Saturday, June 14, 2008

Slayage Conference: Some Fave Moments

And now, some of my favourite moments I forgot to mention earlier (I can hear you out there, by the way, "Oh my GOD, Nik, do you KNOW how to write briefly?) The short answer: No. (Hey, check me out... I gave a short answer!!)

After the initial keynote packed the house in the smaller seminar room (Sue and I were sitting on the stairs along with dozens of other people) they moved the morning keynote speeches to an amphitheatre, complete with spotty sound system and microphone. (I, on the other hand, delivered mine behind coconut cream pie... personally, I like my setup better!) When we walked out of the amphitheatre the first day, we walked down the halls, which had Greek flags hanging from the ceiling for all the sorority girls and frat boys. (Yes... the irony of discussing anti-frat boy Buffy eps like "Reptile Boy" and "Selfless" in an institution that was glorifying them was not lost on me.) In Canada, sororities and fraternities aren't celebrated in quite the same way. They exist, sort of, but they don't have their own houses. I still remember the first time I went to Georgia and we drove around to see the gorgeous mansions with the big Greek signs on the front lawns, and that was when I understood WHY people want to get into them. But anyway... my favourite moment in the hallway at Henderson was finding the pictures of "Miss HSU." I have no idea if a pageant is involved (I SO hope it is) but in these pictures the gals all have gigantic hair with tiaras glued in there, and big shiny dresses and the wide-eyed fake smiles that make the photos absolutely perfect. Sue and I snapped some photos (sadly, the photos were on her camera, and I don't have copies, so I can't post them yet... but I will).

I went into the smallish bookstore on campuses (at the universities I went to, the bookstores were the size of department stores). There were probably 15 or 20 people in the store, and you could tell where the Buffy books were because they were all crowded around one small area. It was a thrill to see my books in amongst the more scholarly ones (and people actually looking at -- and buying -- my book... bonus!) Because I couldn't get anywhere near the display, I instead went over to the fiction books and found this one, called Attack of the Theatre People. This was the back cover copy:

It is 1986, and aspiring actor Edward Zanni has been kicked out of drama school for being “too jazz hands for Juilliard.” Mortified, Edward heads out into the urban jungle of eighties New York City and finally lands a job as a “party motivator” who gets thirteen-year-olds to dance at bar mitzvahs and charms businesspeople as a “stealth guest” at corporate events. When he accidentally gets caught up in insider trading with a handsome stockbroker named Chad, only the help of his crew from How I Paid for College can rescue him from a stretch in Club Fed.

I so wanted it, but if it's a sequel to another book, I want to read the other book first.

Outside of the building, there were two women standing on the pavement looking at something and poking it with their foot. Sue and I are instantly drawn to people poking things with their foot, and we wandered over. It was one of those awful palmetto roaches... thankfully, dead. Now we got to see up close something we just wanted to be far away from us when it was alive. We described these horrible things to the women standing there, and I think we gave them the heebie jeebies.

On the night of day 3, Sue was determined to get a photo of these things. We went out onto the veranda for our hang-out session with the others staying at the B&B, and a dozen of the bugs came swarming out from under the table. Sue ran in the other direction, I stood and shuddered and lifted one foot after another, freaking out completely. I hated being the little fraidy girl, but I can't help it. If a snake slithered out in front me, I'd glance at it and go back to what I was saying. And yet the tiniest bug moving quickly can reduce me to a maniacal mess. I HATE bugs.

As we left the veranda, we saw one of the creatures sitting on a post, and Sue got out the camera. Someone quickly mentioned we needed perspective, and sat his bottle of Bud Light beside it, and she took the shot. It was awesome (as soon as the flash went off, the bug ran away. More squeals). David Lavery had told us the first night that he once was vacationing in a motor home of some kind, and he went out during the day and left all the windows (no screens) wide open. He got back, opened the door, and hundreds of these palmetto roaches descended from the ceiling. I think, quite honestly, I would have just passed out from sheer panic.

Other favourite moments: A line Sue and I repeated often throughout the weekend: "What happens in Arkadelphia STAYS in Arkadelphia." What possibly embarrassing thing(s) could have happened to have made us repeat this over and over? Wouldn't YOU like to know.

