rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
I like doing this every year, it gives me a nice reference, particularly as I'm getting older and all the years start blending together. Was that THIS year? No, it was three years ago. But this OTHER thing was this year, except I nearly forgot about it... well anyway.

THE STUFF THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED LISTS

Top 5 Biggest Life Events of 2018

  1. That would be the sudden— well, hinted at for a long time, and then suddenly going into action—remodeling of our kitchen. More on that in my last post.
  2. Oh, I also painted the living room and added some Ikea shelves and made that room look totally new, too. Home improvement definitely became my new favorite hobby of the year, if only it wasn’t so expensive a hobby!
  3. Driving home from the library in late May, I got T-boned in the intersection of Pike and Jefferson. No one was hurt, but my car bit the dust. Lucky for us, a friend of Jason’s had a car he was willing to sell us for just about what the insurance gave us. The only problem was getting the cigarette smell out of it, which eventually, we did.
  4. While I wasn’t hurt then, I DID have surgery later that summer, because round about where my gall bladder had been removed last summer, I now had a hernia that needed repaired. THIS HURT A LOT. I’m better now though.
  5. In happier news, in September I saw Paul Simon in his next-to-last concert with my best friend and our parents. I really wanted to write about this at the time, but I didn’t have time. Angie is the biggest Paul Simon fan I know, but she lives in Colorado, so I half-jokingly asked if she’d happen to be back east about the time of this concert, and she was like, “actually, yeah, I was thinking of coming out and taking my dad to it for his birthday.” “That is a great idea, I should see if my dad wants to go, too!” He DID, and we got tickets for all six of us (us, my parents, her dad and his girlfriend) together, which was the best, because half of my joy was watching the joy on MY dad’s face at that concert! Simon started out seeming kind of old and tired, but he gained energy as the concert went on, as if the music itself was fueling him, and after awhile it was pretty much a spiritual experience— Angie looked like she was having a spiritual experience for most of it, and I’m pretty sure I hit spiritual experience during “Graceland” at least.

The Top 5 Biggest New or Unusual Library Programs I was Involved In
  1. Yoga Storytime: I once or twice ran into my library director at yoga class, so when she got it into her head that we needed to offer Yoga Storytime weekly, she hoisted it upon me! But the program has proved to be both a hit and even a lot of fun for me, and it’s surprising both how MANY yoga-themed story books are out there, and how NOT ENOUGH there are when you’re doing them in storytime every week.
  2. A One Book visit from Zach OHora. Look, I may still be a little bitter about getting unceremoniously dumped from the One Book Every Young Child project, but I’m not going to back out of the chance to actually help host one of the library-festivals-with-visit-from-the-author that I used to write about theoretically each year. OHora is a repeat One Book author, so I’d gotten to talk with him a lot when writing the activities for Stop Snoring, Bernard! So it was fun to talk with him again for My Cousin Momo. But it was even more fun because I got it into my head that, if we were having a huge event after all, I needed to construct a five-headed library monster (as seen in The Not-so-Quiet Library). And everybody LOVED my five-headed library monster, including Zach OHora, and it stayed up most of the year.
  3. Hogwarts Party Mach 2! It wasn’t called that. But being that it was the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter showing up on this side of the Atlantic, and so many people wanted a repeat of the Hogwarts Party from a couple years ago that wasn’t while they were away on vacation, we did it again this September, with experience on our side— the experience that taught me, most notably, that I can only set up and clean up for Potions Class ONCE during the party, even if I could easily split the people who CAME into two classes. And even with only one Potions Class, I STILL didn’t get to wander around looking at other stuff much! This year the teen advisory board hosted an escape room and baked Sorting Cupcakes, so a bit of the workload was off my shoulders, anyway.
  4. Happy Monday: This is one of the director’s brainchilds (brainchildren?) that came out with the Yoga Storytime plan. I guess she thought our storytime advertising wasn’t specific enough? And so she wanted a "Happy Monday" storytime to counteract the Monday Morning Blues. Except the people coming to it either have no concept of Mondays yet or they currently don’t have to deal with Monday Morning Blues because they spend EVERY day of the week with people who have no concept of Mondays yet, so whatever. It’s fun to do storytimes with no other theme than Something Happy, though, and having the excuse to play upbeat music and do the Chicken Dance.
       187 or something. Saturday Baby/Toddler Storytimes: We needed to offer something for working parents to bring their babies to on the weekend! our director said. We’ve tried Saturday storytimes, but no one ever comes, Barb and I responded. Maybe they’ll come THIS time! You two switch off every other Saturday! our director said. Guess what. No one ever came. So anyway Saturday Baby/Toddler Storytimes are back off the schedule again come January.

Top 5 Family Night Themes of 2018:
  1. Cardboard Construction: I actually got in trouble for this one, because there was SO much cardboard I didn’t get cleaned up in time. But it was so awesome, and I didn’t lose Family Night after all, that the pain of that scolding has faded and the awesomeness remains.
  2. Magical Journeys: In fact, it seemed THIS would be my Last Family Night Ever, because maybe I was too ADHD to handle programming and I should concentrate on collection development and learning to catalog and posting on Facebook or some junk. Of course, by August suddenly I was not only going to resume Family Night in September, but I was also starting Yoga Storytime and Happy Monday and Saturday storytime and special events like the Hogwarts Party and… WELL ANYWAY, so Magical Journeys would have been a good high note to end on, nonetheless. We did “magic” white crayon watercolor paintings, and since one of the main stories we read was Mem Fox’s Possum Magic, I found some recipes for some of the unique Australian foods in the book and served them. DUDES, WHY HASN’T AUSTRALIA BEEN SHARING THEIR YUMMY DESSERTS MORE WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD? Click the link and make them, you won’t regret it.
  3. It’s a Mystery! Mysteries were always my favorite genre as a child, so I liked finding mystery picture books for this program, see below. Then I made a treasure hunt type puzzle, where they had to look for clues—pieces of a picture that fit together like a puzzle— that led them to another place in the library, where they had to find MORE clues to piece together, and so forth. Only one family came, but they had a great time!
  4. Korea: for the two weeks of the Winter Olympics I had thematic Family Nights, including one week where we explored the culture of the host country. This included the book No Kimchi For Me! (by Aram Kim), about a young apparently Korean-American girl, I mean cat, who can’t stand the spicy-sour pickled relish salad her Korean grandmother serves with everything, so her grandmother makes it into a pancake instead which makes it finally palatable to the girl. So we tried this ourselves, and her grandmother was totally on to something. The batch of kimchi I made was, WHEW, strong— no one, not even the grownups, could do more than smell it, let alone eat it. But when I put it in the pancake recipe from the back of the book, it was pretty tasty, even by the standards of (some of) the kids! One mom pointed out that it reminded her of some spring rolls she’d had, so I took home the leftovers and made fried wontons with it. There’s still a couple in the freezer I keep forgetting about. They do make my breath pretty scary. Anyhoo.
  5. Winter Olympics: speaking of which, was a fun topic on its own, as I tried to make versions of winter sports that could be played inside. So we had Lego Bobsled races, a marble slalom run, and rug hockey, naturally. I had some really cute pictures but can't seem to find them now.
THE MEDIA REVIEW LISTS!

In Which I Apparently Didn’t Actually Read Very Many 2018 Picture Books This Year
I did a search of all the 2018 picture books the library got this year, and there were so many I was like, “Oh yeah, I wanted to read that, but I didn’t,” or “I know I MUST have read that, but I can’t remember a single image from inside it.” Here’s the ones I DO remember actually reading, though:
  1. The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson. One of those “I’m just going to flip through this one real fast before I put it on the shelves oh my all of a sudden I’m crying in the stacks” situations. Just a lovely story of having the courage to be yourself and learning to accept others and everybody’s got their own stories and so on and so on…
  2. and
  3. 2 1/2? Animal Colors and Animal Shapes, by Christopher Silas Neal. I buy a lot of board books for the library because they get worn out easily, and they’re relatively cheap so I don’t put TOO much thought into them, and for these two I was like “animals, colors, and shapes, perennial board book topics, made a list of recommended new board books, okay sold.” But then I actually read them in preparation for one of those baby/toddler story times no one showed up to. These books are so fun! Neal merges the animals and shapes and/or colors together in both words and pictures, making up funny new portmanteaus (and there’s color mixing in the color one, too). The baby/toddler storytimes may have bombed, but they did alert me to all the wonderful things being done in the board book genre…
  4. A Parade of Elephants, by Kevin Henkes. I had a Kevin Henkes-themed Family Night this fall on his birthday (which happens to be the day after my dad's), and we’d just gotten this book in, so…. I found this very hypnotic. “Round and round and round they are. Round and round and round they go,” is just sticking with me forever now.
  5. They Say Blue, by Jilllian Tamaki. Very dreamy. I know this is making a lot of Mock Caldecott lists this year so maybe I won't be too far behind. But the truth is, I'm going to cram a whole bunch of 2018 picture books in a few weeks right before MY Mock Caldecott, which reminds me:
Top 5 2017 books I read in a hurry in January when prepping for my Mock Caldecott/Mock Geisel:
  1. Dazzle ships: World War I and the art of confusion, by Chris Barton and more notably in this case illustrated by Victo Ngai. This ended up being my top vote in our Mock Caldecott because this wacky psychedelic camouflage was worked into the backgrounds of every page, and it was pretty mindblowingly trippy for nonfiction…!
  2. Claymates, by Dev Petty and again most notably in this case illustrated by Lauren Eldridge. This won our Mock Caldecott so overwhelmingly that no books came close enough to win an honor! I knew it didn’t have the Distinguished-ness to win the real Caldecott, but I adored this basically stop-motion-cartoon-on-paper so much I wished it did.
  3. Snail and Worm Again, by Tina Kugler. I can’t remember if I had this up for the Geisel or the Caldecott or both, but it's a definite winner on the Geisel front— there's so much delight in such simple language!
  4. Frankie, by Mary Sullivan. But this won our Mock Geisel, a sweet little story of canine sibling rivalry told in a few simple but effective words.
  5. After the Fall, by Dan Santat. Such a heart-rending tale of perseverance!

