Pacific Rim, Flashpoints, And Doing The Work

Because the Pacific Rim sequel is coming soon, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. There are certain moments that our lives turn on, when floodgates open, and while you don’t see it at the time, you look back and go, yeah, that was when it happened.

The summer of 2013 was full of those moments for me. I attribute a lot of that to Aless (no but like really) but also to my unconventional schedule at the time and a dissatisfaction at seeing friends (and former friends) excel at the things they wanted to do while I tread water. It was the first official movie season, when I started reading comics and when I realized that if I was going to be “The Fangirl” titular to this blog, I had a lot of work to do, broadening my horizons and being able to speak knowledgeably about nerd topics.

Pacific Rim was a huge wakeup call on that front.

I walked out of Pacific Rim thinking, “I’ve never seen anything like that before.” I loved that movie. Everything about it, with it’s giant robots, and it’s cool looking monsters, and it’s Charlies, both Day and Hunnam, and it’s dumb character names (WTF kind of name is “Stacker Pentecost?”).

Then I took to the internet. Most of the places I hung out virtually loved the movie.  (Duh) But they had seen things like that before. In Anime, and Japanese monster movies and even less mainstream Western comics.

Of course they had, because these internet nerds hadn’t spend the first 26 years of their life going, “Oh but I’m not that kind of nerd. I don’t got to comic con or anything, I just like superhero movies…and Star Wars…and YA Paranormal Romance…and Joss Whedon’s entire ouevre… and The Lord Of The Rings…and Harry Potter…and Doctor Who…and pretty much any of the kind of stuff you’re talking about that has casually crossed my path. But I’d never look for it or seek it out, because I’m actually a normal. I like sports and I wear pearls and I watch Friends reruns and chick flicks.” This was the first year that “I AM MORE THAN ONE THING” clicked into full view as my driving philosophy. The part of me that wanted to go to comic con, and obsess about The Avengers was not quite yet peacefully coexisting with the part that loves the Yankees and wants a country club wedding, but it was getting there. (Bridging the gap is the part that studied Literature in college and sees lots of Broadway shows, if you were wondering.)

Pacific Rim and talking about it taught me that I needed to do the work, I’d made a good start, but I need to study if I was going to get good at this. So you guys can be damn sure that if it weren’t for that movie, I never would have recapped Sailor Moon or watched The X-Files, I wouldn’t have read The Dark Tower or finally given Star Trek: The Next Generation a shot. I’d never have absorbed into the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend Of Korra.

So much of who I am came out of that summer and the stuff I took in during that time, and I’ve tried since to stop writing things off as “not my thing,” before experiencing them. Which is why in addition to The Epics Project, I’m reading The Dune Chronicles, and opening my world up to more anime (OMG Inuyasha has eaten my life!) and I’m going try, God help me, to jump back into super hero comics. (It’s so expensive and time consuming though…) Cosplay’s back in my life in a big way this year. My next big bridge is going to be horror. I don’t think I’ll ever be into super bloody torture porn type stuff, but I’m going to open my world to more psychological and supernatural horror movies, since I’ve genuinely liked the stuff I have encountered. Also, I’m going to watch all the Star Trek. Finish TNG, get into Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, and then click in for Discovery. 

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30 Books In 2018 #12: Dune Messiah By Frank Herbert

I read a lot in February you guys! Go me!

Anyway, Dune Messiah.

I was so excited to get my hands on this one, and dig into it. And uh. Well.

I didn’t like it as much as Dune. It’s definitely weirder in spots, but unlike it’s predecessor, which hints at a larger really cool world while telling a fairly straightforward story, Dune Messiah, feels like much more straightforward court plotting. About characters who, as I stated when I wrote up Dune, I don’t care that much about.

I mean, there’s still oddness and cool sci-fi world hinting, but it’s much more focused in on the politics of Paul Astreide’s reign as emperor, and specifically how he’s going to produce an heir. He’s vowed to never have sex with his wife Irulan, who at the behest of the Bene-Gesserit, has been secretly feeding his concubine Chuni a contraceptive. Also, The Bene-Gesserit sort of what Paul to impregnate his sister Alia? For reasons?

Oh also, Alia is falling in love with the reanimated zombie corpse of Paul’s sword master Duncan Idaho.

Like you do.

So, about that last part, there is a society which creates zombie slaves, like, on the reg, just for fun, in this universe and it’s thrown away in a single line? WHAT THE HELL, FRANK HERBERT? That is way more interesting than Paul sighing about how he doesn’t get to run around the desert with the Fremen anymore, or vaguely talking about his visions being a pain in the ass, or whatever.

Paul, no one made you eat so much spice you saw into the total consciousness of time, and no one made you marry poor Irulan and declare yourself emperor. You did that all by yourself, buddy, so quit moping about it. That said, I do appreciate the way Herbert plays with chosen one narratives, by making the chosen one sort of a dick.

