Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Passing of Bea Arthur

I was at the gym yesterday afternoon when I glanced over at a nearby television and saw images of Bea Arthur with closed captioning announcing she had passed away. The news hit me like a punch to my gut. She was a presence that will never be forgotten. Born in New York City in 1922, she died of cancer in Los Angeles at the age of 86. While I have vague memories of her in the 1970s with her television show Maude, she always will stand out for me as Dorothy Zbornak on The Golden Girls. The image here shows her with her co-stars Rue McClanahan (Blanche Devereaux), Betty White (Rose Nylund), and Estelle Getty (Sophia Petrillo), who passed away last year. (The image comes from the Reel Film Reviews website.) The Golden Girls will go down as a major accomplishment in television history. They made 180 episodes while it aired from 1985 to 1992, and won numerous awards. And to think when the show premiered, no one expected it to be the hit that it was. After all, who would imagine that pairing four older women living together in Miami Beach because of their limited income, but also for companionship, would wind up being a success? But these weren't little old ladies waiting to die. They were vibrant women who dated and had sex, and couldn't wait to sit around the table eating cheesecake to talk about it. It was proto-Sex and the City. They tackled an array of issues at the time, like AIDS and gay marriage, before they were barely discussed on television. Arthur's character on that show was my all-time favorite. I used to watch the show with my family in the early years, and my roommates and I were avid fans by the late '90s. I think at one point I saw every episode so many times that by the first joke I could tell you what episode it was. Lifetime television's website once had a quiz on it called something like "Which Golden Girl Are You?", and it should come as no surprise that I was Dorothy. Her sarcasm and acerbic wit was brutal at times, but she was a leader and warm-hearted at her core. In later years, Arthur performed cabaret shows throughout the country, and came to South Florida more than once. I regret now that I never saw her perform. She apparently loved her gay fans and would hang out at the local gay bars afterwards. To read more about Arthur's life and career, here is the Wikipedia article with a listing of her 50+ year career, and here is her obituary by the Associated Press (via The New York Times). I've embedded below two clips from The Golden Girls (via YouTube) that are hysterical moments from the show. The first one is from an episode where the girls are going on vacation and they decide to buy condoms. The second is Sophia recounting one of her very funny "Picture it...Sicily...1912" stories.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Monographic Project

I was privileged to be part of a group of about 25 art historians who were invited to the Yale Center for British Art for a closed seminar entitled "The Monographic Project: Exhibition, Text, Museum." The seminar, held on April 17th and 18th and organized by Cassandra Albinson and Imogen Hart, was an exploration of issues and concerns over art historical monographic exhibitions and books. Part of the discussion was defining the monograph, but essentially this topic refers to exhibitions and books that focus on a single artist's work. Historically, this has been associated with an artist's life; however, as was discussed at this seminar, the monographic does not have to be so directly biographical in nature.

The seminar began with a tour of an exhibition currently on display at the Yale University Art Gallery entitled Picasso and the Allure of Language. The tour was given by the curator, Susan Fisher. Its thematic focus was on Pablo Picasso's relationship with various writers, most notably Gertrude Stein, but also related to how Picasso utilized aspects of language in his own works of art. It was an interesting exhibition, with all of the paintings, drawings, and archival materials coming from the collections of Yale museums and libraries. Afterwards, there was a talk given by John Elderfield, Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art here in New York City. Elderfield discussed his own personal experience on the many exhibitions he has curated at MOMA over the past 30 years, one of the more recent being Manet and the Execution of Maximilian, which I saw and thought was quite good. Elderfield discussed some of the challenges of mounting monographic exhibitions, in particular those of living artists, and the lessons he learned as a result.

The second day's program was divided into two parts: painting and sculpture. The morning session had three speakers present their takes on ways of doing the monographic book. Gabriele Guercio spoke about the history of art historical monographs in the 19th century, providing a theoretical framework for the seminar that ultimately problematized the idea of what a monograph actually is, that in fact it always has been subject to interpretation by authors over time. Angela Rosenthal from Dartmouth University presented her work on the first woman elected to the Royal Academy, Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807). Rosenthal's book, Angelica Kauffman: Art and Sensibility (Yale, 2006), approaches the artist's allegorical and naturalistic self-portraits in the context of portraiture and women at the time. The image you see here comes from the collections of the Royal Academy. It is an engraving after one of these self-portraits by Kauffman, here representing herself as the allegorical figure of disegno (drawing/design). Richard Wendorf, Director of the Boston Athenaeum, spoke about his work on Sir Joshua Reynolds, highlighting how the objects themselves became less important when compared to the transactional relationships Reynolds had with his clients. Wendorf's take on the monographic, then, relates to cultural and psychological relationships.

