Saturday, April 15, 2017

Star Wars & Me

If I had a relationship status with Star Wars, it would be "it's complicated."

The first Star Wars movie I remember seeing is Return of the Jedi. My mom took me to see it in the theatre & I was hooked. I wanted to hang out with Ewoks & celebrate the downfall of the Empire. I saw the others later on cable & at the time really didn't appreciate Empire enough.

Fast forward to getting super excited for The Phantom Menace. They were going to start at the beginning! That (opening) Thursday, I accepted an invitation from a friend to hit up the midnight showing, long line & all - we had such a good time. But the movie... was lackluster. I felt the same way about the next two prequels. A little later, a friend pressed a copy of the novelization of Revenge of the Sith into my hands and said "read this." It was amazing. Why couldn't they have filmed THAT?! ( goes further.)
Me with purple lightsaber.

Basically, the prequels soured me on Star Wars. I liked the franchise, but wasn't what I considered a fan. When news broke that Disney had acquired Star Wars, Lucasfilm, the whole shebang, I got cautiously excited, especially when they started talking making more movies.

Flash forward to 2015. It was going to happen, Episode VII. Then, the teaser dropped.

"Chewy, we're home"

I cried. Lord help me, I cried at my desk where I really shouldn't have been watching but did anyway. Then when a friend came by, we watched it together on his phone. After talking animatedly about it, we moved our nerdfest to another friend's cube. Later that year, I helped transform our unit at work into a Star Wars-themed area and it was super fun, even if I'm still a little bitter we lost.

I still have a TIE fighter. And Han in carbonite all printed out.

There he was hanging on a wall,
now, he lives in our dining room.
They had me again at that teaser. Then when I watched the full trailer, tears streaming down my face, I whispered to the universe "please don't suck." And it didn't. Ok, that one part was heartbreaking, but the movie didn't suck. Then came Rogue One. Which also didn't suck. In fact, it was fucking amazing. My faith has been restored.

I've dived deep into the Wookieepedia on the history of the Jedi/Sith conflict. Discussed theories with friends, angrily dissected why someone would favor the Empire/First Order over the Rebellion/Resistance. Basically, I'm just about all in.

And when Carrie Fisher passed away in December, I sobbed openly - again, at work - because there was no other reaction I could possibly have. When I got home, I cried some more while reading tributes, talking with friends, and talking with my husband. She played my first real hero in a movie and when I learned more about her later as person, that status applied to her as well. I have been pondering a piece about her, but now, even 4 months later, it feels almost too raw to write.

Today, the teaser trailer for The Last Jedi dropped. (Go watch it, I'll wait.) So many emotions were raised, along with SO MANY QUESTIONS!! I am incredibly excited for this new film and the next step in this ever-evolving saga. It was also announced today that Captain Phasma is getting a full length novel written about her, by wonderful wordsmith, Delilah S. Dawson. I'm a Rebel to the core, but man, I need to know about Phasma! (I will note that this attachment largely stems to my love of the woman in the suit - Gwendoline Christie. AKA, Brienne of Tarth.) I've never purchased a Star Wars book before, but man, this sucker is getting pre-ordered.

So to round out, I feel a bit like I've come full circle with Star Wars. I'm a fan again, wholeheartedly, and I couldn't be happier about it. (Though the day I got an Ewok hooded scarf comes pretty damn close to the overall feeling.)

May the Force be with you.
Why yes, I *did* wear this to see TFA!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Comics are Tasty

In late summer 2014, I was contacted by a friend and offered the chance to write comic & graphic novel reviews for a new site/zine she was cooking up with others. I jumped at the chance because - hey, I like writing reviews and why not do it for a wider audience? Besides, like just about any writer, I like validation. To me, that was awesome validation that some of the things I've posted here were good enough for a wider audience.

I wrote about 1 item a month until June of 2015, when a car accident sidelined me for most of the rest of the year. I often shared the reviews on Twitter, tagging writers & artists of the comics. It was kind of a rush when they liked and/or re-tweeted. (It's the little things.)

I had one last item on the online boards when I noticed an announcement from them on Facebook the other day. They were changing direction. Focusing elsewhere. So I asked, "what does this mean for me?" Yup, totally going in a different direction, best of luck in the future & thank you for my contribution.

The Felicia Day review that is in this blog was that last piece. It was edited professionally, hence the editor credit at the end.

I'm proud of the work I did for them. I'm so grateful to have had the experience of being professionally edited, too. It has made me a better writer, even if sometimes it stung. I am pretty disappointed about how I found out I would no longer be needed, but, I guess that's how it happens sometimes.

The bright side: that same evening, I got a message offering me an opportunity to write for the site Eat Your Comics! They're a local site that covers, well, comics...and a host of other nerdy, pop culture things. Currently, it's a labor of love, but hopefully one day we'll all get paid. Just getting things set up with them now & hopefully I'll have something up for them soon. When that happens, I'll be sure & post a link here.

