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.

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*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: (eggman)
So, this week's vlog topic is "Some of Your Favorite Things," which brings up the topic of Bic Velocity Easy-Glide Ballpoints.*

See, a couple years back, when I was trying to make a habit of writing to prompts every morning, I got the prompt, "Your favorite possession has climbed to the top of the Empire State Building and is threatening to jump." (I can't remember if there was a "What would you do?" or "Write what happens" after that. That sentence was all I wrote down of it). Well, I'd only just started using my very first Bic Velocity Easy-Glide Ballpoint, a lovely purple one (black ink--it was purple on the outside), and I was using it just then and was entirely too excited about it, so THAT, I decided, would be the possession in question. But why on earth would a pen be threatening to jump off the Empire State Building? It seemed vaguely X-Files-ish. In a silly way. But then, immediately, I knew what to write.

I'm not a big fanfiction writer-- I have some bits here and there I do, but it's not a major hobby-in-and-of itself. But ever since we had our massive X-Files marathon right after Sammy was born, I've wanted to write fic for Mulder and Scully. Not ABOUT anything specifically. It was just that I could see them, showing up at the scene of a bizarre crime, bantering over the clues. I just didn't have a mystery for them to investigate.

UNTIL NOW. I decided to turn the mystery of a pen threatening to jump into an X-File. It was silly. It was by no means high-quality. But it was fun.

So now that the topic has come up in the video, I'm going to share that little fanfic right here:

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Under this cut which very few people will see because who reads this in a LiveJournal Feed anymore, anyway, is a very short fanfic. And I don't own Mulder and Scully, yadda yadda yadda, all that other stuff people put before Fanfics.... I do own quite a few Bic Velocity Easy-Glide Ballpoints. I don't get money for them, though. )
----
*DEAR BIC: I'm serious. Keep making them or I'll... act on a very vague threat that probably doesn't actually exist. I'm saying, though.
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
Hi folks. It's been awhile, mostly because I had the flu last week and the week before and OH MY GOSH... wait, never mind. I keep forgetting it's only the beginning of February, because I'm planning library events for the end of February, and keep forgetting my events in the middle of February haven't happened yet. Even though it should be fresh in my mind, since I was forced to change my Hobbit movie calendar today, which was very sad, because Mr. January was Bilbo and now it's February, which should delight all the Thorin fangirls but just does NOT fill me with irrepressible smile bubbles every time I walk by the calendar the way Mr. January did. Even Maddie is disappointed in Mr. February in comparison. She said, "He's scary." You know what she said, unprompted, about Mr. January? "That's my favorite guy!" Good taste, that child.

SO ANYWAY, it hasn't been QUITE as long since my last entry as I feared, because I have NOT actually DONE my February library* programs-- WAIT, I NEVER TOLD YOU ABOUT MY NEW LIBRARY PROGRAMS! I picked up some regular weekly program spots because we needed more programs aimed at elementary aged kids. So I'm doing what I call "Library Explorers" on Monday evenings, which is where I pick a fun topic and we find books and do activities and stuff around that topic. The first one is a Mardi Gras party. Elementary-kid-appropriate. Then Thursday evenings are Family Night Story Times, fun for all ages! Stop by!

So, I've been planning programs at work, recuperating at home-- until last weekend, when I started going on Cleaning Sprees. I'm typically blind to clutter, and ignore housework until it becomes Problematic (in my opinion, not the opinion of other people), but every so often I go into BERZERKER CLEANING FRENZIES and dive into thorough, day-long projects of it all (this is actually fairly typical of Type 9s. I AM NOT A FLUKE). That happened this past week. Oh, and I've been reading fiction, occasionally! I bought Terry Pratchett's latest, Dodger, on a whim on my Nook because it was on special, which I was enjoying right and dandy; but then yesterday a girl returned Code Name Verity (by Elizabeth Wein-- look at how "Wein" is just like "Weir" with an extra little line down the end! That's a good name for a writer) and I decided "I said I'd like to read this, but I think I want to read this NOW," so I checked it out and dove right in. Dodger is good, but it can wait. Both those books just won Printz Honors though. Good year for the Printz! Books I'm actually interested in!

But SPEAKING of the Youth Media Awards, that actually brings us to what I was going to tell you about all along. Sort of. See, I was going to get out of blogging by introducing you to my VLOG! but now I've already typed four full paragraphs so I suppose I haven't actually gotten out of anything.

Anyway, a month or so back a few of my Lycoris-Project friends decided to start a group video-blog, just to chat with each other. Or spew opinions at each other. I thought, that sounds crazy! Why would I ever do that? until I said Heck with it and did one. A video I mean. And I said "That was fun! And didn't take THAT much time! And is a new and exciting creative endeavor, and I need to START a new and exciting creative endeavor so as to remind myself that I can, indeed, create! And I am AWESOME when I can edit out my ums and terribly-long-pauses-when-I-can't-think-of-words! It's like WRITING, only out loud!" So I was added into the video rotation and have so far created four videos.

So getting back to speaking of the Youth Media Awards, that's what I did in this week's video. The topic of the week was supposed to be "Movie, Music, and Book Recommendations," but because that seemed like such an endlessly broad topic, I stuck to talking about the Youth Media Awards instead. And reading Elephant and Piggie books out loud:


Isn't that amazing, actually seeing ME in PERSON? YOU ARE DROOLING ALL OVER YOURSELVES WITH LOVE OF THE REAL ME, NOW, AREN'T YOU? Well, assuming you are, my other videos are here: in which I introduce myself, in which I blather about FANDOMS, and in which I respond to questions in what has been erroneously labeled a "Nerd Survey," even though the questions lean far more to "geek" than "nerd." You can also see the videos the others have made, assuming you would want to look at anyone who is not me after this.

So that's how I give you a blog without blogging! Although I blogged anyway! Thank you. Thank you very much.

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*I keep spelling "February" wrong, and I only just realized that's because my fingers keep wanting to type "library." Well, February IS Library Lovers' Month. Probably due to spelling.
rockinlibrarian: (rebecca)
As I said when I reviewed... or talked about, or something... the first one, not one but TWO movies came out over the holiday season that I had to see in the theater because of my DEEP PERSONAL REASONS, and since I knew I could never write an objective, balanced review of either since I was coming into them with all this baggage, I decided instead to write about THE BAGGAGE and THEN tell you my reactions to the movies, so you'd know where I was coming from. It took me a little longer to get out to see the second one, but I knew I WOULD, because my sister had given me a Dinner And This Movie Sister-Date Coupon for Christmas. So now let me tell you about Les Miserables.

BACKSTORY!
As a geek in her mid-thirties, I've been somewhat bemused and yet intrigued by INTERNET FANDOMS. On one hand, I know what it is to geek out over things, and to find other people who love the same things and to bond with them. But on the other hand, I feel a bit removed-- my own style of visual art is far too abstract for fan art, and I never really got INTO fan fiction-- at least not the kind I want to exchange on the internet. I see people online who WON'T STOP SQUEALING about their one Favorite Fandom, people who even change their usernames to reflect their fannishness, and I'm like "Well if you're all changing your names I by all rights should be THE 'Imaginary-Mrs. Freeman,' BUT I'M NOT because it just seems silly to tie my entire online identity to ONE thing I love"-- though, admittedly, I did set up my college email account to say that my name was Hermione Granger BUT that was back when NOBODY KNEW WHO I WAS TALKING ABOUT so it was more of an in-joke and a subtle bit of advertizing of, yes, a cool bit of fiction I'd discovered and at that point felt that more people needed to know about, and also I only emailed people I already knew, who already knew there was more to me than my feelings for one book series, too...

But that's the point I'm getting to, now, which is, I'M OLDER. I've realized that the SUPER-BIG FANS online, who DO put all their energy and identity into their fandoms, are younger than me-- college-age, or teenagers. I've grown up-- I've got kids and spouse and bills and house and job and all those such things, which limits the sheer amount of TIME I can spend geeking out in a day; but even if I DID have the time, I'm NOT a teenager. I still have my passions, but they're no longer all-consuming. The prefrontal cortex is complete, the hormones have settled down, and I don't have this life-depending NEED TO DEFINE MYSELF TO THE WORLD any more.

I went through that period not exactly PRE-Internet, but Pre-Average-Person-Using-Internet. The Internet seemed science-fictionish and a little creepy to me in middle and high school. Email was the big socio-technological discovery of college, and even then, beyond a few of us naming our email accounts after favorite fictional characters, Defining Oneself By Ones Passions on the Internet was limited, among my peers, to chat rooms and personal webpages built on Geocities.

But what if Internet Fandoms HAD existed when I was a teenager? DEAR LORD what would have happened when I first got into the Beatles? (Still, today, when I was trying to think of any of my fandoms I'd go so far as to DEFINE myself by, The Beatles top the list as likely). But all the other passions-- what would I have named myself, at various times? BandGirl? Animaniac? BroadwayBound?

...about that last one. From when I was about 12 to 15 I was obsessed with musical theater. As shy and awkward as I was, I still thought SOMEDAY I WILL BE A BROADWAY STAR (and a writer. I was always going to be a writer, I just changed the OTHER career I would do to earn money at the same time. And hey, Madeleine L'Engle went that route). And by "Broadway Star" I DO mean "in musicals." None of that purely-spoken-word play stuff for me. There was no POINT in acting unless there were musical numbers (and to this day I don't get why actors should have someone else do their singing for them, in movies. HOW CAN SOMEONE BE TALENTED WITHOUT KNOWING HOW TO SING? ...what. Anyway, obviously I will write more about this later).

I'm not sure EXACTLY when this started. I'd always loved musicals, and we had a lot of soundtracks, and this was about the time of the Great Disney Movie Revival and I spent a lot of time singing to The Little Mermaid and being convinced that if Ariel was known for her BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL VOICE then I was set because I could sing just like her... but no, that did come later, because we had that soundtrack on CD. We got a CD player for the first time the Christmas I was 11. Because my dad had gotten my mom tickets to see some weird French show, and he wanted to also give her the soundtrack to get to know beforehand, and it was only available on CD, so my dad decided it was long since time to move into the high-tech future of the swiftly-approaching 1990s.

So that was it, our first CD, a two-disk set of some stuffy-sounding French thing with a depressed little urchin girl's head on the front.

But OH! that music. Why would an eleven-year-old fall in love with such a dense, depressing story that she didn't really understand, you ask? (Actually, I saw this sort of nifty piece about how tweens like it because it's secretly a SUPERHERO STORY the other week, but don't think it applied to me). Because the music moved me and swept me away! So I studied all the, uh, liner notes-- the booklet that came with the CD-- read the story and the lyrics. My dad got the piano music for it and I tried playing it myself-- I had "Bring Him Home" memorized (on piano-- I had the whole SHOW memorized in WORDS) for years, and can still fumble through a bit of it.

I remember trying to tell the rest of my table in my sixth-grade art class about it, but I hadn't gotten farther than "he was in jail for stealing a loaf of bread" before the others decided that that was STUPID so had stopped listening to me, which is probably for the best because I hadn't gotten to the bit about the "whores" yet and I was pretty sure that was pronounced like "wars."

The next year my parents got tickets for a showing in Cleveland-- tickets for me, too! We went out for the weekend and stayed with cousins, and we took off to see the SHOW, and I got a T-SHIRT, which was a good thing because I'd forgotten to pack pajamas so my new shirt would do!

There's a bit in one of my middle school English class journals where I wondered what my peers thought of that t-shirt-- if they ever saw mention of Les Miz elsewhere, and when they did, if they associated it with me. Because certainly no one else I knew had that t-shirt. No one else talked about the show. It was MINE, my favorite thing, uninfluenced by anyone else's opinion.

I loved it, but only on my own.* I wondered if there was some WAY to get other people to love it. If only, I thought, THERE WAS A MOVIE. All the old musicals, the Rogers and Hammerstein types, had movies, a simple way to introduce oneself to the shows when seeing a stage production wasn't possible. Though my family did our best to convert the people in, well, my PARENTS' lives, by hosting a sort of mass field trip to a Pittsburgh production when I was in 8th grade. I CAN'T remember if this might have even happened twice. (Probably not. I can only definitely remember FOUR particular productions in my life**, but it FEELS like there should have been more).

Insert-- in between the events in that paragraph and this next paragraph, I also read the book. This is one of those instances when bookworm-me's experience with a book IS greatly overshadowed by the adaptation. I did like the book. Although I read a weirdly abridged version-- it managed to skip right over the part of Fantine's story from after she got fired to her deathbed-- censorious abridgers? Whatever. Anyhoo, it's a good story, but it's the music that is MINE.

But it was a few years AFTER I stopped dressing up as Eponine and using the old wooden sliding board in the basement as a barricade, a few years AFTER I decided that, while I loved performing, I didn't actually have the drive to REALLY be a Broadway star, that finally my classmates would know what I was talking about. My last year of high school I took not one but TWO separate school field trips to Les Miz productions: one actually on Broadway, which oddly enough was probably the LEAST impressive production I've seen (not that that's saying much), and another in Pittsburgh, which is famous in my memory for being the event at which the Marius to my own Eponine stopped talking to me-- or I stopped talking to him, I'm not sure which-- starting off a month straight of our Blatantly Ignoring each other. I sat through "On My Own" staring at him, thinking, "Don't you feel sorry for her? Don't you know that's what you do to me? Aren't you totally going to rewrite this story to give her a better ending just from being moved by her point of view? Probably not, this actress has a distressingly annoying voice."

And then I went off to college, and all my musical soundtracks-- because they actually belonged to my parents-- stayed home, and I got a classic rock radio show so my own music collection evolved accordingly, and I didn't think so much about, let alone listen to, showtunes anymore. I actually kind of went off Rogers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber almost completely (with the exceptions of The Sound of Music and Jesus Christ Superstar respectively). Still listened to Guys and Dolls and Into the Woods occasionally, and to Godspell frequently (but that was more hippie than showtune, really). But I don't even have my own copy of Les Miz. I probably would listen to it if I did. And not having it certainly doesn't keep me from getting "One Day More" in my head very, very often (which is my favorite song in the show, let alone one that gets into your head every time there's just one day more until something).

And then, a year or so ago, I hear that they're turning the musical theater love of my adolescence into a movie. And I don't know how to react. A MOVIE. FINALLY. AFTER ALL THIS TIME. STARRING WOLVERINE. WHAT?! Am I excited? Or am I incredulous? Or am I indifferent? WHERE WAS THIS TWENTY YEARS AGO?

But over the next year, an amazing thing happened. The Internet started talking, and I discovered I hadn't been alone. I had NOT been the only tween/young teen obsessed with this depressing, weird-sounding French show. We were ALL out there. We were ALL singing and reenacting on piles of old furniture, dressed in imaginary rags. We were ALL, apparently, identifying with Eponine (deal with it, Cosette), singing "On My Own" to ourselves over every unrequited crush. HAD I BUT KNOWN that there must have been a girl like me in every school, thinking that she was the only one feeling this way... but if we had had the Internet back then? Maybe we would have found each other much sooner.

In Which I Finally Talk About the Long-Awaited Movie***

So where to begin? The first thing is the music-- so glorious, so familiar. Startling how many songs I'd COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN ABOUT until they started again. And then there were blinking sorts of "Oh, wait, WHAT?" reactions every time a song moved to a different place in the line-up, or verses got cut, or words got changed. Granted, most of the changes made sense enough, and I'll come back to some of them in a minute, but the main point is, it was like a rediscovery of the awesome. Though when "One Day More" started I almost cried simply because it's "One Day More"! There on the screen happening in front of me! (I don't know if it was just because the song is so huge for me personally, but it almost seemed anticlimactic on screen. Maybe because it wasn't an Act I Finale here, so it didn't need to be bombastic).

Speaking of crying, do NOT expect to get through the movie unmoved. I was already in tears ten minutes in (at that). By the second half of the movie I think I'd gone numb, so actually cried LESS as everybody and their brother died (NOT SPOILERS! 200-YEAR-OLD TEXT! IT SAYS "MISERABLE" RIGHT IN THE TITLE!), and didn't really cry again until the end. It's amazing the difference I had in UNDERSTANDING what was going on now than I did as a teen-- sure, I BASICALLY knew the story, but things like Valjean's conversion at the beginning, and the political issues, and even some of the random metaphors and turns of phrase in the lyrics, all had new meaning to me now.

But that was all pretty much already established by the musical itself. The real questions are, how does it translate to the screen?

The thing that fascinated me most was the grounding in SETTING. It was pretty COOL onstage, with setting being evoked on a rotating stage with a few pieces of furniture and fancy light effects (and a barricade). But seeing it in REAL PLACES grounded it, and actually brought in more details from the book that had been left out of the stage version, like the details of Valjean and Cosette's escape to the convent, and just the simple, well, SETTING of Marius living in the same building as the Thenardiers in Paris, where Eponine would just pop on over to see him. I love the intricacies, the details, the layout of the cities.

Further grounding the experience was the acting. If you've been following the news articles and such about it, you'll know a big deal was made of the singing being live-- "raw," not prerecorded but performed right on camera. This probably helped in my "I understand this so much more than I did as a kid!" too-- you could really see the context of each line. The focus was on the acting, not on the making of music. And yet the making of music wasn't half bad, either. IT WAS HAPPENING ALL AT ONCE. I had at least one moment of thinking "How on earth can Anne Hathaway keep singing so well when she's crying so hard! She should just be allowed to break down for a bit and the camera will be back for her later."