After lunch, we shifted to sculpture. Martina Droth, Head of Research at YCBA, gave an introduction to the problem of sculpture in art history, noting for instance its exclusion from most art exhibitions and the dearth of research done on sculptors as compared to painters. Christina Ferando, a doctoral student at Columbia University, spoke about her work on the Neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova. Ferando's monographic take on Canova relates to how his sculpture was exhibited and displayed during his lifetime, and how this connects with perceptions about Canova and his work. Margo Beggs, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, presented her work on the American sculptor Harriet Hosmer, specifically Hosmer's use of photography to define herself as a sculptor. Finally, Cassandra Albinson herself spoke about her experiences with an upcoming exhibition at the YCBA about the French sculptor Jules Dalou.

The seminar was very interesting. There was plenty of time for discussions, question & answer sessions, and networking. I always find the networking for these types of events to be as equally important as the information itself. Ultimately, I feel that the seminar has helped me consider different ways of working on individual artists. I've encountered criticism from people at times about the kind of monographic work I do, primarily because people assume it's always about biography. I now feel as if I have a better handle on how to respond to these critics, because as we learned the monographic project can be interpreted in many different ways.

The other highlight of this trip to Yale was seeing the YCBA exhibition that closes soon "Endless Forms": Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts. The exhibition celebrates the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species (1859) which altered people's perceptions about the origin of humankind with its ideas of natural selection and survival of the fittest. The exhibition drew on a variety of examples: paintings of geological formations and animals (you've got to love Landseer's paintings of dogs!), photographs of tribal peoples, and examples of taxidermy and fossils that the Victorians collected to study nature and man. It truly was a fascinating exhibition and has gotten excellent reviews. The show is moving to the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge in June, but you can preview the exhibition by going to its (very cool) website by clicking here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Susan Boyle

There's nothing like an underdog who manages to come out on top. Susan Boyle (left) auditioned for Britain's Got Talent, a reality television program that has everyday people perform for judges who include the infamously acerbic Simon Cowell. Needless to say, this 47-year-old single, "never-been-kissed," unemployed woman from the village of Blackburn, Scotland blew everyone away, including Cowell. She sang "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical Les Miserables. She is simply amazing! The video on YouTube has been watched nearly 19 million times as of this morning. If you haven't seen it, do so immediately by clicking here and watching it (the embedding for the video clip has been disabled so I can't link to it from here). This woman will touch your heart. She proves that one should never judge a book by its cover, and that everyone has a little something inside of them that is bursting to come out. All you have to do is have a dream, take a risk, and try. We've got our fingers crossed for Ms. Boyle as she moves into the competition part of the show.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Library Bytes: Overdue Books

Overdue fines for late library books is one of those things people groan about and consider to be a petty thing about libraries. The truth is, they can be a serious matter. In the case of academic institutions and municipal libraries, these books are owned by a governing body. For instance, a book borrowed from your local public library is actually paid for and owned by the city, so by returning it late, damaging it, or not returning it at all, you're dealing with the potential for having committed a serious crime against the city government. Believe it or not, people have been arrested for not returning library books!

Admittedly, it does seem a little ridiculous, but libraries just want their books back, not to horde them, but so that everyone can share in them. In a way, they need a system to ensure books are returned. After all, if there were no penalties for late books, would you ever return them? Of course, things are different if you damage or lose a book. Then the library is going to make you pay up (probably by forcing you to turn over your first-born child to the library to become a shelver).

I bring this up because two separate incidents regarding overdue books occurred today. The first is a news report on NPR. Washington and Lee University in Virginia had someone return an overdue library book. Why the big deal? Because it was stolen during the Civil War! Apparently, 145 years ago a Union soldier stole a volume from their library. A friend of a descendant of that soldier has returned the library book, with the stipulation that he not be charged any overdue fines, which the library accommodated. Can you imagine if they had fined him? It would have been cheaper for him to donate a new wing instead. You can hear a brief NPR interview with a librarian from Washington and Lee University about the bizarre story by clicking here.

