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This was… an oddly lackluster pair of episodes, considering everything that happens within them.

Skin of Evil:Collapse )

We"ll Always Have Paris:Collapse )

Signs it’s THE FUTURE: We can maybe reboot the brain after death? No? Maybe? Uhm. Time travel! Theoretical physics?!

Signs it’s NOT THE FUTURE: Our Star Trek villains are still just guys in capes.

The writers’ ‘ship: Yar/Worf, and Crusher/Picard, but Picard’s attention is elsewhere. Poor Beverly.

Manga Report, as of 2/5/16

In Manga:

With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, Keiko Tobe, Volume 1: As I said over at GoodReads, I'm not too keen on this one.

Read more.Collapse )

Behind the Scenes!!, by Bisco Hatori, Volume 1: Where to begin? This is more frenetic and sillier than Hatori's previous works (and after Ouran Host Club, that may sound a little hard to believe, I know, but it's true!) It's also a little harder to get a handle on, story-wise. Shy, artistic, and sensitive Ranmaru Kurisu is trying to navigate his way through his first year at art school with little success when suddenly he meets the Art Squad, a club that specializes in making props, set dressing, and costumes for the four other film clubs at the school. The Art Squad is full of unique/weird personalities, including Ryuji Goda, the Art Squad's president/leader/resident goofy idealist who always bites off more than the club can chew. (All of the characters are named after Hatori's favorite Western film directors, so Goda for Godard, Ruka for George Lucas, etc.) The four rival film clubs on campus all bicker with each other, and with the Art Squad, and most of the drama comes from one of two plot hooks:

1) Will the Art Squad be able to fulfill the production requirements of the other clubs in time?! and,

2) Will Ranmaru grow up and find his way in the world?!

Both of these are pretty good plot generators, but I guess I don't know whether to invest in Ranmaru or not; he's not much of character beyond "diamond in the rough" yet. It's clear that Hatori already has, though, and since she succeeded in winning me over before on numerous other occasions, I'm fully willing to give her the benefit of the (silly) doubt on this one. If there's going to be romantic tension between him and Ryuji, I really hope Hatori lampshades it immediately, the way she did in Ouran, because it was so damn funny. (Bring me all the fanfic, please!) I do recommend this to Ouran fans, and anyone who's looking for silly shoujo fluff. If it gets more serious, I'll let you know.

Comics/Manga Report!

In Comics:

Southern Cross, Volume 1, Cloonan/Belanger/Loughridge: I bought the first two issues of this title and then dropped them. I love Becky Cloonan, but the story wasn’t gelling for me the way I hoped it would. I also suspected it was one of those titles that would be better in collected form; it’s frustrating to read a mystery that stops periodically and makes you wait for a few months to pick up again. I was right about reading it in trade being a better experience, but, well, by not getting the single issues, I missed the genre switch from noir-ish mystery set in space to psychedelic sci-fi horror. It was a bit of a surprise to come across that shift in tone. It’s still an amazing read, and the colors start making sense with the change; the palette is all sickly oranges and blues, with occasional splashes of red gore. That said, I don’t think I need to buy Volume 2; this isn’t something I’d normally pick up. But if you enjoy any Cthulu mythos stories, I think you’ll be happy with this title; if you enjoyed the movie Event Horizon, you’ll definitely get a kick out of this.

In Manga:

Noragami, Volume 1, Adachitoka: Before I really start singing this volume’s praises, can I just say how nice it is to have a shounen/seinen manga that doesn’t have gratuitous cheesecake or panty shots? It’s really, really nice, and it makes me want to read more solely to tell this author/illustrator: YES YOU ARE AWESOME. (Granted, there could be more cheesecake down the line, but volume 1 was mercifully free of that.) Happily, respectful treatment of the female characters isn’t the only good thing about this title. Volume 1 is a little more of an info-dump than I’d like, but it’s clear that the story has an ambitious scope that necessitates said info-dump. I like the way that Adachitoka makes his main character, Yato, a god who’s trying to crawl his way up in the pantheon, ever-so-slightly not-human with cat-like eyes in the frame of a young man. There’s great action in this story, as Yato does battle with creatures to occupy humanity’s blind spots, Shinto-like animistic monsters that follow depressed people around. There’s also a lot of information about how Yato’s powers work, and the things he needs to help him gain power and followers. I’m not sure where the female lead character, Hiyori, will end up in our story; so far her story is pretty vague, and it’s not clear what kind of a person she is, other than shounen manga spunky/nice female character. I have high hopes for the next few volumes, though, especially if we see more supernatural creatures and Hiyori’s personality develops further.

Book Rec: All the Light We Cannot See

Book Rec: All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

This book wasn’t something I thought I’d have the chance to read anytime soon; I have an embargo against new hardcovers (for monetary and spatial reasons), and almost everything that comes out, I can wait for in paperback. This book, though… well, two things happened:

1) I heard good things about it. Really, really good things. It won the Pulitzer, for starters, and it was well reviewed all over the place. People I know and respect were talking about it, and just about every book club has it on the rotation. (You’d think this would trigger my slightly hipster, majorly contrarian instincts, but nope!)

