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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Give them a reason to stay

Every two years the part of my soul that is a ride-or-die Fast and the Furious fangirl comes screaming to the surface like a sappy, excitable bear just out of hibernation. Now is that season, folks, since the latest installment--Fast & Furious 6--arrived in theaters last Friday. Did I see it opening day? Why yes I did. Was I sorry to not be able to see it with my Vin Diesel-obsessive mother-in-law? Yes, I was. Was it still awesome? Fuck yeah. See, despite not giving a shit about cars or even owning one, man do I enjoy watching hot people drive stick. I also like action movies where people hug a lot, Vin Diesel, action movies that make bank despite having only one white dude in them, Sung Kang, action movies that are set in places other than New York City and Los Angeles, Gal Gadot, and oh yeah, the Rock. And surprise!Gina Carano (whose acting is improving). And Michelle Rodriguez coming back to life, as her characters tend to do. And emotionally rewarding death scenes. And big-budget franchises with unexpected timelines, long-term plot goals, and mytharcs that boil down to "family is important; take care of yours."

(nine people on a movie poster and only one of them is white??!)

Yes, there are loud, fast machines. Yes, there are scantily-clad women...and men. Yes, there is a lack of non-heterosexual relationships. But when you stack Fast 6 against, say, other recent smash-hit action flicks, guess who comes out on top? The FatF series has, from the get-go, valued portraying people of color in a variety of relationships with one another. Women's relationships are given screen time and their characterizations are well-defined; Mia is not the same as Letty, who differs greatly from Elena, who is not a carbon copy of Gisele, who is not anything like Riley (except in terms of kickassery). You could expect a fight scene between Carano and Rodriguez to be half-dressed and hair-pulling, and you would be wrong; you could expect Elena and Letty to fight over Dom, and you would be wrong again.  Men's relationships, from the top-billed Diesel and Walker to Tyrese and the flawless Sung Kang, are also given screen time, significance, and depth, and director Justin Lin doesn't want you to forget that each film that came before--and the one that comes chronologically after--is important to character development. The attention to detail and relationships creates a film that feels like a real ensemble piece, with each character and their weight of history fitting into the puzzle. 

(my beautiful doomed OTP)

This is not to say that FatF is the be-all end-all of modern filmmaking, deserving of accolades, awards, and a place in the Criterion Collection. At its best, it's good action fun--but the action genre is a massive beast of moneymaking for Hollywood, and why should I bother with ridiculous Bay films when Lin and company have shown us that it's possible to make fun sexy blow-em-up flicks with a core of actual substance? A globally successful franchise, based around and respectful of a diverse cast, is worth talking about and supporting.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Another half-remembered amusing anecdote from Mormon literature

I heard "Land of Confusion" today in CVS and any time I hear that song, I remember that in Gadiantons and the Silver Sword, Garth disapproves of Jim playing his Genesis tapes because they drive away the Spirit.*

No really. I'm 99.9% sure that actually happened in the story. Reason #4,923 to leave the LDS church: secular fiction is so much better. That said, I would be totally up for a snarky reread of all the Tennis Shoes books...except I don't have any of them anymore, and I'm unwilling to spend money on them. If a dear reader out there has a few copies they'd like to unload, I'll pay for postage.

*little-known fact: the character of Garth was based on my stepfather.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Teaching creates all other professions

It's Teacher Appreciation Week! If you've been hanging around here for a reasonable amount of time, you know that I am in the library profession. So I'm pretty big on education and educators in general, and I'm taking this opportunity to count over the fantastic teachers in my life. 

There was the second-grade teacher who helped me create my first literary masterpiece (it was about dinosaurs, of course).

There was the sixth-grade teacher who blithely let her students set fire to things in the name of science. Polk County, take note

There was the eighth-grade teacher who encouraged me to write down things, even if they were things my mother didn't want to read.

There was the eleventh-and-twelfth grade teacher who was the image of everything I wanted to be: sardonic, learned, independent, bookish, strange. 

There was the English professor who was so smart, so articulate, such a good teacher--not always something you get in a brilliant individual--and a natty dresser to boot.

There was the anthropology professor whose excitement for his subject was palpable, contagious. He taught me new ways of thinking. I owe him a lot.

There were librarians and remedial math tutors and my best friend's mother who is a consummate educator and who, though I never sat in her classroom, has taught me more over the years than anyone.  There were mentors who gave me books off their own shelves and sparks of inspiration who let me natter at them and ask silly questions. 

Who are the teachers in your life?

Monday, May 06, 2013

All Tammy all the time

So between Mark Reads continuing on his Big Damn Tammy Read (he started Protector of the Small! My squee could only be heard by dogs), the fytortall Tumblr folks putting together an anthology of fan writing, and the recently launched PierceFest blog carnival, it's a damn good time to be a Tamora Pierce fan.

Of course, it's always a good time to be a Tammy fan. Arguably my first fandom--I edged into the now-sadly-defunct Steelsings community a year before I hit the starwars.com message boards--readers of Pierce's books have consistently been a friendly, drama-free, and very talented bunch. But lately it seems there's been an upswing in activity: more fan-art, more fic, more discussion, and I'm loving it. The best thing is reading her books yourself for the first time; the second best is introducing them to someone else; and the third best is talking about them with people who love them as much as you. I'm looking forward to a summer full of Pierce!
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