Top 5 Other Picture Books I read for the first time this year, some of which are also from 2017 but I didn’t read them during the Mock Caldecott cram session:
  1. Dot and Jabber (series), by Ellen Stoll Walsh. Oh my, who knew such books existed! I found them while prepping for the Mystery Family Night, see above, and was so thrilled to find stories simple enough for storytime that are yet classic genre mysteries, with clues to follow and solve, and they’re nature stories, too! Good on so many levels.
  2. Raindrops Roll, by April Pulley Sayre. Nonfiction, we have it in, a factual book about rain, except it’s also poetry and the words roll like the raindrops. And the photographs are fascinating, too.
  3. Grandma’s Tiny House: a Counting Story, by JaNay Brown-Wood. I read this to several different storytimes right before Thanksgiving— while it’s not overtly a Thanksgiving story (and if it is, it’s in a climate a bit warmer than Western PA), it reminded me so much of when my extended family used to have big Thanksgiving parties at Aunt Peggy’s or, long ago, indeed in Grandma’s Tiny Duplex, with more and more people coming and everyone being totally welcome but it all getting out of hand. It amazed me how much FEELING could come across in, as the subtitle says, a simple counting story.
  4. Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy. I needed something beautiful that day— it was right after the synagogue shooting in Squirrel Hill, and I even had a friend who knew a couple of the victims, and I was just so sick of all the hatred and ugliness, then here was this book about sharing your own beautiful visions and art to brighten up your world, and it was something I could do. I had everyone in Happy Monday make a beautiful picture (of their own definition of “beautiful”) and make a gift of it to someone else. I drew a butterfly for the downstairs circ desk. ;)
  5. The Babies and Doggies Book, by John and Molly. You know how I said I tend to buy board books for the library without too much deliberation? This was totally the case here. “Babies and Doggies? Sickeningly adorable, totally buying it.” When I finally actually read it, it proved to be even more sickeningly adorable than advertised. I bought it for Jason’s baby nephews for Christmas and then made everyone else in the family read it before I wrapped it, too. BABIES. DOGGIES. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT.
The Exactly 5 2018 Longer-than-Picture-Books I Read:
  1. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy 2 Furious, by Shannon Hale. Because Squirrel Girl is the greatest, as we discovered this year.
  2. Whiskerella and
  3. Little Red Rodent Hood, by Ursula Vernon, because hyperactive rodent-girl superheroes are the theme of this list apparently. Yes, the Hamster Princess series continues to be a delight.
  4. Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas, by Dav Pilkey. Okay, rodent-girls and dog-men. People/animal hybrids fighting crime with wackiness.
  5. The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare, by Shannon and Dean Hale. Not a person-animal hybrid, but still fighting crime with wackiness. Yes, basically the only new novel-length books I read this year were continuations of series my kids have been following for at least two other years, not counting Squirrel Girl.
The Top 5 Older-than-2018 Longer-than-Picture-Books I Read for the first time this year:
  1. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, by Shannon Hale, and even a few of the comic books by Ryan North, because even though comics make me mildly dizzy, I loved Squirrel Girl so much I needed more of her, so I made it work. The Squirrel Girl doll Maddie got for Christmas is sitting in our Christmas tree now, by the way.
  2. All the Wrong Questions (series), by Lemony Snicket. I may have enjoyed this series even more than the Series of Unfortunate Events, being that it’s slightly less unfortunate, and slightly more straightforward-mystery. I loved getting to know Lemony Snicket more as a character, too. I’ve got a crush on him now, actually (in his adult form— he’s a kid in these books), because he’s obviously a sensitive, intelligent book lover. Shame that the actual Daniel Handler was being an ass again while we were reading this, because Lemony Snicket the character is something else all together.
  3. The Lie Tree, by Frances Hardinge. I can always count on Hardinge to give me a unique reading experience, which is why her books seem to be the only ones I ever pick up to read on my own nowadays.
  4. Greenglass House, by Kate Milford. Took me a few chapters to really get into this one, but it was perfect for us once we did, because it takes place at Christmastime and we READ it at Christmastime (well, a couple weeks ago), and it turns out a D&D-like game is a major plot point, which this family can really appreciate. Also, the main character likes to sit in the nook behind the Christmas tree and Maddie has been totally doing that, too, and I can’t stop thinking about that now.
  5. The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, by Mark Twain and Philip Stead. I think I enjoyed this more than anyone else in the family— I brought it on one of our camping trips, and Jason was just like, “what,” and the kids were slightly more open to it than he was, but also a little confused, but I thought it was wonderfully weird and full of character. I loved the way Stead framed it as a sort of conversation between Twain and himself, and I loved getting to share Twain’s VOICE with my kids without having to worry about problematic racial issues and the like.

Top 5 Rereading Experiences of This Year:
Having a hard time ranking these, but I’m pretty sure the first will have to be:
  1. Howl's Moving Castle. There was a read-along on Tumblr the other month, and I was like, Oooo, let’s see what they’re discussing! And then I was like, ooo, must butt in with my own long rambling observations! And then I was like, Okay, I can’t just participate in the discussions, I need to reread it again MYSELF! And then I was like, Okay, it was too much fun rereading this, now I’m going to foist it on my children whether they like it or not! (they liked it). It’s like I forget how much I love that book, it only gets better with each reread.
  2. The Percy Jackson series. Maddie claims she likes these better than Harry Potter now. They are super-fun. And I seem to get more of a crush on dorky-dad-Poseidon more every time I read it, too.
  3. The Young Wizards series up through Wizard Abroad. Wizard’s Dilemma is next and even though it’s my favorite, it’s also dang heartbreaking, and I’m not sure I’m up for that with the kids just yet. Anyway, they were ready for a change after four books, anyway, but they really enjoyed it, and I was again struck by how utterly MADELEINE L’ENGLE-LIKE these books are! Speaking of which:
  4. A Wrinkle in Time and When You Reach Me: Sam was reading the latter in school about the time we were reading Young Wizards, and he wanted us to read it at home, but I was like, “I’m not reading that to you until AFTER we read A Wrinkle In Time,” so we did. Both. See GeekMom article about it.
  5. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and A Christmas Carol. We finished Greenglass House a little more than a week before Christmas, and I wasn’t in the mood to read a NON Christmas-set book NOW. So I was like, “I read this to you a couple years ago but I don’t think you appreciated it enough,” and read the Best Christmas Pageant Ever to the kids. I still don’t think they appreciated it enough. But it’s short, so we were done in three days, and I still wasn’t ready for a non-Christmasy book, so I was like “Hahhah, time to introduce you to Dickens!” And it’s been a long while since I read A Christmas Carol and I was struck by how relevant and timely it felt (except maybe the Tiny Tim bits). Also how close the Muppets’ version keeps to it, which Sam had just watched in school so he was extra excited about that.
Currently we’re in the middle of The Hobbit, which is full of interest, first of all in the way Maddie said “Hey, this is like D&D!” fairly early on. EXACTLY. Welcome to Middle-Earth, the original D&D world! And eventually I look forward to foisting Lord of the Rings on them. I mean Maddie got to experience her literary namesake this year, Samwise will need his soon enough. Also I have found that rereading the Hobbit right now has given me the added side effect of more frequent dreams about Martin Freeman, nightly. Quite nice really. Speaking of movie stars,let's move out of print media and into visual:

Top 5 Movies I Watched For The First Time This Year
  1. Thor Ragnarok: Of all the MCU movies, I’d never gotten much into the Thor ones, but this one was just sheer delight from start to finish. I like a superhero movie that makes me laugh as much as thrill. I looked at my list— I actually saw more than 5 movies this year (not in the theater), there were nine or ten or something— and was a little surprised when I went to rank them, but this one probably did make me happiest of all of them.
  2. A Wrinkle In Time: Though in retrospect, the more disappointed I become in the way Camazotz was handled (what? Were there people there or not?), it was still a thrill at the time and had a big influence on me this year, what with my first three months of GeekMom articles (a quarter of all articles I wrote this year!), and my reading to the kids later on. Also Meg in my head actually does look more like Storm Reid than myself now, this last time we read it. Movie Mrs Whatsit, never, but Movie Meg, yes.
  3. Black Panther: Finally my favorite actor gets a major role in an MCU movie, but you know, the rest of it was so cool I really didn’t think about him much. It just LOOKED cool. And Shuri is the best.
  4. Coco: I was only half-watching this while it was on at my parents’ at first, but was so quickly sucked in and teary-eyed. It was a lovely movie, and I hope it becomes all the more beloved over time in the ranks of Pixar.
  5. Cargo: While I was recovering from surgery (see above) I had a “Let’s watch everything Martin Freeman was ever in on Netflix” day— I didn’t quite get to everything, but I never would have suspected that my favorite (Black Panther wasn’t on Netflix until, like, a week later, so it’s not included in this particular binge) would be a zombie movie. But it’s lovely and heartrending and deep and you get to see Martin interact mostly with kids which is the most adorable. Also it was kind of frightening and gross, but besides that stuff it was quite sweet.

