Monday, December 06, 2010

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Baby Pandas

So I've started to realize lately that my Facebook posts come in 2, and pretty much only 2 varieties: either they are little anecdotes about my day to day life or they are links to pictures of baby animals and/or neato geeky articles or hilarious news stories. This was not always so. I think that I used to be far more political with my Facebook posts, and my journaling in general, but that has pretty much gone by the wayside. I can't tell you the last time I've written about wanting to punch Glenn Beck in the face, not because I don't still want to (who doesn't, really?) but because I genuinely feel that my time is better spent looking at baby pandas.

Now my husband on the other hand, LOVES politics. He spends much of his free time watching MSNBC, or flipping to watch Fox News to find out "what the enemy is thinking." I've told him time and again that this is a fundamentally unproductive activity, that his time could be much better spent on watching the panda cam or going to Cute Overload or any other far more pleasurable entertainments. He says the reason he watches TV news and listens to NPR is so that he can have some facts to counter individuals he comes across who have certain beliefs on the subject of, say, Don't Ask Don't Tell, without any clear evidence to back up their opinions. I question the soundness of that rational, not just because the news media only provides cursory background information on complex subjects, but because I fundamentally don't believe that arguing with people about politics/religion/vegetarianism/vaccinations/gay rights, even rationally, has any affect whatsoever. You might think that this is pessimistic of me, and I suppose it is, but I don't think that it is incorrect. Now, there are certain cases where you might be able to persuade somebody to come to your side on an issue, but I'd say that these are probably minor points on which you deviate, though you hold the same fundamental opinion. For example, you might be able to argue rationally with somebody who is for repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell but doesn't think that it is a pressing issue that Congress needs to spend its time on that it IS in fact an issue that needs to be dealt with immediately and that people's lives and liberties are at stake. But you aren't going to convince a vegetarian that they should eat meat and you aren't going to convince me to become a vegetarian (cuz, guess what? Meat is yummers).

Which brings me to baby pandas. Who doesn't like baby pandas? Liberal and Conservative, gay and straight, Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist; we all like pandas. There was some study done years ago that I recall that tried to explain why it is that we love baby animals (came down to disproportionately large heads and round bodies) but I don't think we really need a study to tell us that fluffy baby animals are cute. They are soft and fluffy and make you think about holding them, which releases endorphins in your brain and makes you happy. The End. It's science. The only argument that could really be caused by baby pandas is whether some diety created them simply for us to find them adorable or whether the forces of nature and evolution conspired to develop the cuteness (or that our brains evolved to find poofy fat things cute). But this argument can easily be diffused by looking at more pictures of baby animals in hilarious poses and all the water is under the bridge. A vegetarian might ask, "But Joanne, if you love cute animals so much why do you want to eat them?" To which I would respond, "Well I don't want to eat THAT particular piglet in the little rain boots, and I highly doubt my bacon came from him" and then before they have time to counter that unreasonable argument, I can show them another picture of a giant pile of baby pandas and all is forgotten. This is the power of baby animals.

So I ask you, friends. What purpose does it serve to start heated political arguments on a site like Facebook? Do you genuinely believe that you will ever convince nonbelieving friends to your side through posts sandwiched between Farmville requests and "What Harry Potter character are you?" quizzes? Or are you simply trying to induce a sympathetic response from friends who already hold the same opinions as you, in which case, yeah, we get it, Sarah Palin is dumb. I say why bother at all. There are so many wondrous things in this world like organisms that can digest arsenic and space planes and dancing dogs. Maybe if you spent even half the time you would have been getting angry and just look at all the wonderful things around you that you might live a happier life. Because, lets face it, the dumb people out there (no matter who you think those people are) aren't going to go away any time soon. So relax. Take two pandas and call me in the morning.

Monday, November 08, 2010

My Favorite Movies

I'm the worst blogger on the planet. Ok, maybe not the WORST... Still, I really need to start updating this thing more than once every 2 months.

Anyway, so I've been thinking about movies lately (when am I not?). There are certain movies that you love for no other reason than because you are supposed to love them (I'm thinking here of classics and prestige pictures that don't really have any personal significance but sound nice to name as your favorite films. Also you specifically say that they are among your favorite "films" not "movies" because you think sounds classier but really makes you sound like a tool). There are also those movies that are your favorite of the year or favorite of the decade or favorite of a particular genre. But picking all time favorite movies is actually sort of difficult. Can a movie you saw last year REALLY be your favorite movie of all time? Does anybody REALLY love "The Dark Knight" THAT much? I mean... maybe. It is entirely possible that there are movies that you see and immediately decide that they are personal favorites.

For me, I think a truly favorite movie is one of those movies you almost know by heart, and remains in your high esteem even after you've grown up or changed in your circumstances. Also, significantly, your association with this movie needs to be an emotional one. I've seen "Zoolander" plenty of times, and can quote a ton of lines, but by no means is this a favorite movie, or even an almost favorite. A favorite movie for me is something different, something special. Sometimes favorite movies change. I know mine have. Back when I was in college a favorite of mine was "The Apartment." I still love that movie. It is well acted, its funny, its dark. But, the "me" today is different from the 19 year old girl that loved that movie. I used to say that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was among my favorites. I still love them, I still watch them on TNT even when they repeat them 3 times in the same weekend (three chances to watch!), but I just can't say that they are my favorite of all time anymore.

Ok... so with all that being said, on to my 5 favorite movies (for now). This list isn't ranked. Trying to figure out which is my 3rd favorite or 4th favorite is pretty pointless. The majority of the movies on this list have been my favorite since I was about 13. That, I think, is another sign that they are really my REAL favorites and not some fly by night movie that sneaks in under the radar. So in no particular order:

The Princess Bride

This is really a perfect movie in a lot of ways. It has the brilliant simplicity of a well crafted fairy tale, but is also subtly (and not so subtly) subversive of the fairy tale/ adventure genre. It has humor without being overtly crass. There is a timeless quality to it, even though it was made in the 80s, because it lacks the pop culture references of, say, "Shrek," though its sensibilities are decidedly more modern than an older adventure story. Sure, ok, Fred Savage's video game and bedroom are a bit dated, but that's such a minor part of the film as a whole. The special effects for a fantasy are decidedly minimal and unobtrusive. A film like "Willow" which came out only a year after "Princess Bride" has aged far worse in my opinion. Maybe it was never really as good a movie, but some of the "badness" is certainly because of the glaringly 80s special effects. It is more watchable than "The Labyrinth," another "almost favorite" of mine, mostly due to the fact that it is so darn well written, and while its cheekiness is akin at times to a Mel Brooks movie, it never crosses the line into full parody and so remains charmingly innocent and self aware at the same time.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

My favorite of the Indiana Jones trilogy (I will NEVER accept Crystal Skull as part of the real canon). While Raiders of the Lost Ark had a stronger female lead and no "Jesus stuff," Last Crusade will always win out in my mind entirely because of the chemistry between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. It made the movie. In fact, just seeing them on screen together bumbling about would be a movie I would watch, even if it didn't have Nazi killing and secret passages and my favorite library scene in a movie of all time. Funny, exciting, just plain brilliant. If real archaeology was like this, I would have actually done something with my major in college instead of becoming a librarian. Escapist? Yeah, sure. As much as I enjoy "Inglorious Basterds," this is THE Nazi killing film, even more so than "Raiders." Oh and have I mentioned how much I love Sean Connery? This is the ultimate movie to watch if I'm bored on a Saturday afternoon, and I will never get tired of watching it.

