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Sunday, May 27, 2012

You've got to know when it's time to turn the page

This used to be me. I hope it's worth it for this person.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Freak out with your geek out

It's here once more, folks: Geek Pride Day! If you're a lover of any and/or all things nerdy, today's the day to fly the banner proudly, regardless of stodgy bosses and disapproving parents/significant others. Here are a few things from various corners of my nerd world that I'm currently excited about: 

Book Nerding: Bitterblue. This is the sequel to Graceling and companion to Fire, Kristin Cashore's two previous fantasy novels, and a more gloriously charmed third offering I cannot imagine. Bitterblue is coming into her own as Queen of Monsea, a country ravaged by thirty-five years of mind control due to her father Leck (one of my personal most terrifying villains in literature); all our favorite characters are back (I have been yelling PO!!!!  KATSA!!!! every other page or so); and some awesome new characters have arisen as well (for librarians, it doesn't get much better than Death. Yes, there is a librarian named Death in this book. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR). 

Comics Nerding: Dudes, Batman Incorporated started up again this week! I haven't gotten my issue yet, but I hear it's delectable. Say what you will about Grant Morrison--most of it will be accurate, good and bad--but his Batverse is one of my favorites. Leviathan, the winter offering which tided over Inc. fans, was pretty great, but I can't wait for the ongoing to begin again in earnest. Another great newish DC offering (from Vertigo, specifically) is Saucer Country, written by Paul Cornell and drawn by Ryan Kelly. This is one of my absolute favorites of the year, a fantastic blend of political maneuverings with alien abduction and featuring a Mexican-American lady governor running for president. Basically everything I love at once. It's only three issues in, so catch up!
image from Talking Comic Books  

Comics Movies Nerding: Hey, they get separate categories. Obviously The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man are going to have to step pretty to top what The Avengers pulled out, but I look forward to their attempts. We're kinda living in the golden age of comic book movies and I'm enjoying every attempt that's being thrown at us--even the wretched ones, like X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Here's to the rest of the summer superhero offerings, and I hope we'll see lots more in the future (pssst, Hollywood: more ladies. More characters of color). 
 Music Nerding: I am pleased to announce that I have spent my concert fund on tickets to see Nightwish and Kamelot in September. Both are amazing live bands, both are favorites of mine, and...well, let's just say that I hope by the time September rolls around, Kamelot will have found a new lead singer. They're being awfully closemouthed about the whole business considering their tour kicks off very soon and they have plans for a new album. In other music news, Regina Spektor's newest, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, is coming out next week, and if you haven't already contributed a buck or two to another red-headed pianist's Kickstarter, no time like the present!

What's going on in your fandoms, fellow geeks? Whether you travel to Westeros, Apokolips, or Hogwarts and whether you get there by Floo Powder, a TARDIS, or the Millennium Falcon, travel safely, be cool to your nerdy compatriots, and always know where your towel's at.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I think my optic nerves are strained

Due to excessive eyerolling, of course. But how can something like this be met with anything else? Not to say Andy's post is eyeroll-worthy, but the topic at hand is a further plummet into ridiculousness plaguing the shelves of school and public libraries, and more to the point, why am I being asked to take seriously a study on profanity conducted by Brigham Young University?

Are we going to pretend now that BYU has some sort of objectivity when it comes to a subject like this? Even if the academics who conducted the study aren't church members, they're still under pressure to present data and conclusions which jibe with BYU's goals and image (and which fall within the parameters of the school's position on academic freedom). Of course they're going to suggest that books (books, of all things) should be rated. Think of the children!

(Speaking of the children, here is my teenage LDS experience: reading curse words in books and hearing curse words in music, films, and from real live humans did not make me any more inclined to swear. Indeed I was nigh on terrified of profanity coming out of my mouth. Hell, I still live in fear of letting an F-bomb slip out in front of my mother. Once upon a time in high school my mom critiqued a short story I had written, and her major complaint was that a character took the Lord's name in vain. One of my good friends likes to tell the story of the first time she heard me curse--according to her I blushed like a fire hydrant. By the way, I was nineteen by this point. Surely everyone recalls the horrible things I read as a kid? They must have had a delayed effect.)

