retsuko: antique books (books)
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.
retsuko: (hugs)
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.)
retsuko: (fierce!)
Recently, while I was visiting my sister, I finished watching the first season of "The Carrie Diaries" on my AirBnB's host's Netflix account and griped to my sister about it next morning. I went into a few reasons why I was dissatisfied with the show and after a minute, my sister spoke up. "Why," she asked, "Would you waste your time on something you hate so much?" I backpedaled a bit, and tried to explain what had drawn me to the show in the first place (the awesome of Freema Agyeman--much minimized, alas; 80s clothing; somewhat interesting character arcs for a few of the minor characters), but it was clear that my sister thought I was 100% crazy, and that she'd never heard of hate!watching anything at all.

Generally, I don't hate!watch shows much. America's Next Top Model, for example, is fun with a glass of wine and MST3K-style snarkery, but it's usually the same thing from episode to episode, and I move on. The problem occurs when a show that I like veers from 'genuine pleasure' to 'guilty pleasure' category, and then into hate!watch territory. Once Upon a Time went from "oh, wow, this show is so much fun, I need to watch every episode obsessively" to "OK, this is getting little over the top, but still fun" and, finally, "who are all these people and why should I care about them?" I guess if that's the case, a long, slow demise, then I don't feel so bad about hate!watching a few episodes in the hopes that the whole endeavor will slide back onto the quality side of the equation.

More problematic, though, is the show that goes from "genuine pleasure" to hate!watching at alarming speed. This is where I am with SyFy's Defiance. There are a lot of reasons I want to like it: there's a dynamite ensemble cast who have a lot of chemistry together; the setting is interesting and the world-building, although muddled, compelling; and the themes of the show and the individual storylines within it are mostly interesting. Add to this a lot of diverse roles for female characters and slightly dystopian sci-fi feel to the whole thing, and bam, it should rock, right?

Well... not as much as I'd like.

For one thing, not since Lost have I had so many questions about the larger meta-plot of the story that are going largely unanswered. The frustrating thing about this is that many of these could be answered with a few lines of dialogue. I don't need an exposition dump; I just want to know a few things that would help me understand the characters and their motivations better. For instance, the show is set in the near-future, after an alien invasion/colonization effort went bad. Why is there no anti-alien sentiment? Where's the "Aliens go home" graffiti that I'm sure would adorn many, many buildings in this setting? Further, the Earth Republic (a kind of grumpier UN, at least as far as I can make out) seems to have no greater goals than messing with our heroes/heroines' plans. Wouldn't they have some bigger idea? Why do we never hear about them trying to do good things, like starting up manufacture of medicine and infrastructure?

Equally frustrating is this show's depiction of women. On one hand, there are a number of interesting, diverse roles for female characters. Jaime Murray is excellent as Stahma, an alien woman dealing with newfound power and the cost to hold onto it. There's also Doc Ewell, whose dry sarcasm is perfectly timed and in sharp contrast to the earnestness of those around her. Julie Benz plays Amanda, the town's (now ex-) mayor, with a lot of poise, except when she's being menaced by memories of her rape at the hands on an unknown assailant when she was younger. This sexual assault is on its way to becoming a major plot point, and, really, all the women on this show have been shown sexually threatened, assaulted, or wounded at some point, whereas the men (with one notable exception) have not. It's gotten so frustrating that I'm beginning to wish there was a pact that authors/writers/showrunners (for this show and all others) could sign agreeing not to use rape or sexual assault as a plot device. I don't care that it "develops" the character further (because there are other, more effective and less rape-y ways to do this just as effectively), or that it's "realistic" (because sci-fi and fantasy are chances to do something that isn't necessarily realistic.) It's not even very original. I would like to watch one episode of Defiance that doesn't show one of its female characters wounded, assaulted, or threatened sexually. Just one.