The Philadelphia Story

Simply put, the best romantic comedy of all time. I seriously can't stand modern romantic comedies because they glorify romance or satisfy some bored housewife's wish fulfillment. Philadelphia Story does neither. It is so well written that you forget that people actually used to be able to speak so articulately even when they were drunk. Also Cary Grant is just a dream. C.K. Dexter Haven is by no means the ideal man, but neither is he the boorish lout that the leading lady eventually "changes" for the better or loves unconditionally, ignoring all his faults. He is a flawed man, and Tracy is a flawed woman and together they make a flawed couple that you couldn't possibly manage not being married to each other. Here I show a bit of bias. I've always enjoyed the Hepburn/ Grant pairing (also seen in "Bringing up Baby" and "Holiday") far more than I ever enjoyed Hepburn/ Spencer Tracy. In part I think this is because I really love the flighty, silly Hepburn more than the characters she plays in films like "Woman of the Year" and "Desk Set." Of course Jimmy Stewart is just wonderful and you can't forget the supporting characters like Dinah and Uncle Willy. So well acted, so well written... I wish they still made movies with this caliber of performance.

Muppets Take Manhattan

So I actually just added this one onto my favorites list after watch it again the other day. While the first "Muppet Movie" is the more iconic, and more beloved I think in its quirkiness and down right oddity, I've always enjoyed "Muppets Take Manhattan" more because it already has established the group as a family and you don't have to get bogged down by origin story. You already know who all the Muppets are, you don't need introductions and so you can move along to a truly sweet and heartfelt story of dreams and disappointments, separation, self discovery, and ultimately, love. I've also found that the celebrity guests are far less gimmicky than in the original Muppet Movie, and not as obtrusive. I can understand that people who are big fans of the Muppet Show might not like "Muppets Take Manhattan" because in some ways it does "neuter" the characters, rendering them all so charming and earnest, even Miss Piggy, whereas on television there were a bit more subversive. But I like it better for that, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.


Hah! Look I just broke my movie that came out 2 years ago rule, but in this case I have to make an exception. I freaking love" WALL-E." I love it to pieces. I love that its a romance about robots, I love that the first like 30 minutes are basically a silent film, I love that its a message movie without being TOO heavy handed (though it is at times). I love the closing credits! I love the little cockroach! I love the big floating squishy people, though I actually would have been happier if the movie was 100% robot with no people at all. Anyway, here is one of those movies where my emotional association will never, can never be separated from my viewing experience. You see, I saw this movie opening weekend. More specifically, I saw this movie with my parents and my brother and my future husband the day before we were married. My memories of my wedding weekend will always be associated with this movie. When I got nervous, or just wanted to connect with Jesse throughout the wedding, and still to this day, I would make my hand into a little robot claw and he would hold it like WALL-E and EVE. It was hands down, the most perfect movie to see at that particular moment. Though it has its flaws, and what movie doesn't, it is still a timeless and beautiful classic. It also doesn't hurt that I love "Hello, Dolly" too.

So what have we learned? I'm a romantic and a kid at heart. Sue me.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

On the Nature of Celebrity: or... OMG!!!
Wow, it sure has been a while. I apologize. Actually, it is sort of fitting that my last post was about Comic Con because this one is sort of similar.
So the other day I hung out with Leonardo DiCaprio. Yep, we are total BFFs now. If by BFFs you mean I followed him around the California Science Center trying to take covert pictures of him without him noticing and stood next to him looking at fish for 10 minutes. But now we are just arguing semantics. So I could get into more detail about the encounter: he was with his girlfriend Bar Rafaeli and some older bald gentlemen who I think might have been her father and some weird guy with longish salt and pepper hair and oversized glasses. They took pictures of moray eels with their cellphones and posed for pictures together in front of the fish tank. Then they went to the gift shop and Leo bought something. Oh... and when we thought he couldn't hear us, my friends and I were talking loudly about Inception and he turned and looked at us. Later on when we were walking outside we were giggling about how random it had all been only to discover he was walking right behind us to get to the Natural History Museum.

<===== If I actually got a picture from the front it might have looked liked this
So the interesting thing about this whole incident was that A) it was totally something that could only happen in LA, B) it was the first time that I've ever just chanced upon a celebrity in a non celebrity-meeting-type-place environment (ie, Comic Con, book signing, etc), C) I completely wouldn't expect Leonardo DiCaprio to go to something so touristy, but now thinking about it maybe he was entertaining Bar's dad or something because all the gossip sites say they might get married but her dad wants Leo to convert to Judaism... not that showing this dude a bunch of fish will make him give the go ahead, and D) I realized just how completely and totally lame I am around famous people.
My husband used to work for private jet companies refueling planes. He has met TONS of celebrities. He refueled Harrison Ford's plane for goodness sake. He is completely unfazed by celebrity. Me, on the other hand.... Actually, what is really funny about this whole day was that none of us: not my friends, not me, not anybody else at the museum who totally knew it was Leonardo DiCaprio, said anything to him. Sure, we looked at each other with knowing glances, we kind of followed him around a bit at a discrete length, we giggled about being in the precence of somebody "other," but nobody said anything to him, asked to shake his hand, took obvious pictures of him, or anything. All of us tried the best we could to respect his privacy. After all, he's just a normal person, we said to each other. How much does it suck that he has to wear a baseball cap and sunglasses inside just to avoid being noticed, we asked. But he isn't a normal person, and that's the honest truth. If he was a normal person, I would have pushed him aside to get a closer look at the tank. If he was a normal person, when I saw him struggling to take a picture of himself and his girlfriend doing one of those backwards hand things, I would have offered to take it for him; conversely I would have asked him to take a picture of me and my friends. Instead I kept my distance from him, not even so much as brushing against him to get by.
I like to think of celebrities as ordinary people because, after all, they are. They simply do a job that gets seen by a lot of people and thus attain a level of popularity that causes people to become interested in what they are doing. What's strange is that I follow a lot of celebrities on Twitter, mainly sort of B-listers like Chris Hardwick, Felicia Day, Nathan Fillion, Joel McHale, Neil Gaiman, and the cast of Mythbusters, and I honestly believe that my interaction with them online (as limited as it may be) has made me less star struck when I see them is person, which I did at Comic Con. Somehow reading what they are doing every day, laughing at jokes they make or clicking the links to hilarious videos they want me to see, has humanized them. I would not feel at all uncomfortable going up to Chris Hardwick and telling him how much I like his Nerdist podcast. I might get a little tongue tied around Nathan Fillion because... COME ON the dude's awesome, but I think I'd say something at least. Perhaps what was so unusual about seeing Leonardo DiCaprio, what was so... i dunno... awe-inspiring is the wrong word... is that he is notoriously private. You dont' see Leonardo DiCaprio at Comic Con, you don't see him on Twitter or on a reality show or making fun of himself on SNL. So maybe my shyness around him wasn't so much to do with the fact that he was a celebrity, but rather that he was a certain type of celebrity that doesn't exactly invite attention. In fact, recently he filed a restraining order against some woman who was stalking him, so that might have something to do with his attitude.
Anyway, with all that being said, I've started to think about those celebrities who I would completely feel comfortable saying something to, and those celebrities that I would be... yeah I guess in awe of is the only phrase I can think of at the moment. Since I've seen a bunch of people at comic con, I'll limit this to only people I've never been in relatively close proximity to before (RDJ and Angelina were all the way across Hall H when I saw them). I'll divide them into Cool (say hi) and Too Cool (hide behind a post just to watch them chew gum). Looking at the list it seems like a lot of the "Too Cool" people have a reputation of being complete assholes in real life, so maybe its a good thing that I wouldn't say hi to them. Also a bunch of them are crazy good looking and I might get all twitterpated. Another thing is that my list of cool people is completely dominated by comedians. Is there something about comedians that makes them seem more like regular people? Also a lot of them are known for nerdy/ genre TV shows/ movies. Am I under the impression that nerdy people are nicer? Actually.. you know what? Nerdy people ARE nicer. Except for those like uber-nerds that dont' think you are nerdy enough.

