honest, the Thirteenth Doctor will be in for a rude awakening the first time she tries that.

Consider: Twice on Facebook, I have put up Doctor Who-themed posts that included the phrase “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow,” which most Whovians will recognize as the Third Doctor’s catchphrase. Both times, men who ought to know better than to challenge me on anything — least of all a subject as dear to me as Doctor Who — have hastened to explain that actually, neutrons don’t have polarity.

No sh*t, guys. THAT’S THE JOKE. Seven years before Harrison Ford made the Kessel run in 12 parsecs, Jon Pertwee reversed the polarity of the neutron flow. Same humor; different fandom.

Pertwee’s Doctor could stand in a roomful of physicists, muttering about the polarity of particles with no charge, and nobody would question him. If a woman tried that, she’d be shouted down by the #WellActually brigade faster than you can say “Vortex manipulator.”

I hope the writers have the courage to address that head-on. The best sci-fi comes with a healthy dose of social criticism, and sexist microaggressions are ripe for it. Done right, this could yield some scathing humor while prompting much-needed conversations about the myriad ways women are marginalized on a daily basis.

Among the issues I’ve seen/heard raised in conversations this week:

* Pockets. Where is the Doctor supposed to keep her TARDIS key, sonic screwdriver, and Jelly Babies if all her clothes have inadequate pockets?

* Mansplaining. This is basically the Doctor’s superpower. Not only is she unlikely to get away with it in her new form, but she’ll probably be on the receiving end of it. How will she react upon discovering this regeneration has just reversed the polarity of the bullsh*t flow?

* Street harassment. We know how the Master would handle this, but how will the Doctor deal with being ogled, catcalled, or ordered to smile by some jackass she’s trying to rescue?

* Uptalking. The Doctor has spent decades speaking to strangers in an authoritative tone. If she sounds too confident now, they’ll ignore her or antagonize her. Will she have to frame all her orders as half-apologetic suggestions so she doesn’t threaten some pudding-brain’s fragile masculinity?

What other microaggressions might Thirteen encounter in her new body, and how would you like to see them addressed? Share your ideas in the comments!

Emily

P.S.: Comments are moderated, so if you say something misogynistic …

Theme for 2016

By all rights, this year should have been great. A lot of good things happened. But it seemed as if every good moment had a down side.

I paid off my station wagon early … because it broke down in April and I need it out of my driveway.

My Cubs finally won the Series … without Ryne Sandberg on the top step of the dugout.

I got paid to lead a bus tour down Route 66 to New Mexico … where I spent the final day of the tour holed up in an Albuquerque hotel room with the worst migraine I’ve had since 1986.

I bought knockoffs of an Eames Shell chair and a George Nelson Marshmallow sofa … to replace the Eero Aarnio ball chair I had to get rid of because it was contributing to chronic tension headaches.

I watched the most qualified candidate in the history of presidential politics earn her party’s nomination …

This whole year has felt like that.

Fortunately, the Grateful Dead were kind enough to write a theme song for 2016. They just didn’t know it was for 2016 at the time.

We will get by.
We will get by.
We will get by.
We will survive.

Emily

Who knows where the time goes?

“Before the winter fire
I’ll still be dreaming;
I do not count the time.”

— Sandy Denny

Ten years ago, trying to cope with the onset of winter and the quiet depression that seems to settle over me with the first frost and stay until the first baseball player reports to spring training, I decided to set up a blog where I could record whatever nature happened to be doing in my yard every day. I thought winter might seem more tolerable if I spent a few minutes in the garden every day, looking for signs of life.

A decade later, I’m still looking, and although there have been some periods of extended silence here while I worked on other projects, I keep coming back. In many ways, this blog has become a kind of touchstone in a life prone to sudden changes and unexpected adventures.

I can’t begin to list everything that’s happened, but it’s probably worth mentioning that since I set up this site one cold, clear night in Red Fork — a cup of Red Zinger at hand, a rat terrier curled up on the floor beside me, and visions of spring dancing in my head in lieu of the more seasonally appropriate sugarplums — I have lost twin nieces; gained two nephews and two nieces; lost and regained a career; spent four years teaching sophomore English, a job that nearly killed me the first time I tried it but probably saved me the second; lost Scout; gained Riggy, Walter and Lil Miss; painted an artcar; learned to play guitar (badly); moved 450 miles; gleefully turned 40; and last but certainly not least, written and published my first novel.

A decade later, it’s a cool, rainy night in Cape Girardeau as I sit at my desk 450 miles from Red Fork, a cup of Wild Berry Zinger at hand, a different rat terrier curled up on the floor beside me, and dreams of spring still dancing in my head. The details are different; the essence is the same.

“I have,” Sandy Denny once said, “no thought of leaving.”

Emily

Gather ’round, people.

We got the news.

Admit that the waters around you have grown.

This is the best news I have heard in a long, long time. As the former sponsor of Daniel Webster High School’s first-ever Gay-Straight Alliance, I cannot begin to explain how happy I am today. This morning, my kids — ALL of my kids — can marry the one they love, and would-be theocrats have nothing to say about it.

Emily

Eco-Saturday: Change your furnace filter

The old filter, left, and new one, right.
The old filter, left, and new one, right. Photo by Ron, who was kind enough to snap a quick iPhone picture last time he swapped out our filter.

Changing your furnace filter isn’t the most glamorous or visually stimulating Eco-Saturday tip you’ll ever get, but it’s an important bit of home maintenance that really shouldn’t be neglected.

A filter clogged with dirt, pet hair and other debris limits the amount of air moving through your furnace, forcing the blower to work harder, dragging down the energy efficiency and potentially shortening the life of your system.

If you’ve never changed the filter, go look at your furnace. Locate the existing filter (you’re looking for something that resembles the end of a long, flat cardboard box) and pull it out. Printed somewhere along one edge will be the dimensions — a series of three numbers telling you the length, width and thickness of the filter. Write down the numbers.

Put the filter back and go to the hardware store. Most hardware stores carry approximately forty-eleven billion different types of filters. If you have allergies, look for one designed to filter out allergens. If you don’t have allergies, buy whatever’s cheap; the differences in quality aren’t significant enough to make the expensive kind worth the extra money unless you have serious issues with indoor air quality. The important thing is to get the right dimensions, which is why you wrote down the numbers on your old filter. If those numbers don’t match, the filter isn’t going to fit right or function properly in your system.

Take your new filter home, pull out the old one, and put the new one in its place.

If you need a visual, here’s a pretty good YouTube video on the subject:

That’s all there is to it. The whole job takes about two minutes (20 if you count the time you spend going to the hardware store) and will save you a lot of money on energy costs. We change ours every season — the same time we test our smoke detector batteries and change the water filter on our kitchen faucet, which helps us remember to do it.

Emily