2) I asked when it was coming out in paperback, and the employee at BookStar frowned as she poked at her computer. Since hardcovers usually go to trades in nine months to a year, I figured I’d only have to wait a few months. Not so! The paperback isn’t coming out for a long time (at least another year), a deliberate marketing tactic on Scribner’s part, presumably to sell more hardcovers. (And Scribner, I get it, I really do, but arrrrrggghhhhh, you’re killing me here.)

So a while back, I just caved in and bought the damn thing, because my curiosity got the better of me, and because I was sick of my own hardcover embargo.

And, honestly, I’m very glad I did. I enjoyed this book, even though there were times when it was unrelentingly bleak and sad. This is an accomplished and tremendously character-driven piece of work that stands well against other war-set narratives; it never loses sight of its two protagonists and their journeys, and it privileges their experiences over anything else. Read more!Collapse )

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For day 13 of Fandom Snowflake, we're reccing things! XD

Infinite New Possibilities, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with about a billion spoilers for the entire movie, rated General but with warnings for mentions of past torture. This work is what I go to fanfic for: it's filling in the blanks of what was missing during the movie; it gives us more character development for almost everyone who I care about, and the first chapter contains a lovely, touching scene where Poe gives Rey a tour of the Resistance base, and the two of them talk about what's to come. I haven't read the second two chapters yet, but I'm really impressed with the way the first part went, and I'm glad to recommend it.

Edited to add: The Force Awakens as an adorable manga-esque High school AU. This may just be the most adorable thing I've ever seen. It fits in with emo!Kylo Ren's twitter account nicely, too.

The Please Help Me Cosplay! tumblr is still chugging along, and there's a comprehensive list in the top entry right now that gives a ton of book and website references for everything from homemade foam armor to costume patterns.

American Captain is a diary comic about Steve Rogers' experiences in The Avengers and beyond. It's a rocky story: Steve struggles with PTSD and survivor's guilt; 2010 is alternately amazing and terrifying; and his new teammates are supportive but often confusing. I like how small it feels, and I don't mean small as in insignificant or stupid, but it feels small and right, the way things would if your universe suddenly exploded and reformed itself into something sort of familiar but not really. Such a great fan comic.


Fandom Snowflake Challenge banner
What makes you fannish? And by that we mean, what is it about a tv show/movie/book/band/podcast/etc that takes you from, "Yeah, I like that," to "I need MOAR!!!" Is it a character? A plotline? The pretty? Subtext that’s just screaming to be acknowledged?

This got long, and there's a little bit of "get off my lawn, you kids with your shiny new fandoms!" soggy nostalgia to it, but that's what you get with my fandom! ;D

Read more!Collapse )



Fandom Snowflake Challenge banner

Books and Obsessions and Collections

I've had the distinct pleasure of reading Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78prm Records recently, as well as Kate Leth's short but very good Ink for Beginners: A Comic Guide to Getting Tattooed. Both of them are very, very good reads, and both of them are organized around two main ideas that, while they seem very dissimilar on the surface, actually end up being a meditation on the same subject in the end.

The first idea has to do with the nature of collecting: why do we do it? What are we trying to prove in the end? Tattooing and record collecting may seem diametrically opposed here: one is external, personal; while the other is internal, and, depending on the collector, only as external as he (because the record collectors that are profiled in the book are almost all men) wants it to be. Petrusich opens her discussion of 78 collectors with one of Baudrillard's famous quotes, that when we collect something, we are ultimately collecting ourselves. It's clear from Petrusich's work that she understands the deep, obsessive call to collect. She understands it so much, in fact, that she learns scuba diving solely so that she can try to find a treasure trove of lost 78s at the bottom of a silty, dangerous river, and despite coming up empty-handed, she still tries to find these lost pieces at flea markets, thrift stores, and garage sales. Leth's approach to collecting tattoos is a bit more practical, since she makes the point right away that tats are permanent. If you're not sure about your idea, she advises, "...wait one year. That may seem long, but you'll have it forever. Don't rush it!" Collecting images that mean something to you, or rare shellacs that mean something to American music, is no easy task, and neither author approaches this endeavor as something to be taken lightly.

The second, and more complicated idea, expands on the first and asks: what is permanence? If a tattoo or a record collection immortalizes us somehow, does that make our existence now better, and are the costs necessarily worth it? Leth states flat out that people shouldn't get tattoos when they're young, siting her own mistakes as evidence: "I had my first ink done at age 14. Would I recommend that to anyone? Hell NO.... I had no concept of permanence--I was going to like what I liked at 14 forever." Petrusich, on the other hand, has a longer space to discuss the notion of permanence and collecting, and she does just that. Some of the collectors she profiles are winners of Grammy awards for their contributions to American music history (they collected pieces of musical history that would have otherwise been erased or lost forever), but some of them are obsessive weirdos who collect indiscriminately and leave their mess for others to find after death. Add to this mix that 78s aren't built to last and there's only a finite number of them in the world today, and getting into collecting these items is not something a layperson can do on a whim. Petrusich makes no bones about the fact that the collectors she meets are almost all male, and that the collecting world they inhabit is an uber-masculine one: "... if mismanaged, the urge [to collect] can manifest as a kind of mania, a macho possessiveness." This macho urge to OWN ALL THE THINGS makes for an odd life. For Petrusich, it's an amazing experience, tracking down awesome, funny characters who take her to backwoods rummage sales and recording studios in other places, but for some of her subjects, the cost of permanence isn't even a footnote in history, just a hobby to pass the time. Immortality is sweet for those are careful, decisive, but for many people, it's a vague promise that disintegrates over time.