Rating children's, middle grade, and YA fiction would provide yet another excuse for parents to not be parents and yet more ways for libraries to be bullied into pulling books off shelves regardless of their buying and evaluation policies. But come on, if you're not policing your kid's reading (or listening, or viewing), no one else should be expected to do it for you. The role of librarians is to provide the most comprehensive array of media possible for patrons and to help patrons select media suitable to their tastes and needs. That is NOT the same as collating a list of all perceivable offenses for each book in the system. As Andy indicates in his post linked above, stickering books with a rating system provides a shortcut for people to be preemptively offended--if the book is OBVIOUSLY bad news, why bother to read and evaluate it? There is no such thing as a rating system that fits everyone and is completely objective, nor should there be. This whole business smacks of the continual underestimation of youth patrons and the increasing bent to fob parental and personal responsibility off on someone else, not to mention the whole distrusting-children angle. Yeah, I don't have kids, yeah, I don't want to have kids, but I was a kid once and one of my very favorite growing-up memories is the knowledge that my mother trusted me and let me use my library card as I saw fit.

And if books were rated by some outside body (a literary version of the MPAA or whatnot), guess what? That would be a barrier to purchase for both the general buying public and libraries. I'm waiting for publishers to scream about this, and hoping they do so. The bottom line for me is that there is no integrity to this study and godfuckingdammit I am annoyed that anyone should have to act like there is. I'm annoyed that this idea of rating YA books has been put into people's minds by an institutional body interested chiefly in backing up its religious overseers. I'm annoyed at the mere thought of giving more opportunities for the willfully ignorant to boil down books (or music or TV or film) to X number of curse words, context-free and inanely reductive. Let's be clear--I detest both the MPAA and the RIAA's Parental Advisory Labels, and I really do not want to see literature be subjected to these kinds of archaic, effectively meaningless systems.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hurry, put a ring on it!

I promised it'd be all fun all the time until Next Giant Post, but Sulli always gives me food for thought. Currently the chewy topic at hand is marrying in haste. My experience of LDS marriage culture is exactly so--I watched everyone from friends  my age to my mother get married after bare months of knowing the other person. There were some shotgun weddings as well. My hypothesis is that the urge to get married as soon as possible stems from the premium the church places on (temple) marriage; holding a person's salvation hostage is a pretty good way of getting couples hitched. Also worth noting is that once you get married, you can get laid. That's a powerful impetus for young people who aren't even supposed to be masturbating.

Relatedly, a few nights ago my gentleman mentioned that he'd seen some LDS missionaries out and about, which kicked off a conversation about how missions work in the Mormon church. In high school I kind of assumed that I would serve a mission, both because I was laboring under the impression that I was unattractive to all male specimens generally and especially to LDS guys, and because I didn't actually want to get married at nineteen or twenty. Needless to say, none of that came to pass, since I am unmarried at twenty-four and left the church before serving a mission became the road to take. I hope that in the years I've been gone the attitude toward women serving missions has changed from "sweet spirits no one wants to marry even though they're rilly rilly good people" to "life experience and valid personal choice." Has the stereotype of overweight/ugly/awkward/otherwise-non-marriage-material sister missionaries disappeared? Serving the church should not be  considered the second-best option for women who can't get a husband. At the time I disliked that one pole was Get Married and the other Serve A Mission (Because No One Wants You) but hadn't really figured out why. Now it's clear as day. Part of the reason I grew away from the church was that there simply weren't enough options for meaningful relationships. In the year or so before I left there were a couple of articles in The New Era decrying the rise of "hanging out"--the authorities were not happy that traditional dates seemed to be going out the window and that young men and women seemed to be (gasp!) becoming friends before doing the dinner-and-a-movie thing. If the tendency and/or cultural pressure for LDS singles to eye every member of the opposite sex with the Moroni spire glare is diminishing, all the better!