ANNE HATHAWAY. She just won a Golden Globe for the part, minutes, in fact, after I got home from seeing the movie, THINKING "all the awards she's being buzzed for, she totally deserves." She was stand-out incredible-- stunning, flawless, the kind of acting that makes you go "WOW"-- I mean you'd think it would be BAD to stand out as an actor, that you'd want someone who blends in with the story and doesn't take you out of it-- but it's not the kind of performance that takes you OUT, it draws you IN, COMPELS you. (Maybe she learned it from working with Julie Andrews, who's always one of the first people I think of as AMAZINGLY COMPELLING THIS WAY. Also Martin Freeman. That may just be me, though). I very nearly burst into applause at the end of "I Dreamed a Dream." I was glad SOME other people at least applauded at the end of the movie with me!

Hugh Jackman won a Golden Globe for Valjean, too, and I agree he was also very good (though not QUITE as stunningly compelling), certainly more than I ever imagined when I first heard he'd have the part. But why should I be surprised? After all, I always thought actors OUGHT to be good at singing (this is probably because my school district growing up had a renowned music department, and the school always had musicals-- didn't mix in straight spoken plays until my junior or senior year)! I thought the rest of the cast was well-cast, too-- excellent in acting, in singing, and pretty-good-if-not-excellent in looks. My sister and I both noticed that Cosette actually has nearly the same facial profile as her mother, just with different-color hair, and I was kind of impressed about how much young Cosette and Eponine looked like their older counterparts. Marius I had a weird problem with the looks of, though-- he was perfectly excellent, just something in his looks bothered me. I thought Enjolras had more of the look I imagined for Marius. But my sister thought he was cute, so obviously that was just me. My favorite performance after Fantine was Gavroche. That kid was just perfect. The Platonic Form of Gavroche.

And let's talk about poor Russell Crowe. He's been getting so slammed in reviews that I honestly was impressed when I actually saw him, because he was so much better than the critics had led me to believe. Which is not to say he was perfect. He WAS the weak link, performance-wise. His biggest problem-- maybe his only problem-- was that he wasn't STEELY enough for Javert. I understand making him sympathetic, but that's not the same as making him weak. I had a hard time believing that man could REALLY hold a grudge and keep up a relentless pursuit for decades. But his singing was fine, and otherwise his acting was fine, so I suppose we can cut him a break.

Speaking of faults and of cutting things a break, I feel like I need to apologize to The Hobbit movie now for the fault-- the one REAL fault-- I accused it of in my review. That movie has gotten unfairly slammed by too many critics, so I want to take back any needless criticism of my own. Maybe it COULD have been edited better, but now I'm not so sure, because that occasional feeling of "Are we getting to the point? But no, don't cut anything because I'm busy basking in it" is EXACTLY how I ALSO felt watching Les Miz. Maybe it's just something about watching in the theater-- sitting in a chair like that for so long messes with your patience. Or maybe it's just an anxiousness related to SORT of knowing what's going to happen, but not knowing EXACTLY, so you're on your toes, anticipating everything that's coming later. (With Les Miz I had a little running voice in my head going, "EponineEponineEponineEponineEponineEponine..." the whole first part, and admittedly that little voice was annoyed that she died so soon. There'd been entirely too little time with her!) It feels, both times, like an impatience that WILL abate while I'm watching it again in the comfort of my own home, already assured of what's going to happen, just watching to bask in it.

And I certainly will. "I'm so going to buy this DVD. I so need to own this," I was thinking at the end. So I can watch it any time I want, basking in it, just liked I wished I could so desperately over twenty years ago.

------
*Do I need to point out that I'm playing with references here? Just so you don't think it was an accident.
**This one was an accident. I mean, for all you know it could be a Beatles reference.
***Which sounds like a reference to the OTHER movie I saw. I just like to make things confusing for you.
rockinlibrarian: (rebecca)
This month, not one but TWO new movies came out that I had to see in the theater, and both of them bring with them quite a lot of baggage that make me UNABLE TO WRITE AN OBJECTIVE-TYPE REVIEW. That's all right. Instead I'm going to write about ALL THE BAGGAGE, and THEN give you something of a review of sorts, for each of them. (It's GOOD BAGGAGE. Fun to carry! But it totally ruins any sense of distance in my opinions). So far, I've seen one, but I've got a promised but-not-yet-scheduled sister-date to see the other (maybe next weekend, [livejournal.com profile] magnolia___?).

Today's post, following an anniversary date with the hubby last night, is about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Backstory

So, exactly 21 years ago this past Tuesday was my first exposure to Tolkien. I pulled a paperback of The Hobbit out of my Christmas stocking and my mother excitedly assured me that she KNEW I would like it and it was something everyone must read because it's GOOD, and I smiled and nodded and thought "If you say so," because it was a book about a fussy middle-aged man, with hairy feet, and I was a 13-year-old girl who much preferred to read about spunky teenaged girls, preferably with psychic powers and no hairy feet. But I was a bookworm, so I started to read and got sucked right in. And then later that day I was playing Scattergories with my cousin and we got Fictional Character Starting with B, and just like that I pulled out "Bilbo Baggins!" and BAM! Two points. (Of course, my cousin picked Bugs Bunny, so ALSO scored double points, so I didn't really get ahead. BUT I WAS PROUD OF MYSELF ANYWAY).

So I loved the book, but admittedly, it wasn't a life-changing experience, not like some fans feel it. I loved LOTS of books. There are very few books that rank as Life-Changing Experiences, but there's swaths of books I love and speak highly of. This was one of those. It was a few more years-- I'd just graduated high school-- before I got to Lord of the Rings, and those books joined the Books I Love That are Admittedly Not Lifechanging horde-- a little higher up in the ranks, actually, because these ones actually had females in them, and even traces of romance (FARAMIR!), and, of course, Sam. "Nobody takes Sam seriously," I lamented halfway through Fellowship, "and he seems like the only one who really knows what's going on!"

Then, another few years later, my Tolkien experience wove ever deeper into my life, tying firmly into my relationship with the Guy Who Would Be My Husband. You may have heard the story that we got together when a mutual friend invited me to play Dungeons and Dragons, and Jason was the Dungeonmaster. (He also already had a crush on me from about a month before, when I ran into him and the mutual friend on campus, and apparently he'd been PESTERING said friend to invite me to play ever since). Naturally, with such an introduction, we discussed fantasy stories fairly often early on, but we'd already been dating a few weeks, and he'd already told ME to read the Dragonlance Chronicles, before the truth came out: HE'D NEVER READ TOLKIEN. "HOW can you not have read Lord of the Rings," I said. "That's where D&D COMES from! How can you DUNGEONMASTER without knowing your ROOTS?!"

"My LAST girlfriend said the same thing, and it didn't work for her, either," he said crossly. "The more people tell me I HAVE to, the more I DON'T WANT TO."

I didn't really let up, though; whenever the topic came up, I'd jab. He denied. This went on for over a year.

Then, sometime in the summer of 2001, I guess, we went to the movies. We went to a lot of movies in those days, because that was when we were young and dating and had no kids or mortgage. So I have no idea what movie it was that we'd actually gone to see, but that's moot, because the most important part happened before it even started: the trailer to Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring. Jason's jaw literally dropped, and I swear I heard him mutter "...massive orc armies...."

When whatever-it-was-we'd-actually-gone-to-see ended, we wandered the rest of the mall, spending the most time, naturally, in the bookstore, where today Jason picked up this edition of Lord of the Rings, a huge one volume gift-quality hardcover with paintings by Alan Lee-- it was something like $70. "You know I have those in paperback," I said. "Well it's a GOOD book, isn't it? We'd want a good copy of it," he said, forgetting that whole I-refuse-to-read-it issue. And then, when it turned out the one copy of this edition that the bookstore had was DAMAGED, he ORDERED ANOTHER ONE. And SOMEHOW in our next D&D campaign we found ourselves HAVING TO DESTROY A RING OF POWER. No idea where he gets his ideas.

Naturally, when the movie came out that December, we went to see it. Four times. The next December we saw Two Towers only twice, but I bought him the Extended Edition Fellowship DVDs for Christmas, whereas he bought me a diamond ring. The NEXT December we only saw Return of the King once, but mostly because we were getting married two days after Christmas and therefore running around quite a bit.

Before kids there was much Marathon-Watchings of Extended Editions, and JUST before kids I'd pitched the name "Sam," and J said "But then everyone will think he's a hobbit!" and I said "Well, it's not like we're naming him FRODO. Besides, Sam Gamgee is a GOOD ROLE MODEL," and when the kid popped out (the day after we'd happened to have watched Return of the King again) I decided he couldn't be anything BUT Sam, even if the only of Sam Gamgee's traits he exhibits regularly is a tendency to go barefoot. AFTER kids we realized we could only manage one disk at a time, so our marathons were week-long events.

We also rarely go to the movies anymore. Jason still works 365 days a year, and we're always scraping up money to pay the bills, making a one-shot movie outing just a LITTLE too much of an investment (and don't even ask about babysitting). We would have been clueless about movies coming out if I wasn't an internet junkie with a tendency to follow geeky blogs and news sources. Which meant I had an idea about the Hobbit movie's long, convoluted non-making even BEFORE they went and cast my favorite actor in the title role.

WELL. 13-year-old me would be horrified. My number-one worst actor-crush of all time, the man who infatuated me so completely and inexplicably I had to Imaginarily Marry him, is playing that fussy middle-aged man with hairy feet. (If it makes you feel better, Young-Amy, you have to admit that this guy is VERY much an improvement on this guy. I haven't COMPLETELY lost my mind).

As much as Jackson's LotR movies are my favorite book-adaptation-of-an-already-favorite-book movies of all time, with all the trouble getting a Hobbit movie made and the puzzling announcement that it would be a two-, then a three-parter, I probably would have been much more inclined to wait for the DVD, as we do most movies nowadays. It sounded like it had the potential to be too much of a let-down to make a cinema splurge for. BUT THEY'D GONE AND CAST MARTIN FREEMAN. Martin, synonymous with "perfect" already, somehow seemed EVEN MORE PERFECT for this role. I knew then that I could NOT be too disappointed in the movie, because if all else failed, I would still be watching my movie-star-crush in a hobbit costume, so my eyes would be very, very happy. Right after the reviews started coming in, The Onion posted the headline "'The Hobbit' To Feature 53-Minute-Long Scene Of Bilbo Baggins Trying To Figure Out What To Pack," and I thought, "actually, I'd totally watch that. I WANT to watch that! I may have issues."

Which brings us to my reservations. See, I have this problem with things Martin is in. If he's not onscreen, I get very antsy and impatient waiting for him to come back onscreen. Even in overall awesome shows like Sherlock: I still haven't forgiven "Scandal in Belgravia" for being John-Watson-less for entirely too large a chunk of the last third of the episode (and dangit, he would've WON the Emmy if they'd submitted "Reichenbach" for review instead!). And there are SO MANY DANG DWARVES in The Hobbit (I also still haven't forgiven whomever wrote the AR test on the book for expecting people to actually tell the difference. Not that I forgive AR for anything, ever)! And all sources said that the expansion of the movies from the book would come from SCENES THAT HAPPENED WHEN BILBO WASN'T THERE! And also, HE'S INVISIBLE FOR LARGE PORTIONS OF THE BOOK! If I had to spend all these extra scenes pining for him, would I enjoy the movie more if my favorite actor WASN'T in it?!

...and then of course, there's Jason. We have such a history regarding the LotR movies, especially at this time of year, that it seems like a natural choice for our anniversary date. Except my Real Husband knows very well about my Imaginary Husband and scorns him with a jealous fire. Also Sharpies. Is this just in bad TASTE for an anniversary date, or what?

My Actual Impressions of the Movie:

Luckily, all my fears were unfounded. I smiled the whole way through that movie. I so enjoyed being back in Jackson's Middle Earth that I ACTUALLY DIDN'T MIND when Martin was off-screen (and as for the invisibility issue: as many times as I've watched LotR, I'd forgotten about RingVision! Thank Pete for RingVision! Invisible isn't invisible to the AUDIENCE!). But when he WAS onscreen... oh blubber. It's a good thing we saw it in 2D-- I don't think I could have handled not being able to actually touch him if he was in 3D on top of it. *ahem* BUT I CAN BE OBJECTIVE ABOUT HIM, TOO, I SWEAR! Maybe sort of. I am certain he still perfectly EARNS his place as my favorite actor without any hormonal soppiness on my part. I direct you to the immortal "Riddles in the Dark" scene. I was always most looking forward to that scene because I knew the banter would be delightful. But in the movie? We go beyond delightful banter into layers of emotion I never even comprehended in the book. PERFECT.

And he'll never ever admit it, but Jason LIKES Martin as an actor. I caught him laughing at (I mean WITH) Martin's delivery of lines quite a few times. "I just like the dwarves. They're rude. It's funny," he says. BUT I SWEAR IT WASN'T THE DWARVES BEING FUNNY WHEN HE WAS LAUGHING.

Oh, and about dwarves? I liked the dwarves way more than I thought I would. I'm prejudiced against the dwarves if only because of the AR test thing, and I a) didn't want them overwhelming the movie and distracting us from MY HOBBIT, and b) wasn't sure some of the costumes were quite dwarvey enough. But in the movie itself, they were both PERFECTLY dwarvey (though some of them could still have done with longer beards), and not too overwhelming. Though, I'm sorry fangirls, Thorin's a melodramatic jerk. But he's supposed to be, so that's all right.

I also loved the dwarves' singing. It felt just perfect, not out of place at all, heartily in character. I love the music in general, though, and the end-credits song? I'm pretty sure it's my favorite of the end-credits songs of all these movies so far.**

I really only had two gripes about the movie, and I'm not sure one of them counts (but we'll get to that one later). Professional critics have been mixed to meh about the movie, and on nearly all counts I don't get what they're griping about! I think they're just determined to be negative to be CONTRARY. But on one point I agree with the critics, who said it felt too long. It's hard to exactly describe why, though: something about it didn't flow right, made me feel "are we getting to the point soon?" every so often-- and yet I'm not sure I'd CUT anything. Because I loved everything. If I was lounging on the couch, snacking and writing in my journal while I watched it-- much like we watch our Extended Edition DVDs-- it would have been just perfect. I think whoever suspects this length issue being Peter Jackson's reluctance to cut anything because he's JUST TOO IN LOVE WITH IT ALL is on the right track. He would have had a tighter movie-theater movie if he'd murdered a few of his darlings. But I SHARE his reluctance to cut, because I too am in love with Middle Earth. I relished every moment spent in it, delighting in every detail. And why the heck do so many critics (pro and blogger) think the stone giants were overdoing it? I LOVED the stone giants! ACTIVELY loved, not just tolerated. If I Just Tolerated anything, it was the chaotic action fight scenes, which were mostly just blurs of creatures hitting each other to me; but LotR is full of those scenes, too, so it's hardly a fault that's only showing up in this movie now.

So it's a leisurely journey through Middle Earth, and I'll keep it as is for future living-room based viewing. And my other gripe, the one I'm not sure counts? I want more. I don't want to wait for the rest! I can't wait to get back there! I want to explore Mirkwood and meet the wood elves and Beorn! I want THE REST OF THE BOOK NOW!

I also want a little toy Bilbo for my very own. In lieu of the real thing. It's after Christmas. I can buy things for myself, now, right?

*I feel one ought to drop at least one Led Zeppelin reference into any discussion of Tolkien. It's only fair.
**You know, until Led Zeppelin does one of the remaining two end-credits songs. I didn't come up with this idea, I saw it in an Internet comment. BUT WOULDN'T IT BE AWESOME? We all need to petition for this.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
I have made a lot of progress with One Book this week, so it's time to take a break and mess around on the Internet. And TWO PEOPLE posted SURVEYS yesterday. What timing! Anymore YEARS can go by without those surveys, those surveys I was so addicted to once. I think they happen a lot on Tumblr anymore, but as I've said, Tumblr bewilders me.

So, Two Surveys
Two Surveys Under the Cut In Case You Don't Care About Surveys )
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
I will probably not finish this tonight, but I have to start or else I'll just keep putting it off. Don't worry: I'm not about to make any terrible announcements or anything. But my reluctance to start writing is exactly what I want to write about.

See, I remembered something yesterday that I never should have forgotten. You see I was thinking about the enneagram personality and my 9ishness again because, you know, I've been reading about it and all, and trying to figure out why my written personality is so much more ALIVE than my real life personality-- for all of you who don't know me in real life, it's true. When I write I have opinions and inflections and passions, but if you met me in real life-- well! Like the description of the 9 says. It's like I CAN'T MAKE MYSELF EXIST. Well anyway, I was thinking about that, that gap between the outer me and the inner me, and wondering how the writing me fits IN to this overall shape of me-ness, when it suddenly popped into my head:

I've got a real, vibrant personality inside that I just can't seem to let out. But it WANTS to be let out. My whole life the best way I've ever found to let it out is through writing. I write to express what I can't express in any other way.