Jon Hamm
Betty White
Tina Fey
David Tennent
Matt Smith
Eddie Izzard
Jon Stewart
Craig Fergeson
Simon Pegg
Elijah Wood
Jeff Bridges
Tom Hanks
Seth Rogan
Steve Carell
Ian McKellan
Neil Patrick Harris
Patrick Stewart
James Franco

Too Cool:
Angelina Jolie
Brad Pitt
George Clooney
Al Pacino
Matt Damon
Quentin Tarantino
Winona Ryder
Robert Downey Jr
Jude Law
Samuel L Jackson
Johnny Depp
Edward Norton
Bill Murray
Colin Farrell
Salma Hayek
Antonio Banderas

Alan Rickman
Gary Oldman
Christina Hendricks

Friday, July 30, 2010

Comic Con Recap

or... a return from Nerd-vana

Hey all. Well comic con is over and I'm home safe and sound (not shanked in the eye with a pen, unlike SOME people). It was an exhausting weekend, but a lot of fun. I certainly wasn't able to see all the things I wanted to, and I definitely don't need to go for a few years, but it was well worth the trip.


We started off Friday bright and early, though not as early as I would have liked, got to the convention center at around 8:15 (and just sort of milled around waiting in line for the exhibit hall). The line for Ballroom 20 was crazy long, but we figured that those people were there for Caprica and Stargate Universe and that we didn't need to be waiting in line for the Big Bang Theory panel (which didn't start until 12:45) just yet. We were wrong. More on that. Anyway, so we went down to the exhibit hall as soon as it opened, got on line for the Warner Brothers booth and got some interesting swag like bags, mugs, and then got to see some cool stuff from Harry Potter like the Horcruxes and the Deathly Hallows. The floor wasn't completely packed yet since it was early, so we were able to wander a bit and see some random stuff/ celebrities. I had originally wanted an autograph from LaVar Burton because I loved Reading Rainbow, but all the TNG people were charging WAY too much for signing and the guard guy wouldn't even let me take a picture OF him, let alone with him. Lame-o. We saw that at 11am, Felicia Day and the people from The Guild were going to be signing things so Jesse and Dan waited in line for that while I went upstairs to start waiting in line for Big Bang Theory. Keep in mind this was like 10:30. So I get a pretzel and go upstairs to start waiting in line and I see that the line for Ballroom 20 is like wrapped forwards and back in and out for like a mile and half. Still, I figure, maybe they are just there for Stargate or something. Plus the room is really big. But no, I waited in that line for over 2 hours and didn't even get in. Worst of all, Dan came to join me after his signing while Jesse went to get a hot dog and they wouldn't even let him back outside with his hot dog! We had to wait till we got all the way inside for me to be reunited with my poor husband again. :-(.

We ended up getting in after Big Bang Theory for the "Bones" panel, which is a show I don't watch, but looked kind of cute. David Boreanaz I liked from Angel and he was very funny so it wasn't a total loss. Jesse and Dan left after that, but I stayed for the Joss Whedon panel, which was just Joss rambling around on stage with no moderator talking about who knows what. It was pretty disappointing. The only cool thing was at the very end when they were taking questions a guy came up and asked Joss who his favorite actor he worked with was and the guy asking the question turned out to be Nathan Fillion with a fake mustache and a hat on. Then Joss introduced him as the next Ant Man, which apparently was a joke, much to my disappointment, but it sure didn't seem like an "obvious joke" as Nathan tweeted later in the day. After those disappointments I pretty much spent the rest of the day wandering around the exhibit hall. We saw a bunch of random stuff for sale, I got to meet Malcolm McDowell which was way cool, and we got to get some things drawn by a few of the Flight comics artists and webcomic people like Cyanide and Happiness and Something Positive. I also just happened across the Tor booth and met Patrick Rothfuss which was probably the highlight of the entire day. I completely geeked out on him, but I don't think he really minded it that much because he geeks out on people too. We took a bunch of silly pictures together and I gave him a hug and got a copy of his new picture book signed. It was way cool to just be able to go up to him and chat casually without a line of people or security or anything. I bet that was what it was like to meet Neil Gaiman back in like the early 90s before he had handlers. That was pretty much my day. It was nice to have Dan and my brother there, though Nat kind of wandered away on his own to see some panels. I sort of wish I just went with him, because he got to see the trailer for Super which looks pretty rad. Didn't go crazy spending money, but got to meet and see some cool people. Still, it was somewhat frustrating that I couldn't get into the one panel (Big Bang Theory) that I really wanted to see.


So Saturday morning I was feeling like crap, but managed to pull it together to go to the con and everything. We arrived a bit earlier than we did the day before because I REALLY wanted to get in to see the Warner Bros panel with Green Lantern and Harry Potter. Waiting in line for that panel in Hall H was so much better than the Ballroom 20 one because we were outside on the grass under the tarp and we could sit down for long periods of time. It made it feel more like we were having a little picnic than we were waiting in line for the Matterhorn. Anyway, even though we weren't the first in line, I knew that Hall H was huge enough that we would definitely get in, and we did. They gave us some nice stuff at the door, which was cool. We got a really nice bag with pockets that was so much better than this ginormous thing we got the day before. Like seriously, you could fit a midget or a 5 year old child inside this bag. Anyway, inside the WB bag was a really cool Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows T-shirt and a Green Lantern comic. Seriously though, it was totally worth it just for the bag, because it was 20x easier to carry around. On to the panel...I didn't really have any preconcieved expectations for Green Lantern, but was pleasantly surprised by what we saw of it. They appeared interested in keeping it light and fun, and I hadn't realized before that the director was the same guy who did Zorro with Antonio Banderas, which I think was the perfect blend of adventure and humor. If they can keep the same sort of tone for this movie, I'll be all over it. He also did Casino Royale, which was a little long, but hopefully he will be trending more toward the fun side than the broody dark side. Ryan Reynolds was really likable, especially when this little 6 year old kid wearing the full Green Lantern get up asked him what it was like to recite the Green Lantern oath and Ryan said the whole thing like pretty much just to this kid. It was a super cute and tender moment and made me really like Ryan Reynolds more than I had in the past. Anyway, then we got to see the Harry Potter clips which were really long and got me completely pumped for the movie. They showed like a full scene from the first film and tons of extended clips, which were fantastic. Oh and Tom Felton showed up. Then we sat through a trailer for Sucker Punch which looked like a complete bloody mess of a film. It is directed by Zach Snyder the same guy who did 300 and Watchmen, so it shouldn't be a surprise that this looks totally terrible too. Plus it has like that chick from High School Musical in it. Ugh. Lame.

