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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now here's something I considered doing awhile ago, which is COMPLETELY OPTIONAL, mind you. But since I'm kind of self-publishing my book, above, there, and I've written other good stuff you might like, and we still need to replace our patio/retainment wall that fell down in the back last summer, if YOU would like to donate to the cause of ME WRITING STUFF, I've got here a nice PayPal.Me link: https://paypal.me/rockinlibrarian  So, whatever you think my book is worth to you, go ahead and pay for it here! If not, don't! I probably wouldn't because I'm cheap (but then again I might anyway if I really love it and am not currently broke—I guess I have done such things before). Because after all it isn't quite up to standard, but it's still pretty fun and I did take decades writing it!
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
It’s time for the yearly roundup, and while 2016 is pretty universally known to have been a pretty crappy year, it’s had its bright spots too. As I’ve done for the past few years, I’ve rounded up events and reviews into Top Five lists for your perusal. It makes for a long post, but I’d love for you to read it, and chime in with comments on anything you see that you agree with, disagree with, or feel enlightened by, because I do these things to talk to people, you know.

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

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

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

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

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

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










And most notably, this:


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

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

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

And I voted. Because Every Vote Counts.

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

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

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

Writing has failed.

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

She was paraphrasing Gandalf. I smiled.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't. Give. Up.


*God bless you, Diane Duane, I don't know how you so deeply infiltrated my own personal theology, but it sure is handy for expressing my dilemma.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
YOU GUYS. Remember when LiveJournal was actually social media and new Harry Potter books were coming out and we'd just DISCUSS THEM excitedly RIGHT HERE as we finished reading?

That was a decade-ish ago. Since then I've learned to Blog Properly, and have networked with loads of Librarian-types, or have made online friends with just various cool people I haven't actually met. (Since then also my baby has gotten quite grown as has his sister who wasn't even conceived yet). I've gotten into the habit of Writing Reviews, in which I DO in fact go on about my feelings about a work or whatever, but what I write can better be described as a typed book talk: "Here's this book, here's why you might want to read it! No spoilers, no discussion, I'm just RECOMMENDING!"

When I finished reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child --The Script, I felt curiously incomplete. Well, partially because I have not yet fully experienced the story by seeing it performed. But also because I felt "Okay, I've finished, now I need to frantically post to all my friends who are also probably finishing about now! Right? That's... that's how reading these works."

...it's different now, a decade later. A lot of us have kids, which means me reading this three days after its release was actually EARLY, not late, and who knows who else has managed to get to it yet. And online, I have followers. Loads of people I don't actually know, who keep expecting me to write brilliant things instead of just chat. We speak a language of reviews. We carefully avoid spoilers. We don't just spill our thoughts.

BUT I WANT A SPACE FOR THAT AGAIN!

Anyway, here is my Spoiler-Free Response post. Those of you who want to hash things out in more spoilerific detail, use the comments section right here on LiveJournal, rather than on Facebook or Twitter or whatever-- that keeps the discussion all in one place and, ironically, makes it harder for people to stumble upon spoilers, because the comments aren't just OUT THERE like they are on Facebook or whatever. You do not need a LiveJournal account to comment-- you can log in with another type of account or just do it as Anonymous (but please sign your name)-- Anonymous comments won't show up right away but I DO get notified and I WILL put them up eventually. Anyway.

Make no mistake, this is a SCRIPT. Reading it is not magical like seeing it performed would be, or even like reading a book that's actually crafted to be your whole experience is. It's a placeholder, a consolation for those of us who CAN'T see the show on stage, so that we don't miss out on the story itself. But you can tell that this really is just an OUTLINE of the experience. This is meant to be viewed on a stage-- that's how the story is crafted. You really aren't getting the whole experience just reading the script.

But that never stopped anybody reading Shakespeare.

I saw in passing a tweet in which somebody said somebody ELSE had called it fanfiction, which IS technically not true, but I can see where the thought might be coming from. After all, some theater guys did the actual WRITING.* It's just Jo Rowling helped shape the story, making the story, therefore, canonical. But there are lots of reminders and callbacks to things in the books that may just be reminders but also kind of feel like jumping-off points actual fanfic writers MIGHT use. And, being written almost a decade on, it kind of takes the part of-- what's the word, fanfic people? "Corrective" fic? Something that rolls off the tongue better? Anyway, that-- it's able to fix some of the problems the original series had. Notably, we get our first actually likable and heroic Slytherin House characters. (In fact, if you'd told me ahead of time who my favorite new character would be? ...well, didn't see that coming). And yes, they're ambitious and cunning without being evil or snobbish!

We also get to play around with AUs a little bit for those people who weren't always sure about Granger-Weasley marriage concept, and we get FURTHER SATISFACTION THAT RON/HERMIONE IS INDEED THE BRIGHTEST TIMELINE for those of us who are still passionate shippers after all these years. That wasn't a spoiler. THAT WAS MY HIGHLY OPINIONATED TRUTH. ...it was LOVELY to see them together as adults, their ever-beautiful chemistry still melting my heart after all these years. I liked the reminder that they really are one of my absolute favorite fictional couples ever. SO SUE ME.

It's scary. I was surprised how scary it could be simply reading the script-- imagine seeing it in the theater! The stakes get high and they get there fast-- "this is happening in only Act Two? Of Four Acts? Only the BEGINNING of Act Two at that?!"

There are twists and turns you don't see coming. It's just plain fun.

When I finished I had to go look at production pictures. I know, that sounds funny-- I can read BOOKS without pictures just FINE. But it was strangely comforting to see some of the scenes I'd read, like, "oh good, they DID complete this script by performing it, PHEW!" And, just reading about grown-up Harry, and then SEEING grown-up Harry... it was just good to see him there, you know? I kept staring at him. "That's Harry Potter, grown up." Now, I see Daniel Radcliffe as a grown-up and I go "aw, look how well he grew up!" but I don't actually think of him as HARRY grown up. THIS is Harry grown up, and it's just nice dangit.

I guess I'll stop there. Chat in the comments if you like!

*Just like an old-fashioned LiveJournal journal entry, I'm not bothering to look up their names for accuracy because I don't actually CARE. It's not like you won't be able to FIND it.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
Today is Billy 'Arrison's birthday. It's a thing I still say that only makes sense to a few of my friends now, but still when I see any other references to any other aspect of Geek Pride Day, asking me where's my towel or my lilac or arguing over whether the day has anything to do with Star Wars or not (look, I'm a Star Wars fanatic, but we already have May the Fourth AND a Saturday in October for Star Wars Reads AND nowadays most of December as new movies keep coming out, so we really don't have to claim any more)-- anyway, fan as I am of all those things, I still want to say "...but none as important as BILLY 'ARRISON'S BIRTHDAY," even though it ought not to mean anything even to ME anymore.

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Her name is Coriander Lemongrass and she's a Kender if the campaign has Kender but if not she's just an ordinary Hobbitty halfling, and her class also changes depending on the campaign-- right now she's a "thief" because that was the only appropriate class open to her in this campaign, but usually she's had some sort of magic, too-- bard seems to be the best fit. The best thing is, when I pulled her out and dusted her off for this current campaign, after YEARS, I looked up and said in shock, "You know what? Cori is totally Maddie. I CREATED MADDIE BEFORE SHE WAS BORN." 
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
I touched on my personal problems with Lit Analysis in my last post (which, by the way, I have edited to include thoughts on Agent Carter's season finale, if you care), and as I continue to read a wide variety of opinions-expressed-as-truth about shows and books and etc, I thought it might make a good GeekMom post. So I pulled up something I'd written before about Lit Analysis to see if I could pull any of it for a new piece.

This had been one of a series of "memoirs" I'd written about my first years of college during my last year of college. Yeah. Kind of stretching the word "memoir" here but whatnot. As I read it I both laughed and cried. The bits and pieces I might use in an article would need a lot of reshaping to sound like a proper article, but I kind of want to share the whole thing as-is right now.

(I think I shared the one I wrote about my birthday once a long time ago, too. I'm going to go look for that! Oh, it was friends-locked because I used real names. I've un-friends-locked it due to like three people actually ever reading this while logged in on LiveJournal anymore. If anybody is called out by name in this who would not like to be, let me know!)

I'm not going to change or remove names in this one, either. Just shout at me if you think that should change. I've added a few notes and edits to clarify things for people who didn't know me in college, and taken out some chunks that are completely off-topic, but otherwise, I'm leaving it. I want to get other stuff done today!

