rockinlibrarian: (roar)
Last week, a tree fell on our house. I was in the upstairs bathroom, the room directly under the point of impact. My initial reaction was to burst out laughing at how this had been immediately preceded by one of the guys cutting it down saying "Uh-oh." A few yards and an attic crawl space from being beaned to death by a falling tree,* and all I could do was appreciate the comic timing of that loud "uh-oh," followed by the smack of a huge bunch of branches right outside the window.

A bit later I was able to expand that reaction to laughing at the irony of the entire situation. We have a series of very old, very tall, very rickety pines right on the property line-- on one side or the other, but all a threat to either our house or the neighbors'. So when said neighbor came over to ask permission to work in our yard so as to remove one of those trees that was on their side of the line, I said, "Oh yes, we're concerned about those trees falling on our house, too." So when the first tree being removed instead falls DIRECTLY ON OUR HOUSE IN THE PROCESS... seriously, you have to admit that's funny!

"How are you laughing?" people would ask me later as I tried to tell them what had happened. "How are you TAKING this so well?" Well, no one got hurt. Insurance is handling all the repairs. Sure, we're going to have to pay a lot more, to take this opportunity to replace the entire roof that needed it anyway; and to replace ALL the siding because they don't make the kind we have anymore to match; and to take this opportunity to get the house properly insulated because it turns out it ISN'T (and that will save money in the long run). And that's kind of exciting. Sure, we probably WON'T get to fixing the retaining wall or painting the shed as per the original plans for this summer of having-more-money-than-we-used-to, but hey.

And you know what? We've never been as friendly with those neighbors before as we have since they dropped a tree on our house. The guys at first cowered in terror from my husband, and took some time to get their heads around that he HADN'T come out screaming-- or shooting, everybody knows about his hobbies-- at them, but instead just expressed concern about no one getting hurt. "What good does getting mad do?" he said. And, as it turned out this had been our neighbor and his buddies themselves trying to do this tree removal instead of a professional company-- and they were definitely not going to try again WITHOUT a professional company, J said, "When you do, let me know, we can go in together on it and get the other trees done, too. Talk to you later, we'll have some beers and barbecue!"

All the personality type descriptions of me that come up feel the need to point out that, as an optimist, I need to be careful not to ignore problems or refuse to acknowledge that there's Bad Stuff about even the things and people I love. That was even TODAY'S Type 9 "Enneathought for the Day" in my inbox: "As average Nines accommodate themselves, they idealize the other person, who can do no wrong. Values and beliefs are seldom questioned. Watch for this tendency in yourself today." I snorted. Well, it's true I'll tend to go with whatever anybody else says rather than stand up for what I want, and that IS something that's been on my mind since yesterday evening, when the hubs and I had an argument about what colors to go with for the new siding and trim. He wants grayscale for easier repairing. I want the exact opposite-- even our current blue-with-white-trim is too bland for me. I want COLOR. Sensible color. I'm definitely leaning toward this particular shade of green, which looks lovely with some browns and a touch of red. Last night I spent a great deal of time dreaming I was studying green houses, and how to compromise with roof color. I also dreamed I was trying to unlock these pictures I couldn't access of the Time I Swear I Really Did Meet Julie Andrews and She Said She Liked My Gardening (note: I have never actually met Julie Andrews), and this lady kept wanting to give me acupuncture in the shape of India. But anyway, my point is I'm sticking to my guns on this, and we ARE going to have SOME color in our new house covering.

And, okay, I do tend to ignore problems, either hoping they'll go away or waiting until I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO DEAL with them, which could be dangerous especially in medical situations (but you know what happens every time I go to the doctor, after trying to rassle up babysitting or some other rearrangement of schedule? "Oh, you just have a pretty bad virus. Get some rest and drink plenty of fluids." AAAGGHHH!)

But refusing to acknowledge the bad or thinking loved ones can do NO WRONG? I kindly disagree. I am all too aware of The Dark Side. I'm probably MORE aware of the Dark Side than the average person.** That's why disasters and tragedies and horrors seem to SHOCK other people more than they shock me. Not saying bad things don't make me sad, or angry, or slightly sick. It's just that they're so common. If I was expected to cry in outrage EVERY time I encountered a tragedy, I would never stop. So I choose to focus on the beauty or the humor or both.

A common refrain of those who take a pessimistic view is, "We're just being realistic about it!" Dude, let me tell you about being unrealistic. Do you know what goes on inside the head of a person with chronic depression? It's utter negativity. And it's utter BS. Choosing to focus on the positive allows me to actually TAKE ACTION in the world. Focusing on the negative makes me give it all up to hopelessness. Now, I can see where acknowledging as opposed to ignoring problems comes into this. Ignoring problems is not taking action, either. But there's a difference between "HERE'S A PROBLEM. LOOK AT THIS PROBLEM. GASP IN SHOCK AT THIS PROBLEM. OH NO, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!" and "Well, THAT'S something we need to fix. How are we going to do that? I'm sure we'll find a way."

As for idealizing people... I AM very good at seeing the good in other people. I AM inclined to Not-Hate people everyone else can't stand-- and often I DON'T see what their problem is until it's pointed out to me. But usually, I do. I just don't care unless it's actively causing a problem. Like there's a book vendor who has a history of coming to our library. I do not want to work with him. I wish they'd stop letting him come in. He's a horribly pushy salesman. Last time he showed up, unable to find anyone who actually orders books to talk to, he just asked some of the others to look and see what they might be INTERESTED in, and then went and ordered them all for us anyway. I don't like him. But only as a book vendor. I'm sure his family is very proud of what a good salesman he is, how he supports them and all. Just because I don't want to work with him doesn't negate his worth as a human being. It doesn't give me the right to insult his fashion choices or make assumptions about his politics. It doesn't mean I'm going to start a campaign to have all my followers find his Twitter handle and bully him online-- "well HE'S a bully, serves him right!" No, not really. I just don't want to deal with him trying to sell me books.

In one of my childhood books-I-wrote, there's a line at the end where I said (I'm the narrator of that book) something like, "The others have been treating so-and-so better after I told them that she makes a very good book character." Maybe the whole empathy-from-reading-fiction thing is what's kept me realistically-optimistic about people, instead of idealizing them or hating on them. I've always liked looking at people as potential book characters. Imperfect characters are way more interesting than perfect ones. I like quirks. I like wondering about the pain and/or hopes beneath the surface of people. I like comparing the different ways people react to the same situation.

And so I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt.

And what's wrong with that? Is it really better to say "This person is a jerk because they have this terrible fault," than "This person is wonderful in these ways! Oh yes, they're not perfect, but I wasn't talking about that right now"? I mean, sure, if someone has done something reprehensible, they ought to be punished for it if at all possible, and it's wrong to let them get away with it (for example, on one end, Justin Beiber's DUI issues, or Woody Allen's sex abuse thing on the other). And I admit when someone gets a lot of praise whom you know has been, to put it mildly, Imperfect, there's that urge to say "...but!" It's my John Lennon problem. It bugs me when people talk about him like he WAS the Beatles, like he was the genius behind it all, because he wasn't. He was only a so-so musician, particularly compared to Paul. And that whole Icon of Peace thing... excuse me, John? Who mistreated his wives and girlfriends? Rude, crass John? GEORGE would make a much better Icon of Peace-- or Ringo. From a personal day-to-day standpoint, Ringo embodies living a life of Peace better than any of them. DARN IT, PEOPLE, STOP IDOLIZING JOHN. And yet... John. Funny, clever John, who would have made my life by writing either "Across the Universe" or "Julia" alone, and he wrote BOTH of them. I can't not love John, warts and all.

I just don't see the point on dwelling on problems that can't be undone. There comes a point where you realize what a crapball the world can be, what idiots humans are, what atrocities and injustices happen at every moment, and you give up on it-- or you notice the good things that keep on happening, even among all the bad. You notice the wildflowers that have overgrown the tracks at Auschwitz, the strangers sharing supplies with each other in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the smile on the person you pass on the street, just acknowledging you, just saying, "Hi, I see you're there, and you're a person who could use a smile today."

Focusing on the good is not the same as refusing to acknowledge the bad. It's just not letting the bad win.

----
*one of my grandfathers was killed by a falling tree, this is serious business!
**seriously, "The Imperial March" is playing on my computer right now. I'm not even kidding.
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Surprise! Yes I AM posting two days in a row for the second time this month! That's because today is Dogsbody day at #DWJMarch, and when Kristen M first MENTIONED the imminent arrival of #DWJMarch, I said, "Sounds like an excuse to read some fiction again," and turned to my "get at some point" list on my library catalog account. When we converted our library to a county-wide system last summer, allowing us to easily request things from other libraries in the county and use our cards wherever and so forth, I searched for all kinds of things I'd been wanting to find for awhile, and put them on a list for, you know, whenever I felt I had the time to read and/or watch them-- including a search for all the Diana Wynne Jones in the county that I hadn't yet read. I chose Dogsbody from that list the other week because I knew it was a favorite among several people whose opinions I trust.

Then about halfway through the second chapter I laughed at myself, and thought, "Wait, I forgot I hate dog books."

Luckily, there are exceptions. Books where the dogs have a clever way with words and are always getting pulled into scrapes by melodramatic cat friends (the Bunnicula books), books that are just so utterly charming you're really not sure HOW they overpowered your dog book aversion in the first place but you'll recommend them to both dog book lovers AND dog book haters from now on (Because of Winn-Dixie), and books by Diana Wynne Jones are all okay by me. Anyway, it's not so much the presence of DOGS as much as the general overarching genre of ANIMAL books, where the fact that you love dogs, or cats, or horses, is supposed to carry you through an otherwise dull and usually emotionally manipulative plot.

Diana Wynne Jones is incapable of writing such mediocracy unironically. When she writes a dog book, she makes her dog the actual Dog STAR, sent to Earth in the body of a dog as punishment for a murder he didn't commit unless he can find the alleged cosmic murder weapon before this mortal canine body dies. See? Yes. Every so often while I was reading I'd smile and think "I have NO IDEA where this is going!" That's DWJ for you. If you should by any chance correctly predict anything about where one of her stories is going, it's only because she WANTS YOU TO.

But it's still a dog book, at heart, in that the story is grounded in the relationship between a dog and his person-- here a mistreated girl living with relatives while her dad's in prison for being a revolutionary, because DWJ can't do realism in a boring predictable way, either. It's a rough book, full of rough people, but I appreciated that it was never ALL bad. Kathleen's aunt is cruel, but her uncle is merely uninvolved-- when he DOES notice what's up, he's even supportive; her older cousin is a bossy jerk but loyal when push comes to shove; her younger cousin is outright loving. There are trustworthy townsfolk and there are neighborhood bullies. There are moments of justice that aren't just at the very end. (But yes, it can be heavy).

Dogs are such a pure example of LOVE. I like that about them, in real life. I'm not much of an animal person (though certainly more than I am an animal BOOK person), but I definitely consider myself a Dog Person above, say, a Cat Person (which is apparently sacrilege for a librarian. I'M SORRY. CATS ARE OKAY BUT I DON'T CARE ABOUT THEM. I DO NOT COLLECT CAT PINS). I love dogs because dogs are LOVE. There's so much loyalty, concern, genuine REJOICING IN THE VERY EXISTENCE of their pack.

And I like that about Sirius, whom you meet as a hot-tempered immortal, but who truly embodies the loyal affections of his new doggy nature in time. Which brings us to another weird bit of symbolism I got out of it which probably wasn't intended at all. I was fascinated by Sirius's early attempts to reconcile his dog-ness with that green power inside, his mortal and immortal selves. His luminary past was something fleeting and vague that he couldn't quite grasp with his stupid fleshy brain. It reminded me of trying to find Enlightenment, of reconnecting to the Divine while living in a mortal body. Sometimes we touch the star in us-- other days we just slog through our dogginess. OOOOOOO.

So do I recommend the book? Sure! I recommend it if you like dog books for the doggy loyalty, and if you don't like dog books because you'd rather have supernatural mysteries. I recommend it if you like the complete ORIGINALITY of Diana Wynne Jones, though I'll caution if you mostly just like her funny books, because while her sense of humor is always there, it's generally a much more serious book than, say, the Chrestomanci series.

I for one am just still grateful that I still have DWJ books left to read in my life. I know I'm always guaranteed a real trip.
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Remember how I said yesterday that I had more stuff I wanted to write but I figured I'd stop at the music thoughts because maybe the rest would be more appropriate today? Well, FINALLY I've managed to get time today WHILE LiveJournal is not being goofy (it's decided the afternoon is a terrible time to work properly the past couple days. Which is why you might have missed yesterday's post), and I really MUST, because March is already three days in and TODAY I HAVE THE MOST TO ADD to #DWJMarch!

A couple years back we marked the one-year-anniversary of the passing of Diana Wynne Jones with a "month long" blog tour that became so packed with tributes that it actually lasted about three months. Kristen over at We Be Reading has made it something of an annual tradition now-- less of a blog tour, more of a multi-platform online discussion. No, not A discussion. A party. A party full of discussions one can jump in on. This year she's made a schedule of topics so we can jump in on a general theme day by day. So you see why I had to post about this as early in the month as possible. Why, you've already missed two days! I don't have all that exciting of a collection to share (Day 1), and I'm not sure I have anything to add to the topic of the Chrestomanci books that I haven't said already (okay, mostly I've just said Chrestomanci is SUCH a charmer and is totally one of my book boyfriends, but what's wrong with that?).

