Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013, The Year

2013, The Year

In January, I got pretty sick. I'm almost sure that this was when I nearly had Scarlet Fever (strep throat gone too far). It was $200 out of pocket for the clinic visit, and then $200 for the generic antibiotic. I'm allergic to Amoxicillan and Erythromycin.

In April, I gave my second American Literature lecture at my local community college, as part of my Honors project for my American Literature Post-1865. It was open to the public. It was a little easier than my first one (December 2012), but I don't think it was any better or worse.

I graduated in May with my A.A. and a 4.0 GPA. Later in that month, I attended Denver's Second Annual Comic Con (I also went to the first), where I had an opportunity to meet Felicia Day. She was a sweet lady. I hate every picture of me. I saw these two cosplayers who made my whole day. I also decided I could not attend DCC in the future without two things happening:

I would need to lose weight.
They would have to manage the admission lines better.

I still have some foot pain that started during that event.

In June, despite my Anxiety, I drove into Downtown Denver to attend a signing event at the Tattered Cover. When it came to be my turn, I told someone rather famous that they were my unicorn. I immediately felt stupid and overwhelmed by that, despite the heart of truth in it, and started to cry, and then apologize for crying. Instead of reacting with awkwardness or any other number of reactions that I've come to expect (reactions for which I do not blame people, really), I got something I'd never have imagined -

Neil Gaiman hugged me.

A few days later, I lost my part time job because the projects for which I'd been hired were finished.

In August, I turned 32.  A few weeks later, I realized I couldn't actually afford to start school in the Fall with the funds available to me, and that the school I'd selected would leave me in slightly more debt than I was comfortable accepting. I postponed starting my next 2 years of schooling. I applied to Metropolitan State University of Denver, on the same campus. I was accepted.

September brought a severe haircut. It was the first time I'd had really short hair since I was 9 years old.  I was ready for change. I don't think I actually achieved it.

In October, I went to the 45th Annual MileHi Con where I finally met Cat Valente, a woman & writer I'd known online since 2000'ish when we started interacting on Livejournal, where we'd run a writing group together for a brief span of time. I met Seanan McGuire, Ian Tregillis, and many other wonderful authors - some from the previous year. I bought more books. I saw Molly Tanzer again, and because of my special kind of crazy, I was immensely touched that she remembered me.

November was National Novel Writing Month, and I participated again. I tripled my word-count from last year's attempt. I did pretty good at Writing Every Day. Midway through, I even did a putting-on-make-up girly day with a friend. Yes, I'm 32 - no, I had never done that before.

In December, I started removing people from my Facebook list who were no longer aligned with my way of thinking. Mind, that doesn't mean 'sharing my opinions', but instead a valuing of critical thinking and not making fallacious declarations. The sort of people who are generally inflammatory, thoughtless, and rude in sharing their opinions, which they seem to glean from public transportation station restroom walls. I decided there was no point in keeping up with people socially online who were only toxic. Christmas happened and I decided that I want to make up a calendar of my own holidays - leaving behind the events they've become and really investing in days that mean something to me. Also, I saw a dragon.

Overall, I did not write as much as I wanted - I have only myself to blame for that. I reconnected with more than a few old friends, I readjusted my emotional distance in both directions across the board. I made myself vulnerable, I buried myself deep. I contained multitudes.

I'm not quite there yet, but I'm working harder every day to be the person I want to be. It's not a New Year's resolution, it's a mindful goal for every day, all seasons. ...Also, I need to read more.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

If you're worried about spoilers, just leave now.

I want to talk about The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, but at the same time I don't know how to talk about it. Perhaps the easiest way is to talk about the characters a little, as groups or individuals, and their interwoven stories. This is not about comparing the book to the movie (though there are times that is unavoidable), it is about weighing a film on its own merits.

Would I recommend seeing it? Yes, absolutely yes. But don't expect the text verbatim. Book:Film doesn't work that way.

It was a beautifully rendered movie. It was a beautifully acted movie. The writing, in places, was brilliant and not so much in others.

Gandalf, as far as I am concerned, is the face-to-watch for the bits of the movie in which he appears. Sir Ian McKellen tells a lot of Gandalf's backstory with his eyes. Pay attention. If you think you see a soul burdened with thousands of years of stuff, you're right. He's seen things, man.

The dwarves were dwarfy. (I would like a Barrel Bombur action-figure please.) And since this is THEIR story (Bilbo's too), it could always use more dwarf.

Bilbo. He could've gotten a little more development time. I'm a little annoyed that there was no conversation about the Ring with Gandalf. It would've tied in so nicely to the stuff going down in Dol Guldur (which Jackson did NOT make up, by the way - that stuff is stuff Tolkien wrote).

Mirkwood:  Spiders - ew! Yay! but ew!  Elves. Yay! Elves. Sigh.

I accepted the changes that went down in regards to Azog & Bolg. I accepted that there would be an invented elf added to the story. I accepted that Legolas would be more than a cameo. I accepted a lot of things would be different from the texts; it is simply the way film works.

What I have difficulty accepting is poorly executed changes, whatever their intent. What I speak out against is poor storytelling.

Tauriel. Nevermind the lore-issues that could be discussed (red-headed elf).

What I won't excuse is the shoe-horning in of a female character who is used entirely as a plot device and an object (moreover, for a romantic subplot that was entirely unnecessary and in many places ruined the pacing of the story). Thanks for the gesture, but ultimately I found it to be a condescending and/or patronizing one.

You can tell me all day what a badass she is, you can tell me "But she's Captain of the Guard!"  So what? What elf with a name isn't a badass? And why does it matter if she's Captain of the Guard? It is pitched to me like that is some kind of achievement for a girl. And that is what makes it worse. "You should be happy there's an empowered female in the movie!" No, not really. Not when she's a walking cliche machine.

She comes off as a token female, and for me that's worse than no female at all. (I'd actually have been fine with no female 'main character' because this is the story of the dwarves & their hobbit bro. Their story. There were plenty of opportunities to people the land with individuals - the whole "strong woman" issue is a whole other can o' worms not for this post...)

Ultimately I have two gripes and they don't take away from the movie overall, for me.

1 - The romantic subplot was:
poorly written
poorly developed
poorly executed

2 - This is really a result of the poor writing/execution of the unnecessary and poorly developed romantic subplot; the misuse/abuse of Morgul Blades. This is probably the closest I get to having an issue about divergence from the texts. Morgul Blades were Very Important in the Fellowship. In Desolation, they are this footnote, throwaway plot device to put Kili in danger and motivate the Love Interest to come save him.

If you know what a Morgul Blade is, then you know a random orc is NOT running around with arrows tipped with the stuff. It's just not happening. So, bad storytelling begets sloppy storytelling.