Top 5 TV Shows and Other Things With Episodes I Watched This Year
  1. The Good Place: Holy motherforking shirtballs, this probably tops the list of Top New Things I Discovered This Year Across the Board. It filled a hole in my heart Community left behind for unorthodox sitcoms that respect the intelligence of their audience. I love that every episode is a genuine lesson in moral philosophy while at the same time being abso-forkin’-lutely hilarious, AND the characters also regularly make you cry. I love that it’s a show about GOODNESS, because there’s far too much negativity in the world and it’s so great that something so positive is also just so much fun. I love every time I have to log into Wordpress now by clicking the box that says “I’m not a robot.” I love that my sister-in-law is moving to Jacksonville next year and every time I hear about it I snort-laugh to myself and try to avoid explaining why.
  2. Series of Unfortunate Events: Is this really all the way up at number 2? I docked my other returning favorites for not being AS good as usual, whereas this year’s installment of SoUE had me even more enthusiastic and interested in what’s coming up and how the background mechanics of the VFD are going to be explored further, and laughing out loud, than the first season did. So it’s got a bump up that way. Can’t wait for the last installment.
  3. Jessica Jones: This was the only Netflix Marvel series I finally got around to watching this year after watching The Defenders last year. I watched it during the first part of my surgical recuperation, when laughing hurt the most, because it is DARK. SO DARK AND HORRIBLE. You’d think I wouldn’t care much for that, but what saved it was the characters, particularly Jessica herself. I just LIKE her SO MUCH, which is funny because her biggest character trait is that she’s a complete misanthrope. She should not be likable, but I love her!
  4. Agents of SHIELD: While the half-a-season that was on this year wasn’t the most outstanding thing the show has ever done— kind of run-of-the-mill— it’s still everything I like about television in one place, and I still wish the MCU would give it more credit. I mean Agent May OUGHT to show up in the next Avengers movie, if the rumors are true that Captain Marvel’s going to come looking for Coulson, because who was Coulson last with? AGENT MAY. She and Captain Marvel would totally dig each other.
  5. Legion: You weird, weird show. I love you for your weirdness, but at the same time I think you got a little lost up your own butt this season. The middle of the season seriously suffered from a lack of direction and an even more serious lack of Loudermilks. Loudermilk twins make everything good, and they were all but forgotten for about three episodes in the middle there, darn you. But on the other hand, there were still so many moments of brilliant weirdness, and the beginning of the last episode, a massive psychic sky-battle-slash-musical-number, was possibly the most amazing thing I have ever seen on TV. So get yourself together for season 3, that’s all I ask of you. Bring me weirdness with an at least marginally arching plot. Oh, in related news, I spontaneously joined a Legion-related fanfic exchange the other month, for which I made certain there would be no lack of Loudermilks. I wrote two stories for it. All the stories in the exchange are here… mine are the ones marked “Rockinlibrarian” obviously. The one that was written FOR me is also quite lovely (there are Loudermilks and dream logic and music so yay!).

CHRISTMAS GIFT ROUNDUP

Top 5 Presents I received:
  1. This experience of Christmas Miracles I wrote about last week. Relatedly:
  2. The new kitchen. This was technically like a birthday/Christmas/Mother’s Day/Everything present.
  3. A pair of squishy “pain relief” shoe insoles. You know you’re old, I tweeted, when your favorite gift Christmas Morning is a pair of pain relief insoles. Really, though, I have been enjoying them thoroughly all week.
  4. Also relatedly, two squishy mats for standing on in the kitchen.
  5. An old file cabinet, which I plan to use to deal with the pile of papers I have all around this room just as soon as we can get it shipped out here from my inlaws'.
Top 5 Presents I gave:
  1. Laptop &
  2. tablet, ie Electronic devices for my kids. Notice, I didn’t have to fight anyone to get to my own computer and type on it just now. So there! Hah!
  3. A personalized jigsaw puzzle for my parents. Made a collage of pictures of them and the kids together and uploaded it to the Ravensburger page, where they turn it into an awesome Ravensburger quality (because it is) puzzle for you. Utterly perfect for my parents, who are big jigsaw puzzlers and who have been sharing that love with my kids lately.
  4. Pajamas for the kids! Snuggly jammies! For Maddie I found a flannel fabric that was RAINBOWS AND DONUTS. AND DONUT BUTTONS. She was dumbstruck.
  5. I mentioned above getting the Babies and Doggies board book for Jason’s nephews. I got a few others, too, notably a couple Dinosaur vs. books for the 2yo who is definitely in a roaring a lot phase. But I had bought some snuggly fleece with doggies that look like his dog to make a yearly sweatshirt for my brother, and it was the end of the bolt so I got some extra half-price, and as I cut out the sweatshirt Jason said, “is that a baby blanket for Max [the 5 month old]?” and I was like, “not at the moment, but there’s going to be a lot of leftover and that’s a great idea!” I combined the leftover snuggly fleece with some other leftover fleeces and a velvety stretch fabric and some matching blanket edging I happened to have and voila. I wrapped Babies and Doggies in a Doggy Baby blanket! And Christmas evening as my sister-in-law held the baby after a feeding in the blanket, she said, “I think he already loves it.”
One Notable Gift Someone Else Gave Someone Else:
Maddie got a lava lamp in the pile from the school. Lava lamps are really kind of awesome, aren't they.

OTHER STUFF I WROTE THIS YEAR FOR YOU TO REVISIT

The Exactly 5 Other Things I Posted Here:
Okay, actually there were six. But I've already linked to "Christmas Miracles and Gifts of Grace" twice, even though that should really be number 1.
  1. And then I already linked "My Personal Wrinkle In Time Movie Review" too, but we'll make that the new number one.
  2. "Thoughts on the Autistic Spectrum part One" and "...part Two" ...are technically two separate ones, fine. Actually three separate ones, since apparently I accidentally posted part one twice. BUT ANYHOO this is me comparing myself to what people describe as "mild" female autism, not so much trying to decide if it describes me but more exploring HOW it describes me, if that makes sense. Weirdly, the other month I listened to a podcast on how to tell the difference between ADHD and ASD when there are overlapping symptoms, and was shocked to discover most of my autistic symptoms DO seem to be caused more by ADHD than indicative of a true ASD. NOTHING I KNOW ABOUT MYSELF IS TRUE!
  3. "Pro-Life Revisited" and
  4. "Thoughts on the State of the World" are mostly me complaining about current events and people and stuff, still, but I'm SMART and RIGHT, dangit.
  5. "Missing Viewpoints" explores how I didn't have anything like a "typical" adolescence and how that is a total bafflement to me. Incidentally, To All the Boys... just missed making BOTH the book AND movie lists this year, so this is the only mention you get of it.

The Top 5ish Articles I Wrote for GeekMom:
  1. Well let's cheat and sum up everything from the first quarter of the year with "In Anticipation of the Wrinkle In Time Movie," which acts as a master list for all L'Engle content I wrote this year. Long-time readers of my personal blog will recognize much of the material freshened up from my original Year of the Tesseract series, but better, so I'll just highlight a couple that did not appear in that first series in any form, such as "Judging A Wrinkle in Time by Its Cover," "Mrs Who and Verbalizing through Quotes" and "What to Read After A Wrinkle In Time."
  2. "Self-Medicating Through Music," on how my favorite things affect my brain, and speaking of my brain
  3. "Emotional Labor and the Executive Dysfunctional Mom" sums up a lot of the things I'd learned about how ADHD manifests in adult women over the past couple years.
  4. "Mental Health Awareness Through Fiction" was an interesting evaluation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, among other things
  5. "Perils of Gardening While Imaginative" explains what goes through my head while I'm working outside.
  6.  
  7.  
Happy new year! Please leave me comments if you want to discuss any of these items further! Or even if you just want to say "me too"!
rockinlibrarian: (rebecca)
 So.

Got stuff on my mind that I want to get out but having trouble getting started here. Going to do chronological train-of-thought, so bear with me while I get to the point.

Recovering from abdominal surgery again this week. This time I needed to get a little hernia fixed that popped out months after/but in relation to last summer's gall bladder surgery. On one hand, it's a simpler and less pervasive surgery, so it required less anathesia and is all focused in one place, so I felt BETTER much sooner than last year. On the other hand, it's a DEEPER surgery,  so it FRIGGIN' HURTS more afterward. So most of my body is all, "Oh, I'm fine, let's go do stuff!" but then my abdomen screams, "BUT NOT THAT!" so it's kind of awkward.

But beforehand I was like, "so, recovery time means I'll get to watch a lot of TV!" Though of course I'm not quite as immobile as I thought I'd be. I did binge the rest of Jessica Jones during my first day or two. It's a very dark show but I like Jessica so much as a character it was worth watching, and anyway, the darkness came in handy because LAUGHING FRIGGIN' HURTS, and since I tend toward funny shows I didn't have a lot of other choices on my want-to-watch list. Yesterday I felt like watching SOMETHING but was tired of not-funny, so I put on MST3K, AND THIS WAS A MISTAKE. It still hurts to laugh.

That SAID, Saturday night I risked something light but not ROFL-hilarious instead, which worked out nicely, more of that, please. Teen Rom-Com. To All the Boys I Loved Before, based on the book by Jenny Han.  I read the book a couple months ago, to be honest, BECAUSE I saw the trailer for the movie and it was frickin adorable. I had bought and recommended the book in the library of course, but I hadn't bothered to read it because it's not my genre. 

And after I read it, having quite enjoyed it, I was still left with this feeling of it's not my genre. It's not-- me. It's describing this world I don't understand. Somehow I have no trouble understanding dystopias and fantasy kingdoms, but a realistic high school setting? I felt...strangely lost.

And the sad thing is that Lara Jean and I have a lot in common. We're both dreamy romantics, who work out our PASSIONATE crushes by writing letters to our beloveds, though I wisely only addressed mine when I actually INTENDED to mail them, and THEN only when I was certain I'd NEVER ACTUALLY HAVE TO SEE THE GUY AGAIN, which was incredibly NOT so wise because I was utterly wrong about that, and, yeah, I could be the main character of a teen rom-com, too.

...Except I couldn't. That was the thing that was nagging me. Like, the whole point of the story is that Lara Jean went from imaginary relationships to figuring out how relationships with ACTUAL PEOPLE work. And I mean, yeah, maybe I got there eventually in my life. Emphasis on the "maybe." Because I've noticed that lately I've completely closed myself off to the idea of New Relationships. I don't mean romantic relationships. I mean relationships AT ALL. If I should lose my husband, I don't ever want to date again, yes, but I don't want to make friends, either. I don't want to deal with it, how much effort it takes to be social. 

And so anyway, I was thinking, even Lara Jean, who in some ways is so much like me, had more of a social life than me. And I started thinking, "You know what that means, don't you? You just wrote about this. If you feel excluded from stories, it just means your story is missing. YOUR story needs to be written." Now, the irony of that is that article is about the need for Representation in Stories as explained by a relatively Default person to other Default people. One reason "To All The Boys..." is getting a lot of attention is it's one of the first teen rom-coms-- or THE first-- only counting American shows-- with an Asian-American protagonist, so... REPRESENTATION IS AWESOME. And I noted that in the article. If you are a relatively Default person, and you still feel excluded by stories, it's not because stories have excluded your DEFAULTNESS. It means there's something NON-Default about you that you're hungering to see.

I'm missing from Realistic Teen Fiction. That's why it's not my genre. I can't see myself in it.