But TODAY's topic (for the next two hours in my time zone, already long past in DWJ's old time zone) is our Favorite Main Character, and even Chrestomanci with all his charms cannot match the Sheer Awesomeness that is Sophie Hatter Jenkins-Pendragon.

Okay, so maybe I've also already told you how much I adore Sophie. But it bears repeating. BECAUSE DANGIT FOLKS, I ADORE SOPHIE. Sure, you get ROMANTIC fictional crushes, but a platonic fictional girl-crush can be every bit as powerful, and oh how powerfully I wish Sophie was my best friend. OR DO I? Or do I maybe wish I WAS Sophie instead?

Here's a excerpt from a post from a few years back that many (if not most) of you have never read, because it was Friends-locked, because it was basically a post about personal medical TMI. I was going in for some outpatient surgery and had been given a cocktail of narcotics to prep. And boy, were they powerful:

I was all drugged up, which resulted in me pretty much losing control. Losing control= a bad thing. But among the things I lost control over were My Inhibitions. Ah, here we go: see, I've never been properly drunk, because alcohol tends to make me REALLY SLEEPY before it has any other effect on me. But when other people talk of how it makes them lose their inhibitions? Okay, I get it now. That's exactly how I felt when I was all drugged up. Not sleepy. Just completely uninhibited.
...
It wasn't that I wasn't Myself. I was just a different version of Myself. The version of Myself that those of you who don't know me personally know-- or more appropriately even, the version of Myself that writes in my paper journals that no one sees but me. ME WITHOUT INHIBITIONS. LIVE IN PERSON! not just on paper or screen.

So, what am I saying? That I need to get properly drunk on a regular basis? That I need to start doing drugs? Um, probably these would be bad choices.

But it made me think of Howl's Moving Castle and my dearest beloved #3 Literary Girl Crush, Sophie. See, this is why I love Sophie so much. She starts out this timid, dutiful, mousy, responsible Oldest Daughter, then BAM, she's cursed. Curses = bad things. But Sophie makes the best of it. If she's going to be old and crippled and creaky and tired and sore and all that, DANGIT, NO ONE IS EVER GOING TO MESS WITH HER AGAIN! All inhibitions go bye-bye. But the great part is, once the curse gets broken and she's back to normal, she's not back to her FORMER normal. She has said goodbye to those inhibitions for GOOD. The protagonist of the next book she appears in thinks she's TERRIFYING. So much for mousy.

So the point is, it's nice when you don't have to be CURSED first to lose your inhibitions (if, in fact, your inhibitions are a problem for you. If your inhibitions are keeping you from becoming a serial killer, you might want to hang on to them). Can this apply to ME, I thought? Can I KEEP being uninhibited while I'm NOT on drugs? That would be handy, as I don't really WANT to be an addict.

Jason thinks I can, because he's seen me do it. But that's why I married him-- because it's easier to put my inhibitions aside around him than around the average person. The trick is to do it around the average person.

And why not? I only became shy because other kids made fun of me. Nowadays I LIKE being a total nerd, and I LIKE being a rock fanatic, and I LIKE the weirdunique person I am when I write, so why can't that person be out ALL THE TIME, when I'm LIVE IN PERSON?


She inspires me, she does. And maybe that's all there is to say about it now. But I'm saying it again anyway because I never get sick of celebrating her.

But now, it's bedtime. And I can't even think of a clever concluding line because I'm that sleepy. So, have fun following all the DWJ gushing this month!
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
There was a time, back in the day, when a) this blog Happened more often, and b) when it happened, it wasn't just Deep Philosophical Thoughts. I'd ALWAYS be willing to share my thoughts about the latest installment of whatever exciting media series I'd just gotten my hands on. And right away, too! It was exciting! Maybe because people used LiveJournal as an actual social media kind of platform and actually left comments! So we could banter and debate back and forth about all the little details and WHAT THEY COULD MEAN!

I get the feeling that sort of thing is happening on Tumblr now, but I've yet, after over a year, apparently (so Tumblr tells me), figured out how people actually hold DISCUSSIONS in that format. Most of the time in order to comment on something, you have to reblog it, and even if you do, there's no guarantee other people will see your comment, and you can't favorite comments OTHER people make, just the whole thing, only once, and... well I just find it superbly inconvenient for conversation. I mean, it's nice for posting PICTURES, but other than that I'm not altogether sure why FANDOMS like it so much as a virtual watering hole.

Plus, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Fandoms of Tumblr kind of freak me out, anyway. It's more than just me being old. There's an actual dark undercurrent that rears its head far too often in Internet fandom, and I explored it further than my original post by, ironically, reblogging this very long Tumblr post on Fandom vs. Creators, made up of very long comments by at least five different people, so it takes awhile to get to what I wrote, at the bottom, but it's still interesting, darnit! Anyway, those aren't the sort of fans I want to befriend. But I WANT to talk about the things I fan over. It's FUN. It's just a matter of finding the where and the who that works.

Let's look at something that happened in Internet-Fandom-Land this weekend that covers both sides of this spectrum. It can be summed up in the entirety of this link to The Mary Sue-- actually this link goes directly to MY comment on the post, which sums up what I have to say.... Anyway, look at the thing as a whole. JK Rowling made some comments in an interview that maybe, she wondered, marrying Ron and Hermione together might have been a mistake. So this Hypable website takes those comments out of the context of the interview and proclaims "ROWLING ADMITS HARRY/HERMIONE SHIPPERS ARE RIGHT!" which, incidentally, she hadn't even said, and suddenly it's a HUGE DEAL, like a SHOCKING REVELATION THAT SHE HELD A PRESS CONFERENCE TO REVEAL... the same sort of thing happened around her "announcement," which was really just her answering an interview question, that Dumbledore was gay (which I had reacted to with "Oh. I thought everyone knew that already," while the headlines went wild)-- to this day people still refer to that as if it was a publicity stunt on her part, all cleverly orchestrated to get a reaction, when she'd JUST ANSWERED A QUESTION IN AN INTERVIEW. It drives me nuts, that the poor woman can't say anything without PEOPLE REACTING LOUDLY, and yet...

...check it out. Currently as I'm typing this there are 157 comments on that post. That's about 15 times the number of comments that show up on a Mary Sue article on average. Clearly, we all still DO have strong feelings about the relationships in those books. And it's been a long time since I've actively "shipped" anybody, but the long-dormant Ron/Hermione shipper inside me roared to the surface this weekend, anxious to defend one of my favorite fictional couples of all time.

So when you think about it... it's actually kind of cool. Most of us ARE adults, but these books mean a lot to us. WE DO CARE. ABOUT FICTIONAL CHARACTERS. What ALCHEMY is a story!

So anyway, last night Sherlock Season 3-- or Series 3 as they say where they made it, which in this case actually makes more sense. They're not SEASONS. They're RECURRING MINISERIES. Anyway, last night it wrapped up again 'round these parts (or as much of fandom says, it's "back on hiatus." But that's misleading, considering these are recurring miniseries and not seasons! You don't say a movie franchise has gone on hiatus when there are a couple years or so between movies!). And I'm too high on adrenaline to fall asleep right after, and when I get up this morning I'm still antsy, like I want to be back there-- like I wanted to TALK TO PEOPLE ABOUT IT. But if you actually seek out People Talking About It, you find Heavy-Duty fandom, and I, on one side, do not ship Johnlock and also couldn't care less about Benny's Cheekbones (sure, we can talk Martin all you want though), and on the other side, I'm not a huge Conan Doyle fan and don't have the BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE to go into it nitty-gritty. I'd rather just talk with average folks who enjoy the show. Like, my friends who've seen it. Where can I do that? OH, that's right, I HAVE A BLOG. I'M GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE LATEST INSTALLMENT OF THIS SERIES I LIKE ON MY BLOG, LIKE A TRUE OLD-FASHIONED LIVEJOURNALER.

As I said in that post I linked to already that I wrote at the BEGINNING of Series 3 (here's the link again in case you missed it the first time!), I don't know if I count as a huge fan of the show itself as much as a stupidly huge fan of Martin Freeman, who is most certainly at the top of his game in it. (Who am I kidding. He's ALWAYS at the top of his game. When he's acting at any rate. He's abysmal at not-having-a-dirty-mouth. And I can't speak for, say, his cooking skills. But he's always at the top of his ACTING game and the making-me-instantly-smile game which is an important game that not many people care about besides me). I'm not proclaiming its superiority over all other shows (everyone knows that honor belongs to Firefly. Or Freaks and Geeks. Or Sesame Street. Depending how much violence you're looking for). I'm not immune to its faults.

So say I. But then, in the midst of actually WATCHING a new series again? I am THOROUGHLY enjoying myself. EVEN IN SOME JOHN-WATSON-LESS SCENES. Guys, this was just so fun. The first episode was weakest, but I was glad to be back. The second episode I am fairly sure is my FAVORITE EPISODE OF THE ENTIRE SHOW EVER. Last night's episode was not so perfect as the second, but had me thoroughly enthralled and loving it (and it was still funny, even if it was also a whole lot darker certainly than Episode 2).

So let's talk stuff. Like I said, I'm not a huge Conan Doyle fan, needing to devour everything Sherlock Holmes-related. I'd read Hounds and Study in Scarlet back in the day, then revisited those and added the collection The Adventures of S.H. just after I'd seen the first series of Sherlock, the Robert Downey Jr. movie, and read Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes series all within like a month of each other. I also discovered, since Study in Scarlet had annoyed me enough on first reading (huge BLOCK of weird pseudo-Mormon-pioneer story in the middle that is NOT NARRATED BY DR. WATSON? What was he THINKING? Yes, I've always been thoroughly attached to Dr. Watson. The cartoons never gave him enough credit. And much as Martin is both my Imaginary Husband AND the Greatest Watson Ever, I have to say Jude Law's Watson was just downright friggin' sexy, too. WATSON FOREVER) that I'd tossed it aside after I'd finished and failed to notice (or at least remember after I'd tossed it) that my copy actually doesn't JUST have Study in Scarlet in it, but has got The Sign of Four in there right after! And what a good discovery THAT was. I LOVED Sign of Four. It was a rollicking good time-- much like Sherlock the show in that way. And my dearest Dr. Watson got all love-struck in it, which was fun because a) it certainly solidified him as my #8 Literary Crush; b) omg you could totally tell he ENJOYED just BUGGING Holmes with all that EMOTIONAL stuff, which he'd opened the book with Holmes complaining about beforehand; and c) it introduced a strong female character in a series that dreadfully lacked them. Okay, not that Mary was really IN the stories much BESIDES in Sign of Four, but that was enough to get her thoroughly on my good side.

So again, I found myself vehemently defending fictional characters on the Internet, thank you, because too many people leading up to the new series were like "Ugh, I'm glad Mary DIED in the stories, she'll just get in the way," and I'm like "First of all, have you NOT read Sign of Four, and second of all, she did not just up and DIE IMMEDIATELY, give her a chance, seriously." And then we're given the delightful little in-joke that they'd given the part to Amanda Abbington, aka Martin Freeman's Real Wife,* which COULD have been a bad thing if that had been the ONLY reason she'd been given the part. Like if someone cast me to play Jason's wife just because I'm Jason's wife and hah hah I'm kidding I'm a way better actor than Jason is so the argument's meaningless. But even though I'd never actually SEEN her act in anything, I follow her on Twitter, and there's something about her that captures the EXACT sort of person I'd always imagined Mary to be, so I felt fairly confident about the casting.

This is when I start talking about the current series of Sherlock so you should probably not expand here if you haven't seen it yet )
So anything else we should talk about? Tell me in the comments! Let's talk! Also, it goes without saying that Martin was Awesome, which is why I didn't say much about that. No really, I didn't. I could have said much more. It's just that it would have amounted to "Martin is awesome" over and over.

And now it's totally past my bedtime. So, I'll go do that, then.

---
*(TECHNICALLY, they're not legally married, but I find that a stupid clarification. First of all, marriage is way more than one single public "I Do," and second, when's something count as a Common Law Marriage, anyway? Pretty sure they've hit that point. Anyway, anybody whose relationship can survive raising two kids of a particular-age-I'm-familiar-with are totally SOLID).
**WOW. I'm shocked. Spellcheck says this is totally a real word.
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
So, hey, non-librarians, were you aware that this morning was THE biggest awards show of the entire awards show season? Who needs the Oscars when you have the ALA YOUTH MEDIA AWARDS!!!!

We have a bit of a stomach bug thing going 'round in this house this morning, and I kind of feel like lying down, but THIS IS TOO IMPORTANT. I must respond immediately!

My overarching response to the whole of this year's award announcement is: I LOVE THAT I'M IN CHARGE OF ALL THE CHILDREN'S/YA LIBRARY BOOK PURCHASING WITH ALL MY SOUL. I love that I can look at this list and say, "With very few exceptions, I have either ALREADY purchased or HAVE ON MY WISHLIST nearly every one of these books for the library!" It's truly a gloriously smug feeling.

But as for WHAT won, specifically, I have much less feeling about. I honestly, I realized a couple weeks ago, did not read a single new middle-grade book last year, and I only read about 3 YAs. Most of my book reading last year was self-help books for grownups, and that was about 5 or 6 books. SORT of pathetic, I admit. Decent for your average American, but sad among book people. This would be why I didn't write a Best Books of the Year post at the end of the year.