And so I present to you "April 1997: The Trouble with Lit Analysis":

As written by me about 15 years ago! Not editing at all! So don't judge current me! Unless in a good way! )
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
This format worked really nicely last year, so I'll stick to something of the same:
Long and Full of Pictures )

When I was talking about the GeekMom thing with some relatives on Christmas Eve, I said kind of bashfully that I shouldn't let my writing confidence be affected so much by how many people read and respond, because writers write even if only for themselves, but a couple of them said, No, it makes sense, because while that might be so, a written work technically isn't complete until it has an audience, because it TAKES A READER. So please, indulge me, and chime in in the comments with your opinions on any or all of the things discussed here, because I like being heard!
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
NOTE: I'm kind of unsure about my personal blog, now that I write on a MUCH LARGER PLATFORM over at GeekMom. I could kind of count on being mostly ignored here on my little corner of the internet, just talking to the few people who knew I was here, so I could just WHINE STUPIDLY to the universe every so often and no one would care. So I apologize. This is one of those whiny depressing unhelpful-to-anyone-else posts so if you're looking for something professional from me, this isn't it.

Well then, if you're still here, let's begin:

I couldn't figure out why I was getting depressed sitting at my desk in the library. I LOVE the library. I LOVE my job. Sure I have depression issues but I'm managing them and anyway it's just something about this desk that's weird. It's not all the time. It's not when I'm working on programs or booklists or specific orders or helping patrons (unless I'm already depressed, then my INTROVERSION kicks in). It's days like today, when I have to catch up with review reading and updating my Massive Spreadsheet Of New Books.

Right now I've got 1317 books on that list. 1317 books published for children through teens by a traditional publisher in the past two years that I HAVEN'T BOUGHT for the library yet, and considering I have just $37 dollars left in my teen budget for the year (at least I still have a thousand in children's) it's a good bet most of them WON'T get bought. But I'm thinking, "SO MANY BOOKS! WHY CAN'T WE HAVE ALL THE BOOKS?" And then I think how I'll never get around to reading most of the books I HAVE bought, let alone all the books from the past I haven't read, and all the ADULT books (as in, not children's or YA, not, like, "Adult"), period (disclaimer, I'm reading an adult book right now, the Bloggess's latest, Furiously Happy. But that's because I love her desperately and so have made the exception), and you add in self-published books and magazines and blogs and fanfiction, it's like SO MANY BOOKS! SO MANY WORDS! INFORMATION OVERLOAD! TOO MUCH TO READ!

And the blogs and other review sources I use, they've got me on the We Need Diverse Books train. Because we do. But we always hear how putting diverse characters in books is good and all, but when people who aren't that minority do it they usually do it wrong even when they're trying, so what we really need is diverse AUTHORS, and I'm as un-diverse as can be. Books have been full of mirrors for me FOREVER. Maybe that's why I got into books. A white straight American mainstream-Christian able-bodied cis-girl who dreams and reads in her happy middle-class home with both parents, OH GAH THAT'S LIKE EVERY CHILDRENS-YA BOOK IN HISTORY. Well, some writers will reassure me, you can't please everyone so just do the best you can adding diverse characters and accept that somebody might say "Hey, you portrayed that wrong!"

But it doesn't MATTER, because it will take a huge effort to get myself writing fiction again, and how can I ever feel like I can start when I see ALL THE BOOKS and I know IT'S NOT MY VOICE that people need?

It doesn't MATTER, because I have so much to fill my time as it is. I share books with children, maybe that's my part, I can connect all sorts of books with all sorts of children and I will give them the windows and mirrors they need to grow and THAT'S ALL I'M NEEDED FOR in the world of story. I write BLOGS occasionally, ARTICLES, and now I have an even bigger platform for my articles. I have my journal, where I can do the writing I need to do to keep my head on straight, just for me, which when people say "writers can't stop writing," THAT'S the thing I can't stop writing, just my journals. I don't have any STORIES I need to tell. And I have two children and a husband who feel I never give them enough attention, and a house that I KNOW I don't give enough attention, and I have my sewing projects, which have been my major outlet of creativity lately after library programming which is probably my BIGGEST outlet of creativity, to be honest.

I just DON'T NEED to write fiction. I have no stories pouring out of me, and nobody would need to hear them even if I did. There are too many books, and my voice isn't needed.

So why does this continual realization of basic fact make me so depressed.
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
I've felt a bit of a fraud for a long while. I'm a children's librarian, you know. Part of my job description is "Encourage parents to read to their children because this will improve literacy, empathy, family dynamics, and their entire childhood!" There's a poster on the Youth Services office door of a Mafia-looking baby demanding "Read to me 20 minutes a day or I'll tell the librarians on you!" And reading aloud is one of my personal favorite things to do.

So why is it so hard to do with MY OWN KIDS?

I get jealous, reading online, other parents discussing all the chapter books they're reading as a family. Sometimes I think people DO go too far. When they're like "I'm going to read Harry Potter to my 4 year old now!" I'm like "NO. STOP. You're wasting it. Start with My Father's Dragon. Build UP for crying out loud! Sometimes age appropriateness has a point!" Besideswhich, people give up on picture books too fast. There are brilliant picture books that can really only be appreciated by school-aged kids instead of preschoolers, but everyone's in such a hurry to get to the chapter books that these get lost.

That's all true. But my kids could barely sit still for picture books, let alone chapter books. I DID start with My Father's Dragon, several years ago, when the girl was just a baby and so didn't get nearly as much out of it as her brother. We enjoyed that one. But the boy wasn't much into stories, really. He's a nonfiction reader-- give him a book about trains or Lego or Minecraft and he'll read for hours-- anything else, he's not interested. His sister enjoys stories more, but the same ones about her favorite characters over and over, and even more often she'd rather read what SHE calls "picture books," which are what I call photo albums. And that's great, too, she learns about her extended family and their history and her own past and it's every bit literacy-development.

But a CHAPTER BOOK? When there wasn't a picture on every page? How could they pay attention to that? They jumped around and talked through it so I couldn't read, and we'd try to pick up again a few nights later (a consistent reading schedule is hard, too, when I work until their bedtime several evenings a week) and neither could remember a thing that had happened before then.

When I said "hyperactive" in the title of this post, it wasn't hyperbole. They literally both have ADHD. They literally both CANNOT focus on one thing without interrupting with an unrelated thought, they both CANNOT sit still unless for some reason they're using my Nook and suddenly they're psychically shackled into place for hours without outside intervention. Maybe I was crazy to even THINK they could sit and listen to a long-form story.

So they're 8 1/2 and 6 1/2 now, and in the course of their lives we have completed only four short chapter books together: My Father's Dragon as previously mentioned, and Beverly Cleary's Mouse and the Motorcycle books. The last three I managed by reading during their bath, but since then they've been taking separate showers instead. And we've started and stopped several other Cleary books, and Lois Lowry's All About Sam because obviously, and my Internet friend Kate Coombs' very fun Runaway Princess books, and a lot of Disney fairy easy chapter books my daughter was REALLY EXCITED to check out of the library, but a few chapters in and we'd get distracted and not work our way back until the books were overdue or we'd entirely forgotten what happened and had to start again.

I was FAILING at this family read-aloud thing. How would I ever introduce them to my favorite childhood classics the way my mom had done for me? How would they DEVELOP PROPERLY without them?

But last week I was sorting a box of old paperbacks my parents had found in their house that hadn't managed to travel with me when I moved out because apparently my siblings felt they had a right to read them or something like that, and Maddie became fascinated with the cover of Edward Eager's Half Magic. "Can we read this one sometime?" she asked, and I said, "sure" in that offhand way that meant "Yes in that theoretical SOMETIME in which we read ANYTHING." But she kept asking, again while I was shelving the new-old books, and again when it WASN'T EVEN IN SIGHT. That's the most interested I've EVER seen her in a book that wasn't about Disney characters or My Little Pony. Somehow Katharine in half a suit of armor was nearly as good as a fancy princess!

So I grabbed it down and I sat deliberately in the room where her brother was playing, and we started to read, and by the end of the first chapter they were both asking questions. For the second chapter they both actually sat beside me for awhile, though there was bouncing involved and I occasionally had to stop reading to scold them down from walking behind me on the back edge of the couch. But that's all right-- they can't sit still, okay, but they WERE listening. When they interrupted, it was to DISCUSS THE STORY. If they were going to go off track, it was only to share what THEY would wish if they had a magic nickel. And that was the most I've EVER heard them engage with a chapter book.

Soon Maddie was coming up with all kinds of predictions and other theories, including the rather mind blowing observation that if she wished for two more magic nickels she'd get one more, or two total, and then if she wished BOTH coins would grant half the wish WHICH WOULD MAKE ONE WHOLE so she'd only need to make regular wishes from then on. And Sam? Sam was asking me to read to him.