And that worst thing is, this show has a lot of potential to be fascinating. I've never seen a mainstream piece of work approaching a tricky subject like cultural appropriation in such a thought-provoking way. I also like the religious systems the aliens brought with them that are slowly being revealed in fits and starts, sometimes clearly menacing, but always completely alien and convincing. As I mentioned before, the cast is fantastic and the special effects work well with the story and feel organic. I don't want to end up hate!watching this show... but I don't see how much longer I can watch it for pleasure, either.
retsuko: martha jones from 'doctor who', in black and white (martha)
I was talking with my Mom today and lamenting the fact that out of the Best Picture Oscar nominations, I've only seen two, American Hustle and Gravity. Before R. came along (and before there were 10 Best Pictures nods), I tried to make it a point to see all of the nominees because, so, if for no other reason, I could at least sound educated in my snobbery. But now that there are so many movies, and we have to arrange expensive babysitting almost every time we go out, seeing all 10 is just not in the cards. And not to mention the fact that I just can't handle the "tough" movies that I used to think were important. The me of ten years ago would say, "Boys Don't Cry was a tough, sad movie, but I'm really glad I watched it because it's compelling, and precisely because it is tough. That was a version of someone's life." Whereas the me of now says, "Augh, I spent all afternoon watching my son like a hawk at the playground and trying to squeeze work in during the twenty minutes he wasn't running around. I cannot handle violence and sadness and all I want is puppies, beers, and The Lego Movie." (This second statement is slightly simplified, but I have said some variation of it in the very recent past.)

But then I started mourning the loss of the old, pre-mother, rabble-rousing, political me, and tonight I decided that I would watch a "tough" movie on Netflix to prove to myself that I still could. I chose "Blackfish" because I've been on the fence about it for a while, I think it's about an issue I should know about as a San Diegan, and it was ironically next to "American Horror Story" on our instant queue. And it turns out that the ironic placement turned out to be not far from the truth: "Blackfish" is an American horror story, and it's one that everyone should watch once so that the narrative it tells stops being real and fades into the nation's collective memory as "a really stupid thing we used to do, like discrimination of various sorts, disco, and aspics." More, with some profanity. )

This movie is in sharp contrast to "The Wolverine", which Yebisu and I finally got around to watching last night. It was a really frustrating movie: parts of it were really good, and parts of it were so embarrassingly bad that I caught myself cringing more than once. For the record, I think anyone writing a movie set in Japan (or any part of Asia, realistically) should go through their script in pre-production and substitute the word "stereotype/-ical" every time the word "dishonor/-able" appears. Seriously. It would highlight so many problems.

Allow me to slice--ha ha ha--through those problems. )

I don't mean to make this sound as if it were a total waste of time. I really liked the female characters in this. Out of the three, not one of them was ever a damsel in distress, and all three were distinct and different in their motivations. To top it all off, the female villain was actually pretty badass, and the final fight scene between her and another character was properly thrilling. I also loved the fact that the movie was shot in Japan, and not somewhere in L.A. that looks vaguely like Japan. There is one hilarious sequence that takes place in a love hotel, and it never got squicky or stupid, just stayed uniformly funny the whole time. The final scene that sets up the next X-Men movie was a little tacked on, but it wasn't too over the top and worked fairly well with the rest of the story. Yebisu was also particularly impressed with the opening sequence, and I liked how deftly one character's personality and background were set up in a matter of brief scenes. Maybe watch this movie with some beers and cheap sushi, celebrating its good and bad points simultaneously.
retsuko: (spoilers!)
In some ways, I'm really glad it's over... and in others, I'm not.

In the "Not Happy" category, I have the issue that there are problems that have to be dealt with NOW and that I put off thinking about completely for four days. Most of these are long-term issues that are jostling for short-term attention, and as usual, sorting through them takes patience and time, which are entities that I don't have in large supply at the moment. (As Shanghai Vixen quoted to me this morning, "Temporary battles will take up half your life.") There's also a huge letdown now that comes with having to realign myself to the reality that I'm no longer in a space where people will necessarily "get" my nerdy t-shirt or quotation. There's also a political re-calibration that will need to take place, too, when it comes to disclosing how much of a fan I am or not, depending on the conversation or the people involved. (Of course, disclosing what I'm a fan of at the Con was a separate decision-making process in and of itself!)

On the plus side, of course, in real life, there aren't any crazy lines for fun things. My feet are slowly recovering, hindered only by a blister in a weird and uncomfortable spot between my toes. We probably spent a little more money than we should have, although as usual, we didn't go anywhere near as crazy as we could have. (Yebisu's interest in the collectible sculptures only seems to extend to looking at them and fantasizing about the Manly Den of Manliness that he will have someday.)

This year, I was especially proud that we didn't come out of the whole thing feeling as exhausted as we have in years past. In fact, getting up early wasn't a problem because we are so used to doing it now, at R.'s insistence. But we were really judicious about leaving when we felt tired, and not stretching things out past the proverbial point of no return. We've also gotten much savvier at negotiating the Exhibit Hall floor and judging what will be popular enough to avoid, so mega kudos to us!