During one dinner chat, Ian asked us if we'd seen the crazy Brenda Dickson videos on YouTube. Sue asked if Brenda Dickson was the actress from Y&R. Ian looked stunned, and said he'd never met anyone who actually knew who this woman was outside the videos (one thing you must know about Sue... she knows the real names of every actor on every soap... I could watch a soap for 20 years and not know the name of the person, but not Sue: she makes it her mission) so that was funny to begin with, but then he began doing his impression of these Welcome to My Home videos, and they sounded brilliant and crazy. He said there were a bunch of parody videos, and I asked why anyone would have to parody them if they were self-parodies to begin with, and he said you just have to watch them. So I did, and I couldn't stop laughing. You can watch them on Ian's blog here. I think "vajine" is my new favourite word. I wish Ian would do a video himself, because a lot of my laughter was remembering his impersonation of them, which was deadpan and hilarious.

The first day of the conference, we were desperate for a place to have lunch. We'd heard about Sonic, which is apparently a chain of drive-in burger restaurants, and we'd been told the waitresses roller-skate out to your car. We were also told if you didn't have a car, you couldn't go in. The guy who took us to our room at the B&B, this adorable kid named Chad ("kid," she said... man, I'm getting old) told us the Sonic was the closest place, and said, "Nah, y'all can go there if you don't have a car!" so off we went. On the way we were bitten by some cactus that was hanging out onto the sidewalk, and as we came down the hill, there was Sonic.... and Ian and Ryan sitting there! So we sat down and went over to the speaker and it was so weird giving our order without sitting in a car. I must report that contrary to what I'd been told, the waitresses did NOT wear roller skates. Wah. We all began discussing this interesting building across the street that was called "God's House." The worst part? It was empty. Eep.

At the banquet where I gave my keynote, we were told that of the 8 metal hot pans of food, the first one had the vegetarian dish in half of it. I leaned over to Ian and Ryan and joked, "And the other half is meat!" And guess what... the other half was meat! Seven other trays and they couldn't have put the mashed potatoes on the other side of the vegetarian tray? Sigh...

After the dinner and my speech, Rhonda and David passed out lyrics to Once More With Feeling, and we sang the entire thing as a massive group. It was AWESOME. I've been to some Buffy singalongs before, but this one was so much fun (and I belted it out a little too much; I was hoarse for the rest of the weekend). My favourite part (and the moment I knew this was a group of Buffy fans I was deeply in love with) was when we got to the part where Dawn says (as I've mentioned already in another post): "The hardest thing in this world is to live in it" and as I've always done since the first time I watched that episode, I muttered, "Shut UP, Dawn." Much to my surprise, half the room said it at exactly the same time!!


Oh, and in another funny moment at the banquet, Matthew Pateman was awarded the Mr. Pointy Award, and was told ahead of time he couldn't make any obscene jokes about what it looked like. He simply took it, stood there for a moment, and said, "I'd like to thank my father," and sat back down. Ha!

In David Lavery's talk on Joss Whedon's work in film, he gave a great quote from Joss: "Just because you're a script doctor doesn't mean every patient lives."

In Ian's speech on fandom, Tanya Cochran, who is the co-editor with Rhonda Wilcox of a new Firefly/Serenity book that I picked up while I was there (definitely worth it: it contains essays by many of the people at the conference), began talking about a YouTube series of videos that parody Angel, and they're called "Cherub: The Vampire with Bunny Slippers." You can check out the trailer here, and it looks pretty funny.

Sue and I drove back to the airport with Matthew, who generously offered us a ride in his rental car. Afterwards I said to Sue maybe we should give him some money, since he had to pay for the rental and gas and all, but then we realized we only had American or Canadian, and he wouldn't have much use for either. So, next time I see him, I'll buy him a couple of beers. Unless the conference is in a dry county again. In which case, I'll spring for some gigantic onion rings.

I'm not sure if I mentioned Kevin Durand yet... he was the organizer and the guy who hosted it at his college, and he was aces, as I told Rhonda. I can't believe how smoothly the whole weekend went. The poor guy was run off his feet; every time I saw him he was rushing from one place to the next with a cellphone attached to his ear, and I'm not sure he got to see any of the papers. (I hope he did.) I kidded him in the beginning that he had the same name as an actor on Lost, and as Keamy became more important to the storyline, it became an onrunning joke. Between organizing this conference and flying between Arkansas and Hawaii, Kevin's had his hands full for sure. Thank you so much to Kevin and his army of amazing volunteers, especially Jeremey and Brent, who I probably chatted with more than any of them. They were all incredible.

I must say the Little Rock airport boasts the nicest airport security I've EVER met. Usually airport security people absolutely ooze with hatred for everyone passing through, but the guy who put my luggage through to cargo couldn't have been kinder, and the woman who scanned my passport with her UV thingie asked how I'yall was doing, and told us to have a nice trip. The man who gave us our boarding passes saw we were from Ontario, looked again to see that we were going to Detroit, and said, "So what will y'all be doing in Detroit, walking across the border??" and he laughed. Sue replied, "Nah, we'll probably jog."

