14 Feb
2015

In Defense of Fanfiction (or, The Nerdiest Thing I Have Ever Written)

There is this Very Popular Book Series that is being turned into what will most likely be an Equally Popular Movie Series. The first of these movies came out yesterday.  I don’t care about these books at all. The little bits that I read I didn’t like very much because I don’t think they were written particularly well.

There is a lot of valid criticism to be made about the Very Popular Book Series. All of it has all been said with varying degrees of eloquence. I understand and agree with most. The hate over the fact that this series started out as “Bad Twilight Fanfiction” is what gets my nerd hackles riled up.

As Carl Sagan would tell you, every story begins at the beginning of the universe. Back at the beginning of when stories were being told, back before we wrote or chiseled or painted, stories belonged to everyone. I mean that once a story was told it would be retold in different ways by everyone who heard it, of course. But I also mean that anyone could come up with and tell their own story. You didn’t have to be a good storyteller. You didn’t have to be clever, or know the right people, or have enough money to become well educated.  You just had to open your mouth.  Whether or not anyone heard you is a different story.

It might have been harder to get your fanfiction read before the internet, when you had to know about fan zines and how to get copies of them. Now all you need is an internet connection, which you can get at the public library. Thirteen year olds write fanfiction, as do adults. A large number of fanfiction writers are women, but there are also men out there. Yes, a lot of it is bad. Yes, a lot of it is as gross as you would expect. But the same can be said for any other type of storytelling. There are plenty of renowned  authors out there who just don’t speak to me. (Some of the students I am tutoring are reading Camus in their AP English class and are incredibly amused by my
response whenever he is brought up.)

But there is a lot of well written, blow-your-socks-off fanfiction out there, even if we call published riffs on someone  else’s work as “homage” and not fanfiction. May I suggest Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality? (YMMV on this one- personally it is too “Textbooky” for me, but lots  of non-fanfiction readers like this one.) There have also been lovely character pieces on Luna Lovegood that left me more satisfied than Rowling’s “let’s give the weird outlier character the same happy ending as everyone else: she grows up, gets over some of her crazier theories and gets married to some dude, idk.” (memo to self: Write “Luna Lovegood: Squatch Hunter.”)

The value we sometimes place on other people’s favored type of storytelling often bothers me. We all can be too exclusionary- I, too, can’t help but scrunch my nose up when ever my mom watches “Real Housewives.” It happens when serious literary types get into “graphic novels” but still stick their  nose up at sweaty nerds reading their non-Watchmen superhero ”comic books.”

It is why Anton Ego was so deplorable when he dismissed Gusteau’s cookbook based on it’s title, Anyone Can Cook.

Sure, dismiss a book for having started off as bad fanfiction, but don’t dismiss it just because it started off as fanfiction.

 

TLDR;

people are stuck up, yo

if anyone takes “Luna Lovegood: Squatch Hunter” away from me, I will hunt you down Liam Neeson Style.

 

 

2 Feb
2015

My favorite comics (as a kid and a teen)

My friend Angela wrote about her childhood favorite graphic novels on her blog and it reminded me about the kind of stuff I liked to read when I was little. I’m titling this post “My favorite comics” instead of  “my favorite graphic novels” because: a) I like the term “graphic novel” about as much as I like the term “magical realism” (which is another post for another time.)  and b) the majority of these are going to be comic strips from the Sunday paper.

I took an art class in seventh grade. We spent all of one day on cartooning and I absolutely loved it. I loved the big white board cartoonists worked on, I liked how expressive cartoons could be with very few lines, I loved how well they lend themselves to comedy.  Newspaper Cartoonist became number one with a bullet on my “What I want to be when I grow up” lists, far above astronomer, artist and even writer. I had serious Calvin and Hobbes vs. Peanuts discussions.

Here is what little me looked forward to reading the most.

Cathy

Cathy was genuinely my favorite comic for a while. When reading Cathy I thought “So this is what being an adult woman will be like.” Bikini angst. Shoulder pads. unfulfilling jobs. milquetoast boyfriends. hobbies: shoes, chocolate, nothing else. You lied to me, Cathy. I am so glad you lied to me.

Those apple-slice eyes are the bomb, though.

The Far Side

This comic has everything: an idiosyncratic art style, surrealism, dark humor, and cows.
farside

 

 Bone

On the rare occasions my brother and I could get our mom to buy us copies of Nickelodeon magazine, I would flip straight to the back in order to read Jeff Smith’s Bone. Why did I like it? It is weird.  There are these weird  things with the last name Bone, and a girl, and her grandmother, and they go on adventure, and there are these cows. Bone combines my love of oddball protagonists, humor, and sprawling fantasy epics.

 

Ghost World

I read this on several occasions, huddled up in the back of the library (where they kept the most shameful of books- comics and pulp science fiction novels.) I didn’t know what to think of this then. This book was nothing like my beloved newspaper strips. It makes the list because the narrative was so well done that I kept reading it even after I reached the conclusion that I should probably wait until I’m older to read it.

I still don’t know what to think of this one.

 

Great Lakes Avengers

It does say as a kid and a teen up there, so I guess I will pick a favorite from that strange time in high school when I actually read superhero comics.