Further chat about conversations overheard, fundies, goddamn zombies, and interacting with small children. )

In short form:

Best Free Stuff: The Dalek hat, hands down. Even though wearing it was a little tricky (it didn't balance quite right and swayed on my head quite a bit, like a posture test), I got a lot of compliments and envious looks from other Con goers. How I ended up getting it was a complete fluke, since I think [profile] figgy_newton unintentionally cut through a line, but wound up with one anyway. The poor BBC America staffer looked a bit shellshocked/stressed when he handed me two.

Worst Free Stuff: The stale box of supposedly "fresh!" popcorn I got from a Fandango snack wagon outside the Convention Center.

Most Earnest Free Stuff: On Sunday morning, while Yebisu and I were waiting for the Adventure Time exhibit to open up, a group of women came along, handing out sequined tiaras to promote a children's book along the lines of Harry Potter. I could tell that unlike other swag, these things were hand-made, and I suspect that this was the author's family, trying to promote his work. I wore it on the front of my Vader baseball cap and got several compliments on it.

Pop Culture Entity We're All Going to Be Sick of This Time Next Year: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot. There was so much promotional material for this, and the whole thing reeked of desperation--even the freebie comic I got featured the toys, not actual drawings, as if the studio thought, "Holy crap, we have to promote this! Someone, do something that will help us sell stuff!" The clips from the cartoon feature shoddy animation without any subtext or soul. Angels and ministers of grace, defend us.

Costuming Trends: Steampunk Everything. I saw steampunk Batman and Poison Ivy, general steampunk costumery, and even a steampunk crow sitting on a woman's shoulder. There were a ton of Avengers (of course) and lots of Thor/Loki, in male and female form. For younger boys, there were a lot of Finn's as well as the de rigeur Batmen/Supermen/Spidermen. For girls, there were more than a few My Little Ponies, Fionna's (YAY!), and Disney princesses.

2013... here we come?!? I'd be happy to go again. I just have no idea what form that's going to take, but I definitely hope we can get there again.
retsuko: (yay doctor!)
OMG, Saturday! )

My thoughts on cosplay, let me share them here: )

As usual, if you're only interested in the pictures, they're here.

Tomorrow: The Children's Museum Adventure Time installation! Nothing else specific! Likely Xmas/birthday shopping! And the inevitable event horizon of I've Had Enough Con Thank You.
retsuko: (Default)
I remember the very first video store I ever went to. It was Captain Video!* and it occupied the space next to CVS in a local mall that Peet's Coffee & Tea owns now. It was a pretty small place, with slanted shelves lined with empty video cases and little labels stuck on them that read "Betamax only" or "VHS only." My parents let my sister and I choose one movie for ourselves ("The Last Unicorn") while they argued back and forth over which one to rent for themselves (they ended up choosing "The Lion in Winter".) It never really occurred to me at the time, but choosing a movie and deciding when to watch it was something of a revolution for my family and many others. I only knew as the credits rolled and Mia Farrow started her awful, reedy singing that I was watching a movie at home because my sister and I felt like it, and it was pretty great.

The video store was a semi-permanent fixture of my childhood and adolescence from then on, although in very measured quantity, ever a great frustration to me. Captain Video! disappeared rather quickly (as did Betamax), but a Blockbuster showed up fairly quickly, and there was always a kind friend who had the latest thing and invited me over to watch it. I should say here that my parents are most decidedly NOT leave-the-tv-on-in-the-background people. Their relationship with video rentals was actively characterized by a wary antagonism lest videos eat up time marked out for other, more wholesome activities, and this idea persisted through my entire childhood. One summer on a balmy Cape Cod afternoon, for example, we were at the video store when another family with children about my age came in, their arms laden with tapes. My mother regarded them with active disgust and when they'd left, she said, "I bet they spent all weekend watching those and doing nothing else. I bet they didn't even talk to each other." I didn't reply. I just wished I could rent as many videos as I wanted to.