Our plane got in early, and then proceeded to sit on the tarmac for over an hour. Argh. I've never had that happen before, and to make matters worse, it was during a freakishly close lightning storm (by close I mean we saw a bolt hit a couple of runways away, and I undid my seatbelt and pulled my arms close, not wanting to touch any metal of any kind.

Once we were inside the airport, we went straight to luggage, where our luggage was right there, grabbed it, and were heading to the parking lot when I said to Sue, “Man, if that damn plane hadn’t sat on the runway for that long, we’d have been halfway home by now!” I’d written down where our car was parked, and we got off the elevator, went straight there, et voila, car! I hit the keyless open button on my key… nothing. Hit it again. Nothing. Tried the trunk. Nothing. CRAP. I’m thinking that maybe the x-ray had desensitized my key, and it’s the only key I’ve got, how the hell will I get back home?? I call my husband, and ask him if he thinks the alarm will go off if I try to open it with the key (usually if you lock it with the keychain, it won’t open without the alarm going off). He said he didn’t think so, so I tried it. It didn’t go off. And that’s when I noticed the interior lights didn’t come on either... battery was dead. ARGH.

The irony? The battery died because I left an interior light on... a light I’d turned on so I could write down where the car was parked so we WOULDN’T BE STUCK IN THE PARKING LOT. I was SO angry with myself, but it took less than 10 minutes for a guy in a golf cart to show up, give us a jump, and we were on our way.

Silly silly silly. So, my week away at the conference ended with a bit of a burp, but hey, no one knows I did it, right? This is just between you and me.

I got home and sneaked into the house, and into my son’s room. (Here is a picture of the little cherub… when I was 6 months pregnant with him, my daughter began calling him Pickle, and the name has, sadly, stuck. My dear friend Crissy – and fellow Buffy fanatic – made this shirt for him.) He was curled up in one corner of his crib, looking like an angel. My daughter, with her mop of curly hair, was equally perfect. The next morning I awoke to little arms being thrown around my neck and her kissing my face and saying, “Mommy! I missed you! I love you!” over and over. Ah... it’s so nice to have something like that to come home to.

Interestingly, the morning after my keynote, one of the attendees approached me and asked if I could send him my paper, and he explained that unlike me, the high school thing in Buffy didn't appeal to him, and when I listed off all of the moments that had deep meaning for me, they didn't have the same meaning to him. He added that perhaps it's because he's older, and I said to him that since having kids, I've watched all shows in a completely different way. I've been accused of being unfair to Joyce in my books, and I always have to explain that my point is that Joyce comes off a certain way; she's not necessarily a bad mother, but we are supposed to see her from Buffy's point of view, and that's the brilliance of that character. She's marginal, and interfering, just as a teenager would see her, and as Buffy matures, Joyce seems to be a more interesting character. I wonder if on my next viewing I'll see Joyce differently from the start?

So here endeth my Slayage 2008 reminiscences. Thanks for reading! Well, actually, no. I'm lying. I think I'll post one more post that will be about the critical reaction to the conference that I've seen on a couple of forums, and how much that infuriates me. Prepare for my soapbox, it's coming soon.

But until then... back to Lost!


Anonymous said...

Joyce was one of the thing that kept me from watching Buffy. I couldn't relate to her at all (still can't, much). I said to my kids that she wasn't anything like a real mother, and my daughter said she was like most of her friends' moms. I was the odd (wo)man out.

Anonymous said...

I am so pleased that you had a great time at Slayage 3! I am also very happy that you are a robust, thorough blogger, as I now have a real sense of what went down there. I had the fortune to be at the first conference in 2004 here in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, and it was awesome! I am glad to know that it is still going strong, and that scholars [institutional and independent, like you Nikki] are continuing to mine the works of Whedon to such positive effect.

I recently posted on another website how Buffy still impacts other shows, eg Battlestar Galactica's mid-season finale, entitled "Revelations" has at least two blatant references: Saul Tigh says, "it's not a chip in my head" [ala Spike in season four]and the showdown between the two forces is summed up by Lee Adama saying, "where do we go from here?" [ala season six's "Once More With Feeling"]

Ryan said...

My favorite:

"We got bitten by some cactus..."

I miss you guys, too. I can't wait to see the pictures - I'm sure they're priceless!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your great reports, Nikki. I enjoyed them a lot since I was highly jealous and living vicariously through you.