Both of these books taught me something. Leth's work is relentlessly practical and helped me finally nail what kind of tattoo I want and where I want it. I also realized that I only really want the one, as long as I can find an artist to work with whose work I love. Petrusich's book taught me so much about the early blues scene in America that I hadn't previously been exposed to, and I suspect a lot of the followup to this work will be hunting down as many of the songs that she mentions so that I can hear them for myself. But it also made me evaluate my own small collection of stuff: a few My Little Ponies (Nightmare Moon is just too damn cool, OK?), some Funko Pops, and my Doctor Who/Ponies crossover project. It definitely appears that I've been collecting parts of myself, but their permanence is a little suspect now. They make me happy, though, and in the end, that's the best part of collecting anything, at least for me. I find it ironic that my obsessive, masochistic completist streak is limited to series of books, but not to objects. After Petrusich's work, I think I kind of dodged a bullet there.

Finally! Millennium Snow!

Unbeknowst to me, Bisco Hatori finally got to work on finishing Millennium Snow, a mere ten years after she left it, mid-plot in order to work on Ouran Host Club. I discovered the two translated volumes by accident the other week as I was browsing in my local big book store and eagerly bought them. The ending, although a little rushed, is incredibly satisfying, and the final resolution of the romance between the two lead characters is strong and sweet. So I'm really happy that I tracked these down! Three things stand out about this second half, though:

1) Hatori's author's notes are actually informative instead of self-deprecating to the point of loathing, the way that many shoujo manga artists end up writing. I actually learned quite a lot about her process and her assistants' work; it was also interesting to consider how difficult it would be to start up a story again when your artistic and storytelling skills have strengthened and progressed so much in the intervening time. She acknowledges her own failings honestly (especially the side plot regarding Chiyuki and her foster brother/cousin in Volume 2, which was just terrible) but doesn't belabor the point into "woe is me I suck" territory. All in all, a very nice read in the margins!

2) My mental summary for this series is "Twilight done right." If you're going to have a romance between a human teenager and a vampire teenager with tons of angst issues, you can't just throw in some abstinence porn and hope it works. (It really doesn't.) Instead, both of the characters need to be whole people, and this is where Millennium Snow really succeeds. Chiyuki's motivation is simple at first, since she's a young woman who's faced her own mortality from virtually the beginning of her life (due to a life-threatening heart condition), and she'd prefer some certainty that she live. But as the plot progresses and she gets to know Toya and experience life "on the outside," her motivation evolves and changes from something small and selfish into a wish that both their lives have meaning. Further, she's not just defined by her relationship to Toya or any of the other male characters. She maintains friendships and interests on her own, and her perseverance rings true, given her life experience so far. Toya, on the other hand, starts off a little one-dimensionally: the brooding teenage vampire heartthrob. (Hatori even lampshades this trope in dialogue several times, including the timeless insult, "you're stuck in a sulky pubescent funk!" leveled by the main romantic rival of the story.) But when the reasons for this brooding sulkiness are revealed, they're problems that aren't false at all; they're reasonable and right. He's asking a human woman/young adult to commit to him for at least 1,000 years, and he's thinking ahead to everything that could potentially go wrong in that time. So his reluctance to turn her plays out not as abstinence porn, but as a genuine conflict between the two characters and their desires for the future and each other. When they finally sleep together, Hatori depicts it in the sweetest, most romantic way possible, and it's just lovely.

3) It's nice to have a character in a story like this one who asks all the right questions. A new character, Kaede, is introduced in the two final volumes who functions as the group's impromptu Watcher and starts to amass as much knowledge as possible about vampires, werewolves, and other magical creatures. There's a very amusing panel at the beginning of Volume 4 where Kaede asks a long string of questions about what it's like to be a vampire or werewolf and the main characters have no answers to any of them; Kaede observes their confused conversation and thinks, "They're surprisingly ignorant..." So, like any responsible scholar, she starts to go through all the books and primary sources at hand and get some answers. If Hatori wanted to do a story about Kaede's future as a ghost hunter of some sort, I'd be there, 101%.

So I definitely recommend this series, both from an artistic standpoint (it's a great exercise in seeing someone's style evolve over time) and from a storytelling perspective. I'm very glad she didn't leave the characters dangling like that. Now I want fanfic more than ever.
This pair of episodes was uneven. The first episode has some really great writing and some nice touches in both the character development and plot departments. But the second episode is the most obvious allegory this side of a Highlights political cartoon, and the Prime Directive ruins everything, so...

Anyway, without any further ado, The Arsenal of FreedomCollapse )

Unfortunately, the writing isn't so good in Symbiosis.Collapse )

Signs it's THE FUTURE: METERS, people. The metric system has won out! Also, thrilling space combat! And maybe we've conquered drug addiction...? Sort of?