BUT I can still be happy as a librarian, that my collection is SO up on things this year. Here's the official press release on the ALA website, which is prone to crashing since so many people are clicking, so here's the whole list so you don't have to click:
but I'll make you click to expand just because, LONGNESS: )

And that's it! If my stomach calms down in the next few hours, my Library Explorers tonight will be making posters announcing the winners and watching the stream if I can get it to work. Meanwhile, I'll try to figure out what to eat for lunch.

PS: Today's my mom's birthday! Happy Birthday to my mom, everyone!
---
*So did I ever mention how this one time Virginia Hamilton was two people in line behind me for the restroom? That's a rhetorical question, because I mention it EVERY time Virginia Hamilton comes up in conversation.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
I've always wondered if anyone's ever correlated the answers to "If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?" to a more general personality test. My answer's always been "flight," which I think must stem from some longing for freedom and lightness. But I know, out there in the world, "invisibility" is a common answer. My brain boggles at this, the way it boggles at people who consider "going out to a noisy crowded bar" their top answer to "What do you like to do to relax after a long day?" I can't step out of my introverted mindset to make sense of those things!

"I can listen in to secret conversations! I can be a peeping tom! I can get into places I'm not allowed to get into!" they protest when you ask them why on earth they'd ever want invisibility. I still stare at them blankly. Then I admit, "I already have that superpower. It's a letdown, really."

I developed this superpower, naturally, as a coping mechanism. An adaptation to aid in my survival. I read in Time Magazine just the other day (it was an older issue, not sure when from exactly, just laying around my mom's bathroom*), that someone had done a study, exploring sensitivity in babies: the fussiest babies, the ones who were most likely to freak out at loud noises and stuff, nearly all grew up to be introverts. The least fussy ones, extroverts (this explains my sister, also). They figure withdrawal is something people develop to deal with being Really Friggin' Sensitive.

And dear lord in heaven was I sensitive. ANYTHING could make me freak out. I couldn't watch Sesame Street from the time I was three until I was in my teens because it was TOO ZANY for me. One of my best friends has a daughter who receives treatment for Sensory Processing Disorder, so she's a big advocate for getting the word out about it. Not only does this also exactly describe my son, but I'm also pretty sure it explains my own childhood. When my younger brother was diagnosed with mild autism, we'd done some retroactive squinting at the symptoms as exhibited by girls, then at my own childhood, but it didn't quite match. Sensory Processing Disorder though? That's different.

But you know what that looks like in a kid, to other kids? Spoil sport. "We can't play with Amy, she'll just get bumped or something and start CRYING." "Do we HAVE to pick Amy? She'll just CRY when things don't go her way." "She's just doing it to get attention." "CRY-BABY! Stop being selfish, CRY-BABY!" As if anyone would be this way on PURPOSE, I kept thinking. What did they want me to DO? I hated it. I hated ME because I couldn't stop crying, which, naturally, made me cry. The disdain of my peers and the cruelty of the bullies was nothing compared to the utter loathing I had for myself.

All my life I heard "You need to get a thicker skin!" Well, that's great. Where can I buy one of those? My only option was to curl my very being up like a pill bug and hope that the small bit of self I'd left exposed was just thick enough to protect the rest. Voila! The Invisible Girl. Giving off hypnotic suggestions that say "You don't see me here! I'm nothing! I'm no one! Don't worry about me! Just go about your business!" And it worked. I stopped being picked on. I stopped being noticed at all. Well, maybe long enough to be voted "shyest" of our senior class.

You might assume introverts would WANT an invisibility superpower, because we can use it to hide. And probably a lot of introverts do. But they're a different sort of introvert than I am. Not quite so confused about what they actually want as I am, maybe.

I've gotten so good at this Invisibility stuff that I can't turn it off. That's an exaggeration. I've gotten much BETTER at turning it off over the years, or at least turning it DOWN. But still, it was a major factor-- probably The Majorest-- in my failure as a classroom teacher, and in my faults as a parent-- somehow I can't Assume Authority. I am shockingly easy to IGNORE-- like when I want someone to follow my directions and they don't want to. And because it's my Hot Button, being ignored makes me do the pill-bug thing, which just makes the situation worse. "Why do they listen to me but not to you?" my husband asks, seemingly unaware how very aware of that I already am. "I don't know," I mumble, and go psychically hide in the corner until the verbal robotic-wasps-he-didn't-know-he'd-sicced-on-me leave my little pill bug exoskeleton alone.

On top of that... I'm also a bit of a show-off. I like applause. But you don't get applause if you never put on a show.

So, yesterday I was working on another The Soul Tells a Story exercise, a doodle illustrating my Creative Well, with your conscious mind at the top, going down deeper into the subconscious until you reach the collective unconscious at the bottom-- filling the whole thing with whatever images, events, people, or concepts seem to be prominent for you in each level ("describe or draw," the directions say. Mine's kind of a messy, collagey combination). Halfway down, in "unconscious" territory, there's "fear of being taken advantage of, no boundaries, TOO MUCH," which is exactly that oversensitivity issue I'm talking about (Ironically, as a side note, another thing that happens when you make yourself invisible is you tend to get STEPPED ON A LOT, so in that case, invisibility really WAS kind of a bad coping strategy for protection, wasn't it? I have TERRIBLE personal boundaries. I'm just hidden). But on approximately the same level, there's "repressed anger at being ignored or belittled."

I know, academically, that I have a lot of repressed anger. It's a hallmark of being a Peaceloving Type 9. But I never took any note of WHAT I might have to be angry about. But here, because I was in the "unconscious" section of the well, I was thinking about recurring dream symbolism, and I know I've had a lot of dreams where I've completely lost it, massive fits of rage and violence. And when I thought about what was happening in each of those dreams, I was always being either mocked or shunned. Treated as if I didn't have a right to be there. Which, crap, it's really myself that I'm so angry with. It's ME with the crappy self-esteem. Basically, I'm angry with myself for not believing in myself. But since I repress that anger, I'm also repressing the drive to ASSERT myself in the first place. MY PSYCHE IS A TWISTED, TWISTED PLACE.

So I've got two conflicting drives here, fighting each other. One part of me WANTS to be heard, wants to be known. But the other part of me knows it's dangerous to be Out There, nobody who puts themselves Out There is ever free from slung tomatoes, darts, and bullets. Some people can take that stuff easy. But for someone who can barely take the sound of a fire siren? It's really, really scary folks. I'm not sure how you can understand how genuinely scary it is if you're not oversensitive yourself.

Just slightly above that part, in the subconscious of my Well, I've drawn two little figures, both representing the archetypal Mentor in different ways. One's got a kind of flowy-triangle robe with a hood and a long sword, and is labelled Obi-Wan Kenobi. The other is a plump figure with huge boots, layers of scarves and shawls, and a felt hat on top. Mrs. Whatsit. She's been there before for me, with just that one sentence, "I give you your faults." It's that same advice I'm thinking of now. My sensitivity IS a gift, after all. Somehow I need to face it enough so I can harness it and MAKE SOMETHING OUT OF IT. And then I have to put that something Out There. I believe art is important, so why do I keep trying to insist that anybody else's art is important but not mine?

A friend of mine on Twitter the other day mentioned enjoying an actor's performance, and he tweeted back to thank her, even though she hadn't actually @-mentioned him. "That is some impressive self-googleing," she said. "Perhaps he's got a phrase-based search list made on his name, comes up automatically," I suggested, "I'd do that, if anyone knew my name." "Probably," she replied, "though I'm not sure if I'd do that as an actor. There's probs more weirdos than people telling you you're pretty." GOOOOOD point. On the other hand, I said, "I'd probably try it, then change my mind." It's one thing putting yourself out there, another thing to throw yourself in the PATH of the darts and tomatoes. Sometimes that Invisibility Cloak does come in handy, when you need a quick getaway. So you can survive to face your foes again!

So somewhere there's a balance. Somewhere there's a way to let your sensitive, soft sluggy soul out into the world but keep just enough of a shell so you aren't shredded. Maybe you can keep that Invisibility Cloak around, but only use it when it's absolutely necessary. If only I could figure out when that is.

---
*BTW, I was at my parents' house because it was their 40th wedding anniversary, and my sister and I were making them a Fancy Dinner. And my brother was ordered to do dishes. So everyone wish a Happy Belated Anniversary to the couple whose relationship is MOST IMPORTANT TO MY EXISTENCE. THINK about what you'd be missing if they hadn't gotten together!
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
So back when I was trying to come up with themes for this semester's library programs, it occurred to me that this winter is the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania hitting the United States. So thrilled was I that I immediately scheduled a Beatlemania Family Night story time for our very first week back after winter break,* tonight, even though after the fact I realized that while January 9 sounded perfect in my head, I'd actually been thinking of FEBRUARY 9 as an actual significant date, but oh well, we're still close enough, and this way all of YOU still have a whole month to plan your proper 50th Anniversary programs, yourselves!

Here's our calendar description: "It's the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first tour of America. How does this old rock band that broke up over 40 years ago keep gaining more rabid fans in every new generation? We'll learn about the most influential rock band of all time tonight, make our own psychedelic album covers, and YES, there will DEFINITELY be music!"

I mention the "rabid fans in every new generation" part as justification against those people-- you know they're out there-- who say "I'm not from that generation/kids don't know who these old bands are/it's nice to see you remembering these bands from My Day/yadda yadda yadda." Because yes, it's been 50 years. My dad was one of the original U.S. Beatles fanatics (I can't quite call him a Beatlemaniac. That would imply he used to scream and throw himself at police barricades to get through and stuff, wouldn't it). I wasn't BORN until 8 years after they broke up, but I'm an utter Beatles GEEK-- and so are more than a few of my same-generation friends. My kids' 17-year-old babysitter and bunches of HER friends are Beatles nuts. And my kids-- NATURALLY my kids-- they were identifying Beatles songs on the radio not long after they could TALK.

It may be the Yellow Submarine cartoon that gets kids first. My kids still prefer songs-that-were-in-the-movie to other Beatles songs, with the exception maybe of "Here Comes the Sun," because they know that's my favorite and love to point it out to me whenever it's on. I got them a Yellow Submarine Lego set-- no, K'Nex, not Lego, so you don't get confused futilely searching the Lego site-- for Christmas, even. I did not bring it to the library tonight though because it's in pieces again. Some of the Beatles themselves are missing entire limbs.

So what DID I do at the library? I'm glad you asked.

First order of business was a soundtrack. Rather than using any particular album, I made a mix CD of the most Kid-Friendly Beatles songs, with my own kids' picks. Since what they picked only totalled about 15 minutes (they DO get stuck on the Yellow Submarine songs), I added my own ideas of what counted as Kid-Friendly-- everything from "She Loves You" to "Octopus's Garden," and then narrowed it down to what would fit on an 80 minute CD. This step excited me, so I did it as soon as I finally finished all the stuff I had to do around here for Christmas.

Now, what SOME people would CONSIDER the first order of business when it comes to a library program, the second step was rounding up a book selection. I borrowed some books from other libraries in our county system to get a little more variety in my display-of-related-books-you-can-check-out. They were mostly chapter books and longer. For story time PROPER, I was pretty much limited to The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny), by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer.** It's a little long for a Story Time read, but the only other semi-related picture book we had in our entire system was John's Secret Dreams, which is just too John-centric, obviously. Somewhere out there in the world there are apparently picture books of Yellow Submarine, and it looks like there's a picture book of "Octopus's Garden" due out next month. Also this, due in March, which looks like it COULD possibly manage to be short enough for a story time, as well, maybe?***

It worked, even though it was long. The group I got was pretty enrapt. They laughed a lot, too.

So next up, activities. Had a hard time coming up with them at first. Found a Yellow Submarine coloring sheet. Then I stumbled upon this: it turns out Mr. Harrison of Dan Gutman's Weirder School's Mr. Harrison is Embarrassin'! is actually named GEORGE, and the whole book is FULL of Beatles jokes. Whodathunk. So that was a pretty good kid-appropriate activity, too.

THEN I hit on the winner: Make Your Own Sgt. Pepper-esque Album Covers. This was so fun and took up so much time (it's technically a one-hour program. Most of the group stayed longer) that we didn't need anything else, after all.
cut for large images )
As we were finishing up, a worn-looking grandmother on a ventilator who'd been sitting disinterestedly in the corner suddenly perked up and said, "I saw the Beatles in concert, in Cleveland."

Suddenly everyone took notice. "Did you hear any of the music over the screaming?" I asked.

She smiled, then said, "I was screaming." Everyone laughed. It was a perfect capper.