But you know why I got into writing as a child? Well, because I had crazy dreams, actually. But the ONE RECURRING THEME that has always, ALWAYS shown up in my work is "People have adventures together and become friends." I couldn't make friends in the realistic fiction way. So I wrote about it. I wrote fantasies, mysteries, science fiction adventures for characters based on real people because an out-of-the-ordinary adventure was the only way I figured I could break past the awkward social mores that existed in real life. I never wrote realistic fiction. It wouldn't be realistic. I couldn't make it work.

My story needs to be told in Realistic Fiction, because that's where MY story is missing.  That's what they say, right? We need the missing voices. But I want to tell stories with happy endings, and I don't know what that ending could be. The happy ending of your lonely adolescence is COLLEGE, when you finally get away from the shallow-minded casual bullies you grew up with and meet people who are open to meeting YOU, but you're still carrying around repressed wounds from when you were 9 and your two "best" friends were not only always fighting with each other, but didn't even want to be friends with YOU if other people were around, the weight of countless microaggressions from all those kids, very few of whom meet the stereotype of "bully," but who made you feel so much lesser and excluded anyway, so now you have social anxiety for the rest of your life, and... see I'm not sure where I was going with this paragraph, which is my point. What's the ending? What's the moral? How does this story wrap up? Lara Jean's moral is she STOPS living in her fantasy world, and so grows. I started writing SO I could live in my fantasy world. It makes me feel like a fraud, like I've spent my life writing lies, even though I'm firm defender of SPECULATIVE FICTION AS SUPER-TRUTH. 

But, like, apparently the story that's actually missing from the world is not the story I want to write, and that's what's got me hung up this morning. 

Just... felt like sharing.
rockinlibrarian: (tesseract)
 I'm going to write up something more universal--and less of a specific review, because there's already a review there-- for GeekMom, but I want to share my Individual Fan perspective with other Individual Fans, ie Emily, and probably other people but Emily's the first person I'm thinking of because I know she's going in from a similar mindset, even though I liked the made-for-TV movie more than she did.

First of all, the previews were liars-- I was worried they seemed to be ignoring the book, but no, it was definitely My Book alright. I think it definitely did justice to all the book stands for. And yes, thank goodness, they do use the term "tesser" frequently. The previews were also liars because there were a lot of things in them that ended up not showing in the final movie, which is sad, I hope there are LOTS of deleted scenes in the future DVD release (and please let them release it on DVD, we don't have Blu-ray). The previews were also liars because-- well, I don't think they marketed it correctly, but I'll go into more detail on GeekMom. 

I sat in the theater in a fairly perpetual state of joy, though. That's speaking as a superfan of the book. I think a lot of details weren't quite explained or explored fully (for example, scene in previews that wasn't in the movie? The String-and-bug tesseract explanation), but it's hard for me to say, because I KNOW the book so well that my own brain filled in those details. Yeah, non-book-readers may not have been getting the full effect. 

But I didn't ever feel like, "No, you're not getting it right." It felt like My Book. I actually laughed out loud at a completely non-funny moment just because it so completely captured the image in my head that I almost swore I'd seen it before-- and the image in my head looks like an abandoned school room with a mysterious column in the middle, not like the Sea of Holes in Yellow Submarine, but EVIL CHARLES WALLACE was so exactly channeling my interior Charles Wallace at that point that after laughing out loud I actually SAID out loud, "That's Charles Wallace," which is kind of ironic because the point was he WASN'T really Charles Wallace, but, you get my drift.

Charles Wallace, incidentally-- whew, they did a good job finding that kid. I've always said he'd be a hard character to cast, because you need to find a kid who can be a supergenius without being intolerable, and he pulled that off. Meg, also, was SO VERY MEG-- I already said that from the previews alone-- those lying previews-- she was already starting to paste her looks onto the Meg in my head, so that I see Storm Reid now even when I'm thinking of something non-movie related. 

It fixed both the Major Issues I had with the TV movie-- like I said from the previews, they got that street in Camazotz right, although with the other changes they made to Camazotz the issue is a little more confusing-- it's really hard to say what's real and what isn't. So maybe they didn't quite get Camazotz right? They just got THAT part of Camazotz right. And the big issue of Meg not single-handedly saving the universe, but merely winning a major victory in her own way, and having the Mrses show her that she's a fighter for Good who will keep doing so-- that actually happened just right, and I was worried about that going in.

I do have one new Major Issue with this version, though: Mrs Whatsit is WRONG. I was going to say ALL WRONG but there's a lot about her that IS right-- her curiosity and eccentricities. But she is not full of love as she should be, and her wisdom seems to have been all given to Mrs Which. But luckily this did not interfere with my feeling that the movie got the book Right-- in fact I had to think about it to figure out what I didn't like. I was like, "Well, this version fixed the things I didn't like in the TV Movie, so do I have any issues with it? I could have used more Mrs Who, but that's not a bad thing, that just means I loved Mrs Who-- OH BUT MRS WHATSIT WAS WRONG." It wasn't like Studio Ghibli getting Howl Jenkins-Pendragon wrong (speaking of Jenkinses, we have another perfect Mr. Jenkins with this movie, we can go ahead and shoot Wind in the Door now), because the whole story hinged on that character change, and that's why that ruined that movie for me. In this case, the necessary parts of Mrs Whatsit seemed to be carried all right by Mrs Which, so the story remained intact. But the Mrs Whatsit in my head is still an old wise LOVING woman in too many coats and scarves-- movie Whatsit can't make a dent in it.

Although personally I do like "flying lettuce" (as Maddie described it) Uriel-Whatsit better than centaur Uriel Whatsit. That's more of a visual preference than a heart-of-the-story difference, though. 

DAAAAANG the visuals are trippy and therefore wonderful. Who knew my love of psychedelia and my love of Wrinkle In Time were so closely linked? Maddie was all like, "Okay the movie's over, time to go," when the credits started, but I was like, "But they're PRETTY! They're PRETTY credits! I want to watch the pretty credits!" (and Sammy for some reason just wanted to wait until the lights came back up in the theater). I wanted more. My brain kept making up new scenes or, you know, scenes from the book that weren't in the movie, in this trippy visual palate. My visual imagination just did not REALIZE it hadn't been imagining wildly enough before. 

There are other issues I have when I think about it-- like, they cut out the escape to Ixchel for movie-making time/pacing reasons (though at least they nod to its existence), but this means that we don't get the power of Meg CHOOSING to go back to Camazotz because she realizes she's the only one who can do it. She did choose to STAY and save Charles Wallace, so she's not without agency in that decision entirely, but it's not quite as powerful. This also reminds me that Mrs Who doesn't get to quote Corinthians. They did seem to cut all overt references to Christianity in the movie, although it's still spiritual in general-- and she quotes Buddha, so she COULD'VE quoted Corinthians, and it's such a meaningful quote-- "to make me not hate me for being only me," as book-Meg says.

But the other, surface changes to the book read as just fine by me. I didn't miss the twins, or even the New England setting (I mean, it's ANNOYING that Hollywood is so Hollywood-centric, but it probably did save money for trippy visuals instead so why argue?). The Happy Medium was even more masculine than the androgynous one in the TV-movie, and I like both those changes-- he's still on the androgynous side and that just makes SENSE for someone who is all about balance, I dig that. Uriel on the other hand was more FEMININE than in the book-- not that it was masculine in the book, but, you know, centaurs are pretty masculine-- and I loved that, too. Camazotz I'm mixed on, because I liked the additional settings there, and the mindbendingness of that Sea of Holes room, but like I said, it was never clear what was real or not, so you could never tell if there are actually PEOPLE there being oppressed or if it's all just illusions. I mean, the whole everyone-there-gave-into-IT-because-IT-offered-them-security-and-"peace" is a pretty powerful theme, and I think it got lost in the trippiness. I loved how Mrs Who almost spoke ENTIRELY in quotations and I loved that she pulled quotations from such a wide variety of sources (a few of which didn't even exist when the book was written!), which is part of why I wanted more of her-- I just wanted to see the variety of quotations she could come up with and incorporate into any situation! And I was kind of worried about Mrs Oprah Which, because she is so very Oprah, and not so very incorporeal, but she didn't bother me in context of the movie. I liked that they acknowledged her sometimes getting physically-manifesting "wrong," -- and I also liked her retort of (something to the effect of) "what is 'wrong' anyway?" 

So as a book fan, I am satisfied, though I don't know how it will work for non-book-fans. My kids enjoyed it, but didn't say anything like "BEST MOVIE EVER," so I'm not sure how to measure it: Maddie named as her favorite scene the one scene that wasn't remotely in the book, so that was kind of awkward (I did also like that scene, it gave Meg the opportunity to use her brains), but Sammy's response to what his favorite part was, was kind of complicated: "The thing about Love being stronger than darkness"-- ah, he got the point, yay!-- "...that's the same thing My Little Pony is about!" Okay, so maybe it wasn't quite a life-changing experience for them. I do hope they'll let me finish reading the book to them someday (we got a couple chapters in once, last year, but I don't think they were ready for it, and then we got distracted by Harry Potter). 

I do have a couple more things to write up before I end my series on GeekMom-- a more universal response to the movie, as I said, and a what-to-read-next article-- you can catch up on everything Wrinkle I have written there through this post here. See you around!
rockinlibrarian: (Default)

 Hi there. I know I don't type all that much over here anymore because I'm always trying to get in a weekly GeekMom article instead, and those take priority, and are sometimes hard enough to squeeze out of my brain (I'm reworking Ye Olde Year of the Tesseract series over there now, in anticipation of the upcoming movie,* if you haven't noticed-- and even with those first drafts written over here still sometimes I TAKE FOREVER). Have I mentioned I've had "This person has ADHD--Inattentive Type" officially on my official medical records for exactly one year and one week now? Yeah. Interesting how long it has permeated my life without me realizing what was going on. But anyway. A month ago my computer died. I had wanted a new computer for a long time anyway and was kind of disappointed I didn't get one for Christmas, to be honest. It was like my old computer felt sorry for me and decided to force us to make it happen. I luckily had almost everything backed up in THE CLOUD (pictures in Snapfish and Shutterfly, music in Google Play, non-article-writing, which I haven't exactly done anything with in the past few years, anyway, on Dropbox). Anyway, my point is, also, that I got a laptop this time, which means I'll be able to do work in the summertime when the kids want me to take them to the pool, and so on, and at the moment I am on the "desk"-equipped exercise bike, trying to counteract my recent bate of sedentariness. Spellcheck says that word should be "absentmindedness," which no, is not what I meant to say, but is equally true. Exercise helps my brain focus, I just don't like to admit that or more accurately ACT on that. This is a bit awkward on my wrists, though.