The other incident took place while I was waiting in line at the circulation desk of the library (I'm purposely not mentioning which library). A woman before me was trying to return a library book that had been declared lost a few years ago. She had paid the lost book fine and all overdue charges, but now that she had found the book, she apparently wanted to return it and get her money back. The clerk didn't know what to do, so he called the Circulation Manager, who told her to keep the book. Presumably they wouldn't accept it back. This shocked me. When I was the Head of Access Services at a university library, we had a procedure in place for these kinds of situations. We called it a REFUND! I couldn't believe that this library wouldn't give her a refund. Amazingly, though, she just shrugged and walked out. All I can say if that I hope it's a book she actually wants to keep.

Remember that libraries want their books back so that everyone has an opportunity to use them. So the next time you check out a library book and discover it's overdue, don't freak out. Just return it and pay the fine. If you can't pay all of the overdue charges for financial reasons, talk to them. You may discover that they are willing to reduce the fees, as long as you promise to return the books on time in the future. And in case you didn't know this, you can renew books too. As long as no one else has a hold on them, usually you can keep renewing them. With most libraries, you can even do this over the Internet now and not have to return to the library itself. In other words, there's no excuse for having overdue books anymore. But if they are overdue, be brave. Return them and pay the fine. Because if you don't, they may send the police to your home!

UPDATE (4/18/09): So there definitely is something in the air about the issue of overdue fines for library books. University of Cambridge professor Mary Beard (a brilliant ancient Greek & Roman cultural historian) has a post on her blog A Don's Life related to this: "What's the point of library fines?" The Cambridge University Library reported a noted decrease in overdue fines, which they took as good news because it means students are returning books on time. However, Prof. Beard wonders how good this is, because she sees something to understanding the cost factor of books and going through the angst of respecting libraries and their materials. Regardless of her take, her last sentence is worth citing: "Perhaps the real truth here is that librarians have just got nicer."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Passing of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

On Sunday, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick died after a long battle with cancer. Few people outside of the academic world may know about her, but her influence on the development of gender and queer studies has been profound. She had been a Distinguished Professor in the English Department at the CUNY Graduate Center, which she joined in 1998 after a career as a professor at Duke University. As of today, the English Department still has her listed on their faculty webpage, where she had listed the following as being her academic areas of interest: "The Victorian novel; queer studies; performativity and performance; experimental critical writing; material culture, especially textiles and texture; early modernism and Proust; Romantic fiction; artists' books; non-Lacanian psychoanalysis; Buddhism in the West." She also was a poet and artist in her own right. However, her legacy always will be her work in gender and queer studies.

Her book Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1985) broke ground with the neologistic concept of "male homosocial desire," a phrase that has since become so ubiquitous in academia it risks losing its groundbreaking importance. Sedgwick did not take credit for the word homosocial itself, but she did create an oxymoronic construct in the phrase "male homosocial desire." Directly linked to the idea of homosexuality, i.e. male-male sexual attraction, the phrase simultaneously implied its polemic opposite, the fear and hatred of homosexuality based on the deterministic non-erotic impulse of male heterosexual bonding. In other words, Sedgwick was exploring how aspects of male bonding in literature (and, by implication, art) have at their core a sexual dimension that may be either explored or rejected by the men involved. I am grossly simplifying her ideas and barely scratching the surface of her intent, but what is significant is that "homosocial desire" has since become a common trope in the discussion of gender relations. Those interested in women's studies in particular found her idea a solid platform to explore new areas, for in these all-male homosocial environments, women were often excluded or objectified. The use of a detail from Edouard Manet's scandalous 1863 painting Déjeuner sur l'herbe (Luncheon on the Grass) on the cover of this book (see above) is a telling example of this, for despite the obvious female nude sitting in a park having a picnic, the relationship between the two dressed male figures philosophizing with one another is in fact the true focus of the painting.