___
*we're a public library, not an academic library. We just run programs on a rather semester-like schedule.
**when looking up this link, Google autosuggested "the Beatles were overrated." Seriously, who SEARCHES something like that? And WHY, Google, would you ever suppose I would be searching that?! It's like you don't know me AT ALL!!!
***This is also coming out next month, and while it is definitely too long and complex for story time, we're getting it from Junior Library Guild and I am KIND OF EXCITED ABOUT IT, thank you.
****I'm pretty sure One Direction has been on the cover of J-14 for the ENTIRE PAST YEAR.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
New Years EnneaThought

RIIIIGHT. So every morning in my social-media email (it used to be my junk email, but it got to the point that more people message me through social media [which I registered through that "junk" email address] than send me an actual email, so it is usually more entertaining than my "official" email), I get a Type 9 Thought for the Day like so from the Enneagram site. If you recall if you've been here long enough, I really liked this personality test because it was so dang ACCURATE for me (Actually, I've since managed to find a Myers-Briggs test that actually came up with a clear result for me--INFP, also, and there was this other test I took recently that labelled me, fairly obviously, as a "Dreamy Idealist." And if you read the descriptions of all three of those "types" here you'll see they're all virtually identical, naturally, so-- yeah, probably accurate). So a motivational reminder that's actually TAILORED to SOMEONE LIKE ME is a lot easier to catch my attention each morning than a general platitude. Easier to catch my attention, but naturally harder to do. If I got, say, a Type EIGHT thought that said something like "Try to be nice to people today," I'd be all like, "Oh SURE!" and I'd be really good at following that advice, but it would do neither me nor anyone else much good because I'd probably have done it anyway.

No, dangit, I need to GROW in life, and the only way to GROW is to stretch a bit in that direction. Stretching is challenging. Particularly for personality types known for their tendency toward sloth. Hence the notes in my inbox saying "HAPPY NEW YEAR! Why don't you make and keep some actual resolutions for once?!"

Maybe I should make a plan to figure out how to make a plan. This year I will figure out what it is I actually want in the first place! First step: figure out how to figure out what I actually want!

But it helps to know I'm not starting from scratch-- no couch-to-5K thing. Or it is, but I'm already OFF the couch, strolling leisurely and distractedly toward 5K. Maybe toward The Marathon of Self-Actualization in the long run. But I'm OFF THE COUCH. If you scroll to the bottom of that Type 9 description linked above, you see a chart describing the way a 9 behaves at various levels of psychological/spiritual/emotional health. Two years ago at this time I was bottoming out around Level 7. I was dragging myself through the very basics of making sure nobody died in my care, and only managing that because people WERE in my care. Eventually I found Zoloft. ZOLOFT MY TRUE LOVE! Now what many people struggling with clinical depression don't realize at first, and I didn't either (and people who AREN'T struggling with it certainly don't even THINK to realize), is a) you have to trial-and-error to find the RIGHT medication and right DOSAGE of that medication before it actually works right, so if you try something and it doesn't work that doesn't necessarily mean MEDICATION ITSELF doesn't work. I had three serious relationships with other medications-- was engaged to Prozac for a bit until it went all ANXIETY-ATTACK-INDUCING on me-- before I found my beloved Zoloft. Anyway, and most importantly b) medication is your life-raft. Medication is not the cure. Zoloft brought me up out of those "Unhealthy Levels." Dropped me at about a Level Six or a low Five. Hardly a model citizen. But I could WORK now. I could work at MYSELF without despairing and falling into an impenetrable Brain Fog.

Last year at this time, with the help of a lot of counseling and self-helpish reading and the Lycoris Letters project and the deep philosophising with the new and dear friend Cat I'd made through that project, I'd made it up to bouncing between Levels 5 and 4. Now, after over a year of semi-regular yoga and other enforced exercise (I mean, for ME. Not compared to the way my SISTER does exercise), as well as continued self-helpish reading and chats with Cat and-- well, actually, doing a lot of Real Life Stuff-- dare I say, I'm actually showing a whole lot more Level 3 (and 4. Average to bad days I'm definitely not pulling off the whole healthy assurance thing... but on good days, maybe I have!)!

I mentioned before this marvelous inspirational creativity book I'm reading/working through, The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright. Right now I am thoroughly stuck on the Hard Questions (my words) at the end of only Chapter 3. "These two things nearly always happen when I create:" I'm supposed to explain. "When I create something, this is what the beginning is like:...the middle...the end. My creative gifts really kick in when:"

I HAVE NO IDEA! DO I create? Maybe I haven't created anything in YEARS. No, I just sewed like five fleece sweatshirts for Christmas, that probably counts as creating. Also my library programs. WHAT DO MY PROGRAMS AND MY SEWING STUFF HAVE IN COMMON?! Nothing? I don't think anything. What do I do when I create? Putter around doing everything but? No, when I was SEWING I actually tackled everything pretty straight on and all at once. It's only making stuff up from scratch that I putter around Not Doing. I think I'll go check Twitter again....

So as I said: my goal this year is to figure out how to make goals in the first place. Or to figure out what the heck I'm doing in general. Or... something.

But I DID make it past chapters one and two. I MANAGED to answer not just the first set of Really Hard Questions, but several MORE sets. "The activity that gives me greatest joy is…" "A lot of things make me happy," I wrote, "but JOY implies an ALIVE sort of happiness... I think it's 'making music,' for all I don't do it much... When I think of 'JOY,' raising ones voice in song is the first thing that comes to mind...."
"The good qualities that best describe my life are…""'Loving.' 'Relatively secure and comfortable'-- part of me is like 'BORING!' and the other part is like 'HUSH! Don't tempt fate! Secure and comfortable is GOOD!'..."
"The help that people often solicit from me is…" "...well, besides 'MOMMY GIVE ME FOOD! NOW!' INFORMATION. And book recommendations. I'm a librarian and the world knows it."
"The part of my personality that I would most hate to lose is…""imagination, the ability to see things in unique ways."
"The work that is most satisfying to me is…""I'd say it's a combination of 'making people smile' and 'getting results.' ...it's getting feedback, I think. Getting evidence that what I do actually makes a difference. Which is a problem when it comes to WORKING on writing...."
"The activity that I feel drawn to, even when it’s scary, is…" "okay I have no idea. Performance can be scary? Flying? Boating? Does 'EVEN when it's scary' HAVE to imply some level of fear? Or can 'sleeping' count? Or stalking Martin Freeman? I avoid being DRAWN to scary things. Even though I've always liked scary books...."

Got the answers out. All over the place, but out. Next came some questions about my most joyful memories from various times, and what I'm doing when I get so carried away that I lose track of time ("first I thought, 'Oh, that's hard, I can't remember when I last got so involved,' then I realized, WAIT, DUH. This is me ALL THE TIME! I have NO sense of time, apparently, I'm ALWAYS losing track of it or having it disappear on me... I think the problem is my attention wanders ANYWAY, it just never wanders to 'WHAT TIME IS IT') and what it means to me to say Yes or No to my gifts.

Then we came to: "If you asked the people who know you best, what would they say your gifts are?" You may think this is strange, but at that moment, I hadn't a CLUE. I honestly didn't know. So I turned to Facebook, which is a debatable mix of people who know me best, but to be honest I'm not sure I could even tell you who on this earth knows me best to begin with, and I posted this:
Good stuff about me
Note the responses, which I have cleverly grayed out and numbered for easier reference. Gah, that person they're describing... that sure SOUNDS like somebody who DOES have something unique to say, doesn't it? Like somebody who really is called to write after all? And yet it still surprised me a little. It's OBVIOUS, and yet all my doubts have been working so hard to not let me see it.

Finally we come to Friend #7 there, and her somewhat frightening clarification request. Her actual answer, just below where this image cuts off, is long and quite revealing, so I'm copying it here in full so you don't have to squint at a screen capture:

In person: You are sweet and understanding, and accepting of everyone from the start. Even if you aren't really, you appear trusting and have a calming influence on me (and I suspect others around you.) You also, once one can get you to open up, have a wealth of information on a broad range of topics, which makes you a fascinating conversationalist, provided you remember to speak up. But you are usually not the one to introduce a topic. However, you are clever enough to try to get there tangentally, if you so choose.

Online: I think your online personality is similar in some ways, but online, you are wittier, more brazen. You're willing to put yourself out there a good bit more. Online, you aren't afraid to be the one to initiate conversation on any multitude of topics. You share more of your likes and dislikes, obsessions and pet peeves. You are brave, online. You're more provocative, and I don't mean that in a sexual connotation, but never mean or troll-like.


WOW. THAT'S some insight. It actually sounds a bit like she's WRITTEN some of the Personality Type descriptions linked above just by looking at me. But the sentence that stuck out the most for me?

"You are brave, online."

Why am I so scared to write, guys? Why am I so scared to BE? I AM brave, online. Here I am. And I'm using my writing voice (it's actually my WRITTEN personality rather than exclusively an ONLINE one. This is the same person you'll find in the journals I kept when I was fourteen. Though hopefully I'm a bit less naive and cringe-inducing now). What will it take for me to be brave OFF-line? To write "seriously," actually crafting stories again? To speak up at home or at work or wherever when I'm not comfortable with something? To speak up when I WANT something? To ADMIT to myself that I want something (something attainable. Not Martin Freeman)? To TAKE CHANCES? To GO PLACES? To TRY NEW THINGS?

So, maybe that's my goal for the year. Learn to be brave.

Step one: figure out what I want to be brave about.

Which really isn't all that different a resolution from what I said at the beginning of the post. I just stuck the word "brave" in there. It looks more determined of me.
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
Well, time is tight, and I have so much to write about, but I don't want to let today (my favorite day of the year! Yes, Christmas Eve is actually more my favorite than Christmas Day, that's just the way it works) pass without wishing you, my Internet friends, my friends and family I WON'T be seeing this week, and my lovely random strangers who happen to be reading this, a very Merry Christmas. I'm going to get back to that by the end of this post, by way of a lot of other stuff that's been on my mind the past few days, so... be patient? Or get your internal scanners ready?

About this past weekend

So, eleven years ago tonight I got the only piece of jewelry I ever (let alone always) wear, from my then-boyfriend, who was actually stunned when I accepted it. Ten years ago this coming Friday we got married. It seems like a good opportunity to do MORE than JUST dinner-and-a-movie, although we did do the dinner-and-a-movie (though in two parts) too, but this actual anniversary weekend is a little busy, so this PAST weekend my parents took the kids and booked us a night at a fancy little bed-and-breakfast in Ligonier. We DID have Friday evening and Saturday morning at home, where we finished up Christmas Stuff; but then off we headed, to a fancy and probably-most-expensive-we-ever-actually-paid-for-and-WE-DID-IT-ON-PURPOSE dinner at my cousin's restaurant. That's where we took my new Facebook profile picture: 018
...which stunned at least 29 people with its beauty. "HOW are those two complete dorks looking so CUTE?!" everyone on Facebook thought. I don't know. Expensive food. That must be it.

Then we RELAXED in our fancy little B&B, run by a woman who ordered us to Be Romantic or Else. She seemed to think we ought to be listening to quiet instrumental music over breakfast instead of watching Marvel Universe movies on FX. But this is what she served us for breakfast: baked pears in rum sauce with pecans; a sort-of-stuffed-French-toast-thing-made-with-cinnamon-and-stuffed-with-mascarpone-and-apricot-jam-I-think-I-got-that-right; very good seasoned homefried potatoes; sausage and maple syrup. There were also snacks in the room, and we had hot chocolate in the morning too. So we were very well-fed this weekend.

Then we ran off to see Desolation of Smaug, because it wouldn't be a proper anniversary without me dragging my Real Husband to watch my Imaginary Husband on the big screen. So here's where I do a quick movie review!:

A Quick Response to The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug:

Desolation of Smaug is very much the middle movie of a trilogy: it drops you right into the middle of the action and ends so suddenly that, in our theater, the silence was broken by the guy beside us exclaiming, "You have GOT to be KIDDING me!"

Beyond that, I cannot possibly give you an objective, mainstream review. I will admit it: I'm an utter Pete-Jackson's-Middle-Earth fangirl. I fail as a book purist-- I honestly didn't care WHAT happened-- even Jason, who has only read the book once, questioned aloud at one point "The ring didn't AFFECT him this much in the book, did it?" (and I refrained from responding "ShutupmyOtherHusbandisACTING!")-- although towards the very end I did wonder how long the action at Erebor would drag out-- but otherwise I let it go (also I figure if people would just refer to the movies by their subtitles only-- ie Desolation of Smaug-- the need to feel at all book-pure decreases significantly). I fail as a critic of fine cinema-- I don't even KNOW this time around what the faults and strengths of this movie as a visual storytelling device are. I was just THERE, immersed, and smiling constantly. Dear lord it's possible I'm even more of a Middle-Earth fanatic than I am a Martin Freeman fanatic! ANYTHING else he's in I get totally antsy when he's off-screen, no matter how good the overall production is (DARN YOU LAST-JOHN-WATSONLESS-THIRD-OF-SCANDAL-IN-BELGRAVIA!)-- THIS time, even though there was a disproportionate LACK of titular Hobbit in this Hobbit movie, I BARELY noticed: I was like "MIDDLE-EARTH!-happy-happy-happy-smiling-happy-ohlookmyfavoriteactorBONUS!-happy-happy-happy...." A LEETLE bored by wizards and necromancers, but that was my only "but why can't we get back to the OTHER scene?!" moment. So yeah, I loved it, but I can't speak for anyone else. My geekitude, which even I wasn't entirely sure about before, has become fully exposed.

About Kindness

Now to get serious for a moment. Last week YA author Ned Vizzini killed himself. Considering that I've never actually READ any of his books, and considering how little I tend to react to most other deaths and atrocities in the world, it's surprising exactly how much this shook me up. Or not. I've already written about how sensitive I am to suicide. There's something about being destroyed from the inside out, it's scarier than external enemies. Demons are absolutely the most frightening of monsters, because they attack from the inside, too. Dementors are by far the scariest monsters in Harry Potter, because they're basically a metaphor for this whole thing-- MENTAL ILLNESS, eating you up from the inside.