HE NEVER ASKS ME TO READ TO HIM.

He'd rush to get ready in the morning so we'd have time to read before school! He'd get ready for bed without complaint to we could get on with reading! He'd even FOREGO MINECRAFT to read! What sorcery IS this?

Half magic, apparently.

They both started asking for a sequel even before we finished. Half Magic's the only one I have, in both my personal AND public libraries, but I got on the system's OPAC and ordered Knight's Castle from the next library over and it showed up the next day (that being today). Maybe this is the start of something. Maybe I WILL read them Harry Potter in a year or so and The Secret Garden next spring (that one has to be read in the spring), I'll read them Dahl now and try Cleary again, and eventually in a few more years we WILL sit down for a few months of Lord of the Rings so I can finally show Sam WHY he's named Sam, and THEN I will have succeeded at motherhood.

I hope.

But at least this was fun while it lasted.
rockinlibrarian: (rebecca)
Time and again I've mentioned how far away I've gotten from my two #1 childhood-- and adolescent and early adulthood and basically PRE-MOTHERHOOD-- hobbies, reading and writing. I guess I keep moaning about it because it gives me an identity crisis, that's how tightly BOOKS have been tied to WHO I AM my whole life. People STILL associate me with books. I'm always getting Facebook-tagged for something book-related, or someone reads/hears/sees something bookish and is like "I was thinking of you today." The tie is so strong that even POST-(the-beginning-of)-motherhood, at least six years post, my daughter was being tested on basic vocabulary in preschool, had to identify a book, and allegedly immediately volunteered "my mommy knows a lot about those," as soon as she had. Well, okay, I am a librarian, and people do associate librarians with books even if there's so much more to it than that. But beyond the library tie-in, when people say to me "YOU! You're the one who loves BOOKS!" part of me kind of blinks and feels like a fraud, because... maybe I really don't?

It's not true, though, that I don't. It's more like I avoid reading and writing because I'm a little terrified of them. Maybe it's BECAUSE they're so tied up in my identity. Maybe cause and effect is backward, and I'm terrified of reading and writing because I've been having an identity crisis. MAYBE IT'S ALL A GIANT COLE SLAW OF CAUSES AND EFFECTS CAUSING PSYCHIC INDIGESTION.

READING is a bit less traumatic. Okay, I used to read approximately one novel a day; whereas now I've managed to complete two novels in the past three months or so.* I still get excited when a new book by an author I love is coming out (which both those books naturally were), but whether I get around to READING them is something else. But it's not because I don't LIKE it anymore. I'm just afraid to start because it always happens: if I love it (and why bother if I don't?) I will eventually NOT PUT IT DOWN. I will not be able to manage being a Responsible Grownup while reading. Everything else will be shunted aside. It's my fatal flaw Inertia rearing its head again: if I start, I can't stop; if I stop, I can't start.

But once I stop, it's easy to trick myself into forgetting the magic. I'll read the internet for awhile-- quickly written bits and pieces of essays and opinions and comments, so my brain is swarming with words and ideas and opinions thrust on me by the masses and I'm like "JUST BE QUIET FOR A LITTLE BIT, WORDS! I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF WORDS TODAY!" But when I DO get sucked in to a REAL BOOK, a work of fiction, one that's been finely crafted by a master (because again, anymore I'm likely to only bother picking it up if it IS by someone I know is a master), I remember WHY, WHY I would bother to suck so many of these down in a sitting. THESE are words that unlock the imagination, let you experience a true alternate reality in the comfort of home.

So yesterday morning I woke up, having gotten to bed late because I'd gotten into the climax of that last book and couldn't stop until I finished, and my brain was telling stories to itself. Basically that's WHY people write, isn't it, because their brains won't stop telling stories. Anymore my brain does all its storytelling late at night when my inhibitions are turned off and I'm securely dreaming, but reading had apparently reminded my brain that I don't HAVE to stop dreaming when I wake up. But I'd already written this story. This was one of my former Works In Progress. I'm not sure when they officially STOPPED being Works in Progress, somewhere between 3 and 5 years back, but if you've been around long enough you might remember me blabbering about Ian Schafer-- or more likely, his superhero best friend Billy 'Arrison. Loved those kids. In the back of my head I always thought, "when am I finally going to give them a book worthy of them?" I got pretty far. I drafted a whole book during a correspondence course, and the instructor thought it had genuine promise. Still needed work. Rewrote the first few chapters a few times. Had one of those initial chapter rewrites critiqued by Bruce Coville at an SCBWI conference and he didn't hate it, which made my entire life for awhile. Decided to rewrite the whole thing from scratch with an entirely different opening chapter, which I wrote and then... I stopped. It just wasn't happening. I just wasn't happening.

But yesterday I woke up smiling as I watched the final showdown with the big bad playing out in my head again, and thought, "That was fun. I want to read that book again. Just as a reader." So I did.

Yeah, still needs work, if it is to be Publication-worthy, but I'm not sure it CAN be fixed. Maybe I've never been able to wrestle the plot into submission because it's not MEANT to be wrestled into submission. Maybe its technological confusion over whether it's the present day or the 1990s, or its insistence on being a middle-grade story with a 17-year-old protagonist, is just PART of it. Maybe it's all just silly fun. Maybe it's time to leave it be and move on. It was a great practice novel.

And I feel okay about that. I can let it be. I'll always have Billy and Ian and Hannie and Ashlynn even if nobody else does.

That said, it was also way better than I've given myself credit for. I mean I ENJOYED it as a reader, reading it now several years later when I haven't been thinking about it. I fell in love with those stupid teenagers and their awkward chemistry all over again. There was a lot of REALLY GOOD STUFF THERE. When I left it I only saw its insurmountable problems that would never find it a home with a publisher. But I haven't been trying to get it published for years. I haven't been trying to publish ANYTHING for years. I've just been trying to WRITE again.

...or BELIEVE in myself enough to even ATTEMPT to write again...

So this time I still saw the flaws, but I saw the good stuff too, and it was GREAT stuff. It Wasn't Half Bad. I did that. I wrote an entire book and the characters made me laugh and cry and the plot took some neat twists and there's these lovely little character-building details you'd almost miss and there's Overarching Themes and STUFF.

Oh, and here's the best part. I also found an even earlier draft. That, too, had some good stuff, but the latest draft was SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER. That means I can learn.

So I'm still too terrified to attempt to write something. I'm still swirling through this identity crisis thing. But-- there's one rope for me to hang onto, at least.

*BOOK REVIEWS HERE, for the interested:
The other month I read Elizabeth Wein's most recent of her books about young pilots in WWII, Black Dove White Raven. This one was not quite as devastating as the other two, but considering this one included a detailed mustard gas attack on a Red Cross hospital camp, that really just tells you something about how devastating the others were. The most interesting thing about this one is it takes place in Ethiopia, which, seriously, I know We Need Diverse Books makes me feel worthless as a writer, but as a READER, I'm like, DARN YOU Colonial Europe with your stories of Savages in Darkest Africa, why did you hide all this FASCINATING HISTORY from us?! Everytime I read a book set in Africa that is not starring animals or happening in Ancient Egypt, I feel this way, this TELL ME MORE, TELL ME ALL THIS STUFF NOBODY TOLD ME EXISTED! Specifically in this book, among other things, did you know Ethiopia had its own branch of Christianity dating back to the beginning, not through some colonial missionaries? Didn't you, like me, just think ALL the early Christian sects eventually were united under the Roman Empire, and then didn't separate again until the Orthodox churches broke off? NO DUDES, there was a completely DIFFERENT sect down in Ethiopia all along, and they have a big part in this book! How COOL is that? I DIDN'T KNOW THAT AND NOW I WANT TO KNOW ALL THE THINGS!

*AHEM*

The book I finished the other night was Frances Hardinge's Cuckoo Song. I never adored her Mosca Mye books as much as a lot of people, but The Lost Conspiracy blew my mind, so it was on the strength of that I decided to read this one. It was slow going for the first chapter or two, to be honest: our protagonist is very confused and has a lot of blanks in her memory, so it was a little hard to grab onto for a currently-sort-of-reading-averse person like me. But then I got through a whole bunch of chapters at one sitting that involved a lot of waiting, and then I couldn't wait to get back, and got more and more SUCKED IN as I went along. This is a very creepy book, creepiest at the beginning when you're not sure what's going on-- a well-read adult will figure out what basically had happened to our heroine long before she does, but it's still creepy, and it's twisty and full of delicious details and there are enough moments of triumph throughout that you're not bogged down by the horror, and, as in Hardinge's other books, the characters are all so layered that everyone spends some time feeling like a good guy OR a bad guy, except maybe the Very Big Bad, I don't remember him having ANY Good Guy time (okay, EDIT: I'll give him that his motives are extremely noble from a certain standpoint. He's just pretty awful how he goes about things).