Signs it's NOT THE FUTURE: Rich people are still douchebags to the poors. :(

Most random thing from my notes: UGH SO MUCH ALLEGORY DAMMIT PICARD ~~~~

Comic Con 2015: Wrap-Up!

OMG OMG OMG. It was just one day, but it was AMAZING. It was really funny how going for one day only changed my approach to the experience; in the past, when we've had four-day passes, I was far more organized and planner-ly than I was this year. Instead, on Friday, I was so dazzled by the Exhibit Hall floor that I threw all my careful plans out the window and just rolled with the punches. This lead to trouble only once (which I'll talk more about below) but, generally, it was a good strategy. I didn't end up at any super-spoilery/specific panels, but I saw a ton of stuff, spent money fairly freely (although I didn't go overboard, except for one obligatory splurge), and had a great time with my friends, which is the whole point.

This day was also notable in that it was the smoothest and quickest check-in I've ever had when I came to the registration desk. It did help that I arrived a little later than I normally would have, around about 9:30 when the Convention Center was already open, but even so, I got through so quickly that I almost doubted what convention I was actually attending! All told, I only waited about five minutes from the time I got into the center until I had my badge in my hands (at which point, I had to resist the temptation to break into a jig and a song because it was REAL and ACTUALLY HAPPENING.) I should say that before I got into the center, I was in a scrum of people getting off the trolley, during which time I had a lovely discussion with a woman dressed up as Cruella DeVil about the difficulties of cosplay in a hot costume/intense wig. The fundamentalists were there, too, as usual. I saw a SDPD officer having a very difficult but respectful discussion with one of them about where he (the protestor) was allowed to stand in relation to the convention attendees, and I wanted to high-five the officer for being so infinitely patient, but I held back.

Once I had my badge and had squared away the free gigantic bag (I got the Lucifer one, somewhat to my disappointment--Teen Titans Go! or Supergirl were also in evidence and I would have preferred one of those, but oh well, whatever), I headed downstairs and started looking at EVERYTHING. It's a little hard to describe the rush that comes from stepping in the Exhibit Hall for the first time; there is so much to see, and there are so many people, and 99% of them are happy, and there are costumes everywhere, and there is a low hum of enthusiastic chatter, and it's just magic. Further fannish babblery ensues!Collapse )

There was only one bad thing that happened all day, and it had to do with (you've guessed it) zombies. Dammit, people.Collapse )

If you want to see my photos, I've put them all up on my Twitter feed (@ChaoticSensible). I saw some amazing cosplay this year, and I tried to get a few shots of the scene around the Con itself (although these are often tough without being on a ladder, because it's almost impossible to convey the scale of the experience.)

I think we're gonna try to go all four days next year, providing that we can get the tickets. Bad stuff aside, I had a wonderful time, and I'd love to put together a costume of some sort together. As usual, the frustrating/difficult parts were far outweighed by the good times and I really can't wait to go again.
I've had the great pleasure of seeing "When Marnie was There" and "Inside Out" in these past few weeks, and I'm convinced that they would make an excellent double feature. Both of them feature female protagonists who are on the cusp of puberty and maturity, and both movies come at the issues that puberty brings, but from completely different angles. "Inside Out" is a lot more action-filled and a good deal louder than "Marnie" but really, one is the flip side of the other, as they're both meditations on what growing up means and how we deal with adversity.

"When Marnie was There" is a lovely entry into the Studio Ghibli canon. The story focuses on Anna, a 12-year-old asthmatic adoptee whose internal life is filled with turmoil and loathing. Worried for her health and mental state, her adopted mother sends her to spend the summer with relatives who live in the country, and leave her to her own devices, although they do meddle as they try to set her up on a "friend date" with some local girls that, predictably, turns sour. Left alone, Anna finds herself talking to the lonely girl who lives in the deserted house across the tidal marsh, Marnie. But Marnie comes and goes without warning, and her stories of her life (all rendered in gorgeous attention to detail and period, as expected from a Ghibli film) sound off, somehow. I don't want to spoil the ending, and so I'll stop summarizing the plot here, and shift over to discussing how richly everything in this story is rendered: the colors! The emotions! The textures! (The textures alone are worth the price of admission; I could imagine the feel of almost everything in that movie under my fingers as it went along.) What's really gorgeous about this movie is the love that is packed into every aspect of the production. It has a soul, a rich, empathetic soul that serves all the characters with equal measures of respect. I wish that I had seen this movie when I was a depressed adolescent tween, because I think it would have healed my soul in return for viewing it (although I would never, ever have admitted that to anyone.)

"Inside Out" is a little more accessible to all ages than "Marnie" (which definitely requires an attention span and patience to fully enjoy) but it's really all about the same difficulties of growing up and accepting parts of ourselves. You've probably seen the trailers and know that this is a movie about the voices in a tween protagonist's head as she copes with a great deal of life changes (moving, new school, parental strife, etc.) What I'm pleased to say about this is that it's not the gender essentialist nonsense that I feared from the first few trailers I saw, and that the imagination that fuels this movie is electric and boundless and beautiful. It treats its protagonist's mental crisis with the same gravity that "Marnie" does, and we see the solution from the internal side, rather than the external one. Again, I don't want to spoil anything, but I can say that the mental landscape this movie lays out is absolutely perfect, and very well observed. This is a movie that I wouldn't mind seeing in theaters again at all, because I'm sure there were a million things or so that I missed. "Inside Out" is the best Pixar movie I've seen... well, maybe ever, although nothing will beat the first ten minutes of "Up" or that sequence in "Toy Story 3" for making me cry. It's absolutely worth seeing on the big screen. I don't want to oversell it, so please just go and see it. (And then come back and talk to me about it, because I have some stuff I want to run by you.)