Anyway, somebody wrote a perfect comment on the obituary at The A.V. Club-- so perfect I printed it out! It summed up my own feelings, though perhaps more crassly than I would. So if you don't feel like clicking through, I just want to highlight his* last paragraph for you: "So let this be my New Year's resolution, my goal. For every artist like Ned Vizzini who loses their battle in the end, I vow to work twice as hard at making my craft better, out of respect for what they've managed to do despite their challenges and to in some small way keep them alive, by working on their behalf to create something new that otherwise might not be."

That is EXACTLY the way I felt when Diana Wynne Jones died, though she wasn't a suicide, just a sucky lifestyle choice (HAVE I EVER MENTIONED HOW MUCH I HATE CIGARETTES, TOO?!). But this time, maybe because I hadn't read his books, it wasn't the carrying-on-the-ART vow I wanted to make. I vowed, with all my heart, to work THAT MUCH HARDER to counter negativity in the world. To counter negativity-- and this is the important part-- not with MORE negativity, but with KINDNESS. To devote my life to spreading Kindness (as opposed to my usual, ineffective Niceness). To embrace everyone, with all their faults, and hold them up, out of the darkness.

So Now for my Christmas Wish

Which brings me back to my Christmas Wish for you, and for the world. Every year I post this song. Many of you have it memorized. Many of you have listened to it once before. Many of you weren't following me last Christmas, or you just never bothered to listen. But this time I'm serious. I want each and every one of you to spare three and a half minutes to let this Christmas Wish seep into your consciousness:

Wishing you the most genuine of Peace and Love from me to you. Merry Christmas

*(the commenter struck me as male, but I could be wrong. He's a he in my head. If she's not, and she/you are offended, you can set me straight.)
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
When I was growing up, there was a man at my church who'd had a stroke, some time before we'd moved there. It had left him, most noticeably, with no vocal control-- his timing was off, tonality unexpected, sometimes the words would even come out wrong (once he said "I shall not be healed" instead of "I shall be healed," which was so appallingly wrong I couldn't keep a straight face about it), and his volume was ALL OVER the place, especially if that place was "loud." Yet he insisted on raising that voice forcefully into every song, every chant, and every prayer. It was more than a little distracting for any tactless kids in the congregation, like my sister and I. One day on the way home we were giggling about it-- not making FUN of HIM so much as just laughing at the weirdness (I can at LEAST claim that we had no cruel intentions), and our dad gave a sympathetic but sort of sad smile and said gently, "I've heard he used to be a wonderful singer, with the most beautiful voice." You could hear that, when you thought about it-- the richness behind the technical flubs. The PASSION. The man LOVED to sing, loved to raise his voice in prayer, and he wasn't about to stop just because he couldn't get it to WORK as well as he used to.

This morning at church we sang a song that we'd sung frequently at my childhood church-- it's "Like a Shepherd," if you know it-- you know that random sustained high note in the third verse? That sudden six-step leap that your average untrained singer is NEVER going to hit right no matter how often it's on the program? I've been battling laryngitis all week and could barely sing as it was, so I looked ahead to that note a LITTLE warily. And then I heard, in my head, the way that man had always sung that note when I was a kid-- the sudden huge slide to a blaring off-key finish. It made me smile and get teary at the same time, and I got over the nervousness and dove right onward-- and actually managed to hit it okay. Inspired by a now-dead man whose name I don't even know, whom I heard sing this song, poorly, decades ago. The music continues.

It reminded me-- and rather proved the point-- of something I read just last night. I've been MEANING (but too busy) to tell you about this book ever since I started reading it (if you're my Facebook friend you might have noticed a cryptic reference to an exercise I was doing from it a few weeks back, when I needed your opinions on me and swore I wasn't fishing for compliments but actually doing a writing exercise, and I SAID I'd explain eventually but in all honesty I don't think I'm going to get to explaining that part today, either). The book is The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright, which I read about at Kristi Holl's Writers' First Aid blog. She'd (Kristi Holl) pulled a list of questions from the book for this post, and I thought, "Whoa. These questions are WEIRDLY HARD." So I knew I'd have to track the full book down, because it surely had something to teach me (and in my journal I actually DO tend to call it "The Hard Questions Book").

The subtitle is "Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life," and it's published by a Christian press, which I suppose is the only reason the book is not more well-known in the mainstream writing community (although Walking on Water is, and that's got possibly even a MORE spiritual bent, but then Madeleine L'Engle is a bit more well-known a name. And Bird by Bird and If You Want to Write are, like, THE writers' inspirational titles, and neither of them exactly shy away from spirituality, either. Which is basically the whole point of THIS book, so let me get out of this parenthesis). The premise is that creativity (not just writing, not even just art-- CREATIVITY in general) and spirituality are intrinsically linked, and developing one will help to develop the other and vice versa.

This book is GORGEOUS and WISE. I keep wanting to post quotes from it, but then it gets to the point that there is TOO MUCH I WANT TO QUOTE, and I'd basically be quoting the ENTIRE BOOK. Basically, it's LOVELY. It's got ALL these quotable moments, when something wise and deep that you didn't realize before is said in a way that you know instantly is Truth and it's also beautiful. But I haven't got time today to tell you about all of it; I just want to focus on this bit I read last night:
I like to think of creativity as a celestial drama in which each of us walks on and off stage at various points. It's a huge show with trillions of acts, big and small, scaling the centuries and the cultures, informing humanity constantly and at multiple levels. You and I dip into the action as we respond to the smaller dramas in our own soul. We answer single soft voices, never knowing where our individual efforts fall within the overarching story line.

When we delve into our creativity, we are responding to something that's bigger than us.... When you respond to your creative calling, you are doing something that is necessary for the world. It may be necessary in a big way-- say a series of newspaper articles that can help shape the consciousness of a generation. Or it may be necessary in small ways-- perhaps a charcoal sketch that brings you, the artist, healing.... Creative works are called out by cultural and personal needs that are too deep and intuitive to be obvious every time....

...If you've ever participated in [a creative ensemble, like a band or a theater troupe, where everyone's individual efforts combine into a whole bigger than its parts], remember them as you begin a project on your own. Just assume that there are other voices, images and phrases joining your own work, somewhere and somehow. ASsume that whatever you do will rhyme with what others are doing and will do, or with what others have already done. In someone's life your turn of phrase will make a difference, simply because it follows another turn of phrase by another writer at another key point in this person's life.


See, I could just keep going. It was HARD sticking to the right-here-relevant bits and not typing out the entire section of chapter. But here's the point:

A quarter-century ago there was a man who loved to sing, even though he couldn't do it technically well. A little girl heard him giving it his all anyway, and a quarter-century later, that now-woman remembered, and she sang a little louder herself. The music grew. Who knows what effect each bit of song has on the whole? Who can say that even the most off-key note can't help the eternal music of the universe keep playing?
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
I knew there was something significant about today's date, and now I remember: it's the 95th anniversary of the birth of the woman who wrote my favorite book and the 12th anniversary of the death of the man who wrote my favorite song. That's a lot of significance for one day. (Just listened to the latter sing the words "All the world is birthday cake" which could be for the former. IT ALL TIES TOGETHER).

Nowhere I have to be for a few hours at least, nothing I have to do except get the kids in the shower once they're done with breakfast (they got into my cousin's cologne yesterday. This will require a serious soaking), and I have a horrible cold, so don't really WANT to do much. Don't really want to SIT here, even, except mentally I'm in a place where I just feel like talking to you today. It's been two months. (Have you missed me? If you missed me, tell me so, it will make me feel useful. Then again if nobody missed me then I'll be more depressed than if I hadn't bothered to ask, so maybe not. But now I won't know whether you didn't miss me or DID miss me and are just trying not to enable my neediness).

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, so of course it's proper to start out by being thankful for Madeleine L'Engle and George Harrison. And for once I feel like telling about personal events, as if this was a journal again more than a blog. My aunt had hosted Thanksgiving, and, well, pretty much everything, for many years because she had a house for it, but this spring she moved to a place more suitable for Just Her and a Cat or Two. But her son manages/lives above a restaurant/bar/thing, so he offered the run of the place for all of us for Thanksgiving this year, instead (I'm sure he didn't intend to offer the run of his cologne in this package, but what's a holiday with small children without the makings of a holiday with small children?). It was a maze of rooms, so quite easy to lose yourself/ small children in (they had themselves a surprisingly difficult game of hide and seek. Don't think they'd ever played in a place with so many good hiding spots before). But everywhere you went, you ran into someone else, so you never were COMPLETELY lost. And they certainly had the facilities for feast-preparation, although in our family no one is ever in charge of ALL the cooking. I brought bar cookies that I overboiled the ingredients for, making them ROCK HARD (I actually broke one of my best knives trying to cut them!), but luckily there were enough other desserts. We had pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, a REALLY DELICIOUS pumpkin trifle made by a woman we just found out is the fiancee of one of my cousins so YES MA'AM WELCOME TO OUR FAMILY YOU MAY ALWAYS BRING DESSERT, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin dip, and pumpkin ice cream. Also a few other things that weren't pumpkin.

I simultaneously love holidays and get infinitely frustrated by the way other people react to holidays, too. Every so often this week there's been someone on the "Thanksgiving is offensive because that whole Pilgrims-and-Indians-happy-feast-myth is so PROBLEMATIC" train. Which is not a fault of Thanksgiving at all. It's the fault of people who insist on having preschoolers make feathered headdresses for a Thanksgiving craft. CANADIANS have Thanksgiving-- in October-- and it has NOTHING TO DO with Puritans at Plymouth. It's what it IS-- a harvest feast to give thanks for being able to eat and all. And I'm pretty sure that's how most people celebrate Thanksgiving, anyway.

Then there's the "Thanksgiving is early Christmas" thing, which was even more tricky this year since Thanksgiving WAS also Hanukkah, and "Hanukkah is Jewish Christmas." Look, I love Christmas more than ANYBODY.* ANYBODY I KNOW, at any rate. But I'm not ready to get in the mood for the holiday season until NOW. People always laugh about how early Christmas stuff comes out in STORES, but this year I saw SO many Christmas lights out on PRIVATE HOMES TWO WEEKS AGO. Of course, maybe they celebrate Hanukkah and were only prepping for THIS week. I guess we don't really know. I just hope they KEEP those lights up until at LEAST January 7th. Come on.

But on the complete opposite hand, a couple weeks ago my coworker who "shares" social media duties with me (okay, anymore SHE does most of it, and I just pop on whenever I have an idea) posted a picture of the decorated tree we have up in the library with the message "Our holiday tree is up and decorated in Dr. Seuss characters thanks to our local girl scout troop." And on our Facebook page, someone commented, "Don't you mean Christmas tree?" Since our Facebook page is linked to my personal Facebook account, I got a notification as soon as this comment was posted, so I responded, "Well, it's a little early for Christmas-- Thanksgiving and Hanukkah aren't even for another two weeks! We have a lot of other holidays to celebrate before Christmas!" This turned out to be the Exact Right Answer, earning both an in-person thumbs-up from my coworker for handling the comment so well, and a Facebook thumbs-up from the commenter for an explanation she could live with: her response was "I was really just hoping you guys weren't going the way of (what seems to be) everyone else, by not acknowledging Christmas at all...glad to hear you're just trying to extend the joy. ;)" And I'm like, really? That's the whole POINT of using the term "holiday season," not to cut OUT Christmas, but to extend the joy to ALL the OTHER holidays and traditions of this darkest-time-of-year. Christmas is December 25! But Dewey Decimal Day is December 10, and that's an important holiday, too! Okay, maybe not important, but worth celebrating (the last thing I did at work before leaving on Wednesday-- we were closed yesterday and today-- was making a "December" sign for our monthly holiday books display. There's a LOT of holidays this time of year! And it so happens Dewey Decimal Day is one of them). Worrying that there's a War on Christmas because it's acknowledged not to be the only holiday in December is like worrying making gay marriage legal will destroy straight marriage. Wait, that's usually the same people doing the worrying.

Then there's people who get stressed out about holidays. I just want to say "WE DON'T CARE! Let us people who DON'T get stressed out about holidays handle everything! We'll ALL be happy!" I was angry with my husband yesterday because HE'S one of the grinchy types, and he said, "Are you okay? Is this just your usual holiday depression?" "MY holiday depression? I wouldn't be depressed a bit if YOU weren't so grumpy." Luckily he mellowed out by the time we reached my family's party and he had a couple superb German dark beers. But anyhoo, I really think that. Holidays would be so much more pleasant for everyone if the people who got stressed out over holidays would just sit back and let the holiday-lovers take care of stuff.

So, I hope tomorrow we can do the Thorough Once-a-Year (or close to that) Housecleaning that must take place before the Christmas decorations (and Advent, and New Years, and St. Nicholas' Day, and Dewey Decimal Day, and Jane Austen's Birthday... you know, the HOLIDAY decorations) can come out, but I do have this awful crappy cold and want to go to sleep. And now it is much later at night than when I started this, so going to sleep would be a pretty good idea.

