rockinlibrarian: (voldemart)
I was talking politics with my mom the other day (it's nice having an in-real-life person who agrees with you politically to talk to sometimes), and I mentioned this really interesting blog post I'd read a few months back that unfortunately I CANNOT find now. Sorry. I really wanted to link you to it. It's about how this president—at the time of the article he was president-elect or even just a candidate, I'm not sure—uses language. The article posed that it wasn't so much that he is a pathological liar as much as he's using—I think this was the term—prescriptive language in situations when most people would use (and would assume he is using) descriptive language. Descriptive language describes reality as it is (or as it at least appears to be). Prescriptive language describes reality as the user intends it to be. For example, "You're fired!" The phrase isn't true until it is said, then saying it makes it true. That's an obviously iconic example of how he's used to using this sort of language, but think about it—he's a spoiled rich kid who could get whatever he wanted, with a major entitlement complex—he's USED to whatever he says being granted, or at least, that the making of whatever he says happen is other people's problem. 

As I told her about this, I remembered how some of his original supporters liked how he was a businessman-instead-of-a-politician, so he would "run the government like a business." Right, the kind of business where the Boss is IN CHARGE and everyone must do exactly what he says. That's what they wanted? I guess that IS what they wanted. And THAT made a scene pop into my head.

Shut up a minute, Star Wars prequel-haters, I'm not saying the acting and/or dialogue itself of this scene was fabulous or anything, but it DOES FIT here. You know the scene in Attack of the Clones when Anakin and Padme have been frolicking in the fields of Naboo and he starts teasing her about being a politician and she's like what is your problem with politicians, and he's like The system doesn't work, we need everyone to sit down and work out what's best for everybody and then just do it; and she's like But that's what we DO, it's just that people don't always agree on what the best thing is; and he's like well then somebody needs to MAKE everyone agree; and she's like Hold up you're crossing over into Dictatorship territory here; and he's like Well maybe that's what we need then; and then they go back to flirting as if he hadn't just admitted that he's totally someday going to be the Emperor's Right Hand Man and will totally kill hundreds of innocents to make it happen. 

So I'm like oh shoot, that's totally what happened, all these people are like Hey, a Dictatorship's fine and dandy if I AGREE with the Dictator. Let's give the Chancellor unfettered power because he'll TOTALLY make everything right in the galaxy again because he'll just MAKE it that way! Yay, everybody we disagree with just being TOLD WHAT TO DO! That could NEVER backfire!

...I mean it's not like people haven't totally glommed onto the Rebel Alliance as a symbol of resistance to all this or anything.

Meanwhile, the kids and I have made it to The Last Battle in our Narnia reading. Ugh, we're back to the problematic racist Calormene portrayals, which is ironic, because the real life parallels otherwise are very pro-Rebel Alliance, I mean Resistance. Eerily so, reinforcing that we seem to be living in an apocalyptic scenario. But look: we start out with Shift the Ape creating a False Aslan, which IMHO nicely describes certain prominent folks in the Religious Right preaching the "Prosperity Gospel" and linking the professed "Christian" culture with big business and exploitation of workers and destruction of the environment and other stuff the real Aslan would DEFINITELY NOT APPROVE OF (and omg the dwarfs who are all like "NEVER AGAIN" when they find out they've been had, are all those people driven away from the very idea of Christianity by the actions of these sort of Christians). And, ugh, that Shift, the way he gaslights poor Puzzle—I keep interrupting my own reading and saying to the kids "I REALLY do NOT LIKE this guy!" —personality-wise, and the more he gains power, the more he becomes Our Esteemed President in this scenario, to the point that he becomes the ineffectual puppet of sly Ginger the Cat—that'd be Bannon—and the Calormene general, who is definitely effectively Putin, looking to take over Narnia from the inside (yes, government. Calormen may LOOK like the Middle East, but get over your xenophobia/Islamophobia and look at the ACTUAL ACTIONS). I mean, dang. The Prophet Clive Staples Lewis says we're screwed, folks.

Oh, speaking of which, the end of The Magician's Nephew inspired some interesting/creepy conversations with the kids, too: talking about dying suns, and Maddie's like, "Will the Sun really DIE? Like our great-great-great-great grandkids won't have a sun anymore?" and I'm like, "The Sun will eventually die but not for billions of years, humans will probably die off from something else long before then," which just made the kids like, "WHAT? How could all the humans die?" and I'm like whoa I sat in it now, and said, "Well, like the dinosaurs died off. It could be something like an asteroid strike covering the sky with dust so the sun can't peek through so we can't get food, or it could be—" and then I realized I was heading into frighteningly relevant territory "—the climate just changes so much that it can't support human life anymore, or—" why on earth was I saying this out loud to my sensitive children, it just poured out of my mouth "—when he said that bit about humans discovering a horrible secret like The Deplorable Word that could wipe out all life? I'm pretty sure, since he wrote this right after WWII, he was hinting at nuclear weapons—" SHOOT I'm going to have to come up with a comforting spin on this somehow— but then I noticed the kids had actually stopped paying attention to my nihilistic rambling. But seriously folks. I saw a tweet the other day that was like "Hey, remember those couple of decades we DIDN'T think we were all going to die in a nuclear war? Good times." SIGH.

Anyway, last week I was writing my latest GeekMom article, about Labels vs Symptoms (btw, Megan, someone wrote a glowing response to your comment on that), and I was thinking about Billy (H)arrison's superpowered autistic tendencies and wanted to use some of "his" actual quotes on the matter, so I went into my files and scanned over my related writings, and, let me tell you, some of the plot of my book, which had seemed ridiculous when I wrote it, suddenly looked prophetic. Reading tweets about the president's rally in Florida this weekend made me tweet this, in a series of linked tweets copied here into an easier-to-read paragraph:

"There's a scene at a political rally that is just REALLY EERIE right now. Not to mention gaslighting and attempts to control the media. I don't think it will ever be good enough to officially publish, but I almost want to share it as-is now just to say 'READ WHAT I WROTE DECADES AGO! It was about an OVER-THE-TOP evil take-over-the-world plot! OVER-THE-TOP, I say!' Do you think it would be a bad move to self-publish something I don't think is perfect or up to traditional publishing standards just because I want to share some of the scenes NOW? I mean, it's as good as or better than a lot of fan fiction that's out there. It just doesn't have a built-in audience. (The fact that it has Real Person George Harrison fanfic in its backstory is not obvious in text). But I'm not trying to sell it/get famous from it. I'm just like READ ABOUT THIS RIDICULOUS WORLD DOMINATION PLOT & TELL ME YOU DON'T SHIVER!"

Well, I had several people respond that they WOULD like to read it. I think the easiest way to do it, though, is just share the file (non-editable) right off the Dropbox it's already in.

So here, if I've done this correctly, is the link to Ian and Co, aka The Incredible Adventures of Four Teens Who Are More Than They Appear, aka The One With Billy 'Arrison In It. I'm pretty sure I have not given you permission to edit the document, but just in case, um, politely refrain from editing. And by "editing" I mean "changing the document itself" —I'm all FOR you leaving constructive criticism with the Comments feature or whatever. I'd love to hear your ideas! Keep in mind, if I ever do come back to these characters' stories, it may be ENTIRELY different. I already have a completely new beginning written which has Ian more of a marginally-more-innocent bystander in what ought to have been Billy's adventures, which is most likely how I will take it in the future (I said once that Ian is Watson to Billy's Holmes and that suddenly made the whole concept click into place better). But DANG is this Swish plot relevant NOW, which is why I'm sharing THIS edit as-is.

Now here's something I considered doing awhile ago, which is COMPLETELY OPTIONAL, mind you. But since I'm kind of self-publishing my book, above, there, and I've written other good stuff you might like, and we still need to replace our patio/retainment wall that fell down in the back last summer, if YOU would like to donate to the cause of ME WRITING STUFF, I've got here a nice PayPal.Me link: https://paypal.me/rockinlibrarian  So, whatever you think my book is worth to you, go ahead and pay for it here! If not, don't! I probably wouldn't because I'm cheap (but then again I might anyway if I really love it and am not currently broke—I guess I have done such things before). Because after all it isn't quite up to standard, but it's still pretty fun and I did take decades writing it!
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
Allow me to be frank—I know I'm on the internet, which means *gasp* anyone can see me being frank—but I'm going to have to get a little ugly-personal. Don't freak out.

It's been a rough week. It's hard to say how much you, my reader, already know me, when some know me in real life but just in passing, some know me in real life quite well, some have never met me but are closer to me than all but a few of the people I have met in real life, some know me in passing on the internet, and some just stumbled here randomly hi I don't know what you're doing here but you're perfectly welcome. So I don't know if you know that I'm an utter mess, both figuratively and literally. I am NOT a together person.

But one thing I have always felt confident about? I'm a dang fine librarian. Being at work is for me is a BREAK from feeling lost and incompetent. It keeps me steady, and smart, and productive.

Until last Saturday. See, my literal mess caught up with me, and I guess it hit on my coworkers' last nerves? This is hard to explain, because I'm honestly so confused and I guess not quite so shaken as I was last Saturday, but still just...broken. Like I can't piece it together in my brain. I didn't get completely cleaned up after my program Tuesday night-- to be fair, we were pulp painting, it's quite complex, and I DID clean up MOST of it-- but, maybe it was my lackadaisical attitude toward finishing up that they didn't appreciate? Maybe, but the thing that got me lost was that this somehow earned me a week suspension. A week and a day, actually, as I didn't end up working last Saturday and here I am still off today. Now, Jason points out that I really should have been given a written warning or something instead, that the punishment far outweighs the crime and he is SO TEMPTED to march down to the library and give everyone a piece of his mind but he won't because that's totally something his mother would do and he doesn't want to do something she'd do; and there's a rational part of me that definitely agrees it's all out of proportion.

But the problem is it triggered something, shattered me further. Work was the one place I felt competent, the one thing my literal-and-figurative mess wasn't tainting. For the first time since I've been in this particular job, the thought of going back to work on Monday gives me a jolt of anxiety. I have lost that little piece of confidence. And, talk about an out-of-proportion reaction, I'm just BROKEN.

I don't want you to think I'm being melodramatic. I very nearly checked myself into the hospital that day. Because obviously I'm not good at ANYTHING anymore so there's no point trying until I can get myself FIXED. I didn't, because I figured it would be cheaper to just go home and go to bed, while telling everyone to leave me alone. That didn't work so great either, because except for Maddie, who came in and just hugged me and said "I love you" for awhile, nobody else could manage to talk to me without increasing my stress. In the middle of the night I wrote this poem-- cleaned it up and put it on Tumblr in the morning just because Tumblr seemed like the best format for it. It pretty well describes "how I'm doing," kind of perfectly, if you're asking and want to know the truth.

Well wait, copying and pasting so you don't have to click:
"EFFORT"
I’m not okay
though if you ask
I’ll say
I am
because I pull myself together
I smile, I laugh, I sing
I cook, I eat
I hug and say I love you
I go through the backpacks and take-home folders and
usually
remember to sign things
I pay the bills
eventually
I get where I need to go
eventually
But then you notice the cracks and say
Why don’t you pick up after yourself?
Why have you let yourself go?
If you would
Just
Try to
lose some weight
exercise a little more
make the kids behave
(no, MAKE them)
get her hair brushed
get YOUR hair brushed
make them make their beds
make YOUR bed
watch what you’re wearing
watch what they’re wearing
do the dishes from the start
organize your time better
leave a little earlier
make those phone calls
communicate better
pay attention to your surroundings
don’t leave things lying around
go to bed on time
tell us what you need
If you would
JUST
put in a
LITTLE EFFORT.
Good to know
that’s all I need to do
Just
put in
a LITTLE
EFFORT
If only I hadn’t used up all my Effort
pretending
i’m
okay


The thing is I usually AM okay because I'm holding together and getting through contently enough, it's just I can't take any MORE than that. Technically I SHOULD be capable of more, because more is required of me, and, like, maybe life should be more than just hanging together?

So at counseling on Wednesday I got some interesting news: I now, officially, on my medical records, have indeed been diagnosed with ADHD-light-on-the-H. See back in the day they just called that ADD but now no matter how nonexistent the H they call it ADHD-Inattentive Type instead. I slipped through all these years because of the complete lack of H, because I was well-behaved and smart enough to ace tests even if I couldn't stay on top of my homework and was only half paying attention in class. My brain was good at school. It's not so good at practical life. But practical life is what adulthood is about. You know I've said this before, lots of times, it's just now I've got an official label saying it's real, my brain really DOES work differently than normal. "You've been struggling with this all your life without even knowing why," my therapist said, having just read the above poem. 

So, somewhat tangentally (it's my ADHD! It all becomes clear!), last week we upgraded our cable to take advantage of their Triple Play, which includes phone service, since the main reason we never had before was our home and cell phone accounts were tied together, but now we get cell through J's work, so we were like, hey, and WE NOW HAVE CALLER ID AND AN ANTI-ROBO-CALL SERVICE AND I AM NEVER GOING BACK. But, also, we now get more TV channels, including FX. I'd bought access to FX's Fargo because it was awesome before, but look! Now we have FX just in time for Fargo-showrunner Noah Hawley's new show, Legion, which is a friggin' X-Men spinoff! I love Noah Hawley's storytelling (at least if Fargo is any indication) and I love X-Men, so can it get any better? The answer is, yes, it can, because Legion is also FRIGGIN' PSYCHEDELIC. 

Now I've been thinking of writing a whole post about me and psychedelia-- I've had a draft in the GeekMom Wordpress for about a month now, because I started writing it and then it turned into something else, and it might be really two posts, or it might not, but anyrate. Started when I finally got a chance to listen to the United States of America album I got for Christmas and it totally out me back in touch with a part of myself I'd been neglecting. I've been giving my psych rock collection a workout lately. Anyway, the short story about why I love psychedelia is that it reminds me of my own mind, but ever so slightly more orderly. 

So the main character of Legion has been diagnosed schizophrenic, although it turns out his hallucinatons are really telepathy. So you see the show from inside his head, which is tripped out...but strangely familiar. Me and psychedelia. I've never had to deal with hallucinations (or telepathy as far as I know), but my brain is always RUNNING and tumbling and jumping from track to track and it IS a lot to keep up with, and my dreams-- my dreamworld is nuts, y'all, and I love it--Legion really reminded me of my dreams (also the soundtrack is awesome) (maybe because there's a lot of psychedelia) (also it's made the Stones' "She's a Rainbow" stuck in my head since Thursday and I don't mind a bit).

Anyway, but the point I'm really getting to is that part of the reason he struggles so much with his mental illness is he's been fighting the wrong thing-- he thinks he needs to stop the hallucinations when really he needs to learn to control the input from his psychic powers. I keep thinking of it in relation to myself, how my brain works differently, but I've been expending so much energy trying to compensate for it instead of trying to work WITH it. It's funny, I used to know I was pretty smart as a kid, but most of the time as an adult my self-talk immediately goes to "you're an idiot." Since Wednesday it's occured to me, wow, if so much of my brainpower has gone to trying to compensate for my attention issues... maybe I actually am a genius. If I wasn't constantly trying to fight my own brain, what else could I be putting that power to? If I wasn't using up all my effort on being okay?

There was more on the end here, but somehow it got erased....

rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
It’s time for the yearly roundup, and while 2016 is pretty universally known to have been a pretty crappy year, it’s had its bright spots too. As I’ve done for the past few years, I’ve rounded up events and reviews into Top Five lists for your perusal. It makes for a long post, but I’d love for you to read it, and chime in with comments on anything you see that you agree with, disagree with, or feel enlightened by, because I do these things to talk to people, you know.

