Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Scrapbooking got too complex

When I was in high school, an aunt got me a scrapbook for my birthday. I had been saving things and wanting a scrapbook for a while because I had been going through old scrapbooks a relative had (the same aunt? I can't remember) and I thought they were neat.

So I started with this scrapbook, just gluing whatever random things struck my fancy at the time. If an event happened, I would pick something to put in the book to remember it by and write a little note next to it saying what it was. I saved really random stuff, the handle off a plastic fork comes to mind. Confetti streamers from party decorations, a bingo card, and of course pictures, tons of pictures.

I finished up the scrapbook around the end of high school, which was appropriate. And my sister gave me a new one with a custom cover for my college years. I kept up with it decently, but not too well, I was busy.

But I never stopped saving things. Receipts from dinners where I had a lot of fun with friends, metro cards from trips to other cities, articles clipped from newspapers that mentioned me or my friends or something I thought was interesting.

When I went to London, I saved so much stuff and took so many pictures that I ended up with a three volume scrapbook.

But the last time I really took the time to put anything into a book was about five or six years ago. So recently as I've been going through all my stuff trying to get more organized and put things where they go, I found a lot of stuff that I saved for my scrapbook. Only, all my scrapbooks are full, so I needed a new one.

My method of scrapbooking has always been really simple. I glue stuff on a page. Or tape it, or photo corners, whatever. But I didn't design templates or create themes or anything like that. I had a book, and I had a box. I would put things in the box until once every few weeks I would go through and glue it in the book. I would make it pretty, sure, but not through any kind of fancy layouts or patterned paper or photo frames or any of that. I just wanted to remember things so I glued them in a book.

So I decided that I needed a new scrapbook and I went to Michael's to get one. Which is when I discovered that scrapbooking, now that it's a hobby, has been completely taken over and there's no room for people like me. If you're not into cutting out little shaped designs and picking out the perfect paper for each page and making your book have specific themes and spending three hours designing every page (not to mention the money) then they don't really care that you exist. It was horribly frustrating, I just wanted a book to glue things into, and that was apparently too much to ask.

I also collect post cards, so I wanted a smaller book to put my postcards in. But that's not allowed either, because you either pick a photo album (which would only work if they were all the same size, they're not) or you have to put them on pages that then go in sheet protectors, which makes it too hard to take them out of the book to look at the back, half the point of having them.

After scouring several stores, I ended up making two purchases. I got a spiral bound sketchbook for my post cards, and I'm going to remove half the pages (what a waste) so that once I add the cards it doesn't bow the covers. Then I picked up a pack of cheap solid colored papers and a scrapbook with sheet protectors, because what else am I going to do?

I can be a bit picky about my scrapbooks, I want a particular type of cover and I want a design on the cover that I'll really like, but that doesn't lend itself to only one kind of theme. I'd like to go to a store and pick one out, so even if I could figure out what to look for online, I wouldn't want to just buy something without seeing it.

How completely lame is it that when something became a popular hobby they edged out all the people who don't want to spend a fortune and all of their time on it? Why in the world is there a division between hardcore and casual scrapbookers?

Friday, July 27, 2012

There is no such thing as a "real" book

Way, way back in 2006 or so, the bookstore where I worked started selling e-readers. I think it was a Sony e-reader, and they tried to make this big push out of it because the store itself was failing (as in they've gone bankrupt and no longer exist, the writing was on the wall even then) and they thought something new and shiny would actually help.

It was almost instant how quickly the "real" books vs. e-books debate started. And at first, part of me was on the "real" books side. But I kept getting drawn back to this e-reader on display, and looking at it. The thing is, I started reading random walls of text online when I was 13, and fanfiction became a big part of my life around 1998 or so. So the idea of reading on a screen wasn't foreign to me. I still recognized some limitations (I don't learn as well reading academic material on a computer instead of on paper, for example) but in general I thought the idea had merit.

But I still held on to this "real" books thing, possibly out of stubbornness. This idea that only if you love physical books could you be a "reader" and that it was a huge house full of book that defined a person. Which was also evident if you went into my guest room, where my bookshelves were, because they filled an entire wall, largely double-rowed, and with extra stacks all over the place.

It took a long time for me to get out of that mode, and I think one of the things that did it for me was traveling a lot. Even for something as simple as going home to visit my parents, I would always pack a book or two with me. Usually two because I wouldn't know what I would be in the mood to read.

Then I started flying around the country to work on my latest film project, and during a trip to Las Vegas last year I only packed one book because I was trying to pack light and I had all this camera equipment. Of course, I ended up finishing my book on the plane to Vegas and spent three days looking around for a bookstore so I would have something to read on the way home.

On top of that, I started noticing a lot of the really great features that technology could bring to reading. I've never been a person who writes in books, it seems disrespectful to me. But an electronic book? I can bookmark favorite pages, highlight quotes I like, write notes in the margins if I felt like. In short, I could do all the things I may have always wanted without any actual lasting damage to the book itself.

On top of that, I could carry hundreds of books, for any mood I might be in, with less weight than a hard cover. Not to mention being able to change the size of the text, the contrast of the letters, and other things that started to make reading more accessible.