We pretty much cut out of that panel early and headed down to the exhibit hall again to wander and look at crap. Jesse and I happened across this booth which was supposedly going to allow you to get Natalie Portman autographs if you answered questions from this trailer of this really dumb looking indie movie she made. Then you got a ticket and had to come back and wait in line. Jesse loves Natalie Portman so he did the whole thing, but the lines were a complete mess and the security had no idea what was going on, and we didn't feel like waiting in this clump. Got a peek of her, though. I went by the G4 booth and spotted Nathan Fillion again, who also seems like a way cool person. After the whole Natalie Portman disappointment, we were kind of burned out from the floor, so we went out and just got in line for room 6bcf where Dan was. I think I saw Jerry O'Connell walking down the hall, but it could have been somebody else. Stopped by the autograph booths briefly and got a pic with that one creepy guy who played the puppetmaster on Heroes, who was sort of desperate for attention it seemed. Given that the put him in the way back next to like an old WWF wrestler's table, I couldn't really blame him. Also spotted James Marsters who still looks good at 50 or however old he is. Anyway, we got into room 6 and sat with Dan for a bit for panels that I didn't have the slightest knowledge about like Warehouse 13, Eureka, Human Target, and the new show Nikita. We actually got to see the full trailer for Nikita, which actually looked pretty sexy and kick ass. Warehouse 13 also looked pretty cute, and I might just start watching that. Basically, the only reason why we were in the room in the first place for like 4.5 hours was because of the Mythbusters panel at 7:15. There was NO way I was not going to get into that panel, so I figured I might as well just wait in the room for it. After each panel we were able to move closer and closer, so when the Mythbusters finally came on we were only like 5 rows back.

As I expected, the panel was awesome. Definitely the best panel of the whole weekend. I love Chris Hardwick from his Nerdist podcast, and I had heard Adam Savage on his show a few weeks ago, so I knew that they had a rapport. The whole panel was very conversational in tone and Chris is a really good interviewer. They should really give him his own tv talk show. I think he is almost as good as Jon Stewart for getting good interviews out of people. Anyway, everyone was very funny and seemed very much like how you would expect them to. I wanted to ask a question of Kari Byron (how the heck did she manage to keep working doing all the crazy stuff they do on the show while pregnant?) but they stopped taking questions after the guy in front of me in like (who, to be fair, was like a Jaime Hynaman impersonator). Oh well. We still got to sit really close and I got a bunch of great pictures of the group.

So that was comic con. Sunday we didn't go to con, but I did got to a reading/ signing with Patrick Rothfuss, Brent Weeks, and Brandon Sanderson. They did this neat thing where they each read stuff from the other authors. I got to hear a section from Wise Man's Fear, the sequel to Name of the Wind by Pat Rothfuss (as read by Brent Weeks) which was incredibly funny and just made me more excited for that book. I don't know what I'm peeing my pants about more: Wise Man's Fear or the last Harry Potter movie. Both will be completely epic. I think Wise Man's Fear has me in a tizzy more because I don't know what happens. Or maybe I'm more excited about Harry Potter because I DO know what's going to happen and I just want to see it play out. In all it was a super geeky weekend, but I'm totally done with Comic Con for a while. I mean, firstly I'm going to have a kid next year so that makes things a bit problematic, but also the whole thing has just gotten too big and crazy. I remember when I went in 2003, they still had big name people, but I didn't have to wait in line for 3 hours just to hear the voice actors from the Simpsons. Even last year, I got in for the Where the Wild Things Are/ Sherlock Holmes panel in H without waiting for THAT long. Also I guess there just isn't anything that i'm THAT excited for coming up. Plus with twitter, etc you find out about the really big important news pretty quickly. I mean its cool to be one of the first people to see a trailer for a movie that isn't coming out until next year, but is it so cool that I have to subject myself to endless hours of waiting? So yeah, I'm done.

Still, I always love being surrounded by other nerds. It is such a wonderful feeling to not be out of place, to see other people more geeky than you, to be able to ramble on about various characters with other people who could totally be your friends if you lived in the same town. I chatted with so many random people at Con this year, from the dad who brought his two little girls, to the chick who was super cool and gave me her extra Dexter shirt, to the group of lesbians in matching Wonder Woman shirts. Its like everybody that you would ever probably be friends with decided to show up in the same place. If only life were really like that. Where are these people the rest of the time so I can be friends with them? Jesse says they are in their parents' basements, but I'm not really talking about THOSE types. Mostly just the regular nerdy folks to waited to listen to the authors panel on Sunday with me. Where do THOSE people hide? Maybe someday I'll find them.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Things that I Read

This Week: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Grade: B+

It is very rare that a book actually makes me cry. I cried when Sirius Black died (I'm such a 10 year old girl inside), I cried when I read The Diary of Anne Frank (ok, I WAS actually 10-11 at the time), and I cried while reading Tigana, the first book that really moved me in a very long time. The premise of the story is relatively simple. 19 years ago the Peninsula of the Palm, which is loose confederation of provinces, was invaded by two rival sorcerers from abroad: to the west, Brandin, King of Ygrath and to the east, Alberico, a warlord from the empire of Barbadior. The people of the Palm, fought valiantly, but ultimately failed. There were some victories, however. For example, in an act of defiance and sheer willpower, the Prince of Tigana, one of the provinces, managed to defeat and kill Stevan, the son of Brandin. Unfortunately, this was to be the state's downfall. Distraught and consumed with rage, Brandin summoned all of his magic to erase Tigana from the face of the earth. Not only did he have all the great buildings leveled after he was victorious, but he erased the name "Tigana" from the memories of all those who were not born there. The remaining refugees from the province, Lower Corte as it was now called, had to suffer not only the humiliation of defeat, but the fact that all their nations achievements had been completely excised from history. The story follows a handful of those refugees, children of the forgotten land, as they strive to reconnect with their countrymen and work toward downfall of both Tyrants.

The book is as much an epic fantasy as it is a parable about memory and the horrors of war. In his afterward, the author mentions on of his influences was a piece he read about Czechoslovakia where an individual who had been accused of being a traitor was completely removed (replaced by a potted plant) from a photograph of a Communist Party gathering in later publications. It doesn't take magical powers for people to be "disappeared" all record of their existence removed. Think about how many Jews converted in the wake of the Inquisition, and how many children grew up never knowing their true heritage, or Native Americans who never knew their language or culture. This is not just the stuff of fantasy and science fiction, certainly. What I really loved about the book was that the magical elements were kept to a minimum and only used when absolutely necessary. For the most part, the story was about reconnecting with self and country. I particularly liked the character arc of Devin, the young virtuoso singer who knows nothing about his heritage until he discovers that other members of his troupe are from his home. The scene that really got me was when Baerd teaches Devin the secret behind his missing past, culminating in Catriana singing the beautiful song about Avelle, a great city in Tigana of old, that Devin had only known as a wordless childhood lullaby. But the story does not only follow Devin and his compatriots. It also shifts in perspective to Dianora, a beautiful concubine in Brandin's court, who is also from Tigana and originally came to court to kill the king, but over the intervening 19 years has come to care for him. I really loved her inner conflict and her struggle to distinguish from loyalty to her forgotten people and the new memories and life she has made in the years that followed Tigana's downfall.

The book asks some really powerful questions for what I thought initially was a light work of fantasy. Are we defined by our ancestry and our past, or can we truly stand on our own merits? Is cultural annihilation more painful than physical subjugation? I really found it interesting how Devin, not knowing he was from Tigana for all of his life, reacts to the new information. He jumps right in and pledges his loyalty to the old cause, breaks down in tears at the mention of the life that was stolen from him. Unlike the decedents of a converso who might later in life discover he is from Jewish origin, the pain here is very raw and deep. Devin, one who had no memory of the old country, also finds the revelation of the past history as additional insight into the mind of his father who, though he never spoke of Devin's dead mother or the life they left behind, sang to his son the lullaby of a lost land. Strangely, I found it to be an interesting parallel to Art Speigelman's "Maus" books in that the traumas of the past are unknowable to those who did not live through them, but can be just as painful to the children who might not understand the hidden pain of their parents. I really think that Alessan's toast to his fallen country says it all: "Tigana, may your memory be like a blade through my soul."