Sens8 is sens-sational!

Apologies for the corny title; I could not resist.

I want to urge everyone to check out Sens8 over on Netflix. It's not a fast-paced, non-stop action thriller (although it's had scenes like that), nor is it a overwrought drama full of white people problems (there is drama, but it never over-tugs at the heart strings, and given the diverse group of characters and settings, #firstworldproblems are the least of the characters' worries.) It's a science fiction drama that focuses on a group of eight people who are suddenly, and completely unbeknownst to them, psychically connected to each other. They can access skills and memories from one another and share information, but the only mentor they have is (frustratingly) cryptic and currently imprisoned. What unfolds is a lengthy meditation on the beautiful but bewildering connections we share with every other human being on the planet, told through the lens of the eight characters fumbling towards helping each other through trial and error, all the while dealing with their own lives' problems. Five episodes in, I'm not sure what the story's endgame is, but I don't worry too much because the story has steered me well so far. I'm curious as to who the nebulous baddies are, but I don't want to rush things, and I really hope their motive isn't too mustache-twirlingly over the top. I want very much to discuss this with others, the way that I am frustrated because no one will talk about Cloud Atlas (book and movie) with me. Anyway, it's well worth your time. It's not a fun, silly show that you can have on in the background as you're doing other stuff: you need to pay attention in order to catch everything that's rushing by. But it's paying off so far, and I think the ending will be worth it.
Let's get right to it:

Coming of Age: Internal Affairs vs. Everyone. Also, Wesley Crusher.Collapse )

Heart of Glory: Brothers... lost among infidels.Collapse )

Signs it's THE FUTURE: Aliens! With weird customs! They are different than we! THE FUTURE!

Signs it's NOT THE FUTURE: Standardized testing still sucks, apparently. Also, Star Fleet: Law and Order is still working as a television program I would watch.
These were another two episodes that didn't really... stand up, or congeal, or something. They weren't actively bad, though, and they did show off some seriously good character moments for the people involved, but they've left me with more questions than answers.

When the Bough Breaks, and Mama Said Knock You Out!Collapse )

And then, Home Soil: She is possessed of a highly abstracted reality.Collapse )

Signs that it's THE FUTURE: Terra-forming a planet! The future, ladies and gentlemen! If science fiction has taught us nothing else, it's that nothing could possibly go wrong there!

Signs that it's NOT THE FUTURE: Uhm... there's still a necessity for HR and legal, both of which are sorely needed in both of these episodes. This week on Star Fleet: Law and Order, Contract Law! Existentialist debate! Kidnapping and extortion!
Argh, I've fallen behind in writing these! This one sat on my to-do pile for quite a while, and I realized that besides Real Life happening, I just wasn't too moved one way or another by either one of these episodes. Nonetheless, here we go:

First of all, there was that one time the Enterprise got scammed.Collapse )

And then, ST:TNG does a Benjamin Button episode... before that was a thing, of course.Collapse )

Signs it's THE FUTURE: Aliens! The Bi-nars are the most consistently alien creatures we've seen for a whole episode, and that's nice. Also Holodeck~~~~!

Signs it's NOT THE FUTURE: The central moral dilemma plot problem in "Too Short a Season" doesn't really need to be set on another planet, except for the crazy alien drugs plot device. Really, this could be set in any time period, with any scientific mumbo jumbo substituted for the de-aging part of the story, and it would work just fine.
OK, now this is what I was waiting for! The fabulous episode, DataloreCollapse )

Unfortunately, "Angel One"... I wasn't waiting for so much. Klingons appreciate strong women.Collapse )

Signs it's THE FUTURE/NOT THE FUTURE: OK, writers, in the future, have we eliminated the common cold or not? In "Datalore" it's mentioned (for the millionth time) that the common cold has been eradicated and no longer plagues anyone, but in "Angel One", the illness that the Enterprise crew is suffering from looks suspiciously like the common cold. Which is it, writers? Please pick one option or another!

A note for science fiction writers interested in writing a matriarchial society: If this is an episode about a planet dominated by women, why are the men talking so much? If you've set up this scenario solely to show how our modern society is still grappling with sexism and it's wrong, there are far easier ways to go about making that point without effectively doing exactly what the characters you make into villains are doing.

