The winner of the contest for the TARDIS/Starry Night necklace is Shannon O, who commented on December 12 at 12.45 p. Thank you to everyone who participated in the 13 Days of Doctor Who and especially those who took the time to comment! I love knowing I’m not alone when I cry the Ugly Cry for Vincent.
I am not a fannish person, unfortunately. I am often quite envious of my friends who are. Fannish people have different relationships to texts than those of us who aren’t, and I often thought that I was missing out on something ineffable because of it. It took watching Vincent and the Doctor for the first time to convert me.
Tony Curran as Vincent Van Gogh, looking like he just stepped out of that self-portrait.
A little bit of plot – and be warned, there are spoilers from here on. The Doctor and Amy Pond have decided to visit the Vincent Van Gogh exhibit at the Musée d’Orsay, and during their turn around the museum the doctor spots something off in one of Van Gogh’s paintings. A monster is peeking out one of the windows at The Church at Auvers. Clearly, the only choice the Doctor has is to go to Provence in 1890 to Fix It. The Doctor buttonholes the docent, a delightful Bill Nighy, and after a moment of mutual admiration for their bow ties (“Bow ties are cool,” he insists to an unimpressed Amy) finds out the exact date Van Gogh painted the church. Fwoop fwoop, and they are off in the TARDIS.
One of the chief joys of this episode is the art direction. The Doctor’s Provence is an Impressionist wonderland, from The Café Terrace at Night where they find Vincent, identical to the painting in Amy’s guidebook, to Vincent’s Bedroom in Arles, the room with sickening angles, Vincent’s yard full of sunflowers thanks to Amy (“I don’t even like sunflowers,” Vincent says, to their surprise) to the night sky transforming into The Starry Night as Vincent describes it. The viewer sees the setting not as it really looks but through Vincent’s eyes.
The episode’s plot isn’t anything new or groundbreaking. After finding Vincent in a cafe, trying to barter the paintings no one wants for just another drink, The Doctor and Amy stumble upon a woman who has been killed. Turns out, an invisible alien monster is rampaging through the wheat fields, killing people indiscriminately, and only poor mad Vincent can see it. (In a neat trick, occasionally the viewer can, too.) The Doctor pulls out a gift from his “smelly godmother,” an apparatus meant for him to wear with a reflective surface that identifies the creature as a Krayfis, which looks like an overgrown, horse-sized chicken. With a lot of teeth.
It’s scarier than it sounds, I promise.
The Doctor spends the rest of the episode getting tossed around by the Krayfis or fighting it with his back turned so he can see it in the reflection. Vincent descends into madness and emerges again, changing from a snarling beast who can’t get out of bed to a jovial painter out for a stroll. Finally, he defeats the invisible monster (totally not a metaphor, am I right?) with the sharp points of the legs of his easel.
(NB: This is where I begin to weep, by the way, when The Doctor soothes the Krayfis as it dies. The monster is invisible, people. And yet.)
Vincent and the Doctor could have ended there, not much more than a monster-of-the-week episode set in a historical period. (As an aside, did you know that the reason there are so many historical episodes of Doctor Who is because that helped make it more educational for children? I always thought it was because there were, like, a million historical costumes stuffed in the back of some BBC lot somewhere.) The episode itself doesn’t touch much on Series 5’s overall plot, aside from some references to Amy feeling like something was missing. (That something was her beloved, Rory, who had been sucked into a crack in a wall and subsequently erased from her memory.) But instead the episode pushes forward.
Before leaving Vincent behind, Amy and The Doctor decide to show him what kind of legacy his artwork has had. “How come I’m the crazy one, and you two have stayed both sane?” he mutters, as he realizes the TARDIS is bigger on the inside. They arrive back at the Musée d’Orsay and lead him to the Vincent Van Gogh exhibit.
It is a revelation. The camera stays close on Vincent as he tries to take in the entire scene, a spacious room full of his paintings and of people looking at them. The Doctor strikes up another conversation with Nighy’s docent, while Amy maneuvers Vincent so that he can overhear. What do you think of Vincent Van Gogh? he asks, and the docent doesn’t hold back:
Well… um… big question, but, to me Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time. The most beloved, his command of colour most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.
By this time, of course, Vincent is weeping and I have switched from weeping to the Ugly Cry. Just sobbing all over and laughing because I’m being so ridiculous. But what a gift! What artist (and by artist I’m including writers, musicians, etc etc — we are going broad here) doesn’t dream that their work will have lasting merit? Who doesn’t want to be studied a hundred and fifty years down the line?