As a side note, Guy Gavriel Kay is himself Jewish and Canadian, which may well have influenced this work specifically (Canadians are particularly sensitive to their past oppression/ obliteration of Native American/ First Nation peoples). Truly, this is the most complex and interesting work of fantasy I've read in a very long time. I also think that because it lacks a heavy dependence on magic, except in a few key scenes, that it is definitely accessible to non genre readers who enjoy complex storytelling, adventure stories, and historical fiction. This is the first book by the author that I've read, though Amazon has been telling me I "May also like" him for years. I definitely will be reading more in the future. I find his writing style to be meaningful, evocative, and thrilling. My only complaint about the book was that the ending came a bit too abruptly, was a bit too magical and improbable, and brought up more questions than it really answered. Not that I necessarily needed an ultimate face to face confrontation between all the major players, but... no wait, you know what, I kind of did. The whole book was like a solid A for me except like the last 50 pages. I'm giving this one a B+ only because I think the lackluster ending irritated me. Also the whole Night Walkers and Baerd stuff was just like a random side plot that kind of did nothing either. It reminded me of the scene in the movie version of Two Towers where Aragorn falls off the cliff and they build this false tension whether or not he will return. So unnecessary. Anyway, great book overall, well worth reading, and certainly brings up issues that can be discussed in the future.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Books I've Read So Far This Year

So, I know I haven't been particularly good with the blogging. I've been keeping a journal for my future offspring, so at least I'm getting things down, but blogging has been sort of lacking. Mostly in my free time I've been watching crap on TV and reading instead of writing (including my fictional stories that I've been neglecting) so I figured I might as well let you, my audience of 3, know what I've read so far this year.

From January 1-July 8 I have read/listened to a total of 40 books or graphic novels (48 if you consider that the Walking Dead Compendium contains 8 full sized graphic novels)

- The Gates

- I am America and so can you (audio)

- The Man who loved books too much

- The Gunslinger (audio)

- Secret Dead Men

- Dragonbreath (children's)

- Kingdom of Ohio

- Name of the Wind (reread)

- Half the Blood of Brooklyn

- Wolverine: worst day ever (children's)

- Every Last Drop

- Northlanders v1 (gn)

- Northlanders v2 (gn)

- Y the last man: cycles (gn)

- Y the last man: one small step (gn)

- Walking Dead compendium (v1-8) (gn)

- Y the last man: safeword (gn)

- Ignition City (gn)

- Captain Swing (gn)

- Resurrectionist (audio)

- Drawing of the Three

- Any which wall (children's)

- Y the last man: Ring of truth (gn)

- Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

- Night Watch

- Fantastic Mr. Fox (children's)

- Spellwright

- Confetti Girl (children's)

- Girl Genius (gn)

- Calamity Jack (gn)

- Johannas Cabal: Necromancer (audio)

- Waste Lands

- Spirit Lens

- Night Fairy (children's)

- Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (children's)

- Dune (audio - reread)

- Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death

- Soulless

- Boneshaker

- Strange Case of the Origami Yoda (children's)

Best adult book I've read so far:

Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Best children's book I've read so far:

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Movies that Make Me Cry

This Week: Toy Story 3

Grade: A

::Spoiler-filled review::

Holy Cow did I bawl my eyes out at the end of this movie! My husband was seriously laughing at me as I wiped my eyes with the sleeve of my sweatshirt and cleaned my glasses like 4 times, but my god how could you NOT cry! I think my husband didn't have the same reaction because he has only seen the Toy Story movies very recently. Recently as in I only showed him Toy Story 2 like last week, and he only saw Toy Story 1 maybe 2 years ago. There is always something tricky about introducing somebody to a beloved childhood movie later in life (not that I was exactly a child when the first Toy Story came out, I was already 13-14 at the time). Anyway, I wouldn't let my husband's mocking dissuade me from weeping like a little girl when we finally said our goodbyes to Woody and the gang. The closest thing that I can compare it to is that episode of Futurama where the dog waits outside the pizza parlor for Fry for like 10 years until he dies. Ack my heart hurts.

Pixar has a very interesting business model. They have made this executive decision to make very adult and complex stories through an animated medium without sacrificing the silliness that kids enjoy. How any movie can combine the tragedy of death and infertility with the nonsense of dogs in biplanes ("Up") or the destruction of the Earth with whimsical dancing robots (Wall-E) or the painful feelings of abandonment with a Mr. tortilla head (Toy Story 3) just boggles the mind. So often movies for children go for base humor, talking animals, and pop culture references, or they try so hard to please adults that they end up pleasing nobody (see: Fantastic Mr. Fox, Where the Wild Things Are). Pixar on the other hand, makes movies that are both marketable (they just slap Toy Story characters on just about anything these days) but not soulless. This is the real key to their success I think. My only complaint with this film, and it is really minor, is that I think in trying to raise the stakes they might have gone a little too far with the action. I mean, in the first story, we were afraid that Buzz would be blown up by Sid, but the menace was never really that scary I don't think, even for small children. In Toy Story 2 the worst thing that could happen would be that Woody ends up behind glass in some Japanese museum. The "dramatic" fight scene with Zurg was just ridiculous not truly frightening. Contrast this with toys being forcibly cruel to other toys and the terrifying scene in the garbage dump where our heroes were being pulled into a fiery inferno and I think I can safely say that while the first two movies were appropriate for younger children, I think this movie is definitely more in Incredibles territory than, say, A Bugs Life. I mean don't get me wrong, the first movies had their share of complexity, but this movie was definitely written for the younger children who have grown up, or for slightly older children who can appreciate the plight of the toys a bit more. That being said it is a truly terrific movie, and well deserving of my "A" grade.

While I was sad that the movie sort of dispensed with all the other toys in Andy's room offhandedly, I wasn't actually sorry to see that they were simply reduced to the core group. I was also very pleased that with the addition of Barbie and the increased roles of Mrs. Potato Head and Jessie (not to mention the lady triceratops) that there were actually some females in the group who did things. I had always been somewhat bothered by the lack of female toys in the first movie (except for Bo Peep who... did what exactly) and this increased female presence was definitely welcomed. They even gave Mrs. Potato Head a pretty crucial role by having her eye back at Andy's so her presence wasn't just superficial. I also liked that it was a little girl who ended up with the toys and that she was able to play and appreciate all of them, even those which were not gender specific. They totally could have gone the easy route and had Andy find another little boy to give his toys to (one that even looked like him or something), but little girls can have space ships and battles and things too. Pixar, much as I love them, still does struggle with creating meaningful female roles and characters. I do think that this film is a step in the right direction, but I still would like to see a Pixar movie where the primary hero is a girl who knows how to save herself.