What I didn't realize was that video rental was a double edged sword. When I got into high school and friends started having driver's licenses and cars, video rentals were at the top of our lists of Fun Things To Do. After all, we could all scrounge up the $3 between us, and there was always the possibility of renting something our parents might disapprove of, an illicit but largely empty thrill. But what we didn't realize was that trips to the video store would tear friendships apart, or waste hours of valuable leisure time. I had friends with definite preferences and agendas, and nowhere was this more on display than in the video store.** There was an evening in high school where three of my friends and I spent an hour and a half at the La Jolla Blockbuster, arguing over what to watch. I can't remember what we picked in the end, or even watching it afterwards. All I remember was a looming sense of amazement that my friends were that stubborn and unwilling to compromise with one another. Renting videos with boyfriends was also a test: would he be pushy and rude, insisting on Die Hard or a horror movie that I had no interest in, or would he be polite and choose something I wanted to see, like an anime***? It was like a date at the movies, but with the possibility for judgment even greater because of the sheer amount of choice in front of us.

But for all of its shortcomings, I can't bring myself to regret all my time at the video store. I love Netflix streaming and DVD-by-mail, but nothing can compare with seeing the exact video/DVD you want and taking it immediately, the child-like, slightly narcissistic thrill of "I will watch this now because I chose it!". And like any business, getting to know the people who worked at our local Blockbuster store, was a treat, too. (Our favorite manager used to bring his dog in to work, an adorable little mutt who didn't mind me picking him up at all.) Even though the video store was an inherently commercial enterprise, it was still a part of our neighborhood. My son will grow up not knowing what this was like, and he will, no doubt, roll his eyes at me when I start to tell him. It's just weird to think that something that was such an integral part of the cultural landscape has almost vanished completely.

* According to my Mom, the owner of the shop actually had a Captain Video costume, but when pressed for details, she always claims not to remember. For the life of me, I can't remember one way or another.

** I'm sure it wasn't just me and my friends; I often think that video store employees must have overheard some epics endings to relationships brewing.

*** Blockbuster was also the avenue to some of my very first anime, although back then the notoriously violent and X-rated Urutsukudoji: Legend of the Overfiend was often shelved next to Unico: The Little Unicorn. I used to complain about the inappropriateness of this to the video store employees, with varying degrees of success.
retsuko: (artist etc.)
When I was a kid, I read differently than I do now. I loved narratives with immediacy; I didn't care for lengthy background and details (at least, I didn't think I did.) The best reading experiences that come to my mind were the ones I had during the summer, or on long car trips when there was nothing else to do but read, and no one was about to suggest a better activity. And it was at those times that I craved stories that were exciting in a particular way, that made me feel like I was standing next to the main characters or had so many things happening that I couldn't wait to turn the page. This action didn't always have to be Indiana Jones-style death trap/escape from Nazi's; in fact, I really enjoyed plots where there was a great deal of mundane action. (The Ramona books, for example, are a wonderful illustration of this: things happen at lickety-split speed, but they're simple, everyday activities and problems which I could easily relate to.) But the movie-style action-packed narratives were great, too. I pored over Choose Your Own Adventure books, and I read the Hardy Boys novels pretty exhaustively, even though I realized they were basically the same thing over and over again. In these stories, things happened one-after-another, crazy-action-pace, but it was OK, because the characters were so good, and the pacing never ran into overly confusing territory.

But the King of Narratives Where Lots of Stuff Happens But Not Too Fast and It's OK Anyway Because We're The Good Guys (or, NWLSHBNTFIOABWTGG for not so short) were the Tintin books, which I adored beyond measure. And I am pleased to say (by a very roundabout way of introduction) that the Tintin movie captures the spirit of NWLSHBNTFIOBWTGG in all of its summer-reading glory, and in 3D movie format. Lots of stuff happens! (Model ships! Betrayals! Comedy! High Seas Adventure! Opera! Funny Animals! Chase Sequences!) But not too fast! (At no point in the movie did I feel like I was exhausted or wrung out, and the kids around me certainly didn't feel this way, either.) And it's OK anyway, because we're the good guys! (The script writers wisely chose to keep Tintin a relative paladin/cypher, and that makes his actions both heroic and accessible.) The CG didn't bother me like I thought it would and the characters looked like they'd just stepped off a page of Herge's wonderful illustrations. In fact, I was so trying to compare all the characters and backgrounds with my memory of the original books that I almost forgot I was watching a live-action movie of them. Much of the dialogue is lifted verbatim from the books, and I am incredibly pleased to report that Captain Haddock gets to say "billions of blue blistering barnacles!" more than several times. I should also add that the opening credits are intricately beautiful and relentlessly witty, and pay homage to the spirit of the Herge originals. Hell, the whole movie is a loving homage to Herge, and I'm fairly sure that he would be very pleased with the outcome.