Sedgwick's other great text was Epistemology of the Closet (1990). Here is the opening paragraph of the book:
Epistemology of the Closet proposes that many of the major nodes of thought and knowledge in twentieth-century Western culture as a whole are structured--indeed, fractured--by a chronic, now endemic crisis of homo/heterosexual definition, indicatively male, dating from the end of the nineteenth century. The book will argue that an understanding of virtually any aspect of modern Western culture must be, not merely incomplete, but damaged in its central substance to the degree that it does not incorporate a critical analysis of modern homo/heterosexual definition; and it will assume that the appropriate place for that critical analysis to begin is from the relatively decentered perspective of modern gay and antihomophobic theory. (p.1)
Now, admittedly, if you're baffled by this introduction, you're not alone. Sedgwick's theoretical writing was, to be blunt, abstruse to many (and I include myself wholeheartedly in this group of the dazed and confused...theory has never been and never will be my game). Still, the premise of her work has to do with the origin and nature of the "closet," an idea directly associated with how homosexuals have lived in a closeted world, and that much in the way of gender relations has to do with where one is situated with regard to the closet. Sedgwick is less interested in the historic, biological construct of homosexuality. Rather, she's interested in exploring how with the taxonomic identification of the "homosexual" as a type in late nineteenth-century Europe (the word homosexuality first appeared publicly in print in a German pamphlet written anonymously by the sexologist Karl-Maria Kertbeny in 1869) led to the opposition of the homosexual as an "other" distinguishable from the heterosexual. As she writes, "What was new from the turn of the century was the world-mapping by which every given person, just as he or she was necessarily assignable to a male or a female gender, was now considered necessarily assignable as well to a homo- or a hetero-sexuality, a binarized identity that was full of implications, however confusing, for even the ostensibly least sexual aspects of personal existence." (p.2) Epistemology then addresses how the consciousness of the closet became a transparent force, heretofore ignored by scholars, that can be read in works of literature and art.

Last year, Jason Edwards, Senior Lecturer in art history and Director of the British Art research school at the University of York, England, published a book about Sedgwick's theories as part of the Routledge Critical Thinkers series. He points to Sedgwick's theories about the first-person experience in writing and reading to be critical to an understanding of her work. In his introduction Edwards writes, "Sedgwick's perhaps most important, deceptively simple idea [is] that people are different from one another, and her notion that the first person is a potentially powerful heuristic. That is to say, by addressing you directly and describing my history, I have been covertly introducing you to Sedgwick's belief that paying attention to your own experience in the present tense, and then reflecting back upon it rigorously, might be one of the best, if least valued strategies for problem-solving. This idea is at the heart of Sedgwick's oeuvre, which quietly insists on the irreducible particularlity and potential pedagogical value of every reader, writer, thinker, activist and viewer." (p.4)

The LGBT@NYPL blog (from The New York Public Library) noted that Sedgwick's contributions changed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies in the humanities: "She taught us to read in a whole new way—not to read homosexuality as much as the productive power of its invisibility." Finally, in The Nation, Richard Kim has another interesting and personal take on Sedgwick's contributions in defining degrees of homosexuality. The comments to his article are worth browsing, but be prepared. It's startling that as far as we've evolved in our society with regard to human rights, there are still people who believe it's acceptable to quote Revelations and use phrases like "Sick!" in evaluating high-quality academic work on queer studies.

UPDATE (4/18/09): William Grimes in The New York Times has an obituary for Sedgwick, published a few days ago: "Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, a Pioneer of Gay Studies and a Literary Theorist, Dies at 58." It's a straight-forward (no pun intended) obituary, although Grimes does summarize the point of two of her more controversial essays that are worth citing, since they give you an idea of some of her theories in practice: "In a 1983 essay on Dickens’s novel Our Mutual Friend, she drew attention to the homoerotic element in the obsessive relationship between Eugene Wrayburn and Bradley Headstone, rivals for the love of Lizzie Hexam but emotionally most fully engaged when facing off against each other. Several of her essays became lightning rods for critics of poststructuralism, multiculturalism and gay studies—most notoriously 'Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl,' a paper delivered at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association in 1989. In it, Ms. Sedgwick argued that Austen’s descriptions of the restless Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility should be understood in relation to contemporary thought on the evils of 'self-abuse.'"