The scene that made me cry was obviously the final scene with Andy and the little girl (whose name escapes me) playing with all the toys in the yard. You really appreciate how special the toys are, how much meaning they have for Andy as he describes each one and hands them over. The tears came not from sadness, but more from nostalgia. It's like crying when looking at old photographs of dead relatives or laughing at yearbook messages. It comes from this warm, deep place inside you that sort of forgets things until you see them again and hold them in your hands. Now, that being said, I still think the film could have ended with Andy a hipster with a bunch of toys on his bookshelves (um.. yeah I so have a Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Etch a Sketch, My Little Pony, Care Bear, and Slinky sitting on my shelf). He totally wouldn't be out of place with a Buzz Lightyear on his desk in college; I imagine it is like the equivalent of 20-somethings running around wearing Power Rangers T-shirts. I'm sure a bunch of his buddies would be like "Oh dude, that's a Buzz Lightyear! I totally remember playing with mine while eating Fun-Dips and playing Super Mario 64 at my cousin's house. That's so cool you still have yours." Why the film has to reinforce this notion that grown ups can't have toys is sort of unfortunate. Still, we knew all along that the film was about saying goodbye, and it did so expertly. I really like the touch of Andy wanting to take Woody alone with him to college (he was his number 1 toy after all) and Woody's decision to stay with the group rather than be parted from them. Brilliant stuff.

Of course I can't ignore the humor of the movie, and there was plenty of it. The aforementioned Tortilla Head was the funniest thing I've seen in a movie all year. The cucumber was kind of spoiled in the trailers, but the tortilla came as a delightful surprise. There were a lot of new toys in the movie, but I don't think that there were TOO many or took away from the essential plot. I was actually surprised that the Pricklepants guy played by Timothy Dalton didn't have a bigger role, since they were sort of plugging him with the marketing. The whole Ken thing was a bit much, but he didn't detract from the film at all, and did get in a few cute sight gags. I did like the scene when Barbie is walking in Ken's space suit and the book worm notices the high heels and just does a little shrug. Cute stuff. The whole Spanish Buzz was also funny, as well as Jessie's reaction to his advances, though one would think that, given their bit of flirting at the end of the second movie that they'd have thought to become an actual item in the intervening 10 years.

Bottom line: I'll definitely buy it when it comes on DVD. It is one of those movies, one of those essential memorable films, that can be enjoyed in multiple viewings. I also think, frankly, that its the best movie I've seen all year. That isn't really saying too much, because this year has been, thus far, fairly disappointing in the movie front with the exception of How to Train Your Dragon, which I think will be Toy Story 3's biggest competition come Oscar time.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Things I Absolutely LOVE But Few of My Friends Have Heard Of: Hope and Glory

Here is another new segment on Tales from the Gloop I'll call "Things that I absolutely love but few of my friends have ever heard of"

Today I'll be talking about one of my all time favorite movies. Now it's funny, but when I think of movies I've seen more than 4-5 times, there are a lot of classics (
The Adventures of Robin Hood, Mark of Zorro, Casablanca, Philadelphia Story) on the list, and a lot of the traditional geeky stuff (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Princess Bride). However there are some movies that I don't really think of as my favorites when asked to make a list, but that I've seen so many times and enjoy so much that I have to give them proper consideration in some way. Case in point: Shawshank Redemption, which is on TNT practically every day of the week, or Good Will Hunting which I would never think of as being a favorite, but I've certainly seen it more times than I've seen Citizen Kane. There are also a few movies that make like the second/third tier of favorites that most people don't seem to like as much as me: Billy Elliot, October Sky, Dune, Silverado. However, there is one movie I've seen enough (about 5 times) to consider it "my absolute favorite movie that few of my friends have heard of."

That movie is Hope and Glory

For those of you who haven't seen this movie (and I'm guessing that there probably are a lot of you) it tells the story of an English schoolboy during the Blitz and how he experienced the war. One of the reasons I enjoy this movie so much is because it really "gets" kids, particularly boys, of a certain age (10-11). Upstaging each other with curse words, firing off stray bullets in abandoned, bombed out houses, secretly spying two teenagers having sex... maybe you haven't experienced all these things first hand, but you can certainly imagine what they were like through Billy's eyes. The movie captures joys of childhood, as well as the very real problems associated with living in a war torn country with humor and warmth. There have been many a day that I've wished I could go out rafting on a quaint country river and be home in time for tea and sandwiches. Which is not to say that the movie glorifies worn torn England, but...well... yeah it kinda does. Since it is a semi-autobiographical film, I'm going to assume that life for kids at that time really was that wickedly fun. Really what it does though, is show the resilience of a normal working class family, and the strength of children in difficult circumstances.

Its hard to find another movie to compare it to, because there have been so few movies made about relatively functional extended families in an historical setting: Radio Days maybe, or Avalon. Certain elements definitely bare resemblance to
Empire of the Sun: wartime setting, children, mostly on their own, finding creative uses for destroyed objects, but it lacks the darkness of that film and, most obviously, is about a loving family. Hope and Glory is, if anything, an uplifting film. The final, gleefully satisfying scene makes me giggle every time. It totally needs a jumping freeze frame shot of happiness. So if you have the time, add it to your Netflix queue or (::gasp::) go to an actual video store and pick it up. It is really hard to be disappointed in this movie because its just so damn lovely.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

You know what's neat? - Volume 1

I usually use my blog to complain about things or to gush about tv shows or books or movies. But what about the simple things? Nightly news programs are full of so-called "fluff" stories about water-skiing squirrels or bears caught in a tree or incredibly stupid bank robbers who accidentally leave their wallets behind. As much as I complain about these stories, how they take away from actual reporting and turn the news into essentially "Web Soup" or "Tosh.0," you have to admit that people do like reading about random junk. Go on Yahoo on the average day and the top stories are invariably something actually news-y, a bit of celebrity gossip, and something incredibly hilarious or random that people have the need to share with others. Of course, in my mind the facebook is the place to find the most random of random stories on the internet, and I will proudly admit that probably 60% of my facebook posts are of the "OMG look at this thing!" variety. So, I thought, why not bring that sense of whimsy to my blog, the place where I can wax poetically on whatever I like.

With that being said, on to our newest segment on Tales from the Gloop: "You know what's neat"

You know what's neat? Babies. Babies are neat. Some people think babies are loud and smelly and annoying, and I know that I'm probably putting my foot in my mouth when I say this, but I think I kind of have a higher tolerance for that than most people. I think people who complain about babies, or children in general really, probably don't spend as much time with them as I do. Even parents probably spend less time with unrelated children than I do on a given day. I wouldn't be a children's librarian if I didn't like kids. Mostly what I love about really small children is the fact they they have no idea what anything is or how stuff works. As someone who similarly struggles figuring out how things work, I can definitely relate.

Mostly though, I just think that it is so amazing that these little people enter the world not even knowing what a tree is or that there could be fruit in it and that fruit is something you can eat and some fruit you can eat right off the tree and some you have to take off a peel. Think about that for a minute. Imagine you are on an alien planet and you don't speak the language and the environment is completely unfamiliar. When you arrive, maybe there's one or two people that you meet at first who try to teach you the language, maybe by pointing or making shapes in the sand. Except it isn't sand, its called "grjker" and at night it releases toxic fumes, which you didn't know when you first arrived which is why you spent several weeks confined to a hospital tent. Eventually you learn some rudiments to this society, but you are still at a loss as to the more complexities of their culture or geography of the landscape because, lets say, we aren't on a round planet at all, but instead some kind of lumpy asteroid that is connected to a cluster of other asteroids through some kind of invisible light bridge or something. But of course you don't know all that, you just sometimes see people inexplicably disappear and have absolutely no idea where they went.