Anyway, so me finishing a book is in-and-of-itself a thumbs-up from me (me write negative reviews? I would, but I DON'T FINISH THOSE BOOKS), but now you know that these two passed the test.
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
Well, after a day and a half or two do you have any idea how long it took me to finally finish typing this up?!?!-- well, I STARTED typing after a day or two of severe stomach issues, when I finally felt comfortable enough to sit at my computer long enough to type,* which is about time, because my brain was all like "I need to type up these reviews! I can't start the next book until I type these up!" Which is kind of amazing when you know how much trouble I've had SITTING DOWN TO RELAX WITH A BOOK over the past 5 years. I think the key factor in this is Diana Wynne Jones. Because if anybody can capture my attention, she can. And it so happens to be #DWJMarch again over with Kristen M, so I said, "Okay, going to finally read Islands of Chaldea, then," which turns out to be an Official Read-along book, and then I ILL'd another of the official read-alouds, The Spellcoats, which I actually turned out to have won my own copy of yesterday. But meanwhile the ILL copy is here, and I've been sick, and reading is such a nice thing to do when you can't sit up. But I didn't want to confuse myself with having too many different DWJ stories floating in my head at once before I wrote out a response!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Large Mass of Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

*****It's funny, one of accusations lobbied against "Fake Geek Girls" is they only know Marvel characters from the movies and they only LOVE the movies because they have crushes on the guys in them, but for all the Tumblrs devoted to Tony Stark and Thor and Loki and Captain America, Agent Carter is probably the FIRST Marvel show where I'VE crushed on anybody (except maybe a little bit on Cap because he's so noble-- Peggy and I share taste; and possibly James McAvoy as young Charles Xavier, if you count all Marvel CHARACTERS even if it's not technically Marvel MOVIES, and that's basically just because James McAvoy is a beautiful, beautiful man anyway), and it's given me TWO somebodies to crush on. Heh. BUT, yes, I do admit that I am a huge fan of Marvel movies, but I don't know squat about the comics. But this is only because I don't really like long-form panel-based reading, not because I'm not truly interested! I've actually always fallen on the Marvel end of the Marvel-vs-DC argument, mostly because I DID follow the Spider-man comic in the NEWSPAPER, oh, and I watched the Spider-man cartoon too that Stan Lee always introduced in voiceover, which absolutely fascinated me (who WAS this Stan Lee guy? Wait, he INVENTED Spider-man? And he's talking on the CARTOON? COOL!), so Spider-man was always my favorite superhero, and I watched other Marvel cartoons too. Then again, I also watched Batman, but still, I liked the Marvel characters more. I always found them more nuanced and interesting.
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
I have nothing but contented feelings toward this year's Youth Media Awards. It's a gut reaction I couldn't actually pinpoint, but I'm just pleased. Someone online pointed out that it's a very kid-friendly bunch of honorees this year: not just award-bait that teachers will push on kids for decades, but books kids will willingly scoop up on their own. Someone else pointed out how diverse in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks sense the winners are, but me in my privileged place HAD to have that pointed out to me, because everything and everyone is so clearly there on their own merit, which just makes non-diverse award lineups-- like the Oscar noms-- suddenly look like "Oh, yeah. That IS weirdly whitewashed in comparison to what could be." So perhaps these are factors that affect my gut satisfaction, but whatever the factors are, they're just all mixed in to make a general soup of "Oh, I like this!"

Which isn't to say I can't find anything more specific to say about the full list, which I will put under a cut for posterity's sake:
Read more... )
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Back in the day I could write an entire post JUST ABOUT THE BOOKS of the year. Not happening anymore. But I can write about the WHOLE year in small Top FIVE lists, so I'll do that instead:

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

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

Top 5 Presents I Got For Christmas

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

Top 5 Presents I Gave Other People For Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 Movies I Saw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Anyway.

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

So... have a lovely new year! We have no plans because we're boring. How about you? What were your Top Whatevers of the year?
rockinlibrarian: (wwii)
I briefly considered trying NaNoWriMo since I don't have One Book to work on this year, but I had a feeling that would be like trying a marathon in my current state of fitness, so instead I said, "Okay, I will just get into the habit of writing every day." THAT hasn't been doing all that well, either. Granted, I spent the first week of November sleeping off a horrible flu-like thing that SHOULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED BECAUSE I GOT A FLU SHOT A MONTH AND A HALF AGO DANGIT, but even that week I had moments where I thought "I don't have the energy for housework, so nothing's tugging at me and making me feel guilty for writing, so I should get lots of writing done!" But HAH. I barely got daily JOURNALING in.

Then I got distracted making a dress. I replaced my sewing machine a few weeks ago, and now it's just HERE ASKING ME TO MAKE STUFF. I've been looking forward to making this dress for a long time, with a pattern I'd made up myself based on this gorgeous dress I saw on a totally-out-of-my-price-league boutique site which I can no longer find a picture of, so I pieced the pattern together by mixing up parts of dresses and other patterns I already had. Then a month ago I inherited a huge pile of fabric from my grandmother-in-law's house, which included two swaths she'd already paired together which seemed perfect for the dress, and when I actually cut the pieces out it turned out to be EXACTLY THE RIGHT AMOUNT of fabric of each color. It was creepy! It was like it was MEANT TO BE! I love the results, but they're not exactly what I expected. I'd been going for a sort of retro feminine cocktail dress type thing, and yet somehow what happened looks EXACTLY like it should be a costume for The Sound of Music.
Picture 33*
Which I still love. I've always been slightly obsessed with all Maria's dresses in that movie. And though the green fabric is heavy and I'm pretty sure Mim-mim had originally intended to make something tableclothy out of it, I don't THINK it looks like it's made of old drapes. But it DOES look a bit like I intend to do some kind of Alpine dancing in it. NOT THAT IT ISN'T AWESOME. I'm just not sure that I could wear it to a hip cocktail party** without being mistaken for some sort of ethnic entertainment.

Along with the huge box of fabric, I also got a bunch of notions and wrapping paper and casserole dishes and Pe-pa's ties that I mentioned last post, and most remarkably, a little yellowed paperback from 1943, VOGUE's Pocket Book of Home Dressmaking. It's a treasure trove of tips, if you ignore the obviously dated stuff.

Of course, why ignore ALL the dated stuff, because this paragraph on the back cover is just plain interesting: "Above all, you will help the Government in its conservation program, by waging war on waste. And when peace comes, you will want to continue to make the distinctive clothes that you have learned to make with this step-by-step handbook." That's a sort of fun thing to read and go "OOO!" But that's OBVIOUSLY a product of history. Another line on the back copy struck me even more, even though it doesn't scream out its era so blatantly: "It proves that sewing need not be difficult, but actually fun."

Heh, I thought. Actually FUN? I wouldn't even think of sewing if I didn't find it fun. Who sews because they HAVE to anymore? Putting aside wartime shortages, though, there WAS a time when sewing ones family's own clothes oneself was considered a necessary chore. You bought material and patterns, not ready-made clothes, unless you were well-off enough to afford a tailor. It was something that was just EXPECTED of the lady of the house.

But everyone I know who sews nowadays does it as a hobby. Sure, it has benefits, they can make useful things usually cheaper and more personalized than if they just bought those things. Maybe they even sell some of their creations on Etsy. But none of them do it because it's EXPECTED of them.

I wondered what it would be like if I HAD to sew. If I was REQUIRED by my family, by society, by available resources, to MAKE everything my family wore. Would I still get excited finding particular patterns or materials? Would I still want to show off what I'd made when I finished? Or would I dread having to hem another pair of pants?

It's one thing to make it a gendered obligation. Sure, there were probably lots of women who didn't like to sew and didn't like being expected to sew merely because it was "Women's work." But if I, someone who DOES enjoy sewing, had lived in a time or place where I was OBLIGED to do it, I'm not sure I would have liked it so much either. For example, take the other most prominent half of Home Economics, the half that IS still usually EXPECTED of people (although not as OFTEN in a gendered way): cooking. I DO love cooking. I love eating even more, but I also enjoy pulling together a meal and substituting ingredients and generally making something scrumptious to share with others. BUT in my house I am THE COOK. The other adult, if left to his own devices, might forget about plant-based ingredients entirely. Oh, wait, ingredients? Forget ingredients, the less pieces, the better. All-in-one ready-made for him. So basically, here I am, the one that HAS to prep all the meals every day. The one that HAS to find a meal to at least partially satisfy four people with very different tastes, one of whom is extraordinarily picky to the point that he's bordering on underweight, one of whom is slightly less picky but is weird about Things Touching and, again, is even weirder about VEGETATION, and one of whom isn't THAT picky yet somehow doesn't like SPAGHETTI WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER. (I am the least picky eater, but admittedly I AM the only one in the family who doesn't like ham. What is wrong with ME). I get SO SICK of trying to please this crew. I get SO SICK of HAVING to come up with dinner every night. That's really the problem. It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't HAVE to do it EVERY NIGHT.