Anyway, I think if I liked or cared about the characters here more, I’d have enjoyed the book more. Normally everything that happened is right up my alley, but it just came up short because I’m not invested in the people.

I’m still going to keep going on this series, because it’s fun easy reading and it feels somehow essential to my ongoing nerd education to get this one under my belt. And I want to find out if Alia ever does manage to get it on with that zombie….so sometime in March I’ll pick up Children Of Dune.

Up next is Call Me By Your Name because I want to read it before I see the movie, and I want to see the movie before the Oscars. YAY!

 

30 Books in 2018 #11: Crazy Rich Asians By Kevin Kwan

I will never ever get sick of quick read books, fluffy movies, or long drawn out TV soaps about the super-rich. (My Gossip Girl obsession should have tipped y’all off to this one.) I particularly like when there’s an outsider character at the center (there nearly always is.) I love a good makeover montage, even when it’s described in a chapter, rather than being cut together to a Madonna song. (You can ALWAYS play the Madonna song in you MIND friends. David Bowie’s “Fashion” will also serve.)

This all primed me perfectly for Crazy Rich Asians, which deals with the internal social politics of uber-wealthy and aristocratic ex-pat Chinese families living in Singapore. It’s all seen (naturally) through the eyes of Rachel Chu, a 29 year old American Born Chinese (ABC) woman, as her long-term boyfriend, Nick Young brings her home for his best friends wedding.

There are scheming mothers, jealous exes, and a twist about Rachel’s origins at play, plus a set up for sequels galore. (I know there are two more books and I can’t wait to read them.)

Kevin Kwan writes with rapturous and bitchy delight about the social climbing, the designer clothes and exotic locales, and sketches some fun characters in Rachel, Nick and their friends. If everything ties up a little too neatly, that can be forgiven in Romantic Comedy, and hey a movie is coming staring Constance Wu as Rachel. (She will be flawless!) (This movie will make me want to buy so many shoes.) I also appreciate how no corners are cut with the weird blend of Asian cultures at play in Singapore and especially with the combination of language, which Kwan uses footnotes for.

It’s a joy of a book, laugh out loud funny at points, and surprisingly sweet at others. I like learning about cultures I know little about through reading, and this was the perfect example of that.

Next up is Dune Messiah because HEY I HAVE READ LIKE 6 BOOKS SINCE DUNE AND I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT OK?

30 Books in 2018 #10: Persepolis: The Story Of A Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

I became seriously interested in stories about the Iranian Islamic Revolution about five years ago when I read Reading Lolita In Tehran. (THAT BOOK IS SO GOOD!) I’m pretty sure I watched the movie of Persepolis in college, but I watched a lot of things in college that I don’t really remember. (SO MUCH CHEAP WINE! And Yuengling.)

Anyway, Persepolis reminded me of Reading Lolita a lot, actually. It’s about the same group of people, the academic class of Iran, and specifically the women in it. Satrapi’s father was an engineer and her parents were staunch communists. The revolution started as something great for them, overthrowing the Shah, and creating a new more equal regime was something they’d work for.

But as fundamentalism took hold this group of people found themselves strangers in their own country. That’s explored much more deepy in Lolita, because Persepolis is about a girl, it’s about Marjane. And it captures the wierdness of being a kid in the best way.

Everytime Marjane gets in trouble or is confused because of adult contradictions, it’s perfectly executed. She doesn’t understand how her parents can be screaming about injustice and forgiveness one moments and then condemning others the next. She talks back to teachers, she loves western music and fashion.

Overall, there are a million little moments in Persepolis that are perfect encapsulation of that weird space in adolescence between childhood and adulthood. You think you know everything and the people around you know nothing. And every day it feels like the world will end.

But for teenagers who are literally living through a reset of their society and a deadly war, their world might actually end, not just figuratively and Marjane’s does, and also begins when her parent’s decide to send her to school in Europe to  give her a shot at a better life.

Seriously, though, one of the best things about reading memoir, particularly memoirs about people who’s lives seem different from yours, is finding the moments of universal intersection.

Up next is, Crazy Rich Asians because two memoirs of horrifying but not childhoods needs to be chased by some romantic comedy and conspicuous consumption.

The Maze

The Truth can be hard you guys. Also so much teenage heartbreak!

The Marina Chronicle

It’s been a very long day and even longer evening. Rather than another epic dinner and ball, we all retired to The Princess Tower, for an intimate evening with Dowager Countess Olivia.

She’s still dressed in black though it’s all very fine. In fact she looks lovely, and frankly, she was quite cheerful all night. Or at least acting the part. Papa came too, he was less cheerful.