Cut for length and pictures )
So yay! I hope you've stuck with me through this long, long post! Drop me a comment!
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
So, unlike people living in Bubbles of Blue, I was not shocked. Disappointed, absolutely, but not surprised. So why did it hurt so much? Why was I crying? Why have I been unable to shake off the tears that keep coming all day?

I mean, there's the usual. The stuff I've already explained, about why I was voting the way I did in the first place. I want to thank those who voted differently but acknowledge that they're not necessarily happy about it, or who even, plain, don't gloat at all, because for some of us this IS genuinely not just a matter of the-one-we-liked-lost, but the-one-who-won-gives-us-literal-panic-attacks-and-it's-going-to-be-rough-for-us-to-watch-the-news-for-the-next-four-years.

But as I tried to explain to the kids, doing a very bad job because my own emotions belied every "it's going to be all right" I said, it's not like the world is suddenly going to erupt into nuclear war this afternoon.

Besides, WE are lucky. WE don't have to deal with systematic racism. OTHERS are much more directly fearing for their lives.

I began to get the sense that there was something slightly selfish about my grief. It felt so personal, like I wanted to shout "But look what you've done to ME!" at everyone who voted. What HAD they done to me? Voted for a guy who triggers my bully-anxiety, so what, it's not like my health care or marriage legality or right to freakin' live in this country is in danger. Sure I could TRY to nobly insist it was all alturistic, that I really felt so bad for EVERYONE ELSE, but no-- I mean, yes, I DO feel bad-- but no, this personal grief IS INDEED personal. What bugged me so much?

Eventually I unearthed it. It's because I always started crying harder when I read inspiring messages like this:










And most notably, this:


Because THAT is one of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE QUOTES OF ALL TIME. I was keeping a quote book when I first read Fellowship, and at that I'd jumped up and ran to grab the dang thing because I needed to write that one down. It hit me hard in the chest this morning, like J.R.R. Tolkien had taken me by the shoulders, given me a little shake, and said, "How could you have forgotten what I told you?!"

"I'm sorry, Professor. I hear you. I hear the others. I'm just having a really hard time believing you right now."

WHO NEEDS MY VOICE. I worried for ages that my voice is useless because I'm too Privileged, because I'm not from a population that's been historically silenced. Ah, but then I found it again. I found it not enough to feel that I had any FICTIONAL stories worth telling, but I at least had, not just the right, but the DUTY, to speak up for those who AREN'T as privileged as me. So I started getting political. I started getting BRAVE. I started making statement after statement and long essay after long essay.

And I voted. Because Every Vote Counts.

Yeah, but I look at the returns for my county, and although it was obvious from the signs along the road, it just felt disheartening to see that MY vote, in my county, had been outnumbered two to one.

And I thought about my essays. My impassioned pleas here and on Twitter and Facebook, and the time last week I finally absolutely BLEW UP at my husband for his continued insistence that both candidates were awful so he'd stick with the one who "wouldn't take away [his] guns." And I thought, did it even matter?

Who even reads what I write except people who already agree with me? Who even CONSIDERS what I have to say? WHOSE MINDS HAVE I CHANGED by writing these things? Nobody. Nobody cares. I have no effect. I've failed.

Writing has failed.

So I had a well-timed counseling appointment this afternoon. By that time I'd pinpointed this problem, this stupid selfish thing that was upsetting me. As I said last time, my therapist was unsurprised by my general anxiety about the thing because that was going AROUND in her office. "What can help you from getting stuck here, though?" she asked. "What are you going to do in your own life? What do you have control over?"

She was paraphrasing Gandalf. I smiled.

But my eyes teared up again. "It's just that nothing ever changes. No one listens to me. I spoke, but I didn't change anyone's mind."

"Maybe you've got the wrong goal. Maybe you're going to fail if you go into it thinking, 'This one beautiful essay will CHANGE PEOPLE'S MINDS.' That starts to sound kind of nasty, actually, wanting to CONTROL WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK, you know?" She looked hard at me. "Instead, make the goal to be strong in your own beliefs. Believe in yourself enough to put your beliefs out there. You've done that. You've made something beautiful. It may seem like a small drop, but it's something. A small drop still makes waves.

"Besides, no great social movement happened overnight. Do you think it took just one pamphlet to win women the right to vote? Did Martin Luther King go out and make one beautiful speech and suddenly win equality for all? I bet all the great leaders had days where they came home, said to their families, 'Why do I bother? No one is listening.'

"But what did all those great heroes have in common?"

I grinned sheepishly, because again J.R.R. Tolkien supplied the answer, popping immediately into my head:


Why SHOULDN'T that answer have been ready in my head? I NAMED MY SON AFTER THIS GUY BECAUSE OF THIS SPEECH.

Heroes have lots of chances to turn back, but they don't. That's all. That's what makes a hero.

I could actually feel light seeping back into the wrinkles of my brain, sitting there. I started to believe in the inspirational messages again.

"So, what are you going to do now, so you don't slip back into that stagnant water?" she asked me at the end of our session. "What action are you ready to take, to keep things moving?"

"I--" I started to laugh. "...I actually want to write about it."

The Lone Power is always trying to get me to SHUT UP, one way or another. I've said it before and I'll say it again, because over and over It feeds me excuse after excuse, why I should just give it all up, stop trying to write, stop trying to be heard. It's always something new, but it's always the same in the end: "SHUT UP, AMY, NO ONE NEEDS YOUR OPINION." And it always results in entropy taking over, which is how I KNOW it's the Lone Power's doing.* You'd think I'd be able to catch It in the act quicker now. You'd think I'd recognize it sooner. But I guess that's how It works.

I need the reminders, every so often, that the only thing that makes a hero different from everyone else is that they don't turn back.

Don't. Give. Up.


*God bless you, Diane Duane, I don't know how you so deeply infiltrated my own personal theology, but it sure is handy for expressing my dilemma.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
Today is Billy 'Arrison's birthday. It's a thing I still say that only makes sense to a few of my friends now, but still when I see any other references to any other aspect of Geek Pride Day, asking me where's my towel or my lilac or arguing over whether the day has anything to do with Star Wars or not (look, I'm a Star Wars fanatic, but we already have May the Fourth AND a Saturday in October for Star Wars Reads AND nowadays most of December as new movies keep coming out, so we really don't have to claim any more)-- anyway, fan as I am of all those things, I still want to say "...but none as important as BILLY 'ARRISON'S BIRTHDAY," even though it ought not to mean anything even to ME anymore.

Because it DOES still mean something to me. even if I said I've given up trying to give him a story. May the 25th rolls around and I realize I can't ever give up on him. And in the meanwhile, have you noticed, the superhero genre has become more prominent in prose fiction in the past couple years? Both the big comic publishers have licensed their characters out to prose writers lately, and that's not even counting all the stand-alone books about original superheroes like my Billy. And I realize how many of my favorite shows and movies are superhero related and every so often I'll go, "Hey, there's a genre I'd feel comfortable writing in, the superhero genre," and then sometimes it doesn't even hit me then that I'VE TOTALLY WRITTEN IN THAT GENRE BEFORE and my favorite character I've ever created not-counting-D&D-characters* is a superhero.

And then I'll see discussion of superheroes and start to say, "Oh yes, that's why Billy... um, sorry, I keep forgetting nobody knows who Billy is." Today, in fact, on his birthday, the comics fans on social media were talking passionately-yet-vaguely about various developments, none of which I really got any actual idea of but that doesn't matter because that's not what I'm talking about. What I AM talking about was what I saw someone said about different perceptions of what superheroes are FOR. For some, the focus is on "HERO," for others, on "SUPER" (as in superPOWERS). It made me think about the old Marvel vs. DC argument, which I'll admit that I'm on Team Marvel even though I don't read comics, because I find the characters more interesting (and my favorite TV show ever DANGIT ABC revolves around a Marvel character who was little more than a passing reference to a one-time girlfriend in the comics, but anyhoo INDEFINITE HIATUS NOT A CANCELLATION NEVER SAY NEVER) *AHEM* what was I talking about? Right, the old Marvel vs. DC thing. The idea being that DC characters were more Other, like, superheroes as a whole different breed, whereas Marvel characters were more like people who had to deal with superpowers on top of being people, that's all. And that's KIND of what the guy on Twitter was saying, some more HERO, some more SUPER, but on the other hand...

...How do I put this? He was referring more to the purity of heroics vs. dark and edgy anti-heroes (which in the movie universe, Marvel and DC kind of flipped their old stereotypes haven't they? Deadpool doesn't count). But I prefer my superheroes somewhere in the middle. I prefer them not to be the infallible demigods but the regular people who happen to have superpowers instead. But on the other hand, I DO prefer those people to be heroic, not antiheroes (well, except sometimes). I want them to be faulty people who TRY. I want to see what a regular person would DO if they had more power than the average person, and I'd like to see them make the right choices. Because with Great Power, as the saying goes, comes Great Responsibility.

Which brings us back to Billy. When he was very young and training himself to be a superhero, he patterned himself after Superman. But the older he got, becoming an awkward, nerdy teenager (albeit one with superpowers), the more drawn to Spider-Man he became. Here was another nerdy kid trying to figure out how to manage his Great Power. Superman PRETENDED to be a nerd so people wouldn't notice he was actually an all-powerful alien. Peter Parker WAS a nerd. With spider powers. And that's why Billy found comfort in him as a teenager. He needed a role model he had a CHANCE of emulating.

So I take this argument kind of personally, on Billy's behalf. Heroes can be faulty and still have good intentions. Supers can have powers and still have problems. It's what you DO with what you've got that matters, whether your powers involve flight and telekinesis or whether they're just a bit more experience, a bit more money, or a bit more opportunity.

In conclusion... I guess I should keep holding out for a new story for Billy after all.

*Her name is Coriander Lemongrass and she's a Kender if the campaign has Kender but if not she's just an ordinary Hobbitty halfling, and her class also changes depending on the campaign-- right now she's a "thief" because that was the only appropriate class open to her in this campaign, but usually she's had some sort of magic, too-- bard seems to be the best fit. The best thing is, when I pulled her out and dusted her off for this current campaign, after YEARS, I looked up and said in shock, "You know what? Cori is totally Maddie. I CREATED MADDIE BEFORE SHE WAS BORN." 
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
1. I feel kind of guilty about expressing my discomfort with the We Need Diverse Books campaign in the past. I want to make it clear that my discomfort is COMPLETELY PERSONAL, not ideological. I never want to give anyone the impression that I think it's "reverse racism" or unfair to me as a really-boringly-undiverse writer in any way people have industry control over. IT'S NOT. IT'S COMPLETELY FAIR, AND AS A LIBRARIAN I AM ALL FOR IT. It's only me as a struggling writer with low self-esteem, every time I see it The Lone Power whispers in my ear "NOBODY NEEDS YOUR WRITING, YOU'RE BORING, GIVE UP TRYING TO WRITE NOW." And obviously, considering I'm attributing the voice to The Lone Power, I know it's wrong, I know it's a lie, but the part of me that knows this can't think of a good comeback. "I SO TOTALLY DO HAVE A UNIQUE VOICE AND AN OUTLOOK THAT NEEDS TO BE SHARED! I'M GOING TO WRITE...uh...okay I have no idea what I'm going to write." And the Lone Power goes "SEE?!" and I go waste my time reading TV recaps instead. So what I'm saying is DIVERSE BOOKS=GOOD. SUPPORT THEM. I DON'T WANT ANY SPECIAL TREATMENT FROM PUBLISHERS. I'M NOT AFRAID OF HAVING MY CHANCES TAKEN FROM ME BY PEOPLE WHO HAVE LESS REPRESENTED VOICES. I'm only afraid of having my chances taken from me by my own internal doubts.

2. ABC, you can't CANCEL Agent Carter. I'm not saying this as a rabid fan who doesn't personally WANT you to cancel Agent Carter. Well, I AM, but that's beside the point. No, it's just, and I've said this before, Agent Carter is a MINISERIES and theoretically you can bring it back at any time, stick it in anywhere you have a break. The word "cancel" is too FINAL for something so flexible. Just say, "Not in this next year, but hey, maybe some other time!" I mean it'll WORK, we've got YEARS to explore, with the exception offinding out what happened to Thompson

there's no reason we can't pop back into the history of proto-SHIELD several years later. Don't be all "CANCELLED" about it! Be "on indefinite hiatus!" COME ON, KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN!

3. Speaking of Marvel TV, Jason has decided he doesn't care about Agents of SHIELD anymore. Part of me's like, okay, I'm fine with that, I don't need to worry about making it to the TV every Tuesday at 9, I can watch on my own time the next afternoon or whatnot (I work Wednesday mornings), but another part of me is like YOU DON'T REALIZE WHAT A HUGE BLOW THIS IS TO OUR MARRIAGE. It was our DATE NIGHT. That's one of the few things we really enjoy doing together, watching superhero shows! And I have a feeling I want to see Civil War more than he does. Which if we could only get babysitting he'd be okay with, but his parents are in the middle of moving and my parents live farther away. Part of me's like, gee, I could totally go by myself some weekday afternoon, but then I'm like, "NO, AMY, THAT'S THE EQUIVALENT OF ADULTERY. Not just because your Imaginary Husband has a small part in it. IT WOULD BE SUCH AN UNCARING MOVE TO GO SEE A SUPERHERO MOVIE WITHOUT JASON." Seriously. There's more at stake here than watching a movie.

4. I'm kind of mentally cluttered at the moment. I've got gardening to catch up on, on account of being down with the flu all last week. I have a lot of GeekMom articles I want to work on, but I feel guilty sitting down to write long enough to do so. The house is, of course, a wreck. And I still have to feed three picky eaters and myself, which is still the bane of my existence. Sometimes I just want to shout "ENOUGH! FROM NOW ON I AM ONLY MAKING SALADS AND YOU WILL EAT IT OR YOU WILL MAKE YOUR OWN FOOD WITHOUT WHINING!" But I have a hard time cooking for myself.

5. Now I am running late for work, so bye. Excuse the lack of editing and links that I would have done had I had more time.

rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
So two of my favorite TV shows have been airing their miniseries this month-- one of which always HAS been a miniseries and is technically having its second season, the other of which is a miniseries for the first time and is back after over a decade. I was going to do a wrap-up review of both AFTER they'd both completely finished airing, but I'm exceedingly worried about the fate of the one that still has one episode to go so I'm hoping, perhaps, I can get all my multitudes of readers to marathon it and watch the last ep live in the next week so as to singlehandedly save the ratings situation. Every little bit helps, right?

(Any specific spoilers will be noted, but this will be more of a general review of things for the most part)(If you're reading this in Feedly which apparently several people do, I don't know whether the LiveJournal spoiler cuts will transfer over, so proceed with caution. I'm vague about the bigger bombshells, and the specifics aren't huge surprises or anything, so it shouldn't hurt TOO badly).

So, let's discuss the completed (HAH HAH) miniseries first. I only watched The X-Files sporadically back in the day when it was regularly on TV, then Jason and I marathoned it 9 years back or so and my love was more solidified (admittedly, not as HUGE of a fan as a lot of people I know-- not to obsession level-- but LOVE? I do love it). A miniseries seemed like an excellent idea for a revival-- many of my favorite shows ARE recurring miniseries, and I've mentioned what I love about that format before. I wasn't going to go into that all again, but one point is very relevant here: miniseries tend to be tighter, more consistently high-quality than regular television. Unfortunately, THAT was not the case with THIS miniseries-- "wildly inconsistent" would be my two-word review.