I'll get back to you again SOMETIME before Christmas (I refer here to December 25): I've been meaning to tell you about the book I'm reading/working through. For one thing. Also, who wants to go see Catching Fire with me? Jason says he'll go to the theaters with me for Desolation of Smaug (even if that IS the one with my Imaginary Husband in it), but he doesn't care to see Catching Fire in the theaters... which is just a shame that he didn't care for the first movie, because I KNOW if he read all the books he'd REALLY appreciate the worldbuilding of Panem. But ah well. Girl date! Or boy date! I don't know of any boys who read this who actually live near me though, so never mind them. Whatever-gender-you-identify-with non-spousal date!

---
*That links to a post that links to almost every OTHER post I've ever written about Christmas, so it seems most convenient. Except for the post I wrote last year, since it hadn't happened yet.
rockinlibrarian: (love)
I've been meaning to write this for awhile, because every time I see the phrase "If everyone is special, then no one is special," I want to slap whomever it is said it over the head. Possibly with a thesaurus. Yesterday someone linked to someone else rolling their metaphorical eyes at the old Fox News stance that Mister Rogers' "You are Special" refrain insidiously created a generation of entitled slackers, so I thought of this post again. What's interesting about the above link is that someone in the comments (yes, I read the comments! They actually weren't bad!) then linked to a response one such apparent Mister Rogers blamer wrote to clarify what he actually meant.

Unfortunately, the guy's still missing the point.

Which is why I still have to WRITE THIS POST TO EXPLAIN WHY.

He-- and most of the people with something to say about this story-- is hung up on thinking the Terrible part about this story is the slandering of Mister Rogers, who IS, certainly, one of the greatest (and more importantly, uh, GOODest. "Best" doesn't have the right connotation, sue me) men of the 20th century, or at least in the history of television, and therefore yes people who slander him suck. But the real travesty of this guy's thought process is his complete inability to understand what Mister Rogers MEANT by "You are Special."

Maybe it's some kind of all-American hangup about competition. There HAS to be winners and losers. Somebody HAS to be The Best. Some people are entitled to good things because they EARNED them and that makes them "special." You have to WIN Specialness.

I don't think it means what he think it means.

Fred Rogers was an ordained minister who literally saw his television show as his ministry, the audience as his congregation. Of course it wasn't a religious show, no mention of God or Jesus or any other Bible character, but in this secular format he was able to express one of the most important tenets of Christianity: YOU ARE LOVED, JUST THE WAY YOU ARE. Even when you mess up, God doesn't stop loving you-- no matter WHAT horrible thing you might have done, God may be SAD about it, but YOU ARE STILL LOVED. And this isn't just true for Christians, or any other one Chosen People-- it's EVERYONE, whether they love God back or not. All of humanity is Redeemed, even if not everyone ACCEPTS their redemption. NO ONE IS BETTER OR WORSE IN THE EYES OF GOD. ...can you tell the fact that so many people who call themselves "Christian" align themselves with the other sort of Politics (and in fact believe it to BE the Christian "side") bugs me? Seriously, we liberal Christians really need to start speaking up more. *ahem* anyway...

It's like a counselor explained to me once: your USEFULNESS may fluctuate, but your self-worth is a CONSTANT. Is a baby worth less than someone at their physical peak? Are you worth less when you've got the flu or a broken leg? Should we round up apparently useless people and shoot them? I came out of this session honestly wondering how people who didn't believe in God-- or God's Love-- came to grips with this concept. Surely if you took away the presence of unconditional love, then logic says a more Useful* person IS more worthy of existing. But God's Ways are not Man's Ways, and it clearly says GOD LOVES EVERYBODY.

The other day my friend linked to a site about National Suicide Prevention Week, which explained that this year's theme is "You Cannot Be Replaced." You cannot be replaced.

THAT'S what "You are Special" means. And yes, EVERYONE is special, because WHOEVER you are, you can't be replaced. THERE IS JUST ONE OF YOU.

Depression is this disease where you can't help believing the lies the Devil whispers in your ear-- even when you KNOW IN YOUR HEAD these things are lies, and not only lies but EVIL lies, it's still so hard to fight it. To be honest I'm not comfortable with the phrase "the Devil," I prefer "The Lone Power," thank you Diane Duane-- the inventor of Entropy, the opposite of Creation. These lies are "You're worthless. You can't do anything. Give up. No one needs you. You MEAN NOTHING."

Madeleine L'Engle called it "X-ing yourself" in A Wind in the Door-- this believing evil's lies that you are Worthless. Snuffing out the Light, the Worth, that really IS there. Just today I flipped my journal open to something I'd written while reading The Diviners, how scary, how EASY it is to give into the sins of apathy and sloth and hopelessness-- how easy it is to GIVE UP. "Terrible things can happen if I believe [the lies of depression]. It's, in a way, kind of encouraging-- what CAN I do, what IS my great potential, if the Devil is so determined to keep me from it? ... I don't like to think that I could be a tool for Evil, but I allow myself to be just by DISbelieving that I can be a FORCE for GOOD. ...Negativity keeps trying to NEGATE me. WHICH MEANS I'M SOMEBODY WORTH TRYING TO NEGATE. Gotta remember that."

It's funny, you really HAVE to be speaking from a place of Privilege if you think "Everyone is Special" means "Everyone should get everything handed to them." There are far too many people in the world who need to hear "You Are Special" just to believe they have a right to exist at all.

And hey. You. YOU. You DO have a right to exist. You have a POINT. YOU ARE SPECIAL, because you are the only You there is. You cannot be replaced.

---
*This is the thing that bugs me most about my son's beloved Thomas and Friends, beyond the annoying songs. I hate the emphasis on everyone trying to be a Really Useful Engine. I mean, obviously they're trains, they HAVE to be useful, but they're ANTHROPOMORPHIC trains, which thoroughly muddies the issue.
rockinlibrarian: (voldemart)
Hey, all, I'm a BLOGGING FREAK this week, aren't I? Remember this during my dry spells.

The thing that's made me start writing TODAY is the conversation that ensued when my video blog* friends discovered this Buzzfeed post: 12 Reasons Why Hufflepuff House Is Actually Badass,** and everyone cheered for their not-so-closet Hufflepuffness, and we naturally got onto the topic of Self-Sorting and/or Letting-Pottermore-Do-It-For-You, and once more I found myself getting TOO DEEP AND VERBOSE FOR TWITTER, so here you are.

Thing is, I was always clearly a Ravenclaw. A Capital-N Nerd. My life WAS my brain, and learning, and even showing off what a huge-know-it-all I was (though, unlike Hermione Granger, I LACKED the bravery and crusading, SPEW-creating spirit that would have put me in Gryffindor. And Slytherin? Pah, it has nothing to do with not wanting to associate with dark wizards, and more to do with COMPLETE LACK OF AMBITION TO A FAULT). Also, though this was established only in 2003, if I've had ANY ambition in my life it has been to Be Luna Lovegood, so there is that.

But reading this article, I had a gut "It's true, we ARE!" reaction. And then I had to think. WAIT. Ravenclaw. I've always been Ravenclaw. But suddenly I wasn't feeling it any more.***

When I look back, I'm pretty sure I would have still immediately put myself in Ravenclaw as recently as maybe a year ago. But I might have been a little bitter-proud about it. "Yep, I'm the brainiac. Completely useless at anything else, but a brainiac."

But I really HAVE changed in the past year. You know I've been working through my self-esteem/depression issues for years, but it's this past year that I feel like I've been making REAL PROGRESS. And yes, that's why nearly everything I post anymore is all philosophical, because I've been spending so much time and energy Working These Things Out. It's still a work in progress, mind you, but... but that's what I'm getting to. Let's start from the beginning.

At Hogwarts at the age of 11, I certainly would have been a Ravenclaw-- as long as they didn't hold that HOMEWORK thing against me. I clung to the fact that I was smart. Only a year or two before one of the books I was always writing contained a scene that went something like this:
Mary Sue Version of Me: "Hmm, maybe [incredibly obvious deduction]!"
Classmate: "Wow, Amy, you're such a genius, you should be in the ADVANCED ADVANCED Gifted Education Program!"
Mary Sue Amy, without trace of reaction: "Well, they don't have that, so I guess the REGULAR Gifted Education Program will have to do."


I swear I actually wrote that. Unironically.

At the end of 8th grade we had an awards assembly, and among the awards were medals given to the student who scored the highest on each separate subject of the standardized tests we'd taken. I got all but one. I think it was the math. Anyway, that was the first I'd ever felt a little embarrassed about it. But at least it was something I could feel CONFIDENT about.

Sure, I was a crybaby whose "best friends" pretended we WEREN'T actually friends around other kids. Sure, I had over-sized glasses and crooked teeth and the physical coordination of a chess piece. But DANGIT, I WAS SMART.

It probably was in about 8th grade, too, because that was the height of my paperback-horror phase, that I read a book (shout out in the comments if you remember this one-- I don't remember the name or author) about a cursed prom/formal dress that left each unwitting girl who wore it without the one thing they were most proud about. And there was a brainiac girl who ended up brain damaged. And it squigged me out. THAT CAN'T HAPPEN TO ME, I thought. MY LIFE WOULD TOTALLY BE OVER.

Fact is, I was a snob. For an unpopular kid with no fashion sense who claimed to hate snobs, I was an INTELLIGENCE snob. I didn't have the patience for people who THOUGHT SLOWER than me.

In high school I read an article about EQ-- how emotional intelligence was more important than traditional IQ in predicting future success. I was offended. So I KNOW they're trying to make people who aren't so smart feel better about themselves, but are they trying to say people who DO have high IQs aren't so great? PAH.

But as I got older, I started to figure out that the article was right. For one thing, a positive thing, I met several people who taught me to appreciate that even people who WEREN'T SMART-- who even had LOW IQs-- had OTHER valuable qualities-- sometimes even MORE valuable. "I know I'm not very good at some things," one such woman, who I'd (take that, snobby-younger-self) come to know as a friend, told me once, "but there are OTHER things I AM good at, so I focus on those!" I've never forgotten that. The world would say I was blessed with so much more natural talent than she was-- and yet here she was, teaching ME something very important that I still haven't quite mastered.

For a not-so-positive thing? Yeah, real life has no use for brainiacs. Who gets paid to take standardized tests?

So for most of adulthood, I haven't taken much pride in my brains. But I still defined myself by them. Now I was just bitter, and resigned that the school system had failed me and I was a failure.

But they say, when real change happens, the old self dies and makes way for the new. And it's possible that my OLD self was the Ravenclaw. And right, I'm still a nerd. I still love learning and memorizing weird trivia facts and doing pencil puzzles in GAMES Magazine, but I don't DEFINE myself by it any more. There are other things I value more. There are other things I want to BE. I'm not STUCK in my old ways of thinking. And it's possible this New Me would fit in better in another Hogwarts house. Right now I AM leaning particularly toward Hufflepuff's open, loving, supportive, and need I add food-appreciating nature.

But as I continue to grow, I could even find myself latching on to a big boost of Gryffindor courage. Who knows, really. But I'll be open to it, whatever it is. I'll still try to be the Best ME I can be.

-----
*which I am on hiatus from for a bit by reason of TimeSuck, but here's three blog posts in one week if that helps any!
**why yes I DID realize there's a lovely GIF of Martin right there two down, but I swear that's not why I'm linking you to the article! ...You have to admit it's a nice bonus, though.
***and no, it had NOTHING to do with the lovely GIF of Martin, which was only being used to illustrate that Hufflepuff House is like a Hobbit Hole. Obviously, Bilbo Baggins would be (the only hobbit ever to be) in Gryffindor, so that wouldn't have been a draw to it. (OKAY, Tolkien nerds, ease off, he's not the ONLY hobbit ever, some of his Tookish ancestors might have gone that way, too, and MAYBE one or two of the Fellowship, BUT IT STILL WOULD HAVE BEEN RARE).
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
So I made the mistake of clicking on the "Home" button at the top of LiveJournal here-- no, THAT wasn't the mistake, that was a genuine check-in-case-I-missed-any-comments-on-old-posts-recently. The MISTAKE was scrolling down and READING the rest of the stuff on the Home page-- okay, skimming it, but that's all I can stomach-- the Top Posts on LJ right now. By far the most active account on LiveJournal these days is [livejournal.com profile] ohnotheydidnt, which is basically a celebrity gossip page. I've read some of their posts before and even (stupid me) the comments. What bugs me about this page is not that it's celebrity gossip (because I like to hear what my favorite stars are UP to, too, even though most of my favorite stars aren't exactly celebrity gossip page fodder-- which may be the point but I'm getting to it), but it's the ATTITUDE of the gossip, and the attitude of most other celebrity gossip magazines, etc: the NEGATIVITY. The EAGERNESS to poke holes all through these people just because they're famous. Like we must make them PAY for their fame! It's not "Look, famous people have problems, too," it's "OMG these famous people SO DON'T DESERVE TO BE FAMOUS. They have FAULTS!" Or, obviously just "Oh no they didn't."

These sort of things always turn my stomach a bit, but I'm only commenting on it today because I was JUST THINKING about J.K. Rowling and how she was recently outed for publishing under a pseudonym (link if you actually haven't heard about this). Yesterday somebody pointed me toward the FAQs on this official page, and I love them. I love her ATTITUDE about them. How you can tell that for her it IS all about the writing, but she's resigned to the fact that for the rest of the world it will always be about her NAME, her fame and fortune. And she's just trying to be a writer while the world goes crazy around her.