This, of course, is what the episode is truly about. What does it mean to be an artist? What does it mean to be mad? How does one inform the other? Is there any chance to get perspective on your own work? What would happen if you did?
After they drop Vincent, happier than they’ve ever seen him, back in 1890 Provence, Amy wants a trip to the museum again, this time to see all the other works that Van Gogh managed to paint after his trip to the future. “Time can too be rewritten,” she chirps, as she dashes up the stairs to the Van Gogh room. The Doctor follows along behind her, because he knows the truth: Vincent killed himself after all. Time can’t be rewritten. Amy’s face falls as she skitters into the room and realizes that there are no new paintings. The Doctor leads her to the painting of sunflowers in a vase. Where before it had only Vincent’s signature, now it includes a small notation: “For Amy.” She made a difference, but it was not enough.
What would it matter if you knew your work had merit? That in the future, someone would call you the greatest artist in history? Would it change what you do now? Does madness always win in the end? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I appreciate that the show makes me think about them. And that is precisely why I became a fangirl for the first time.
Prizes! We’ve got prizes!
First, we have the grand prize: a box set of Series 6 (the most recent!) on DVD. I am not ashamed to say I have been coveting this for myself. But my inability to enter the contest because of fairness is your gain!
To enter the grand prize giveaway, please leave a comment with your name and email address. You may enter once at every stop on the blog tour, for a total of thirteen chances. The Grand Prize giveaway is limited to the US and Canada, due to regional restrictions on the DVD. Individual contests will close at the discretion of the author, but the Grand Prize contest will accept entries on any site until midnight CST on December 24th. We will post the winner on December 25th, and notify the winner via email.
I am also doing an individual giveaway! Any comment you leave on this entry (don’t comment twice! Your comment will count for both contests and I won’t count two entries, anyway) will enter you in a drawing for this goooorgeous necklace:
I mean, really. Could I give away anything else? The necklace came from the lovely Bohemian Craftsody on etsy. The contest for the necklace will end, like the contest for the box set, at midnight CST on December 24. I’ll announce the winner on December 25. (Edited to add: while the box set is US/Canada only, I will ship the necklace anywhere USPS ships.) Also, if you have never commented on my blog before I will have to approve you first! Please don’t panic — I’ll be approving as quickly as possible.
Thanks so much for stopping by my entry! Make sure to check out all the others as we count down to The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe.
2011 hasn’t been the best for me. Nothing unexpected or catastrophic has happened, but it seems each season was marked by some of those periodic disappointments that you hope life spreads out over time, instead of sticking them in one not-so-great year. One thing that I’ve discovered about myself, though, is that I’m unfortunately an optimist. I like to try and remember the things I’m grateful for. It helps when I’m in an Eeyore state of mind.
First and foremost, the one event that has kept this year as a net positive:
My first nephew was born last week and he has already stolen my heart. Just look at him! I never had a chance.
I’m grateful I’ve had the time and space to explore my creative life without complaint from anyone.
I’m grateful for my small but wonderful group of close friends, who forgive me even (or especially) when I am flaky.
I’m grateful for new beginnings and second chances.
I’m grateful for my baby house and my two rotten cats, even if one of them has the diabeetus and the other is upset when her sister gets cookies and she doesn’t.
I’m grateful for my sweet husband, for so many reasons I would be making a list all day.
I’m taking a small break from blogging, I just realized. I’ve got lots of stuff going on, but I’m looking inward, not out. I’m sure I’ll be back soon, but if you miss me too terribly much, you can follow me on Twitter, where I can’t seem to shut up. Fair warning.
Things were just too quiet around here, I think. That’s the only reason that Mabeline, The World’s Most Expensive Cat, decided that it was time for her health to take another turn. Over the last few months, she just couldn’t get enough water. Some days, we were filling up the Auxiliary Water Bowl (Location, our bedroom, too close to my head while the cat is lapping at it desperately) at least twice. We started calling her Doris, after this picture that bubbled up through my Tumblr dashboard.
Turns out, if your cat is enjoying the fruits of the water bowl while not even bothering to stand up, it might be time for a visit to the Mean Lady Vet. I mean, yes, it’s hilarious, but also dangerous.
Mean Lady Vet (who is actually quite nice, but always puts TWMEC through the indignity of a thermometer in an indelicate place) suggested that Mabeline get a Senior Blood Panel, just to check everything out. I mean, I know that she was an adult when we got her eight years ago, but if we spent time thinking about the limited lifespan of our pets we might never get them at all. Senior, though. Nobody likes the equivalent of an AARP card, whether you’re my father or a cranky calico cat. Two days later, we received the bad news.