But, enjoyable as it was, the original X-Files was also scattered through with clunkers-and-the-entire-ninth-season. I still loved it. But when you have a six-episode miniseries (what's UP with that? Fargo has ten-episode seasons and that should be the final word. Granted, Sherlock has 3-episode seasons, but each episode is longer so that counts for...something?--it occurs to me I could probably write up the Holiday Special of that one, here, too. I might. I think it might happen organically) it sticks out more when half of them are clunkers. In this case, episodes 1, 5, and 6 were the clunkers. And 5 was one of those nonsensical-what-the-hey-did-I-just-watch clunkers that the series has a-plenty. 1 and 6-- possibly not coincidentally, the two parts of a two-parter-- were the two that just didn't sit right with me at all.

I figured out why as soon as I saw the previews for episode 2 at the end of episode one. In just a few clips, I felt like I was watching X-Files again, more than I had in the entire episode that had just ended. And it felt rather cruel of me, if I wasn't talking about a fictional character, but I realized the problem with that first ep (and again with the last) was depressed Mulder. I mean, storywise he had every right to be depressed in the first episode, and he spent most of the last gravely ill and injured and also-- this may be key-- separated from Scully. But that wasn't what I loved about the X-Files.

In the end I realized that it was THESE TWO SPECIFIC CHARACTERS that made this show for me. The X-Files has spawned so much great TV SciFi since. I can find conspiracies and crazy monsters and mysterious phenomena LOADS of places on TV-- Agents of SHIELD's got all that, if a little less scary-and-or-gory. But no other show has Mulder and Scully, these very complex and fully-alive characters with their perfect banter and chemistry. Many shows have tried to replicate that banter and chemistry but the fact is it's not going to be Mulder and Scully unless it actually IS Mulder and Scully. And in those moments of the episode 2 preview, I saw them again. The two of them, out Truth-seeking again, in their element. In episode 1 you had a kind of somber, slower, softer Scully, and even more glaringly, you had depressed, hopeless, disillusioned Mulder. Dangit the POINT of Mulder is his readiness to believe! I missed playful, determined, obsessed, and loving-every-minute-of-it Mulder. His JOY in discovering paranormal phenomena is what buoys this show along! In one moment of episode 1-- when he sees a replica of an alien spacecraft in action-- that old Mulder cracked through to the surface. But he was back to himself consistently for episodes 2-5, as was (possibly because of his being himself again?) Scully. And in those episodes I could sit through great writing (episode 3-- I know my online friend/biggest X-Files expert of them all, @easyqueenie, didn't like that one so much, but I thought it was brilliant) and terrible writing (ep 5, as mentioned), because I was hanging out with these two characters whom I loved so much I even managed to write a small and ridiculous piece of fanfiction about. I could roll with it. Whatever weirdness happened, they were still my two favorite FBI agents and I always enjoy their company. 1 and 6 just didn't feel that way, and that was the only time I really felt dissatisfied.

Feeling a little dissatisfied with the episode already probably made the ridiculous cliffhanger at the end of episode 6-- the LAST episode, remember-- a little easier to take. I'd never witnessed such a blatantly trolling move by a TV show before. Or, I thought, such a gutsy bid for another season: "You WILL give us more episodes or you will NEVER KNOW HOW THIS ALL WRAPS UP!" And the thing is, despite the unevenness of the writing and the expense and hard-to-get-hold-of-ness of the stars, they probably will. Because it's a big deal, dangit. It's the first thing that shows up when you go to the catch-up-on-TV Comcast page. And people watch it.

But meanwhile, over at ABC, it seems like nobody's watching television's greatest gift to humanity, Agent Carter, or more appropriately AGENT!CARTER! because I tend to get excited. And those who are-- well, I suppose most of us ARE just peachy with it, but there's a small contingency of reviewers and folks who are SO DISAPPOINTED with various aspects of this season that they keep writing "THIS IS WHY AGENT CARTER ISN'T WORKING" articles (two such from GeekMom people!). Never mind that this season has improved on many aspects of last season (and THAT season was amazing!), and blows The X-Files out of the water quality-wise (not just the new miniseries, but the bulk of the original episodes as well). It deserves way more positive attention than it's getting. I honestly cannot comprehend how low the ratings supposedly are. I said the same thing last year, but it bears repeating: if Agents of SHIELD can get decent ratings, why shouldn't Agent Carter get MORE? I LOVE Agents of SHIELD, it's my favorite current non-miniseries TV show, but it doesn't hold a candle to Agent Carter. Carter is clever, funny, and suspenseful all at once; it's got a premise even non-MCU fans like my mother can appreciate; it's gorgeous to look at both in the cinematography and the period costume/prop/set design (OMG I am still pining for Whitney Frost's purple coat/dress combo from the other night), and relatively universally cast-wise as well; and it's JUST GENERALLY AWESOME I'm out of specifics that fit in this sentence.

It's simply an awful lot of fun. When you get down to it, I just enjoy watching it. Much like those X-Files episodes where the leads AREN'T painfully depressing to watch, I'd follow it in whatever weird directions it might want to go. Which is why I really don't understand the criticisms. They tend to be minor nitpicks and personal preferences blown up into THIS IS GOING ALL DOWNHILL fatalism. It makes me wonder if people have gotten so used to looking for things to complain about in their media so they can write a Proper Critique of it online, that they've forgotten how to just ENJOY a show.

I mean, I'm not trying to claim that it's perfect. My biggest gripe with this season (though, remember, there's one episode left, it could blow up in my face then! But I doubt it) was that Jarvis was being used far too exclusively as comic relief in the first half of the season, which not only does a disservice to his character, but becomes extra jarring in the second half when he goes through a period of intense worry and anger which is just beautifully acted, but it would have been nicer if he hadn't been made a fool of too many times earlier in the season.

Otherwise there were moments here and there where I thought "well THAT was stupid" or winced from something that wasn't nice to see (that would be Whitney's Zero Matter mostly-- but obviously that's not a bad choice on the part of the creators, that's just gross), or where I really wasn't sure if I would like a direction the story was going in, but I went along for the ride, and always ended the evening satisfied-- okay, maybe "satisfied" is the wrong word when most of the time I found myself more and more anxious for the next Tuesday to arrive. And yeah, I was pretty freaked out for the week after episode seven, but that's just suspense. That's what a cliffhanger is SUPPOSED to feel like (and only last a week!).

I don't know if people are ALLOWING themselves to go along for the ride. Take, for example, your random musical dream sequence. (That spoiler title is actually longer than the spoiler it's hiding). It seems very much a matter of personal taste. But the reactions I've seen are either "That was the greatest scene ever and it elevated the rest of the episode, which was meh" or "That was an utter flop and totally wrong and it ruined the whole episode, nay, the whole SEASON." Seriously? There's no middle ground here? I was dubious about it, and storywise I think it was pretty pointless, but I, like I said, went along for the ride and enjoyed it for what it was, and in the end I WAS HAVING FUN AND THAT'S ALL THAT MATTERS.

People are also very opinionated about the romantic angles. Last year I said outright that the LACK of romance was one of my favorite things about the show. Yeah, it was. And apparently lots of other people felt the same way, because this year there IS a romantic subplot and suddenly people are all "YUCK GROSS WHY, YOU'VE RUINED IT, PEGGY DOESN'T NEED A MAN!" (with the occasional addition of "...unless it's Angie who isn't a man anyway"). And I'm sitting here gaping agog at these comments, wondering where this vitriol is coming from. I don't like (hot and heavy) romance! I loved last year's lack thereof! I might have chalked it up to my demisexuality, except that most of these people are far more sexual than I am, and yet I have no problem with this season's romantic subplot! Okay, ALMOST no problem, I'll get to that in a bit, but....
1. First of all, it's a subplot. SUBplot. It never overpowers the story proper. It never tries to be more important than SUPERVILLAINS PLOTTING WORLD DOMINATION. It reads, to me, as mere social entanglements that give the characterizations a little flavor, that's all. Nothing to make or break the show.
2. Second, I think personal bias about certain tropes has colored a lot of opinions. The mere existence of a LOVE TRIANGLE UGH causes people to rant about how awful that trope is and how it automatically brings the show down. LOOK, OKAY, maybe certain tropes are overused and often used poorly, but I've seen next to nothing of the faults that plague badly-shoehorned love triangles in this show, in practice. Peggy is SO NOT MOONING over two men, helplessly pondering which one might be her One True Love. In fact she's doing her darned best to IGNORE the situation, only rather angrily (although yes quite confused) discussing it once Jarvis pesters her into discussing it, and it takes being outright knocked out for her even to ponder it to herself subconsciously. Plus it's not a triangle. I wouldn't even call it a quadrilateral, even though it is, because that connotes, like, STRUCTURE. THIS is not a geometric shape, it's a long series of miscommunications and bad timings!
3. I also think people's own shipping preferences might have something to do with it? Note the "unless it's Angie"s. Or, whomever. I called it last year, I'm a Peg/Sousa shipper, and my ship is prominent among these entanglements-- in fact that oddly might be my only problem with the romantic subplot, because this year it's a LOT MORE OBVIOUS that Sousa IS the romantic endgame here, which perversely makes people who DON'T ship it angry that the showrunners are trying too hard to FORCE him on Peg, which makes me miss the days when I could say "See that guy? He's perfect for Peggy. I bet he's the one she eventually married," and it was a theory based on good judgment of character, not because THE WRITERS ARE TRYING TO SET IT UP AND UGH, THEY'RE WRONG. Which, no, YOU are wrong, Louise* Sousa-haters, HE IS SO PERFECT FOR HER, I think I explained why last year, not to mention gorgeous and apparently a very good singer. Anyway so I'm happy with the chances for my team, but other people like other matches better and suddenly it's the SHOW'S fault if the show doesn't agree?
4. Nobody's saying Peggy NEEDS a man. PEGGY sure isn't saying she needs a man. But it's already canon that she eventually does marry one, because she mentions him in Winter Soldier. So it's not like she's going to stay single forever, either. She's totally over Steve now, she can date whomever whenever she wants, and it will IN NO WAY WEAKEN HER FROM THE AWESOME CHARACTER THAT SHE IS.

Returning to the subject of tropes. OMG TROPES. These come up frequently in online critical discussion, but it's never about "How was this trope incorporated?" It's instead "THAT trope showed up. And THERE's an example of THAT trope. This show keeps using all these tired tropes!" GUYS, STOP. Stop trying to name tropes. Tropes are not automatically cliches that should be eliminated. Tropes are basic storytelling threads that show up again and again through the WHOLE COURSE OF HUMAN HISTORY (certain technological details excepted). It does not matter if a certain trope can be identified-- does it fit, organically, with this story? HOW does it fit? What do the writers, or actors, or set designers do to claim it as their own? What makes this piece of storytelling unique? Tell me that. Don't tell me it happens to HAVE a trope you don't like on principle.

It's like people are reviewing shows against an imaginary ideal in their head and getting mad when it doesn't meet those expectations.

To be honest, I realized my personal problem with this kind of criticism just about a year ago, when I read an article that pointed out that this grew out of lazy academic criticism. FLASH BACK to my second semester at college, when I went to my first English-major specific class, Literary Analysis. Guys, I SUCKED at it. Sure, I LOVE analyzing literature! I can do it nonstop! But apparently I was doing it WRONG. Lit Analysis was about looking at works through SPECIFIC LENSES, going in with a premade set of things to look for, and coming up with how that set matches up with the work, and then judging the entire work based only on those criteria. IT MADE NO SENSE to me. Why were we intentionally biasing what we said about a work in this way? Why couldn't the WORK ITSELF instead work on us, and then we could say how it managed what it did? These Lit Analysis methods seemed altogether BACKWARDS-- like telling a work "How well do you follow MY RULES?" instead of saying "Okay, art, what are you here to offer me?" My professor kept rolling her eyes at my idiocy and repeating the same seemingly nonsensical things over and over, certain that if she just said it again with MORE EMPHASIS I'd get it. But instead, I decided it was hogwash and changed my major to elementary ed, where our analysis of literature revolved around how well it worked for kids of various ages and abilities, which is much more the way I preferred to do it.

--anyway my point is, there's probably nothing wrong with the way other people critique shows, it just happens to be a way I find painfully antithetical to my own way. I AM SORRY, OTHER REVIEWERS. IT REALLY ISN'T YOUR FAULT. IT'S A WORLD VIEW PROBLEM. I cannot experience art by chopping it up and going at the pieces with a checklist. I don't like when the people who CAN AND DO insinuate that I'm wrong, so, defensively, I've been trying to turn the tables. Hypocritical, no?

But in defense of MY way, I think I get to enjoy myself more. I can experience the forest without harping on about how some of the trees are shaped. Remember my allusion up above to the Sherlock holiday special? MAN, that thing was WEIRD, and it had bits that weren't to my taste. But I utterly enjoyed watching it, 'cause I rolled with it. I decided to accept it as is and see what I got out of it, and I got a pleasant evening out of it that happened to include Martin Freeman doing narration, which is something I will always adore (not to mention, Martin Freeman as a WHOLE, but his doing narration is a thing that always sticks out for me). I'm not always going to enjoy myself with the roll-with-it technique. There will always be shows that turn out to have nothing good to offer me in the end. But at least I didn't go in with a checklist.

Okay, some final Agent Carter reactions: Speaking of rolling with it, when I heard Mrs. Jarvis would actually be IN THE PICTURE this season, I wasn't sure what to think. It was sort of a running gag that you never saw her before. But hey, roll with it, and of course she's wonderful. And what's up with all these villains you can't help but sort of root for? Dottie is so much fun in her sociopathic way, and Whitney Frost, I don't know, but I find I'm loving her more, too, the more horrible she gets. Shout out to the minor characters who are awesome, like Rose, or awesomely annoying, like Samberley. OH GOSH SAMBERLEY-- it's kind of fun having someone who is neither evil nor just a typical bigoted 40s white guy who is nonetheless completely unlikeable. And just because I'm a Sousa fangirl doesn't mean I dislike Jason Wilkes, he's quite charming when he isn't being completely messed up by Dark Matter. Actually the only bad thing about him is that, whenever anyone calls him "Jason," MY Jason ALWAYS feels the need to say "Yes?" and that does get irritating after awhile. And Jack Thompson. Dude. Why do I get the feeling you're going to be part of the reason Hydra ends up building itself into SHIELD from the beginning? I'm onto you and your ambitious ways, Thompson!

EDIT! I need to include my thoughts post-finale! The only part of what I said before that has been really changed by the last episode was, of course, JACK. OMG. The guy's a jerk, but he can't end this way! WHICH FURTHER NECESSITATES A THIRD SEASON! I need either closure or reprieve. Granted, I've seen at least one of the showrunners, in at least two different places, stress the ambiguity of his fate, just short of yelling "HE'S NOT DEAD!" at us. If he IS dead, I guess he doesn't have any hand in the Hydra infiltration. If he's not, the possibility still stands. But I'm glad he really does seem to respect Peggy now. The scene with the dinner orders was just THE BEST. And kind of heartrending in retrospect-- it's kind of foreshadowing, because his relationship with Peggy came so beautifully full-circle, it's like, should have known that'd be the end of him, we just totally closed an arc there! But it was awesome.
Also, I want Whitney's purple dress in THAT episode, too.
Also, I am so gloating about my ship, guys. Look, it's not even that I was THAT PASSIONATE a shipper. My favorite ship of the MCU is still the ill-fated half-season-long Coulson/Rosalind deal because I'm just weird that way. But there are still so many people that DO NOT APPRECIATE SOUSA PROPERLY that I just feel compelled to be all fist-pumpy in-yo'-face about that freakin' intense kissin' they had going on there. I CALLED IT GUYS AND IT'S CANON WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT.
ANYHOO. GIVE ME SEASON THREE OR I WON'T BE ABLE TO LIVE. Well, perfectly happily anyway.