Enthusiastic Movie Rec: It Follows

I've been thinking about "It Follows" ever since I saw it, mostly in two ways: 1), what the hell was up with that ending, and that plot twist, and that plot element, etc. and, 2) intellectually, I know this is impossible, but I don't want to turn off the lights because what if it is there?! I've seen horror movies before that lingered for a few days, but this one shows no signs of letting up and it's a rare movie that can scare me for this long. It's also a beautiful movie, another reason that it's sticking around in my brain, with its empty houses and landscapes, the whole thing feels like an exploration of a hollow shell. This film also reminds me of a particularly fiendish RPG that a player came into knowing only the most basic of rules, and upon leaving, said player knows very little more than what they started with, only that there was... this thing and there were rules and consequences, and there was an unrelenting sense of dread from start to finish. Seriously, there is only one jump cut in the whole movie (and it's reasonably warranted by the setting the characters are in at the time) and the rest is this perfectly timed to build tension and inevitability. So I want to recommend this movie to all and sundry. There is minimal gore if that turns you off, but the threat is not minimized because of this; there is character development of both obvious and subtle varieties; and there's a lovely sense of timelessness and universality that, again, a lot of movies (horror or not) want to capture but fail.

So, go. See it. Not alone.

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Cinderella! *swoons*

I enjoyed this movie quite a bit, but probably not for the reasons that anyone else in the theater did. A side note, before I begin, has to do with the Frozen Fever short that played before the movie. It was... cute. So cute. And so merchandisable. It reminded me of the articles I read about the Sailor Moon manga's plot being timed around various school holidays and celebrations in Japan so that brand new merchandise would be on the shelves in time for girls to see it during breaks. In this case, Elsa and Anna got new dresses (ka-ching) and there were little snow golems that appeared every time Elsa sneezed (d'awww, plushie!) The song that accompanied the major plot was cute, but it didn't have the staying power of the songs in the original movie. I guess I'd call the whole thing harmless, if it didn't seem to be such a cash grab.

But, yes, anyway, the movie itself. The Good parts: the costume porn was Spec. Tac. Cular, and the set dressing excellent. I could have watched an entire movie set at the ball, because I suspect there was more set dressing (of the food porn variety) that there wasn't time to show. The animals that Cinderella talks to were actually cute, not cloying. The transformation (and "de-transformation") sequences were top-notch. Helena Bonham Carter appeared to be having the time of her life as the Fairy Godmother.

Not-So-Good: It's been widely observed that parents in Disney movies don't last long, and this movie had that issue in spades. Not only do Cinderella's parents die from Plotdeviceitis, but the Prince's father died, too, of some unspecified malady. (3 parental deaths in one movie is a lot!)

Another thing that stuck in my craw was the constant reiterating of Cinderella's saintly mother's dying advice: "Have courage and be kind." While this is good advice, it's not especially nuanced or universally applicable, although this movie gamely tried to prove otherwise. This phrase started to annoy me on the level that "With great power comes great responsibility" did in the first Spiderman movie. It's one thing to explore an idea, but it's another to bludgeon the audience repeatedly with it. There were scenes that showed this idea effectively--Cinderella admonishing the Prince not to hunt the stag, for example, was a very nice way to show us this dictum in action, but annoyingly, the writers worked the aphorism into the dialogue at the end of it, blergh--but the idea hovered over the entire thing so omnipotently that it was like a single-minded deity running the entire show.

On the good side, there was a lot of effort made to humanize the prince, which is nice, I guess, because my memories of him from the animated movie are somewhat on the "cardboard cutout" side of things. In this case, the Prince was so handsome and winsome that the first scene he appeared in... well, it was like the first scene in Maison Ikkoku where Kyoko meets Coach Mitaka, he turns around to greet her, and he's so handsome that his teeth sparkle. I honestly kept waiting for this Prince's teeth to sparkle like the bishounen hottie he was meant to be. Fortunately, he wasn't a jerk or smarmy during any of this, and as it turned out he was smart enough for a pivotal plot twist to take place. So yay for that? But he's not the star of the thing... Cinderella is. And Lily James is just lovely, and she played the whole thing as well as she could. But I didn't leave the film liking Cinderella as a character any more than when I'd come in, and I feel like there was a real missed opportunity there. There's a lot that's good about the original animated film, and the story is timeless and appealing, but I wish this version, with all its beauty, had set its sights just a little higher in terms of character development for its heroine.

A side note: if making animated princess films into live action spectacles is the new thing, can we please do The Princess and the Frog next? Tiana is the BEST, Lottie is hilarious, New Orleans in the 20s would be a great setting, and I would pay all the monies to see that.
There is so much that is good/bad/wonderful/funny/bonkers about these episodes!

Haven: Telepathy is not all it"s cracked up to be...Collapse )

Funniest Line: Data, at the worst engagement party in the entire universe, "Could you please continue the petty bickering? It is most intriguing."

The writers' 'ship = Awkward!Troi/Sullen!Riker

Most annoying music: It's a tie between the single violin of braveryyyyy and the panpipes of introspection.

The Big Goodbye: The Goods and Bads of the HolodeckCollapse )

Funniest/Best Line: The Holodeck baddie, who is surprisingly well spoken, "Make your thoughts fruitful and your words eloquent."

Funniest Moment: Watching Crusher mimic the movements of another woman in the Holodeck police waiting room is just adorable. Even more adorable is the following scene, where a random guy offers her a stick of gum and she swallows it whole.