I think he may never be cheerful again, and he was particularly wary of Prince Eric. When I asked why he was cryptic saying only “we left to get away from the vipers and now they bring one into our nest.” He’s been saying odd things like that for weeks.

After dinner Tristan walked me back to my room and we found ourselves in bed again. It’s becoming almost impossible to not have sex with him.

“You’re leaving,” I whispered as he…

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30 Books In 2018 #9: The Glass Castle By Jeanette Walls

My years at college gave me a lot of things, but the thing that I took away from my studies that crops up unexpectedly is my love of creative non-fiction, more commonly called memoir, as a genre. Over the long five years I spent in Scranton I took courses in reading and writing this strange new world to me.

I’d read a few memoirs before college. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings obviously, and Our Mother’s Daughters by Cokie Roberts (my mom had been given this as a gift…) but I don’t know when, exactly, but I stumbled into reading incredible memoirs in college, for class and for pleasure, and I still make sure to read a few every year.

All of this prelude is to say, I’m not sure how I didn’t find The Glass Castle before the movie was released, but I missed it somehow and it’s sat on my TBR list for nearly six months now. (To be fair, last year was pretty well consumed by Vonnegut and King…but still.) I grabbed it a few weeks ago when I went to Barnes & Noble to tide myself over until the kindle returned.

Sunday night, I settled in and read the whole thing in four hours. I was absorbed by Jeanette Wells and her extraordinary and impoverished childhood. Her and her siblings escape from the poverty and cycle of addiction and despair is truly special. Walls’s pain at recounting her family’s despair, but also incredible hope is palpable on the page. And I fell into the book in a way I haven’t in so long.

My favorite thing about memoir is the reminder of the power of storytelling. Memoirs aren’t always history. My favorites are when they’re not about extraordinary people at all, but about normal people, every day people who’ve decided that their story is worth sharing. Walls feels like that. While what she and her brother and sister did, pulling themselves free of their parents is amazing, it’s not magical. It’s just true, it’s simply life.

Life is enough sometimes. Those small stories are great. They can be funny, and sad and wonderful and awful. Memoir has a power in that way that fiction doesn’t.

A long quiet weekend means a lot of reading for me. But also, as was sort of the plan with this project, I’m just back in the habit of reading. And, not forseen; I’ve fallen back in love with physical books. I’m still planning on using my kindle, it’s the best for trips, for things like YA series, when I don’t want to buy the books out of embarassment and ease. And I still have space constraints. (Although, I’ve left most of my old books at my moms, I’m building a new library here.)

Up next is Perepolis, which is another memoir I can’t believe I haven’t actually read. Frankly, I’m more shocked at this one. We read a bunch of graphic memoir in college. So much Bechdel. Even more Pekar. I haven’t read anything graphic in ages. (Well, I’ve been reading the Duck Tales comics, but that barely counts.)

30 Books in 2018 #8: Someday, Someday, Maybe By Lauren Graham

I used to read books like Someday, Someday, Maybe all of the time. Books about girls who move to New York City to “make it.” I mostly picked up this one because I liked Lauren Graham’s memoir Talking As Fast As I Can and I figured it would be a quick read.

It was, once I got into it, but it was also, kind of hard for me to get into. Graham’s a good writer, but she writes as if she’s telling a story, which worked really well in a memoir, but is tougher for a vaguely fictionalized version of her 20’s. That said, it’s a fun book, and was a really good way to reset my brain and remind myself that I have other interests beyond the apocalyptic visions of boring white men. (Herbert probably wasn’t boring. That was mean. But I bet Ernest Cline is SUPER dull.) Sometimes, I like to hear stories about the city I love from moderately successful white women!

Well, Lauren Graham is really successful. She’s been a co lead on two long running network TV shows. And written a pair of books. But you know.

OK, so those last two paragraphs? Imagine an entire book of that. That’s what this book was. And I enjoyed it, but it was exhausting and hard to track sometimes. There’s some fun stuff, though, all of the auditioning and commericial shooting parts are a hoot. And of course, Franny Banks, the actress who is most definitely Lauren Graham at her younger less experienced, dates a pretentious working actor by the name of James Franklin, who hits on the women in his acting class and then offers to buy them boob jobs. (Seriously, it’s the least veiled part of the book. And it’s EXCELLENT.)

Overall, it was a nice week of escaping into someone else’s neurosis for once, and frankly, to be reminded that I need to read more books by women. Actually it was reading the bro-iest book I’ve ever read that did that, but still, I was reminded how much I love hearing other women talk about their lives.

Up next is The Glass Castle. Because we all need to be reminded about neglect and abuse, and also I’m trying as hard as I can to reinstate my mom’s old rule of reading books before I see their movies, and I really want to watch that movie.