I've always known this. But I've forgotten-- maybe I've been getting sicker, I don't know. That Evil Voice in my head, the Lone Power in Young Wizards terminology, the Devil in Judeo-Christian terminology, the Misdeveloped Superego in the Enneagram books, my Personal Gremlin in the book my therapist gave me, whatever it is, keeps telling me that I have nothing to say, that nobody cares what I have to say or needs to hear what I have to say, that I ought to do something better with my time (although I never do, anyway), that I am nobody and I shouldn't try. It's gotten harder and harder to tune that voice out. I'm -- the outside, not-particularly-healthy-9ish me-- so good at Not Doing Things. I could spend my whole life Not Doing Things, except that I'd just become increasingly depressed, which makes it harder to do things, and on and on. That Evil Voice has almost succeeded in silencing me, in taking away that last outlet of creative spirit. In snuffing out the Light. Almost. I've still got that Light under a bushel that I can't seem to figure out how to take off, but at least I know-- or at least, I'm PRETTY sure-- it's there.

First thing in the morning, I usually write in my journal, and usually this is a recap of the highlights of whatever I remember dreaming. Many, many times I have dreams that are Exceedingly Storylike, either in their sense of plot or maybe just in the fabulously creative concepts my subconscious comes up with when it's not being squelched by the Forces of Evil. I write them down, and part of me smiles and thinks, "See? You have ideas. Maybe you can turn that into a story." Forces of Evil glare at that optimistic part of me. Optimistic-but-wussy part of me adds, "...someday. Maybe you'll write it Someday."

But a couple days ago the story dream I had felt SO fully formed, like it was writing itself, and barely thinking about it I started to write. Two pages of a story beginning about-- well, it's hard to explain what it's about. But I wrote it, without being afraid, without hesitating, without overanalyzing, without having any REASON to other than that I felt it ought to be written down. I don't know if I'll ever do anything more with that. It happened to me once before in adulthood, a couple years ago-- that one got to three pages long-- of a fully realized story beginning, with characters I knew and concepts that fit together and FUNNY BITS. Never added any more, though.

And I wonder, what was different? Why could I so easily decide to write that, when any other time it's a Huge Dramatic Dilemma? What was different, in my head, and HOW DO I TURN IT ON AT WILL?

How do I find the confidence to let my voice out?

Do you know-- you should, I'm telling you now-- Jerry Nelson died last night? He was one of the original Muppeteers. I bring it up, a) because not enough people seem to understand the gravity of this news (honestly, I felt rather gutted this morning when I found out, even though he was quite old and worn. But he's been still doing his famous Announcer voice until very very recently, if not To The End!), but also b) because whenever I think about shedding this restrictive outer self I shut myself into all the time, to become Somebody Who Makes a Difference in the World, I think about the Muppets. Mostly I think about Jim Henson telling everyone in the Fraggle Rock planning meeting that he wanted his show to end war forever. That he wanted to leave the world a better place for his having been here. That's what I want to do. I sense, within me, that I have that kind of peace and love to offer.

And yet I can't convince this outer shell of me to let it out. I can't even get it to write blog entries most of the time! I'm so, so far in the hole and I'm not SURE where to start getting out.

But every so often it happens. So maybe I'm getting better? I just need to convince myself that I do have a unique voice that is needed. That I'm not nobody.

It's just REALLY, REALLY HARD.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
Tonight I will not be within range of a television or a computer.

Normally this wouldn't be a problem. Well, the television part wouldn't be a problem. But tonight is the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games! The LONDON Olympic Games, I say with emphasis.

Because I am, just generally, an Olympic junkie. Oh, I'm not into sports at all, and to those who brush it off as A Big Deal Over SPORTS, yuck, and COMPETITION, yuck, and FORCED PATRIOTISM-- yes, I know you people are out there, and I respect your opinion, except that YOU ARE WRONG. The Olympics are about people coming together from all over the world! The Olympics are about people striving to be their best, to meet their dreams! They're about people from all over coming together over something they all love passionately! They're about WEIRD sports you don't SEE all the time (I'm actually more fond of the Winter Games than the Summer ones for this reason, but I'll go for some synchronized diving just as much as for snowboard-cross)! They're about heartwarming stories of perseverance! They're about the mixing of cultures...

Which brings me to the emphasis.

I have been looking forward to these Opening Ceremonies ever since the Closing Ceremonies in Beijing, when Jimmy Page showed up in the "Our Next Host City IS..." segment.

OMG. LONDON.

Inevitably, in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, the host country shows off their most Internationally Renowned performing artists.

This host country's most Internationally Renowned performing artist? FRIGGIN' PAUL MCCARTNEY. Who IS, as it turns out, scheduled to perform tonight. But even if he wasn't, even if they went with their SECOND most Internationally Renowned Performing Artist-- which, I couldn't tell you who that IS, exactly, but if they DID, they would be SOMEONE AWESOME.

Okay, they've probably got non-rock stars involved, too. The show likely WON'T be devoted ENTIRELY to classic Brit Rock. In fact, I heard they're having a salute to classic British Literature... WELL DANG, people, it's not like I'm any less a fan of British Literature! I was a fan of British Literature BEFORE I was a fan of Brit Rock!

Pink Floyd is on the radio right now. That was one of the rumors about Olympic Ceremony performers: that Pink Floyd would reunite for it. Okay, they ARE my second-favorite band and all, but I really can't see it. Maybe if they did "Fearless." "Fearless" would be a good Olympics song. But my point is, the number of TOTAL LEGENDS the UK has to call on to perform is just mindboggling. Ag, I suppose you could say the US has an even more mindbogglingly large pool of legends, but we're also a mindbogglingly large country (NATION, more like. I'm pretty sure Southern California IS a different country from Western PA. Possibly a different planet). And besides, face it, I'm just a TOTAL BRIT ROCK NUT. Gads, who else could they have? I know they already did Page, but yeah, Zeppelin? The Who? Cream? Wasn't a Cream reunion rumor going around there, too?

My point is... I'm not actually sure what my point is. Oh. Good music + Olympics = Awesome. I guess that's my point.

So, ENJOY WATCHING STUFF LIVE tonight for me. Or sort of liveish. Depending on your timezone. I'll catch up on the replays next week I guess.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
I’ve been nominated by [livejournal.com profile] vovat (but on his Wordpress blog) for the Versatile Blogger Award.

Here are the rules:

If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.

Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
Why, thank you, Nathan!
Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. (I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.


Right. But lots of my favorite bloggers have huge followings and professional formats that make them hardly likely to care about such a meme. So this is more a chance for me to share with YOU some awesome-- and versatile-- blogs I follow that YOU should check out, or even possibly follow, if you don't already. It's advertising for great blogs, which I think is the point in the first place.

1. The Bloggess is my new favorite. I can't stop talking about her, and I thank [livejournal.com profile] iamdamanda profusely for pointing her out to me. I am THANKFUL for the Bloggess, for being simultaneously a great advocate for folks with depression and anxiety, AND unbelievably freakin' hilarious. Seriously, funniest blog you will ever follow.

2. A Fuse #8 Production is my classic favorite blog. Granted, as far as "Versatility" goes, the subject IS strictly children's literature, but within that general topic, my #1 blogger girl-crush Betsy covers everything with gusto and humor. And of course THERE ARE THE COUNTDOWNS.

3. E Louise Bates -- shout-out to a smaller more-likely-to-get-an-Award-Meme blog (and it's not only both versatile AND likely-to-get-the-award, I'm pretty sure it already DID relatively recently), run by my dear virtual friend [livejournal.com profile] elouise82. Louise not only has excellent taste in both literature and television and an occasional tendency to post recipes, she writes about everything in a compelling way, encouraging responses and conversations, and coming up with fun lists.

4. Bookshelves of Doom is definitely versatile, covering pretty much whatever catches her fancy (or raises her ire). There is of course (with a name like "Bookshelves of Doom") a tendency to be about books, with frequent reviews, links to book-and-library-related news, and librarian jokes. But they'll be bits about movies and TV (it's her fault I started watching Sherlock-- also, she agrees that Martin Freeman is the most awesome person on that show so that makes her worth following right there) and musicals and her cats and random geeky funny junk that really can be appreciated best by geeky bookish girls of our generation.

5. Nine Kinds of Pie --if Betsy Bird is my #1 Blogger Girl-Crush, my Blogger Straight-up Crush is definitely Phil Nel. He's a children's literature professor/scholar (ie, geek) who takes the name of his blog from my (and his) favorite picture book. Any time he's not discussing children's lit on his blog, he's posting playlists and talking about music (loved this recent post about musical taste). Seriously, MY USERNAME IS ROCKIN. LIBRARIAN. How is it we're not married already? (Kidding. You know I'd never abandon Martin. ...Jason, I meant. I'm married to JASON).

6. Screwy Decimal is a snarky public librarian in Brooklyn. You may just need to follow her on Twitter for the full effect, but even if you only follow the blog, you'll encounter stories from the trenches that are simultaneously hilarious, heartbreaking, uplifting, and ridiculous.

7. Kiersten Writes... speaking of people who are hilarious on Twitter. But author Kiersten White is hilarious across the board. Her posts range from purely silly, to realistic with a lot of humor in the execution, to quite serious on occasion (but even those are leavened by her unique outlook).

8. [livejournal.com profile] sarahtales is someone whose hilarious Livejournal I discovered even before she'd published a book, but now that Sarah Rees Brennan has a whole popular trilogy under her belt, she STILL writes a hilarious Livejournal (though a little less frequently). Lately, in anticipation of the "new Gothic" novel she has coming out in the fall, she's been writing laugh-out-loud retellings of classic Gothic novels monthly. Check them out!

9. Writer's First Aid is a writing blog NOT for people who want tips on getting published or landing an agent or doing school visits, but for writers who are STUCK. Kristi Holl has written books on the topic (I have one-- occasionally I remember to use it), and here she keeps up a steady stream of encouragement, advice on boosting creativity or managing time or just getting your writing head on straight. What's sad is I've been so blocked in the past few years that even THIS advice feels beyond me-- but I'm getting there, and every so often I make progress.

10. Book Aunt for book reviews, and sometimes poetry, and sometimes ruminations on literature or authors or whatnot. [livejournal.com profile] katecoombs is a genuine author friend and I like her. Also I gave her new picture book of poetry, Water Sings Blue, to my mom. Anyway, her reviews give you a true flavor of the books in question (she's won me over to books I hadn't thought I wanted to read before that way), and she's open about the good, the bad, what things certain people might like about it, what things might bother others. And she has good taste.

11. Slow By Little --another small one that could use an audience. My college roommate keeps this picture-filled blog of homelife and travel. See and read about her adventures in Germany last December, and if you scroll down a few posts-- you see that swimming pool? I spent all last Saturday afternoon in that pool. Personal trivia!

12. Happy Opu, in the Whodathunkit category: Canadian actress Jewel Staite is best known for playing one of my favorite TV characters ever, Kaylee Frye. When I found her on Twitter, I was delighted to discover that she also keeps a blog-- one that is not only funny and well-written, but is also almost entirely ABOUT FOOD. Not just any food. Fancy unbelievable Foodie-type food. She describes it in luscious detail, and yes, there are lots of pictures. It's food porn, really.

13. A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy: what's great about Liz Burns' reviews/takes-on-things is that she can be critical but never judgmental. Her book reviews have a section called "The Good," but not a section called "The Bad": she tells you WHY someone MIGHT like something... although when SHE loves it, she does let you know! But she also covers current events in the publishing/library/blogging worlds, movies, TV shows, and ALA policies. Okay, so the ALA policies part may not be roping you non-librarian-types in. But MOVIES and TV SHOWS!

14.squeetusblog: Author Shannon Hale is a wise, well-spoken (okay, WRITTEN) woman. She ponders questions about the elements of story (in any format) and stereotypes and life... and occasionally is just plain silly. She also does this while raising 4 small children including toddler twins. Besides, you know, the whole writing career thing.

15.Memoranda, a blog which once hadan ode to my awesomeness on it (actually, there may have been more to the post than just that). Naturally, I had to keep following Michelle Cooper and the fascinating glimpses into her mind-- historical, geographic, and scientific facts she's discovered, books she's been reading, thoughts she's been having, important things like when the next FitzOsbornes book is coming out... you know.

Honorable Mention to GeekMom, which is one of my very favorite-- and incredibly Versatile-- blogs, but as it's a group blog with many different bloggers, it doesn't quite qualify.

Happy reading! Like you can keep up with any more blogs.

So then, seven things about myself... that I assume you don't already know?

1. Last weekend I had a reunion with college friends that ROCKED MY SOCKS. Even though not much actually HAPPENED, but that's NICE when you're a grownup. The most eventful thing that happened was a night out eating crab cakes and singing karaoke. I did a pretty good Carole King and a not-nearly-warmed-up-enough Ann Wilson. Also, in the "nothing happening in a good way" portion of the weekend, we had to rescue a frog that had jumped in the chlorinated pool. Almost immediately, guess what song started playing on the stereo*? "The Rainbow Connection." Go Kermit.

2. I have gotten involved, over the Internet, in an international project that is so WRITTEN FOR ME that I'm pretty sure it's fate. An actual spiritual Calling. Here's the Tumblr for it (I know, Tumblr. Insanity. I just pretend it's a regular blog). First she offered to write a real handwritten letter to anyone who asked for one. Of course, hundreds of people (including myself) asked for one, so she recruited helpers. We had to apply for the job... but I wasn't really surprised to get it, because, like I said, FATE.

3. I finally, after weeks of protesting that it was much too hot to attempt, weeded the garden today. We thinned the carrots and the kids had the baby carrots at lunch, which thrilled them. Discovered my sprinkler sucks and has been missing whole swatches of garden. All my basil dried up and died off. Tried to buy more, but the hardware store was out. No fresh basil this year. :(

4. My Windows Media Player has randomly downloaded a whole bunch of SONGS I DIDN'T PUT THERE. It's kind of cool, because so far all the ones I've heard have been kind of awesome. But is this a nifty new feature of Windows Media Player-- picking new artists for me it thinks I might like judging by the rest of my collection?-- or have I been HACKED? It's kind of like the coolest computer virus ever if it is.

5. It's Summer Reading Club time! After creating and data-filling a spreadsheet of all participants and what programs they're coming to, I am... not as involved as I used to be. I'm just there on Wednesdays, reading stories and doing booktalks. We've got an awesome set-up though-- one of the small meeting rooms has been turned into a campsite, with a light-up campfire and everything. Then I believe I'm chaperoning the field trip, but we're only doing one this year, at the end of the summer. So... less with the stress.

6. I'm wearing this skirt I made when I first got my sewing machine. It's an awesome blue batik print with bright yellow and pink highlights, which is so awesome I keep wearing it even though I made it lopsided.

7. Sometimes I like to wander down the office supplies aisle at the grocery store and JUST STARE.

*Technically, it wasn't a stereo. It was a playlist on an iPod hooked up to speakers. But that takes too long to say.

PS-- I also can't remember if I mentioned my determination to take drum lessons as soon as Jason's new schedule gets straightened out/paychecks start flowing in. I bought myself a set of 5-dollar drumsticks as a promise to myself. LOVELY RITA AND THE METER MAIDS COULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN. In theory. A vague, unsubstantial theory.
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
Dear, dear neglected blogreaders. It's been a fascinating few weeks. I just haven't had the time to sit and type up a proper blog entry. Sure, I've been READING blogs-- or skimming-- but I can do that on my Nook. I've been Tweeting and occasionally Facebooking, but those are those in-between short-attention-span things you can do while, say, manning a reference desk or parenting small children. Within reason. At least much more than typing a proper blog entry is. So let me catch you up on the past, um, month. Ish.

In Which I Give You a Real-Life Update

First, the personal news: Jason has a new job, finally-- if you know anything about him, you've probably figured out that this has been something he's been looking for for a LONG, LONG TIME. It's still just machine operation, but the pay, benefits, working conditions, and apparently management is SO much better that we can't even fault it (much) for being 2nd shift. I'm working out a new work schedule-- since mine is based around him being DAY shift-- and if the 5-year-old goes to afternoon kindergarten in the fall (likely), we'll have mornings as our family time and lunchtime as our Dinner. At least until first grade.

In MY workplace, on the other hand, we have a new director coming in. I met her last week, and we pretty much laughed the entire time, so... that's possibly a good sign.

The bad personal news is I've had a mysterious and horrendously painful sore throat for the past week and a half, which two different doctors have looked at and determined that I, well, don't have any DISEASE that they can see, and the strep test was negative. The second doctor decided I probably just have something STUCK IN MY TONSILS which is being irritating, and I'm just supposed to gargle a lot and take painkillers when needed. This is NOT SOLVING ANYTHING. If it's still a problem by Monday I'm calling for a referral to an actual ear-nose-and-throat specialist. Jason said, "I hope you don't have tonsillitis," and I said, "I hope I DO have tonsillitis, so they can just take those tonsils out and BE RID OF THEM." Better than "gargle a lot and hope it goes away soon."

...in good personal health news, my antidepressants are back to being Straightened Out. Actually I'm not even sure I mentioned to you (on any of my social media outlets) about the week I got a dosage increase and started having anxiety attacks. Yeah, fun stuff. Told you, it's been an interesting few weeks.