Anyway, I'm mainly here to get the whole world off my chest.

Just before I woke up this morning, I dreamed I was giving a bunch of my relatives a spontaneous lecture about information literacy, because I'd seen they'd "Liked" an article that led with a Pro-Life stance, but ended up also jamming into it a bunch of slightly related points that were NOT very Christian if they'd JUST TAKEN A MOMENT TO THINK ABOUT IT-- I mean, in the dream this was all very literal, my conservative and I should also add GOOD relatives had Liked an article and I cautioned them about reading their sources more acutely, but in real life this is a thing that has happened across the board-- lots of "good" people following biased news sources and suddenly finding themselves believing things they wouldn't at all believe if they stopped and thought about it.

Then I wake up and my clock radio is like, "...the latest school shooting has prompted more people to put more pressure on Congress to do something about mass shootings," and I actually went, "HAH, THIS Congress?!" out loud. THIS Congress won't even face up to the MASS TREASON happening all around them! THIS Congress won't even throw out the Madman In Chief who keeps trying to provoke a nuclear war! THIS Congress is ripping up every social support institution in the government calling it a waste of money, and yet accepting GENUINE wastes of money like border walls and deporting law-abiding members of society and Military Parades! and THEIR OVERBLOWN SALARIES. 

I'm AGOG. I'm agog that we as a society haven't been able to do anything with these hypocrites yet.

And I'm sad, because while there are lots of conservatives who've backed away from this mess, who actually see what's going on, there are STILL PEOPLE whose indoctrination by Fox News et al has been SO DEEP that they will do and say anything to deny the hypocrisy, the DEEP LEVELS OF HYPOCRISY involved in trying to defend any of this. "Democrats do bad things, too!" is about the best they can come up with, and it never looked like a worse excuse. 

And I'm scared, because I have a feeling it's only going to get worse until it gets better. People who are really scared to admit when they've been wrong just get more and more zealous about insisting they're right. A lot of people will be hurt in the process, whether emotionally, through losing access to resources or livelihoods, or outright physical violence. These issues cannot just go silently into that good night. This is civil war. I'm not CALLING for war by saying these things, mind you. I'm identifying it. It's on our doorsteps whether we want it or not.

But I'm hopeful, because whether it seems like it or not, we have made some progress as a society over the past year or so. GOOD has become more vocal, too, and though that means often exposing terrible things, which shakes up the status quo, forces us to admit how Problematic our Faves can be (though I still hate that concept). and causes the bad guys being exposed to do MORE terrible things... small changes are happening.  People are waking up. People are taking action in small everyday ways and in big institutional ways, if not quite national government ways. 

This past week there's been a lot of dirty laundry being aired in the Kid Lit world, many writers joining the #MeToo movement by calling out fellow authors for sexual harrassment. It's especially rough because we're all in KID lit, you know, we're supposed to be better role models? Though a lot of the names coming up (especially the worst offenders) I've not been particularly fans of, there are a couple of my faves getting called out, but even them I'm not entirely surprised by, and I find it even hasn't stopped me enjoying their work...mostly I guess because my faves have been called out for being creeps but not outright predators. And that's an important distinction, because that's where the most change can come into play-- like this:

I saw this on Twitter this morning. I admit-- call me a terrible librarian, I'm sorry-- to not being familiar with this guy or his work, but he wrote a response to being called out in this conversation, in which he didn't try to defend himself, make excuses, or say "I'm sorry I'm a jerk but I guess you'll just have to live with it because that's who I am," but actually owns up, says I WAS WRONG AND I AM GOING TO TRY TO BE BETTER. Now, when a guy apologizes for being a jerk, there's a risk of "praising him for doing what a decent person would have done anyway." It reinforces the whole patriarchal men-get-more-leeway-to-mess-up thing. I'm not trying to do that. I'm trying to point out that there's HOPE. People CAN own up to their mistakes and work to do better. I definitely hope all my Faves take this same, introspective route instead of doubling down on their innocence or making excuses or complaining how people can't take a joke. 

And maybe, the more crap that comes to light—in every discipline, in every problem area— the more of these people who have done wrong will step up to make it right, even if it seems the majority of them fight against it all the more savagely. Maybe they can't DO much to fix damage too long done, but they can help stop future damage from occurring. And maybe then more and more problem-people will follow their example, leaving behind the Dark Side and standing with the Light. And maybe, MAYBE, humanity has a chance to get better, after all.

---
*Which I'm STARTING to get a little worried about, to be honest? It's just that, so far, in any of the trailers or TV spots, I haven't heard an ACTUAL LINE from the BOOK. The closest is in how the tesseract is illustrated with a string and a toy bug-- but am I hearing correctly? Have they actually replaced the word "tesseract" with "wrinkle"? Yeeeah. I can deal with poor adaptations existing, but this one is just so BUZZED and people are so EXCITED about it, that it would be a real disappointment if it's just a really pretty movie that has nothing to do with the book (particularly when the much-reviled TV movie WAS relatively true to the book, it just wasn't a great movie). Especially because I'm already starting to like Storm Reid so much as Meg that, after 30 years of INTENSE fandom, she's even managing to creep into my head and replace my old looking-a-lot-like-ME mental picture of Meg. And this Calvin is a cutie: I just love the LEETLE perking up of his eyes in this gif, I think he IS going to be perfect. The Mrs Ws, I just don't know about, I think they could win me over as long as Mrs Whatsit comes INTO the Murry house looking more like a tramp than an angel princess--it doesn't look like she stays that way long if she does. I guess you can't have someone bundled up that way in southern California, which is why they shouldn't have changed the setting. :P  
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
I am going to add a cut here for archival-scrolling purposes, but I do want to encourage you not only to click through and read, but also to comment, because there are lots of fun things to comment on! Let's trade opinions and junk!
Read more... )
 
  • I got actually, officially, medically diagnosed with ADHD-Inattentive Type, which in retrospect is so obvious I keep being amazed no one thought of it years ago. Indeed, it's been sort of comforting to realize how many weird and/or stupid things I do are actually extremely common among women with ADD. I have noticed I've been a lot less depressed this year, too, and I suspect a lot of it is that the voices in my head who used to put me down all the time, "You never learn from your mistakes, you're a wash-up, how can you be so smart and fail so bad at life?"-- well, now there's a voice going, "oh, that's totally ADHD, there. You know what you're doing."
  • I took the plunge and did Weight Watchers, and annoyingly enough I totally felt better. Turns out this may only partially have to do with the loss of excess weight, but as an added bonus, cutting simple carbs back is, it turns out, really important for making an ADHD brain work better, too. So I'm not on Weight Watchers anymore, but I've been trying to keep in mind many of the things I learned through the experience. Also I lost about 35 pounds.
  • ...which has its drawbacks. Apparently being overweight and then suddenly losing a lot of weight can make ones gallbladder FREAK OUT. So round about June I got violently ill and it turned out to be a wonky gallbladder. So in July I had surgery-- my first major surgery ever-- to get the nasty thing removed. The doctors messed up my expectations by calling the outpatient procedure a "band-aid surgery," because it then took a lot longer for me to recover than I expected it to. Like, a month. At least. But by now, I am indeed feeling much better all around. Thank you for leaving, gallbladder.


  • In September the kids and I went to see Dav Pilkey at the Carnegie Library, which is officially the first time I've ever met one of my "celebrity" crushes in person, and got to shake his hand. He was so sweet and awesome, and is also a huge spokesperson for ADHD so the year has a theme, here.
  • In the fall we made a new furry friend. A Neighborhood Cat, who we took to calling Marshmallow, adopted us. We are at this point 99.9% sure that Marshmallow has an actual home with someone else in the neighborhood, but when she goes out roaming, it's us she visits right away. After I wrote this follow-up piece, mourning that we hadn't seen her for a month, she showed up again! Looking even fatter and healthier than usual, so, yeah, definitely not a stray.


 
Top Five Library Programs I Ran This Year:
  1. Messy Art: I made this the last Family Night of Spring, in late May when it was not likely to be raining, because we HAD to do it outside. We had Alka-Seltzer paint bombs, watercolor-filled squirt gun target practice, turkey baster Jackson-Pollock-esque painting, and the cross between the three that happens when small children get paint everywhere and just try to take advantage of it. To make the evening even more nuts, about three times my usual crowd turned up for it. It was chaos, and it was fun. I read Edward Gets Messy by Rita "Screwy Decimal" Meade, and probably something else but I can't remember what.
  2. Visual Music: More controlled, indoor fun with paint. I made a playlist of a variety of instrumental pieces-- one of the moms there knew all of them except my cousin Ian's acid-rock guitar ramble, which I would have been super impressed if she did-- there was John Williams, Scott Joplin, the Beatles and Pink Floyd, Mozart and some Romantic-era composer I can't remember now because it was kind of boring but made for variety. Anyway, I put it on and we painted to it and it was a delight. I read The Noisy Paintbox, which I loved, see review below, and also probably something else I can't remember. Oh, Say Zoop! by Herve Tullet. That was fun.
  3. Underpants: I was kind of excited about our Dav Pilkey visit (see above), so I threw this topic in, even though I didn't actually read any Captain Underpants. We read Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds-- which to be honest, actually is pretty creepy-- and The Underwear Book by Todd Parr, which is always a hit at Outreach. Our project was simple-- they just designed a pair of underwear on a plain line drawing of a pair-- but they were so pleased with it, they unanimously demanded I display their designs on the front desk. So I did, to the additional delight of everyone who came up to the desk for the next couple of weeks. That little program brought a lot of smiles!
  4. Solar Power: It was the Build a Better World Collaborative Summer Reading Theme and a couple weeks before the solar eclipse, so here we go. I read Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven and The Day My Dogs Became Guys by Merrill Markoe (which is about the WEIRD POWERS of a solar eclipse). I had built some pizza box solar ovens, but it was too cloudy for them to work, but luckily that's why I'd decided to make s'mores in them-- so the results were still edible. There WAS just the right amount of sun for photo-sensitive paper art with found objects, though, and the gasps when we rinsed the paper in cold water were totally worth the failed solar ovens.
  5. See The World: I set up stations around the room for each continent (actually I split Asia into West and East and combined Australia/Oceania and Antarctica into one), with books and flags for each. I WAS going to set up a laptop at each station with bookmarks on various interesting sites on Google Streetview, but it turned out most of the library's laptop collection had vanished. So I had to improvise: West and East Asia had to share a computer after all, and I used my Nook and the library's iPad, but the latter two were annoying because it turns out the mobile versions of Google Maps don't HAVE Streetview, so I kept having to "request desktop site." BUT I saw so many awesome places on Streetview while prepping for this program that I wrote this article. I can't remotely remember what I read for it, though.
 