Friday, April 10, 2009

We Are Their Voice

Today is the 143rd birthday of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA). Established in New York City in 1866, the ASPCA's early interest was in stopping the inhumane treatment of working animals, such as horses and livestock. Soon afterwards, they were working to stop the cruel treatment of dogs and cats and to provide healthy opportunities for their adoption. One of the horrors I discovered was that prior to the ASPCA's existence, it was not uncommon for dog catchers in NYC to round up dogs, cage them, and throw the cages in the East River to drown, because the catchers were paid by the number of animals they caught, not by the hour. This is just one of the many inhumane activities the ASPCA brought to an end.

The organization began with Henry Bergh (1813-1888), pictured at right, who became known as the Great Meddler because he actively went around enforcing animal cruelty laws against owners of horses and livestock. In a passionate speech he gave on February 8, 1866 at Clinton Hall in NYC, Bergh pleaded on behalf of "these mute servants of mankind." Bergh detailed inhumane animal practices in America, including cockfighting and the horrors of slaughterhouses. According to the ASPCA's website: A basic tenet of Bergh's philosophy, protecting animals was an issue that crossed party lines and class boundaries. To his audience, which included some of Manhattan's most powerful business and government leaders, he stressed, "This is a matter purely of conscience; it has no perplexing side issues. It is a moral question in all its aspects." Fortified by the success of his speech and the number of dignitaries to sign his "Declaration of the Rights of Animals," Bergh brought a charter for a proposed society to protect animals to the New York State Legislature. With his flair for drama he convinced politicians and committees of his purpose, and the charter incorporating the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was passed on April 10, 1866. Nine days later, an anti-cruelty law was passed, and the ASPCA granted the right to enforce it.

For more on this organization's long history of helping "these mute servants of mankind," see the ASPCA's History website. In the spirit of their motto, that "We Are Their Voice," let's wish the ASPCA a very happy 143rd birthday and thank them for all they have done for our four-legged friends. (And, yes, by sheer coincidence [or is it?], my birthday is today as well.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cherry Blossoms in Brooklyn

I went to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden today for Hanami, the Japanese tradition of viewing cherry blossoms, which started a few days ago. The viewing of cherry blossoms has been a recurring theme in Japanese art for centuries. (Click here to see an example of an Ukiyo-e print with geisha and cherry blossoms by Kitagawa Utamaro I at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.) At the botanical garden, not all of the trees were in bloom yet, but I did manage to take a few pictures with my digital camera about 1pm today, until the batteries in my camera died. Both of the pictures you see here were taken near the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. I used today's gorgeous blue sky as a backdrop for the pink blossoms in the picture above. The one below has white blossoms framing the pond and the torii gate that traditionally is found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine.

Rescue Shelter Boys?

The Pet Shop Boys (Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe) has been one of my all-time favorite groups back to their first release, "West End Girls." Well, admittedly, I've never been a huge fan of that song. My favorite has been "What Have I Done to Deserve This?", although there have been quite a few other goodies through the years, like the dance tracks "Domino Dancing," "New York City Boy," and the special theme song for one of the best comedies ever, Absolutely Fabulous. On April 7, Yvonne Taylor, the Special Projects Manager of PETA Europe (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), sent the Pet Shop Boys a letter asking if they would consider changing their name to the Rescue Shelter Boys in an attempt to draw attention away from pet shop cruelty in favor of shelters for abandoned animals. You can read the entire letter on the duo's website under the news section. Taylor makes significant points: "Most dogs and cats sold in pet shops are sourced from profit-hungry breeders who may have bred them in cramped, filthy conditions. With an emphasis on quantity rather than quality, unmonitored genetic defects and personality disorders pass from one generation of puppies and kittens to the next. ... Most pet-shop animals are kept in cages or runs that are far too small for their needs. Exercise is minimal, and they often never leave their cages until the day that they are sold. ... By agreeing to change your name to the Rescue Shelter Boys, you would help raise awareness about the cruelty involved in the pet trade and encourage your millions of fans to consider giving a home to an abandoned or unwanted animal from an animal shelter." The duo isn't planning to change their name, which I completely understand, but Neil and Chris did feel as if it was an issue worth drawing attention to and they appreciate PETA's mission. Andy from the Towleroad blog asked PETA to comment about their response, and PETA's Senior VP Dan Mathews said, "Neil Tennant shows that the Pet Shop Boys are just as smart as their lyrics and appreciate PETA's creative ways of bringing issues to the public." On a personal note, I am vehemently opposed to pet shops. I have vivid memories from my childhood of wanting to break into pet shops at night and let all the animals free...something I probably would still fantasize over if I ever went into a pet shop with caged animals, which I never do anymore. As for the group, their latest album Yes is available now, and the first release "Love, etc." has a great pop-dance feel to it that I'm enjoying listening to on my iPod. Here's the video, courtesy of YouTube (or click here to view it).