In short, DO AS PEGGY SAYS. Or, support Agent Carter because it's way too good to get brushed away.

I think that's all I have to say. If not, question me about my omissions in the comments and I'll expound upon them there.

*Teasing. I'm only name-checking the one Sousa-...-disliker I can argue with in complete confidence that it's all friendly on both sides!
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
The Internet is very emotional today, which has made it hard to focus. Sure, I like both David Bowie and Alan Rickman a whole lot (and the former was JUST singing on my computer again a few minutes ago). But they don't hit a nerve quite as much as this NEW Star-Wars-Intersecting-With-My-Personal-Life post I wrote that just went up on GeekMom today,* and even that one hit the emotional wayside when I read my dearest friend Angie's post reflecting on the bullying she suffered in high school and how it's affected her since, because, I mean I can't remotely claim that her being bullied hurt me just as much, but it DID make me ragingly angry and determined to be an anti-bully a billion times more strongly than my OWN having-been-bullied had made me. If that sentence construction makes any sense whatsoever. So I've been like PEOPLE EVERYBODY JUST READ ANGIE'S POST and all emotionally-charged all day.

But basically it's been distracting me from something that's been bugging me for...months, really. I first thought I'd write about it, and my misgivings, last summer, but never got around to it. Then in the fall, I wanted to write about it again, but other topics got in the way. But now, while other topics are still getting in the way, I keep seeing reminders, and I know I've got to get it off my chest through more than just a long comment on The Mary Sue.

I don't know if you know this... no, I'm pretty sure you know it-- Exhibit A, B, and the number 3, as well as this blatant one: it's been my lifelong dream to work on Sesame Street? Okay, by "lifelong" I mean "since 11th grade," since before then I was actually kind of scared of Sesame Street. Don't ask.

But no, when I was far out of the target audience, I became obsessed with this show. It started with a research paper. When I was trying to come up with a topic for my next paper in my high school research writing class, a vision of Cookie Monster flashed through my head, and I wondered what I could do with the topic of Sesame Street. "What effects, if any, did Sesame Street have on early childhood education?" was the question I finally went with.

And boy, were there answers. I didn't know that kindergarten didn't used to be mandatory, and that what kindergarten classes existed were more like day cares. Kindergarten and preschool curricula directly changed as a result of kids learning from Sesame Street, and more and more preschools opened. Here, if you're curious, I've found and scanned my whole report-- it seems to be a next-to-last draft, with some editing notes and a couple unrelated reminders written in the margins-- and keep in mind it's written by a(n admittedly advanced) seventeen-year-old, but it's still full of interesting information and anyone who wants to double-check the facts can find even more in the "Works Cited" section. So if you want the nitty-gritty details, there you go and I'll get on with this post.

So, as other adults who didn't even watch the show complained that it "wasn't what it used to be," I rolled my eyes. No, Cookie Monster did NOT turn into a Veggie Monster. Yes, Elmo is annoying, but he wasn't the whole show: he co-opted the last twenty minutes for "Elmo's World" which was deliberately targeted at a younger audience than the rest of the show, because the heavy research indicated that the preschool-and-up audience tended to wander away by then and only the toddlers kept watching. I knew the show only made changes that they'd thoroughly researched, and I trusted it. And when my own kids started watching I was not disappointed. There was just that one falter, when Kevin Clash broke my heart, and I didn't blame the show for that, just him, like, DUDE, I totally dreamed of working for you, how could you?!

And then, last summer, they're handed off to HBO. "It's fine!" they assured us. "This gives us the funding to continue doing what we do! The new episodes will FIRST be aired on HBO, but after a 9-month hold, PBS will get them, too!"

Okay then. I'm willing to reserve judgement, because as long as the same people are putting it together and as long as PBS still gets the episodes EVENTUALLY (it's not like there's much of a timeliness issue involved), everything should be just fine! Except it just FELT wrong. The show was founded SPECIFICALLY to give a leg up to underprivileged kids. That wasn't an afterthought, or some kind of politically-correct posturing; that was the BASIC MISSION of the show. I was reading Street Gang at the time, and that point was made over and over. It was for underprivileged kids. Other kids could benefit from it, too, but that wasn't the point. So to have the show belong exclusively--even if only for 9 months-- to a premium cable channel that, heck, my family doesn't even have, let alone underprivileged kids? Just seemed... off.

But then, within a month, two of the most involved and longest-running writer-performers on the show, Joey Mazzarino (head writer behind the scenes, Murray and Baby Bear and a slew of other Muppets, um, UNDER the scenes) and Sonia Manzano (writer behind the scenes since the 80s, Maria on the Street since 1971) announced they were leaving. Could have been coincidence. Manzano is not only technically "retirement age," but her writing career has been taking off in the past couple of years so she's got plenty to occupy herself. Still, the timing felt... ominous. It didn't help when I found out one of my fellow new GeekMom writers had been a producer on Sesame Street until relatively recently. I was like "SQUEEEEEE HOW DID YOU NOT MENTION THAT OUTRIGHT, HOW WERE YOU NOT BRAGGING THAT EVERY CHANCE YOU GOT?!" but she seemed hesitant to talk about it...and that made me worry....

So now Sesame Street's first episode on HBO is Saturday. The New York Times covered the changes you'll see pretty objectively. The Mary Sue read it and had a few more questions. Vulture just jumped right into digging up the dirt, revealing, sadly, that Joey Mazzarino's departure was, indeed, not a coincidence (though apparently I'm a bad fan because I didn't follow him on Facebook so as to know this already. Hey, I DO follow Sonia Manzano on Twitter though and during the last Olympics we totally had a conversation about the gymnasts. I TOTALLY DID HAVE A TWITTER CONVERSATION WITH MARIA GUYS IT WAS AWESOME. *ahem*). And I managed to piece my thoughts together on the subject at last.

I don't like it. MAYBE it'll be fine, sure, MOST of the creative team is the same, and they're still relying on research, but it feels like they've relied on that research to sanitize it, make it safe for middle-class America, just like every other preschool show, instead of being that one safe-yet-familiar haven for lower-class kids. It's not like middle-class kids COULDN'T enjoy the show, even if its imperfect setting might have made them, God forbid, uncomfortable. But middle-class kids have ALL the shows, and THIS show was DESIGNED FROM THE START to be FOR the poor kids. It's like YA literature-- it's FOR TEENS. Lots of adults love it too and that's fine, I'm one of them, but it's FOR teens. Start writing it for the adults who love it instead of for the teens, and is it really YA anymore?

I think the real test is, though, not so much what the show is now, but what Sesame Workshop continues to do BESIDES the show. Will they continue to produce the show in other countries, countries where literacy definitely could use a boost? Will they continue to address just the right issues specific to each of those places? More importantly, will they continue to reach out to the underprivileged here in the U.S. with auxiliary programs like the ones they have for children with parents in the military or in prison? Will they serve the non-HBO-accessing kids through their outreach? Will they remember why this organization was created in the first place?

I wanted to work for them not just because the show is clever and has Muppets. I wanted to work for them because they made a real positive difference in the world. They weren't just any old preschool show.

But I realized recently that, whatever some TV-based organization in NYC is doing, I'm actually addressing the same goals right here, in my own little part of the world. I'm bringing literacy to underprivileged kids all the time. I bring them worlds in bags of books. I'm a public children's librarian and I'm proud of my job. Maybe I don't need to work for Sesame Street to be inspired to take up its original cause.

---
*Relatedly, every year I react to the Youth Media Awards on this blog (one year it was even on video), and no one ever seems to care one way or another. Well, THIS year I posted my reaction post on GeekMom, and still no one cares, but on the off-chance you ARE wondering where my reaction post has gone this year, here it is.
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
This format worked really nicely last year, so I'll stick to something of the same:
Long and Full of Pictures )

When I was talking about the GeekMom thing with some relatives on Christmas Eve, I said kind of bashfully that I shouldn't let my writing confidence be affected so much by how many people read and respond, because writers write even if only for themselves, but a couple of them said, No, it makes sense, because while that might be so, a written work technically isn't complete until it has an audience, because it TAKES A READER. So please, indulge me, and chime in in the comments with your opinions on any or all of the things discussed here, because I like being heard!
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
Well, after a day and a half or two do you have any idea how long it took me to finally finish typing this up?!?!-- well, I STARTED typing after a day or two of severe stomach issues, when I finally felt comfortable enough to sit at my computer long enough to type,* which is about time, because my brain was all like "I need to type up these reviews! I can't start the next book until I type these up!" Which is kind of amazing when you know how much trouble I've had SITTING DOWN TO RELAX WITH A BOOK over the past 5 years. I think the key factor in this is Diana Wynne Jones. Because if anybody can capture my attention, she can. And it so happens to be #DWJMarch again over with Kristen M, so I said, "Okay, going to finally read Islands of Chaldea, then," which turns out to be an Official Read-along book, and then I ILL'd another of the official read-alouds, The Spellcoats, which I actually turned out to have won my own copy of yesterday. But meanwhile the ILL copy is here, and I've been sick, and reading is such a nice thing to do when you can't sit up. But I didn't want to confuse myself with having too many different DWJ stories floating in my head at once before I wrote out a response!

So first I'll discuss Islands of Chaldea so that all you folks only interested in #dwjmarch can cut out on me right after, but then there's a couple other stories (both paper and film) I've wanted to respond to on here, too, so I'll get to those after.

The Islands of Chaldea, by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones

This is the book she was working on when she died, leaving it unfinished; and, according to her sister's afterword, everyone sat around like "BUT WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? HOW WILL WE EVER KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?" until they finally decided they'd have to write the end themselves. So the task went to her sister Ursula, who did a decent job, and you can't pinpoint exactly where she picked the story up. But to be honest? There IS a subtle difference between the first part of the book and the last. The characters and settings and details are just so much more VIVID earlier on. No offense to Ursula Jones, because the last part of the book was perfectly fine, even good, but who CAN compare to her sister Diana when it comes to making a story spring vividly to life?

It's a pretty basic fantasy-adventure, made special thanks to DWJ's way with details. Our herione, Aileen, is a Wise Woman in training who thinks she failed her initiation, but before she can worry too much about that, she's swept up on a quest to rescue a kidnapped prince from beyond a magical barrier, which can only be breached with the help of a few special folks from each island of Chaldea. But the characters jump out at you with only a few words of introduction, and their adventures are never straightforward.

The titular islands are basically your typical quasi-medieval British Isles, except perhaps more so: Skarr, the heroine's home island, is clearly this world's Scotland, and the next stop on this island-hopping adventure, Bernica, clearly stands in for Ireland. But I'm not sure about the final two islands, not knowing enough about Wales I suppose to tell if: a) the third island, Gallis, is meant to represent Wales, while the final, magically-barriered island Logra is England; or if b) Gallis is meant to represent Wales AND England while Logra is, say France (because sometimes it seems like Chaldea refers only to the first three islands and Logra is something separate, besides the fact that there's literally a magical barrier separating it from the others); or if c) Gallis is where Ursula picked up the story and she decided to veer away from the overt British Isles parallels entirely.

Actually, I'm pretty sure Ursula DOES pick up the story somewhere in Gallis. That's about when the details and new characters stop feeling QUITE as vivid as they did on the first two islands. Also I somehow feel like Diana would have thrown a lot more complications at her characters before the end!

But I didn't actually notice the break while reading, I just kept enjoying it to the end. The ending DID feel a little rushed and haphazard, but that's a pretty common fault I find with DWJ's books (as much as I can find faults!) so it's only fitting.** But I'm overcome with wondering where the story would really have gone, had Diana finished it. As I said, I'm SURE there would have been more complications. And who can imagine how SHE intended the characters to breach the barrier. Or what secret conspiracies were really in place. Or what if this is yet another of her stories that involve parallel universes and Gallis DOES parallel Wales and in fact they were going to meet Howl and Sophie in Gallis because only their magic/world-hopping knowledge could take down the barrier?!?!?! But WE CAN'T KNOW, SO WE'RE JUST GOING TO HAVE TO LIVE WITH IT.

And that's really all I have to say about that one. I recommend it for any light-hearted high fantasy lover, and certainly any DWJ fan. It's not her most memorable work, but definitely is a pleasant, fun read. As long as you don't get too hung up grieving over how you'll never know what was REALLY supposed to happen.

So now it's time to discuss a completely different, but excellent, middle grade book:

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander

Remember how I said, in my Youth Media Awards*** roundup, that I COULD probably read the Newbery winners I hadn't read (I mean, THIS year's, not ALL of them) in no time flat? That was totally true, because I read The Crossover at work, in bits and pieces, picking it up here and there and only putting it down when I realized I had other things I was SUPPOSED to be working on. Because it was easy to get sucked into, and that might be what's so brilliant about it.

And I feel like talking about this book BECAUSE the brilliance may appear deceptive, at first glance. You have a narrator with a very strong voice, and that voice is a 13-year-old boy who likes to rap and is obsessed with basketball (granted, he's very GOOD at basketball, too). It doesn't SOUND like a stodgy and-incidentally-white academic's definition of "distinguished." But to be prejudiced by that is like believing an easy reader must be equally easy to WRITE (SPOILERS: IT ISN'T). First, it HAS a strong voice-- a strong, consistent voice. You believe this is Josh's story, that this is how Josh tells his story, that he thinks in poetry and basketball terminology. And yes, it's written in verse, which just highlights how carefully each bit of character development and each bit of foreshadowing is woven in-- a lot is said in just a few perfect words. And it grabs you emotionally before you even realize it, and you're aching with Josh as he and his twin brother are growing apart and their dad's health is taking a downturn, and you forget that, at the beginning, this SEEMED to be just a book about a kid who loves basketball.

I have absolutely no interest in basketball, but this book still grabbed me. But what really tickles me is the thought that a sports-lover who's a reluctant reader WILL want to pick up this book, and WILL get sucked in, and before they know it they'll have EXPERIENCED LITERATURE. HAH! And I'm really glad to see that trick recognized with an award for distinguished writing, because that's an important and underappreciated trick-- to be able to write so reluctant readers can get lost in the story. AND heavily-experienced readers can appreciate it just as much? That's a super-distinguished book, thanks. Big kudos, Mr. Alexander!

Moving on to Television, let's talk Agent Carter:

Announcing my favorite TV of 2015 already! Like I did with Fargo last year, I've saved this announcement until it's all over so you can (if you've missed it) go marathon the whole thing! Or I saved it until the end because I didn't realize exactly how badly I wanted to gush about it until it was over. Honestly, I prefer the miniseries format of storytelling-- or the BBC short-season (series) format for returning series, you know, like Sherlock. You can get the intensity, the solid arc-building, and the general quality of a movie with MORE TIME TO GET INTO IT ALL. And then you've got a complete whole there that you CAN marathon, as opposed to the average TV show which goes on and on indefinitely unless it gets cancelled, so you either are left unsatisfied because it ended with too many loose ends hanging OR it goes on and on and on and STILL doesn't feel like a complete whole. I like getting a story I can take as a whole-- but if I get another season about the same characters with a NEW story arc, I certainly won't complain.

So, while Agents of SHIELD was on winter hiatus, Marvel/ABC decided to fill the gap with an 8-episode miniseries about the woman primarily known as Captain America's Girlfriend but more PROPERLY known as one of the founders of SHIELD, Peggy Carter. Now, I love
Agents of SHIELD, and I was on edge at the end of the midseason finale, unwilling to wait two months to find out how things turned out, but now that it's back I'm kind of worried, because it just cannot live up to the complete awesomeness that was Agent Carter.****

This was a show that even LOOKED gorgeous. The colors, the lighting, the cinematography, the 1940s costumes and props and sets, all added up to something that felt slightly noir and yet very true to its comic book roots. It felt like a movie, which is something else you can do with a miniseries I guess, though "it felt like a movie" was my exact reaction to the first episode of The X-Files I ever saw years ago, too, so it's about something more than brevity. Anyway, you need substance to make style worth anything, and luckily Agent Carter had that, too.

