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.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
*AHEM* So I was about to go off on a fangirl rant on Twitter, when I realized it would be so much easier if I just wrote a blog post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---
*Completely unrelated: how does my spellchecker recognize "Bilbo" but not "Baggins"? Does anyone have any idea what might have possessed the spellchecker programmers to include one without the other? This is going to bug me all night.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
So, this week's vlog topic is "Some of Your Favorite Things," which brings up the topic of Bic Velocity Easy-Glide Ballpoints.*

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

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

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

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

------

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Backstory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Actual Impressions of the Movie:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings me to the emphasis.

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

OMG. LONDON.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the rules:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Which I Give You a Real-Life Update

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

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

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

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

In Which We Wander Into the Bizarre Depths of My Imagination

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

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

In Which I Go Off on Librarianish Topics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...and of film and such lately

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

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

In Which I Try To Wrap Things Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--
*(Do you remember when every year people would post a survey that was supposed to be your yearly retrospective post? I miss surveys, but looking at this one it's clear what I have done here is a much more interesting and productive retrospective. Who really needs me to waste space on how I continued to not hate people and have no one-night stands?)

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