It's funny how chores become such CHORES. My kids are still at the age where they think doing the dishes is the most fun thing ever, which would be great if they actually got the dishes CLEAN. But as soon as they're old enough to do it thoroughly and seriously, and I try to GET them to do the dishes, how long do you suppose the fun will last?

Life is full of obligations, but it doesn't seem fair that obligation should so suddenly and thoroughly turn things Not Fun. Really, what's the difference? What is really the difference between WANTING to and HAVING to? If people only did the things they WANT to, how soon would we fall into chaos? Or would we? Would the people who WANT to do all the usual obligations just step in and pick up the slack for those who don't? Anarchy isn't so bad because there's somebody who will do anything? Or will they? WHO KNOWS? How can we use this tendency to dread obligation to our true advantage?

I always say that about Christmastime, though-- that I wish the people who didn't enjoy the process and stressed out about their holiday obligations would just let their obligations slide and let those of us who DO love getting ready for Christmas take up all the slack, because we do it gladly and with joy and give it freely to even those who don't feel like giving it back. But Christmastime is one thing. The rest of the year, the drudge of everyday life... we may need those obligations too much to say "Only if you want to!"

OR DO WE? I'm really just confusing myself now. I suppose we never can know for sure.

---

*Also, my daughter mugging. After this picture on the computer are at least five more goofy selfies.
**because I go to so many of those
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
Sometimes I write blog posts about whatever's on my mind. Sometimes I THINK about writing blog posts but never actually do. Sometimes I think about writing ACTUAL WORKS OF THEORETICAL ART but never actually do (the bunch of you who read my early chapter book the other week? I thank you again. I'm thinking about your ideas. I still haven't actually put any of them to use yet). But I rarely even think about writing anything of PRACTICAL USE, which is a shame, because that's actually the only type of writing I've ever been paid for, until I was replaced with a SurveyMonkey. Also, it's, as I said, useful. And it OCCURRED to me the other day, as I was surfing the 'net for programming ideas, that sometimes I came up with ideas that were WAY BETTER than the ones I was finding, so maybe I should possibly share some of them myself?

I think maybe it might be useful of me to post monthly about what I've done at the library. Since this season's programming started halfway through September, I'll add on the first few weeks of that, too, this month.

I have two basic in-house programs: Library Explorers, which is a STEAMish sort of thing for elementary students, and Family Night, an all-ages evening storytime. This season I'm doing them both on the same night so sometimes I'll use the same topic for both and just mix up the activities a bit. Here's what happened:
cut for length and pictures )
rockinlibrarian: (love)
This is what I woke up pondering in the middle of the night. I might blame Cat for creating a whole blog for such Lycoris-type questions for us to ponder (and this one I answered is sort of similar). Or I might blame this great post from Cheryl Klein and a series of tweets from Rae Carson I read yesterday, both of which discussed how helpful it is to take an objective look at stuff YOU don't like but other people LOVE just to figure out what it is that it must be somehow doing right. I might blame a chance run-in with one of those Martin-Freeman-haters, who allow the fact that my Imaginary Husband can't stop running his mouth and has said a few stupid things in his day completely sour them and blind them to the far greater amount of AWESOME he has done and said, and I get cranky when people irrationally hate people I love. I might blame violent football players, because we keep hearing about THEM a lot lately, too. Most likely it was all these things swirling together, keeping me up, making me wonder if I should just GET up to write this but then worrying that I'd fall back asleep just when I was SUPPOSED to wake up, instead.*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***OR WOULD IT????? WHO REALLY KNOWS THE INTRICACIES OF CHAOS THEORY?!?!
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
Yesterday afternoon I opened my 2nd grader's school folder and had a moment of smug hypocrisy. They'd done their DIBEL Reading Assessments at school, and here was a page announcing my new 2nd grader is reading at a 3rd grade level. NATURALLY, MY son reads a grade level ahead.

Never mind how it's kind of my professional mission to expose how READING LEVEL IS A CROCK.

I sat there staring bemused at the paper, trying to reconcile my strong, long-held professional opinions with my parental desires for my children to do well in school. I'd just brought home the latest Elephant and Piggie book from work with me, with the idea that it would be great fun for Sam to read to the rest of us, and then he could mark it down on the reading log he has to keep for school now. But he'd grabbed the book and rather excitedly pointed to the spine and said, "It has a red dot! That means it's a first grade book!" Luckily he didn't say that in a "that means it's for BABIES" way, which would have broken my heart, BECAUSE, ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE (I mean, what kind of idiot WOULD say that? ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE! The most genius easy-reader series of the past decade-or-probably-more!), but now I looked at the paper from the school again and thought, "But wait. Does that mean he WON'T get credit for reading this? Because all of a sudden it is two reading levels too low?!"

Now if Sam were like ME, that'd be no big deal. I read so much (pre-parenthood) that I could easily read whatever number of minutes my reading log required on my Assigned Level and read whatever I wanted the rest of the time. But Sam-- how to put this-- is not a, you know, "READER." Obviously he CAN read. He reads a grade level ahead. He's just not interested in BOOKS. Also not exactly true. He's not interested in reading through story books one after another like I did as a kid. He's VERY interested in, say, a nonfiction book about trains or LEGO. He pours over his Puzzle Buzz magazines. He reads to find out things, and he loves reading to find out things. He just doesn't love reading for the sake of reading. And sitting down reading every evening for a certain amount of time is just contrary to the way he likes to read.

So now the school is putting these restrictions on reading. He HAS to read at least ten minutes a night. Those ten minutes MUST be spent on Books With a Yellow Dot AR Sticker (and oh yeah, he has to take AR tests now). Before my own kids had reached this point at school, I'd bristled whenever a parent came into the library stressing about reading levels and colored stickers and no-you-can't-read-that-it's-too-easy-or-hard. And by "before," I mean "two hours before." Two hours before, I'd printed out this post by Jon Scieszka on how to encourage reading to keep copies of at the desk.

"Do not tell them reading is magical, or good for them, or important, or something they better do for an hour before bedtime or goddammit they will end up like shiftless Uncle Dave who is always asking to borrow money," Scieszka says. "...Do not refuse to get a book for them because it isn’t up to their reading level. Do not tell them (or me, or anyone) that they are 'reluctant readers.' ...Promise there won’t be a quiz or a list of ten questions after the book."

"THIS," I proclaimed to my coworker. "Everyone who comes in here needs to read this!"

Two hours later, I sat pondering how to help my own child meet those same restrictions.

"You should come to the library with me, Sam," I said. "I can help you find some Yellow-dot books that you'll like." It became a sort of challenge in my head, really. I KNOW there are Yellow-Dot books he'll like. We're just narrowing our options. Just for the school year. Just for the reading logs. If he WANTS to read others, hey, great. Certainly he can read whatever he wants during vacations. And it's not like we're NOT going to read that Elephant and Piggie book (but hey, maybe that means I can take a part again, right? I love doing Piggie's voice). But this is just for this homework assignment. It's just a long-term homework assignment. It's just like having to pick a biography or something for a different assignment. IT'S THE ASSIGNMENT'S REQUIREMENTS, not the requirements of reading in general.

I have to admit, I feel a bit humbled. I was blinded by my idealism. I wanted all my library patrons to just DROP all their worries about reading levels, to toss them aside as the nonsense they are. But it's not so easy as all that in reality. From a parent's standpoint, now, I understand better where the school is coming from. We DO want to challenge our kids' reading skills. It's COOL that Sam is getting poked to pick up something harder or more complicated to read than he'd be likely to choose on his own.

I still believe everything Jon Scieszka says in that post. I still hate Accelerated Reader. I still think reading level is a sham. But maybe there's a way to work with the system, to work around the system. To follow the directions of school assignments without squelching the notion that reading can be fun. We need to make sure we offer enough choice within the limits given. We need to make sure everyone understands that these limits are only the rules of a school assignment, not the be-all-and-end-all of reading itself. We need to, for gosh sakes, DRILL IN the notion that accumulating minutes and answering trivia questions is JUST A SCHOOL ASSIGNMENT, NOT what reading is all about, and your abilities to do or not do those things aren't what make you a good or bad or any kind of reader. Reading is bigger than school!