It also helped that around this same time the newer generation of e-readers was coming out. They were quickly and efficiently solving a lot of the problems the earliest devices had. Every time a new one is released they add more features that are making books more and more amazing. Children's books that can read aloud to kids or help them learn to read as they go. The ease of jumping back and forth between footnotes and the text (a must if you're reading a Mary Roach book).

So to cling to the idea that a physical printed page is the only thing that counts as a real book is just stubbornness. Yes, it's a different experience. And yes, I still own a wall of books (though they're no longer double-rowed and stacked everywhere, my rule is they must fit on the bookshelves I have, so if I get new books I need to let go of old ones I never reread). Books on paper won't go away any time soon, though bookstores might.

And that is sad, browsing a website is no substitute to browsing a bookshelf for me. It doesn't lead to as many new and weird discoveries.

But I think people who love books and who love reading need to start looking at everything that e-books have to offer us. They're were never designed to somehow steal our books from us, they were designed to give our books to us more easily, to give us a new experience with them, and to help us stop breaking our backs carrying around everything we might want to read at a given time.

E-books are real books. And we can live in a world with both.

This post may or may not have been brought to you by the fact that I got a Nook for my birthday and I've already realized how easy it is to indulge my love of books and getting new/free/bargain books without also ending up with them taking over my guest room.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

DVD Review: Battle Royale

When everybody was talking about The Hunger Games, inevitably there'd be one person somewhere in the crowd that would say "Ugh, it's such a rip-off of Battle Royale." To be honest, those people were pretty annoying. But they had good reason to bring it up.

For people who aren't familiar with it, Battle Royale was a book first, published in Japan in 1999. It was adapted into a feature film in 2000. It was also turned into a manga around the same time. The three versions have some big differences in the plot and the mechanics of the world, but the premise is generally the same. In it, a totalitarian government suppresses teenage rebellion by selecting one middle school class every year to compete in the Battle Royale. Which is, as you may have guessed, a fight to the death with only one student left standing.

I have known about Battle Royale for years, since 2001 or so. At the time I was working on a documentary about cosplay, and the school uniform from the film was one of the most popular costumes. Of course I read what I could about the story at the time, because I wanted to know what it was. A few years later, the manga was translated into English. It was gruesome, violent, disturbing, and yet compelling at the same time. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but not because it was bad. Just because I'd have to know someone really well before I said "Yeah, you should read this comic where they illustrate people's heads exploding in detail."

People like to say that the similarities between the two works (Battle Royale and The Hunger Games) are just superficial. And I'll be clear, I don't think that Suzanne Collins plagiarized anything. But for me the thing is that The Hunger Games could never be that great a book to me because I had already read the manga of Battle Royale. The themes were extremely similar, and more than just superficial. The authors were making similar conclusions about where our society is heading, and where it is now. They seem to draw on a lot of the same sort of cultural influences.

And in the end, Battle Royale made me think more, made me care more, and was more willing to push limits to make it's point. It's not that The Hunger Games is a rip-off, it's just that somebody else did the same story in a way that worked much better for me.

So after I saw The Hunger Games movie, I really wanted to watch Battle Royale. As much as I knew about the film, it was very hard to find in the U.S. for many years. It suffered from unfortunate timing because it was released not long after the Columbine Massacre, which colored it with a very different lens than it is seen with today.

To be honest, much of the film's lauded violence feels tame by today's standards, and it's only 12 years old. The story isn't as subversive, and it really doesn't live up to it's hype. But that isn't a bad thing, because the hype was obscuring the fact that it's just a really solid film. It is a Japanese film, and so some American audiences will just be generally confused by the pacing, structure, and some of the acting (which is a little different than what we're used to, not bad, just different). But the characters have some real depth, and even though I knew everything that happened I still cared about everyone.

It's major flaw is the same problem I had with the book of The Hunger Games-we don't know enough about who is making the children fight, and we need to. This isn't some macguffin that can get swept under the rug. It's no longer revolutionary to have children fighting to the death (sadly) but what is still relevant is the social commentary, which can only be made by revealing more of the machine.

I can't hold that against Battle Royale because in 1999, it was a different world and a different place to be telling this kind of story but it still affected my reaction to it. What amazes me is that it doesn't hold back. While the movie is far less violent and graphic than the manga, it still doesn't hesitate to have heads cut off and axes go through skulls. American movies are violent, and everyone talked about how violent the Hunger Games was. But those stories feel bloodless in a way, even if they aren't literally. Part of this is because in Battle Royale, the students aren't strangers to each other. They're classmates and friends. Boyfriends and girlfriends, cliques with mean girls and victims of their bullying. The characters come in with baggage, not just their own, but with each other. And that matters, it makes it feel more personal and more terrible.

Overall, I actually wouldn't recommend this movie to fans of The Hunger Games, unless you already thought the book could have gone further and you wonder what it would be like if it wasn't YA. But if you like Japanese action movies, horror movies, or you want to think about how messed up our society can get, then it's worth a watch.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Supernatural Rewatch Part 3

Don't forget to check the "supernatural rewatch" tag to see all the posts in this series!

It's hard to keep going through these early episodes, especially knowing how the season ends up. From now on I should probably do these write ups right after watching, because it would be more interesting for all of us.

Bloody Mary: This is actually the last episode I watched back when they were first airing. Although I don't remember the way that the story ended up so it may be that I saw the previews but didn't watch the episode.