Friday, July 8, 2016

It's Ok To Be Weird

I very rarely read non-fiction. But I made an exception for Felicia Day and her book You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost). I first noticed Felicia Day in season 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the character Vi: a geeky, potential slayer who ends up surviving the final battle to live on in the comic books. Now, she is most widely known in some circles as the creator of the YouTube channel Geek & Sundry and the web series, The Guild.

Get it! So good!

Her book is written in a somewhat linear fashion. It does progress through her life, but chapters/years backtrack to give more detail about a different subject. For example, a chapter discusses her love of acting and performing, starting when she was about 7 years old all the way through trying to succeed in Hollywood through small roles here & there and making herself over into someone who looked more hireable. It ends with the mention of her discovering World of Warcraft, while the next (titled 'Quirky Addiction = Still an Addiction') has an introductory blurb of “how my obssessive personality steered me into a twelve-hour-a-day gaming addiction and an alt-life as a level 60 warlock named Codex” and starts with her detailing her anal retentive tendencies from childhood.

She was homeschooled until the age of 16 when her violin teacher managed to help her gain a scholarship to the University of Texas. There she double-majored in violin and math. While at UT, she dove into her studies and worked hard to achieve a 4.0 GPA, at one point despite the advice of a professor. It was for a math course called Group Theory, which is, according to day “legendary” for its difficulty, and he felt that she grasped it well enough that her free time could be better spent experiencing life rather than trying to drill concepts she would never use again. In the end, Day disregarded his advice, getting that coveted perfect GPA. However, once she arrived in Hollywood and began trying for acting and other jobs, she discovered that the rest of the world doesn't always care about academic success, or any succes she'd had in small community theater productions. It was one thing that brought her down at first, because her academic life was one fueled by the desire for success and high performance.

Along with her own progression, the book charts the progress of computers and the Internet, waxing humorously nostalgic about the old dial-up days when one of the first service providers charged by the minute. (She & her brother once ran up a $400 phone bill trying to get tips for the online game, Ultima.) There is also a great story of when her mom took Felicia & her brother on a road trip so she could meet some of her online buddies in person when she was fifteen.

Though Joss Whedon wrote the introduction, there's no talk of what it was like to be a potential Slayer in season 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or what it has been like to be part of Supernatural. She does not speak much of the mainstream projects that brought her to the public eye. Rather, she talks about her own personal struggles to achieve her own niche in the world and create her dream project, a webseries called The Guild – and later, Geek & Sundry.
She speaks openly of that she's always been anxious, has a desire for perfection, and control as well as depression, that drove her life during some of this time. Eventually, she suffered from physical problems – hair falling out, an acid reflux problem normally seen in middle-aged men, and other health issues that forced her to seek help for both mental and physical well-being. Along with that came one of the harder things that we all have to learn, being able to say no out of self-care.

There is also a chapter where she weighs in about Gamergate – the scandal/hashtag/controversy that swept through the gaming community last year. That chapter in particular is a very sobering read, as she recounts getting a text from a friend telling her to close the comments on her Tumblr account, because someone had just published her home address. The anxiety and fear that Day experienced is tangible and I truly felt for her situation. Thankfully, nothing terrible happened to Day as a result of the breech of privacy.

One of the highlights in the book is an anecdote about shopping with her dad, where he questioned what she was doing with The Guild, because at that time, nobody was making web series – hers was one of the first. As he was asking Day about her choices, an employee of the store politely asked if he could take a photo with her, saying he & his roommate were big fans. This incident illustrated to her dad that, while he might not understand what she was doing, she was obviously doing it well.

I picked up my book at a signing and while there was no talk or Q&A, she high-fived me as I came through over our mutual love of the Lumberjanes comic.

I found that I identified quite a bit with Ms. Day, particularly with regard to academic achievement and the feeling of disillusionment that comes when one realizes that most people in the non-academic world really don't care about your GPA. In the end, her message is clear – do what you love, love what you love, and it's totally okay to be weird.

Mandi & I meeting Felicia. We normally look better than this. It was
a million degrees in the store. In August.

*This piece received editing assistance from the lovely & talented Jess Standifird.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

First Issues for $1 - Princess Leia!!

Some time ago, in an effort to consolidate all Star Wars properties under the same umbrella, it was announced that all Star Wars comic rights were going over to Marvel. Then, last year, they began putting out new series, some for individual characters - including Princess Leia!

I picked up issue #1 for $1 recently to check it out & was not disappointed. The story picks up at the tail end of the awards ceremony we see at the end of New Hope. We are shown the crowd reaction to her speech - and some feel that she is an "ice princess" because she tells everyone that they do not have time to properly mourn the destruction of Alderaan & the death of her parents because, well, there's a war on. She has a brief conversation with Luke after the ceremony, in which he expresses his appreciation that she let him lean on her after Ben's death - and that he wishes she would lean on "anybody."