But maybe I only hope I can do these things. Maybe my mom side and librarian side will be constantly fighting each other. But I hope not.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
The other day I jumped back into The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright. If you've been hanging around here awhile you might remember me talking about this book, its beautiful discussions of the way art and spirituality intersect, the way it poses soul-searching Hard Questions that dig way deeper into your motivations than most other writing prompts you might encounter. I'd left off on it just before a chapter called "The Beauty and Danger of a Creative Life: Why the Wonder Brings Darkness With It," which may have been WHY I'd left off. I've been having serious fear-induced blocking issues with my creativity, after all: the last thing I needed was MORE reason to be wary of it. But as it turned out, the chapter told me nothing I didn't already know intimately. I'm IN the Dark Stuff already! If anything, it was further proof that I am, actually, a creative person.

I found myself utterly tickled by a paragraph explaining that artists tend to fall in love easily because the artistic mindset and the-emotional-side-of-being-in-love are both heightened ways of experiencing the universe, and I fell so deeply in love with that concept that I woke up the next morning intent on writing a post about it. Only I got so distracted by breakfast and children and the Internet that hours went by and I found I'd lost the desire to blog. So obviously my best bet was to procrastinate further, by searching for tips on how habitually-procrastination-prone EnneaType 9s like myself can stop procrastinating. Mostly I just found lots of evidence that, yes, we are really good at procrastinating.* I didn't think the blog post could happen in this state, so I went back to the book to reread a bit to see if it put me back in the mood. After all, I hadn't even READ the Hard Questions for the chapter yet.

Wait. HAH. In typical Type 9 fashion, I'd gotten so excited about the Beauty of a Creative Life that I'd managed to forget entirely that this chapter had actually focused on the Danger of it. I'd even forgotten why I called the Hard Questions "the Hard Questions" (hint: they're not actually called that). And these Hard Questions? There was a list called "Worst-Case Scenarios":"The phrase or sentence I most fear writing down..."; "The secret I most fear coming to light"; "The emotion that frightens me most"; "The location associated with my darkest moment"; "The failure that would shatter me most"; "The biggest mistake I could make"; "The cruelest thing I've ever said or done"; "My greatest regret so far"; "The one thing I dread more than anything"; "The possibility I worry about most"; "The thing I need to do but can't"; "The one person or event that can make me angriest in the shortest amount of time"; "The grief that won't let me go." Those are the SHORT questions. The big one was "Write a three-page essay that explores the darkness you have either found in your creative work or feared you would find there. Write quickly and don't edit... [after a few days go back and] make sure it flows well and would be understandable to someone who knows nothing about you....Come up with some sort of structure and revise accordingly." That, oh Best Beloveds, is what you're reading right now. The revised, moderately explained edition.

See, the thing about 9s is that we're actually pretty good at DEALING with the world's Darkness, push come to shove. We're good in a crisis, should we happen to be dropped into the middle of one. But we're not so good at FACING the Darkness. We'll go out of our way to AVOID dealing with the Darkness. We're a bit like the Wizard Howl, having to trick himself into being brave because otherwise he'd slither right out of it.** THESE QUESTIONS WERE ASKING ME TO LOOK MY OWN DARK SIDE RIGHT IN THE EYE AND DESCRIBE WHAT I SEE. That's the DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL for a 9!

But having journaled since my early teens, and being a rather 4-like sexual-instinct 9, I'm a bit more introspective than the average 9. I CAN DO THIS. Maybe it'd be more the Long Dark Tea-Time than the actual NIGHT of the Soul.

Never mind it's taken me five paragraphs and two footnotes to get to the point where I actually DO discuss my Darkness.

If you were to ask me, flat out, to give a name to my own personal Dark Side, I'd tell you I've always identified with Wednesday Addams. She is the living-- okay, fictional-- EMBODIMENT of the Dark Side of Me. On the surface I may be this painfully nice, sweet, quiet, innocent girl-- on the inside is Wednesday, a morbid, snarky, sullen witch who's utterly unimpressed by what anyone else thinks. But I love Wednesday! I love secretly BEING her! I wouldn't MIND-- and probably SHOULD BE-- letting her come to the surface more often. So somehow I don't think that's the answer. That morbid, snarky side of me is NOT actually the Inner Darkness I need to face.

I decided to start with whichever of the Worst-Case Scenario questions I came up with an answer for first. The Location Associated With My Darkest Moment popped into my head immediately: I saw myself sitting in the Oak Grove at college trying to process what, looking back, I see now was a genuine Dark Night of the Soul moment (although it was morning), when I had to face a horrible truth about myself and what I'd thoughtlessly done to someone I loved. It had taken a long time-- years-- to fully recover from that. God help me, I wouldn't have to go through THAT again just to answer these QUESTIONS, would I?

But it opened up the tap-- literally, it made me cry for a moment, but I pulled myself together and quite calmly started answering more questions-- and more of my fears and regrets and demons poured onto the page. My fear of being wrong (that's a product of my 1-wing, since we're on the Enneatype stuff), because it's like every added wrong thing is more negativity in the world (which, yeah, is a 9's problem with having a 1-wing). Fears of anything bad happening to my kids, not just because they're my babies whom I love more than anyone else in the world, but also because I fear having to FACE anyone SHOULD they have (even unwittingly) caused harm to my kids, because I don't think I could forgive them-- I'm not sure I forgive myself for all my failures as a parent and how they might manifest in the future. The regret that I never did anything daring with my life BEFORE I had a family. The dread that I never WILL, that my life has gone stagnant. The deeper dread that the only way I CAN ever learn to live life fully is to give up my family and strike out on my own.

Now, none of these things were a surprise to me. Even if it might be hard to make myself sit down and write them, I've written about them all before. I've written SO MUCH in my journals-- and even here on my blog-- about my battles with chronic depression, which I even refer to as The Darkness-- because it IS, it's a cloud that settles over everything, blocking out light-- you can actually see a difference in the colors when you're depressed and not. I've written about this stuff so often it seemed pointless to write it again for the sake of this exercise.

So what about the darkness I FEARED I would find in my work? That would be more revealing. I KNOW it's fear that's causing my writer's block. I KNOW I'm slithering out of it just like Howl slithers out of his dangerous responsibilities, even as I feel called to DO it. I pondered, and the answer hit me: it's not so much what I'm afraid I'll find there. It's what I'm afraid I WON'T find. You know the Fear of the Blank Page? It's that. But it's more than that. It's the fear that even if I DO put something on the page, there will still be nothing there. I've filled dozens and dozens of notebooks FULL of blank pages, but have I written anything there, really? Anything that MEANS something? Anything with a POINT? What if I write and write but I never write anything that needs to be said? That's really the driving obsession (in the clinical, totally negative sense of the word) during my depressive periods: what's the point? What is the point of MY EXISTENCE? Maybe I'm afraid of that known liar, Depression, proving itself right in my writing, and I'll never find in it a point, or meaning, or a happy ending, or even God. I fear finding the chaos of nothingness instead of the logos of Story.

Let me explain. If I had to sum up what I believe in in one word, it would be logos, a Greek word which, in the Gospel of St. John, is usually translated as "The Word." But logos actually connotes something bigger than just words: order, logic, meaning, sense. Cause and effect. My whole world-view is founded on these things-- that there's an underlying meaning that holds the multiverse together into a story. No matter how bad I might be at following a religion, my faith in The Word-- God as logos-- is so ingrained that I have trouble understanding what it's like to think without it.***

But, if THAT's what I fear I'll find-- a lack of God-- certainly there's a way to get past that. There are thousands of people who manage to be atheists without having existential crises. Me, I don't know how. HOW, oh atheists out there reading this (and this isn't rhetorical, I really want to hear your answers. I'm trying to LEARN here!), do you answer the questions, "What's the point of me? Why am I here? Why don't I just go die?" I have enough trouble answering those questions even WITH the fallback answer of "God loves and has a plan for each and every person, even me." If I DIDN'T have that answer, I'm not sure I could get through my Dark Times.

The irony is, this makes sense even WITHIN my spiritual worldview. Most atheists pride themselves on basing their beliefs on only hard evidence, which is, when you think about it, exactly what a Type 9 is supposed to be incorporating MORE of into her life. My challenge in growing into an actualized human being is to learn to ground myself, in my body, here and now. To an atheist, the here and now is all that EXISTS. But I'm out there drifting in the numinous without any substance-- I need to reconnect with substance--in a sense, cultivate my atheism!-- in order to actually DO THE WORK of God. FURTHER irony: the word logos I identify with? Being that it means logic and reason, it is sometimes used, philosophically (less so in theology), as the opposite of the emotional. So in other words, it's ALL ABOUT being grounded instead of dreamy!