The writing is funny and exciting and twisty and basically everything you could ask for in a historical espionage adventure with occasional sci-fi elements. And the character development is so smooth and well-rounded: EVERYONE is deeper than they first appear, everyone has both strengths and faults, even the most awful people sometimes inspire sympathy and the best people sometimes make you angry. Peggy herself is a fabulous heroine-- brilliant, funny, tough, yet sensitive, able to stand with (and exceed) the Men yet feminine, both a product of and ahead of her time, having epiphanies and making mistakes, thoughtful and sometimes rash. In other words, a fully-realized character rather than a Type, heroic and human at once. And her actress, Hayley Atwell, is absolutely brilliant at conveying ALL of it. I hope they recognize her come Emmy-time and don't overlook her out of anti-comic-book snobbery-- but the miniseries category pool is relatively small, she might have a chance.

And then when you TAKE a bunch of fully-realized characters, played well, and throw them together, you get brilliant chemistry, too. The chemistry is electric, complex, and refreshingly almost entirely not romantic (and the very small hints of romance are ENTIRELY complicated by the plot to the point that the farthest it ever gets is a turned-down asking-out-for-drinks at the very end-- but to be honest, I still ship it). See, Peggy's last boyfriend's airplane just went down in the ocean not too long ago, so she's not INTERESTED in romance at this point in time-- so it doesn't have to get in the way of the story! And for future reference-- you know I just possibly confusingly said "I still ship it" in the last parenthesis?-- yes, I totally ship Peggy with Agent Sousa, her cute sweet smart noble amputee-vet coworker with a crush on her, but SHOULD they ever get together, the romance shouldn't dominate then, either-- it shouldn't be one of those things where the couple is constantly BANTERING and having PASSION. Sousa's more of a steady rock type. Peggy gets to BANTER with everyone ELSE. Like her partner in crime/or anti-crime/or whatever, Jarvis, Howard Stark's loyal butler, who is happily married-- their totally-platonic chemistry is an absolute delight. I know, when characters have delightful chemistry, people want to ship them, and Jarvis is awesome and adorable and I go back and forth on whether I have more of a crush on him or Sousa*****, but in this case I cannot see anything other than a beautiful bantery friendship and it's so REFRESHING that way! And then you get Peggy and HOWARD, who is in fact a deplorable womanizer, but she won't stand for that and he respects her too much to resent her not standing for that, so you even have this wonderful bantery yet-totally-platonic friendship with a guy who tends to be anything BUT platonic. With all this platonic female-male interaction it's almost no wonder that a lot of people DO ship Peggy with her best girl friend, Angie, to which I say, hah, go nuts you crazy kids, but to me that's just yet another refreshingly platonic relationship. Angie serves as Peggy's link to "normal" life. She's a grounding character.

Anyway, people are all freaking out that the ratings weren't good enough to be renewed, but I don't really understand this. First, I don't really get how it could possibly have worse ratings than Agents of SHIELD, because I don't understand why everyone who watched that wouldn't also watch this, BUT Agent Carter is the sort of show that could attract people who not only gave up on AoS, but also people who normally don't have any interest in comic-book properties, because there's something just more mainstream about historical spy hijinks as opposed to superhero stories. Don't ask me why that is, but it is. As is, my mom watched and loved Agent Carter and the rest of the Marvel Universe loses her. Apparently the actual numbers don't support my theory, but I think I SHOULD be right. Never mind, my next theory IS evidence-based: Marvel and ABC are BOTH Disney companies, so it's all internal maneuvering, not some plucky outside talent begging the network to give them another chance. If they want to make more, they'll BROADCAST more. Agents of SHIELD keeps getting renewed even when ratings say it shouldn't. Thirdly, it's a SELF-CONTAINED MINISERIES. It's not like a show that can get CANCELLED or RENEWED. They can just make ANOTHER miniseries at any other time and show it again, whether during next year's AoS break or a few years down the line, like a BBC show. And sure, great ratings would make the network more LIKELY to buy another miniseries, but so will a devoted fan base, a lot of after-the-fact streaming or DVD buying, or future Marvel movie tie-in opportunities. Which I think this show is very likely to get if it doesn't have it already. There are so many individual opportunities for self-contained stories about the early days of SHIELD, and I will be thrilled to see Agent Carter tackle them at whatever schedule of recurring mini-series it's able to pull off. AND IT WILL.

SO I think it's about time I posted this, considering I've finally managed to type it. Seek these recommendations out! Enjoy them! Tell me about them in the comments! (Have I mentioned lately that I really like comments? I do. They let me know you're listening. Don't be shy!)

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A Large Mass of Footnotes:

*A story of fun times with stomach viruses! I wake up Sunday morning with a sharp pain in my abdomen, and moments later the boy bursts in to announce that his sister has thrown up FIVE TIMES all over his room-- including a rather impressive projectile-spraying of four feet of doorjamb. By the time I get that cleaned up, I'm feeling sick, too, but is it merely sympathetic or am I likewise contaminated? Clearly, it is the latter. Anyway, I finally feel like sitting upright long enough to start typing this monday evening, a time I normally should be at work, but that's not happening. Tuesday on the other hand, I and everyone else feels okay enough for work/school/whatever, which means I don't have all that much time for typing. Wednesday morning at 3 AM the boy joins the throwing up party. But that morning his sister is acting funny, too: "My HEART HURTS, Mommy, it's beating too fast, and my legs don't work," and she's drowsy and falling asleep where she sits. Aware that she did NOT take in enough fluids during her illness, I suspect dehydration and call the doctor, who-- well, the triage nurse-- suspects the same and says YOU MUST GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM IMMEDIATELY, so I bundle up two sicky kids, including one who is still clutching the throw-up-bucket to his chest, and off we go. But by the time we get there, the girl has perked up, and her brother looks like death, so I take them up to the check in desk and point to the one that's bouncing around and say "Believe it or not, we're here for that one," and she explains to the emergency room doctor that she DID feel sick this morning but now just her knee hurts, while meanwhile her brother is nearly passed out on my lap. The doctor grins and says it probably WAS a little bit of dehydration but not enough to worry about now, so let's get the BOY home and everyone get plenty of fluids. She also writes a prescription for an anti-nausea med, technically in Maddie's name because she's the patient, but she (the doctor) says, "it's actually for HIM-- or anyone else in the family who comes down with it." By the time we're done it's too late for Maddie to go to school, so they're both home the rest of the day, and Sam goes to bed early with a mild fever. I figure he won't go to school today, too. But then school gets cancelled anyway. So here we are.

**SPOILERS: My only real disappointment with the ending is that Aileen's reunion with her father seemed completely glossed over. You'd think it would have a LITTLE more affect on, if not the plot, at least the character development, but besides the initial embarrassed recognition, he could have been any other rescued kidnappee.

***Random thing I just noticed today: YMA is my name backwards. ALL THE MORE REASON TO LOVE THEM.

****Having seen the new AoS since I started typing this, I'm pleased to report that I can enjoy it just fine after all, thanks. Agent Carter is in another league entirely, sure, but that doesn't make AoS NOT fun as its own thing. And I love Fitz so much, so there.

*****It's funny, one of accusations lobbied against "Fake Geek Girls" is they only know Marvel characters from the movies and they only LOVE the movies because they have crushes on the guys in them, but for all the Tumblrs devoted to Tony Stark and Thor and Loki and Captain America, Agent Carter is probably the FIRST Marvel show where I'VE crushed on anybody (except maybe a little bit on Cap because he's so noble-- Peggy and I share taste; and possibly James McAvoy as young Charles Xavier, if you count all Marvel CHARACTERS even if it's not technically Marvel MOVIES, and that's basically just because James McAvoy is a beautiful, beautiful man anyway), and it's given me TWO somebodies to crush on. Heh. BUT, yes, I do admit that I am a huge fan of Marvel movies, but I don't know squat about the comics. But this is only because I don't really like long-form panel-based reading, not because I'm not truly interested! I've actually always fallen on the Marvel end of the Marvel-vs-DC argument, mostly because I DID follow the Spider-man comic in the NEWSPAPER, oh, and I watched the Spider-man cartoon too that Stan Lee always introduced in voiceover, which absolutely fascinated me (who WAS this Stan Lee guy? Wait, he INVENTED Spider-man? And he's talking on the CARTOON? COOL!), so Spider-man was always my favorite superhero, and I watched other Marvel cartoons too. Then again, I also watched Batman, but still, I liked the Marvel characters more. I always found them more nuanced and interesting.
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Back in the day I could write an entire post JUST ABOUT THE BOOKS of the year. Not happening anymore. But I can write about the WHOLE year in small Top FIVE lists, so I'll do that instead:

Top 5 Real Life Things That Happened. In My Life. Not The Outside World. You Can Go Read About the Outside World Anywhere Else

1. A tree fell on our house. This isn't exactly a TOP thing that happened, as in "Best," but it was certainly the BIGGEST thing that happened, and we did end up with all new roof and siding, which insurance covered MOST of, though paying the difference did knock out our budget for the rest of the year. But now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's move onto the actual GOOD stuff:
2. Seeing FREAKIN' SIR PAUL FREAKIN' MCCARTNEY IN FREAKIN' CONCERT, FINALLY! Just read the post if you don't understand.
3. I actually managed to complete an entire draft of an early-chapter-book. Granted, I haven't managed to get around to REVISING it yet. At all. But it's better than I've done in a long time.
4. I successfully Outreached to loads of small children, who excitedly pointed me out to their parents in public while squealing about the "library lady" and lots of their favorite stories. This is the best kind of famous, you know. If I'm going to be accosted by fans every time I go out in public, I much prefer to be hugged around the knees by a three-year-old than shoved about by paparazzi.
5. My son brought home a couple of guppies from the class fish tank on his last day of first grade. I never expected them to last as long as they did, but now they are officially our first family pets. Actually, one of them died a couple months in, but the other one turned out to be pregnant, and gave birth to eleven more. She ate all but one of these. The survivor got by on her (we think it's another her) speed, so earned the name Zippy. Her mother never actually got a name, so is now Mama Fish. We also have two snails now. One is growing. We think it might turn into a monster and take over the tank.

Top 5 Presents I Got For Christmas

1. A New Dishwasher. Our old dishwasher sprung a major leak that we weren't able to fix, and it never cleaned very well anyway, so our two sets of parents went in together to get us a new one. It's AMAZING. It makes things not only CLEAN, but SHINY! And it does so QUIETLY, and WHILE KEEPING ALL THE WATER INSIDE IT!
2. A Good Set of Kitchen Knives. While we were camping this summer, I went to chop up a potato only to realize I hadn't brought a knife, so J whipped out his hunting knife, and WOW could that thing slice. "It's not because it's a hunting knife," he said, "it's just because you're used to using those crappy knives that won't hold an edge." "Oh," I said. But this exchange inspired him, and he bought a set of GOOD kitchen knives actually made by the same company that made his hunting knife. THEY CUT WITHOUT YOU HAVING TO PUT PRESSURE ON THEM. Which means I really have to watch my aim.
3. A bunch of other kitchen supplies I never would have suspected, back in the day, would one day make me so excited to get. I got a big tub of storage containers, a couple of chopping boards, and a new spoon spatula. Granted, I bought that spoon spatula for myself and just stuck it in my stocking, but it was still exciting.
4. This scarf. Appropriate, no? Also a much cheaper leopard-print scarf from Old Navy that EVERYONE got-- okay, at least four people in my extended family-- so now we might start a cult.
5. My sister saved the day and got me Desolation of Smaug, because for some reason Jason didn't. Actually he didn't get a single thing off of my wish list. For me. I've had the complete set of Animaniacs on there for years, so he did get that, but he gave it to Maddie, our own Dot Warner. That was actually a very appropriate move on his part, though.

Top 5 Presents I Gave Other People For Christmas

1. My daughter wanted an Ariel costume. I looked it up: all the Officially Licensed costumes kind of sucked, so I decided to make one myself (note: sometime in October I also got a new sewing machine on account of my old one kind of breaking beyond repair. I thought of considering THIS a Christmas present, but Jason said, no, you just need a new sewing machine, you can have OTHER presents!) I found THE most PERFECT fabric at Jo-Ann's, so LOOK:
SAM_0538 I did not make the wig, though.
2. Also for Maddie: her artistic expression CANNOT be hemmed in by silly things like Personal Property. Not only does she draw in my journals, she's also always absconding with my camera to take pictures and video. Well, among Amazon's Cyber-Monday deals I spotted it: a kids' camera/camcorder. With Hello Kitty on it. For thirty bucks. It was MEANT TO BE.
3. The boy needed pajamas, and I found a pattern for boys' pajamas in his size among my grandmother-in-law's sewing stuffs, so I bought some appropriate fabric along with the mermaid fabric. Well, almost appropriate. It's a train print, and trains are still Sam's Favorite Thing Ever, but I didn't know if it was SLIGHTLY babyish for an almost-8-yo? But it was the most insanely soft material, so I figured, eh, he's just wearing it to bed, anyway. Then, the last day of school before break, they had Pajama Day. "Okay, Sam, I'm going to give you a present early, just in case you might want to use it tomorrow. But I won't be offended if you don't." Well, he did. He's pretty much been living in those pajamas ever since. He's only put on clothes when we've had to go someplace.
SAM_0536
4. In other things I sewed, I also found some insanely soft fleece, so made some cute sweatshirts. I'd tried making a sweatshirt for my brother last year but made it too small, so this year I tried again: SAM_0511
I was so paranoid about making the KIDS' too small that I actually made them too big, SAM_0542 but they'll grow.
5. I got J an Agents of SHIELD (see below for more) wallet as a sort of joke, because we started playing a SHIELD RPG campaign and I said this way he has proper identification. He loved it way more than I expected him to.

One Present Other People Gave Other People That Is Notable
A funny thing happened to presents people bought for Jason this year: they kept getting lost in the mail. Actually, ONE of those incidents turned out to be a misunderstanding: his sister, who lives in Spain, had bought him something and shipped it here under my name, but this happened to be one of the things I'd strongly considered getting him myself, to the point that I FORGOT I hadn't actually purchased it even though I bought something ELSE to go along WITH it, so when the thing from his sister arrived I thought I'D ordered it even though it came way before everything else in the order, so I wrapped it up for Santa, and... anyway, that's where that confusion came from. My sister ordered him a few things that never showed up, as well, and printed him a copy of the order which she stuck on a pack of beer. He would have been happy with the beer. My brother had bought each of us these little figure thingies to go with our Wii U which we don't actually understand yet, but for some reason only Jason's, again, didn't show up. So my brother called and asked if I thought it would be all right if he gave Jason something he'd originally bought for himself, only to decide he didn't really want it after all. "Does he like Back to the Future?" he asked me. "Uh, yeah, but... okay, whatever you want to do, Dan." So he ended up giving J this model DeLorean. Of the time-machine variety. And it's really detailed and awesome and kind of insane of my brother to buy only to decide he didn't want it and yet NOT send it back for a refund. BUT it came with a card with information about the real DeLorean Motor Company, which Jason looked up, and contrary to popular belief it actually IS still in existence, and now he won't stop talking about how he wants a real DeLorean. So the substituted gift was actually WAY more appreciated than the intended gift, in the end.