And I felt, while I was thinking about this, like a fellow writer instead of a fan. One with absolutely NO fame and fortune, sure, but one who's tried to write while worrying about what other people would think. IT'S HARD. It's no way to write a book, or anything. And she's got to write while KNOWING that the world is FULL of people who will just go "But why isn't it Harry?" or will read it and STILL say, "Eh, it's not Harry, I don't like it" or who will scrutinize its flaws merely to counteract THE HYPE. And then there's the people who act like, "Well, now that she's rich and famous, what's she doing trying to make us buy more books anyway? Why can't she just RETIRE? Does she seriously need MORE mediocre bestsellers?"

And I just pictured her, with all those voices screaming out in the world and, even more troublesome, all the voices saying "They're RIGHT you know. You're a fraud. Harry was just luck" INSIDE HER HEAD-- she's a WRITER, of COURSE she has those voices!-- and I just wanted to hug her, as a friend, and say, "Oh, Jo, honey, are the hater voices getting you down again? Let's have some tea and talk out some plot issues."

And I wondered, does she even have any critique partners, any working writer friends to talk through the nitty-gritty writing things with? Or are people just like, "Well, J.K. Rowling, NOBODY'S on that level, we couldn't possibly have anything in common, besides, I bet she can just BUY people to WRITE her books for her." How lonely IS it to be J.K. Rowling? I laughed at one point during her long special interview with Oprah, when the two started talking about what it's like to go from poverty to realizing you have more money than you will ever know what to do with in several lifetimes, and I said to my mom, "THEY are the ONLY TWO PEOPLE ON EARTH who could be having this conversation right now." But seriously, it was true, and you could see it-- how the two of them almost seemed to forget about the cameras, that this was supposed to be an interview, because for them it was like, "FINALLY! Somebody who UNDERSTANDS!"

I think it was Paul McCartney who said in the Anthology interviews that he felt bad for Elvis, because the Beatles had each other to help them through the insanity of Beatlemania, but Elvis had to face superstardom alone. In a more meta interview from the Anthology days, when asked what he liked best about working with Paul and George again, Ringo replied, "They're the only people in the world who don't treat me like a Beatle." And that said it.

I guess it's easy to dehumanize celebrities for the same reason it's easy to dehumanize people on the other side of the Internet-- distance, and a narrow understanding of who the other person IS, in their full nothing-to-do-with-you life. And I think it definitely DOES say much more about YOU than it does about The Other-- reveals YOUR insecurity and envy and frustrations as you so desperately try to take somebody else DOWN. And we KNOW that-- most of the time-- about people we actually encounter in real life. We're starting to know that about people on the Internet. But it's still okay to treat celebrities like they somehow OWE you something, because they've already got fame, what do they WANT? And no. Nobody deserves to be judged more than anyone else.

So I'm sorry, Jo. I really care about you and hope the haters aren't getting you down, and that the writing's going well, and that you really can have no worries.
rockinlibrarian: (tesseract)
In case you haven't seen it, the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly is devoted to "All-Time Greatest" lists. Sure, everyone's got all-time greatest lists, and such lists are always open to passionate debate and sometimes straight-up ire. But what I like about these particular lists-- I bought the hard copy, for reasons that may soon become clear-- is that these aren't, necessarily, the SAME OLD titles, lists made up of Mark Twain's definition of classics: "books everyone praises but nobody reads." For one example, Sgt. Pepper isn't ANYWHERE on the Albums list-- SHOCK!-- instead the number one album is Revolver-- which I could have told you is REALLY the Beatles' definitive album, though Sgt. Pepper gets all the attention. (For the record, the albums list also includes Abbey Road, the White Album, and Rubber Soul-- I WOULD have been super annoyed if they'd left Abbey Road off the list. MASTERPIECE, I SAY). The people who made these lists didn't CONSULT OTHER LISTS, in other words.

They're also one of the LEAST SNOBBISH lists I've ever seen (as compiled by critics, not fan votes). There's no separation between what is considered "ART" and what's considered low-brow. Genre gets its say-- not just token nods, not just the ARTSIEST expressions of genre. There's way too much rap on the best albums list for my taste, but that's about TASTE, and I've no doubt those albums deserve to be there. But most importantly, and the thing that first drew my attention to these lists:

A Wrinkle in Time is number 27 on the Novels list.

Not the "Children's Novels" list. The "Novels" list. 27.

To put this in perspective, War and Peace is number 28.

There's actually quite a few Children's or Young Adult novels on the list, and they're never brushed off as "great for a children's book." They stand firm right along with the books people get made to read in school. Harry Potter actually comes in at #7. I'm going to say that's mostly due to influence-- which is still a worthy reason. #10 is Charlotte's Web. His Dark Materials, #44. Ender's Game, author-related controversy notwithstanding, #49. And #98 is Are You There God? It's me, Margaret. (I've only just noticed that Alice's Adventures in Wonderland did not make this list, which is surely a gross oversight on their part. That one isn't a matter of opinion). (Kind of surprised The Giver isn't on there-- I've seen that one make Mostly-Grown-Up lists before).

And why ever wouldn't they be? Sure, I'm biased. But the books people read as children-- or young adults (and heck, most of those "classics" were read as teenagers in school)-- are the ones that have a profound influence on our adult tastes, ideas, dreams... whatnot. Here's a recent Buzzfeed list that sums it up. Honestly, anyone who would make a Best of list that DOESN'T include these early influences must be outright lying. They're afraid what people would think. Because children's books aren't "supposed" to be Great. They're supposed to be left behind. But this is silly. " A tree grows because it adds rings: a train doesn’t grow by leaving one station behind and puffing on to the next," as C.S. Lewis described it. (C.S. Lewis was always so SENSIBLE about "children's vs. adults'"). They're the FOUNDATION that everything else builds upon.

Well, if I wasn't sick and incredibly-busy-anyway, I'd probably dig into the lists further, comment on all the things I've seen and not seen and hated and whatnot. But I AM sick, and I DO have a lot to do even if I wasn't sick, so I'm not sitting here any longer.
rockinlibrarian: (tesseract)
The Madeleine L'Engle fangroup on FB and Twitter just shared this lovely review and defense of A Wrinkle In Time as a Frequently Challenged and/or Banned Book. It's made me nostalgic for the Year of the Tesseract. But there's no time limit on analyzing great books, now, is there? I don't know about you, but now I want to go back and reread all my posts in my Year of the Tesseract series JUST BECAUSE.

I'm not being weirdly self-promoting, here. I'm just genuinely THIS IS SO FUN -ing.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
So I thought if I posted my Movie-Howl Rant I'd feel less irrationally compelled to rant it whenever someone mentions it, but apparently I just feel irrationally compelled to link them to my Rant post, instead. When I did so in response to a friend's Facebook posting yesterday, she said something that cleared up the whole What Makes an Adaptation of a Book Work For Me issue. And she was just agreeing with me. "We don't love the props, the accessory: we love the PEOPLE, and the IDEAS (maybe values is more appropriate)," is what she said. But it made me see the issue in a new light: it's like Fanfiction.

Why do people write fanfiction? It's not an effort to replicate the PLOT of a story-- what would be the point? It's instead an opportunity to play in that universe, with those characters, to see how they react in new situations. Spend any amount of time glancing at the exploits-- fanfictiony or not-- of any rabid fandom and you'll see the passion directed not at the story, not at the words (except for some soundbite-worthy quotations, juxtaposed in beautiful fonts against pictures OF THE CHARACTERS THEY REFER TO), but by the characters, whom fans refer to as if they were real people-- wondering "What would Katniss think of THAT?" and "I bet Captain Mal is responsible here." It's the worlds and the concepts, the intricacies of Hogsmead and the myriad treats at Honeydukes, the customs and philosophies of the Jedi Order. It isn't about the STORIES so much. The stories have been done.

I admit I'm not much into fanfiction and/or online fandom. I've written a little bit, stories that tickle me enough into writing them, but not of the THIS IS FOR ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE FANDOM THAT I SPEND ALL MY TIME IN sort. But it's okay, I know of which I speak. I'm a FAN. I understand the FEELING behind it, the desire to stay with those people in that universe. I DO feel that way about stories I really love (and even sometimes only love a little bit), even if I don't always want to WRITE my imaginings or care to read other people's.

And really, movie adaptations-- if done properly-- are fanfiction. The non-properly-done ones are the ones where the movie makers don't particularly CARE about the original work, they just want to exploit it-- so you get the ones that have the same name as a book but do whatever the heck they want with the details. But the movie adaptations that WORK for me, work the way fanfiction does-- the movie makers believe in the characters and the universe and they're playing around with that, taking the characters they love and putting them in a visual, usually shorter, movie-shaped format. Sometimes the plot changes, but that's okay. This is why I think Peter Jackson's Middle Earth is a successful adaptation in my eyes (SHUT UP BRIAN YOU'RE WRONG....just anticipating a Facebook comment there). So much care is taken to MAKE that place Middle Earth, and dangit, IT IS. THE REAL MIDDLE EARTH, and you cannot convince me otherwise. The characters are also all true, even if not PERFECTLY right *coughFaramircough*-- the deviations can be attributed to personal interpretation rather than BLATANTLY GIVING A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CHARACTER THE SAME NAME (and, by the way, I am all about Arwen having been further developed --as opposed to changed. If they'd gone with one of their original ideas and turned her into a fighter, THAT would have been a Wrong change. Instead they just SHOWED more of her, in a way that you can completely believe, and that totally worked for me because when I first read the books I was like "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU ARAGORN EOWYN IS TOTALLY AWESOME AND IN LOVE WITH YOU you're gay, aren't you"-- I happened to be unrequitedly in love with a gay guy at the time-- I suppose that "unrequitedly" was redundant-- so by the time Arwen showed up again at the end I was like, "oh, HER? You were holding out for HER? WHAT IS THE POINT?!" but it was okay because Eowyn got THE WAY MORE AWESOME MAN IN THE END ANYWAY, but I'm SAYING, giving Arwen an actual presence FILLED THAT OUT and felt true to the story! Eowyn is still more awesome, but at least I could UNDERSTAND it better). (ALSO, ALSO, I've felt like ranting about this, yay, a place to get it out, but I AM TOTALLY OFFENDED by the amount of hate slung at the new female elf, Tauriel I think? --that they put into the next Hobbit movie in order to have more females in the story. I was indifferent to her, willing to wait and see, but when the first Desolation of Smaug trailer came out I came away with two heartfelt opinions on it: a, on the negative side, WHY THE HECK WAS THERE SO LITTLE OF THE TITLE HOBBIT IN THIS TRAILER you've ruined my planned gazing session; and b, ooh, I like that new elf, she seems Just Right. But then I'd read all these other reactions and people were like "I can handle the other changes but UGH, WHY, that girl elf totally doesn't BELONG" and I'm thinking "Of ALL the changes to complain about, you're harping on about her, I'm sorry, I'm not one of those who plays the Feminist Card much but you are TOTALLY coming across as 'EW, who let this GIRL in our movie!'" Because my impression from the trailer was that she totally fits. She belongs in the Middle Earth I know, in the elven culture. She's a new character added TO the fanfiction, not a blatant alteration of a canon character. THAT MAKES HER ALL RIGHT BY ME). Okay, now that the parenthetical parts of this paragraph have gotten completely out of hand, I'll try to sum it up, somehow-- what I'm saying is Jackson's making fan art, in a much more dramatic but not all that dissimilar way from a fan on YouTube who pieces together clips from a TV series to highlight a particular theme they've picked up on. He's got a huge wonderful world to play in, and he loves it even too much to edit it to a proper movie length.

Also I just right clicked on all the wiggly red lines on my screen in that paragraph and ADDED ALL THOSE TOLKIEN CHARACTERS TO THE DICTIONARY, because COME ON. Fans know their characters belong in the dictionary.

Oh, and about loving the universe of the story: there IS Alternate Universe fanfiction, and there ARE adaptations that can get away with changing the setting of a story, too. In my Howl Rant post, one commenter suggested that the movie's steampunk setting might have further felt UNLIKE THE TRUTH OF THE BOOK, but I didn't mind that. I actually liked the setting. It seemed good for the story. But in order for an Alternate Universe fanfiction to work, it's GOT to be even MORE true to the characters, and the new setting will either run by similar concepts of the original setting, or it will acknowledge that the setting has changed and make those changes part of what they're playing off of. It's all playing "what if?" but it's still confining itself to the OTHER rules of the canon.

The more I thought about it after that post, the more I realized my negative feelings toward the Howl's Moving Castle movie may have had LESS to do with the blatant replacing-of-a-canon-character-with-a-boring-imposter-with-the-same-name, and more with the sense that this WASN'T Diana Wynne Jones fanfiction, after all. I don't know, maybe I should see the movie in Japanese. Maybe I should have seen the Japanese special features. Maybe Miyazaki gushed about Jones in the original special features, but in the English-language special features it was like Diana Wynne Jones didn't exist. And THAT'S not right. That's like somebody posting a fanfic and not acknowledging that it's a fanfic-- not naming the original source, trying to pass off the work as entirely their own.

And that's all I want from an adaptation. I want some sense that the people making it actually read the same book I did. That they did their research. That they're ACTUALLY FANS, like me.
rockinlibrarian: (love)
This morning I've been singing "This Little Light of Mine" over and over in my head like a mantra... I say "like" a mantra, but whatever, it IS a mantra.