That's kind of what its like to be a baby. And honestly, I think that's kinda awesome. You can watch all your retro music video shows on VH1 classic or reruns on TV Land, but you will never get to relive the experience of your youth. And sure, we all have memories that will remain with us: 9/11 or the 2008 election or our graduation from high school or our wedding. But there is something really really primal in kids that they know absolutely nothing... and then somehow they do. You can take a seed and plant it in soil and water it, and something will grow. Can you imagine not taking for granted how really cool that is? That's kind of why my job as children's librarian is easy. A lot of kids are pretty easy to impress. That's why kids love magic, and babies are completely mystified by peek-a-boo. That's also why I am so excited that I am going to be a mom. Because it is IMPOSSIBLE not to take for granted everything we know, or think we know, in the world. But for a child who knows nothing, EVERYTHING is new. Nothing is taken for granted because there is no basis for comparison. I'm not saying that I want to relive life through my child, but it certainly will be something to see them experience things for the very first time.

And that's why babies are neat.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lost: Of Science and Magic

The Lost finale is this Sunday and I, like the rest of the viewers of this show, want answers. I think, however, that the answers I am looking for aren't necessarily the ones that are being discussed on the entertainment sites. I don't need to know what the island is. It just IS. I don't need to know the Smoke monster's real name. What I need to know is how you make science and magic exist in the same reality. More specifically: how will the writers resolve the role of Desmond in both bringing the Losties to the island in the first place (he forgot to push the button, remember) and traveling through time and multiple dimensions (OMG Desmond is Scott Bakula!) with the role of Jacob. Fundamentally it comes down to this: how much of this show has been scifi and how much has been fantasy/ religion. Because I gotta tell you. I LOVE the scifi stuff. "The Constant" was seriously the best episode ever (ok, maybe "Some Like It Hoth") and I really dug the bits traveling through time and Daniel Faraday and his creepy mom (who also travels through time?) and the Dharma people and the teleporting bunnies and the electromagnetism stuff. What I'm not so digging is Jacob. In fact. I freaking hate Jacob. Because basically, he crashed a plane, killed a bunch of people, and destroyed the lives of a ton of others so that he could get a replacement. And sure, yeah, Jack and Kate and Sawyer were kinda having a crappy time of it back home, but what about all those folks that just died on that plane for no reason? If Jacob is so high and mighty, couldn't he have manipulated it so they all got on a private plane with only the people who actually mattered and let everybody else go on their merry way? Nope. He's just a dick like that. At least Desmond was SORRY for crashing Oceanic 815, I mean he couldn't have actually known what the button did. But anyway... But my dislike of Jacob aside, I wouldn't care so much about him if we didn't get all mixed up with this magical religion nonsense.

Before this season, I always saw Jacob/ the Island as sort of like one of those omnipotent floaty aliens on Star Trek that don't allow the Enterprise crew to mess with things or cut the the ships power to keep them out of their space or suck on its warp core cuz it thinks its a boob. I totally envisioned that all the "ghosts" that were appearing were just like when Riker goes down to that planet and the kid makes him think he's his son and all that cuz he's lonely or something. And yes, I knew that they weren't going to go with aliens. And that's cool. Adding weird mythological elements are ok, but only if they jive with the essential structure of the show. Tell me that the island is unstuck in time and I'm all over it, tell me that there is some wacky stuff going on with electromagnetism that makes people age backwards and that's why women can't have babies. But if you are going to tell me that all that is because a djinn or demon or whatever has been released and some asshole needs to put it back in its bottle or magical glowy cave or whatever then try... TRY to make that not completely lame. Seriously as soon as they brought up the whole glowy cave and the smoke monster coming out, all I could think of was "Ali Baba Bunny" where Bugs finds the cave of jewels and Daffy tries to steal the jewel and the guy is like Hassan chop up in there and then Daffy gets all shrunk by the genie and stuff. Looks like Jack Shepard took a wrong turn at Albuquerque on his way to Pismo Beach.

So here's my final thoughts on Lost. I don't need you to explain everything. I don't mind if what is going on is some sort of power play between two ancient deities or something, though.. yeah.. I kinda do mind. But, like in the book I read a few months ago "The Gates" there is a way to effectively combine technology and science with the supernatural. But you have to try.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

What the "F" Lost, What the "F"?!

Ok, so this isn't going to be a comprehensive review of last night's episode of Lost or anything. Rather it is going to be a very specific complaint about something that happened in that episode.





Ok... have I put enough spaces to that people won't see the spoilery stuff in the preview? I'm really really mad that the Kwons died. I wouldn't be mad if one died, I wouldn't have even been mad if they both died in a different way, but I am VERY mad that they died the way they did. Here's why. THEY HAVE A FREAKING KID!!! Now, maybe you think "hey, maybe they just forgot they have a kid back home to take care of" but they were JUST talking about how Jin found the camera that had pictures of their little baby girl. So you know they had it on their mind. And THEN after all that, Jin decides to just go ahead and die with his wife because he can't live without her. Guess who else can't live without you? Your KID! Or are you perfectly happy having her raised by.. by who exactly? Sun's mom? My husband called me after seeing the episode (and before I did) and said that he would do the same thing (meaning he would stay by his wife). Really, because I would much rather have you try to get back to take care of my baby thank you very much. Somebody has to. How selfish to just choose to die and not think about this little infant that is living alone. Both poor little Ji Yeon and Aaron have the worst parents on the planet.

Oh... and not only did they have to die, but they had to do the lame ass Titanic-y way of almost holding hands then then floating away. Where was the Celine Dion?

Otherwise good ep, and I'm not saying that they needed to live. Just the whole "I can't live without you" think is SOO Twilight. These aren't things that adults would do. Adults would think about responsibilities. If Jin and Sun were teenagers then maybe I could forgive their immaturity. But come on, get real.

End of rant

Monday, April 12, 2010

Things That I Read

This Week:
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K Jemisin

Grade: >A for... A really really good book

WOW! Ok, I haven't written a book review in a while, but I really felt like I need to gush about how wonderful this book is. I haven't felt this strongly about a book since I first read Name of the Wind. Something about the writing, the world building, the characters, really connected to me. So hear we go...

Basic synopsis:

Yeine is screwed. Ok, back up. Yeine is a young woman from the "barbarian" tribe of Darre. She is leader of her people, though she is not always accepted because her mother is of the Arameri, who are the ruling class and control pretty much the whole world. Physically she is different: she has her mother's green eyes, but her father's dark skin and hair. Mentally, her personality doesn't quite fit in either: she is too impulsive and reckless, of somewhat ill-manners and bearing, and also somewhat manipulative. Her grandfather, who is leader of the Arameri, has invited her to his palace in Sky for reasons that aren't quite clear. Her mother abdicated the throne and is now dead under murky circumstances, so what does he want with her? She couldn't possibly be of any value, she is sure, given that the Arameri already have everything, including control of the Enefadeh, gods who are enslaved to the Arameri because of a war they lost to Itempas, god of the day. After reluctantly becoming involved with the gods in the palace, Yeine is forced to confront harsh realities of politics, and her true destiny. What follows is a really rich and fascinating story of political maneuvering, mystery, and myth.