In Which We Wander Into the Bizarre Depths of My Imagination

I had this great nightmare last night about a satanic cult posing as a church (of a completely different sort) camp, and there were exploding snakes and bloody demons and people who appeared to be nice who WEREN'T and undercover sabotage-of-their-facilities and rescue missions and dramatic escapes by boat and antique car and a secret meeting posing as a premature labor. It was really scary! But it was so very plot-filled that I really didn't mind, once I woke up.

See, my brain chemicals are balancing out, but I haven't quite rid myself of the Negative Thought Processes. I SEE, logically, that I can make up stories, that my subconscious mind is CONSTANTLY making up stories, but then real life intrudes and I can't justify it. There's always so much else I SHOULD be doing, and none of my story ideas is calling to me SO much that I can make myself sit still and focus. My husband, frankly, doesn't understand. He's not an artist, so can't believe that writing is anything more than a hobby, and why should I write when there are so many other things not getting done? His mother is even worse. And I just don't believe in myself anymore, period. I'm too scared to start again. I can't devote the time and energy to it because nobody really wants me to be a writer. That's one of those negative and probably wrong thoughts, but I have lots more concrete evidence to support my No One Needs Me To Be a Writer stance than I do concrete evidence that Anyone Cares For My Point of View, or even that Anyone In My Real Life Understands. But at least I can see where the problem is, now. Maybe that's a start.

In Which I Go Off on Librarianish Topics

On the other hand, I've been oddly aware of an actual skill I DO have, lately-- I'm a dang good reference librarian. I still feel awkward and like I ought to be coming up with more programs and that I'm just not AMBITIOUS enough (I've got a younger coworker, just starting library school, who is SUPER ambitious and is always starting projects and I always feel like she's looking at me thinking "Why aren't YOU doing all this?"). But someone needs help finding something? I am good. Not just talking a quick catalog search and a call number lookup. I'm saying, for nonfiction or topic-based searching, coming up with lots of different ideas of where to search and what to use. For fiction, excellently helpful readers advisory-- I find stuff people LOVE. In general, giving people a little more help-- and a lot of friendly respect-- than they're expecting (it's one of those times I'm actually good with people-- because I know what I'm doing). One thing about my new work schedule coming up-- I hope to still get to work some evenings, some after-school time, because that's when people really need help with the Finding Stuff... and dang, it feels good to have something I know I'm good with, when the rest of my life is a long hopeless process of convincing myself that I don't Suck.

In Which I Get On The Topic of My TRUE Self, Which Is General Fangirl

Of course, in real life, all these serious real life things take up most of my, well, real life. This is why I often distract myself by thinking about and caring about things that Technically Aren't Important In The Grand Scheme of Things, but Nonetheless Interest and Amuse Me. Take, for example, the subject of my last real post, The Fuse #8 Children's Book Poll Countdown. I am still obsessed with it, but possibly a little disappointed. I should have seen that coming, because I DID change my votes around from last time, and the WAY I changed them around was by adding MORE OBSCURE stuff I'd discovered, and stubbornly still voting for Ghosts I Have Been even though I was the only person who voted for it last time. But we're up in the 30s now, and there are a LOT of my votes I know I'm going to have to give up on showing up by this point. Now, there are votes I KNOW are going to show up later, way at the top of the polls-- I suspect about half my ten novels will end up in the top ten of that list (Wrinkle, Secret Garden, Anne, Holes, and Harry Potter, specifically. They were all in the top ten LAST time, at least), but so far not only have I only gotten ONE of my votes on that list (at #31... which still seems low to me. How is Alice not Top Ten for EVERYONE? This may be my own brain issues), and even my Almost-votes have been few and far between. Though, there's also been more titles I've never read... which may mean more exciting discoveries!

Anyway, I've had much more luck with the Picture Book list: I've had at least three votes make it already, and lots more I love. Though I know by now I probably need to give up on seeing my biggest new pick, Barbara Lehman's The Red Book, make it, and though I was shocked to see Daniel Pinkwater's Big Orange Splot actually make the list last time, there's no way it's getting past #30 this time. But that's only two of the picture books. The others I suspect I'll be seeing eventually.

...of stuff I've read lately...

But speaking of good books, I've had good fortune in the reading department lately, after my long dry spell of being burnt out. The LAST FOUR BOOKS I'VE READ have all been getting-caught-up-in, not-wanting-to-put-down, attempting-to-get-away-with-reading-at-more-times-of-day-than-just-before-bed books. It's been awhile since I've encountered even ONE of those in a row. Granted, it's still taken me an entire month to get THROUGH these four books, and actually I'm still not done with two of them (one's nonfiction, one's fiction, one's on my Nook, one's a real book from the library-- so they're two completely different reading experiences. That's how I can read them both at the same time).

There was, of course, The Dark Lord of Derkholm, which neatly encompassed everything that is so great about Diana Wynne Jones, and I have a bit of a new literary crush on Derk. Which is funny because my other DWJ crush is Chrestomanci, who, aside from being a magic user and a father, is UTTERLY COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. But Derk reminded me a bit of a character of my own that I've had brewing-- for that possibly turning The Pipeweed Mafia Saga into something Useful-- and in general that whole idea felt oddly DWJ-ish-- so as usual, she sparks my imagination. I LOVE THAT WOMAN. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE HER.

There was Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, an upper-middle-grade fantasy that REALLY needs more attention, because it's so delightfully unique-- actually, speaking of which, it was blurbed by Diana Wynne Jones, and you can see why. It's thoroughly CREEPY (the bad guy is a serial killer, and there's something so REALISTIC about that in the middle of a fantasy that it makes it a thousand times scarier than some fantastic monster would be) and yet laugh out loud funny at times, full of unique magical twists. Also, it takes place in Nigeria. The only other SFF I've read set in Africa and incorporating African mythology (not counting Egypt-- Egypt gets done) is another of my favorites, The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, which as I've said also makes me say "Why on earth is there not more SFF set in Africa?! It's so rich with possibility!"

The two books I'm in the middle of reading are actually adult books, because that happens sometimes. The one on the Nook-- which I try to confine myself to little bits of off and on, to make it last longer-- is the ever-delightful, unbelievably hilarious, kindredly (and vocally-supportively) mentally ill Bloggess's memoir Let's Pretend This Never Happened. And look, people, I was never AGAINST eReading-- using the Internet is, after all, eReading, and I do a lot of that-- but after only the INTRODUCTION I regretted not having the book in hard copy, if only because a hard copy is much easier to throw at Jason (maybe not literally) and say "READ THIS. Just this chapter at least. And the next chapter." Not so easy to share on a Nook. Unless the other person has a Nook. So somehow actually OWNING an eReader has made me MORE of a luddite about paper books. (Though I do love it for Internet reading, and interesting apps. I got a thesaurus app. It's pretty awesome).

The other book is kind of ironic because it's by Shannon Hale, who mostly writes YA, but somehow I've NEVER read any of her actual YA books (except the graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge which is debatably Middle Grade anyway), but I've now, counting this one, read ALL her ADULT books. WEIRD. And this one is probably my favorite of said adult books, even over her Austen-themed ones: The Actor and the Housewife, which is, *ahem,* frighteningly similar to, uh, some of my own fantasies, only involving very different characters. Actually, just recently Hale blogged that the main character was probably her "most controversial character" and that lots of people didn't like her because she was "hard to relate to" or something. As I started READING the book just a few days later, I thought "WHAT?!" I friggin' LOVE Becky Jack! Granted, she might be a little much to take in person in real life (I would feel utterly inadequate in her presense), but as a book character she is hilarious and unique and I love her SO THERE, WORLD.

...and of film and such lately

Speaking of *muttering* inappropriatefantasiesinvolvingactorsandhousewives */endmuttering,* you do realize what television thing happened in this past month, right? I'M AFRAID MAYBE YOU DON'T. Sherlock series 2 finally made it to PBS! And now it's over again! It zipped by in three weeks with entirely not enough fanfare. Where WAS fandom? Oh, right, they'd all already pirated the show or bought UK DVDs for their Region-Free players. :P I felt utterly lonely-- once more, it was like nobody cared but me. BUT, somehow, I managed to get Jason hooked too. He probably STARTED watching just to poke fun of Martin Freeman whenever possible (he never stopped with that)-- also he claimed he was there to keep me from licking the TV-- but after very little time he was actually enjoying it properly, laughing in the right places, exclaiming about plot twists, and NOT BEING DISTRACTED BY ANYTHING ELSE, which in itself is amazing for Mr. ADHD. And no matter what Jason says, MARTIN WAS AWESOME. He was SO UTTERLY PERFECTLY WONDERFUL. That's how I review things, all balanced and objective, like. Anyway, I don't know why Jason was so offended when I burst out how desperately I wanted to hug John Watson at the end. WHO WOULDN'T WANT TO HUG HIM? I'm just saying. Anyway, so if you, once again, MISSED IT, I'm pretty sure PBS is still streaming it on their website. SERIOUSLY I'M NOT KIDDING, GO BASK IN MY IMAGINARY HUSBAND BEING AWESOME. And everyone else being pretty much awesome, too, but that's just a bonus.

Okay, right, in other TV news, sort of, did you know The A.V. Club is now retroactively reviewing Animaniacs? It is even MORE AWESOME THAN I EXPECTED, bringing back so many laughs I'd forgotten about. Like this one somebody brought up in the comments: "Okay one time, see one time, Randy Beaman's aunt was sitting on her porch, and she felt her dog licking her feet, only it wasn't her dog, it was some crazy guy who liked doing that. Okay, bye." I'D COMPLETELY forgot about the Randy Beaman bits, PERIOD, and THAT one was like my FAVORITE LINE EVER. I laughed so hard reading that comment that I was forced to de-lurk myself just to comment how excited I was about it. Seriously. Best cartoon ever. NO ARGUING.

In Which I Try To Wrap Things Up

So, is that it? Is that the past month, or at least, everything you need to know about it? Kids are all right. So's everybody. We's getting on at least. And now I'll go make sure the kids aren't destroying anything or each other. Maybe, MAYBE, I'll post more often after this.
rockinlibrarian: (tesseract)
Series Intro: to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my FAVORITE BOOK EVER, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, I am filling 2012 with BLOG POSTS EXPLORING EVERY POSSIBLE ASPECT OF THIS BOOK IN GREAT DEPTH. I call it the Year of the Tesseract, and you can see what I've written already by clicking the year of the tesseract tag. There WILL be spoilers for Wrinkle and possibly other books throughout. So just go read it, already. Moving on:

Right, so originally when I was drawing up my calendar of Year of the Tesseract posts, I figured I'd devote the month of March, ie Women's History Month, to feminist issues involved with A Wrinkle In Time. And boy, is there a lot to talk about there! It was the first book they tried to tackle in the as-far-as-I-can-tell now-defunct YA Subscription blog devoted to What makes a feminist book. There's the fact that Meg was one of the few female protagonists in science fiction at the time of her creation. There's Mrs. Murry, an award-winning scientist who's also raising four children and working out of her home-- I totally wanted to be Mrs. Murry when I grew up (until I decided I didn't like math enough to go into science. I KNOW! But whatnot). There's, on the other side, people who complain about how Meg is babied compared to the males in the story (including her 5 year old brother), or how overprotective the males are of her-- but then, we've already discussed here how her GETTING PAST that is all part of her character arc. And then there's the rest of the kairos series (as Madeleine L'Engle referred to them), where we find out how Meg's future seems to go-- and most readers find themselves disappointed.

But there I'm going to get all personal on y'all for a minute. That's the only one of those essays that I came remotely close to posting IN March (and obviously missed), because I already had bits of it written, with things on my mind. And because I watched the documentary Being Elmo on PBS last night* (you'll see how that ties in in a minute), it did pop back in my mind again. So maybe I'll use this time to finally get this posted.

So let me share a moment of my life, a moment where I made a choice-- a lazy choice, but a choice that could have taken my life in a completely different direction.

It was the spring of 2000. I was student teaching, and absolutely sucking at it. I knew that my original idea-- get a job as a classroom teacher, then maybe work my way through library school-- was not going to work out, so I was considering going straight to library school after graduation after all. But for a moment I wondered if I should go a completely different route-- do something a little more drastic-- follow a vague, not very serious but definitely present dream. I was sitting in a campus computer lab and found myself looking up the website of the Sesame Workshop-- which at that time I'm pretty sure was still called Children's Television Workshop-- and checking out the careers page. And there it was-- they were accepting interns for writers.

GAH! My DREAM job was to work for Sesame Street! Why WOULDN'T I apply for an internship? Well... because I'd have to move to New York City. Away from my family. Away from my first serious boyfriend and DANG had it taken me a long time to land one of those, if I just dumped him to move to New York City-- well, how was I supposed to meet ANYONE, romantically or otherwise, in New York City? Or anywhere? I'm too shy to meet people. And where would I live? Would I be able to afford to live on whatever an Internship would pay (if it paid anything)? And what if I was just too lousy a writer to write for TV? It would be fun to build Muppets, but they were specifically NOT looking for puppet-builders or Muppeteers-- like I had a chance to be any good at that, either. No. One of the most renowned library schools in the country was less than an hour away from home. I was going the obvious route. I was staying home, and safe.

But what if I had gone? What if I had run off to New York City to pursue some wacky dream job? I would be working with a group of amazingly creative people on a project to make the world a better place. I would be in New York City, surrounded by culture and publishers and kidlit drink nights. And soon enough I WOULD have friends in the area-- one of my closest cousins works as an editor in NYC now. And heck, now I know how to make friends on the Internet.

But I didn't. I'm in a nowhere place, working part-time in a not-as-professional-as-it-could-be sort of position in an underfunded library, married to a man who has even worse luck finding work that isn't mind-numbing and physically exhausting and pays enough to let him not work EVERY SINGLE DAY, barely keeping up with two crazymaking small children (okay, I adore them, but they ARE crazymaking), popping antidepressants, and not writing. When you don't like where you are, you can't help looking back and saying "What if I had made a different choice?" But where does that get you? You didn't. You're stuck down this particular leg of the Trousers of Time and there's no climbing out of it. You have to make it work from here.

I say all this because I think, too often, people insist there IS a right or wrong answer to these sorts of life choices, when maybe there isn't. Maybe every choice comes with good points and bad points. Maybe I could have been really happy in New York City. Or maybe I would have just found something else to be depressed about, and I would have spent my life wondering what would have happened if I'd just stayed home, gone to library school, not dumped Jason.

Look, I was disappointed when I found out Meg had stepped to the background to let Calvin become the renowned scientist in her place, too. It didn't make any sense. HER parents were the great scientists. SHE tutored HIM in math. And apparently she's STILL tutoring him in the math parts of his Renowned Scientist career, now. Helping him. While she raises their ridiculously large family.

But I started to think differently about it when I read this passage in An Acceptable Time: Meg and Calvin's eldest, Polly, is talking to her grandmother about why her mother never pursued her own career. Mrs. (technically Dr.) Murry thinks it may be "probably partly because of me."
"You? Why?"
"I'm a scientist, Polly, and well known in my field."
"Well, but Mother--" She stopped. "You mean maybe she didn't want to compete with you?"
"That could be part of it."
"You mean, she was afraid she couldn't compete?"
"You mother's estimation of herself has always been low. Your father has been wonderful for her and so, in many ways, have you children. But..." Her voice drifted off.
"But you did your work and had kids."
"Not seven of them."
(p.40)

I started to wonder, wait-- was it MEG who wanted to become a scientist? Or everyone else who just ASSUMED she would want to become a scientist? Meg's a math wiz, sure. Meg knows her science because she's been raised in a household of scientists. But does she CARE about it? Not as much as other things. She doesn't want to be renowned: she wants to be loved. She wants to be accepted. She wants to live quietly and contently. Family is the most important thing in her life, to the point that she's risked her own life to rescue her father and her brother (twice, counting the events of A Wind In the Door).

I have a theory that with all the fictional couples who go on to have buttloads of children, this is just author code for "and they also had a healthy and active sex life," because there's really no other way to get away with saying that in middle grade fiction. Anne and Gilbert were another famous fictional couple who didn't seem to know when to stop with the baby-making. But when you think about it, this actually makes sense for Meg and Calvin-- they both come from large families. Meg's four-child family is big by most modern standards, but it's got nothing on Calvin's eleven-kid one. The seven kids they finally go with in their own family seems like a pretty decent compromise.

So the choice makes sense for Meg. That's what she wanted-- love and family, not renown and heroism. She didn't want to be her mother. Was it the "right" choice? Wasn't she supposed to be a liberated woman and ... follow in her mother's footsteps? (Huh. Is that what "liberated" means?) Who knows. And we may not know. Maybe it WAS the wrong choice. Maybe Meg was depressed later, wondering what she could have done differently in her life. We only really see adult Meg-- after the honeymoon period at least-- through the eyes of other people: her daughter and Adam Eddington. We don't know about her dreams or regrets. We don't know if it came and went in phases-- if she had times when she loved her life and times she wished she'd done it all differently. But I'm willing to bet that's how it is for most people-- probably how it was for Meg, too.

I read an interview with Madeleine L'Engle sometime between 2002 and 2004 that I wish I could cite directly, but in it she said she was working on, thinking about, planning to write a book about middle-aged Meg. Maybe this would have answered our questions. But that book never happened, so all we can do is project our own dreams and values on Meg, and judge accordingly.