The writers' 'ship= Picard/Crusher, but only after Picard is disastrously unaware and Crusher is damseled. >:(

The plot aspect that ties these two episodes together is the tricky challenge of introducing a brand new character and making the audience care about him/her in the space of about twenty minutes. Both of these episodes try really, really hard to do just that, but only "The Big Goodbye" succeeds with the Holodeck characters who first realize that Picard/Dixon Hill is, in fact, from another planet, and then, heartbreakingly, that his leaving their space means that they will, effectively die. The new character in "Haven" is a little trickier to care about, for the reasons explained above. It's one thing to see a new character who has an annoying family and a bizarre tie to a main character, but it's another entirely to hang the entire plot on him and his revelations and expect the audience to feel anything about him.

ST: TOS Rewatch, Nimoy Edition!

On Friday, Yebisu and I decided that in honor of Leonard Nimoy, we'd do an original series rewatch instead of Next Gen. And what a treat that was! I had forgotten a lot of the details about these particular episodes, and they were both good Spock episodes; I even found that I didn't mind Kirk that much after all this time (and Futurama viewing.)

The Devil in the Dark: No Kill ICollapse )

Mirror, Mirror: I don"t threaten, I merely state facts.Collapse )

Awesome-est moment in both episodes: I had forgotten the storytelling conceit that Kirk, Spock, and Bones have a little summation on the bridge at the end of both of these episodes, and these scenes were really good. Spock got some funny zingers, and the friendship (or more, whatever you want to see there) was well-expressed and rather touching.

Least awesome-est moment: Too many dicks on the dance floor. Seriously: there is only one woman in "The Devil in the Dark" and she doesn't even get a speaking line; while there are two women in "Mirror, Mirror", only Uhura gets any real agency. I'm glad that Next Gen, for all its contrivances and weird bits rectifies this problem to mostly very good effect.

Most Ridiculous Thing from my notes: "Coffee break! Eyebrow!" & "Semantics~~~~~"

ST: TNG ReWatch, "The Battle" & "Hide & Q"

These two episodes weren't awful, but they weren't great, either. I think the writers were in a rut of trying lots of new things in an effort to see what stuck.

The Battle: The Ferengi are back... and they"ve brought a Count of Monte Cristo-level complicated revenge scheme with them!Collapse )

Hide & Q: Everything"s going along contrived but fine until something awful happens.Collapse )

Signs that it's THE FUTURE:
* Dr. Crusher says she rarely encounters headaches and the common cold is eradicated. Wishful thinking there.
* The Enterprise's bed technology is YEARS AHEAD of ours! (Seriously, not even a fancy mattress or something? Picard's bed looked like he was at a particularly joyless Motel 6.)

Signs it's NOT THE FUTURE:
* Well, any story involving Q usually necessitates future tech so that Q can show off his powers by messing with it. Both of these episodes need to take place in the future to work, and nothing feels out of place this time around.

Unintentionally Funniest Line:
Geordi: "Worf! Is this your idea of sex?!" (And, thus, a thousand terrible fanfics were spawned.)

The writers' 'ship=Geordi/Yar. This comes out of nowhere! And then is never mentioned again for the rest of the episode!

Book & Comic Recs, 2/18/15

In Books:

The Sculptor, words and pictures by Scott McCloud: I read this book deliberately, one chunk at a time, until I reached the 2/3 point, and then I could not stop; the story became so urgent that I almost felt like stopping reading would mean leaving the main characters alone to die, and I couldn't bear the thought of that. I still wish I could have parceled it out a little more slowly, though, because now I will never have the chance to read it for the first time again. What a wonderful story, told by a master, and a meditation on art, love, and life. It's never maudlin and puts neither of its main characters onto pedestals; furthermore, it's nice to read a story where the hero's actions aren't universally treated as the correct Be-All and End-All to all the story's problems. (In fact, the main characters' actions contribute to some of his problems, in the messy, complicated way that often happens in real life, and I really appreciated that angle of the plot.) I'm also amazed that McCloud managed, in every instance, to show in two dimensions a story that I could feel in all three. Not literally, of course, but I could imagine all the textures that are part of the story beneath my fingers, and this is a rare thing for any work, graphic novel or not. The final twenty pages or so are some of the most beautiful pieces of art I've seen in years.

When I finished this book, I sat on the couch for a few minutes, wiped away the tears, and went to hug my son. It's that kind of book, the kind that makes you value what you have and remember how life, although tumultuous and sometimes troubling, is a gift. It's absolutely worth paying the hardcover price for. Run, don't walk!

The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell: Like the The Sculptor, this is a work that deals in huge themes and it's hard to reduce it to a few sentences of plot and critique. In some ways, it's as good as Cloud Atlas, although I don't think anything will ever knock that book out of my favorites list. It's the most Buddhist work of science fiction I've ever read. It's filled with characters of all sizes and shapes, although it sticks with one character throughout in thought-provoking ways. Unlike Cloud Atlas, I ended up liking all of the characters, including one who I never thought I would come to tolerate, much less like. It's also one of the more depressing visions of the near future that I've read in some time, and I'm sorry to say that the final installment of the story is the one that sticks with me most of all, when I think it should be the work as a whole.

Both The Sculptor and The Bone Clocks are masterful at capturing in macro- and micro- the ways that life slides by, and they both feel epic in similar ways, even though their subject matter is completely different. While The Sculptor is more accessible than The Bone Clocks, they're both wonderful reads for story and character, and that amazing sense of grandeur that a lot of works lack.