THE MEDIA REVIEWS (which also include Real Life Moments):
 
Top 5 2017 Picture Books:
  1. 50 Cities of the U.S.A, by Gabrielle Balkan: This is more of a thin coffee table book than a proper picture book, to be honest, but it's so awesome I have to put it here. Two different GeekMoms had reviewed it favorably, and I saw it had Pittsburgh and I'm always looking for more local history for the library's children's collection, so I put it on the library's Amazon wishlist. Yes, I gave the library its own Amazon wishlist. A few weeks ago I looked at the list and noticed the book had gone on deep discount, like 5 dollars (while MSRP is 30?), and I have Prime, so I was like, hey, Merry Christmas, library, I'm getting this for you. When it came I turned right to the Pittsburgh page so I could give it a knowledgeable evaluation, and was totally impressed at the variety of cool trivia they included. I especially loved how, for each city, they also spotlighted several contemporary children's authors (not even superstar names!) from the area. For Pittsburgh they picked Megan McDonald ("got her start at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh" AHEM she spent most of her library career at Adams Memorial in Latrobe, thanks!) and Sharon G. Flake!
  2. The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. What, I can't possibly put one of these lists together without it including at LEAST one Barnett and/or Klassen, and this year gave me two. I will rank this one first because I can really see reading it at a story time, once I find a good excuse to.
  3. Triangle: As much as I adore Mac Barnett, I have to admit Klassen's brilliance impresses me the most. The things he can do with simple eye position! Mac's work is a little more the highlight of the first book, but Jon's work is definitely the highlight of this one. I'm apparently on first name bases with them now.
  4. Hilda and the Runaway Baby, by Daisy Hirst: In the "notes" column of my possible-books-to-get list spreadsheet I just wrote "the pictures are hilarious." Indeed, when this eventually came through Junior Library Guild, I just sat there beaming at each page. It's not so much laugh-out-loud funny as just delightful-funny.
  5. Accident! by Andrea Tsurumi: I already know I do not yet appreciate this book enough. These pictures require extended study, which I have not partaken of yet. But already it's fun and everyone wants to go to the library in it, so good.
 
 
Top 5 2017 Longer-than-Picture Books:
  1. A Face Like Glass, Frances Hardinge: Technically this book came out something like five years ago in the UK, but only made it across the pond this year, and it's just so...creative? I'm not sure of a better word to describe reading Frances Hardinge. She's a word-weaver, threading her books with magic like the craftspeople in this book thread magic into their wares. This is the only book in this list I did not get out to read to my kids-- it's just good enough to motivate me to read it anyway. When I was writing it up for GeekMom, one of the GeekDads spotted the cover in the image library and started freaking out with excitement that someone else was reading it!
  2. Princess Cora and the Crocodile, by Laura Amy Schlitz: (That's a Betsy Bird review there. It was just one of the first results of the search, and I was probably highly influenced by this review when I put it on the library's to-buy list, so hey, it'll be my link)...But it had actually been in the library several months before I was like, "Oh wait, that's a perfect Maddie book [humorous fantasy, strong-willed princess, third-grade reading level], I need to bring it home." Then we fought over who actually got to read it first.
  3. Real Friends, by Shannon Hale: I love Shannon Hale so stupid much. Anyway, this book I actually bought for us at home, because it pretty much WAS written for Maddie right where she was-- a graphic "novel" (actually memoir) about the ups-and-downs of elementary school friendship? So Maddie. And so everyone else who remembers how traumatic the elementary school social scene actually was.
  4. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, by Stephanie Burgis: I confess I bought this for the library just because it sounded perfect for our family read-alouds, though it's more in the style of the books we were reading earlier in the year than when we finally got around to it after Series of Unfortunate Events (see below). Still, middle grade fantasy about CHOCOLATE. It was hard not to crave chocolate while reading this.
  5. Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever., edited by Betsy Bird, speaking of me being highly influenced by her literary opinions. She called together a diverse group of truly funny women (the aforementioned Shannon Hale? My Imaginary-big-sister Libba Bray? The mentioned-right-after-this Ursula Vernon?) to contribute to this book. Being an anthology of this nature, the results are mixed, but there are definitely some pretty hilarious stories in here, and the bests were actually from women I knew very little of. As I mentioned in this Between the Bookends review, which also includes more about Real Friends, the funniest story is "Dear Grandpa: Give Me Money,” by Allison DeCamp, but the all around best story is Carmen Agra Deedy’s “One Hot Mess” —which stuck with me so much I watched a TED talk by her the other day. Turns out she's a professional storyteller. Obviously.
Honorable Mentions I Didn't Put Into The Countdown On Account of Their Being From Series I Have Already Discussed and They're More of the Same But Still Awesome:
From Ursula Vernon's Hamster Princess series, Giant Trouble, and there's another Hamster Princess book coming out next month, too, yay! I never get tired of them. Maddie got a pile of pet-related Rainbow Fairies books for Christmas and we both got a big laugh out of one of them being called "Harriet the Hamster Fairy." "It's Harriet the Hamster PRINCESS!" Maddie insisted gleefully.
And of course my bae (I can't believe I just used that word. UGH! It just feels like the right word here anyway. Darn you, "bae") of the year Dav Pilkey released some more Dog Man books, and Dog Man Unleashed and A Tale of Two Kitties were both freakin' hilarious. We also just got Dog Man and Cat Kid which officially came out this week, but I haven't gotten to read it yet.
 

Top 5 Older-than-2017 Picture Books I Read For the First Time:
  1. Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis: I was a guest reader for Maddie's second grade classroom and wanted to do a "lesson" on how reading pictures was just as important (if not more so) to reading a picture book as reading the words is, so I brought in one of my favorites from last year, They All Saw a Cat, and then I thought of this one we had just gotten, and this one turned out to be the favorite. I asked the class if any of them knew how to speak bug, and insisted that by the end of the book they'd be able to, and they dove in to decoding bug language with relish. It ended up becoming Maddie's teacher's new favorite book, too!
  2. The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art, by Barb Rosenstock: I got the idea for the Visual Music Family Night (see above) without having any particular read-alouds in mind, but this picture book biography of an artist with synesthesia seemed perfect, subject-wise. So I read it and, word-wise, fell in love. It's a perfect length for a read-aloud (not always easy to do with biographies), and I kept thinking, "I would have understood abstract art SO MUCH BETTER if I had had this book as a child." Indeed, synesthesia makes abstract art make more sense, and this picture book makes synesthesia make sense, and it's all a lovely tribute to art in any form.
  3. We Are Growing, by Laurie Keller: I wanted to do a mock Geisel in addition to a mock Caldecott this year, so I pulled out all the 2016 easy readers, and this one made me laugh so much I might have biased our results with my enthusiasm when the group showed up and I was all, "Listen to this one!" So when the votes were totaled, this was our clear winner, but that was all right, because when the actual Geisel committee's votes were totaled this was their clear winner as well, so I guess our taste is pretty good.
  4. Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, by Javaka Steptoe: Speaking of Youth Media Award Medalists and of picture book biographies of artists I'd never heard of, it took me a long time to overcome my doubts and give this one a try. I didn't bother ordering it all last year even though it kept getting rave reviews, because bio of a little-known artist? Who's going to check that out? Then it won the Caldecott so I figured I'd better get it, but I still never bothered to open it up until I did a "Family Night At the Museum" Family Night this fall, and-- well, it didn't win the Caldecott for nothing. My jaw literally dropped several times at the gorgeousness of these illustrations. And it's also a picture book biography that's a decent length and flow for a read-aloud, so yay!
  5. Katie Meets the Impressionists, by James Mayhew: This is a book that was made for child-me. Impressionism has always been my favorite visual art style, and this is a story about a girl who walks into great Impressionistic paintings and explores them, so like gah, that is Amy's dream. It's another one I only bothered to pick up while prepping "Family Night at the Museum," and was so glad I had.
 