We're shown snapshots into the goings on of the base, they're on Yavin & need to find a new outpost, so the background shots are sometimes chaotic - especially when Adimral Ackbar berates someone for clumsiness. He really doesn't think highly of human hands.

Leia asks the ranking general what else she can do to help, and he tells her she should grieve. To drive home the point, he shows her a bounty notice that has gone out, explaining she will not leave the base without anything less than a full contingent of guards. She leaves in frustration & as she makes her way through the base, she overhears two X-Wing pilots talking - about her. She interrupts, dismissing one, and starts asking the remaining pilot why she's saying these (uncomplimentary) things.

After a frank heart to heart, Leia hatches a plan: to go out into the galaxy & find other people from Alderaan. Rumor has it, the Empire is hunting them down, so what kind of ruler would she be if she abandoned her subjects? Her new pilot is more than willing, because she too was from Alderaan and together they take R2-D2 and head out in a transport ship.

The story is by Mark Waid and he definitely captures the feel of the series and really further develops Leia as a character. The art is by Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson and it's just fantastic. The series is out now, collected in a graphic novel, and I'm definitely going to pick it up at some point!

Living with Stuff

Last June, I injured my knee. Nothing fancy, just walking through Home Depot and twisted it. Ended up going to the doctor, getting a brace, that was that. The following week, I was in a car accident that fucked up my wrist and made me miss almost 3 months of work. I have been in pain from something almost every day since last June.

I'm tired of it.

I'm also tired of people who, when something else happens to me, say things like "can't catch a break," "it's just one thing after another," and my personal favorite, a variation on "you need to stop doing that." Because I have a choice in getting sick. Or having a current problem act up. There's also things like "I wish" or "Looks great" upon finding out I've spent a ton of time sitting around reading or watching shows...because that's all I feel capable of doing physically. It's nice to CHOOSE to do those things, it's not as great when that feels like ALL YOU CAN DO.

"But they're just trying to help" - whatever.

This is a frustrated rant because this coming week, I'll be calling the office of the doctor who did the cortisone shot and tried to eliminate the cyst in my knee because it's been over a week and I still have pain. But it's not in the same place as before, and it feels different. The knee doctor (a different one than the one who did the shot) doesn't want to do surgery because (mainly) I'm overweight. I've lost a couple pounds since the start of the year, but not enough for him to want to do something surgically. I understand. I also know surgery is traumatic to a body & don't particularly want to have to resort to it. On the other do I up my activity level if it hurts so much?

I have a good support system - J has been wonderful here at home. And friends who listen to me complain when I actually do.

Today, I just can't. With things. I know it'll be better later or tomorrow. This too shall pass & all that.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Tour de Campbell's, part 2

As promised, I bring to you reviews of the other Cream of Chicken varieties I tried. Yesterday, I sampled Cream of Chicken with Mushroom. It smelled a bit like what you would expect - chicken & mushrooms combined. The flavor...was more like cream of mushroom with a few chicken bits thrown in. Bland, boring, would not eat by itself again. It could perhaps serve as a creamy base for a chicken stroganoff if you were in a pinch.

Today I had regular cream of chicken....though not quite, because it was labeled the "healthy" option, mostly fat free, lower sodium or whatever the green ribbon across the Campbell's can means. The smell was off-putting. I added pepper and that improved it some. Taste however was, well, chickeny. I've had it before while very sick and there's a strange comfort to it's bland, chicken-ness. Not a favorite, but definitely not terrible to consume.

Both soups were eaten with saltines, mostly crumbled up and mixed in. Not sure either would have been improved by eating with anything else.

There you have it. Tomorrow, I'm back to chicken noodle. And hopefully soon, on to regular non-soup foods.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Tour de Campbell's

This week, I've been sidelined by some sort of vile illness. A cough so bad after only 2 days that my doctor had me get a chest x-ray because of pneumonia concerns. Typically the "medicine of my people" is Campbell's chicken noodle, sprite or equivalent, and orange juice. (Medicine of my people is a reference to the South Park episode "Red Man's Greed." relevant clip here.)

This time around, at J's suggestion, I figured I'd mix it up a bit with cream of chicken...regular and other varieties. Yesterday was Cream of Chicken with herbs. It smelled like Stove Top or some other sort of stuffing/dressing. Taste you would expect. cream of chicken, with stuff in. Would probably be tastier over some toasted bread or with croutons thrown in. I consumed with saltines, because that is my default accompaniment to soup - especially when sick.

Stay tuned for the next installment - cream of chicken with mushrooms! (Currently simmering on the stove.)