In a similar category of "Lots of Things Arbitrarily Happen At Once", Marjane Satrapi's book The Sigh is a lovely fairy-tale style story about a Prince of a mysterious country, and the woman he falls for, whose courage and ingenuity grow in leaps and bounds throughout the tale, despite arbitrary and somewhat confusing limitations on the part of the world that it occupies. Satrapi's accompanying artwork lends drama and weight to the work. It's nice to see her working in color after Persepolis. Reading this story reminded me of the sick days I spent in bed going through the volume after volume of illustrated Grimm's and Andersen's fairy tales.

And then, on the far more serious side, and from a country that could probably use a bit of escapism because, well, YIKES doesn't even start to cover it, there's Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh, by Anne Elizabeth Moore, about her mission to educate young women there about the art of making 'zines. Moore's story, which reads a little like the unpublished and more personal half of a women's studies doctoral thesis, lays out the stark realities and challenges that she was confronted with, like the fact that most of the parents of the girls she teaches are too afraid or scarred to discuss what happened to them and their families during the Khmer Rouge, or the issue that the girls she teaches are very concerned with a particular kind of femininity, one which doesn't necessarily include 'zines, or Moore's style of working and teaching. But Moore doesn't lose sight of what she's trying to do, and if depression bothered her, it certainly doesn't appear to have slowed her down. This zine and the ones her students produced are a passionate argument why democratic media should exist, and what form it may need to take, even if it seems rudimentary and slow. I especially liked the excerpts in the back from her students' 'zines. This book isn't one kid!me would have enjoyed (there's some pretty appalling details from survivors) but it's a book that adult!me enjoys for separate reasons. A lot of things happen in it. A few of them are action-packed crazy, but most of them are everyday life events, some of which I can easily relate to (Moore's explanation to her ESL students of why Playboy magazine is a double-edged sword for American women is a thing of honest, truthful beauty). But reading this, I found myself turning pages quickly, wanting to know what happened next and how Moore would deal with it. In some ways, this was the best of all possible worlds: reading like a kid (need to know! exciting! righteously good!) and reading like an adult (need to know! remind myself to understand this part of the world better!).


To those who are only reading my public entries: Thanks for sticking around and bearing with me through January. It's been a rocky start to 2012 and my on-going resolution to do four public entries a month got stymied by work-related deadlines, and then by the world's most annoying error message, "Bad unicode input." I was finally able to get this thing to post after cutting and pasting individual paragraphs. :p Anyway, more from now on!
retsuko: (girl reading)
i09 has an interview (or the report of one) with a 7-year-old girl about the DC reboot, specifically, its treatment of Starfire. The author's seven-year-old daughter, who loves comics, comic book characters characters and Starfire in particular, has some salient points to make, but the most interesting one to me is that in the new comics, Starfire doesn't do anything except pose in a bikini. And this is, for all intents and purposes, exactly true. I don't pick up comic books hoping to see my favorite female characters in a cheesecake spread; I choose titles because I want to see female characters who do good and take action. This is especially true for cape/superhero titles. I bought "Captain Britain" because Faiza Hussein actively participated in battle and wielded Excalibur; I buy "The Unwritten" because I'm really, really curious to see what Lizzie Hexam is up to this issue and just how she fits into the larger world that Mike Carey has written; and I first picked up "Elfquest" (my first real comic book!) because all the female characters were active and well-rounded. Hell, even "Empowered" has our titular, bondage-prone heroine DOING good, as much as she can, because (as she herself says in the middle of one particularly high stakes battle) "This is what I do!"

Oh, crap, I'm back to that question of "why?" again. Why read comic books at all, if the DC reboot is the sort of sexist nonsense that passes for mainstream comic book content? Because I love stories, and I love stories told in this way. And because I do think that the industry can change and gets its act together, even if it takes a whole bunch of missteps beforehand. And because I need to know what's happening in "Rasl", "Locke & Key", and "The Unwritten". Will I be picking up any DC titles anytime soon? Other than their Vertigo line, it's unlikely. Voting with dollars is probably our only recourse at this point.
retsuko: (harry)
I want to write a very serious piece about why this movie is excellent, and you should drop everything and go and see it, but whenever I try to picture this serious bit of writing, my fannish side takes over and there's a lot of capslock and squeeing. I enjoyed this so much, and even though the franchise is "over," I'm not depressed or feeling as if I'm lacking something; it's more of a hopeful satisfaction, coupled with the knowledge that there are some excellent books/movies out there on the horizon. This isn't the end, by any means. It's a beginning, and that's what the movie left me with: a sense of beginning, of purpose.