It's also strange, but facing the fear of meaninglessness by accepting it is weirdly liberating. Like, if nothing really matters, then it doesn't matter what I write, so I can stop FREAKING OUT about not knowing what to write and JUST WRITE ANYTHING. Which is, of course, the only way the bits that DO mean something will ever make it out onto paper in the first place.

Thing is, I'm not an atheist. The theme of church today was Trust in God and good will follow. We sang one of my lifelong favorite church songs, "Be Not Afraid," and my faith was THERE and fully participating. My faith will ALWAYS be there, it's just the way I am. But I have faith in the irony of my need to be more atheistic-- to stop expecting things to Just Happen, to get more involved in the here-and-now-- in order to live truly as a child of God.

Now the question is: did I successfully pull my Dark Side up and put it into words here, or did I just distract myself from true introspection with philosophical ironies that are fun to discuss?

Well, it's interesting, either way.

----
*My favorite sentence was "9w1 [that's me] has a kind of refinement and poise, because of the one-wing's desire to be perfect. But 9w1 is more likely to lie down and take a nap than the more workaholic 1w9." What, that isn't how everyone deals with perfectionist moments?

**Howl, a 9, gee. Seeing that vanity is considered a hallmark of 3s it might be tempting to put him THERE instead, but no way. He's too much of a slitherer-outer to be a 3. Maybe a 4 with a 3-wing. But what with the slithering-out, and the maintaining multiple identities, and the falling-madly-in-love-until-it-gets-too-REAL-then-abruptly-running-away... yeah, quite likely a 9. HUH. And I always identified with SOPHIE.

***My original "three-page" freewrite of this topic here took a tangent into ranting about Philip Pullman. When it came time to form this into a Proper Essay for the Consumption of Others, I realized my musings on Philip Pullman didn't really fit, structurally, but I enjoyed it SO THAT'S WHAT FOOTNOTES ARE FOR. If you're new here: I've always had a PROBLEM with Philip Pullman. Oh sure, he's a great writer, but somehow, whenever I read an interview or an essay written as HIMSELF, it ALWAYS rubs me the wrong way, even when I AGREED with him. Sure, he IS a sometimes controversially-outspoken atheist, but quite a lot of atheists say things I agree with just fine, and even where our beliefs seem to differ I often get the feeling we merely define a few words differently, or have different understandings of what God or religion IS. Philip Pullman doesn't even allow me THAT much. But writing this I realized that, unlike most atheists, it isn't merely a matter of not believing in an Old Man Creator In the Sky-- Philip Pullman doesn't believe in logos! It's not that our worldviews are DIFFERENT, they're OPPOSITE. They CLASH! Weird story though-- some weeks back I took a "Which Fantasy Author Are You?" Internet survey, one that was quite long and in depth and therefore you'd expect it to be more accurate than usual. GUESS WHO MY ANSWER WAS. Maybe Philip Pullman is my shadow self. Maybe HE'S my Dark Side! Sorry, Wednesday! You've apparently been supplanted!
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
Hey, kids!

Do you enjoy when I ramble aimlessly on the Internet? Well, you're in luck! Today I need to use you in lieu of my private paper journal, because the heel of my right thumb is injured and I'm finding it exceedingly difficult to write with a pen for an extended period. Meaning, longer than a paragraph. I just tried and it's not working, so here I am, because even though I can't seem to MAKE anything of my writing (for now, for now! To everything there is a season! as my dear friend E. Louise Bates reminded me last time I felt down about that online), I apparently still must write SOMETHING daily to keep my head on straight.

I got stabbed with a steak knife, if you were wondering. This is why loading the dishwasher is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. J had foolishly stuck it in the silverware holder moments before, point up, which is not a wise thing to do, by the way, and he still can't seem to forgive himself, but I think he did a rather fine job of redeeming himself by coming to my aid afterward, as I was going helpless. "I'm okay, I need to get a bandaid," I said, going to wash my hands, "I'm bleeding a lot. Um, could you get me a bandaid? I don't think I can get it open," and that's when I started getting woozy and had to collapse on the floor.

Please say I'm not the only one who has this problem with injury? Like Anne Shirley at first, I feel like I'm missing something because I've never PROPERLY FAINTED, but I come NEAR enough to it for all sorts of stupid reasons. I get surface booboos all the time, being a klutz, and I almost don't even notice those (hense my immediate "I just need to get a bandaid!" reaction), but just a bit DEEPER than surface and I start to pass out. Part of my deep mistrust of gym teachers is rooted in the time we were supposed to be practicing cartwheels in 5th grade and I came down on my thumb wrong, pulling it backward too hard, and this Woozy Reaction hit me so I tried to go sit down and the gym teacher would NOT HAVE IT. How injured could I BE, really? And I'm like I KNOW it's stupid and I'm barely hurt BUT I HAVE TO SIT DOWN OR I WILL FALL DOWN ANYWAY.

So J applied pressure and bandaged me up and talked me through the feverish faint until I could actually sit up again, and then cautioned me against overtaxing the hand until it healed, so then I laid down and watched Netflix for the rest of the evening. And there went my plans for today. Go to yoga? Weed the garden? Write with a pen, apparently? I am SO MAD that I'm not ambidextrous.

So anyway, I must do my rambling here instead of in my notebook. Normally first thing in the morning when I write, I often write a bit about what I dreamed, but last night there's nothing sticking out as PARTICULARLY memorable. OH, OH, except this part about how people in an Irish village have to be sacrificed to the fairies every New Years Day but the group of us slated for sacrifice managed to avoid this this year through strategic elevator deception and possibly fireworks? I'm not sure. That's where the not PARTICULARLY memorable part comes in, because I don't remember that part.

Yesterday we were playing Rifts, a "tabletop" RPG, over Skype with J's best friend. The two of them can talk minute details of RPGs they will never get around to playing for HOURS, but every so often they'll get a block where they can both sit at the computer and chat over the microphone and actually PLAY, with ME around to be a third player, because it's boring to have less players than that. I enjoy playing from a storytelling standpoint, if not to the point of minute details, but the difference between making up a story out loud vs. on paper is frustratingly apparent, at least when you're trying to play a spy with advanced interrogation skills, and the rest of the team is waiting for you to ask just the right questions and you're sitting there making fish faces until you burst out "My CHARACTER knows what to say, but I don't!" Why IS that? I don't think it's merely a matter of confidence. I think there really might be a short circuit in between my putting-things-into-words center and my mouth center. There doesn't seem to be that problem between my brain and HANDS, which is why I can SAY everything I'm thinking in WRITING. Not that I'm exactly Queen of Improv here, either. I guess it's just less of a problem to take your time remembering the right words when you're putting them on paper and only letting someone else in on them when you're all done (if ever). Or, maybe, taking things back and trying out DIFFERENT things to say, and what order to say them in, whereas you have to make a snap decision on what you're going to say if you say it out loud.

So it's possible that the only reason I'm a better writer than a talker is because I'm indecisive.

I'm reading Jaclyn Moriarty's A Corner of White-- I KNOW! I KNOW! I'M ACTUALLY READING A NOVEL FOR ONCE!-- and it's because I love Jaclyn Moriarty that much, so much that I can finally get around to reading a book AFTER the sequel is already out. Anyway, in the part I was reading last night, a teacher tells his students about Isaac Newton writing himself questions to think about and answers in different handwriting, so that changing his handwriting can help change his thinking in new ways, too. And I thought, well, THAT'S something I need to try. Now, writing with my left hand would certainly be a change in my handwriting, wouldn't it? But I don't want to mess my journal up with it!

This time around, when I had to buy a new notebook for journaling the other week, I bought a sketch journal. No lines! My heart cried out for it. I still WRITE more than draw-- I doodle on lined paper, too. But so far I think the only doodle in this so-called sketch journal is Paul McCartney's bass. This is okay! I had no intention of using it for drawing. It's just a different surface for journaling. Of course I tend to draft things on the backsides of scrap paper, anyway. Stories, letters, complicated blog posts (not my concert review, though. That was actually drafted, for the most part, IN my journal itself. Along with the doodle of Paul's bass). Random rants to the ghost of Diana Wynne Jones. It feels less like you're wasting paper that way than if you do your jotting in a nice lined notebook. But journaling is more linear, so I don't mind-- nay, I PREFER-- to do that in a nice self-contained spiral-bound, in non-smearing pen. But I have yet to see if there's a difference in the way my MIND works, journaling with no lines versus lines.