I watched the old Adam West and Burt Ward Batman on TVLand with my dad. I grew up with Nipple Suit Batman. My brother and stepdad were reading all the dark, edgy comics like Watchmen and Frank Miller’s anything. My mom picked up Wonder Woman and anything by Gail Simone. I read along with them, but none of these grown ups in spandex taking themselves seriously spoke to me.

The Tick spoke to me. Justice League International spoke to me. The Great Lakes Whatevers spoke to me. It’s like Squirrel Girl opines: “comics are supposed to be fun.” 

Fun doesn’t mean childish. Fun doesn’t mean meaningless.  As much as I love Squirrel Girl,  teenage me related most to Big Bertha. As supermodel Ashley Crawford, all anyone cared about was her looks. As larger than a house, morbidly obese Big Bertha, citizens tell her “why couldn’t I have been saved by a hot superhero?” All she wants in either body  is for people to notice her for what she can do, not what she looks like. What teenage girl can’t relate?

(yes I know about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. yes I am super excited to check it out. Between that and Lumberjanes I might have to start my first comic subscription.)

 

16 Jan
2015

Monsters

taters
 

 

 
thecity

6 Jan
2015

Your Horoscope for this week

The horoscope never does what I want it to, so I wrote my own. 100% accurate.

Ares

Take time to meditate and reevaluate your life. You will be surprised to find that things are not as bad as they seem. Even though your life might seem like the poop emoji, it is really an ice cream emoji.

Taurus

A friend of yours is feeling underappreciated right now. Go over to his house with a pint of ice cream and a shoulder to cry on. His favorite ice cream flavor is butter pecan. You really shouldn’t need me to tell you that.

Gemini

You will meet a dark, mysterious stranger who will teach you to love and live again before taking all of your money and giving you a box of VHS tapes. You don’t even own a VHS player.

Cancer

Now is a good time to take up darning: There is a hole in the left armpit of your favorite sweater.

Leo

Dude, you need to stop thinking that it takes special tools to make pasta from scratch. You’re cooking for two: all you need is a rolling pin and a decent knife. Doesn’t take too long either.

Virgo

Where did you put your car keys? They are in your hand. Every time you ask, they are in your hand.

Libra

Around 1:46pm do us all a favor and take a nap. Otherwise you will be a Grumpy Gus at happy hour and no one wants to hear about the flu outbreak when they’re trying to unwind from work.

Scorpio

You are going to find a scrap of notebook paper in the parking lot today. This is not a sign from the universe. Someone just dropped their shopping list. (You are running low on milk, though.)

Sagittarius

Your waitress lied to you. That was not decaffeinated coffee. There is no decaffeinated coffee. Decaffeinated coffee does not exist.

Capricorn

See a penny. Pick it up. All day long you’ll have back pain due to a herniated disc. Did you really need that penny? I didn’t think so.

Aquarius

Everything is changing, but it hasn’t changed yet. The universe is saying, “Soon, soon.” But for now? You have to deal with the pain. With the feeling that someone has reached through your chest and gripped your spinal chord and is tugging it forward.

Pisces

There has been a Cool Ranch Dorito wedged between your couch cushions for the past three months. DO NOT EAT IT. It is hella stale. Also the flavor has already been licked off.

 

 

29 Nov
2014

Some more fixed horoscopes

Free Will Astrology sometimes has great words to play with. A lot of the time thy also have words I do not find useful. Here is what I did the last month and a half with the words I liked, from the column in the Austin Chronicle.

from Free Will Astrology, week of Oct 31st

Aries: You live away. There was a time when you linked hours and tunnels.

Taurus: It’s urgent that you drive home to yourself as this unusual creature.

Virgo: Our ancestors eat brains. It’s beef. I’m confident that your own brain will be better. Partake in this exotic dish. Take advantage of your intelligence.

Sagittarius: A catharsis: profane language. The second remedy is contained in dance as melancholy.

Capricorn: You are a rake. Return others’ dreams.

From Free Will Astrology, week of November 14:

Aquarius: Offer irresponsible hedonism. Carry out your joy.

yeah, that’s all I got.

15 Nov
2014

What is the first story that you never wanted to leave?

I’ve written about The Little Mermaid before.  I saw it when it came out in theaters. I wore out two VHS tapes rewinding and fast forwarding. (VHS is what we had before DVDs, guys). I daydreamed of having cooking shows with that French chef.  I related to Ariel and wanted to be Ursula:

I loved Ariel, I loved how she collected junk and I loved how she had a tail and adventures and a loving family but still didn’t feel normal, still wanted to have a body that made more sense to her. Like Me. I loved Ariel but I secretly loved Ursula more. Ursula was a freaky monster who lived in a cave and was a powerful witch who didn’t care that she was alone and weird because she knew how cool she was.

All of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytales contain themes of otherness, social ostracism, isolation and salvation. The cool thing about his stories is that at the end the poor unfortunate protagonists find a place to be themselves. The ugly duckling would never have been happy living with the ducks, but he found a group of swans who accepted him for who he is. The little mermaid knew she would never be happy as a mermaid, and is willing to give up everything she has to find a world that makes sense to her. (The prince is secondary to gaining a soul.)