In Comics:

Marceline Gone Adrift, Issues 1 & 2: The story is unfolding slowly so far, but the wonderful artwork is more than enough to make up for it, and I have faith Meredith Gran is going to spin a marvelous second half. There have been some great flashbacks to Marceline and Bubblegum's past so far, and I'm sure there are more to come.

Help Us! Great Warrior, Issue 1: I wasn't sure what to make of this comic until the last two panels of the final page, in which this amazing line of dialogue resides: "Ssshh! Do you hear that? It's the sound of me believing in myself." At that point, I was totally sold. The whole work is impossibly adorable and squishy, and there are a lot of fun asides like this one. I'm really excited to see where the story goes!
This is a crazy pair of episodes: one that was really pretty good, and one that was... well, uhm, I'll take it to the comments.

Lonely Among Us: Are You Aware Everyone is Behaving Strangely?Collapse )

Justice: WHUUUUTTTTTT.Collapse )

Signs that it's the FUTURE:
* Uhm... energy being? The idea of colonizing another planet is pretty standard sci-fi, so there's that, but, generally, both of these episodes would have worked out in non-sci-fi contexts pretty well.

Signs that it's NOT the FUTURE:
* Dude, why doesn't the Enterprise have a firewall? This is the third time where the computers have just shorted out and/or been vulnerable to alien attack. If the ship is so sophisticated, surely the engineers planned for the computers to be invulnerable, at least in most of the ways that it counts!

* Also, the lighting in these episodes is STILL SO WEIRD. Everyone in Engineering apparently works in total darkness OR with the help of one florescent lightbulb.

Unintentionally Funniest Lines:
* A possessed Crusher, on what had happened to Worf: "A temporary... mental aberration." (I love this excuse, and will use it from now on, as much as possible.)

* Picard, on uncertainties: "Why has everything become a 'something' or 'whatever'?"
Before I begin, a brief side note: last time I posted, foreverinasmile and I were talking and she graciously listed her 5 favorite episodes, and then asked me the same question. I suddenly realized that aside from "The Inner Light" (which is one of my top 5 science fiction stories EVER, which is why I know the name), I had almost completely forgotten the actual episode titles, but rather, the arresting plots and images that came out of some of my favorites. So, without any further ado, the things I'm looking forward to:

1) Holodeck episodes: Data as Sherlock Holmes and Geordi as Doctor Watson; Picard as a film noir detective.

2) Character development episodes/scenes: Crusher teaching Data to dance for Chief O'Brian's wedding; Data's daughter; poker games; Worf attempting to be a parent to Alexander; Spot, and Data's efforts to learn music; and that one where Picard and Crusher almost but not quite confront their UST because of some crazy alien hostage situation.

3) Crazy images: Cellular peptide cake (with mint frosting!), which is probably the most bonkers episode that stands out in my memory; that one where everyone de-evolves for some reason; Worf delivering Keiko's baby in a turbolift shaft; the Borg (all of the stuff involving the Borg); and the Cardassians (who I will hard pressed not to type up as Kardasians.)

Things I'm not looking forward to include: Barclay and the holodeck (*cringe*); the Cardassians (ugh, just thinking about that torture scene); that one where it turns out Starfleet Command has been infiltrated by mind control aliens and the plot line is never brought up again; that one where everyone is addicted to a stupid game except Wesley and some girl he has a crush on; and more Ferengi nonsense.

Speaking of Ferengi nonsense, let's get to the rewatch stuff, because the Ferengi figure prominently in the first episode! The Last Outpost: Your alien images continue to shock us.Collapse )

So, as a palate cleanser, Where No One Has Gone Before: I"m not the Doctor!Collapse )

Signs it's THE FUTURE:
* Even though everyone references it, except for the Captain's Log, it appears that no one has to do any paperwork! Hooray!
* Engineering has barstools. Seriously. Hooray?

Signs it's NOT THE FUTURE:
* Aside from ragging on the awful sweater crocheted abomination that Wesley wears in the second episode, I've got nothing. Other than sickbay's bizarre lighting, these episodes manage to stay firmly in future tech territory.
Uhm, wow. These two were pretty crazy.

The Naked Now: Everyone acts like they"re drunk, and Wesley drives the ship in the PG-est drunken orgy I"ve ever seen.Collapse )

Code of Honor: No one likes the prime directive.Collapse )

Signs that it's THE FUTURE:
* Someone wears a metallic lame jumpsuit. Definitely the future.
* Their goblet technology is YEARS ahead of us. YEARS, everyone!

Signs that it's NOT THE FUTURE:
* Plague is still around, or at least, in our vision of the future, plague is still a problem on a large scale.
* Bureaucracy ruins everything. People still complain about it, and at some length.

FASHION Side talk: I know that there are other blogs devoted solely to critiquing the fashions of Next Gen, and I won't go too heavily into that, but I do want to know where the costume department got ahold of all that weirdly ridged fabric and why it figures into almost every costume they make. Also, Wesley Crusher's sweaters are just the ugliest damn things I've ever seen. And, finally, Troi's outfit gets worse with each passing episode; the "belt" of the pink ridge stuff is almost like an arrow that says "Vajayay this way!" and I just want to take Troi shopping for something, anything better than that.

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