But why do we have to judge? Why can't we let people be with their own choices? I see people argue that, oh, of COURSE it's wrong to judge REAL people for their vocational choices, but Meg is fictional and, as such, why can't she and all those other fictional characters that settle down and, ick, HAVE BABIES have been WRITTEN to make a different choice, to have built a CAREER instead? But every time someone says something like this, they're still implying that the career would have been the BETTER choice, even if they claim to believe people should make their own choices. They're still holding up this ONE PARTICULAR lifestyle as being The Best Choice, The Choice that OUGHT to be shown in fiction, the Good Role Model option.

And, okay, I'm just going to get personal here again: I DON'T NEED TO HEAR THAT ANYMORE. My depression is already too much of a struggle without people who claim to be speaking for the intellectual progressive types constantly implying that I'm DOING IT WRONG, that I SHOULD have put my career dreams over the comfort of family, that I MADE THE WRONG CHOICE all those years ago when I was too chicken to run off to New York City. Regret is no good for me! I can't take it back! I can't run away to New York City anymore. I have a family, a responsibility. Leaving them to pursue a different sort of career dream is now THE WRONG CHOICE whether or not it was the right choice originally. So can't we accept it? Can't we accept that this was the choice Meg made in the place she was then, and let her live on wherever that choice leads her?

We're all projecting. I'm obviously projecting. But so's everybody who thinks the choices of fictional characters-- or real life people-- should have been different. We're all projecting our own dreams and values on other people, real or fictional, and judging them. But it doesn't help anybody. It just makes everyone you disagree with feel like crap or think you're a jerk, depending on whether they're the sort of person who is more inclined to blame others or themselves. And the people who know where the blame really lies don't need your advice, anyway. So let's agree to disagree. Let's stop judging others for their life choices and just let them keep moving forward down whatever path they take.

*("last night" as in, "last night when I started typing this again, which is actually last Friday, now, so don't attempt to find Being Elmo on LAST night's PBS schedule")
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
I have had the BEST birthday-- weekend-- in many years. I'm not even sure where to begin-- if there's some overarching introductory paragraph I can make, or if I should just go in chronological order. Or I'll do it in order of What People Want to Read About, so they can drop out whenever they feel like it.

Part 1: My Reactions to the Hunger Games Movie, So I Can Get That Out Of the Way for People Who Don't Actually Care About My Real Life

Getting back to our discussion of what makes me accept or not accept a book adaptation, I have to admit I never thought I would actually fault a movie for sticking TOO close to the source material, but in this case I'm pretty sure that's my only problem with it. It felt a little TOO much like it was illustrating the book, scene after scene after scene, to the point where I felt like the story arc was suffering, and I actually thought, "I think I would be getting more into this right now if I HADN'T read the book, because then I wouldn't already know what's happening." Some of my favorite bits were scenes that WEREN'T technically in the book-- the times they would switch to showing the things happening outside the arena, with the gamekeepers and the sponsors and the districts and the TV commentators. I thought I even wanted a little more of that. I thought maybe the plotline SHOULD have been chopped up a bit more, just to make it feel more movie-arc-like.

On the other hand, my ACCEPTING of an adaptation DOES require a trueness to character, and here the movie EXCELLED. Any fears I originally had about casting were completely unfounded. Even Haymitch wasn't as off as I feared-- Woody Harrelson had said some things that made me wonder if he COMPLETELY DIDN'T GET the character, but he wasn't distractingly off after all, though I do think he was a BIT too comfortable with the Capitol folks still. But for the most part, right. Peeta nailed the stuff that makes Peeta so awesome, without actually being cute enough to make me have disturbing thoughts about a sixteen-year-old, so that's good. And Jennifer Lawrence CLEARLY joins the ranks of People Who Have Completely BEEN The Book Character They Were Portraying EXACTLY PERFECTLY RIGHT. And Rue. Oh, Rue. I remember when they first showed the non-character photos of the people they'd cast, she was the only one of whom I immediately said "YES. That's her. That's the one in my head." (Which is ironic when you hear about all the weird racist talk going around about her. I DON'T KNOW WHAT BOOK THEY WERE READING! This was TOTALLY the girl in my head!) But she didn't just LOOK right, she WAS right, and there was totally not enough of her. They needed to find a way to add more Rue. More!

So on the whole, I give it a thumbs up. It's not my favorite movie or even favorite adaptation, but it serves the book well enough for me.

Part 2: In Which I Become The New Owner of a Nook Color, So Can't Continue Pretending I Am Far Behind The Rest of The Free World Technologically

My parents babysit on Fridays, so when I came home from work that day I found a feast of cheese lasagna, colorful garden salad, and Italian bread all prepared for me. There was also ice cream cake (to be fair, Jason got that, not my parents), a balloon (which Sam had picked out), and the house was all clean. Also, my parents were TAKING THE KIDS WITH THEM FOR THE WEEKEND. Then they handed me a present, and this turned out to be a refurbished Nook Color.

I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING.

To be honest, I did not see much of ANYTHING coming. My parents give me birthday presents all year long on fridays. They have fixed so many things in the house that need fixing, put up new shelves, CLEANED, gardened, brought me plants, done laundry, made dinner, and of course just taken care of the KIDS every week. They are giving me PRACTICAL gifts all the time. They are awesome. But they went for FUN for my birthday this year. TOYS. NOT QUITE SO PRACTICAL, aside from being, you know, still mildly practical.

Admittedly, I want it more for magazines and blogs and Twitter and junk more than for books. I'm still a paper-book person. But coincidentally in the past week I'd been recommended TWO, TWO separate works only available as eBooks, and now I have the opportunity to GET those! Also, it automatically came with a couple sample books, and I thought it was very considerate of it to give me Pride and Prejudice. OBVIOUSLY it was thinking of me personally, and not just randomly giving me one of the most widely regarded novels in the public domain or anything. I found myself distracted by about five chapters of that while I was trying to set everything else up.

Some people say multi-format readers distract people from book reading. The books on my multi-format reader were distracting me from doing the other junk I wanted to do.

Like it came preloaded with a Pandora app. I haven't been on Pandora for about four years, since I worked at the branch library nobody ever came to until we closed it so I ended up playing music on my computer to keep me company. But I logged in and it immediately launched into Pink Floyd. IT'S SO SWEET THAT PANDORA REMEMBERS ME AFTER ALL THIS TIME. So I spent most of that first evening listening to Pandora and reading social media sites. Yeah. Books. Whatever.

Of course, touchscreen typing is extremely annoying. Actually the touchscreen is finicky in general. It keeps thinking I'm tapping when I'm trying to scroll, or not tapping when I am tapping, or tapping more than I actually did, or otherwise being obnoxious. Which means I may COMMENT less if I'm reading stuff on the Nook instead of the computer. That might be... WEIRD.

But who knows, it might become something I get quite handy with once I start toting it around, which I'm afraid to do before I get a case for it. I'm determined to get a cover that says "DON'T PANIC" in large friendly letters on the front. SERIOUSLY, THIS HAS BEEN MY NUMBER-ONE REQUIREMENT FOR AN E-READER SINCE WAY BACK WHEN E-READERS WERE MOSTLY THEORETICAL. I KNOW someone makes them, somewhere, on Etsy or something. THEY MUST EXIST. But because they are not in the Barnes and Noble online store, I haven't found one yet.

Part 3: In Which I Finally Get My Long-Needed Mini-Vacation

So as I said, my parents took the kids with them for the weekend Friday night. So I awoke Saturday with no kids, husband off at his weekend morning job, and NOTHING REQUIRED OF ME FOR THE WHOLE MORNING. I spent extra time journaling, even pulling a writing prompt, which turned out to be making a writing-inspiration playlist, which ended up inspiring me less to write and more to play the piano, so I ran downstairs and PLAYED PIANO for quite some time, which is really something I can only get away with when I'm the only one home, because I'm terrible at it. I play piano for ME. I hurt the delicate sensibilities of anyone trying to listen in. Then I grabbed some cereal and caught up with Community on the computer while eating breakfast. Then I did bills, which sucked, but that was pretty much the only thing that sucked about the day.

Jason came home and made me an omelette-- it was a pepperoni omelette, one of those shockingly greasy concoctions only a man could come up with, but dudes, he MADE ME AN OMELETTE-- and then he had a Skype date with his friends for gaming, which was fine because just a short while later I left for a movie date with my friends. Even driving the long distance in my car all alone was enjoyable, because I had my Imaginary Husband on audiobook to keep me company-- did I mention that? Awhile back someone pointed out to me that, speaking of the cover I fully intend to get for my Nook, Martin Freeman had done audiobooks of books 2-5 of the Hitchhikers series, SERIOUSLY WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME ABOUT SOMETHING SO PERFECT SOONER?-- and so I've been ILLing them and listening in whatever moments I actually get to myself in the car, which is mostly my Wednesday commutes. (And guess what, not only is he STILL Absolutely Perfect as Arthur Dent, it turns out he's PERFECT AT EVERYONE ELSE, TOO. Because he's JUST THAT AWESOME). Or this very long drive to the movie theater.

I picked a very large theater just on the other side of the city, because it was a fairly central location to all the friends of mine who are also scattered around the Greater Pittsburgh Area, who also wanted to see The Hunger Games because they'd all read the book when *ahem* I told them to way back when. Also, it was right next to a bunch of nice restaurants. It was a mini college reunion. Even my old roommate who now lives in Baltimore showed up, because she happened to be in town for family stuff this weekend.

Honestly, I think I may have to thank the Prozac for this going as well as it did. I found myself ANNOYINGLY tongue-tied a lot, because my brain and mouth don't connect properly (I say this as explanation to the people who only know me online. The REASON I don't shut up when I'm typing is because I'm TERRIBLE at talking out loud. I have to let it out where I can let it out. Which is not out loud. That's where the whole WRITING thing came from). Now the old, non-drugged me would likely have become very nervous about this, and started to worry that maybe this whole idea was a disaster and I wasn't meant to have real-life friends, and then I might have panicked and possibly got all teary-eyed if I managed to talk myself into enough of a funk before someone distracted me. But drugged me could roll with it, and realize that EVERYONE WAS TOTALLY HAPPY TO BE THERE.

REALLY happy to be there, in fact. The only ones who could stay to do dinner with me afterward were two other mothers of two young children, and we all so, so needed that afternoon off. With other geeky friends. Everyone kept thanking ME for putting it together, and we kept saying we REALLY needed to do this more often. I actually thought of, and mentioned, [livejournal.com profile] elouise82 at this point-- she's another mother of two young children who could really use an afternoon off with geeky friends, but is very far away and I've never actually met her. But I think she belonged in that one empty seat at our table, in spirit. Definitely fit our theme.

The table, I'm sure you would like to know, was in a Bravo! Italian restaurant. I had a creamy pesto rigatoni dish that was quite nice, and then they brought me gelato with a candle for dessert. We'd actually originally tried to go to a Chinese place, but even though it was only 4:30ish, they already had a two-hour wait. The Italian place sat us right away. Still good!

Jason and I just hung out the evening watching The Two Towers while playing with the Nook-- okay, I was-- and eating leftover ice cream cake. Then this morning I slept in. I REALLY slept in. I am still torn between whether this was a WASTE of another Morning To Myself, or just what I needed. Because when do I ever sleep until nine?

Today was a much less luxuriant day-- I had church, which was Palm Sunday and so Extra Long; and I had to go to the grocery store. But then I went off to my parents' to get the kids (listening to my audiobook again on the way), and they made meatloaf with mashed potatoes and carrots and homemade hot spiced applesauce, which was seriously just like apple crisp without the "crisp" part. So that was nice too. Sam fell asleep on the way home, so they went straight to bed when we got here, and I've been typing to you ever since. NOW I think I'd better go to bed myself. It's back to the same old same old tomorrow.
rockinlibrarian: (Default)
So, I know I'm dreadfully behind with the Year of the Tesseract posts. I'm dreadfully behind with posting at all. I know every so often Twitter or LiveJournal or both of them in some sort of bizarre pact will decide to publish my Tweets for the day as a post, but it happens so randomly and, besides, clutters up the blog so when it does, that I'm hardly going to count that as me posting. Last week I STARTED to write three different posts at three different times, but felt like continuing with NONE of them once I had started. And none of the three was another Year of the Tesseract post. Is it possible I've lost steam now that my party is over? Not sure.

Well, I have the excuse of having had a bit of emotional upheaval the past two weeks. Emphasis on the UP. I started a new antidepressant, and by George, THIS ONE WORKS. There's a bit of brain fog and headache still, but not much else in the way of side effects compared to my last two attempts at medication. And wow, it's such a RELIEF to be out of the abyss that was my brain just a few weeks ago. It drives home how much this is physical, chemical, and not something I could overcome if I just tried harder to overcome it after all.

Several days after the meds kicked in, I came down with a horrible cold. So I REMAINED sluggish and unproductive, but at least this time I was HAPPY about it!

So while I was being sluggish, I was spending all my kids-are-sleeping time watching season one of Community, which has got to be one of the most insane TV shows ever broadcast on network television. When I finished season one (which I had gotten from the Big Library), I sat around for a couple days until I got too antsy that season two wasn't available at any local library, and signed up for Hulu Plus JUST to watch season two, which I've continued to do during all my kids-are-napping time even though I am no longer sluggish, just so I can finish before my free trial week runs out. I'm not entirely sure this is going to happen. But this may give me the excuse of not having TIME to have posted anything these two weeks. If you accept the theory that my time is better used watching marathons of ridiculous TV shows than posting about stuff my heart isn't quite into.

At work I've been busy attempting to come up with a list of core magazines the teen room can subscribe to, because currently all that's in there is Seventeen, which doesn't even fit the interests of most of the kids who hang out in the teen room anyway (this has been shockingly difficult-- it seems like every teen magazine I look at has gone to web-only or out of print entirely); and relabeling half the AR books, which didn't get labelled properly to begin with. Also helping people. But today the weather is gorgeous, so there's not a soul here to help. I'm now making copies of Summer Reading Club brochures, which takes an eternity and a forest of paper, but mostly just involves jumping up to push Start on the copier again every 50 copies, so, rather boring here today. Hence the traditional Ramble Post.

And now I'm done copying because I'm out of paper.

But anyhoo, you may wonder if I have anything to say about The Hunger Games movie opening today. But I don't! I'm going next Saturday for my birthday with 3 of my college girlfriends who all happen to live in this general area still and have read the books. It will be a PARTY, ya'll, one of those cool Social things that I haven't actually done in a very long time. I figure this is like a waiting period, this week to just chill and say "What's the hurry? It's just a movie," so I will NOT get overexcited and inflate my expectations, right?

What else do I have to write about? This is one of those moments, which always seem to happen when I write posts like this, where I ask you what YOU'D like me to write about next. And "Whatever YOU want to write about!" is not an answer! I'm much more inclined to write something if I can believe people are genuinely waiting for it. Maybe that's why I don't get ANYTHING written. Maybe I need people telling me what to write. But I HAVE FAITH now that I'm not at the bottom of the emotional abyss. I MAY start actually WRITING again, eventually, as I make some order in my life!

So here I am again, still around if you missed me. I'd love to hear from you, because that motivates me to actually blog more often, so even if you never usually comment and don't have anything to say, just pop by and say Hi! It will make me feel all validated.
rockinlibrarian: (tesseract)
Series Intro: to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my FAVORITE BOOK EVER, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, I am filling 2012 with BLOG POSTS EXPLORING EVERY POSSIBLE ASPECT OF THIS BOOK IN GREAT DEPTH. I call it the Year of the Tesseract, and you can see what I've written already by clicking the year of the tesseract tag. There WILL be spoilers for Wrinkle and possibly other books throughout. So just go read it, already. Moving on:

I'm supposed to hate the made-for-TV Disney movie of A Wrinkle In Time. It's my favorite book, and it's NOT a great movie. And what happened to Meg's glasses?! All true fans of the book are supposed to speak of the movie with derision. But I don't. Sure, it's no Lord of the Rings-- I don't think it's amazing cinema, nor is it a wonderfully faithful recreation of the story. But I enjoyed watching it on TV, and even got it out of the library later to watch again with bonus features. I have no hard feelings for it. So here I'd like to spell out why.

I've been trying to work out, in anticipation of this post, just why I'm more willing to accept some adaptations of favorite books than others. I think there are two factors at work. The first is RESPECT for the source material-- not strict adherence to the book, but not using the book as just a jumping off point for the movie-makers' completely separate visions, either. (This is why, while the rest of the world may gush over the lush wonderfulness of Studio Ghibli's Howl's Moving Castle, I will continue to GLARE AT IT SAVAGELY FOR DESTROYING EVERYTHING THAT MADE HOWL A UNIQUE AND INCREDIBLE CHARACTER. Thank you). The second, and possibly this includes the first as part of it, is EXPECTATION. I'm more likely to be let down by an adaptation if I expect it to be as good as the original.* But if I go in with the attitude of, Hey, let's just roll with this and see what they do, I'm more likely to have a positive experience.

And this was MADE FOR TV. By DISNEY, a studio hardly known for faithful adaptations. I did not expect much AT ALL. But I knew this much: it had to be better than the terrible filmstrip we had to watch in 6th grade, which sent my not-as-well-read classmates into cries of "That was boring!" amid my feeble protestations of "but the book was GREAT! REALLY!" So I watched more with curiosity than excitement, and discovered, perversely, quite a lot to be pleased about.