Now I'm journaling on the screen, with a keyboard, with the full intention of hitting "Publish" when I'm done. But I don't know if even THAT has changed WHAT I would have written THAT much. I explained a few things more than I would have in my private journal. But even my private journals have a bit of an audience. There's SOME imaginary person, far in the future, that I direct them to. It's something in the shaping of it-- not TRULY just random thoughts, but an effort to turn my random thoughts into COMMUNICATION. What would I SAY right now if I had a captive and unwaveringly-supportive audience?

And that's about it. Thank you for being here for me, Livejournal, when my thumb would much rather occasionally hit a space bar than continuously support a pen. I bid you good day.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
So the other day when I was having a crisis of identity, I mentioned how the Lone Power likes to twist healthy, positive messages like the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign into attempts to get me to shut up, by pointing out that because I'm not any typical big-name minorities-- not in ethnicity, sexuality, physicality, language, whatever-- then obviously no one needs to hear MY stories. E. Louise Bates replied in sympathy, saying that the campaign really DID seem to take on more of a "This is DIVERSITY, this isn't" tone after all-- a strange sort of us-vs-them undercurrent, focusing on certain labels. Like quotas. It's hard for us to talk about, Louise and I, because we ARE coming from places of Privilege, and it's too easy for us to seem to be missing the point or just whiny and self-centered, like the struggling white male authors who protest every time someone says white male authors get all the attention.

But you NEED to talk about it, which is what the point of an attention-getting campaign IS. If only people could be clearer what they're talking about. This is why sometimes I prefer to talk to dead people. I've chosen as my Patron Saint of Creativity a woman who ironically was an avowed atheist, but whatnot-- when I'm trying to get jumbled personal thoughts about writing out and need to bounce them off somebody but not an actual biased person who can directly answer me back, I write to Diana Wynne Jones. (Sure, it's Madeleine L'Engle I named my daughter after, and she would probably be more understanding about being prayed to, but I've always felt that my own writing niche seems to more closely align with Jones... or something? Anyway, it just feels right). So I was writing to her this morning and got to talking about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and tried to work out exactly what was bothering me about it, beyond a selfish entitled "what about ME" kneejerk, and, as one does when one is praying in a freeform way on paper, I had some interesting thoughts that I feel are worth sharing, even though I could be wrong and all I am is a clueless Privileged girl.

I think what's so disconcerting about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is that it DOES focus on labels, instead of characters in and of themselves. This seems counter to the point. I like what Shannon Hale has to say on the subject (granted, I like what Shannon Hale has to say on MOST subjects: she's a very wise woman and I recommend following her on at least one media platform if you aren't already)-- she talks about SPECIFIC characters as opposed to NEUTRAL characters, where "neutral" usually defaults to "white, straight, able-bodied." You know, like me :P. Shannon Hale was one of the originators of the campaign, but she's also white, straight, and able-bodied... and Mormon, though-- you note she notes religious differences, too, in her post, and I'm sure she's sick of the Backwoods Polygamist stereotypes out there in the world. But, you know, when you start breaking it down into more and more specific character traits... well that's the thing. They're CHARACTER TRAITS. When we talk about diversity, are we talking about a wide variety of character traits, or are we talking about just a few specific big Labels?

Lisa Yee wrote a "rambling rant" for #WeNeedDiverseBooks where she addresses this question of "should an author write outside their own Group?" with a lovely little catchphrase: "Do not presume -- but do dare to imagine." Well... that's what an author is SUPPOSED to do. We're SUPPOSED to imagine what it's like to be somebody else, no matter what TYPE of somebody else we're writing about. We're SUPPOSED to portray a character, not necessarily a stand-in for ourselves. A unique character who nonetheless is embedded with a universal humanity. CAN you write outside your race? Can you write outside your sexual preference? Can you write outside your gender, your interests, your home life, your tastes in food, your basic personality type? I'm afraid if I say "It's just like any other character trait," I'll come off as privileged and naive, but... it IS like any other character trait. You just have to make it TRUE.

I know I can't claim to be metaphorically "colorblind," not noticing the Type a person belongs to, and I admit to still finding it delightful and surprising when someone defies their stereotypes in some way. It's just I'd rather wait and SEE that part before acting on a first impression-- I'd rather deal with an individual than a type. I'm interested in the things we have in common. I'm interested in the things that make us different, but different as individuals, not group differences. I'm female, but I feel that way about gender, too-- I just don't CARE so much about whether you're male or female or neither as much as I do your individual quirks. Maybe it's just that LABELS remind me too much of CLIQUES. I'd rather not think like that.

The thing is, I DO personally understand the Need for Representation. As a child-- and even now as an adult-- I hungered for two particular Representations of my own self that I just wasn't seeing enough of in media (worse on screen than in books, but still): people with glasses who weren't (stereotypical) nerds, and blonde girls who weren't Bombshells (I could do without the DUMB Blonde thing, too, but even when shows and books made their blondes smart, they were always still considered pretty/love-interest-y/popular). It's a weirdly powerful subconscious and-sometimes-even-conscious NEED for me to see it. To be honest one of the things I love most about Allie Brosh is that she represents a non-bombshell blonde-- a blonde who's funny and angry and unfeminine and tending toward scrapes and completely unique and just happens to be blonde. Because she's autobiographical. And, you know, she just IS blonde. It's just a trait. It wasn't a trait that was chosen to PROVE anything. It's not being used as a shorthand for Beautiful or Ditzy or Popular, or even as a conscious contradiction of any of those things. SHE JUST IS. Like a person.

I think the problems start when people DO think in terms of conscious representation. When someone says, "well, we need more books about black kids that aren't historical, so, hmm, what's a black kid like?" BAM, suddenly they ARE writing a Type instead of an individual-- even if they're consciously writing AGAINST a known stereotype. It's got to be more organic than that, and it's hard to MAKE it organic when the discussions of representation are so HEATED, when there's so much riding on them, when every time a minority character shows up in a story (on paper or screen) they're immediately SCRUTINIZED for how ACCURATE they are and yet NOT STEREOTYPICAL they are and WHETHER THEY'RE GIVEN ENOUGH ATTENTION or whatever. Heck, Lisa Yee above often cites some of the horrible Amazon reviews she got for Millicent Min, Girl Genius which complained that she was fueling the "Chinese smart kid" stereotype... even though Millie is SUCH an individual who just happens to be of Chinese ancestry (and guess what: I, as a Caucasian adult living on the other side of the country, I totally --painfully at times-- identified with Millie). (Also they obviously had not actually READ about Stamford Wong before they complained). Shannon Hale must have said it on Twitter because it's not in that blog post, but her answer for why #WeNeedDiverseBooks was So That It Wouldn't Fall On One Character's Shoulders to Represent An Entire Group. Again, I LIKE THE WAY THAT WOMAN THINKS. It needs to be about individuals.

These sort of campaigns freak me out as a Privileged writer, because I suddenly find myself worried that my stories aren't "diverse" enough or that when I DO have "diverse" characters I'll do it wrong, and I'm REALLY HUNG UP ABOUT WRITING as it is. The funny thing is, when I dream at night, I frequently-- REGULARLY-- nearly nightly-- end up trying to shape the dream into a workable story as it's happening. Okay, here's the main character-- ooo, I'll have to remember that detail-- ooo, this is the conflict upon which the plot will turn, isn't it!-- so on and so forth, working the storytelling muscle overtime while my inhibitions are turned off, because as soon as they turn on again once the light of day hits, it shuts down again, Paralyzed by Self-Doubt. A few weeks ago I had one such dream in which one of the main characters just happened to be legally blind-- no plot-specific REASON for it, she just WAS-- and all I thought about it in the dream was "ooo, that'll force me to work on describing things with non-visual details!" When I woke up and looked back, I realised, "Oh, that there would be one of those 'Diverse' characters I'm supposed to be working into my fiction more." Huh. It was so REFRESHING when she was just a character who happened to be legally blind, and now my waking brain-- my INHIBITIONS-- was trying to make a Thing of it. Well, heck. It doesn't need to be a thing. She's simply a character who happens to be legally blind, and I'll have to focus less on visual details than I do, but you know? I can do that. It shouldn't have to be a Thing if you truly believe in your characters as individuals, right?

But what do I know? I'm still trying to work my way out of this serious many-years-long writer's block. Tell me I'm wrong, where I'm wrong, but I really do believe that portraying individuals is more important than portraying groups.

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