Further introspective nerdery follows! )

So, overall, a highly satisfying movie experience, and worth us paying the outrageous theater ticket prices and the babysitter.

Trailer Park: I only add this to ask: did anyone else see the trailer for "The Dark Knight Rises"? I couldn't understand a word Commissioner Gordon said, and the rest of the trailer was very confusing. Are they following the graphic novel plot or not? And, yeah... Bane. I have no opinion one way or another. (Side funny note: The trailer for "Cowboys & Aliens" warned: "Contains depictions of the consumption of tobacco." Really, MPAA, clutch those pearls much? I think there are far more scandalous things to warn for, in that movie, and in others.)
retsuko: (comic book nerd)
(Is my music choice hip enough for this post? Well. No matter.)

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a frothy, video gamey love story that's fun to watch and never takes itself too seriously. (In fact, had the movie taken itself seriously, I would have been seriously pissed off at some of the weirder plot twists and developments. As it was, I could easily snicker and ignore them because the rest of affair was so silly.) Scott is a disaffected 22-something, perpetually between jobs, and as the movie opens, dating a 17-year-old, Catholic-school-attending girl. (Two of the major female characters in the movie take him to task for this, repeatedly, along with his gay roommate/best friend.) But then he meets the literal girl of his dreams and starts romancing her instead, only to find out that to date her, he has to defeat her seven evil ex-'s in video game style combat. Video game martial arts, guitar dueling, and romantic pratfalls/hijinks ensue.

On the good side, the movie feels like a puff pastry of magical realism, filled with a sweet, romantic center. When Scott and Ramona kiss, little hearts fly over the screen, and she is so hot that her shoes are often on fire, melting snow and clearing a path for her rollerblades in the streets of Toronto (which have never looked more picturesque). Other funny visual side effects include the showers of coins that follow the villains' demises (the amount of coins gets bigger and bigger with each passing defeat, with a literal shower of coins for the Big Boss), the out-loud sound effects (the phone goes RING RING RING; people fall through the sky screaming AAAAA, in little trails of letters that follow them all the way down), and the cartoonish combat between our hero and the assorted bad guys. It's clear that the filmmakers wanted this to be as close to the comic book/video game experience as they could, and for the most part, they've handily succeeded. I also liked the goofy banter that persisted throughout, whether in the form of a Bollywood dance number in the middle of a fight, or the Big Bad complaining about the amount of work that he had to put in to forming the League of Evil Ex-'s. (2 Hours!)

My only quibble with this whole thing is that it made me feel old. It's clear that for all of the characters in the story, 30 is pretty much the end of the world. And for the most part, that's fine, because what this story is really about is the drama of that first relationship: OMG, LOVE, that's completely different and I'm the first person who's ever felt this way about another person! Generally speaking, this sort of tumultuous love is a twenty-something experience. Still, it's a little weird to feel "old" at age 34, especially with my recent revelations that drama like that is the thing I need to avoid in my life.

I hadn't been too keen on this movie, mostly because I'm not too interested in the comics. I paged through the first volume, wasn't grabbed, and moved on. Now, I'm starting to wonder if my comic reading standards are set at just a little too high for me to really experience new things. I have a rule about new comics, which is in place mostly to save my wallet, but also lets me exercise snobby common sense: if I absolutely, positively do not like the artwork after about five pages of a comic or twenty pages of a graphic novel, I don't finish it and I don't buy it. In the case of O'Malley's work, it was a twofer: I didn't read anything that immediately invest me in any of the characters, and the art style was too cartoony for my tastes. I have great patience with a story if the pictures are pretty (see Tsubasa), and I'm likely to pay attention to a story even if the artwork is not actively crappy (see several installments of Sandman where the artists and their style change radically). I've even come to really enjoy more cartoony and stylized art (see Powers) if it fits with the tone and pacing of the story. But I gave up on O'Malley's work perhaps too quickly, which leads me to wonder if I'm judging books a little too harshly on their covers these days and if I should try to relax a little more.

May 2016

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