Of course, in Anderson’s story she gave up too much for too little and ended up not connecting to the humans (due to literally not being able to communicate). It’s not until she dies that she finds her place and purpose. Much like with The Ugly Duckling, the daughters of the air recognize the mermaid as one of their own. The reward isn’t her being accepted by the group she tries so hard to fit into, it is having a different group recognize her for her own merits and celebrating her uniqueness.

Of course three year old me only had the Disney version with the more conventional happy ending, prince and all. Still, I think the creative team behind the movie was able to express Ariel’s yearning to be “where the people are” clearly enough for three year old me to recognize and relate to it. I knew Ariel because I was Ariel: on the outside looking in, wanting to feel comfortable in my skin, wanting to live in a world that made more sense to me than the crazy magical one around me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how stories sink their claws into you and don’t let go. I’ve also been thinking about how adults don’t often give toddlers enough credit. I taught 4-7 year olds art this summer and I saw how their little brains worked all day. I saw how they played make believe to make sense of the world around them. I saw them reverse engineer origami and pop up cards. One of my favorites (I’m not supposed to have favorites but I do and they can’t read blogs anyway so whatever) taught herself how to make a diorama based on the credits scene of a movie she saw.

And I talked to them about stories all the time because, come on, it’s me. Every one of them loved the Lego Movie, loved how it was about creating wonderful things. We read them a book about Frida Kahlo’s life that focused on her physical ailments and how she made paintings to express how she felt on the inside. The next day, there were a handful of little artists who wanted to grow up to be Frida.

I talked with my mom about it this morning, asked her what was her “Little Mermaid.” First she was all, “we didn’t have home videos back in my day, bla bla bla. But I asked her, “What is the first story in any media that you never wanted to leave?” and I asked her, “Why?” I will let her tell her own story, but I will tell you this: What she told me was the same. It wasn’t the magical elements, but something that connected to her on a personal level, something that reflected on how she felt about herself.

I’m really liking hearing these stories, so I’m going to ask you: What is the first story you never wanted to leave? Why?

OTHER PEOPLE’S STORIES

GINA MINKS WANTS TO LIVE IN THE SECRET GARDEN.

21 Oct
2014

I fixed the horoscops

(From Rob Brezsney’s “Free Will Astrology: for Oct 17-23″ Page 110 of the Austin Chronicle)

Scorpio: Late summer apple tree. A branch. Later, this gravity. Fast the space of him, his omens would be comparable.

Sagittarius: Most birds don’t sing. Somewhere that isn’t this mottled tune, this creature deserves you: human, detached, above your own rough-and-tumble.

Capricorn: Let’s discus the thing you are about without possessing it. Play here.

Aquarius: Remain persistently insoluble. You have made a heart of questions. They replace the lock.

Pisces:

Ares: New York city is home to lost treasure: valuable bits fallen off broken, tweezers and a butter knife, rich pickings, sidewalk cracks and gutters. “The street is mine,” he says.

Taurus:

Gemini: The word at the climax. The catalyst that makes no real sorcery. An incantation authentic to possibility.

Cancer: Modern tradition: “I think I am almost nothing.” He said that is who we want, the heart of our omens.

Leo: You can’t give. You can sort, but that’s nothing. What you want: feel your generosity missing.

Virgo: That one of you will be the rest. Play on the trap. Get tangled up on the cold and unhelpful with their pain.

Libra: Author this realization: things left seed. A caretaker of your other things, you are within yourself. Take anything.

29 May
2014

I made some new friends.

No, seriously. I made them:

both

The little one is called Chicory and the bigger one doesn’t have a name. I just call her Grumpy Frog Girl.

chicory1

chicory2

I made Chicory last weekend. She has a wool felt body and dress, a ribbon belt and seashell wings. Both her eyes and hairpiece are made out of beads from broken jewelry.

gffg2

gffg1

I made the Grumpy Frog Girl forever and a day ago but decided she needed eyes when I made Chicory. She is made out of wool felt, broken jewelry and an acorn top.

I make a lot of things out of broken/ discarded items. Partly because I think it’s really fun to look at something that would normally be discarded and then figure out a way to make it into something either useful or amusing (usually both).  Mostly because everyone in my family knows that I like to work with discarded items and they give me a bunch of broken and weird crap all the time. Seriously, I have an old tackle box full of weird crap. (don’t worry dad, it’s too old and broken to use as an actual tackle box.)

10 May
2014

An Accomplished Woman

A week ago  Fred and I went on a long walk. We were to meet up with a group of people I barely knew and go on a hike. We were 15 or so minutes late and I couldn’t find them. We were next to a grocery store that was hosting an outdoor concert. A band was playing some Italian music. We stayed to listen, even though it was so crowded we had to move three times before finding a good spot.

A couple of months ago, I wouldn’t have had the energy to spontaneously watch a concert after failing to get to the meeting spot on time. Months before that, I wouldn’t have gone to such a crowded place. A few years ago, I would have been to scared to go on a hike with a new group of potential friends.

Getting my Master’s degree seems like a molehill compared to what I accomplished then.

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