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunny Spring Sunday

My friend NV from Miami Beach was staying with me for the past few days, and the whole time we've had either rain or cold weather. Finally, today, the weather was spectacular, so we ate brunch in Brooklyn Heights, then walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. I took these pictures with my mobile phone. The top one of the bridge I shot at 1:24pm today. The Brooklyn Bridge is an amazing architectural and engineering wonder, and it has served as a source of inspiration for artists and writers from Joseph Stella to Walt Whitman. Afterwards, we walked through the financial district for a while. I took the picture below of the New York Stock Exchange at 2:31pm.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Passing of Helen Levitt

New York-based photographer Helen Levitt died this past Sunday. She was 95 years old. If you think her name sounds familiar in the context of this blog, it's because in my recent interview with photographer Gerald Mocarsky, he cited one of her works as his favorite photographic image. Levitt was a Brooklyn girl, born in 1913 in Bensonhurst. Critics consider the highlight of her career to be during the late 1930s and early 1940s, although she was still producing documentary-style photography into the 1990s. The image you see here, New York (Boy with Toy Gun), dates from about 1939 and is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Levitt became known for works such as this that capture street life in New York City. She would travel to areas of the City few middle-class whites visited, notably Harlem and the Lower East Side, and she would photograph everyday people doing everyday things. Her images speak to a time in New York history when the working class, immigrants, and the impoverished lived in these neighborhoods, both on these streets and in them as well. Her photos always seem so unplanned and naturalistic. A work such as this one may border on the sentimental because of the boy's clothes and sad face. But there is something haunting about this image, seeing a boy clutch a gun, uncertain how to handle it. This is a test of his future and his masculinity, as he stares off at someone, something, that obviously concerns him. It's as if he's waiting to be told what to do. He is frozen in uncertainty. His ebony skin glows from this image, framed by the whiteness that surrounds him in his shirt, in the street, and in the building behind him. This was a time of segregation, and this image is wrought with the angst of racism even though nothing violent is shown. Yet, it's also a stunning photograph of a precious black boy looking dazed by the world around him, just like any child in the City would be. Margarett Loke in The New York Times describes Levitt as a photographer "who caught fleeting moments of surpassing lyricism, mystery and quiet drama on the streets of her native New York." Loke emphasizes Levitt's ability to capture innocence, but notes also how she and her fellow photographers Walker Evans, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Ben Shahn all used their documentary photography to instill social reform. For more on Levitt's life, see Loke's obituary in the NYT, or the NPR audio clip interview with Levitt and an essay by Melissa Block.

DW: PotD...Coming Soon!

The BBC has released the preview for the first episode of the new season of one of my all-time favorite shows, Doctor Who. Sadly, this will also be the last season for David Tennant (right), who plays The Doctor. According to his website, the first episode of the new season, entitled "Planet of the Dead," goes something like this (cue freaky space music): "When a London bus takes a detour to an alien world, the Doctor must join forces with the extraordinary Lady Christina, in this one-off seasonal special. But the mysterious planet holds terrifying secrets, hidden in the sand. And time is running out, as the deadly Swarm gets closer." The "one-off seasonal special" part means it's the first episode of the season and is meant to whet your appetite for the rest of the season, which will air over the course of the year. This episode is supposed to air in the UK over Easter weekend. The only question is...when the heck is it going to air in the US so I can watch it???!!! If only I had a TARDIS, I could jump two weeks into the future and visit my friend CC and her family in northern England, watch the episode with them, then jump back in time to now, and write a blog post about having seen the episode already! But I wouldn't want to ruin it for you, would I? Here's the preview for the episode (or click here to see it on YouTube).