Now, of course, there are many reasons why I am yet unmarried, none of which are satisfactory to my mother. And I can't say for certain if the hasty marriages I witnessed as a younger person were a bad idea (or if the parties are repenting at leisure). I hope they're all doing well and they probably are. But LDS marriage culture as a whole seems unhealthy to me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My parsing sense is tingling

I sense another megapost coming on (hint: this time it will be about BOOKS!).

Until such time as it appears, I shall endeavor to be as frivolous as possible. To that end, have some baby elephants.

(via Animals Talking In All Caps)  

ALSO. It is my best friend's birthday. Just thought the world should know.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Assembled (Avengers spoilers)

 Five things I liked about The Avengers:

1. Black Widow's expanded, one-hundred-percent-unfiltered-badass role. I liked Natasha  well enough in Iron Man 2, chiefly because I enjoyed watching her and Pepper Potts get shit done while Tony broke things and made an ass of himself, but Whedon and Johansson magnified her greatness by a thousand for The Avengers. Her opening fight scene was my favorite fight of the movie. It's still wonderful for me as a woman viewer to watch a movie where no comments about characters' sex are made. Not one person says anything to Natasha or Maria about them being women, and when Loki trades on what he perceives as Natasha's weakness, he learns part of why she's an effective spy. Also, it's a nice change to see a woman rescuing a man, and rescuing him for reasons other than "I love him!"--Clint and Natasha's relationship may have a romantic component (it would be canonically accurate), but there's more to it and Natasha places a premium on atoning for her sins (a favorite Whedon theme).

2. The team dynamic. Whedon's chief strength is making ensemble pieces coalesce, and that is the sticking point of this film--if the team's interactions hadn't worked, the film wouldn't have worked. The Avengers is a team of opposites and clashing personalities who manage to work together despite themselves. It was fantastic to see that brought to the screen. There are no weak links or bad performances here.

3. Mark Ruffalo's performance. Yes, you may recall how I feel about Ruffalo as an actor, but he did a bang-up--as it were--job as Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk. I'm not real interested in the Hulk as a character (I'd rather see either or both the She-Hulks on screen), but he is an integral part of the Avengers team and had much more depth here than I'm used to reading for him in the comics. I venture that many people loved the "let's do science!" bromance of Tony and Bruce.

4. Whedonisms. Despite his shows' flaws (and they aren't perfect), I'm a Whedonite--I try not to be the super-annoying brand. This film is a treat for Whedon fans: the snappy dialogue, which I found particularly suitable for Tony, especially in how it came out in his nicknames for everyone; the WHEDON'D death (?) scene of a beloved character; and creating Maria and Natasha as important, well-rounded characters are great hallmarks of Whedon. There's also the matter of a bunch of people fleeing as a city caves in behind them...

5. Equal-opportunity asskicking. Related to points #1 and #4, the heroes in this team all get to kick about equal amounts of ass. I don't understand how a viewer could come out of the film wondering about the usefulness/efficacy of Black Widow and Hawkeye (yet these viewers exist), because every Avenger gets to pound evil dudes into the ground (literally in the case of the Hulk, in a scene which had the audience in my theater roaring). It's more obvious when Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk kick ass, because they have giant muscles and serious weapons, but the Widow and Hawkeye are no less capable and get their fair share, which is as it should be.

Two things I didn't like about The Avengers:

1. Sort-of-whitewashing Maria Hill. Cobie Smulders is a great actress and she did a wonderful job as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill (AND I really liked the film's development of her character, especially when compared with her on Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes), and I would be totally in favor of an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. film wherein she, Coulson, and Fury supervise Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff as they kick All The Asses (in Budapest, perhaps?), but Maria Hill's ethnicity is unaddressed in some media and Hispanic in others, and I would have loved to see a Latina actress in that role. More broadly, of course, I would have wished for more heroes of color on the team, but that's a wish that's about eight years past being able to come true for this particular franchise. I do hope that perhaps a future Captain America film will feature Falcon (and I nominate Isaiah Mustapha for the role), and that maybe with the incredible success of The Avengers, Marvel might look into other team properties such as Heroes for Hire or The Defenders.