Top 5 Older-than-2017 Longer-than-Picture Books I Read For the First Time:
  1. The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, by Adam Gidwitz: I'm pretty sure Adam Gidwitz is a kindred spirit and am mildly disappointed we're both married. Gotta love me a folklore geek with a sense of humor. I also wrote up this one for Between the Bookends on GeekMom, too.
  2. The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill: As did I with this one. It really makes me feel like I need to write less here. Sorry about that. Go, click on my longer reviews and read them.
  3. Island of the Aunts, by Eva Ibbotson: While trying to tide my kids over on humorous British fantasy after I insisted they weren't yet ready for Goblet of Fire (see below), I pulled out my copy of The Secret of Platform 13, which incidentally also has Island of the Aunts in the flip side, two books in one. So we read the first, and then I keep squinting at the second: you know, I've seen this around for forever, obviously, but why do I get the feeling I've never actually read it? Indeed, we started that one next, and I hadn't read it before. But I loved it. And dang, she's funny, and English wasn't even her native language.
  4. The Girl Who Could Not Dream, by Sarah Beth Durst: Also, already reviewed for Between the Bookends. Sophie (the GeekMom in charge of Between the Bookends, not the main character of this book, although they are both named Sophie) wrote it up in the post summary using the term "the dream economy" and I'm just kind of taken by it. It feels like it must really exist somehow, with a name like that. The Dream Economy.
  5. So You Want to Be a Jedi? by Adam Gidwitz, again: There's another Between the Bookends review in the same link as the Face Like Glass note above. But seriously, Adam, buddy, fellow student of Joseph Campbell, we really gotta talk shop, here. Turn one of my favorite movies into a second-person monk-training manual and, well, you have made me your best friend forever. So nerdy. So much fun.
Top 5 Rereading Experiences Worth Mentioning:
This is a new category I have to put in just because so much of my reading with the kids was super-memorable and yet of books I personally had read before. And occasionally I do a reread for a storytime that makes me see a book in a new way, too, as in this number 5.
  1. Yes, I have finally introduced the kids to Harry Potter this year and now I have fellow fans. (Oh, and the kids and I are all Hufflepuffs, or more accurately Sam and I are Huffleclaw and Maddie is Huffledor, so the Sorting Hat might have debated a bit. Jason's just straight up Gryffindor, no question). Just the first three books, as they still weren't ready for the end of Goblet of Fire (as it was Chamber of Secrets thoroughly freaked Maddie out). Since then we've read some pretty intense books so they might be ready now, but then they'll want to rush straight through to the end once we pick it up again, and I don't know, then it will be over... but I just have so much I want to share with them in Order of the Phoenix!
  2. A Series of Unfortunate Events was our major read of the year, being that it's thirteen books long. That took us from the end of June to sometime in November, actually. That was an example of some pretty intense content, even though it's presented so tongue-in-cheek. But rereading gave me new appreciation of the cleverness and the ways clues were woven in. Look, I kept forgetting the kids wouldn't learn who Beatrice actually was until the last word of the last book, because my whole understanding of the series was shaped by my knowing that fact now, and I had to stop myself from letting it slip a few times.
  3. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass: Maddie's a fan of Ever After High, and her favorite character is, naturally, Madeleine Hatter. And Sam's definitely clever enough to get most of the wordplay. So I was like, GOOD, you guys are finally ready for one of my favorite books ever. And indeed? That is just a really friggin' good book(s), and it's even more fun to read out loud (I had read it out loud to my brother decades ago so that wasn't entirely a new experience); and it's just SO NICE to be able to make references to it and have them know what I'm talking about.
  4. Speaking of which, that's why I decided to read them Holes. Sam was complaining something was too hard because he wasn't strong enough, and I shot back, "Then you just need to practice, like carrying a pig up the mountain," and then I was like, whoa, you don't get that reference, but you totally will now let's read this! I realized it had both the complicated mystery-building and over-the-top tongue-in-cheek unfortunateness of Series of Unfortunate Events so they'd probably like it, and indeed, they loved it. And I again got to read what is probably a perfect book, so hey. It also contains one of the Other Fictional Sams I Love, though granted one that dies quickly and violently. Oh, we also got to discuss the history of race relations, so, yay?
  5. The Polar Express: It's a Christmas classic, yes? But I'd never got into it much. But I'd somehow run short on Christmas outreach books the other week, and I was bringing this one class a bag of books about trains, and we have three copies of this in the main library proper, so I was like, what the heck, I'll throw that in. But I totally had my doubts, because it's long, and these were four-year-olds, but what the heck. I started to read, and THEY. WERE. MESMERIZED. No other way to describe it. If somebody had rung any jingle bells in that room at that moment, everyone's hair would have stood on end. So, okay, I get the Christmas classic thing, now.
 
Top 10 Moving Picture Media I Watched This Year:
 
I got confused trying to sort these into "Movies" and "TV." There's Netflix, which shows stuff it calls TV shows, even though it isn't actually broadcast on TV. There's that TV show that's really like three separate movies. There's a feature-length production broken into episodes and shown on You-Tube. Oh, there's an educational YouTube series I stuck in at the last minute because I forgot about it, too. So, we'll put it all together and call it good.
 
  1. Legion: Holy cow. Combine an X-Men storyline with Noah Hawley's storytelling chops and how can you make a show any more up my alley? You make it friggin' psychedelic. It's number one on the list even though there were times I wasn't even sure I really liked it-- I just loved it-- which is something psychedelia does, makes occasionally unpleasant experiences awesome. Ahem. And the characters are all so great. It's so. weird. and I know that makes it therefore not for everybody, but I WANT everybody to see it anyway just so I can talk about it.
  2. Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party: This was a small webseries-- basically a feature-length film broken into twelve episodes that I referred to above-- that was strongly influenced by the Clue Movie in all the best ways. It's a mystery-farce starring a variety of famous 19th-century...ish authors (the anachronisms are part of the fun), it's utterly ridiculous, and for some reason I felt the need to watch it over and over and over. I even rented it through their site (I mean, it's free on YouTube) so I could watch it with commentary (and yes, support their good work monetarily in retrospect because they're awesome). And I'm kind of addicted to the music. I want everyone to watch this, too, just so we can quote it to each other. The team behind it just released a new mini-movie--a mocku-noir this time-- but I haven't watched it yet for fear it will mess up my carefully curated end of the year list here.
  3. Agents of SHIELD: Still my favorite currently-running TV show-- we're only five episodes in to Season 5 and I only LOVED the most recent one (which may say something about the necessity of Fitz?), but the back half of Season 4, in the first part of the year, was some of the finest TV I've ever seen, thanks. It continued to upend expectations and show off fantastically scene-stealing villains (Mallory Jenson where's your Emmy dangit) while growing the characters we already loved. Why is it not universally hailed as the best not-cancelled comic book show on TV? Oh yeah, because Legion exists. But besides that.
  4. Moana: Great, another future classic Disney movie. I just genuinely enjoyed it, though, even on rewatches (THAT STUPID CHICKEN cracks me up so hard). And that dang crab makes me go to my kids, "Look, this show is rated TV-MA and there's no way I'm letting you watch the rest of it but YOU SHOULD WATCH the first scene of Legion episode 4 because that crab is playing the BEST CHARACTER" and perhaps lucky for them Legion isn't on demand anymore, darnit, you see what I mean about me and Legion, anyway. And for some reason I was super-attuned to all the mythological tropes while watching and that made it even more fun because I'm a dork that way, or more likely because I was watching "Crash Course Mythology" and they even did a whole episode on Maui soon after I saw the movie, you're welcome. OH WAIT I FORGOT: ---4a. Crash Course World Mythology: I've seen individual Crash Course videos before, but I'm such a Comparative Mythology junkie that I've been outright following this one. If I was going to be an academic I'd do Comparative Mythology. Where's the current writing on that, anyway? I know Joseph Campbell isn't considered completely "correct" by current academics but is anyone supplanting him? Besides Adam Gidwitz (see above), I mean an Academic. I WANT TO READ COMPARATIVE MYTHOLOGY THEORIES LIKE A DORK.
  5. The Defenders: We got Netflix back this fall, and rather than try to watch all the Marvel shows Netflix had put out in that time, particularly since the reviews were mixed, I figured I'd catch up with them all at once just by watching this one. And indeed, I enjoyed it so much that now I'm going to have to go back and watch some of the individual shows anyway. At least Jessica Jones because I love her. And probably Daredevil if only because Matt Murdock is super-cute. Which is totally creepy for me to say because J's super-paranoid Survivalist buddy goes by the name "Matt Murdock" online, and I'm absolutely not by any means talking about him.
  6. Doctor Strange: The extent of my review to Jason after we watched this: "I liked it, it's trippy" (See review of Legion, above).
  7. Lego Batman: Pretty sure this was the first (and so far only) movie we all four together went to see at the theater as a family. And we all four enjoyed it lots, too.
  8. A Series of Unfortunate Events, Netflix Series Version: See book rereads section, above. We saw the first one or two episodes at my parents' house, then after we got Netflix, catching up was the first thing we did. I can't wait to see how season 2 goes and where the background stories go from here. (Is Jacqueline Snicket a cross between Jacques and Kit or is Kit yet to appear as well? How long will the show draw out the full nature of Beatrice's identity?) It might have gone higher on this list but the theme song really bugs me. Sorry, Neil Patrick Harris.
  9. Sherlock: This might also be higher on the list if I didn't rather hate the first episode of the season. Well, "hate" is a strong word, but I just didn't ENJOY it like I have pretty much every other episode, even the not-so-good ones. It depressed me. But that's counteracted by the second episode being absolutely fabulous, by which I mean Martin was so fabulous I spent the next week like, "Yep, that's MY Imaginary Husband, he's awesome." And the third episode was equivalent of watching any other episode of the show, so the grand average works out okay.
  10. -(tie) Sing/Trolls: Both of these are cases of me being pleasantly surprised, after having to listen to my daughter play the (unimpressive to annoying) trailers on YouTube over and over for months, only to discover the movies themselves were both well-written and enjoyable, with actually-pretty-good soundtracks. So okay, Maddie, thanks for making me watch with you.