None of which is actually important. Anyway.

The show seems to be happy making it's way through well known and well worn legends, but at least it's putting it's own twists and mythology to them. The thing that interests me about Bloody Mary is that it's always a different system for calling her forward, and a different tale about what she'll do to you. I'm sure research papers have been written about the ways the myth evolves in different areas and throughout it's history.

The episode itself hits a couple of my own personal fears, like the idea of looking in a mirror and seeing your reflection do something else. It's like I've been saying for years, if you're faced with most popular fears you know what to do. Zombies? Head shot. Vampires? Stake to the heart. Werewolves? Silver bullets. If all else fails, cut off it's head. But when your mirror goes evil? You're just screwed. You can never tell if breaking it will fix things or set the evil free.

The revelations in this episode weren't bad, and Sam's secret did add a nice layer to his character and start to build up an interesting piece of the show's mythos. I'm just looking forward to a time where both brothers are interesting in a single episode, rather than having each one take a turn while the other takes a back seat and goes back to their stereotypical role.

Oh, and let's not forget that this episode featured another pretty girl who needed their help, will be eternally grateful, and never shows up again.

Skin: This episode actually does what I was complaining about for Bloody Mary, it manages to give both brothers plenty of character development and issues and doesn't send one or the other to the background. It also is the single grossest thing I think the show has put onto camera yet, so I guess kudos for that?

One thing this episode flirts with but doesn't finish is how these brothers manage to lie and get themselves on some law enforcement radar nearly every week. I find it hard to believe they're not climbing America's Most Wanted. I can suspend that most days, but it's going to be hard to explain later how Dean Winchester isn't dead. Not to mention how weird the investigation would get if they were really looking into his past and trying to make sense of any of it. I suppose since the suspect is dead they just closed the investigation.

Using a telepathic shape shifter to get into the brother's heads was a neat way to go about it, so that you don't have to manufacture a "chick flick moment" for them to bare their souls. But it does seem like a cop out, I'd like them to have these kind of moments themselves out of something genuine.

Lookit that, this episode has another attractive young lady who needs their help, almost dies, and will never be seen again. We're now 5 for 6! The only reason we aren't at a perfect record is that Jess doesn't count on this particular trope, she's her own kind of special.

I did appreciate that Skin was about a more vague villain, just a shapeshifter, not some specific piece of folklore. It's good to mix it up.

I'm happy I wasn't at Comic Con

Over the last weekend, tumblr and every other piece of social media was full of people talking about how much they wished they were at San Diego Comic Con.

Meanwhile, I was so glad that I wasn't.

I love conventions, I actually wish I could go to more of them. But I love them for completely different reasons than most of the people who were talking about SDCC. I love seeing cosplayers, I love seeing friends I don't hang out with too often. I like to be in an area full of people with similar interests just to talk to random strangers. And I enjoy the occasional odd encounter with a star of a favorite show in an elevator.

What I hate is lines and waiting. My sister dubbed it "wait rage" a few weeks ago. I hate waiting, I can't stand it unless I have something specific to do while I'm waiting. But in general, the thing I'm waiting for better be worth wasting this precious amount of my minutes on Earth. And while I love a lot of the things that were happening at SDCC, I could read about it all from home without having to camp out in a line for three days for a chance to MAYBE make it in the door.

Plus I heard that they weren't even clearing the rooms in between panels, so half the time you would be waiting in line and not get in because somebody had camped a chair in the room the entire day and they might not have even been there for what you were trying to see.

I don't know the solution to this problem in general (besides clearing the room, which I know takes precious time but come on, it's a necessity). Dragon*Con has a pretty big problem with it as well. The last few times I've been to bigger conventions it's been with a press badge, so I've thankfully been able to enjoy the event without too much waiting. But one year at Otakon I waited in a twelve block long line, outside, in the August heat of Baltimore, for a concert that turned out not to be any good. They hadn't set up the sound system properly so the music sounded terrible, and the seats we got after waiting so many hours were so far back that we were getting assaulted with echoes as well. The whole thing was a complete and utter waste, we left after maybe twenty minutes.

And that's the thing about these events. Sometimes there's a brilliant and amazing thing that you wish you'd been there for, but it's not like you'll miss out on the big announcements or not know what's going on. Waiting in a line for a signing is one thing, getting that brief moment of one on one with your favorite star is pretty awesome and so I don't begrudge anybody that. But camping out for two days for a Q&A panel, where you probably won't get to ask your question and 90% of the questions will be either something easily found elsewhere or the person asking spending five minutes talking about how much they love the people on the panel...in my world that equation isn't worth it.

Maybe I've gotten jaded from attending too many conventions and seeing too many panels. Some people will probably say I'm just not a big enough fan, and that might be true. I can't think of anybody that I am just so enamored with that I would wait five hours for a chance to stand in the back of a room and listen to them talk. I would pay for a ticket to a limited seating event that guaranteed I got in the room without having to wait, sure. But my time is worth more than money, and I only get so much of it. I'd rather spend it reading about SDCC from home and then going out and doing anything I wanted that weekend than waiting in line.

I know there's no easy solution, and like I said, I don't know what it would be. But the big conventions really need to address this problem. Because I for one am not counting the days until I might be able to go to SDCC unless it's with a press badge and a particular project in mind. Going as a fan just seems like an experience in camping, and I'd rather do that outside.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Classic Film: Jaws

I don't know who decided it should be the Summer of Spielberg, but they have my thanks.

After going to see E.T. at AFI two weeks ago, last weekend my best friend let me know that my local theater was showing Jaws. Apparently over the rest of the summer they'll be showing several more of his films (I'm leaving to see Jurassic Park in an hour or so).

The interesting thing about Jaws though was realize that I'd never actually sat down and seen the film from start to finish. I had assumed that even if I hadn't watched it all at once, I had at least seen the whole thing in pieces. But as the movie progressed and there were so many parts I was unfamiliar with I realized that wasn't true.

Now, I knew almost everything that happens. I had seen the ending a million times, and a lot of the more iconic scenes too. Between seven years of film school, watching a million specials about Spielberg, and just generally being alive and in love with movies I'd seen clips of all the major scenes. But there were things there to be discovered in the quiet moments, and that was a real joy for me. I knew all the big shark attacks, sure. But I hadn't realized how layered and interesting the characters were. I hadn't been able to appreciate just how good a job Roy Scheider did as Chief Martin Brody. I hadn't realized how fascinating Quint really was. I didn't really know about the tension between Quint and Hooper.

The great thing about Jaws is that I don't think it's particularly dated at all. The fashion is, but the effects actually largely stand the test of time. Which is famously due to the fact that the effects didn't work at the time and they had to improvise. Filmmaking is problem solving, and solving this problem created a film classic that may never be matched, and that audiences today can appreciate just as much as they did then.

This isn't just a creature feature, even though it is the ancestor of all of those giant shark movies on SyFy. It has real characters, depth, story, and structure. It's actually fascinating to read about how the film was made because it starts to feel like the entire thing was an accident. The script being rewritten on set, the weather changing their plans, the shark not working, etc. All of the great decisions and things that make the movie work weren't the first instinct of anybody who was there.

Which just goes to show that if you have time in pre-production to reconsider things, and not fall in love with stuff before you're sure it will work, then you can make a better film, but I digress.

The other great thing about Jaws for film buffs is that while you're watching it, you'll probably start to wonder about the shoot, how they did one scene or another. Well, there's more than enough information out there about the first blockbuster, from how it was made to how it changed film marketing forever. I've added about five books to my to read list already.

Universal is releasing a Blu-Ray version this summer. I think it's well worth picking up, especially because there's a documentary feature included called "The Shark Is Still Working" that sounds excellent. If you're like me and you think you've seen Jaws, it's worth making sure you've sat down and watched it start to finish.

If you've seen it, then watch it again. You won't regret it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Supernatural Season One "Rewatch"

Like I pointed out last week, this isn't really a "rewatch" so much as a "I'm watching it for the first time." Kind of, I actually watched these episodes back when they aired, but it's been forever so I've forgotten almost everything.

Two episodes a week, first post was last week, check out the "supernatural rewatch" tag to read them all!

Dead In The Water: The thing I liked best about this episode is that it gave Dean a chance to do something, because the way he connected with Lucas was a great moment for him. Since the show has only just started, it was a good piece of character development.

As for the rest, it's a completely forgettable episode. Like I mentioned in my post about Wendigo, we've got another revolving door girl who shows up for one episode, flirts with one of the boys and is gone. At least it was Amy Acker, who is a great actress to be sure. But the point of her character was lost on me really. It makes me want to make some kind of graphic or something to start adding up how many women are going to show up just long enough to be in trouble and be saved by Sam and Dean.

The mystery itself was barely a mystery, and really predictable. Things definitely aren't looking up for the show at this point, but Sam and Dean are still interesting enough, and I know enough about what happens to keep watching.

Phantom Traveler: This was so unintentionally hilarious. First of all, new girl of the week! This time a flight attendant. I did like her quite a bit actually, but she's still the third in a line of random women showing up just to be a minor character, get saved, possibly help kill the bad guy, and go off into the sunset to never be seen again.

I'm glad that Dean acknowledged that he drives everywhere, and I'm sure better blogs than me have gone through to establish how much time the brothers spend on the road. Longer than five hours and I start to get stir crazy and want to harm somebody, so I have absolutely no idea how they spend five days in a car and haven't gone into the weapons to kill each other.

The effects in this episode are pretty silly, but my favorite thing is how absolutely impossible the entire story is. At first I thought the episode must have been made before 9/11 but it turns out it was a few years later so I have no clue how they thought any of these was even vaguely feasible. This episode exists in a world we haven't lived in since the 90's.

Also, did not help how uncomfortable I am with flying.

Eventually I'll be getting to later episodes that are more interesting and I have more to say about! The early parts of the first season is just so...formulaic.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bullies are bullies, even if they're on the "right" side

WARNING: This post is about offensive language, and thus will probably contain offensive language used as examples. Please consider this a trigger warning, though I will promise none of the words are used outside of pointing out which word I'm talking about.

I don't remember how I came across Laci Green and her Sex+ videos, but I'm assuming somebody linked to one of them on tumblr.

See, I really like tumblr, it makes no sense and I couldn't explain it to you if I tried, but I enjoy it. I enjoy the people I've met on there through fandoms, I like the fun graphics I get to see. I like the education I'm getting about various causes. I especially like that I'm getting to read and be exposed to first person narratives from minorities and groups I don't belong to.

It's really opened my brain up to a lot of new thoughts and ideas about how to be a good person, and that's great. Especially because as I pointed out on tumblr a few weeks ago, I belong to pretty much every majority in America. Being female, I'm a statistical majority there even if sexism makes that obsolete. But otherwise, I've got every advantage and privilege you can probably think of.

Well, neither my family or I have ever been stinkin' rich, which is what really counts most in America, but that's a point for another day. While we've never been rich, I would say we've also never been truly poor either.

I know it seems like I got a little distracted, I'm coming back around to the point.

A few days ago, somebody asked Laci Green why she used the word "tranny" once in a video three years ago. She replied that three years ago, she didn't know how harmful a word it was and hadn't really come to understand how unacceptable it was. She didn't realize that it wasn't something she should say as a cisgender woman, and she has learned better since then. She stated that she was sorry she had ever said it, but that once she understood why it was a problem she stopped using the word, and started trying to use more inclusive language.

And everybody accepted her apology, learned from the situation, and they all lived happily ever after.

Yeah right, we're talking about the internet. Everybody got angry and started sending her hate mail and looked up her home address to start sending pictures of her house to her with the death threats and she's had to take a step back and stop posting online until she can deal with it.

This is ridiculous. It's shameful, it's disgusting, and it's wrong. I see this the same way I see "activists" who are promoting causes I believe in by breaking the law and physically hurting people: you're a bully and a horrible person and I'd like you to stop representing my side of the argument. NOW.

Listen, let me explain something to you about privilege that you might not understand: part of privilege is a lack of education and awareness. Because you don't HAVE to know, you don't know. But the other thing about privilege is that it's something that you're born with and that is done to you/with you/for you. You can make choices that exercise your privilege, you can be a horrible person by using it to your advantage at the expense of others, yes.

But there is nothing I can do about the fact that I'm a cisgender woman. There are a lot of things that I can only understand if they are explained to me. I do actively seek out that information, and I try very hard to learn at all times. And I'll be clear, I'm not asking for pity or saying that this is a hard road to follow or anything, it's not. At all. If I didn't want to, I could live my life blissfully unaware of anything outside of my little world I was born to, I completely understand that other people don't get to do that.

What I'm asking for is the benefit of the doubt. Listen, I understand that must be difficult. You probably spend your life dealing with ignorance and stupidity and it gets tiring. As a woman, I can understand that to a degree. I've been pretty immersed in the world of gamers for the last two years, and I can't tell you how tired I am of trying to explain why it is never okay to use the word "rape" as slang. I can only assume that it's worse if you're LGBT or a person of color.

But like I said, what I want is at least one try to get better. I'll use an example from my own life: I used to use the word "retarded" as slang. Not constantly, but often enough. Then somebody, I can't remember who but I think it was my friend Jessie for some reason, explained to me very patiently WHY it was a hurtful word and how it made other people feel. I don't think she said more than two or three sentences but the point hit home for me: even if I didn't mean it, I was hurting people with a word that I didn't even care about.

So I realized she was right, and I stopped saying it. Mostly. I do have this problem where I pick up slang quickly from any group or person I read/talk to a lot, and because it's a word that is still regularly used in gaming communities, I have noticed myself slipping up once in a great while.

I think this example shows the sort of normal course of action for a reasonable person with privilege. First, you're unaware of your actions because of your privilege (because that's what privilege is). Then either through your own reading and experience or through somebody's patience, you learn WHY it's an offensive word/phrase/action and you realize that you're hurting other people and that's not what you want. Lastly, you do your best to stop hurting people.

I know the last part probably bugs some people, "doing your best isn't good enough" and all that. But my particularly breed of religion has taught me that the best thing we can do in this life is just try every day to be better than we were the day before, because that's also one of the hardest things we can do. That's what I believe and it's kind of the core of my philosophy in life. I don't expect anybody to be perfect, I just expect them to try and to apologize when they do something harmful and go back to trying to be better.

This is exactly what happened with Laci Green, as far as I know (I admit I may not know the full story, I don't know her, I just follow her on tumblr). She was unaware that the word was harmful, she learned otherwise, she changed her behavior, and she apologized.

Listen, I know that it's not always so simple. That sometimes you think "maybe they don't know this is wrong" and you speak up and you get yelled at and the person gets angry and defensive and that they never learn. I understand that it happens, like I said, I've been dealing with gamers who think that it's fun to say that they raped somebody because they beat them at Halo. And they won't let go of it, even women use the phrase and defend it, it gets exhausting. So if you don't feel like being the person who steps up to educate, that's fine.

But at least have enough understanding to not start sending somebody death threats and ruin their lives over it. You can say "I'm going to let somebody else get this one" because on tumblr, somebody else probably will. But nothing ever excuses being an asshole and a bully. This is the exact same type of situation as the men who have been attacking Feminist Frequency for daring to say there's sexism in gaming. It's just as unacceptable, even if the "point" they're making is "good."

Don't be like that. And if you see it in your community or among people you know, call them out for it and tell them it's unacceptable. Stand up for even the people you disagree with for their right to not be harassed, stalked, and threatened.
Nobody deserves that.

EDITED TO ADD: In response to this post, Poison Symac wrote in the comments, "The overwhelming majority of responses to Laci have been reasoned criticism, not violent threats. Furthermore, the violent threats were immediately condemned and disavowed by the community at large. It's very inaccurate to suggest that the general response was in any way violent."

This is correct, and I apologize that in my anger about the threats I misrepresented the response. I'm a bit touchy about this subject right now in light of what has been happening to Anita Sarkeesian, because as I said I spent the last two years heavily involved in the gaming community and seeing Sarkeesian attacked the way she was was upsetting for a lot of reasons. So I did overreact and in doing so I implied that people with reasonable voices and understandable complaints were overreacting, which I should not have done.

I do stand by my statements about why the violence and bullying is wrong, and that a statement like Green's can be made out of ignorance instead of malice.

As somebody said this morning, saying "I didn't know" is not an excuse. But it can be a reason.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Classic Film: E.T.

I could write a book about what the movie E.T. means to my life, and how impressive and amazing I think it is. I actually have written a lengthy research paper on it, so I know this film backwards and forwards.

I hate being asked what my favorite movie is, because it seems silly for me to even compare some movies together. I love different movies for different reasons, they bring out different emotions and for different moods. But if I have to pick one, it's always E.T. because that was the movie that taught me how much I could love movies. I made my mom take me to the theater to see it a dozen times when I was little.

So I have a lot of memories of this movie, and they're built around how I saw the film as much as the movie itself.

As a two-year-old, I was sitting in my hometown in the Pulaski Theater staring up at the screen entranced. It was so much bigger than me, and I was engulfed by the movie and by the magic. As a college senior, I was sitting in a theater with my mom, sharing a huge bag of Reese's Pieces and celebrating together. I was graduating in a few short weeks with a film degree, I had just finished a feature length documentary and a short comedy. I was having this crisis like a lot of seniors probably do, wondering what I was doing, where I was going. So sitting in that theater reminded me of who I was and what I wanted.

So then last weekend, we find me in my thirties, with a second film degree under my belt. I'm working on post-production in the largest film project I've ever made. And there I was, sitting at the amazing AFI Silver in Maryland. Like I said, I've seen this movie a lot of times. Too many to count, I've pulled apart the cinematography and I've studied the color scheme. But this was the first time since I was two that I was in a theater full of children who were probably seeing the film for the first time.

What a revelation it was, it was so wonderful to hear them laughing and enjoying the movie. I saw suddenly why the movie got a ten minute standing ovation at it's premiere at Cannes. As I've gotten older I've had a lot of people do the "ugh, that movie is so schmaltzy and cheesy, it's really not that good of a movie."

The people who say that have forgotten what the movie is about, which is being a child. The movie wasn't made for adults, at least not the ones who can't remember being kids. It's designed down to it's most basic elements to be a movie about and for children. I worried a bit that it was a movie that would be a little dated, but the kids in the theater didn't care. It's actually brilliantly directed, but I can see how it would take a close study to really get how impressive it can be.

All in all, it was a brilliant experience, and I'm so glad I had it. I think that E.T. is a movie that people need to show their kids, because it's a smart, well crafted film and there aren't too many of those available for that age group these days.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Supernatural "Rewatch"

So this project is not actually a traditional rewatch like most people blog about because I've actually not watched Supernatural before. I got about six episodes in and then forgot to watch one week and just never remembered to catch back up.

But tumblr, once again, convinced me to give it another shot. That and we needed something to take the place of Revenge. So I'm going to try an experiment and actually write this up like a rewatch blog. We'll see how this goes and how long it lasts, right now I'm only committing to the first season for now. I'll try to do two episodes per post.


It's pretty weird to see these guys so young, but that wears off pretty quick and you end up along for the ride. The pilot is a little weird for me to watch because I have such patchy information about what happens later. So I ended up annoying my best friend by asking her a ton of weird questions.

It's great to see a pilot that really works. We meet the characters, we establish their personalities quickly, we reveal their history (at least as much as we need). We give them a long standing goal (find their father/figure out what killed their mom).

We even establish Sam perfectly as our reluctant hero, and give him motivation to go on the quest. I mean, you know even without knowing anything about the show that Sam isn't going back to law school. But you have to give him the reason WHY. Also, whoever came up with that visual of the woman on the ceiling catching on fire? Two gold stars for you.

One thing I loved was that right off the bat the show was willing to use more obscure mythology and dig into other supernatural phenomena for the stories. This more than almost anything sold me on it, we didn't jump straight to standard ghosts and demons (though it still didn't take long).


One thing that struck me about this episode was that Supernatural is a show that actually does a pretty good job with the set up and pay off. It's nice that it gets that from mystery shows or procedurals instead of just following along the paths of most sci-fi or paranormal shows where they just suddenly hit you with a "Oh, he had it all along" excuse when it helps move the plot along. "How are we going to get out of this one?" "Oh, just give him a screwdriver." "Where would he have gotten a screwdriver?" "Who cares?"

Anyway, Wendigo actually reminds me a bit of The X-Files, basically because that was another show that starts off strong with the pilot and then just had a relatively tame monster of the week second episode. Of course, most shows would be lucky to be as good as X-Files, so that's not a bad thing.

To be honest, there's little about this episode that sticks out. I get the sense that we're going to have a revolving parade of random girls that show up for one episode and we never see again. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It feels a bit patronizing "oh, girls, I know you don't have a female lead on this show so every episode we'll give you a random chick so that you'll keep tuning in, 'kay?"

One thing I do appreciate them getting away from is the dynamic of the "one skeptic among believers" thing that so many shows *coughOnceUponATimecough* have been playing lately. Sam and Dean both believe. They've seen it. Sometimes there's a side character that doubts them, but in general (at least in this episode) people are like "actually, this doesn't make sense and these guys seem pretty confident so let's do what they're asking for now at least." Which is pretty refreshing.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Perspective, let's have some

So I live on the East Coast, and I have lived in Virginia my entire life.

While the weather is kind of different now than it was when I was a kid, the basics are still the same. We have four seasons (though Spring and Fall are fading fast) and the summer is very hot and very humid and prone to thunderstorms. The winter is very cold, and we're prone to snowstorms.

None of these weather events are extremes of their type. So when I say we get snowstorms, I mean "we get a few inches of snow." So people in Maine and Canada can laugh wholeheartedly at our snowstorms, that's cool.

The thing with weather is that it's impact on your life is all about what you're prepared for. When I was a kid, we were always pretty ready for the various things that came through, including thunderstorms, hurricanes, snowstorms, and ice storms and even a couple blizzards. My parents weren't crazy survivalists or anything, they just knew what needed doing so that you could bunker down for a couple days and then just go about your life when you were done.

Which is why the last year or so here in Northern Virginia has been driving me so crazy. Yes, the weather has been a bit abnormal, and it's been a lot of extremes one after the other. But for the most part, there's been an overwhelming sense that the people in the Northern Virginia/DC/Maryland area have forgotten everything about preparedness. And I'm not entirely talking about individuals, there's been a failure of governments and corporations too.

Why is it that whenever there's a strong windstorm, the power is out for at least two or three days in DC? If it was just this one time, I would say that people are probably working as hard as they can, etc. etc.

But the people I know who live in DC are constantly complaining about their power company, and every time I hear about a major outage I also hear a report that it will be two or three days to get it back. So they apparently can't handle a small outage, when millions of people's power failed because of the storm last weekend they were in over their heads and that's SHAMEFUL. Power companies have monopolies, and since they don't have direct competition I thought they were held to standards of service. I read a quote where someone said that this was like a repairing after a hurricane only with no warning.

I'm sorry, but I think that the power company should be prepared for a hurricane at all times. There should be policies in place, and they should know exactly how to implement them in order to restore power because lack of electricity can KILL PEOPLE. Especially in the heat we've got right now. Besides the fact that if you're prepared for a hurricane (the time to prepare is not when the weather channel is waving graphics in your face it's when there's nothing going on) then you're prepared for smaller storms or most things that might be thrown your way.

The government isn't doing much better, but at least I can give them the excuse that everybody wants tax cuts so their budgets are slashed repeatedly until they're mostly ineffective. But the departments of transportation around here did not come out of this looking very good, and the fact that the entire 911 system for my county went down in the storm is a big, big problem.

Yes, this was a "derecho." This was a "land hurricane." This was unexpected and there was a lot of powerful wind.

But you know what? We get hurricanes here. We get thunderstorms. We get windstorms. We should have been more prepared for this. We should have been ready and this should NOT have paralyzed everything the way it did. When we got hit with tornadoes last year, I completely understood that people didn't know what to do because Virginia doesn't get tornadoes. But my hometown, which was hit with an F3 and an F2 within an hour of each other, still rallied and got everything together and did an amazing job recovering. Meanwhile, we have a windstorm and can't even get the traffic lights working four days later.

Part of the problem is that people here on the East Coast LOVE to exaggerate their weather, probably because it is relatively mild. Like I said, when I say we get snow I mean a few inches. The two worst storms I can remember were the Blizzard of '93 and Snowmageddon (which refers to a specific set of storms, no matter what the stupid people are walking around saying about every tiny little snowfall). Both of those were the kind of thing Michigan just calls "Tuesday."

My town had a 500 year flood last year and the biggest damage was that a commuter parking lot got flooded and trashed a bunch of cars. Meanwhile in the Midwest, houses are floating down rivers. We had an earthquake last year, and while it was an interesting geological event it was a 5.something. The same week, California had a 5.something and I don't think people even looked up from their iPads. And all of these things I mentioned became HUGE news stories, people talked about them for weeks and months. The "derecho" has brought out all of the "where were you" type posts and videos and photos of the damage.

In some cases, the damage is severe. I'm not going to lie, this storm was bad. But in a few cases the "damage" is a few branches torn out of trees that landed on a sidewalk or a yard. And people expect sympathy? Over a dozen people DIED and you want me to feel sad because a little bit of siding blew off?

The weather is getting worse than it was five or ten years ago. But it's not worse than it was twenty or thirty years ago, as far as I can tell. We still have some of the mildest weather in the country, we just get each type and other places have more extremes of one thing or another. So there's no real reason for our government and service companies not to be prepared for this, and people shouldn't be surprised that we get a bad storm now and again. This shouldn't be news because we had a storm, it should be news that we were so ill equipped to handle it.

And your trampoline getting blown over isn't worth any sympathy points.

Ethan of Athos

Ethan of Athos will probably be the first and only time I'll ever root for a society that thinks women are demonic. So seriously, kudos to Bujold on that one.

The basic premise: Athos is a planet that was founded by a group of men who wanted to escape from women completely. They founded the planet and organized it based on a religion that is basically Christianity but with all of the "women are the source of sin" stuff amped up to one million. The men reproduce with uterine replicators, and the plot of the book is that their ovarian cultures are dying and one of their doctors must go out into the wide world (of women) and find more.

Trust me, I have no idea why the very nature of the book didn't have me wanting to chuck it across a room. When I wrote out that paragraph I was like, "but, wait, what?" Because nothing in there is false, that is the plot of the book. The Ethan of the title basically ends up embroiled in a ridiculous galactic conspiracy through no fault of his own, and is constantly being saved by a really awesome woman named Elli Quinn. Figuring out the conspiracy is half the fun, so I won't go into it too much.

But basically, even though Ethan of course figures out that not everything his religion taught him was correct, he doesn't suddenly go "OMG, I want to sleep with this chick!" There's no transformation of meeting the right woman, he's gay and perfectly comfortable with that (not that he knows any different, really, but that's not the point). I thought that was a nice change of pace, and that was the main reason I didn't want Ethan to figure out everything was wrong and lead Athos back to the ways of heterosexuality.

The only qualm I had with the book is it suffered from Sci-Fi Naming Syndrome, if only a mild case. There were two or three planet names in the book that I could never pronounce even for cash, and every time the name came up it made me completely stall for a second before my eyes passed over it, my brain still trying to figure out what it was. Seriously writers, don't get weird with your names unless they only happen once! And even then, you still probably shouldn't.

In general, Ethan of Athos is a good hard sci-fi comedy. Which doesn't sound like a genre that exists, but it's definitely hard sci-fi, and it's definitely funny just as often as it's full of action, so there you go. I recommend it to people who like sci-fi, like stories about sexuality or gender politics, and people who enjoy a good laugh that still makes you think.

Side note: ignore the covers, they're apparently all terrible. The one I have doesn't even fit the book, I think they got it mixed up at the cover factory.

Brave (kinda)

I feel like there's no point in reviewing Brave because apparently nobody else has bothered to.

Apparently, the memo that I missed detailed that all reviews of Brave should instead be either sexist or about sexism. Or, absurdly, accuse Merida of being a lesbian. Because, you know, that's important.

I can see why some people are going off on other tangents. Brave is a movie the wouldn't really inspire people to wax poetic about it or build a major fandom, or anything like that. It's a good movie, it's indeed a very good movie. But that's about all it is.

Personally, I think that's okay. I enjoyed the film, I thought the visuals were beautiful (though it took time for the animation style to grow on me) and the voice acting was amazing. Merida was a fun character, I enjoyed her, she reminded me of me.

Only, you know, if I was any better at archery. But that's another point for another day.

My point for today though, is that it takes two combinations of things for Brave to hit home: you have to be a girl that can identify with Merida on some level and you have to have a specific kind of relationship with your mother, and probably be old enough to understand why your mother was how she was when you were a teenager.

I saw one post that got it right, Brave is a movie that doesn't shy away from the fact that teenage girls aren't perfect and are often terrible. And that mothers of teenager girls are often terrified for them and don't know how to communicate with them. And that in the end, once you get through the teenage years, everybody can see the other's person's perspective a little better and it forms a particular kind of relationship. If you've lived through that, and felt that, then Brave will probably make you cry (it did me, that's for sure).

If you haven't, then there's nothing wrong with you, you just had a different type of family and that's awesome.

The problem lies in the fact that outside of masterfully presenting this mother/daughter dynamic (which is rare enough to be worth praise), the movie doesn't really press the envelope anywhere else. Which is why critics are so distracted.

About half the reviews talk about how poorly the movie treats men. Most of the rebuttals to those comments are "that's how women have to live every day, qq more newb." Which is fair, except for the fact that Brave doesn't marginalize it's men. They're all pretty well drawn out for supporting characters. Merida's suitors are comic relief, but they all have charms to go with their faults. The triplets are crazy and "get away with murder" but they're also really smart and resourceful and even without lines they have a depth when you think about their relationship with Merida.

As for the people trying to make a case that Merida is a lesbian because she likes to shoot arrows and doesn't want to marry a guy that she probably couldn't even carry on a conversation with...there's just nothing for those people. I've got nothing, I can't even contemplate how stupid and terrible life must be for them, having so few brain cells. The point of the movie was about choosing your own fate and your own life, and creating it yourself. To force Merida into a stereotype because it makes your brain feel a little better is to go against everything it stands for. Who knows what kind of person Merida is attracted to, I doubt she even knows. But she'll figure it out and it might be one of the guys and it might be another princess, and the world will keep turning on.

Oh, and to the person who said that Merida still wasn't a good role model or a positive step for women for being the protagonist because she's still a princess...go lock yourself in a tower. In fiction, women can be depicted as princesses as a metaphor for the responsibilities and struggles we face because of stereotypical gender roles. One would think a media or literary critic would understand that much, that's like Women's Lit 101.