2. What are you doing, Loki? I found Loki's parts of the film somewhat weak. This is a minor nitpick, but I sense that if a viewer hadn't seen Thor, there might have been some doubt as to what exactly Loki's point was. It's definitely not Tom Hiddleston's fault, as he was as slinky-evil in The Avengers as in Thor, but the Chitauri were run-of-the-mill cannon fodder and Loki's relationship to the Other somewhat underdeveloped. for my money his most threatening scene was the one discussed in my final point below--he was never more frightening to me than that, maybe because his power in this film was tied to that Staff of Destiny watchamajigger, and he can apparently be effectively thrashed into the ground by a Hulk like a cat playing with a toy.

One thing I'm still undecided on about The Avengers:

1. Quim. In case you didn't hear Loki/aren't well-versed in outdated British slang terms/have never seen Elizabeth or read Chaucer, "quim" is basically an older version of "cunt." Loki refers to Natasha as a "mewling quim" in his showdown with her when he's inside the Hulk cage. At the time, I thought vaguely that I'd heard the word before (read it in Chaucer at some point) and couldn't remember exactly what it meant, but even still, it's pretty clear that it's a gendered insult. Which...it is. So the question becomes, why is this word here? It's Whedon, so the Cynical Fan part of me says that he was playing his old game of "slip naughty words past censors" which he did in Buffy and Firefly/Serenity. But it's not a naughty word like "fuck" is--it's a specific, gendered insult for which there is no male equivalent. The Let's Examine The Character part of me thinks that Loki would indeed say something like this; he makes a veiled sexual threat toward Jane Foster in Thor, so it's not completely out of character for him to speak to or about women this way, AND he's a villain whose power flows from his words, so he wouldn't be above saying whatever he thought was necessary to grind a person down. The scene itself is also one in which he loses control without even realizing it, since Black Widow is playing him like a harp, and "cunt" is definitely a word that people--usually men--use when they feel out of control. 

The Tired Of Gendered Insults part of me thinks that the scene would have been pivotal enough without use of a word like this, and that having the line be "mewling mortal" or something would have jibed perfectly fine (especially since Loki prefaces his final insult with a lengthy diatribe about how he's going to force Clint to kill Natasha, with threat of sexual assault implied). The Let's Talk About Sociolinguistics part of me thinks that if Loki had called Hawkeye  or another male character a "mewling quim" the meaning would have been changed entirely (to "pussy" rather than "cunt"), which adds another level to the dynamic of the scene. The Take That, Misogyny! part of me sees Natasha hear him, presumably understand his meaning if not the word itself (although who knows, her brain is a magical place), and still go in for the kill, because that is just how little she gives a shit, it isn't the first time she's been called a cunt and it won't be the last. The Whedonite in me thinks that, all else being equal, Loki's conversation with the Widow is the most compelling and frightening segment of the film, the best indicator of Loki's evilness, and signifies that his threats against her (all sexualized ones) are the worst that a villain can bring to bear.

So...I'm not sure how I feel about this word, being in this film.  I am not real bothered by "cunt" itself, but when a person calls me that, it isn't the word that is trying to hurt me, it's the feeling behind it. Having only previously encountered "quim" as a quaint, har har, term for female junk, I'm not sure I WAS aware that it could be connotatively similar to "cunt," but of course that's Loki's (or Whedon's) goal. Erring on the side of optimism, if what this scene gives us IS solely Loki's misogyny and not Whedon's flippancy, I would think the creator might still be aware that the US is not quite ready for that conversation. Context as ever is key, since in some erotic scenarios we have "cunt" being used as an endearment (Lady Chatterley's Lover comes to mind as the classic example) and the same is true of "quim," which is largely cutesy in Chaucer, as I recall. For me as a consumer of culture "quim" was on level with "minge" prior to this movie. I can believe both that Whedon wrote the line intending for it to tell us something about Loki's character AND that Whedon should know that it isn't as cut-and-dried as all that. Ultimately, the line was written and signed off on; ironically I think it would be much more clear-cut if "cunt" had actually been used--and yes, I am one of those who think MPAA ratings for language are absolutely fucking idiotic. Regardless, there's a discussion to be had, and as always, Cleolinda has a thoughtful analysis and a lot of great comments.