NB: Not my cat
It turns out that cat diabetes is fairly common and not, as I assumed immediately, The End of the World. To be fair, I kind of assume something is The End of the World about six times a day, but diabetes is allowed to vault to the top of the list, I think. I was dispatched to procure insulin and syringes. Name on prescription bottle: Mabeline the Cat Evans.
And then we had to learn how to give insulin shots. P was stalwart, and so was my mom, who came over to learn how to give the injections, too. I have a needle phobia, though, so I was probably more afraid than Mabeline as we jabbed her and filled her with saline solution.
(But Eliza, you say. You have holes filled with metal in your face. You have multiple tattoos. Aren’t those things, well, needle-riffic? To which I reply: I contain multitudes and also Xanax.)
The good thing is that, since we stuff her with treats so she won’t notice the jab, Mabeline has adapted to her new medication regime much easier than we have. Our days are marked in twelve-hour increments, now, and many watchful hours beyond that to make sure her blood sugar doesn’t get too low, my heart in my throat as I have to decide whether she is lethargic or just her lazy self. I have a bottle of Karo syrup in my cabinet, just in case. I’ve learned to roll the insulin bottle gently in my hands, the same motion I use with a bottle of nail polish, to mix the medicine in with the medium. To insert the tip of the syringe into the bottle, through some sort of self-sealing cap, and make sure there’s no air bubble as the liquid whooshes into the barrel. To hold her by the scruff, like a mother cat, so I can find exactly the spot to push the needle in.
I have the morning shift, to use the needle before I’m awake enough to think about the existential horror of what I’m actually doing.
We are doing what we can.
I have learned the importance of rituals, of focusing on actually doing something instead of what I would have done before, which is ruminate and panic and never stop thinking about what this means for Mabeline and for us as her caretakers. I’m really good at borrowing trouble, as my mother says, but this is an opportunity not to do that. To focus on what’s right in front of me, right now. To see how, even after a couple of days Mabeline feels so much better already, standing beside the side of my bed and demanding, via a series of chirps and manipulative purrs, to be placed up next to me, please. I have that with her today and that’s what counts.
The rest can wait.
They really could have used a more sensitive name for her cat scratcher.
I’ve written before about how eating gluten free has put a damper on my deep fried snacking habit. Well, not anymore! A deep fryer mysteriously fell into my cart at Target last week. Luckily it was on sale. On Saturday, we decided to try the chicken nuggets again, as well as making fried pickles.
Apparently fried pickles aren’t as well-known a delicacy as I thought. I definitely horrified Erica. They’re actually one of my favorite fried things, if I were to make a list — hot and salty and sour and crunchy. All at once.
The deep fryer wasn’t terrifying at all, which was a step up. There was no open flame to contend with. Now all I have to do is figure out what I want to fry next.
I wish I had known my August was going to be so boring when I started the August Break. No matter. Today, I got a pair of glasses that I ordered from one of the websites that periodically offers cheap specs. It was kind of a fraught endeavor, in the first place, because I had to guess at how they might look once I got them on. But I measured and ordered; thirteen dollars and four days later, they arrived. I’m still not quite sure what to make of them. They kind of look like the glasses my dad wore in 1959. They kind of look like I stole them right off the face of one of my art-school classmates last semester. At least I can see, I guess. My favorite part of this photo is the clear reflection of a still from King of the Hill, which we have been mainlining. It makes me nostalgic for home, in a good way.
Left to my own devices, I’m a night person. I am happiest when I stay up late, late, late and don’t emerge from my bedroom until around noon. My best writing comes at night; I’ve learned that when I try to force it in the morning nothing works.
Alas, this world just wasn’t built for people like me. Instead, I start my day with a trip to the train station before 8a, when the only thing I am good for is the liberal application of swears.
Last night I had a hankering for a banana Slurpee, after my friend Carrie had mentioned enjoying one. For various reasons, my night owl tendencies were allowed to flourish, and I convinced P to help me search for one. We made a circuit of the suburbs nearby until we found a 7-11 that had banana on tap. I felt like I was in college again, when the best cure for boredom was a trip to the 24 hour drugstore and as much hair dye as we could afford.
The reality of the Slurpee turned out to be underwhelming, to say the least, but that wasn’t the point, really.
P feeds the cats at 10p. We adopted this policy after feeding them in the morning led to earlier and earlier wakeups. As both P and I are confirmed night owls, this clearly would not do. I have learned that cats have an unerring inner clock. At five minutes after ten tonight, Amelie decided that she’d spent enough time waiting on us lazy humans. She hopped up on the couch and applied herself wholeheartedly to being a pest.