Luciano Doti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luciano Doti said...

I m aregentine and I m pleased to read about Slayage Conference in your blog.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your analysis of SC3. I was there and we met briefly, so you probably won't remember me. But I just wanted to add to your comments about the conference.

It was my first time there and it will most definitely not be my last time. I have never felt so welcome at an academic conference before. I am a physics professor, so this was my first time attending a conference like this and I thought I would be completely out of my element. Instead, I really felt like I belonged there. I collaborated with a friend from sociology and we presented a paper on the social transitions experienced by Buffy, Willow and Xander. I can't even begin to explain how much more fun it is to write a paper on Buffy than on physics... but after attending this conference, I think I might even have some ideas on a paper that involves the physics of the Whedonverse.

I can't wait until next year's Slayage Conference. I hope you will give a talk again, too. It was delightful. I am now officially addicted to your blog!

Cedar said...

Yes, I was at the conference too. Slayage, for me, allows the perfect combination of academic rigour and fun. The is an envirnoment in which people learn a lot (from a variety of disciplines) and through which a community of scholars and friends develop. I hope that Whedon's new show, Dollhouse, will draw even more people toward Whedon scholarship.

Ronald Helfrich Jnr. said...

Doctor Horrible teaser...

Ronald Helfrich Jnr. said...

from an email I just received...


"Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" will be streamed, LIVE (that part's
not true), FREE (sadly, that part is) right on, in
mid-July. Specifically:
ACT ONE (Wheee!) will go up Tuesday July 15th.
ACT TWO (OMG!) will go up Thursday July 17th.
ACT THREE (Denouement! ) will go up Saturday July 19th.

All acts will stay up until midnight Sunday July 20th. Then they will vanish into the night, like a phantom (but not THE Phantom – that's still playing. Like, everywhere.)

And now to answers a few Frequently (soon to be) Asked Questions:
1) Why, Joss? Why? Why now, why free, why us? Once upon a time, all the writers in the forest got very mad with the Forest Kings and declared a work-stoppage. The forest creatures were all sad; the mushrooms did not dance, the elderberries gave no juice
for the festival wines, and the Teamsters were kinda pissed. (They
were very polite about it, though.) During this work-stoppage, many
writers tried to form partnerships for outside funding to create new
work that circumvented the Forest King system.

Frustrated with the lack of movement on that front, I finally decided to do something very ambitious, very exciting, very mid-life-crisisy. Aided only by everyone I had worked with, was related to or had ever met, I single-handedly created this unique little epic. A supervillain
musical, of which, as we all know, there are far too few.

The idea was to make it on the fly, on the cheap – but to make it. To
turn out a really thrilling, professionalish piece of entertainment specifically for the internet. To show how much could be done with very little. To show the world there is another way. To give the public (and in particular you guys) something for all your support and patience. And to make a lot of silly jokes. Actually, that sentence probably should have come first.

2) What happens when it goes away? Does it go to a happy farm for
always like Fluffy did when mommy was crying and the neighbor kept
washing his fender?

No, Dr horrible will live on. We intend to make it available for
download soon after it's published. This would be for a nominal fee,
which we're hoping people will embrace instead of getting all piratey. We have big dreams, people, and one of them is paying our crew.

And somewhat later, we will put the complete short epic out on DVD –
with the finest and bravest extras in all the land. We'll go into
greater detail about that at Comiccon, but we're changing the face of Show Friendliness a second time with that crazy DVD.

3) Joss, you are so kind, and generous, and your forehead is like, huge, like SCARY, like I think I can see Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint hanging off it… what can WE do to help this musical extravanganza?

What you always do, peeps! What you're already doing. Spread the word. Rock some banners, widgets, diggs… let people know who wouldn't
ordinarily know. It wouldn't hurt if this really was an event. Good
for the business, good for the community – communitIES: Hollywood,
internet, artists around the world, comic-book fans, musical fans (and
even the rather vocal community of people who hate both but will still
dig on this). Proving we can turn Dr Horrible into a viable economic
proposition as well as an awesome goof will only inspire more people
to lay themselves out in the same way. It's time for the dissemination of the artistic process. Create more for less. You are the ones that can make that happen.

Wow. I had no idea how important you guys were. I'm a little afraid of you.

4) Joss, do you ever answer a question simply or coherently?


There'll be more questions, and more long, long answers, but for now I'm just excited that we're actually making this happen. We (and a lot of other people -- gushing to commence soon) worked very hard on the show and we hope/think you guys will be pleased. Until July 15th , I
remain, yours truly, -j, of the firm j, j, m & z.