The Enefadeh are very similar to the Greek gods: their power and "magic" are unfortunately coupled with a penchant for meddling (and having sex). Of course, since they are slaves to the Arameri, their power is muted, but not so much that they aren't a danger. They also have very distinct, very mythological, personalities. The characterizations of the Enefadeh were just wonderful, in particular the child-like Sieh. Nahadoth, the night lord, is both creepily attractive and incredibly dangerous. Unlike some of the popular (and terrible) vampire stories of late (::cough::twilight::cough::), the danger of Nahadoth is very real and Yeine's growing attraction to him throughout the book puts her in genuine peril. Yeine is not a "Mary Sue," but she definitely is a stand in for the reader with her limited knowledge of politics, a lack of self control, and a drive to uncover the mystery. My only criticism of the book, and it really is the only one, is that there is a bit too much exposition at times because Yeine doesn't quite understand how things work. If anything the book could have been longer and spent more time explaining things in a natural or gradual way rather than info dumping at certain points to move the story along. Part of the problem, though in general I think this was an asset of the book, was that the story is told through first person narration. I found this to be very appealing compared to some of the convoluted, multiple storyline fantasies that are popular, but the lack of an omniscient narrator meant that everything had to be told in dialog that at times was a bit too "tell-y." That really is my only criticism because the book itself is very well written and exciting. I really enjoyed the fact that the protagonist was female, and yet not a woman who is impossibly gorgeous and talented or falling over waiting to be saved by somebody. She might be unsure of herself in her new environment, but she is still a powerful woman who can hold her own in a fight.

To some up:

Fans of epic fantasy and science fiction will definitely enjoy this book, but I also think it is accessible to readers who like good world building and story, but who otherwise might be turned off by genre fiction. Oh, and just as a side note not that it has really anything to do with the book, but it is so super rare to read a scifi/ fantasy book by an African American author, not to mention an African American woman. I really think I liked the characters more because they were written by somebody who wasn't a white dude. Just saying.

So go read it. You'll like it. Promise. In fact, you can even read the first three chapters on the author's website

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Official Proof I Have Lost My Mind

Paper TARDIS plans courtesy of Michael Haggard

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Why Didn't I Know About This Before?

This week: Making Stuff

So lately I've gotten to be rather crafty. I've made armies of crocheted amigurumi animals for starters, not to mention all the things I color and build for the library. But me making stuff is sort of a new, though sort of a not so new phenomenon. I say sort of new because I only started making things a few years ago, and I say sort of not so new because when I was a kid I actually enjoyed making things a lot. Until I didn't. Let me explain by telling the famous robot story. It is a story that my father insists I never tell and gets very angry when I go into it. It is a family tale best left untold. But here it is. When I was 12 my dad bought this really cool robot kit for us to build together. I kept putting off when we would start making it, and when I came back from summer camp I found that he had built it with my brother. I forgive you, dad. But I didn't for a long time. I've been thinking lately, why it was that this bothered me so much. Was it just spending time with my father that I missed out on? That's what I had been thinking for the longest time, but now I'm not so sure. No, what I think I missed was learning about mechanical engineering and building stuff in general.

When I was a kid, I've mentioned that one of my favorite things to do was invent bizarre imaginary stories to act out in my room. But if we are talking about actual toys, my favorite thing was my Domino Rally set. I used to build these crazy arrangements of dominoes so they would slide down the slide and all other sorts of cool things. Have you seen the new OK Go video yet? Well you should:

My dominoes never looked like that. Instead they looked like this

Anyway, it was super fun, albeit a completely lame thing for an 10year old girl to do in her room.

So in addition to playing with stupid plastic dominoes I also took shop in 6th grade. I actually didn't suck at it. It was fun. I made a hardwood marble tic tac toe game, and bent a bunch of plastic to make keychains, and a pinewood derby racer that I actually came in 2nd place in my class I think, and some other crap I don't remember. But I actually made stuff. I got a sense of satisfaction going into the shop each day and building things. I also "helped" my dad make my model of the Parthenon which came out completely awesome. I really was never good at art, but I really enjoyed putting models and things together.

And then I didn't make that robot. Now I'm not saying if I had made the stupid robot that I would have ended up as a mechanical engineer or something. I'm just starting to realize that what happened was I didn't make the robot, and I sort of lost interest in engineering or building or anything like that in general. What I lost was a hobby. Now maybe my interest in building stuff started to wane and that was why I kept putting off the project. All I can say is that I realize now that the reason why I was so bitter about this for such a long time is because I really liked building things and I kind of forgot it until I was an adult. Also, by making it with my brother, my dad kind of reinforced the idea that making models and building things was for boys. School didn't really offer me any more opportunities to take classes like shop, and I had always been pretty bad at drawing (though that's improved too) so I never took any art classes. I totally wish they taught us crochet or origami in class because I've discovered recently that I'm super great at them. But no. My school didn't offer cool art classes like that and they didn't give me any other opportunities to build things. So because my school didn't offer any other opportunities for me to do any kind of building, and because my parents (love them though I do) are completely clueless about doing home repairs so I could never learn from them, that robot was kinda the nail in the coffin. Actually the nail in the coffin was the fact that my high school did not require basic physics, and AP Physics required more math than I had, so any HOPE I had about learning about how things work or building things sort of went away.

Now this of course cannot be blamed on my father. Mostly it has to do with the teachers I had who sort of glossed over a lot of science and engineering, my high school which stupidly did not make physics a requirement but DID require chemistry for some unfathomable reason, and, of course, myself: so determined to get a good GPA that I wouldn't have dreamed of taking a non honors class like shop in high school or taking a class that I might get (gasp) a 'B-' in if I wasn't completely perfect at it. Also, if we are blaming parents, equal blame has to go to my mother (Love you!) who raised me to be afraid of getting hurt. Now I'm not saying that she takes all the blame, but I would never though of doing stuff like lighting crap on fire or building things with the rusty tools in the garage (which now seems like SUCH a fun idea) because I could hurt myself. So I've NEVER hurt myself. Except for the one time I tripped in the backyard and had to get stitches. That's it. No broken bones, no singed eyebrows letting off model rockets. Nada. My brother was raised by the same parents and he is completely fearless, so I suppose its just my nature to be hesitant. Still, even if my dad and I had built that robot, I might never have continued into engineering because my mom (and I) would be too afraid for me to use tools and hurt myself (even though I used saws and all kinds of things in shop class at school).

And now...

Boy do I wish Mythbusters was on TV when I was 12, that's all I can say. Because that sure makes building crazy things seem awfully cool. Yes, sometimes they use chemistry, but god they don't make it look so BORING, and a lot of times they just build a bunch of random contraptions. Of course, because I haven't taken a science class in over 10 years and I never took physics, I am COMPLETELY clueless on how stuff works. I watch the Discover Channel all the damn time and I still don't understand simple concepts that my husband rolls his eyes over. A few years ago I started getting interested in steampunk both for the aesthetic and the craft projects I saw people had done online with just some gears and things. It seemed so cool. So where I am right now is I have an unending fascination with looking at mechanical contraptions and neat little models and gadgets and gizmos and so on, but I have absolutely no idea how to make them or how I would even get started. Even more frustrating is the fact that my husband builds stuff for a living and knows all sorts of things about electricity and engineering and makes me feel completely stupid for not knowing how things work.

I also have discovered that getting hurt every now and then isn't so terrible. I learned that from my husband who gets more injuries than anybody I know. He also convinced me to go ATVing and all sorts of other things I would be afraid to do on my own. So thanks, hon.

And now I have decided that I'm going to get off my ass and build something. So I decided to start simple. I am already pretty good at doing origami following plans, so I'm moving on to some more advanced paper sculpture and engineering. Today I made a really cool paper rocket that shoots and a 3D mouse. My hope is to make this really crazy pirate ship and some paper automata I've seen online. From there I'd like to move on to some basic science projects like a trash bag hot air balloon and a putt-putt tea candle steam boat. I got a few books from the library, and I found a ton of stuff online, and I'm going to teach myself how to build something, dammit. Maybe from my little steam powered boat I could move on to a wind powered whirligig and maybe from there I could make some simple walking machine with a couple of batteries. And maybe, just maybe, if I learn enough, I just might be able to make a robot of my own.