Top 5 Programs I Did At The Library
Because it's my calling and junk.
1.The Beatles Family Night!
2. Marble run!
3.The Spontaneous Time-Travel Program
4. Magic-- as detailed a bit toward the end of this post, because it impressed people, had a good turnout, and everyone learned something, so yay.
5. Rory's Story Cubes-- that wasn't the name of the program. It was just one of the Grimm brothers' birthdays, so I decided to do a storytelling theme for Library Explorers. And we'd been kicked out of our usual room for a special event, so we didn't have much space, so I grabbed these cubes I had never before actually tried, to see what we could make of them, making up stories in a circle. And they were such a huge hit I needed to write down what they were called for all the grownups there, who wanted to buy their own sets.
Bonus: Chocolate Covered Anything Day. There wasn't really anything all that creative about it as a program, and I didn't have any great tie-in books or stories, but WE GOT TO DIP THINGS IN CHOCOLATE, so surely this belongs among the top programs of the year, no?

Top 5 New Picture Books
My new regret in life is that I'm not a decent illustrator. Picture books are my new favorite kind of book and now I want to make them. I suppose I can still WRITE them, but my heart wants to be able to do it all! Anyway, here's my favorites of the stuff we got in at the library this year:

1. Rules of Summer, by Shaun Tan. I WANT TO LIVE IN SHAUN TAN'S BRAIN. Have I mentioned that? I probably have, because it doesn't stop being true. Here's a nice interview about the making of this book, too.
2. Battle Bunny, by Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, and Matt Myers. Technically this came out last year but we only got it at the library THIS year. And it's just notable, because you would think it'd be a one-joke book and get old after awhile, but somehow it only got BETTER as it went, and it's ready-made for creative spin-off activities that really work with kids. That might have made my Best Library Programs list if MY kids hadn't been there that day to drive me nuts. ("I AM NOT YOUR MOMMY RIGHT NOW I AM THE LIBRARIAN PLEASE SIT DOWN AND BE QUIET.")
3. Quest, by Aaron Becker. I actually bought Journey for myself at my kids' book fair this year. Sure, kids, I'll buy you each a book, too, but this one's Mommy's. Anyway, I smuggled this out of the tech room as soon as it came in. I don't love it QUITE as much as Journey but it's still dreamy-perfect and we had fun exploring it together. I think my "Too bad I'm not an illustrator" problem is that WORDLESS picture books are REALLY my favorite thing.
4. Flashlight, by Lizi Boyd, speaking of which. Like on the surface this is so much simpler than, for example, Quest, but there's still so much going on, so much to see, so many little surprises. I JUST LOVE WORDLESS PICTURE BOOKS SO MUCH GUYS I CAN'T DEAL WITH IT.
5. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett (again) and Jon Klassen. Barnett and Klassen came to speak at the Carnegie the other month, and I'm almost embarrassed to admit how long I fretted about having no one to come with me to see them, only to realize at the last minute that I HAVE KIDS IN THEIR TARGET AGE GROUP. It was great for all of us! And it was much more fun listening to the KIDS talk to them than it would have been for me to think of something halfway interesting to say. Mac Barnett enjoyed meeting someone with the same name as one of his heroes (both the BOOK'S "hero" Sam, AND the original Sam-and-Dave-the-blues-duo!)SAM_0329 And Maddie told Jon Klassen all about our cannibal fish! It didn't occur to me until later that this was fitting, as she WAS talking to the man who wrote This Is Not My HatSAM_0331 They were awesome. I've always had a crush on Mac Barnett, but in person I liked Jon Klassen best-- he totally seemed like a guy I could hang out with. If I was in the habit of hanging out with Caldecott Medalists.

Top 5 Older (than this year) Picture Books I Only Just Discovered Are Awesome for Reading Aloud This Year

1. Chloe and the Lion, by Mac Barnett DARNIT MAC BARNETT STOP BEING SO ENTERTAINING YOU'RE HOGGING THE LISTS and Adam Rex. I just really like Meta. And Mac Barnett likes meta too, which is why he keeps writing books I like. But please let's not ignore Adam Rex in this discussion because the illustrations really make the book. And that's also kind of the point of this book. They're two great tastes that taste way greater together.
2. What Floats in a Moat? by Lynne Berry. Some very handy blog post about Books You Might Want For a Fizz Boom Read Summer Program Storytime alerted me to this fine title, which INDEED fit with a Things That Float program I had planned. Funny and clever AND educational! Thank you, fine blog post!
3. My Lucky Day, by Keiko Kasza. A different blog post somewhere named this a sure-winner for read-alouds, and it happened to be in one of my outreach bags, so I said, Hey, I'll read THAT one to this group! And guess what. It IS a sure-winner.
4. The Really Really Really Big Dinosaur, by Richard Byrne. I mentioned this one in the above-linked all-the-programs-I-did-in-October post. I just enjoyed me and the mom and the little sister cracking up while the older sister rolled her eyes and tried not to laugh while complaining that she wanted a SERIOUS dinosaur book instead.
5. The Buzz Beaker series by Cari Meister. It looks like there's also some older titles by a Scott Nickel but I haven't read those ones so as to guarantee their quality. These are, as possibly evidenced by their having multiple authors over time, leveled readers out of one of them there book packagers in Mankato Minnesota. Which means I wasn't expecting them to be nearly as entertaining as they are. Again I stumbled upon them for summer reading programs, because they're a treasure trove for actually-fun-stuff-to-read-aloud on STEM topics!

Top 5 Longer-Than-Picture-Books Books I Read This Year, aka The Only 5 Longer-Than-Picture-Books Books I Finished Reading This Year

1. Dangerous, by Shannon Hale. As indicated by my movie list (see below), I love a good superhero story, but I can't get into comic books. Shannon Hale, who is truly one of my very favorite people on the Internet btw, decided to address this-- people who read better in paragraphs than in panels-- by actually writing a great superhero story entirely in prose. It is EVERYTHING I love about, say, watching a Marvel movie-- and even better, solid female representation!-- but in novel form!
OH I FORGOT TO MENTION-- we'll make this 1.5, though it's not much longer than a Buzz Beaker book-- Hale's The Princess in Black, an easy-chapter book about a princess who sneaks out to battle monsters in her spare time, because this is SO MADE for my daughter, and that's why I bought it for her for Christmas:
SAM_0535
2. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson. It's the Young People's National Book Award winner, which me being on top of things actually read before then! Mostly because Woodson's editor kept tweeting the most beautiful lines from it, so when it showed up with our Junior Library Guild subscription I said, "I've got to give this a try." It's a verse memoir, and it's LYRICAL. It IS dreaming!
3. A Corner of White, AND
4. The Cracks in the Kingdom, by Jaclyn Moriarty. Apparently pronouncing your first name like that gave you a better than average chance of getting your book read by me this year. But Jaclyn Moriarty gets special attention for being just so dang unique. She's done some crazy worldbuilding for this series (which in a dear-to-my-heart way is called The Colors of Madeleine, AWWWW) about a couple of kids who start to communicate through a crack between their two parallel worlds, and I have to say there have been several twists that I absolutely did not see coming, only to look back and find the evidence had been there all along, and I quite appreciate that. I think the next author would have appreciated that, also:
5. Dogsbody, Diana Wynne Jones. Only last because it's not new like the others. I did buy The Islands of Chaldea for the library, but I haven't gotten around to reading it, yet. It may be HER last, but I still have lots of DWJ to track down still, so that isn't what's keeping me away. More like my usual reading problems.

Top 5 Movies I Saw

1. The LEGO Movie: Officially my son's favorite movie, when the rest of us finally caught up (he'd gone to see it at the theater with his grandparents) we were utterly charmed, too. It really holds up to rewatching and quote-reciting. I don't know why the catchphrase this household has most adopted is "Honey, where are my paaaaaaants?" though.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier: We don't get out to the movies much, J and I-- when we do it's usually for a special occasion, like our anniversary (see below). But after seeing a certain episode of Agents of SHIELD (see further below) last March, we decided we needed to go see this AS SOON AS POSSIBLE just to find out what had happened. It was worth it-- I think this is my favorite of the Marvel movies now, and I do like Marvel movies (I think it was watching this that I realized I get a thrill of excitement when the comic-book opener comes on screen, like the opening notes of the Star Wars theme). I particularly like the themes of friendship throughout this movie, I love the friend-chemistry between all the characters-- particularly the platonic friendship between the Cap and Black Widow-- SEE? Platonic CAN BE DONE!
3. Frozen: I know this movie is technically from LAST year but we only just got it for Christmas. We figured we'd watch it as a family sometime this week, and I had a lot of other stuff to do Christmas morning, but my daughter insisted on putting it on, and I found myself sucked onto the couch beside her. I thought the characters were particularly great, and the themes hit on a lot of near-to-my-heart issues, so I was teary-eyed a lot.
4. The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies: We went this weekend for our anniversary, natch, and I feel like I ought to do a longer review than most of the ones in these lists. :P Far from the best of the movies, but hardly a disaster, either. Having seen all three now, I DO think it would have worked better as two movies, just with really really long Extended Editions (with basically, you know, ALL the same footage of the current Extended Editions, just two proper movies for theater viewing). This movie felt a little bit arc-less in a way that I don't think it would have if it had merely been the long climax of a movie that started when they'd first arrived at Laketown. This movie is also made up of the chapters in the book that I always manage to completely forget about, which might be saying something. Still, like any Middle-Earth movie, it's gorgeous-- though this movie seemed to involve a LOT of high and precarious walkways that were making me QUITE nervous thank you-- and, like any Hobbit movie in particular, it features my very favorite actor/Imaginary Husband in the title role, and do I even need to mention anymore that he was brilliant? He was brilliant. As usual. The scene when he was saying goodbye to the dwarves was my very favorite. And I was really glad he spent a lot less of this movie unconscious than he does these chapters in the book. Not that the movie couldn't have still done with more of him.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy: we did slip out to see this one this summer while the kids were at their grandparents' for the week. I didn't think it was as great as a lot of people seemed to think, hailing it the New Star Wars or whatever, but it was a lot of fun, and I appreciate a storyline that weaves a great classic rock mix tape into the plot.

Top 5 Things I Watched On TV, Or At Least Things That Were Aired On TV That I Watched On The Computer

1. Fargo, The Series! GAH I LOVE THIS SHOW. WHY AREN'T MORE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT THIS SHOW? Every time I think about it, I miss it. I suppose I could watch it again, considering I bought it on iTunes. I had the DVD set on my wishlist but I guess everyone knew I bought it on iTunes and doesn't believe in the power of Bonus Features.
2. Agents of SHIELD, which is formally called MARVEL'S Agents of SHIELD, but half the time we just call it SHIELD anyway so nyah. Jason and I started watching this when it first came on, and even though it wasn't brilliant at first we kept watching because we both enjoyed it enough and it made for a nice little weekly Date Night, to cuddle on the couch watching "our show" each week. Then suddenly, this past spring, it got GOOD. WHOA PLOT TWISTS and WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT WEEK?!?! and sublimely unhinged birth-fathers and heartwrenching brain-damaged Scottish nerds level-good. This fall I've finished each Tuesday evening with the loveliest sense of satisfaction, and a bit of pity for everyone who gave up on the show before it got to be SO MUCH DANG FUN.
3. "Crumby Pictures" on Sesame Street. It's "Monsterpiece Theater" for a new generation, and it's brilliant, and I really wish I worked in children's television yet again.
4. I almost forgot that Community season 5 happened this year, but it did, way back early on. I also always forget how much I love that show until I get reminded. And there were some brilliantly funny bits this season and some perfectly touching bits too. You're a monster if you didn't cry during a certain goodbye scene with a certain absolutely perfect celebrity cameo. Oh, that got me.
5. Okay, okay, Sherlock season 3, even though the fandom drives me crazy. I can't REALLY skip mentioning it out of spite, when "The Sign of Three" was probably my favorite episode of the show ever. And still, Martin. Because he's brilliant. As usual. Which reminds me:
BONUS #5.5. When Martin Freeman hosted Saturday Night Live. Was he awesome? Of course he was awesome. The "Office: Middle Earth" sketch was brilliant, and did seeing him play his two most lovably adorable roles somehow wrapped up in one character make me sappy? Yes maybe. But he was brilliant even in that dumb talk show sketch where he BARELY HAD ANY LINES EVEN, his expressions just made the whole thing. To be honest, though, he wasn't even in one of my favorite sketches of the night, the commercial for going-back-to-your-home-church-for-Christmas, which was so dead-on St. James that I had to love it. Perversely, another of my favorite things about that show was that they DID NOT MAKE A SINGLE REFERENCE TO SHERLOCK OR BUMBLEPANTS CUCUMBERSAUCE. I'm just a little sensitive. Hey, while we're at it:

Top Five Pics of Martin Freeman That The Internet Kindly Gave Me
1. Okay, this isn't the greatest picture of Martin specifically, but it's such an insanely mindblowing circumstance that it has to be #1:

WHO PUT THOSE TWO MEN ON THE SAME COUCH? HOW IS THAT METAPHYSICALLY POSSIBLE? HOW DID THE AWESOME NOT EXPLODE THE WORLD?
2. From that same talk show, here's Martin doing a Paul McCartney impression.

But he can't fool me. I've long suspected he's been doing an extended Paul McCartney impression for most of his life. I'M ONTO YOU, FELLOW MACCA GEEK.
3. Try not to swoon:

4. I love Martin being Martin, but there were lots of lovely in-character pics this year as well. I'm torn between the "Bilbo does Not Approve" shot:

5. ...and the "Lester is a Conniving Weasel" shot:

PLUS! One moving .gif to make your life happy:


Okay, what's left.
Top 5... Music? Um, maybe not a Top 5?

1. I SAW PAUL MCCARTNEY... I may have already mentioned that.
2. Honestly, I have no clue.
3. OH, this year DOES mark the discovery of the [Sarah's] Husband's Stupid Record Collection blog, which has continued to be fun. Also, Sarah-of-said-blog followed me back on Tumblr and sometimes she even Favorites stuff I reblog there, which makes me feel marginally famous.
4. I wish I was still a music geek who actually was on top of musical discoveries.
5. Well, I do find myself exposed to Hit Pop Songs nonetheless, and actually there were several Hit Pop Songs this year that I ACTUALLY LIKE. I'm quite fond of "All About the Bass" and "Shake it Off." There were many more Hit Pop Songs that I DIDN'T care for (and why the heck do Maroon 5 suck so much now? They were so GOOD ten years ago!), but this isn't really news. I think I spend more time listening to PBS Kids songs than I do the radio, anyway.

Top 5 Songs From PBS Kids Shows I Sing Along To Incessantly

1. The Dinosaur Train Theme Song
2. The "Splashing In the Bathtub" song on Peg+Cat
3. The Peg+Cat Theme Song
4. The "Problem Solved" song from Peg+Cat. I really like Peg+Cat songs
5. Anything from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, which is sort of cheating because they were mostly all originally from Mister Rogers, anyway.

Anyway.

Let's wrap things up with a little bloggy retrospective.
Finally, Top 5 Blog Posts I Didn't Already Link To In This Post, Which Mostly Leaves The Philosophical Ones
1. In which I finally understand what it means to examine ones privilege
2. A tribute to an influential teacher
3. In which I examine the darkest depths of my soul
4. Humanity's only hope is to stop trying to change the subject
5. EVERYTHING IS REAL!
And bonus: I wrote a poem once.