Casting, well... nearly nobody was exactly The Character in My Head-- or even close-- looks-wise, but they weren't terribly WRONG, either. Sure, I identified more with gawky bespectacled Meg, but Movie-Meg managed to capture the frustration and barely repressed rage and self-loathing that are truly and utterly Meg's as well. The movie wasn't afraid to acknowledge that Meg is actually a bit of a delinquent. And going in, I knew the casting of Charles Wallace would make or break any adaptation, because overly-intelligent young children can be really annoying and unbelievable in film (Charles Wallace in that filmstrip in 6th grade? I cringed whenever he opened his mouth)-- but this one worked. Movie-Charles Wallace came across as a supergenius who really was still five years old. Adorable, not creepy. Or annoying.

But the single greatest bit of casting was for a part so small that he wasn't even referred to by name in the movie, and technically had a different job description than he had in the book, AND YET-- wow-- I think he did his homework for the part: MR. JENKINS. If they ever decide to make A Wind in the Door they can just keep the same cast, because Mr. Jenkins was THERE in his whole self: the complex man with his own issues and insecurities underneath the image of archnemesis Meg projects on him. I completely believed that was the very same Mr. Jenkins there, trying to give Meg counseling, in just that small scene.

The other moment that made me sure SOMEBODY'D done their homework was when Calvin first meets Mrs. Murry and finds out she's a biologist. What's the first thing he says (paraphrased, it's been a few years)? "Really? I've been getting interested in starfish regeneration...." I LOVE YOU, SCRIPTWRITER. Of COURSE Calvin would have said that! One doesn't grow up to become the World's Leading Authority on starfish regeneration without having developed SOME interest in the subject in ones youth! And when meeting someone working in the same general field, one IS bound to mention such an interest (because of course he's thrilled to meet someone who will understand in the first place!). It always bugged me that Calvin grew up to be a great scientist, when he only married INTO a family of great scientists, without having shown any PARTICULAR interest in science in his youth. But there, this lovely screenwriter tied it all together with just one line.

There were a lot of little details that made me feel the scriptwriter DID, INDEED have respect for the source material. The inclusion of the starwatching rock. Mrs. Murry's home lab. For the most part I could take or leave the rest of the movie's idiosyncrasies. I kind of dug the androgynous Happy Medium, but was taken aback by Mrs Which's bright yellow dress. But I will say I did have two major problems with the movie-- two things, rather than being a simple matter of artistic leeway, I thought were handled Dead Wrong.

#1: That permanent storm in the skies of Camazotz. It's not just that it's a cheesy way to show that "This is an Evil setting." It also robs Camazotz of some of its true creepiness. In the book Camazotz is spoken of with shudders: the horror of a planet that has fallen to the Black Thing, a dangerous, deadly place where angels literally fear to tread, and you start imagining all sorts of hellish monster-laden scenarios. And then you arrive and... it looks just like Earth. More than anywhere else you've been yet on this adventure. You wander into what looks like an ordinary suburban neighborhood, and it's only gradually you realize that something here is Very Very Wrong. And how creepy could they MAKE that on film today, using digital effects and editing to make every house exactly alike, but for photoshopped-in color differences or whatnot, to make EVERY ball and EVERY jump rope perfectly synced. IT COULD HAVE BEEN SO AWESOME. Instead it was... cheesy.

#2: Why does "happy ending" have to mean "our heroine single-handedly saves the universe"? Okay, it wasn't that extreme, but she still managed to take down a huge world-wide totalitarian system that CONTROLLED PEOPLE'S BRAINS. Sure, everyone loves an underdog. But she didn't need to have that kind of success in order to have done the impossible. Surely, in the history of Camazotz, others have tried to revolt and failed, which makes having an unremarkable teenager with low-self-esteem suddenly able to do it seem a little over the top. TOO perfect. TOO unbelievable. It was enough that she was able to fight IT at all, to not only have helped her father, her soon-to-be boyfriend, and herself to escape without getting sucked in, but to have pulled her brother out of that hive-mind without hurting him or get sucked in again herself. WHAT SHE DID WAS STILL AMAZING AND UNPRECEDENTED, small-scale as it was. That's part of why the message of Wrinkle is so powerful: that in the Grand Cosmic Battle of Good and Evil, even ordinary people can make a difference-- that one girl saving her brother is just as important as a star exploding to burn away the darkness. Even the little things matter. Why cheapen that with a Hollywood ending?

But that's two things, just two real problems in the whole made-for-TV-don't-expect-much film. I ENJOYED MYSELF, watching it, more than I enjoyed Technically Great movies I thought were adapted wrong, like Prisoner of Azkaban and the aforementioned Howl's Moving Castle (although that technically only had ONE major Dead Wrong problem, but we're talking the ENTIRE PERSONALITY OF THE TITLE CHARACTER here! It's WEIGHTED!) I'm not saying it's a Must-See or anything, and I wouldn't dream of implying it comes anywhere near the awesomeness of the book (very few movies do, even the good ones. Holes is a TERRIFIC movie, and seriously, speaking of movie characters who are Exactly The Characters In My Head, THE WARDEN, seriously, WAS SHE NOT PERFECT, but it's just a fun family movie in comparison to the SHEER BRILLIANCE that is the book. Lord of the Rings obviously is one that matches or possibly exceeds in some ways. And I'm sorry, but I will stand by the movie of Mary Poppins being better than the book until my dying day). But I don't think it's WORTH HATING on as much as people do.

As it turns out, there's rumors of a new feature film adaption being worked on as we speak. In fact I just stumbled upon it on a list of Upcoming Movies Based On Books just the other day. Although I think somebody got their facts wrong. Eh... it all remains to be seen. We'll roll with it.

----

*(I am NOT getting overexcited for Hunger Games, I am NOT getting overexcited for Hunger Games, I am NOT getting overexcited for Hunger Games, I am NOT...)
rockinlibrarian: (Default)
[Note: I started writing this yesterday, so the dates don't line up. So you should think of this paragraph beginning as "YESTERDAY morning." I'm not going to change it because I'm just like that]

This morning, just before I woke, I was having what seemed at first glance to be a remarkably realistic dream: I sat down to write for you all a yearly-retrospective blog post,* and the date was even today's date-- how often do dreams actually get the date right, let alone remember that this is also the birthdate of one of my best college friends and J.R.R. Tolkien, which it also acknowledged? Good calendar-following, subconscious. "I am sitting in a lovely new house," I typed-- it was, it was gorgeous, and there was a game room and a Jacuzzi and the kitchen was large and warm and homey-- "and I've just discovered an extra bag of Sarris' pretzels I had no idea we had. That about sums it up: 2011 was a pretty good year."

In the light of morning-- or the twilight of near-morning in January, when before the sun had even risen I'd already had my morning journaling interrupted by a small girl wailing about an ear infection and a call from the husband warning me that the roads were awful and I'd need to plan ahead to make sure the driveway was clear before attempting to take small girl to the doctors'-- this dream was utterly puzzling. 2011 a good year? Really? Off the top of my head I would have called 2011 a pretty Sucky year, seeing that I spent over half of it in various degrees of depression and pretty much nothing got accomplished. For the most part, listing what was great about 2011 seems primarily listing the stuff that at least didn't go wrong. We have water. We're all relatively healthy. We're not starving. We're not living in a war zone. No one I cared about died tragically... except Diana Wynne Jones and the unborn child I only knew about for three days... but that tips us precariously toward the "things that outright Sucked about 2011" side of the issue, and certainly isn't helping me figure out what my subconscious was thinking by "pretty good."

So how was what, at first glance, was a pretty crappy year pretty GOOD instead? THIS IS AN IMPORTANT EXERCISE IN POSITIVE THINKING. We'll start with a biggie: the Beautiful New Library. The Beautiful New Library for which I now work COMPLETELY in the children's and young adults departments, my specialty. For which I am now IN CHARGE of the YA collection! Why, this summer I ran delicious teen cooking programs and introduced elementary-school kids to the joys of gory fairy tale retellings! If we ignore the stresses from confused job duties, and the juggling of child care, and juvenile delinquents on my watch, that's a pretty good thing, is it not?

On the homefront, my son started preschool and appears to be thriving. My daughter got herself potty-trained which means I NEVER HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT DIAPERS AGAIN.

And while I'm inclined to put my writer's block on this year's list of Suckiness, the objective truth is I've actually written more THIS year than I did LAST year. Granted, most of that was journaling, and most of that journaling was whining about how I'm too tired to journal. But I did have a bit of fun writing to prompts for awhile, and actually, the twenty-some pages of Pipeweed Mafia Saga I managed to squeeze out (while completely useless and Utterly Wrong in an able-to-share-with-the-world sense, and I've had TWO separate episodes halfway done for months without finishing) were SO much fun to write and in the end brought me so much insane joy-- and I honestly think I MAY be able to turn them into something useful, someday, if I can figure out a way to not tie them so closely to real people, movies, and books (though SOMEHOW I have to keep the Aslan-in-a-Bucket. I MADE MYSELF A DATABASE OF CONTEXTLESS ASLAN QUOTES just to help me write the Aslan-in-a-Bucket. That's dedication for a story that only one other person has ever read), I think that may be one of the highlights of the whole year. It made Andy Serkis admitting his pipeweed problem in the latest Hobbit production video THAT MUCH MORE HILARIOUS (Oh, I have done such horrible fictional things to Andy Serkis. This is why the Saga is not fit for public consumption). Speaking of, HOBBIT TRAILER! Definitely among the year's Awesomeness. Also all the trailers and clips released for Sherlock Series 2! Okay, basically anything I saw this year starring Martin Freeman. Or, just him, period. Definitely part of the Awesomeness of the year, and the Awesomeness of the universe in general for his existence, though the universe is not so Awesome for refusing to acknowledge that we are Soul Mates. Stupid universe. (It's debatable whether having the World's Hugest Stupidest Crush on a movie star is Awesome or Sucky in and of itself, though). *AHEM*

Speaking of Awesomeness Achieved Through Movie Trailers, we'd be amiss not to mention OMG THE HUNGER GAMES TRAILER, which is impossible to refer to without tagging that "OMG" onto the front. Perhaps I'm setting myself up for a Sucky Birthday 2012 (I've decided to celebrate my birthday a week early by going to the movies. Who wants to go with me? We'll make it a PARTY) by getting my EXPECTATIONS SO TOTALLY BLOWN OUT OF PROPORTION, but as far as 2011 was concerned... dude. Did I mention I COULDN'T GET MY HEARTRATE DOWN FOR FOUR HOURS AFTER WATCHING THAT TRAILER?! And yes, that's evidence of "Awesomeness" not "Suckiness" in this case.

Though that brings us back to the subject of books, which has been a freakishly Sucky subject for me this past year. Not that the books were Sucky, just my ability to enjoy them was. But there were SOME moments of glorious book-loving, so we'll be sure to mention Those Good Times here, too.

Of course the Awesomest book-related event of the year was probably Michelle Cooper sending me an autographed, personalized book. From Australia. For no reason other than she thinks I'm Awesome. This actually has been a fun year for interacting with authors, period. Partly this is the result of Twitter. Hmm, Twitter. Where can I put you on the Awesome-to-Sucky continuum? On the one hand, you are so dang addictive. On the other hand... you are so dang addictive. *AHEM AGAIN*

But this reminds me that I have made a lot of very nice online friends-or-at-least-acquaintances this past year-- particularly [livejournal.com profile] elouise82, @easyqueenie, and @beckiezra. The Internet is nice in the Virtual Friendship department, and it has been very nice indeed this past year.

Finally... I got awesome Christmas presents. Is this worth listing? Probably. Whatever it takes to highlight the Pretty Goodness of 2011.

So in the end, this is a rather long list of decent-to-Awesomeness found in 2011. And whatever the true Awesomeness value of the past year, it's this NEXT year that matters, anyway. And we all know that, at least on this blog, 2012 will be a VERY GOOD YEAR INDEED, because it's THE YEAR OF THE TESSERACT!!!!! I'm halfway done with next week's post, and I do believe it rocks. At least, I think it rocks. And if I am the only person who actually enjoys The Year of the Tesseract, well... I WILL HAVE THOROUGHLY ENJOYED MY YEAR.

So all is well. Have a Virtual Sarris' pretzel.

--
*(Do you remember when every year people would post a survey that was supposed to be your yearly retrospective post? I miss surveys, but looking at this one it's clear what I have done here is a much more interesting and productive retrospective. Who really needs me to waste space on how I continued to not hate people and have no one-night stands?)
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
PEACE AND QUIET. I didn't even realize it made that much of a difference. But here I am at the library and, as no one wants to be out this week if they don't already have to be out because they probably are spending a good deal of their time out, it's... very quiet. I mean, even for a library. Whereas at home... I have small children. With lots of new stuff. It's chaos, really, and I couldn't figure out why I wasn't managing to write anything (in my journal or to post here, and certainly not anything USEFUL), but now that I'm here in the PEACE AND QUIET it all suddenly makes sense.

But don't get me wrong, it's been a very nice week. Christmas is, as you know, my Favorite Thing Ever, and it was particularly good this year because my overworked husband still managed to be around for most of it (as opposed to Thanksgiving, which he wasn't around for anything of, and I was depressed about it). On Christmas Eve this was thanks in part to a change in schedule that actually worked out for the better. We HAD been going to my parents' house in mid-afternoon for a family gift exchange, then early dinner, then Mass, then Big Ol' Annual House Party, only LAST year they went and changed the Mass time to 4:30 (without us knowing about it); but this time we knew in advance and could plan accordingly, and as it worked out J could DO his afternoon shift at the plant and THEN we could all leave and they could drop me off at the church RIGHT on time for this 4:30 Mass, and THEN we'd all go home (to my parents') and eat dinner and exchange gifts and THEN have the Big Ol' Party start-- SO IT WAS ALL PERFECT! Spent the evening playing Apples to Apples with my cousins and had a thoroughly good time.

Next morning was fun at home and later in the day was decent at the inlaws'; Monday was a nice break; J actually took vacation days yesterday and today-- yesterday was our anniversary, but we spent most of the afternoon at my aunt's, which was also nice, and the kids ran wild with other people their size. Good times all around. Tomorrow night we've got a get-together with my sister-in-law; night after that the kids are going to grandparents so we can have a PROPER anniversary date night; we will probably do Absolutely Nothing of Interest on New Years Eve, as has become our wont, but in general, nice week.

But now, I could continue being mature and demure and generally above such material things as Bragging About Presents I Got, BUT INSTEAD I'M GOING TO BRAG ABOUT PRESENTS I GOT. Because I got a few things that absolutely Rocked, and it's made me appreciate that sometimes it's GOOD to be excited about having things that aren't Completely Practical. I got (from [livejournal.com profile] magnolia___ a book of Pink Floyd piano music, and I got Queen's Greatest Hits (one of those collections you suddenly realize, "How is it I DON'T ALREADY OWN THIS?") from the inlaws, both of which filled that lately-entirely-too-neglected "rockin'" half of my soul (I suspect if I devote more of my time and energy to music, I may find a resurgence in enthusiasm for the rest of my life... now to just go about DOING that). AND THEN, my husband went and got me a thing that has been languishing on my Amazon wishlist which I NEVER expected anyone to get, but I left it on there stubbornly out of a sense of completeness: the special edition "Yearbook" set of Freaks and Geeks.

DUDES. It's so utterly GEEKED OUT I don't even know where to begin. I'll begin with the inside covers: see, the whole "box" is built like a high school yearbook, and the inside covers are filled with autographs to Sam and Lindsay from the other characters in the show, and it is SO completely authentic-looking and absolutely in-character-- each inscription tells a story-- IT'S WONDERFUL. Then the book is full of inside articles and pictures and snippets and things; and then of course you've got the DVDs of the show itself, which is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, because of course I tend to love all the TV shows that get cancelled ridiculously prematurely (okay, this and Firefly. And The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in high school).

The thing is ridiculously expensive. I kept it on my wishlist because, dangit, if such an item exists, I AM the intended audience. I didn't just love this show, I LOVED this show. And, for pete's sake, my son has the exact same name as one of the main characters, and although that wasn't OUTRIGHT intentional, it wasn't an accident, either! So it just seems right that I, of all people, SHOULD have the Very Special Edition. But we aren't exactly rolling in spare cash. Frankly, we're struggling to pay the bills each month, and we do scrimp. Luckily I get paid for the One Book activity manual in December, which becomes our instant Christmas Budget, so I never feel I have to be TOO stingy at Christmas. But still, my instinct is always there, to not spend money unless it's on something we Really Need, and if it's not something we Really Need it had better be a really awesome deal. And $75 bucks for a TV show set (and that's the DISCOUNT price)? Even a really special edition? Just a stupid amount of money. I'd never have considered buying it for myself.

But when I held it in my hands Christmas morning, beholding all its Awesomeness, suddenly none of that mattered, even though obviously my husband had spent the same money from the same account that I never would have considered spending. Because this was Awesome. And it was MINE. I OWN THIS COMPLETE SET OF AWESOMENESS. It's like a STATUS symbol or something. I am SUCH a FAN that I HAVE THIS SET OF ULTIMATE COOLNESS! YOU don't, because I'm just THAT MUCH MORE OF A FAN THAN YOU! NYAH NYAH!