Monday, May 07, 2012


My hometown library system is in the news, and not for a good reason. Hell, is any Florida news ever good? Such an embarrassing state I hail from. Anyway, in the interest of helping the dear folks out back home, I present a partial list of Literature Easily Accessible at the Brevard County Public Library That Will Scar Children for Life and Cause Adults to Abandon All Morality (AKA Some Things I Read Age 13-17 That Taught Me More About Sex Than the Brevard County School System):

The novelization of The Wicker Man
Anne Rice as Anne Roquelaure's Sleeping Beauty trilogy
Incarnations of Immortality and every other fantasy series Piers Anthony has ever written
obvious shit like A Spy In the House of Love and Tropic of Cancer
River God
any number of Zane novels
part of Sin City
Trainspotting (the novel and the film)
hoary classics such as Lady Chatterley's Lover (hey, it was naughty when I was fifteen)
Rubyfruit Jungle 

These are all going to be removed, right? Right? For the betterment of humanity? Right?! 

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Movie things

Yes, I saw The Avengers. Yes, I have many Thoughts and Feelings, but I am going to put off writing about them until a) more people in the US have seen it and b) I've seen it again. It's a pretty vast film deserving of at least one repeat viewing on the big screen.

Until then, a partial list of how movies are going to break my wallet this summer: Prometheus, Brave, Snow White and the Huntsman, Magic Mike, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man, Rock of Ages, The Expendables 2.

Friday, May 04, 2012


Hey dudes! It's May 4th--let's talk about Star Wars! Now, surely all of you are aware that yes, in terms of intergalacticy shit I err on the side of Wars rather than Trek, but I'm not sure I've ever really gabbed about my SW feels in depth here before. No day but today, right? /mixing genres

So. Being born in 1987, I arrived on the mortal coil too late for the original Trilogy releases, and when they were re-released, my mother would never have dreamed of taking me to see them (she hates science fiction), but thankfully I had a friend whose dad was an SW nut, and she lent me their videotapes. Yes, videotapes. That was a good choice, since the tapes were ORIGINAL VERSIONS OF THE FILMS (gasp!). None of that Greedo-shooting-first nonsense. I became an SW nut straightaway, spending my days hunting down every EU book I could find at the library and drawing pictures of Han and Leia for my bedroom walls. My mother was somewhat dismayed. Then--oh, then!--Episode I came out, and I saw my first SW film in theaters. Now the older folks among you may be shedding a tear for this blasphemy, but we take what we can get.  Accidents of birth and all that. Of course, being all of twelve or so at the time, I loved it and my adoration of all things Star Wars grew. My first real entrance to participating in online fandom was through the starwars.com Message Boards. For my best friend's birthday a few years later, we checked out of school in the middle of the day to go see Episode II. And of course, senior year of high school, we were standing in line at midnight for Episode III. All the while we had read legions of EU stories good and not-so-good; we'd written a gigantic, awful science fiction novel largely inspired by SW elements; we'd gone to STAR WARS WEEKENDS at Disney World and had our picture taken with Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes; and we'd watched the Trilogy more times than either of us can count. 

For good or ill, depending on how you view the franchise and its creator, Star Wars will never die. It is truly an heirloom, as kids born five years ago to people who enjoy cosplaying as Chewbacca are cutting their teeth on the Clone Wars cartoon (which is great). It was my gateway into science fiction and what it means to be a fan. And for that, dear Mr. Lucas, I am indebted. Being an SW fan can be a fraught experience, but it is a rewarding one.

If you're for some reason flummoxed as to how to celebrate this wonderful day, geek with curves has some ideas! I'll be popping a Han-Solo-in-carbonite ice cube into my whiskey sour later on as I take in Empire for the nathanfillionth time. Go forth and make merry like unto the Ewoks on Endor, and may the Force be with you...always.
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