So... have a lovely new year! We have no plans because we're boring. How about you? What were your Top Whatevers of the year?
rockinlibrarian: (love)
This is what I woke up pondering in the middle of the night. I might blame Cat for creating a whole blog for such Lycoris-type questions for us to ponder (and this one I answered is sort of similar). Or I might blame this great post from Cheryl Klein and a series of tweets from Rae Carson I read yesterday, both of which discussed how helpful it is to take an objective look at stuff YOU don't like but other people LOVE just to figure out what it is that it must be somehow doing right. I might blame a chance run-in with one of those Martin-Freeman-haters, who allow the fact that my Imaginary Husband can't stop running his mouth and has said a few stupid things in his day completely sour them and blind them to the far greater amount of AWESOME he has done and said, and I get cranky when people irrationally hate people I love. I might blame violent football players, because we keep hearing about THEM a lot lately, too. Most likely it was all these things swirling together, keeping me up, making me wonder if I should just GET up to write this but then worrying that I'd fall back asleep just when I was SUPPOSED to wake up, instead.*

There's something in online culture I might call the "Your-Fave-Is-Problematic" syndrome. At least, it's most obvious in online culture, but in light of Cat's question about forgiveness, I guess it exists everywhere, in any situation. It's this idea some people have that, if they can see there's something wrong with something that other people like, suddenly it's all "THAT THING IS WRONG! HOW CAN YOU LIKE A WRONG THING! YOU OBVIOUSLY DON'T KNOW THAT THING IS WRONG IF YOU STILL LIKE THAT THING! STOP IT!" That's what Klein** and Carson were talking about in the things I linked above-- instead of immediately tearing down what other people love, you might want to focus on why they love it and you might learn something from it?

But how much wrong IS too wrong? Don't people kind of have a responsibility to point out problems that need to be changed? How much problem negates all the good? Where's the line between forgiveness and letting injustice get away with it?

Let's take our violent football players. These are people who have done things both immoral and criminal, and yet so many people are willing to overlook reprehensible behavior by their favorite players because the game is that important to them. The game's not that important to me, though. I don't feel like football really offers the world anything it can't get elsewhere, and certainly it's not like there aren't other players to take the place of reprehensible players, if necessary, either.

But what happens when you get into ART? Art, where everyone has a unique voice, and one silenced voice can't simply be replaced by another? I know fans-- and or former fans-- of people like Woody Allen and Marion Zimmer Bradley have had to wrestle with these feelings when their artists turned out to have horrible dark sides. And you have artists who've harbored horrible opinions-- like H.P. Lovecraft might be a LEETLE more excused by his time period than Orson Scott Card is today. But I haven't had to wrestle with those things, never having held strong opinions about the art of any of those people.

But shall we discuss John Lennon? John Lennon with his history of domestic violence? John Lennon with his art that IS very important to me? I admit I can sometimes feel conflicted about John, particularly in the face of his many more blind-worshipping fans. Dudes, he was NOT the sole or even main creative force in the Beatles. Dudes, he REALLY wasn't a paragon of peace. But if I'm not playing devil's advocate against his idolizers, I forgive him his faults. For one thing, he DID change his ways, in the end. Surely we can't still hold him bound for sins that he himself came to regret as well? And for another thing-- well, "Across the Universe" will never not make me blissfully happy, and nothing about its author can ever change that. --Could it? WOULD it have been different if he'd remained an unrepentant wifebeater? Maybe people would see him differently. And yet not a note of "Across the Universe" would have changed.***

This wasn't what kept me tossing and turning. Kevin Clash was. This is the one instance where the sins of the artist, uh, clashed so dramatically with my admiration for him that I still can't work it out. It still makes me angry, still feels like a betrayal. WHY, Kevin? Sure, other fallen types have done worse, but you're NOT SUPPOSED to fall. You've done SO MUCH, SO MUCH GOOD for children around the world. You've done so much for early literacy and you've brought so much joy. You should be a hero! You WERE a hero! But heroes are allowed SMALL, PERSONAL vices, like addiction or bad tempers or careless negligence. Statutory rape? Even if technically "consensual"? Can you still be a hero with that taint on you, or not? It DOESN'T erase the millions of people whose lives he's improved through his work with the Sesame Workshop. How can that be erased? And yet, anymore when I see Elmo, I just get sad.

I suppose part of the solution is to stop dealing in absolutes. Stop having heroes or villains. I just wish it was easier for people to accept that in-between place where reality lies.

*So I've also been working on another finding-myself book, Wishcraft, by Barbara Sher, as recced by my dear friend Angie, and the other day the exercise was figuring out the perfect environment for me to thrive in. The most important detail I came up with was NOT HAVING TO DO ANYTHING AT A PARTICULAR TIME in the morning, so I could wake up when I woke up and immediately grab my journal and just write until whenever, without HAVING to get up so as to feed children or get them to school or, on weekends, entertain a husband. I JUST WANT A MORNING JOURNALING TIME THAT WON'T REQUIRE ME TO WAKE UP BEFORE I'M READY.

**TECHNICALLY, she was quoting someone else in her post, but she posted it in the first place so as to talk about this, and she's the one whose name I know, so I'm giving her credit here ALTHOUGH TECHNICALLY I KNOW THAT'S NOT PERFECTLY ACCURATE, shut up you Amy's-Posts-are-Problematic folks.

***OR WOULD IT????? WHO REALLY KNOWS THE INTRICACIES OF CHAOS THEORY?!?!
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
Here's a post that's been at least seven weeks in the making, because I keep thinking ALL THESE THINGS I want to say about my Latest Favorite TV Show, but then I'd see another episode and think, "Wait, maybe I'd better see how THIS plays out, first," or then I'd think about how I want to recommend it and I don't want to be spoilery and then after awhile I thought, well, maybe it's too LATE to tell people to watch live so maybe I should just wait until the end and recommend you watch it as a WHOLE, in one gulp, after the fact, on Hulu or Netflix or DVD eventually or, as I've been doing all along, on iTunes. Also then I'd be surer my theories weren't totally wrong. But I've had LOTS OF THOUGHTS swirling in my head for a long while, and NOW, finally, that the show is over, I'm going to SHARE them, in as non-spoilery a way as possible. Which I honestly think I can do. Because I'm going to finish off this post with a lot of my usual philosophical ponderances that are far more INSPIRED BY than DIRECTLY ABOUT, so...

...WHICH ANYWAY that bit of sentence there coincidentally describes my favorite show of the past couple months, Fargo. It's a miniseries-that-might-eventually-become-an-"anthology"-series-with-a-new-cast-and-storyline-every-season, a ten-episode story. It's... inspired by the movie of the same name: it takes the general setting and themes and tells its own story with its own characters and a few callbacks, here and there, to the original --you eventually find out that it DOES take place in the same universe as the movie, 20 years later, but you don't NEED to be familiar with the movie to enjoy it, and if you DO love the movie, you don't have to worry about it trying to recreate something that was fine already. The movie-guys gave it their blessing, so it's all good.

To be honest, I only heard about it because my Imaginary Husband is in it. I'd never seen (or even WANTED to see) the movie, and the show was on FX, a channel we don't get, but the more I read about it in my daily Martin-stalking perusal of social media sources, the more intrigued I got, and the more I realized I'd end up Spoilered if I wasn't watching along, so I gave in, decided to be legal about it, and bought season access on iTunes.

I don't regret a penny. I LOVE this show, and I love it for so many reasons that don't have to do with Martin (it might help that he's playing an awful person-- it's easier not to get distracted by his charm when he HASN'T GOT ANY). It's to the point where I watched an hour-long panel featuring OTHER cast members without even caring whether or not any of them at least mentioned Martin And His Brilliance (I can't say the same for any Sherlock panels. Oh, I've watched panels without him, but only in case people talked about him!) BECAUSE IT'S ALL AWESOME ANYWAY. So now I'll present my case:

Things I Love About Fargo That Have Nothing To Do With Being In Love With Any of the Leads:

1. The PURE STORYTELLING. That's the benefit of this miniseries format as opposed to your typical TV show. It's not just stuff happening, but stuff building to an inevitable CONCLUSION. It's fine-crafted.
1a. It's a moral universe. Which doesn't mean there aren't truly horrible people doing truly horrible things. It's more a sense that, no matter how dark and twisted things get (and they get very dark and twisted), Good will Ultimately Triumph and Evil will Ultimately Get Its Comeuppance. Because actions have consequences.
1ab. Speaking of morals, every episode is named after a fable, parable, or philosophical question. It gives the whole thing a mythic quality. You can also dig deep into the symbolism if you want-- and there's loads of symbolism-- and you'll be delighted how well it holds up to scrutiny, but you don't have to. You can watch it on many levels. Though, personally, I really dig all the symbolism.

2. On the other hand, the other benefit of a miniseries as opposed to a MOVIE is the time to develop characters, setting, and increasingly complicated plots. Whether it's a seemingly random detail that later MEANS something or just an unexpected character trait, you never feel like you're watching the same old tropes playing out in the same old ways, even WITHIN this archetypal framework. It's full of surprises. A friend on Facebook said she loves the show "though it's a bit odd." Odd is totally what makes it worth watching! It's like nothing else!
2a. Like where else have you ever seen a couple of hitmen who communicate in sign language? For that matter, how many deaf hitmen do you see on TV, period, just, you know, because that's who he is? I was, personally, surprised how attached I got to those characters. But that's the thing. UNIQUE, UNEXPECTED CHARACTERS.

3. Speaking of characters who refuse to be tired stereotypes, let's talk about our hero(ine), Molly. People talk about the need for "Strong" Female Characters but why is it so rare to find one that's just plain REAL? Who's smart but makes mistakes, who's strong but has emotions, who's NORMAL-looking and all the prettier for it? It's hard NOT to adore Molly. The few people I've seen online who DON'T adore her end up trying pathetically to justify their dislike through the same textbook arguments people-who-just-don't-like-female-characters ALWAYS give. Side note-- in one scene in the finale she was wearing the same slippers that I happened to be wearing while watching! It was awesome!
3a. Likewise, in real life Allison Tolman is STILL AWESOME. So glad they discovered her and cast her even as the only unknown in the main cast. SHE CANNOT STAY UNKNOWN. SHE IS TOO AWESOME. Yes, I'm totally girl-crushing on her.

4. Speaking of crushiness (and no, I'm still not talking about you-know-who), but good Golly do I love the romance in this show. Oh yes, there's romance! But not the swoony-passionate kind (heck, the sex that shows up occasionally is the very opposite of romantic-- you'd never see our HEROES being so animalistic as all that). It's subtle, sweet, and totally adorable, and now I totally want to quote things that would be spoilery to prove it (hint for people who've seen it: "spleen." That's all), so you're just going to have to take my word for it.

5. Okay, the acting's good across the board, and yes I WILL brag talk about Martin now. The transformation he undergoes over the course of the series is jaw-dropping (and yet somehow believable!). But I'll admit, he and his Mephistopheles, Billy Bob Thornton, will be up against each other for Lead Actor In a Miniseries for all the awards, and I HONESTLY CAN'T DECIDE who deserves it more. Because Thornton's villain, Malvo, is so genuinely scary. It depends which episodes you've been watching most recently, who stands out more. Plus there's Allison Tolman, as I mentioned, who'll be in the running for awards under "SUPPORTING Actress" only for because-no-one's-heard-of-her reasons (but THAT MUST CHANGE! ALL THE PARTS FOR TOLMAN! ALL THE GLORY FOR TOLMAN!). And I haven't yet mentioned Colin Hanks as her total sweetheart, Gus. If Martin had played HIS part, I'D be done for. But Martin's playing a total creep instead, and the show is all the better for it.

6. Finally, and probably most importantly, The Clowns of God Effect. It's laugh out loud funny one minute and utterly horrifying the next. Sometimes in the SAME minute. I LIKE my stories like that, that can make you laugh AND cry... or gasp in horror. Combining emotions just makes all the emotions THAT MUCH MORE POWERFUL.

Things I Don't Love About Fargo:

1. Make no mistake, this show is VIOLENT. Brutal, even. But in its defense, it's not glorified violence. It's not there for the sake of being violent. Not like one of J's action movies, or even your typical PG-13 superhero movie (I was thinking about this while watching The Avengers the other night)-- not endless fight scenes among faceless goons. It always serves the story, and you FEEL exactly how awful it is. And yes, not only do a lot of people die, even some animals die. *GASP* So if you're thinking, "Well, if AMY loves this show, the violence can't be THAT bad!" you're wrong. It's just that the violence is sufficiently well-built into the storytelling for me.

2. Admittedly, it can be a little disconcerting to watch ones Imaginary Husband playing a slimy creep. Not because it's freaky to see him being a slimy creep-- he's too good an actor for that: puts you in the moment and you believe in him and are appropriately disgusted when necessary. No, it's because every so often a little of his natural gorgeousness sneaks through and knocks you for a loop. Like in Episode 6-- the episode when he arguably crosses beyond repentance to the Dark Side-- he spends a lot of time barefoot, and dangit THAT MAN HAS PERFECT FEET. The best actor in the world can't make his FEET act sufficiently creepy. So you're like, "I CAN'T BELIEVE THE NERVE OF THAT OH WHAT GORGEOUS TOES I MUST NUZZLE THEM... wait, no, that's wrong." See? DISCONCERTING.

In Which I Get Around To Musing On The Deep Issues Of Character I've Been Thinking About

But for reasons having nothing to do with the actor, it's Martin's character, Lester, I've most wanted to discuss this whole time. The scary thing is, it's this increasingly despicable antihero I identify with most. Well, maybe I'm more like gentle, good-natured Gus, or a certain spoilery ill-fated character who shows up later who's blind to the bad in people and certainly shares some of my tastes, but from an examination of ones psyche angle, my connection to Lester is more important. We share a major psychological issue: we are both highly emotionally repressed. Tightly-sealed steam cookers. Our villain Malvo rolls into town and tells Lester it's OKAY TO STICK UP FOR HIMSELF, and that's true. So why does everything go UTTERLY, HORRIBLY WRONG when he DOES?

(Note: if you think that's spoilery, then the rest of this will be spoilery as well and you can stop reading. I don't consider it spoilery. I think Lester's arc is fairly well obvious from a basic archetypal standpoint-- remember point 1a?, and that's what I'm going to talk about here, while avoiding the SPECIFICS that in my opinion would be true spoilers. I won't give away any of THOSE surprises here!)

At first I figured it was because he let the pressure cooker explode instead of letting a little steam off here and there. I've got my writing, for example. I let my anger out through written snark, which you'd never see from me live in person. But I'm still pretty repressed, especially when I'm NOT writing, and I know in order to grow I have to somehow learn to channel all that inner turmoil and turn it into useful real-world energy. But how? You don't see many GOOD role models of emotionally-repressed people learning to use their powers in fiction. Explosions make for more interesting stories. Not like Lester is ever likely to strike one as a role model.

Early on, Lester still has a chance to redeem himself. Everything he's done has been panicky, out of control-- to deal with the fallout with his soul intact, all he has to do is come clean. Instead he gets tangled up in an ever more complex web of half-truths and flat-out lies, so when he finally takes control of his life it's the LIES he ends up mastering. So THAT'S his problem, I thought. He's embraced a life of UNTRUTHS. If he'd held firmly to TRUTH during his escape from Repression, he wouldn't have gone bad. In fact truth is now the one thing he IS repressing!

But the more he, on the outside, came out of his shell, turned himself into the opposite of the shrinking little man he'd been, the more I realized that, at heart, he hadn't really changed at all. He was still governed by FEAR. He'd just gone from flight to fight. He's still reacting to this panicked voice of self-preservation in his head-- "DON'T HURT ME! LEAVE ME ALONE!" -- it's just that, before, he'd thought the solution was to curl up and make himself invisible (yep, that's me), and later he thought the solution was to kill or be killed (only sometimes literally). Maybe, though, the REAL solution is to STOP LISTENING TO THAT VOICE.

So maybe the key is to face up to Truths and Fears, instead of facing up to people. It's just that people are corporeal and therefore easier to face up to. But THEY'RE not the PROBLEM. It's the intangibles, the Truths and Fears themselves, that we need to deal with, in order to TRULY put ourselves bravely into the world.

