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.)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

After an accident

Two weeks ago tomorrow, I was on my way home from work. I was thinking about a stop at the grocery store and how we'd have delicious pulled pork sandwiches w/ coleslaw that I'd pick up when I heard horns honking behind me. When I glanced in the rearview mirror, I saw the grill and front end of a lifted, huge, black Chevy truck with the passenger side turn signal it was a surprise to me when she suddenly veered towards my left as if to pass. And then, she didn't so much exit our lane to go around as got slightly out from behind me and barreled along as though I was simply an obstacle.

I heard the crack, crinkle, and crash of the exterior side mirror being sheared off and glass breaking. Felt the car being shoved aside. (I don't think it actually left the ground, but I'm not sure.) I think I even might have come close to closing my eyes as she passed and sped off up the street.

After talking to some witnesses, both of whom provided names, phone numbers and one a partial plate number, one of them waited with me for police. Who took forever and then filled out a form that turns out to be just an "incident report." Meaning, a report number I can give to the insurance company. Meaning that the city has a policy that if damage is minimal, they don't file an actual accident report and if nobody can positively ID the driver in a hit & run (even with a partial plate and good vehicle description), they won't file that either. Not even when I phoned them last week to amend that I had actually been injured.

The injury is another story...I saw the doc the day after the accident and x-rays were taken. The following Tuesday, I was told my wrist was fractured which made sense because of how much pain I was in. (I began wearing a brace over that weekend because whenever I moved my thumb I wanted to cry.) So they wanted me to have an MRI. MRI was on 7/2. On 7/6, they said it's NOT fractured, but if I'm still having problems let them know. On 7/7, many phone calls and explanations finally got me a hand specialist that doesn't have a bunch of shitty online reviews. And they worked me in for next week. My hand still hurts if I go without the brace for too long. There are times when my fingers feel clumsy/heavy, numbness, tingling, burning, itching, and general unpleasantness.

I'm currently off work, took PTO through Friday. I'm thinking of re-evaluating on that day whether to go back & then take the day of the appointment. Or should I take off all the way through that appt and then initiate a short term disability claim? It's hard to decide what to do. It sucks.


It is now 8/23. I've been off work on Short Term Disability. My last day worked was 7/7, but the people who administer the leave peg the claim for 7/15. Trying to get my doctor to back date it so I can reclaim those 6 days of PTO for my own, but it's not easy.  Since 7/7, I have read at leat 6 books, multiple comics, finished a couple of series on Netflix and have begun American Horror Story. I have also used limited time in front of the PC to finish organizing a back to school fundraiser for Very Awesome Girls Phoenix and it went off pretty successfully.

At my last follow up on 8/6, it was recommended that I start physical/occupational therapy, 1-2 per week for 3-4 weeks. I had my first session (their first opening) last Wednesday and was given homework. Since that day, I have done my exercises the prescribed 2x per day and on more than one occasion. I cried. Today, I procrastinated. But round one is complete. You see, by the time of that follow up, my wrist had mostly stopped hurting all the time. But now, working it through therapy, it hurts. Like, sometimes, it's almost an 8 on that 1-10 scale medical professionals like to use. I don't know if I'm overdoing it (which is possible) or if the pain is due to disuse. At any rate, a small area below my thumb remains slightly swollen, as does the pad of my thumb.

There is an annoyance I've encountered during this time, aside from the difficulty in doing things mostly one handed. (For example, I felt like a wild animal once while attempting to open a box of Pop Tarts. Though the animal would have fared better, I think). That is a particular tone that I've heard from people when discussing how long I've been home, not working. This tone of "but it's just a sprain" "it seems like you'd still be able to work with a brace on." As the PA said, sprains and soft tissue injuries take longer than fractures. I know I should heed her advice, to not get down about how long this takes. And that I should also listen to my husband and friends who encourage me often. But it's hard. It's so damn hard. Because it hurts and it feels like it won't be better. But at the same time, this morning's (afternoon's) PT session wasn't bad until the end. Maybe tonight's will be better.

In the meantime, I will continue to take this meme to heart: