Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sci-fi Reading Statistics


Apparently I am on some strange posting (and linking) binge. To whit: i09's list of 10 Books You Pretend to Have Read (And Why You Should Really Read Them). The statistical breakdown is as follows:

Titles I've actually heard of: 7/10
Titles I've actually read: 1/10
Titles that were already on my reading list: 4/10

So I'm giving myself an average score of 4/10. If I were truly nitpicking, I'd argue that I deserve an extra point for actually reading Frank Herbert's Dune, but then I remember that I've never read 1984 and decide to shut up. I never pretend to have read it, but still. I shall keep my eyes fixed on the ground in humility, etc., until that fault has been remedied.

That being said, I don't think I'm ever going to read Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. I may buy it and keep it on the shelf just to freak people out though.

Monday, July 27, 2015

No Haiku for You (or Me or Anyone Lately)


Just dropping in to mention that the charming intellectuals over at Wisecrack agree with my reading of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman. Sparky Sweets breaks it down over here.

Since I'm taking the trouble to link things, a couple weeks ago this happened. (You're welcome.)

And now, poetry. Sort of.

No Haiku for You (or Me or Anyone Lately)
haikuless clueless
once at least two every week
will my groove return?


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Go Set a Watchman


Yes, I too devoured Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, but no, my golden childhood memories have not been shattered into tiny fragments.

Oh, uhh, here be spoilers. Beware. Blah blah blah.

If I understand the situation correctly, Watchman is not the sequel of To Kill a Mockingbird, but rather one of its early drafts. And I don't think it should be read as a sequel even if it supposedly takes place about twenty years after Mockingbird. I have several beautifully thought out reasons for that.

One. Several sentences from Mockingbird are used verbatim, which shows that they survived the transition from manuscript to manuscript. At the same time, there are a number of inconsistencies regarding characters like Aunt Alexandra, Uncle Jack, Dill, Finch's landing, which shows that they got reworked in later drafts (especially in Uncle Jack's case).

Two. The Tom Robinson case is mentioned briefly as an aside, but without being specifically named, and its outcome is changed to an acquittal.

Three. Boo Radley does not exist.

Let's all take half a moment to digest that.

Four. The best parts are without a doubt the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, which is in keeping with the story that the editor read the early draft and suggested that Lee should focus on telling young Scout's narrative, rather than Jean Louise's disillusionment as an adult.

Five. Atticus is a racist. The weakest part of the book comes toward the end where Jean Louise has a showdown with her Perfect Father and they basically just fence with racial ideology in stilted dialogue that could have been lifted from any random civil rights debate pamphlet. It's obvious Lee is trying to make a complex point about racial relations but it gets lost in what turns out to be Atticus's elaborate plan to get Jean Louise to stop idolizing him. If that sounds as if it doesn't make much sense, it's because it doesn't.

I know a lot of readers have taken this aspect rather hard, but I don't see why they should. This was obviously a narrative thread that Lee later rejected when she reworked the draft into Mockingbird, and we shouldn't act as if the Real Atticus Finch was revealed to us in his True Racist Form. The Atticus of Mockingbird is much more nuanced, much more human than the one depicted in Watchman.

For me, the absolute worst part was reading, quite casually, in the first chapter or two, that the young Jem Finch simply dropped dead one day walking down the street. My eyes quickly glazed over reading Scout's epic confrontation with Atticus, but that half sentence killing Jem keeps circling around and around in my brain without mercy.

Six. The narrative isn't especially coherent. Various threads lead nowhere and turn into stand-alone vignettes, which have charm, but don't always contribute to the whole. Mockingbird is a masterful combination of coming-of-age, slice-of-life, and social commentary. Watchman has potential. The humor is there. The heart and soul. The keen observations. I think it's a testament to the fact that a rough draft needs to be mined for its best features, and we need to be skilled enough to turn all those raw emotions and ideas into something more.

I'm sorry Go Set a Watchman is getting marketed as a book in its own right rather than as a companion piece to Mockingbird. Seems pretty misleading. Now if they discover some early draft of Pride and Prejudice, I will freak the hell out.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Superheroes, Reading, and Other Notes Concerning Existence

Right off, I would like to take a moment to bask in the glow of having addicted introduced a friend to Doctor Who. I now get texts at random hours with frantic exclamations and burning questions that I can only answer with a sigh, a knowing smile, and, of course, "Shh. Spoilers." I invite you to bask with me. Another Whovian in the world is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

For the first time since graduating, I'm reading two fictional texts alternately. I've finally gotten around to reading The Maze Runner and it's creeping me out to the extent where I can't read it before I go to sleep. But I can't possibly go to bed without reading so I got over my dislike of, what I like to call (and which probably isn't a good name but who cares) "overlapping reading," and now I'm breezing through Eleanor & Park at an alarming rate. I know those two books are, like, so a couple years ago, but I can't help it if I can't keep up. I'd suck as any kind of cultural critic because I'd be writing reviews of things that (gasp) aren't trending right now.

Speaking of that which is currently trending, there's been a lot of doom and gloom grumbling about the Marvel/DC arms race (a.k.a. The Battle for our Hearts, Souls, and Wallets) and how it will inevitably lead to the demise of movies, TV, comics, storytelling, and possibly all pop culture as we know it. (Sorry, I'm too lazy to link.) Whether the hyper-expansion of each universe's franchise will suddenly collapse under the weight of its own complexity, thereby creating a singularity which pulls all of existence in after it (is that what a singularity does? I'm not especially sciencey), leaving nothing but a howling void, or we all simply grow bored with superhero narratives and move on, I'm surprised at all the complaining.

Okay, not totally surprised. This is the internet, and that's what it's for - cat pictures and endless nitpicking. This deluge of superhero stories isn't without its flaws - like crushing non-superhero-therefore-non-blockbusters at the box office and creating a market where investors only become interested in funding mega-hits. Or the fact that a female superhero with her own franchise is some kind of crazy pipe dream we crazy dreamers distract ourselves with in the wee small hours of the morning when dawn is still too far away for us to forget our deepest fears and anxieties.

Side note: yes, I know Supergirl is arriving this fall, and that's cool, but allow me to nitpick - as the name says, she's a girl, not a woman. And Captain Marvel isn't a reality yet. Honestly, I don't even know who she is (I'm actually not well-versed in actual comics), but I'm hoping it's an actual grown woman who gets as much fanatical attention to detail and mature themes as Batman gets - not some excuse for a pin-up version of a superhero. All things considered, I'm starting to think of Agent Peggy Carter as a miracle. But remember, she's filler for when Coulson & Co. are on vacation, and for a while it looked like she wasn't going to get a second season.

What I meant to say was, bring on the superheroes. We'll love the good and trash the bad. Pop culture and the universe in general will not implode and collapse in on itself. (Seriously? Is that what it does?)


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Writer's Block and The Middleman


The only thing worse than writer's block is being ready to start another project without having any idea what that project should be. I have several possibilities but for some reason I can't get excited enough about any of them. I hate that every time I finish something big, I get the nasty feeling I'm never going to write anything again. It's not probable, but still.

Also, adding to the list of future haiku marathons: Javier Grillo-Marxuach's The Middleman. It deserves some kind of special award for pure geeky deliciousness. And then another award for sheer quotability. So if you haven't seen it, I firmly but respectfully suggest that you amend your ignorance at the nearest opportunity, barring of course any life-threatening or world-ending extra-terrestrial, supernatural or supervillain-related occurrences. (...art crawl!!)


Monday, March 23, 2015

Goldilocks


So apparently I've written a novel. Novella, technically, since it's only 150 pages. (I guess I'd need to break 200 to qualify as a novel.) So I guess that makes me a novella-ist. Wait, I'm googling that to see if it's already a thing.

*googles*

Okay, novella-ist is not an actual thing, and I'd probably have to write more than one to qualify anyway. Then maybe I'm a just a screenwriter who's also written a novella? When you think about it, if a narrative is too long to be a short story and too short to be a novel, that makes it the Goldilocks of narratives. Wait, there's a haiku in there.

*haikus*

Goldilocks
some tales are too long
others too short mine's just right
hey is that a bear?


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Caro Emerald


old-fashioned siren
hearken to her retro call
want. new. album. now.


In other news, I too have seen Bird Man and have marveled. It raises a lot of questions, but at the moment I can't decide whether they intended to give Black Swan a respectful nod or a blistering critique. Likewise Big Hero Six - in the sense of having seen it and marveled. As far I know, they don't reference Black Swan. More importantly, I need someone to make San Fransokyo an actual thing. Baymax I assume will eventually be a thing, but the San Fransokyo part also needs to happen. You know, for the sake of world peace and the like.

If you don't follow me on Pinterest (that beautiful time-swallower I am enamored with), then you need to know I've finished Fangirl, have acquired other works in Rainbow Rowell's oeuvre and have mentally added her to the List of Authors to Whom I Owe a Batch of Cookies. But first I have to finish The Martian, which isn't my usual fare, but several people I know and trust have attested to its brilliance. So that's another book down and about a thousand to go. Yay progress!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Rocks, Lines, and Delusions


Every once in a while it is brought to my attention that I've been living under a rock. The rock is constructed out of a highly affordable eco-friendly metaphor, but that's beside the point. From time to time, I emerge out from under said rock, blink into the daylight, and gaze around at the world. Recently, I was watching the pilot for Agent Carter (back to her in a minute) and somewhere in the first few minutes I started to hear some vintagey goodness on the soundtrack. So click click click in my browser's search bar and in a couple seconds I discover that it's not vintage at all but a sparkly new kind called Caro Emerald. Then it turns out that her records already went platinum, so it's not as if I just stumbled upon this secret little indie treasure. I've never actually done that, really, but when you run into someone talented whose records have long gone platinum, you're suddenly confronted with the existence of that charming rock. So yes, it's where I live, but it's much groovier thanks to Miss E.

Before returning to Agent Carter, some backstory. I always seem to be drawing these idiotic lines in the sand. Years ago it was no more Rings. No more Pirates. No more Matrixes (Matrices?). No more Men, be they X, Spider or Bat. In short no more (freaking) franchises. I was studying so nothing existed outside of my course syllabus anyway. Pop Culture existed somewhere out there, but it was of no concern to me. Not a great way to live, but academia can do that to you.

Years later a friend asked offhandedly, "You're in on the Marvel thing, right?"
"The what thing?"
"You know, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor?"

Sigh. I gave up on franchises long ago. Life is so blessedly simple now. The friend insisted they were fun, though, and I got handed a stack of DVDs that I couldn't refuse without causing a scene. Now it's not as if I think the super hero series (or genre) is faultless, but in terms of popcorn-worthy entertainment, I give them a lot of credit.

But then Agents of SHIELD comes out and the line is drawn again. This is absurd. Ultron isn't going to be out in forever. I don't care if The Winter Soldier is out in the summer. The first Cap movie wasn't that great. And I'm sorry but no. I'm respecting the line! And so should you! So another friend (she doesn't waste time drawing lines) just looked at me with a pained expression and pleaded, "But... Coulson! Coulson!" So I watch - because I'm such a good friend of course. You can't let someone cope with the feelings from their new favorite TV show all by themselves.

Guardians of the Galaxy. Repeat scene. (Only this time it's, "Shut up. We're going.")

This isn't merely relegated to super heroes. Oh the line drawn before True Blood. (No more vampires, damnit! My heart can only contain Angel and Spike.) The one drawn before The Vampire Diaries. (I mean it, I tell you! What is this teen angst vampire thing?? I'm not in high school!) The Originals. (Why do I even...? Please tell me. Never mind. Don't bother.)

Then we get to Agent Carter and there I go drawing that line again. Yet I know I'm going to step right over it the minute the show premieres. It's probably for the same reason that I need to walk around with one of those t-shirts that says "I'm not to be trusted alone in a bookstore with a credit card." So all that's to say I watched the first few episodes and I'm basically loving it. Loving the period setting, loving the kick-ass female lead (thought not entirely loving her throwing punches like a super soldier), loving the presence of Victor from Dollhouse, and just loving the fact that there's a shiny new TV show to watch. What with that, Miss E, and a couple thousand books I'm supposed to read eventually, life under the rock is pretty good.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Confessions of a Book Reader


  1. I'm wary of books (and Pinterest pins) that begin with "Confessions of."
  2. Let's say I'm in the middle of reading a book, but I'm not actually reading it right now. If I leave it "face up" (i.e. front cover) on the table, I feel that it's watching me and silently willing me to keep reading. Which is why I leave them face down.
  3. One of my favorite forms of procrastination is rearranging my books.
  4. Even if I really don't like a book, I insist on finishing it. That's either courtesy or refusing defeat. I can't tell.
  5. Few are the books I haven't finished reading after I've read the first fifty pages. It's my standard gauge for deciding whether to go ahead and read the thing. I figure if I made it through the first fifty pages, I can make it to the end.
  6. Even fewer are the number of books I haven't finished after getting half-way through. Giving up after all that is most definitely suffering defeat.
  7. There are some people who think there are too many adults reading Young Adult novels, but I wholeheartedly disagree. I think it's because Young Adult writers are not embarrassed about wanting to entertain the reader.
  8. After reading a book I simply loved (loved loved), I actually have to avoid reading for a week or two because it's difficult getting into a new book.
  9. It depresses me when people refuse to read a book by a first-time author on the grounds that they're "not a sure thing." Haven't you heard of giving someone a chance?
  10. The only thing more depressing than that is when people refuse to read a book because they've already seen the movie. I mean, come on.
  11. There are certainly a number of Classics that I've disliked (and outright loathed) and whose status as a classic I am willing to dispute at great length, but I'm always disappointed when someone simply dismisses them as boring. Or if they won't even try it because it's "old." You know what else is old? Chocolate. Ice cream. Noodles. Tea. Ponder that next time.
  12. And yet when people claim there are no good writers or good books anymore, I want to weep with frustration every bit as much.
  13. I judge books by their cover. I admit it. If I don't like the cover, I am less likely to read it. A friend's recommendation is solid gold, however.
  14. One of the worst things I can say about a book is that even I could have done a better job writing it.
  15. Even if I really don't enjoy a book, I'm still happy to see it on the shelf. Chalk that up to hoarding, if you like, but I think it's more a testament to the fact that reading (except in extreme cases) is an experience you want to hold on to, even if it wasn't the best of times.
  16. Despite the number of entries mentioning books I didn't like, I usually enjoy what I read. I don't know if that's because I'm good at guessing what I'll enjoy, because I have friends with impeccable reading taste, because I'm easily entertained, or because there happen to be a lot of talented writers in the world. It's probably a combination of all those.
  17. I despise the term chick-lit. Just because a book is written by a person with ovaries for an audience of readers with ovaries doesn't mean that a reader lacking ovaries wouldn't benefit by reading it.  
  18. I feel bad about not having read more books translated from foreign languages. It makes me feel like I'm missing out on entire cultures. Which I am. So at least I'm right about it. Woohoo for at least being right.
  19. Currently I read about 90% fiction, 10% non-fiction. When I was getting my MA is English Lit, the ratio was about 3:1 in favor of non-fiction, and I wasn't reading any "popular" fiction.
  20. That's not to say I don't enjoy reading non-fiction, but since leaving the rigors of academia behind, it's harder to get involved in the non-fictional.
  21. I try to read a book a week, That (unfortunately) doesn't always happen. Though sometimes I make up for it by reading three books in one week. But such an intense reading binge usually drives me to avoid reading for a month or (gasp!) even more. Slow and steady wins the race. (I guess.)
  22. Yes, reading often seems like a race against the clock because new and shiny books get published every day. Even if I read at the rate of a book a day, it would still be impossible to keep up. Which is both comforting (endless reading material) and overwhelming (ohmygod endless reading material).

Friday, November 14, 2014

Twelve


Scottish magician
basically it's the eyebrows
against the hugging


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Agent Coulson


so that's what it does
I'm a magical person
see what I did there?


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy


hooked on a feeling
moon age daydream we are groot
that's a metaphor


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Why do we get together only once a month?


Peter Capaldi, his Scottish accent and attack eyebrows have been killing it on Doctor Who. I am still weeping copious spacey wacey tears for Matt Smith or rather his lack thereof, but the news that he is joining the cast of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has done wonders for my well-being. And I don't even like zombie movies. But if one of my twelve favorite time lords is going to be in one, then I have no choice.

As far as other first world problems go, I can't decide what to read next. It's down to a staring contest between Natasha Solomons' (Solomons's?) The Gallery of Vanishing Husbands (she of the fabulous The Novel in the Viola) and Patrick Ness' (Ness's? anyway...) The Knife of Never Letting Go, i.e. book #1 of The Chaos Walking Trilogy, a.k.a. I Will Doubtlessly Need to Curl Up in a Ball in a Dark Room and Try to Keep My Screams of Anguish and Emotional Trauma from Disturbing the Neighbors and Why Oh Why Am I Putting Myself Through This Voluntarily. So yes, the air is fraught with tension as Natasha and Patrick battle it out. Best two out of three, of course.

In yet further first world problem news, True Blood has died the true death and it was a disappointing one indeed for several sad, sad reasons. I'm sorry, but this show had better stories to tell and they squandered their precious screen time by going for shock and gore and just plain weird crap that never should've made it out of a freewheeling creative brainstorming session. Bill turned out to be The Worst. Eric is back on his throne in Fangtasia but he looks miserable as hell. (Why exactly? He's been more or less awesome for seven seasons.) Everyone in Bon Temps who is not happily-ever-aftering with a gorgeous vampire soul mate has their hands blessedly full with at least 2.4 children. A resolution which is faker than that goo a staked vampire turns into. And Sookie Stackhouse. Oh Sookie. You unusual, unpredictable, always-doing-the-wrong-thing-for-the-right-reason-and-vice-versa darling gal. If you had to conform to the White Picket Fence Fairy Tale Ending, it should've at least been with Alcide, not some random guy we never see and don't have any reason to care about.

Oops. That last paragraph was drenched in spoilers. I suppose I should've mentioned that before. Gosh, it's hard-going around here today. And this post started on such an optimistic note. To return to one of our superior first world problems, then, Castle or, My Weekly Fix of Nathan Fillion is returning, as are Agents of SHIELD or, Coulson is Adorable and Saves the World a Lot, and The Vampire Diaries, or Apparently I Can No Longer Live My Life without at Least One Suave Sarcastic Vampire in It. There are also promising new shows like How to Get Away with Murder and Selfie (Amelia Pond and Sulu 2.0 together in a sit-com? You swear this isn't cross-over fanfic or some zany meme? Really?? So on board with this). Alas, though, for having to wait a week between episodes.

A whole week. Seven. Days. The humanity.