However one does that.

So maybe I still don't know the best way to turn repressed anger into productive energy, but at least Lester has shown me clearly how NOT to do it.

One last observation. The social media team for the show decided that #awjeez would be the official hashtag for the show. I guess because this is stereotypical dialect for the area so it would be memorable and unusual and funny, hah hah? Except I totally say that all the time, in real life. I've never even lived in the upper-midwest. Yep. Apparently I'm Minnesotan at heart.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
There was a time, back in the day, when a) this blog Happened more often, and b) when it happened, it wasn't just Deep Philosophical Thoughts. I'd ALWAYS be willing to share my thoughts about the latest installment of whatever exciting media series I'd just gotten my hands on. And right away, too! It was exciting! Maybe because people used LiveJournal as an actual social media kind of platform and actually left comments! So we could banter and debate back and forth about all the little details and WHAT THEY COULD MEAN!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---
*(TECHNICALLY, they're not legally married, but I find that a stupid clarification. First of all, marriage is way more than one single public "I Do," and second, when's something count as a Common Law Marriage, anyway? Pretty sure they've hit that point. Anyway, anybody whose relationship can survive raising two kids of a particular-age-I'm-familiar-with are totally SOLID).
**WOW. I'm shocked. Spellcheck says this is totally a real word.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
In celebration of the long-awaited U.S. return of THE JOHN WATSON SHOW I mean Sherlock, you knew I meant Sherlock-- I need to confess something to you. I, kind of... HATE?...Sherlock Fandom...?

*phew* okay, got that out there. You see, whenever you want to get something like that off your chest, you're inevitably aware that every one of your reasons is hypocritical or selfish or hypocritical or irrational or also maybe hypocritical. And yet SOMEHOW you need to get it out. To WORK it out. To work THROUGH the irrationality to figure out what your problem REALLY is.

Maybe my problem is my uneasy relationship with the entire idea of fandom. I grew up before the Internet. I grew up keeping my various obsessions, with Les Miz or Ducktales or Madeleine L'Engle or Gadget on Rescue Rangers or my crush on Fred Savage (who ME? Get a CRUSH? On a TV STAR? NO WAY) or whatever, a kind of shameful secret. I didn't KNOW anyone who loved these things the way I did (or even at all). Therefore IT WAS WEIRD OF ME. It was weird of me to FEEL so much about imaginary things (or real people I didn't know: because frankly I thought it was weird of the OTHER girls to be hanging up pages from Tiger Beat and sighing over any of the New Kids on the Block or the other Teen Supposed-Heartthrobs in there-- Fred Savage WAS in there, too, but that was part of why my own feelings freaked me out). I'd see a reference to one of my Favorite Things out in the world and I'd BLUSH. I was a closeted obsessive, hiding my intense feelings just because they DIDN'T MAKE SENSE to me.

So I see these kids online and realize they ARE just like me, but they've found an outlet that I never had. So maybe I'm... jealous?

I AM jealous of SOME Sherlock fans-- or some People In General-- of ANY age, I can say. Maybe the adults even more so. Because it's such a THING to love the show SO much that you CAN'T WAIT FOR IT TO AIR IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY and so you find a way to hack the BBC to watch it, or download it illegally ("while preordering the DVD, I PROMISE!" and I don't doubt it but...). I just can't imagine that watching it immediately is THAT IMPORTANT. It's coming. In fact, for U.S. fans, it's been less than THREE WEEKS this time. WAY better than last time's four months. Meanwhile, I've got so many other things on my plate that I just can't justify going though all that effort for a TV show that IS COMING EVENTUALLY. So while all the impatient fans of the world make me want to shout, "Oh come on, why can't you just WAIT?!? Don't you have ANYTHING ELSE to occupy your time?!?" what I'm really saying is "Gee, I wish I didn't have kids to work around all the time when it comes to free time. I miss those days of viewing-marathons and opening-night movie-goings and otherwise-seeking-out-things-I-like-as-soon-as-possible-on-whatever-schedule-I-like." Sour grapes. But then what most gets me is the assumption, after that (or even beforehand-- "Oh come on, PBS," go the comments, "You KNOW we're all going to see it before you show it"), that ALL TRUE FANS would have done everything in their power to see it immediately. Even the PRODUCERS made that assumption at the New York "premiere" of Season 2! And I feel insulted. Who are YOU to decide who a true fan is?

Although okay, maybe I'm NOT a True Fan. I love the show, but I'm an obsessive fan of, not the show, but one of the costars. And I'm a little weirdly protective of My Martin. And it bugs me how many people insist on seeing him only as John Watson. It bugs me how many people can't MENTION him in an unrelated setting (Hobbit discussions, mostly) without also throwing in something about Benedict-- not even just the Bilbo-and-Smaug thing, I mean discussions that aren't about Ben at ALL, and they're like "Ah, Martin's great, so is Ben," and I'm like WHO'S TALKING ABOUT BEN?! Though I thought the Bilbo-and-Smaug questions were getting old, too. (His answer at the DoS Premiere, starting at 45:08 here, about "Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney in the 'Ebony and Ivory' video," just filled me with joy, though. MUSIC GEEKS FOREVER. Which speaking of which? THIS is the greatest thing Martin has done this year, dangit. DOES NO ONE ELSE APPRECIATE MARTIN'S UTTER MUSIC-GEEKINESS BUT ME? Is it just that I so rarely encounter anyone who IS a bigger music geek than me? See what I mean? This is extremely important and it has NOTHING TO DO WITH SHERLOCK!) But this is, of course, my most hypocritical argument of all. I get frustrated because some people are all, "That's a guy in my favorite show!" while meanwhile I'm all, "That's a show my favorite guy's in!"

Maybe this all comes down to that FineLineBetweenLoveAndHate. PASSION is irrational. Maybe if I hadn't gotten so used to holding my passions in, I'd feel less conflicted about them existing in the first place-- for me or for other people. Maybe this is all part of me still needing to make peace with my hypersensitivity, as I discussed last week. I feel things LOUDLY. I not only cry easily, I fall in love easily. I'm Emotionally Pansexual (which is kind of an oxymoron. I'm ...panPHILIAL?). And part of me is still trying frantically to CONTAIN these emotions somehow, and ends up trying to contain the emotions of the rest of the world, too.

I often wonder what I would have thought of the Beatles if I'd been around in the '60s. Would I have stubbornly brushed them off as stupid pop stars all those stupid screaming girls were being stupid about? Or would I have fallen in love anyway, and tried to downplay it BECAUSE I didn't want to think of myself as one of those Stupid Screaming Girls Being Stupid? Or would I have been screaming? -- nah, THAT I can't see. I actually hope it's the middle option. Because that's what I'm doing right now, isn't it? Trying desperately to claim my fannishness and yet make clear that I'm not one of "THOSE" fans? And in that case, maybe I'd be hypocritical and irrational and stuck-up... but at least I'd still have the Beatles to love.
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
Well, time is tight, and I have so much to write about, but I don't want to let today (my favorite day of the year! Yes, Christmas Eve is actually more my favorite than Christmas Day, that's just the way it works) pass without wishing you, my Internet friends, my friends and family I WON'T be seeing this week, and my lovely random strangers who happen to be reading this, a very Merry Christmas. I'm going to get back to that by the end of this post, by way of a lot of other stuff that's been on my mind the past few days, so... be patient? Or get your internal scanners ready?

About this past weekend

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

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

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

A Quick Response to The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug:

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

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

About Kindness

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

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

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

So Now for my Christmas Wish

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

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

*(the commenter struck me as male, but I could be wrong. He's a he in my head. If she's not, and she/you are offended, you can set me straight.)
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
I knew there was something significant about today's date, and now I remember: it's the 95th anniversary of the birth of the woman who wrote my favorite book and the 12th anniversary of the death of the man who wrote my favorite song. That's a lot of significance for one day. (Just listened to the latter sing the words "All the world is birthday cake" which could be for the former. IT ALL TIES TOGETHER).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---
*That links to a post that links to almost every OTHER post I've ever written about Christmas, so it seems most convenient. Except for the post I wrote last year, since it hadn't happened yet.
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
OR...not really. I mean wouldn't it be great if I got paid to keep a household fed and clothed and generally functional? Well, maybe I do, if you count Jason making more than me (he makes more in two weekends than I make in a month SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY AND EARMARK IT FOR EMPLOYEE WAGES *ahem*) and say maybe he's technically paying me for that? It sounds so chauvinistic when you put it that way though. But so far no one's paying me to read blogs, do yoga, indulge in inappropriate daydreams involving Martin Freeman, or sing loudly to the radio and/or the DVD the kids are watching and/or the Muzak in the grocery store (which technically isn't Muzak, but that's easier to say than "streaming light rock/adult contemporary playing over the loudspeaker"), at all. I even have to pay for the yoga twice a week.

NO, I just mean I feel like MYSELF doing the things I DO get paid for, possibly At Last. I was originally hired at our local library as a very-part-time reference librarian/circulation clerk (which, if you ask most of the board, translates strictly as "just plain circulation clerk which anyone off the street can do"-- which is totally not true! You'd be shocked how many volunteers find even circ and shelving duties beyond them!), and I've gradually wormed my way into more hours and much more time and a bit more influence in the Children's Department, but my specific duties there were never quite made CLEAR. I occasionally did programs, but pretty much on my own whim. I suggested books to be purchased, then waited for them not to actually be purchased. I put most of my librarian skillz into book displays, and those joyous moments when people actually asked me for help beyond "where's the bathroom?" and "can you put me on the computer?" Because dangit, I'm an awesome reference/reader's advisory librarian (at least in the children's/YA sections).

But lately I've gotten Duties-- CLEAR YOUTH SERVICES LIBRARIAN Duties. Two mornings a week I drive around to various area daycares with bags of books, read a couple, tell them about the rest, bring the bag from two weeks ago home. To the Library, not my house. Two evenings a week I lead programs-- the same I did last spring, an elementary-age hands-on STEAM program basically and a Family storytime-- which have been getting bigger turnouts all the time. And in between I am IN CHARGE. OF THE CHILDREN'S. AND YA. COLLECTIONS. I control the Weeding AND the Ordering! I am officially NOT scheduled for circulation but I help there anyway, especially with reference questions. Just this week I realized I need to start delegating tasks-- asking OTHER people to work on the displays, make copies, do some basic weeding, things I would have done myself before but now I no longer have TIME.

Is there anything that makes you feel more like a grownup than being able to tell other people what to do and have them take you seriously?

Actually, it's just been working GREAT. Since I've gotten clear job duties that happen to be in my areas of expertise, I've been thriving. My insecurities, immaturities, and slothful tendencies melt away when I'm working. Except the telephone. I still hate calling people on the phone. But I'm way more likely to make myself DO it at work! (Also, ANSWERING the phone at work is not a problem at all. I am ALL about professional reference librarianness THERE). I sweep into the daycares with confidence and greet a sea of excited faces calling my visit the highlight of the fortnight (assuming any of them would USE the word "fortnight"). The in-house programs end with laughter and joyful thank-yous from parents and children. I'm professional and open and pointedly questioning with book vendors, I find the best options for our library and our budget, I've GOT collection development DOWN.

Gracious, folks. Could it be I'm finally living MY VOCATION IN LIFE?

But what does that mean, says the quiet, worried confused voice inside my head, for the vocation you THOUGHT you had, from way back in your childhood? Maybe your story-loving has found its place in your life, and you don't need to be a writer after all? But it's kind of a silly worry, when "librarian" has to be one of if not THE most common day jobs of authors everywhere, and has been pulled off spectacularly by everyone from Beverly Cleary to Megan McDonald.*

And SECONDLY, as I mused in my latest Lycoris letter, on the topic of "Why do we write?" -- it's only my FICTION that I haven't been writing. And even then I still chip away at this bit of Firefly fanfiction** I've been working on for years, and there's a draft of an early chapter book I managed to come out with a few months back, and the other day I at least started PONDERING how to turn an interesting dream I'd had into a SF story with Deep Social Commentary, which isn't the same as WRITING but at least puts to lie the voice in my head that says I don't even have anything to write ABOUT. But I was WRITING A LETTER. Right now I'm writing a blog post. I write EVERYTHING in my journal.

AND, to get back to the title of this post, I've started again on my annual Actually Getting Paid to Write project, the activities for Pennsylvania One Book Every Young Child (which you will hear me refer to simply as "One Book" in everyday speech, but there are many programs called "One Book" so I'll be more specific this once). This is my ninth year working on it, but I think it's finally sunk in that, YES, I am writing professionally, and I'm quite capable of it.

So the tl;dr of this is: I'm writing this post to let you know that if I seem to fall off the face of the Internet for the next few months-- not posting here much, trying to avoid Twitter (which is hard!), missing your own fascinating blog posts until weeks later if I see them at all-- it is only because I am SUPER BUSY being Moderately Successful In My Professional Life for once. And the usual hanging-in-there busyness of my home life, still. So, come visit me at the library! Or at least feel free to occasionally comment on old posts here, send me hellos or things-that-remind-you-of-me on Facebook or Twitter, or email me if you do that. Or REAL PAPER LETTERS! I'm all about them. (You can even TELEPHONE! Just don't expect me to ever call YOU). Just don't forget me, and know that my apparent absence is in no way related to me being tired of YOU.

---

*If you haven't heard me mention it before, Megan McDonald was the children's librarian at my big public library growing up. But I TOTALLY DIDN'T KNOW IT until after she stopped working there. Or I just never saw her because she never worked Saturdays, which is the only time I was there. Or something. Anyway, the young budding author that I was never got to take advantage of the THEORETICAL MENTOR RIGHT THERE because she wasn't.

**Speaking of which, guys, I just saw this news last night, a week late, and... do you know how STUPIDLY RELIEVED I am to hear about Zoe? Obviously it's just something to make the fans feel better, I mean WHAT A COINCIDENCE, but I don't CARE, it EASES MY SUFFERING to know that at least one little "at least" is canon! ALLOW ME TO FEEL FEELS ABOUT FICTIONAL CHARACTERS, thanks.
rockinlibrarian: (love)
I've been meaning to write this for awhile, because every time I see the phrase "If everyone is special, then no one is special," I want to slap whomever it is said it over the head. Possibly with a thesaurus. Yesterday someone linked to someone else rolling their metaphorical eyes at the old Fox News stance that Mister Rogers' "You are Special" refrain insidiously created a generation of entitled slackers, so I thought of this post again. What's interesting about the above link is that someone in the comments (yes, I read the comments! They actually weren't bad!) then linked to a response one such apparent Mister Rogers blamer wrote to clarify what he actually meant.

Unfortunately, the guy's still missing the point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---
*This is the thing that bugs me most about my son's beloved Thomas and Friends, beyond the annoying songs. I hate the emphasis on everyone trying to be a Really Useful Engine. I mean, obviously they're trains, they HAVE to be useful, but they're ANTHROPOMORPHIC trains, which thoroughly muddies the issue.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
So I thought if I posted my Movie-Howl Rant I'd feel less irrationally compelled to rant it whenever someone mentions it, but apparently I just feel irrationally compelled to link them to my Rant post, instead. When I did so in response to a friend's Facebook posting yesterday, she said something that cleared up the whole What Makes an Adaptation of a Book Work For Me issue. And she was just agreeing with me. "We don't love the props, the accessory: we love the PEOPLE, and the IDEAS (maybe values is more appropriate)," is what she said. But it made me see the issue in a new light: it's like Fanfiction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that's all I want from an adaptation. I want some sense that the people making it actually read the same book I did. That they did their research. That they're ACTUALLY FANS, like me.

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rockinlibrarian

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