So I've come to understand the joy of the occasional splurge purchase. That sometimes having something totally impractical is Just Worth It.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
Well, darn. I get all these potential blog posts flitting through my head throughout the week, and when I finally get the time to sit and TYPE one, I either a) can't remember what I wanted to say, or b) can't figure out what the point was. Although this means I end up typing something with even less of a point, like this, in which I talk about how I can't remember what my point is.

Perhaps social media has finally rotted my attention span, because I've actually been posting there far more often than here. You know, little things, like OMG HUNGER GAMES TRAILER. In which all there is to say is "OMG [link]." Or when I traumatized all of Twitter last weekend by revealing their warped existences inside my subconscious mind (which I would link you to, if it wasn't so dang hard to link to twenty different Tweets. You could go to my Twitter page, scroll down a bit, and just hope I haven't added TOO much more by the time you read this). It's really boring of me, and is also a poor excuse for writing. THERE IS NOTHING ARTISTIC ABOUT "OMG [LINK]." (My dreams, on the other hand, COULD perhaps be symptomatic of a repressed artistic mind. As soon as I get the discipline to go WITH an artistic mind, I'll be the prose equivalent of Edward Gorey, probably).

I've been thinking about the rotting of my mind lately, actually. Earlier today on the car radio someone called in to a lunch request show and requested something along the lines of, "You know that song you played? It reminded me of this other song by this band no one's ever heard of. Do you know what song I mean?" And the deejay sputtered for just a moment, but nonetheless came up with it, and she was quite proud of herself.

And I thought, Wow, I used to be able to do that. Actually maybe I'm still able to do that, with a relatively narrow portion of music. Classic rock, because I had a classic rock radio show once. I am, I admit, generally good at Name That Tune across the entire history of rock and pop, but only the stuff that gets radio airplay once you get out of the '60s and '70s. I bet I could STILL beat most of you at Name That Tune. So maybe my brain's not rotting-- it's just I've become more aware of HOW MUCH I DON'T KNOW. I feel like I need to give UP my title of music geek, because I haven't been keeping my talents in condition. THERE HAS BEEN SO MUCH MUSIC RELEASED IN THE PAST TEN YEARS THAT I AM UNAWARE OF. OTHER PEOPLE ARE AWARE OF IT. THEY HAVE INHERITED THE MUSIC-GEEK MANTLE. THEY CONTINUE THIS NOBLE ACCUMULATION OF KNOWLEDGE IN MY STEAD. I, alas, am Up On Things no longer.

Granted, maybe I at LEAST can still consider myself a proper YA Lit Geek. I certainly stay up on THAT topic. But I also get PAID to stay up on that topic.

It just feels so WRONG to be NOT GEEKY ENOUGH. Why am I not indulging more in other aspects of my geekitude? They FADE AWAY WITHOUT MY TENDING TO THEM.

Gospel reading on Sunday was The Parable of the Talents, which is totally the Cautionary Tale of My Life right now (this is why I spend so much of my blogging and journaling time fretting about it. Which is really boring and whiny and self-centered, so feel free not to click on that link, because why read that again). Besides the whole You Better Be Using What You've Got thing, I found myself understanding the line about "whoever has not, even that will be taken away" for the first time-- because it is NOT a bizarre, out-of-character justification for the rich to keep getting richer at the expense of the poor, although I'm sure some people on the "Christian" Right might like to THINK that-- it's just stating the facts: if you don't use your talents, you LOSE THEM.

AND IT'S TRUE! I was one of those horrible children who were blessed with too many talents than were possibly good for me. Not in sports. Or, you know, talking in any way that made sense. But I was extremely intelligent and aced every subject (gym doesn't count. Neither does handwriting. Hey, most schools don't even GRADE handwriting anymore), I could sing, I could draw, I could certainly write-- I WAS A RENAISSANCE WOMAN. Girl. I'm still not entirely sure I'm a woman. Anyway, I was Good At Stuff. But now I am completely out of practice. At everything. While the rest of the world has rushed by, USING their talents, IMPROVING, SUCCEEDING, MAKING A DIFFERENCE. I'm not honestly sure I have any natural talent LEFT in comparison. It's all worn away for lack of use.

So obviously I need to focus and work and get my geekiness up to speed in at least one area of my life, USING MY TALENTS (whatever bit of them is left). But I still want to be a Renaissance Woman, which instead means I need to start focusing on LOTS OF THINGS. How does one FOCUS on LOTS OF THINGS? When I can barely focus on ONE thing! Obviously I'm just confusing myself now.

So to sum up... sorry, I've used up my brain cell allotment for the day apparently. I'll go now.
rockinlibrarian: (voldemart)
Yay, surveys! via [livejournal.com profile] colliemommie:

1. Favourite childhood book?
My favorite childhood book is my favorite book ever of course, A Wrinkle In Time, which I promise you you are going to get SO sick of hearing about from me next year, or else you're going to totally enjoy it in a whole new way through my ramblings. Oh yes, I have grand plans for the Year of the Tesseract, I do.

Just out of curiosity, how common is it to have a favorite book that is different from ones favorite CHILDHOOD book? Because don't people usually feel much more strongly about the books they read in childhood than ones they read later? Sure, you do get other "favorite" books over time in the sense that you, you know, end up making a list of 40 of them, but your NUMBER ONE EVER, isn't that tied to the books that SHAPED WHO YOU ARE TODAY as opposed to something you read once you became a crusty old inflexible adult? Or is this just coming from the warped sense of self-importance I have as a children's librarian?

2. What are you reading right now?
I am currently not in the middle of anything, because I just finished This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel, which was quite good, and TENSE, I am so out of the habit of horror lately, but good; so have not started anything new yet. But I walked into work to see we've finally gotten Pratchett's I Shall Wear Midnight which I ordered for myself, so I'll probably be starting that next.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
Technically I considered I Shall Wear Midnight in this category, since I knew it was coming and was just waiting for it (and, technically, I DID request it, though under the guise of ordering it for the YA collection, because DUH it needs to be there), but now I actually have it checked out to me, so I guess it's not on request any more.

4. Bad book habit?
Using whatever I can find as a bookmark. This includes hair clips, used kleenex, and other books.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Besides the Pratchett I have Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days from our library; from the Big Library (or the library with a budget? since ours is pretty dang big now), Eva Ibbotson's The Ogre of Oglefort, Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star, a couple Elephant and Piggie books allegedly for the kids, and a couple cartoon DVDs outright-without-even-an-allegedly for the kids.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
Dude, ask me if I have a cell phone that text-messages. But when I DO get one-- an eReader, not necessarily a cell phone from the past decade-- I'm actually going to get a tablet, so I can use it to read blogs, because blogs are totally my magazines. I think I'd use it more for that than for actual long-format texts (I don't believe in the term "eBook"). Also, I'm still getting a case for it that says "Don't Panic" in big friendly letters on the front. That's all I ask for, really.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I prefer to read one novel at a time, but nonfiction can pop in whenever it likes. Likewise picture books.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Well, they've certainly changed since I started READING blogs, because now I have such a never-ending To Read list that I sometimes fear I will NEVER EVER REREAD ANYTHING EVER AGAIN. Also, I read things written by people I have had direct contact with, which is kind of weird. Nice, but weird.

9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far?)
I've given up on a few books after the first chapter or so, because I haven't had the patience to stick with anything that wasn't catching me. They all SEEMED so promising, too, so it might just be me and how I was feeling at the time. I won't name names, seeing as it was most likely just me and all.

10. Favourite book you've read this year?
Ohhhhh... probably still Frances Hardinge's The Lost Conspiracy.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Rarely. There's too much I want to read IN my comfort zone that I don't have time to read.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Absolute narrowest? Humorous fantasy-adventure upper-middle-grade fiction. More broadly, middle-grade and YA fantasy, mystery, humorous realistic fiction, and general good stuff (as opposed to General Good Times, which would make you laugh if you'd read another of my favorite reads this year, Libba Bray's Beauty Queens.) Outside of the realm of MG and YA, which is what it's my job to be Up On, I love wordless picture books and funny adult novels, and nonfiction for whatever-the-subject-is's sake, rather than nonfiction as a genre.

13. Can you read on the bus?
It's been a long time since I have, but I usually could. Much better than I can in the car, which is Not At All.

14. Favourite place to read?
Anywhere people won't bug me. Like that's anywhere, anymore. Somewhere comfy. I want a comfy chair outside on a nice day. I know, how many comfy chairs do YOU have outside, but still.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
I work in a library. You bring me a photo ID and proof of current address, I'll give you a card and lend you whatever you like!

I rarely have people actually visit my house to see my own personal book collection, and I rarely buy any books anymore (since I rarely get to reread anyway), so I don't really have much opportunity to lend my own books out. I'd love it if people were INTERESTED enough in my books for me to lend them out. But my mom still does have my copy of The Wee Free Men. Think she forgot it's mine.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Not since I was a kid. Did I ever mention how I thought I'd invented that technique?

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
No. I've got a few books from childhood that I felt the need to write my name inside in lots of fancy ways though.

18. Not even with text books?
I never OPENED text books. Okay, I may be exaggerating. But still. Anyway, it's been a long time since I've looked at a text book.

19. What is your favourite language to read in?
English. Which is the only one I really know HOW to read in, though I can guess at Spanish a bit.

20. What makes you love a book?
When it has the ability to make you both laugh out loud AND tear up. That is my favorite mark of excellence.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
As part of my job is to recommend books, my inspiration usually involves a brief reference interview involving questions like "What else do you like to read?" and "What did you like best about that book?" and "Have you tried...author's name?" But if I'm just recommending on my own? Either because I enjoyed it so much myself that I want to spread the love, or because a topic of conversation reminded me of it. To specific people on basis of what I already know about their tastes or interests.

22. Favourite genre?
Humorous middle-grade fantasy and/or mystery.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Humorous classics, adult mysteries. There are lots of genres I rarely read but also don't care to, too.

24. Favourite biography?
Jim Henson: The Works. I was going to say "I don't know, because I can't think of any biographies I reread enough to consider them favorites," and then I was like "OH YEAH. DUH. THAT ONE." Likewise maybe the Beatles' Anthology, if you count collective memoirs as biography.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Most of the nonfiction I read is self-help, in a broad sense. If you want to stick more to the pop-psychology types of titles, I've read a few of them, too.

26. Favourite cookbook?
The one I put together from magazine clippings and computer printouts. But I guess the Better Homes and Gardens one, as it's my basic general reference cookbook.

27. Most inspirational book you've read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
For the first time?... I have no idea. Maybe Warp Speed by Lisa Yee. I've dipped into a few old writing tips books, too.

28. Favourite reading snack?
A strawberry milkshake. Not that I often HAVE one of those while I'm reading, but I WOULD.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
I can think of cases where hype frustrated me AFTER the fact--not with reading, but with being a fan (Harry Potter fandom, I'm looking at you), but I'm usually on the front wave of things I'm actually interested in, and won't read a book I'm not interested in no matter how much hype it gets.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
What do you mean by "critics"? If you're talking like NYT Book Reviews or something, I rarely read them. I read reviews that are written for helping librarians select books for their collections, which are more "this is the audience for this book" than "this book is good or bad." And everyone knows Kirkus is harsh. And then you have book bloggers-- some of which are also proper published reviewers-- and there I've gotten a handle on their tastes and generally know when we're going to agree.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I'm not a proper reviewer. If I am inspired to talk about a book, it's because I DO love it, and if I don't like something I'm just more likely not going to talk about it. Though I will occasionally point out individual issues I have with a book when the subject comes up. I do think that's critical for even a good review-- specifics, not just "I liked/hated it." But I like to dwell on positives, just like with people.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
Hebrew. I'd like to read the psalms in their original language.

33. Most intimidating book you've ever read?
Maybe if you count that chapter of Hegel we had to read for Honors Core that one time. It was a chapter, which the professor photocopied for us, but it was SO DANG HARD to read and took forever to get through. I don't remember any actual books I found particularly intimidating.

34. Most intimidating book you're too nervous to begin?
Can't think of specifics at the moment, but there are a lot of fantasy series that I have heard are awesome, but they are all LONG books in SERIES, and the idea of spending that much time on technically one book is scaring me off. Maybe some day when I don't have small children.

35. Favourite Poet?
Dr. Seuss for being a genius. Emily Dickinson for being delightfully morbid. Pink Floyd as a group-- they always tend to claim the songwriting duties across the board, hard to tell whose lyrics I like best. Always a fond spot for Shel Silverstein, too.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Now about 3, and still end up renewing. Before this year-- I don't know what's wrong this year-- 5 or six. Rare renewals.

37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?
This year, shockingly often. Not so much in the past.

38. Favourite fictional character?
Anne Shirley and Samwise Gamgee. After that, I wouldn't know when to stop, so we'll leave it at that.

40. Books I'm most likely to bring on vacation?
Whatever's in my library pile. The idea of POSSIBLY GETTING THEM READ is the exciting thing about vacation reading. Although it's not much of a difference in actuality, because I still have kids.

41. The longest I've gone without reading.
Not sure. Besides, do you mean PLEASURE reading or reading, period? Because that changes it. Also, there's entirely too much print in the world to go without reading, say, a cereal box on occasion.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
Like I said, this has happened frequently this year and I can't even remember what they're called. I do remember I gave up on Great Expectations halfway through just because I hated the main character so much.

43. What distracts you easily when you're reading?
Lately, everything. Sometimes my own head. Also I have kids.

44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel?
My favorite movie that is also a favorite book is Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. With the exception of Not-Enough-Faramir-Being-Swoony (but really, that's just a personal thing), it perfectly captured the books and most of the changes were actually IMPROVEMENTS. My favorite movie of a book that ISN'T one of my favorites is Mary Poppins. I know, the book lovers are very particular about how they love the book better, but I'M SORRY. The movie has: a) an actual plot arc; b) deliciously catchy music; and c) JULIE FREAKING ANDREWS. Julie Andrews is a goddess, I swear. She is UTTERLY goddess-like as Mary Poppins.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Eh, if by "disappointing" you mean "you had high expectations going in" (because normally I DON'T have high expectations and end up pleasantly surprised instead*), I know I could get smacked for this, but Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I know film nerds think that one's the best, and I guess it's good as a movie, but as an adaption of a well-loved book, I was hurt. My dear Professor Lupin sucked, and I hated the rest of the casting for that one, too. Except Emma Thompson, because she's just generally awesome. They did handle the time-turner thing better in the movie than in the book, though. I've been thinking, in preparation for a post I'm going to give you during the Year of the Tesseract called "Why I Actually Didn't Hate The Movie" (there's a teaser for you), that it's strange the different things that will cause me to either love or hate a film adaptation. Usually it's when I feel the characters have not been portrayed properly. I don't care about plot changes as much as character trueness.

46. The most money I've ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
No idea. Does Amazon count as a bookstore? Because probably there around Christmas sometime.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Fiction, never; nonfiction, always.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
If i'm just not getting into it and don't care. I have too much else to read.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Yes. Fiction by author, nonfiction by subject, doesn't everybody?

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you've read them?
Keep 'em. I have cheesy book-club paperbacks long out of print that I don't even care about anymore still.

51. Are there any books you've been avoiding?
Lots, but it's not so much "avoiding" as much as "with all the other stuff I have to read, why would I read THAT?"

52. Name a book that made you angry.
The Amber Spyglass. Too much of Philip Pullman's general I'm-smarter-and-better-than-you was coming out in that one, and it was a shame because if you IGNORED that, it was a truly excellent book, and it FRUSTRATED me. I kept wanting to ARGUE with him. Most of his other books he's much better at keeping his obnoxiousness out of the way of the story, but not in that one.

53. A book you didn't expect to like but did?
I don't think there ARE any books like that, because if I didn't expect to like them I wouldn't have read them. Though there are books I liked MORE than I expected to aplenty. Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series is one that I always end up loving way more than I expect to, even when I start subsequent books (although I still don't get why Jace is supposed to be attractive). Ooh, book rec inspiration, [livejournal.com profile] rockonliz127, that one's for you, by the way. It's got you written all over it. Not literally.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn't?
See all the books I stopped reading in the middle. Disappointing.

55. Favourite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Reading is always a guilty pleasure for me anymore.

---
*I'm afraid my expectations for the Hunger Games movie are getting way too high, and I'm going to be shockingly disappointed, BUT I CAN'T HELP IT! I just saw Jennifer Lawrence last week for the first time in the new(ish) X-Men movie, and she was SO FREAKIN' AWESOME AND IS GOING TO BE A PERFECT KATNISS! AND THAT WASN'T EVEN HER OSCAR ROLE! What with Peeta now, you know, ACTUALLY LOOKING LIKE PEETA, and with Suzanne Collins being so involved with the script, and with how awesome all the production pictures have looked, I CANNOT CONTAIN MY EXPECTATIONS! On the other hand, I have absolutely no fear of my expectations for the Hobbit movie getting out of hand, because Peter Jackson's Middle Earth + Martin Freeman = BLISS, and the rest of the movie can totally suck without changing that equation. The absolute rock-bottom it can go is "BLISS." So, we're okay, there.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
It's moments like these when I find my lack of Muppetty userpic disturbing. It happens remarkably frequently, and I've got three userpic slots to spare. You'd think I should go on a search for one or something, but I never get around to it. Also, if you're the type of person who makes userpics, I've always wanted one of William in Almost Famous doing his speech when he's like "I am NOT SWEET! AND I CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS TO EVERY ONE OF YOU!" which I could use whenever I'm being evil as a writer. Just saying. EDIT: And now thanks to the hilarious people who run the Muppets page on Facebook (who are you and how did you get so cool?) I have one. A Muppets userpic I mean. It's bound to be useful in MANY situations.