It's like I've said before about children's books: just because they're written "for children" doesn't mean-- the good ones, anyway-- people OLDER than the target age group can't get anything out of it. Harold and the Purple Crayon is profound. Period.

Who could think a simple little Sunday School song could be what a 35 year old most needs in her life? Who could think the message of this repetitive little tune of about four notes would be so easily forgotten by the grown-ups of the world who think they're so wise and disillusioned and world-weary? Who could think the very people who've been hearing the song all their lives now spend so much of their time hiding and even snuffing out lights, other people's lights or their own?

It's basic. A basic message. A basic truth. And the most basic of truths shine so well in the art supposedly intended for children. And inside every adult is a child who still needs to hear it. Even adults can grow.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
*AHEM* So I was about to go off on a fangirl rant on Twitter, when I realized it would be so much easier if I just wrote a blog post.

As we've discussed before, I'm not really SURE why I can accept some movie adaptations of books, and not others. It's not a matter of QUALITY-- as I said in that linked post, I enjoyed the Wrinkle In Time made-for-TV movie just fine even though it hardly did the book justice (or anything close), but the adaptation of Prisoner of Azkaban, widely regarded as the best of the Harry Potter movies (and sometimes as the ONLY good Harry Potter movie), made me grouchy just because it WASN'T RIGHT. It's not a matter of how closely it keeps to the book, either-- I'm not a stickler about that; in fact I thought the Hunger Games movie SHOULD have strayed a bit more from the book plot, and, aside from the lack of Faramir being swoony and romantic, every other change Peter Jackson made to the Lord of the Rings movies possibly made the story BETTER. I've gotten the basic impression, though, that it's the portrayal of the characters that makes-or-breaks an adaptation for me. I understand plot changes for the sake of a story arc, condensing a book into a movie-- but if you change the CHARACTERS then how can you say you're telling the same story at ALL? I mean, there ARE only, like, three different plots in the world or something, so the characters are what make the story what it IS.

I'm also not sure why I can speak calmly and balanced...ly about some adaptations, good or bad, but others compel me to SHOUT THE SAME POINTS OVER AND OVER. Well, I did figure out that my automatic "ARTHUR DENT WAS PERFECT!" outbursts every time somebody says the Hitchhikers Guide movie sucks are probably caused by the actor actually having been my Soul Mate all along (but I will say Marvin-the-Paranoid-Android in that was ABSOLUTELY ALL WRONG. THAT I can rant about. Don't you dare touch my Perfect-Arthur-Dent though). But I don't have any such excuse with Studio Ghibli's Howl's Moving Castle. And yet you cannot so much as mention it around me (you can't even PUT A COPY OF IT IN MY LINE OF SIGHT) without me shouting "THAT'S NOT HOWL!" at you.

What's funny is that otherwise it was a lovely movie. It was beautiful and psychedelic. The castle was better than I'd imagined it (except for Howl's room, which was Wrong, but I'm getting to that). I had no problem with the plot changes, even though some of them were major: the book is so complex that it only made SENSE they'd have to condense it, and it worked for me. Most importantly, they GOT SOPHIE RIGHT. Sophie, my beloved #3 Fictional Girl-Crush! I'd been worried about Sophie, afraid they'd turn her into a bland Typical Movie Heroine-- either too much of a wide-eyed innocent, or too kickass and invincible. But no, Sophie was just right, even if her (young) hair wasn't the strawberry blonde it was supposed to be.

I hadn't even THOUGHT to be worried about how they'd portray Howl. After all, he was SUCH a striking, utterly unique character, how could anyone NOT get him right?

Now look, I'm not a Howl fangirl. He's got loads of people who are in love with him, and Diana Wynne Jones said that people asked her ALL THE TIME if they could marry him, to which she always wanted to reply "WHY? He'd be AWFUL to live with!" (I still think the answer is, "Because what they don't realize is that it's NOT that they want to marry Howl, it's that they want to BE SOPHIE.") My crush is on Sophie, and as I'm a heterosexual female that's saying something. But I somehow can NOT get past movie-Howl's COMPLETE LACK OF HOWL-NESS.

First off, and this may seem entirely too nit-picky and superficial, but I was DREADFULLY disappointed that movie-Howl wasn't Welsh. It's PART OF WHO HE IS! I hear him in my head and he's got this melodramatic tenor Welsh voice, but the guy in the movie has got a generic deep tormented MOVIE-HERO voice instead. AND HERE'S THE IRONIC THING, which I only just found out the other month: he's played (in the English overdub, which is all I've seen) by Christian Bale, who as it turns out IS WELSH. WHY couldn't he have used his REAL voice? Instead he turned him into BATMAN!HOWL.

Which is also wrong. In the movie, instead of sneaking off to watch rugby and visit his Welsh family, Howl sneaks off to GO FLYING AROUND A BATTLE ZONE. Uh, Howl's most plot-affecting character trait IS THAT HE'S A HUGE COWARD. He slithers out of everything. He has to trick himself into doing what he doesn't want to do, and the LAST thing he's going to do without someone needling him about it is go anywhere near a war zone. It's VITAL to the heart of the story that Sophie inspires him to be brave, that he'll do things for her that he'd NEVER consider doing for anyone else.

And THAT'S important to the story, REALLY important, because in the book the romance is so subtle you could miss it UNTIL you realize that it's so seamlessly woven in and perfect and Howl and Sophie are THE GREATEST FICTIONAL COUPLE OF ALL TIME... or, they're up there, at any rate. They FIT. They bring out the best in each other. They also bring out the worst in each other, but the best wouldn't have happened without each other, either. They have a true RELATIONSHIP, not the kind of shallow "the main boy and main girl character of this story are IN LOVE because they're both the main characters AND I SAY SO" thing that far too many stories show. And in the movie's misguided effort to make Howl into a more conventional HEROIC HERO, they destroyed that perfectly orchestrated relationship and turned it INTO one of those shallow "because they're the main characters and I SAY SO" things.

It's like an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Darcy's a drunken playboy party animal. It ceases to make sense.

Perhaps my disappointment wouldn't be SO pervasive if I hadn't watched the special features. One of my favorite things to look for in special features for shows based on books are the details of the adaptation process-- why did the screenwriters make the choices they did in adapting? Why change this, why keep that, what were they most passionate about showing? (To be honest, storytelling details are one of my favorite parts of NON-book-adaptation special features, too). And there was NOTHING about Diana Wynne Jones. It was as if all the people working on the movie thought whats-his-face came up with this whole thing on his own-- it was all from HIS imagination, not hers. And THAT offended me most of all. Do they not even REALIZE the awesomeness that is Diana Wynne Jones?

I know lots of people who love both the book and the movie, and they all say that they just see the two as Two Separate Entities, and don't compare them. Which is perfectly sensible! In fact that's exactly how I feel about Peter Jackson's Hobbit movie(s)-- I hear people say "that is NOT an adaptation of THE BOOK," and I'm like, "yeah, so? It really isn't meant to be. It's a dramatization of stuff happening in Middle Earth that uses the story of The Hobbit as a framing device." Notice, here, that I'm not even reflexively shouting "BILBO BAGGINS* WAS PERFECT!" even though obviously he was-- this is one of those movies I can speak rationally about. So WHY? WHY can I not be sensible about Howl's Moving Castle? Why am I unable to forgive what is otherwise a really nice movie for this ONE FATAL FLAW? It's a really HUGE Fatal Flaw, is all.

I'm starting to develop a theory I NEVER would have thought I'd espouse-- maybe it IS better to see a movie before reading its book. Because people who saw the movie first don't have this problem, and when they read the book, WOW, so much more awesome to discover! A movie can peak your interest, and then the book fills in the blanks and is AWESOME. Whereas when you read the book first, you go into the movie with PRECONCEPTIONS, and then you're likely to be disappointed. There are some exceptions: I think it's a mistake to watch the Holes movie first because then you know all the plot twists and you don't get the elation of watching them all unfold in the book for the first time-- the movie just doesn't have the same "OHHH!" effect, even if it will spoil you for the book. And obviously, it's HARD for me to NOT read a book first because usually I read books before they're even OPTIONED for movies. But I do wonder if doing HOWL the other way around would have completely changed my opinion. I may have still decided Book-Howl is a way more interesting character than Movie-Howl, but the movie wouldn't have that stigma of disappointment tied to it, so I wouldn't feel compelled to CORRECT everyone every time they bring it up.

So, I'm sorry I'm so hard-nosed about this movie. I really don't understand quite why I can't get over it. But, there it is, I've got it out of my system, so maybe I'll feel compelled to shout about it less.

---
*Completely unrelated: how does my spellchecker recognize "Bilbo" but not "Baggins"? Does anyone have any idea what might have possessed the spellchecker programmers to include one without the other? This is going to bug me all night.
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
You GUYS! What happened to holding me ACCOUNTABLE for blogging regularly? You need to POKE me or something!

...assuming you want me to blog at all, naturally.

Hey, remember this post from the end of the year, when I attempted to do my annual Best Books roundup and didn't have much to say?

Well, first of all I'm happy to say that, as of my birthday last week (which, by the way, I didn't get to wish my annual Happy Birthday to [livejournal.com profile] lady1297 either, did I), I have accumulated (with much thanks to my parents and husband) three of those Adult-Nonfiction-Books-About-Creative-Types I did not get at Christmas: Listening for Madeleine, Imagination Illustrated, and Fearless Creating, as well as one I added to my wish list AFTER Christmas, The Bird King: An Artist's Notebook, by Shaun Tan, (actually, that one hasn't arrived yet), because SHAUN TAN-- I could just STARE at his pictures all day. There's also the whole getting-inspired-by-the-inspirations-of-others'-brilliance thing, which goes for the Madeleine L'Engle and Jim Henson bios, there, too.

But I haven't gotten a chance to just sit and READ them yet, either. Right now I'm reading a friend's manuscript, which I have gotten to fairly late to begin with (mea culpa, [livejournal.com profile] elouise82), because I had library books to read, and I'm still SQUEEZING time to read, and they had due dates.

But the best thing about the two library books I've just read (in the past, uh, two months... this is good for me)? They were both SO GOOD that they reminded me why I used to love reading so much in the first place. So now I'm going to RECOMMEND them with the heartiest enthusiasm!

First off, Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein. Dudes, how could I NOT read a book that's gotten so many gushing reviews and is about WWII spies and resistance fighters? If I could choose just one historical time period/subject to read about, that's mine. Also Beatlemania. But mostly clandestine WWII stuff.

Here we have a work involving at least one unreliable narrator (but unreliable to WHOM?) and several storylines and lots of PLOTTING and much that is harrowing. Much that is downright DEVASTATING. BUT IN A GOOD WAY. I actually was reminded a lot of the miniseries Band of Brothers, which is my favorite of all my husband's War Movies-- but this one's more like a Band of SISTERS. A Band of TWO Sisters, but still. IT'S GOT GIRL POWER, which in itself is fascinating because you don't see many Girl Power stories in WWII non-homefront suspense-War-Stories. Certainly not in Band of Brothers. I can't tell you too much more about the plot because DUDE, you have to discover it as it goes. Just trust me. If you like the idea of Band of Brothers with Girl Power and more clandestine stuff than front-line stuff, YOU WILL LOVE THIS BOOK, so go read it.

SECONDLY, we'll go further back in 20th-century historicals and throw in some CREEPY HORROR as well: The Diviners, by Libba Bray. First, can I just shout out once again how much I FREAKING LOVE Libba Bray? As a person she's just freaking cool (EDIT: She just tweeted this. HOW CAN YOU NOT ADORE THE PERSON WHO TWEETED THIS?). As an author she's just MINDBLOWING. Going Bovine and Beauty Queens are two of my favorite books of the past decade, but otherwise they're not much alike. The Diviners is, also, nothing like the other books, and yet still brilliant.

What may be most brilliant about it is what, thanks to Bruce Coville's fantasy workshop at the SCBWI conference I went to, I always think of as the "Clowns of God" effect: instead of being nonstop horror (or awe, or devastation, or sadness), there are plenty of scenes of character development, setting development, and humor woven through-- making the scary bits THAT MUCH SCARIER. The setting development is EVOCATIVE. You are immersed in Roaring Twenties Manhattan, and it's so colorful and intricate and rich that you feel perfectly content and fascinated just reading a scene of ordinary non-supernatural day-to-day life... then BAM, the creepy shows up, knocking you for even more of a loop.

The story is told from many multiple viewpoints, including those of bad guys and victims, but one of the main viewpoint characters-- probably the MOST main viewpoint-- is a girl named Evie who is SO STUNNINGLY NOT LIKE ME that HER characterization fascinated me the most. She's a complete extrovert, and every decision she makes seems like the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I would do-- so for Bray to make me understand this girl, sympathize and relate with her, just feels like a HUGE accomplishment on her part. That, of everything in the book, probably impressed me the most!

So for the "if you like" recommendation: this book is Lovecraftian. But higher quality, and without the weird bits of racism and misogyny. It reminded me of playing the Call of Cthulhu RPG, 1920s-era. But with more historical accuracy and detail than Jason is likely to give it as GM (not counting anything weaponry/military related). The Call of Cthulhu game happens to be my favorite RPG, but I might just be weird that way, so maybe this doesn't sound fascinating to you at all. But I think you're wrong. It's awesome. So read this book.

Now I'm going to the grocery store.

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