Okay, 3 P.S.es I watched while I was writing this, so I'm not going to try to fit them into the countdown and mess up my nice lists. I actually watched a lot of things that didn't make the list at all, but these three were all so good that they probably WOULD have made the top ten but I'm not going to attempt to figure out where:
  • Like I said, The Case of the Gilded Lily: you GUYS, I couldn't just have that link open above and seriously expect myself to wait until after the new year just so I wouldn't mess up this LIST, when I had a spare 40 minutes and it was CALLING to me. This is the mocku-noir the Poe Party team made, and it is further full of hilarity. These folks are geniuses, somebody make them famous beyond the internet already.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2: we watched on Netflix Friday night while the kids were at their grandparents. I, naturally, most appreciated the on-point use of classic rock music-- even that UGHHHH "Brandy" I hate that song so friggin' much, but I have to admit it was USED excellently (and actually sort of highlights some of what makes the song so disgusting). Did I mention the on-point use of music was one of the things I loved so much about Legion, too? Okay, enough.
  • Then, as promised, we finally squeezed in a matinee of The Last Jedi Saturday afternoon, and the theme of on-point music cues continues, because I'm pretty sure John Williams was the main reason I cried for the whole last like twenty minutes or something. When the moment, I'll avoid spoilers but I'll just say, my favorite original trilogy theme to play on the piano started up, I couldn't hold back the eye water, and more original trilogy themes from that point on kept me suitably moved. Not to mention a moment in the credits, likewise. WHAT WILL WE DO WITHOUT CARRIE, PEOPLE. It's been a year and I still cry when I think about her. Ahem anyway, the movie was absurdly long and could probably have done with some trimming up, but that's the only negative I have to say about it. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • EDIT FOR POSTERITY: This happened:
I don't have a music list this year because I can't think of anything to put on it. So, moving on:

THE CHRISTMAS LOOT ROUNDUP
:
 
Top 5 Presents I Gave:
  1. Homemade Blankie Tails: I've wanted to do something with all my scrap fleece for ages, and I saw those Mermaid Tail Blankets and was like, yeah, Maddie has a mermaid thing, and both kids love to cocoon themselves in blankets to the point they wear their sleeping bags out. Sam's not so much of a mermaid dude, and I'd seen a lot of "boys' versions" that made it look like a shark was eating you instead, but that didn't seem very Sam, either. Then I remembered the inflatable blue orca they liked to take to the pool, and thought Sam would love to be TOTALLY INSIDE an orca, with the head as like a hood? Both of these took longer to make than I thought they would, but the kids assure me it was totally worth it. Here is them sleeping snuggly: kids in blanket tails 
  2. This Freakin' Rainbow Alpaca Maddie had an excessive Amazon wishlist, and on it was this "rainbow alpaca" that was one of those one-cent-plus-shipping-from-someplace-in-China things, and I was like what the heck, we'll throw that in, and I was expecting it to be like Beanie Boo size but it's like a foot and a half tall, and it came after the other things, so I wasn't sure how to wrap it, so I just set it under the tree looking cute. Then Christmas morning I hear Maddie squealing "OMIGODOMIGODOMIGOD" and I'm like, what on earth is causing THAT reaction. And it was this alpaca! She apparently did not even know how badly she wanted it until she saw it live, and now it's her best friend and lover and goes with her wherever she goes. WHO KNEW. with rainbow alpaca in the car
  3. The MP3 Player: Maddie has been stealing my phone to look up videos of songs she likes, and I'm thinking, when I was her age I had a boom box and cassette tapes of my favorite songs. What would be the equivalent nowadays? Now, earlier in the year I had bought myself a cheap mp3 player, but I kept forgetting it existed, so I thought, maybe that would be better for Maddie for her own music collection. I started that collection by going through my own collection for songs I knew she loved or thought she would like at least, then I added some more I never would have added for myself, mostly through Freegal, things like the soundtracks to Trolls and the My Little Pony Movie. I also borrowed some old Disney soundtracks from my parents to add, and purchased the soundtracks to Frozen and Moana. Speaking of music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, I even left "The Room Where It Happens" on there just to be obnoxious (she thinks Hamilton is annoying), and she STILL thinks Santa Claus was the one who curated that mix, not her former deejay mom. ;) According to Maddie, her favorite gifts from Santa are this and the alpaca, and her favorite gifts from ME are the mermaid tail and the doughnut sweatshirt I made her.
  4. A New Mattress: Sam sleeps in Jason's childhood bed-- his whole childhood bed, including 40-year-old mattress. So Sam has actually been asking, quite awhile, for a new mattress to help him sleep better, and hey, I'm all for that, since he's always a nicer kid when he gets enough sleep. I thought it would be kind of fun to see a gift as big as a mattress under the tree Christmas morning, but as it is, mattresses actually get delivered super-vacuum-packed. Though that's still a pretty big package: Sam opening a mattress box wrapped in a sheet As not-a-toy as that present is, he was very happy with it: Sam and Maddie try out new mattress
  5. Matching Reindeer Sweatshirts: I wasn't sure what to get my Dad or brother, then I wondered if there were any cute Christmas fleeces at JoAnn's that I could turn into festive sweatshirts. I found a pre-cut "blanket" swatch with reindeer and snowflakes, that was "2.5 yds" long but I don't even know how wide. When I cut it out I realized I had a lot of extra fabric, so I also made a festive sweatshirt for Jason and Sam, and STILL had enough scraps left for a slightly different style of sweatshirt for Maddie. You know what we forgot to do, though? Get a picture on Christmas Eve with EVERYONE wearing their reindeer sweatshirts. Here's my dad though: Dad in reindeer sweatshirt
BONUS: Cthulhu Cthulhu
 

Top 5 Presents I Got:
  1.  A Storage Cabinet: I have a large pile of fabric in the corner of my bedroom. I'd love an easy way to access/organize it and yet keep it out of the way, so I put a random storage thing that would do the job on my Amazon list. But my mother-in-law found a proper cherry-wood-looking-at-least cabinet with shelves inside. It is currently still unassembled on the floor of their living room, because it won't fit in our car to transport it, so we need to wait until J's dad can use his truck to bring it. But it WILL definitely come in useful.
  2. Jo-Ann Gift Cards, obvs: So I can buy more fabric to no longer leave in a pile in the corner.
  3. ...in a cute little BB-8 tin: My sister gave me her JoAnn card in this very cute little tin (I think that's the one, though the size listed seems small). There was also candy in the tin, so bonus.
  4.  Pretty wrap cardigan: Quick selfie: me in wrap cardigan It's from my parents and it exactly matched the skirt I was wearing Christmas Eve, except the shirt I was wearing was too bulky for me to put this on top of it.
  5.  Books: Got the aforementioned Betsy Bird's scandalous history of children's lit; the two illustrated Harry Potter editions I didn't yet have, a Muppet coloring book and... I think that's it, in the way of books. 
To be honest, I didn't really get much this year. 
 

Top Presents Other People Gave Other People:
  1. Thomas: We're trying to convince Sam to part with his huge Thomas Trackmaster collection, if only because he never plays with it anymore and it takes up a lot of space. The BEST way of course is if he gives it to his little cousin, who has just started getting into trains-- that way it's still in the family, and if someday the cousin no longer wants it, he can give it back to Sam. It was hard, but he started with one box that he filled with some tracks, a tunnel, and one Thomas engine with cars. The little cousin LOVED it, and Sam felt a little better about giving it. L with Thomas
  2. Switch: Sam, meanwhile, wanted one thing for Christmas: a Nintendo Switch. We were NOT going to freaking get him a Nintendo Switch. But his Grammy said, That's all right, I'LL get it for him, so, well then. He was definitely... pleased puts it mildly.
  3. VR headset: This was sort of for me in that it was for the whole family. My parents must have found a deal somewhere. We had some trouble finding an app that would work with my phone, but the kids are getting the knack of it a lot faster than I am.
  4. Karaoke machine: This might also be a terrible gift, depending how you look at it. But it's a really cool little karaoke machine, with colored lights and everything. It was from my parents to my kids.
  5. Doughnut mold: My sister had these on her wishlist, silicone doughnut baking molds. I nearly got them for her myself, but I'd found too much else for her. So my brother got them for her, instead. Maddie is totally jealous.
 

OTHER POSTS I WROTE THAT YOU MIGHT WANT TO REVISIT
:

I linked to a lot of the posts I wrote this year throughout this roundup. You're encouraged to click through and read them to enhance your understanding of what I've written in this post! But here are the top ones I HAVEN'T mentioned:

Technically the Top Five Other Posts I Wrote On This Blog, But That's Nearly ALL The Other Posts I Wrote On This Blog, Because I've Been Busy Writing a GeekMom Article Every Week:
  1. "Mission Statement of an Information Scientist": Librarians are rebels, yo.
  2. "Truth vs. the Stories We Tell Ourselves": me kind of working up to that later post
  3. "A Note About Invisible Racism (for Fellow White People)": painful observations I made of a library patron and her family. BTW, the little girl now goes to the same daycare I read The Polar Express to the other week, see above. She's really tickled that I come to her school but she already knows me from coming to the library.
  4. "Political/Fictional Parallels": in which I notice that a piece of writing I've mostly given up on still has a lot of very relevant things to say about real life.
  5. "More on Racism and Fascism": Because I've got something to SAY, thanks.

Top 5 Other Posts on GeekMom This Year, I Think. I think they're the Top 5, I mean. I KNOW they were on GeekMom this year.
  1. "Am I Different? On Claiming Identities": I did a lot of writing on labels and identity this year, but this is the post that kind of sums everything up.
  2. "How We Did Our Minecraft Birthday Party": Sam's birthday didn't make my list of notable real life events above, but it probably could have.
  3. "What Are Your Movie Adaptation Non-Negotiables?": The Wrinkle In Time trailer had the nerve to come out the day after my gallbladder surgery. I had so much to say but I couldn't sit at my computer to type it! Somehow over the next week I managed to pull this together!
  4. "A Beginner's Guide to Grocery Store Gifting": "Hey," somebody suggested on the GeekMom Slack, "how about instead of trying to put together typical gift guides, everyone picks a specialized topic to do a gift guide on instead?" What specialized topic could I offer, books? Heh. But suddenly I thought of this thing I do almost without thinking, and I put my name down for doing it before I could stop myself, and I kept writing it in my head, though while I was typing it on the computer I was like, "This is so obvious, why would anyone care?" On the contrary, it seemed to really resonate with a lot of people. 
  5. "How Deep Is Your Geek?" Another one that really seemed to resonate with people.
     
 
 
 
So, feel free to discuss any of this stuff with me, please!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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










And most notably, this:


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

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

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

And I voted. Because Every Vote Counts.

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

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

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

Writing has failed.

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

She was paraphrasing Gandalf. I smiled.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't. Give. Up.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Large Mass of Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 Presents I Got For Christmas

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

Top 5 Presents I Gave Other People For Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 Movies I Saw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things I Don't Love About Fargo:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However one does that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I often wonder what I would have thought of the Beatles if I'd been around in the '60s. Would I have stubbornly brushed them off as stupid pop stars all those stupid screaming girls were being stupid about? Or would I have fallen in love anyway, and tried to downplay it BECAUSE I didn't want to think of myself as one of those Stupid Screaming Girls Being Stupid? Or would I have been screaming? -- nah, THAT I can't see. I actually hope it's the middle option. Because that's what I'm doing right now, isn't it? Trying desperately to claim my fannishness and yet make clear that I'm not one of "THOSE" fans? And in that case, maybe I'd be hypocritical and irrational and stuck-up... but at least I'd still have the Beatles to love.

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