Anyway, it only seemed fair, seeing how I devoted twelve paragraphs of post to my Imaginary Husband's birthday the other week, that I should actually give a shout-out to the Real Thing on his Big Day. Not that he reads my blog. But it's still fair. Only, I can't devote a dozen paragraphs to him today because I have other things on my mind, other things that make for better blog posts, so now that I've gotten the obligatory acknowledgement of my proper spousal figure out of the way, let's move on to the International Holiday I Don't Know Why They Haven't Made Yet Of This Day.

Seriously, he revolutionized the art of puppetry. Stretched the boundaries of television. Created some of the most iconic fictional characters of the 20th century. And did it all in a way that celebrated Singing and Dancing and Making People Happy. It's JIM HENSON DAY, people. Whoever is in charge of making International Holidays, get on that, please.

I used to celebrate this day without fail, but for the past eleven Septembers there's been, I don't know, OTHER obligations that have perhaps dragged the spotlight away. You get distracted by that Real Life thing. But last night I felt the need to prove to Jason the huge extent of international versions of Sesame Street there are, and so grabbed my copy of 40 Years of Life on the Street to use as a visual aid.* So then I started READING that chapter, instead of just pointing to the pictures and being done with it, and the thought of all these people all over the world working together to bring education and delight to children everywhere made me all teary-eyed and I thought, "Whoa. If everyone in the world was into Sesame Street, there would be WORLD PEACE."

It's not so far off a theory. It's something that feels inherent in EVERY project Jim Henson was involved with. He was only one of the influences that has made Sesame Steet so great, to be fair; but it's true, the general undercurrent of Goodness is still there in the projects that AREN'T outright intended to teach children around the world. Even the ones with explosions every two minutes. You KNOW it's all in fun, somehow-- the humor is never cruel. And it somehow manages to work for all ages, without pandering to anybody. It is full of LOVE somehow.

And he outright SAID that his main goal in creating Fraggle Rock was to create a show that would inspire an end to war forever. (It might have worked if they'd showed it on regular network TV instead of a premium channel). It sounds crazy, but how can you NOT catch the love? It is so INSPIRING. Awhile back someone gave me a Fandom Meme Survey Thingy in which I was supposed to answer questions about three of my fandoms, and one of the questions was "Do you think that more people should get into this fandom?" Mostly I was like, "eh, no, not really, if they want to, whatever," but when I had to answer that question for "The Muppets," THIS, if you don't feel like clicking through, is what I said: "Yes. Yes yes yes. If more people joined the cult of Muppetdom, if more people were devoted to Singing and Dancing and Making People Happy, then there would be Peace on Earth.YES." And, fond of hyperbole as I am, I really meant that. I really FELT that. I still do.

Jim Henson is an incredibly inspiring man. I come very close to blasphemy when I speak of him. HE IS GOD-LIKE. MESSIANIC. Okay, he was human like anybody, true, but maybe not JUST like anybody. He was one of the Good People, though, of that there can be no doubt. He TRIED. He lived so as "to leave the world a bit better for having been here," and he succeeded, even if he couldn't ACTUALLY inspire world peace. And that is quite a lot of Something.

It's actually one of my greatest Completely Unattainable Life Goals (up there with playing Eponine in a Broadway production of Les Miserables, hanging out with any of my top five or so Literary Girl-Crushes, being a 19th century sailor, and marrying Martin Freeman) to Work for Jim Henson. That was the answer I came up with, actually, when faced with the writing prompt "Who from history would you most like to be?" the other month. I just want to work for that man, in that atmosphere of complete creativity and respect and fun and singing and dancing and making people happy. That would be the Greatest Job of All Time.

So I guess it's slightly less Unattainable to say that my Dream Job is to write for Sesame Steet. All it would take is for me to, you know, run off to New York City and GET said job. I COULD do it, if I didn't have two small children and a husband who doesn't even want to VISIT New York. But maybe someday. I just might.

--

*Here's what I wrote about the book in a locked post when I got it for Christmas the other year: [It's] one really awesome fun book off my list which I don’t think anyone else really understands how much I appreciate.... Are there REALLY more people out there who are JUST LIKE ME? Total adult Sesame Street Geeks? Honestly, we should form a club or something, since I assume they DIDN’T write the book with me, personally, in mind. I could have used it for a resource on my research paper in 11th grade, by the way (also, the book often cites resources I actually DID use in said research paper, which is awesome and makes me feel rather proud in retrospect, that I found all the best resources. Actually, one book I’m sort of amazed about today as a librarian—it was actually an in-depth look at my exact topic—ie, the Effects of Sesame Street on Early Childhood Education—WRITTEN by one of the head researchers for the Workshop, from 1974 and totally with that very specific audience in mind (ie, people like me researching the topic), and I just pulled it nonchalantly off the shelf of my high school library like of COURSE I would find a book on my topic there, duh. What the heck was such a narrowly-focused book from 1974 doing on the shelves of a not-particularly-large high school library in 1995 in the FIRST place? Not that I mind, of course, because it was exactly what I needed—I just can’t imagine it had been checked out by anyone else in 21 years, or the years since!). (by the way, if you’re reading this and wondering why I care so much, I will happily tell you all ABOUT the Effects of Sesame Street on Early Childhood Education all day if you’d like. Would you like? Best research topic EVER, although I did enjoy listening to pirate radio online for the pirate radio paper in my college Research Writing class, too). **
**Which brings us to the Book Recommendation Portion of Our Program. Do you know how much I LOVE my collection of big colorful Muppetty coffee table books? I have a bunch. Besides the Sesame Street one, I also have Of Muppets and Men (about the Muppet Show), No Strings Attached (about the Creature Shop), and perhaps my favorite nonfiction book of all time, Jim Henson: The Works which is everyone's Must Read Assignment of the day. It's also famous for being the book I kept longest overdue from the library ever. One of the reasons why I have my own copy now.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
Okay, folks. I must take a break from my attempting-to-lie-around-sick-all-day (it's not working: I have small children) to celebrate a special occasion that perhaps nobody cares about but me: it's the big Four-Oh of my favorite actor in the world, Martin "Freakin' Awesome and Also Adorable" Freeman. I doubt anyone understands my utter, complete, total, and other synonyms for "all-encompassing" infatuation with this man. This is a shame, actually, because he is, as I've said, Freakin' Awesome and Also Adorable, and every sane person ought to be feeling the same way (even though I get irrationally jealous of other people who claim to be madly in love with him. He's MY Imaginary Husband! MINE, I SAY!). Still and all, he's totally underappreciated, and it IS his birthday (and one of those big round ones at that), and this IS my blog whose primary purpose is to allow me to rave geekishly over things I love in the vain hope I can get other people to love those things too, and so I declare today Martin Freeman Appreciation Day at Amy's Library of ROCK. Here, then, is my love letter to my Imaginary Husband. I sent him a proper, serious, sane fan letter once (example of sanity: I did not claim to be Imaginarily Married to him). But this one's more for YOUR benefit than his, so it's a bit less sane and more... EXCESSIVE. Because that's what blogs are for.


It was Fatelike and Mysterious from the very beginning, because over six years later I still remember exactly what I was doing when I first heard of him. It was the summer of 2005: I was sitting at the silkscreening station in the Children's Museum allegedly prepping the newspaper bins with proper-sized sheets of paper, but I'd gotten distracted by the entertainment section of said stack of newspaper, which had an article about the new movie adaptation of my #21 favorite book, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It sounded interesting enough, but I kept staring incredulously at the utterly ordinary-looking no-name guy they'd gotten to play Arthur Dent. Who WAS that guy, seriously? All the big names in this movie and they pulled that really boring-looking fellow out of nowhere to play the lead? And yes, I AM aware that it wouldn't make any sense for Arthur Dent NOT to be completely-ordinary-looking, and yet I was still, irrationally and rather pugnaciously, Unimpressed... which, as anyone who has ever watched a romantic comedy knows, is a sure sign that we were Meant To Be.

Because of course he turned out to be the BEST THING ABOUT THAT MOVIE. Halfway through, to my surprise, I started to get restless and panicky any time he was off-screen, and at the end I found myself horribly jealous of Zooey Deschanel, which admittedly shocked and confused me as I'd always considered myself Ford Prefect's girl. Martin Freeman's Arthur Dent was perfect. He was better than perfect. He was perfect, BUT AWESOMER. For the next five years I had this odd Tourettes-y problem whenever the subject of the Hitchhiker's movie came up in conversation, which involved me shouting "ARTHUR DENT WAS PERFECT... wait, what, sorry, what were you saying again?" And then, minutes into watching the movie with COMMENTARY track, I realized I was crushing on the man himself, not so much the character: this funny, sweet, thoughtful man with a whole variety of unique opinions on odd things (many of which I shared)...also there's the British thing, need we mention. I'm a sucker for the British thing... and I went all squishy. Although I was also somehow left with the impression he was gay... which, seeing as I was married and also, you know, DIDN'T ACTUALLY KNOW HIM, was a moot point. This turned out not to be true, actually: he's in a committed relationship with a woman and has two kids. And as I am also still married with two kids-- and still don't actually know him-- it's still a moot point. BUT MOOT POINTS CANNOT STAND IN THE WAY OF TRUE LOVE! ...okay, wait, what was I talking about? Right, anyway,

so five years go by without me actually seeing him IN anything else, though whenever I see him mentioned anywhere (which either happened more often or I just NOTICED it more-- probably both) I can't help smiling... BUT THEN, Sherlock. Please say you've watched this show, people. Nearly no one I actually know personally has, though it seems to be wildly popular among people I only know vaguely from the Internet. If you haven't, people I know personally, I hereby invite you to my house for a marathon of Martin Freeman ogling Sherlock watching, it will be so much fun, I promise, because it is JUST a FREAKING FUN SHOW. Look, as a stubborn Dr. Watson fangirl, I judge all Sherlock Holmes interpretations on the strength of (ie, amount of respect paid to) the Watson, which means most film versions fail epically. MARTIN FREEMAN IS THE GREATEST WATSON EVER. EVER. He makes him such a deep, believable, REAL character, so that you can totally see him writing his blog in his head (it's a 21st century Holmes, if you didn't know), and he manages to balance admiration and exasperation perfectly. Lest you think my fangirling has biased me, let me point out that he totally won the Best Supporting Actor BAFTA Award (short explanation: British Emmy) this year for the part. ("Supporting Actor," HAH. Just because HIS name isn't in the title...)

So, still high on the Awesomeness of Sherlock a month or so later, I'm at my parents' and somehow in the course of completely unrelated conversation my mom says, "Wait, you haven't seen any of the original British version of The Office yet? Let's watch it tonight!" and I say "Okay," though in my head I have added "of COURSE I want to see my Perfect-Arthur-John-Dent-Watson in his first major role, what?" Only to sit in UTTER AWE of this man, this man who can be hilarious and heartbreaking at the very same time, who can make you adore and ache for this miserable loser, who can deliver the most ridiculous lines with a perfectly straight face (not exactly true, as it turns out: watch the outtakes sometime); and right about the time that stapler went out the window, something SNAPPED, and the little voice in the back of my head suddenly got Really Big and said, with Utter Certainty, "I. NEED. TO. MARRY. THAT. MAN." Exact quote. Instant Imaginary Betrothal. Not entirely sure when the Imaginary Wedding took place, but it must have been shortly after that-- yeah, and it was that very night I had the first of many dreams wh-- um, *AHEM* Anyway, so, point being, I completely Lost It, and although my mother INSISTED we stop our Office watching after only two episodes because there's only so much Ricky Gervais a person can handle in one sitting, I decided there was Absolutely No Such Thing As Too Much Martin Freeman, and made a point of striving toward that impossible limit from that moment forward. And still haven't reached it. I will never, ever get enough Martin Freeman.

And this has proved to be a very good year for stalking him finding more and more of him all over. First, there's Peter Jackson and his noble goal to get us REALLY FRIGGIN' EXCITED about The Hobbit movie YEARS AHEAD OF TIME, YOU PSYCHO, YOU. I can't help it, I AM excited, not in the least because he's gone and made the most brilliant casting decision in the history of the world. Don't believe me? Watch his first Production Video from last spring. Go ahead, spend the first ten minutes basking in the joy of seeing Bag End and Rivendell again, and generally admiring Martin of course whenever he shows up (and snorting over his rather ridiculous taste in suits), but most importantly, LISTEN TO THAT LAST LINE, the last line of the whole video (which is, of course, the first line of the book). What is so great about this is that, the first time I saw this, the first thing I thought was, "Ah, that's Bilbo Baggins, there." And, after an auditory double-take, "...wait a second, no. That's only the guy you've been madly in love with for four months PLAYING Bilbo Baggins." YOU explain how somebody can completely nail a character, such that the listener knows in the depths of her soul exactly who it is, IN ONE LINE OF VOICEOVER. Really, Martin Freeman's history of Completely Nailing Iconic Literary Characters is a pretty unbreakable streak by now, isn't it.

He's a brilliant actor, and I know he doesn't get credit for it (except that BAFTA thing), because it's so easy to take him for granted. He plays Put-upon Everymen. Seems like typecasting because he's so dang good at it. WHICH IS WHY HE'S BRILLIANT. Each one of those characters is easy to take for granted BECAUSE he makes each of them so thoroughly believable. There's a respect for the reality of the character, the deep truth of the character-- you never get the sense that he's just putting on a show, playing a part-- for the course of the story he's not at all Martin Freeman, he's whatever sorry fellow he's SUPPOSED to be, thoroughly and completely (okay, and all his characters tend to be hopelessly adorable every time they so much as smile. Or frown. Or stare blankly. Or...). He's certainly not just playing himself over and over (dudes, think about it, Put-upon Everymen they may both be, but there's a HUGE gaping difference between Tim Canterbury and John Watson otherwise), it's just that every man he plays just FEELS THAT REAL.

But speaking of him playing himself, I realize I never properly completed the thought I started above, which was that this has been a great year for stalking him for several reasons. SO, SECONDLY, I discovered the great resource that is Sherlock Fandom. SHERLOCK FANDOM IS CRAZYPEOPLE. Says the woman writing a post about her Imaginary Husband. No, they really are, they're scary, but this also makes them really brilliant at gathering up every possible slightly related bit of information about, for example, the show's stars, which has allowed me to spend entirely too much of my spare time reading interviews and watching obscure British television shows that have been uploaded in bits and pieces on YouTube. And much as I am a fan of his acting, it's his BEING HIMSELF that I've come to adore most of all. For one thing I SWEAR WE ARE SOUL MATES. Through some bizarre cruel twist of the universe we ended up born on separate continents and hitched to other people, BUT WE ARE, NONETHELESS. Witness his huge vinyl collection! And how he totally defended Paul McCartney's honor! We could sit geeking out to records and debating the minutiae of rock history for DAYS together!

Seriously, though, it's more than that. He's hysterically funny and yet takes things quite seriously, thoughtfully, in general. He's utterly, comfortably ordinary* and at the same time a bit contentedly odd. He can be wickedly snarky but it never crosses over into cruel. He's actually exactly how I've always envisioned Henry Tilney (yes this is the third time I've linked you to that post today-- it's too easy for me, just copy-and-paste, so if you don't want to actually click on it anymore, I'm not forcing you), except, you know, modern. And technically older, but my impressions of Henry Tilney were built when I first read Northanger Abbey as a teenager and now it is shocking for me to read it and realize how much younger than me Henry Tilney is (when I'm in my 80s, Henry Tilney will be 90 in my head. It's just how it works).** Anyway, in short, a) he's exactly the sort of person I'd be friends with in real life, and b) he, by all accounts, appears to truly be one of those Good People I'm always going on about, the ones I can only hope to emulate. Here is a fan's adorable account of a run-in she had with him, which seems to be typical of anyone who's ever met him. From people who've encountered him just briefly to good friends, anyone who talks about him gets this quiet, private smile before they speak, only to use a lot of words like "wonderful" and "dear" and "lovely" and "...just great. That's all." And you really can see it, when he interacts with people in a not-acting capacity on film, you see the way he looks at people and talks to people and talks OF people as if he's genuinely interested, genuinely cares, truly respects that person as a person. Which, come to think of it, is probably what makes him such a great actor. He truly respects his CHARACTERS as people, too.

So maybe I haven't convinced you to fall QUITE as madly in love with him as I am after all this incredibly long post (which is quite all right, since he's MINE! MY Imaginary Husband! Back off!), but I believe I may have made enough of a case for his Freaking Awesomeness that you can join me in celebrating this auspicious day.

* and yes, I still think he's utterly ordinary-looking. BUT THAT'S A GOOD THING. Ordinary is far more likely to be adorable than flashy is.

** Also, you know you really have passed the point of Official Grownup No Return when you realize you have a crush on a 40-year-old man and he can't even properly be considered an Older Man to you anymore. 6 1/2 years older. Which is practically nothing at this stage in the human life cycle. He's only 3 years older than my Real Husband. My brain is boggling slightly.

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